March M.A.N.T.I.S. is taking you one by one through every episode of the ’94-’95 superhero FOX series M.A.N.T.I.S. throughout the month of March (natch). Using the POW (Plot, Opinion, What’s Next?) format, I am watching each installment and sharing with all of my feelings and observations regarding each episode.
So strap on your exoskeleton, settle into your hovercraft, and load up on paralysis darts. But most importantly? Enjoy.
Today’s Episode: Episode 21: Ancestral Evil
P: On a dark and stormy night, Hawkins and Stonebrake are testing/playing around with one of Stonebrake’s newest inventions. With the arrival of bike messenger, we find out that by inserting your DNA into the reader, the machine is able to look back into the past and produce a small hologram of your ancestors. For instance, if you put a drop of my blood into that machine, you would find a lineage of potential movers and shakers who instead opted to take it easy and just see if anything, you know, cool comes up.
Anyway, the thunderstorm leads to a power outage at Hawkins Industries, which strikes me as odd given how hi-tech the business is supposed to be, but it’s what happened. Not wanting to mess with the possibility of power surges destroying the device—evidently Hawkins Industries frowns at the use of surge protectors—the trio shuts down the experiment and heads home. Except electricity is a fickle mistress and it surges anyway, turning on the machine and, somehow, summoning another one of Stonebrake’s ancestors. Rather than a hologram, however, this one is made flesh in the present day.
The “this one” in question is a…Druid, I guess. In animal skin clothing. Wielding a stick that turns into a snake, sometimes. Is all that Druid? I feel like it may not be “accurate” but that was the intent was one of those tree-worshipping pagan sorcerer types. Maybe I just did more research than the writers? Or M.A.N.T.I.S. is pulling a SHANNARA (which would be fine. Love me some SHANNARA books! LOVE! You know what, I’ll just say it: LORD OF THE RINGS came first but SHANNARA, especially the first trilogy, did it better. Suck it, nerds!) and repurposing the term. Whatever. I’ve designated way too many words to this. Sorry.
Anyway, Brenda the Security Guard is the first to encounter him but is brought low by the aforementioned stick that is also a snake. Given how she looks days later when Hawkins interviews her about what happened, it is pretty easy to see that she’ll be taking some personal time and perhaps utilizing the company’s employee resources to deal with her PTSD.
Our Druid, unaware or unconcerned about the pain he’s wrought, wanders off into the Port Columbia night. Somehow this leads to him entering the local courthouse. Evidently, the courthouse is not locked at night in Port Columbia? I guess, in a post-Mantis world, officials in the city are getting sloppy.
Anyway, our Druid, who, it should be noted, came from a time before pictures, electricity, cars, and, heck, indoor plumbing recognizes the significance of both the courthouse and the photographs of the judges on the wall of the courthouse. So he is not the least bit weirded out by computers, woman with guns (guns not a thing in his time, women generally subservient), pictures, electrical lights, paved roads, and so on. Our Druid is super chill guys. Super. Chill.
However, cool he might be with the future though, he is not cool with people besides him being in charge so he does as a time-placed Druid does and sets about to murder the judges. Yes, he could mount a campaign and run against one of the judges, but things were harsher in the past. Expediency was valued over civics. It is not our place to question the cultures of the past.
As our Druid goes on a killing spree, Maxwell and Hawkins trail one stop behind, only clued in to things by a.) all the victims are judges and b.) each crime scene has a petrified stick left behind. Meanwhile, Stonebrake begins to experience a sort of mindmeld with his long ago ancestor, able to catch both glimpses of the heavily furry heretic’s (all due respect) murderous goings on and memories of past Wicker Man-esque sacrifices the ancestor has indulged in. Sadly, the lady sacrifice is neither burned nor covered in bees in the memory, but her restraints are sort of mini versions of the giant wicker thing in the original.
Stonebrake tries to tell Hawkins and Maxwell about what’s going on and they are generally rejecting of his point of view, leaving to pursue and fall into the grasp of our Druid. They believe the Druid part—which, personally, seems the more difficult piece to swallow and once you buy that, what’s the big deal with ancestral mind melds—especially because they, with Hawkins decked out in a M.A.N.T.I.S. suit, encounter the murderous primitive (all due respect) and see his staff turn into a snake and catch a bullet out of the air. See, staff turning into a snake? Hard to believe. But once I accept it, the fact that said snake can snag bullets out of the air? No big deal. So it should be with Druids and shared brains.
Anyway, leaving Stonebrake to his own device lets our Druid swoop in to tempt the present day Brit with promises of a family (that’s right, not power, but a family. Hospitals are filled with babies, Stonebrake. Just snag one. No need to commit ritual murder, buddy). Stonebrake nearly succumbs to t to the tree worshipper’s (all due respect) siren song commits an act of murder. Thankfully, he stops himself at the last minute. Un-thankfully, our Druid finishes the job and leaves Stonebrake in position to take the wrap anyway.
Finally motivated to believe Stonebrake once he’s an accused murderer, the Mantis commits a felony and springs the Brit from jail and the duo, together, stop the final ritual murder and send the pelt wearing pagan (all due respect) back to his native time before our favorite loud shirt wearing Limey (all due respect) from fading from existence. The mind boggles at how our Druid utilized the knowledge of the future to commit copious horrors in the past but I guess we’ll call this a happy ending.
O: This is such a disappointing penultimate episode of M.A.N.T.I.S. Not because it’s really bad, it’s not. Because it is so...nothing. Really bad can at least be memorable, but this is as bland as can be.
For one thing, it is a terrible use of the ensemble. Stonebrake, ostensibly, gets the spotlight, but there’s really no insight into who he is—and no “wants a family” does not count as the revelation is so facile as it literally begins and ends with “man, I sure would like a wife, who’s 10-15 years younger, and two kids.” Hawkins and Maxwell almost the whole episode together and it fails to advance their romance or whatever it is in the least. If anything, they have even less chemistry than ever. I’m even missing bike messenger’s presence who is little more than a glorified cameo.
For another, what character development there is for Stonebrake is TERRIBLE. He nearly murders a guy with a scythe. I guess you could argue mind control, but our Druid never exhibits such abilities at any other point so that pretty convenient. So apparently, a vague promise of future coupling and offspring is nearly enough to make him betray all his values. The mind boggles at what he might be willing to do for the people that own and run Match.com.
I find myself wondering if the writers had any idea that the show was going to be cancelled at the end of the season when they plotted, broke, and wrote this episode because, if so, shame on them. Burning off your second to last episode on what feels like—to use a comic book term—an inventory episode is such a galling waste.
W: The Mantis and his friends may be facing their ends as they encounter the “Ghost of the Ice.”