Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Microreview [TV]: Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Season 2

The Meat

A few weeks ago I reviewed the first season of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, and found it to be, hands down, the best Scooby-Doo series ever made. I was bummed to find out, then, that Cartoon Network had pulled the plug after Season 2, and there would be no more. But thankfully the show's creators were given enough of a heads-up that they were able to actually conclude the series. Season 2, then, is The Final Season, and while I have to admit that I didn't find it quite as compelling as Season 1, it was very smart, very funny, and – yes I realize I'm going to say this about Scooby-Doo – epic.

At the end of Season 1, the gang gets some big news that makes them re-think the intrinsic value of being a teenage squad of mystery solvers, and their days as a team seem over. Now, we know that as soon as Season 2 fires up, they'll be getting back together, but the way this show handled that necessary "getting the band back together" trope was unexpected and hilarious. I won't spoil it except to say that it involves unruly facial hair and a tank, among other things. One of my favorite recurring characters from Season 1, Hot Dog Water (the weird girl at school, wonderfully voiced by Linda Cardellini of Freaks & Geeks), sees a lot more screen time as corporate, historical, and cosmic workings begin swirling around the gang. As they learn throughout the season, nature has been assembling teams of mystery solving teens with an animal mascot for centuries, and for some purpose that it has yet to reveal and yet to perfect. But we know that this time, nature got it right and whatever these hundreds of years of oddballs have been trying to accomplish will reach fruition.

Things get complicated. And dark. I mean, pretty stinking dark, relatively speaking. People die, and Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby wind up dealing with some real emotional upheaval and pain. I felt comfortable watching Season 1 with my little kids, but after about the halfway point of Season 2, I felt like it got to be too much to share with them. That's probably what wound up checking a little of my enjoyment of this season – the constant internal monologue that went something like "Wow, that was surprisingly intense. Was that too intense for the kids? Maybe not, but...oh wow, now that was definitely too intense for them." That doesn't diminish the quality of the writing or storytelling, but the direction the season ultimately went did seem like a significant tonal shift from Season 1, and some of what made me fall in love with this show in the first place.

It did, however, make one of the best Star Trek references to come along in a long, long time.

The Math

Objective Quality: 7/10

Bonuses: +1 for the episode "Art of Darkness," which is a parody of Andy Warhol's Factory and one of the funniest things I have ever seen in an animated show not named The Simpsons; +1 for the last five minutes of the series, which were inventive, satisfying, and – again, I can't believe I'm saying this about Scooby-Doo, but – poignant.

Penalties: -1 for killing off characters I liked in a kids' animated show; -1 for the annoying kids that drive the submarine in the underwater episode.

Nerd Coefficient: 7+/10. I don't think a "+" is an official part of our scoring system, but it didn't *quite* rate the same as Season 1.