Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: Exo-Squad Season 2 Episode 3--Pirates Ransom

 "I do not run in  my own home. I'll fight with my bare hands if I have to!"

The sixteenth episode of Exo-Squad, episode 3 of season 2, is Pirates Ransom. Typhonus lands and begins making demands, prompting Simbacca to shut him down fast. He doesn't take that well and initiates quick battle, grabbing Simbacca but allowing Marsh and DeLeon to escape. They manage to regain their frames and, with the help of Hollis, spring Simbacca from the brig of Typhonus' flagship. He calls for the Clans to attack, and they escape as Typhonus' ship is destroyed. Simbacca declares the Pirates allies of the Exo-Fleet as Barca grumbles.

What Works:  This episode is (almost) entirely focused on the Pirates, and it's dependent on their personalities to make it work. Fortunately, it sells it very well, especially after the treatment they got last episode. Let's look at our four named players.

Simbacca: He's the only holdover from season one, and he's appropriately badass this episode. The quote that kicks off the review is his, and he follows it up by ripping out some concrete at the end of a stick of rebar and using it to clock a Neo. This was after he stood his ground against a Neo E-Frame with just a pistol AND refused to turn Marsh and DeLeon over to Typhonus in exchange for an alliance. Now, some of that was no doubt due to Typhonus' high-handed arrogance, which we'll get to, but all of it speaks well to the character.

Chubail: Chubail seems to function as the leader of one of the many clans under Simbacca. He's the closest we get to Simbacca's number two man, though I think that might be overstating his position. I got the sense that he's standing in for several others at his level, the echelon below Simbacca. He seems very much to aspire to be what Simbacca is, a tough, fair, honorable leader. His first instinct when Simbacca is captured is to attack, which gets twisted by Barca's words. When Simbacca sounds the call to arms from Typhonus' brig, Chubail doesn't hesitate to lead the attack personally, despite Barca's inveigling promise that to leave Simbacca to his fate is to become clan leader himself.

Hollis: The young Hollis gets to shine this episode, first as Marsh's hostage, then as his ally. He seems desperate to claim an identity, a young man in a brutal society who wants nothing more than to fit in with those around him. When Marsh tosses him a gun, his first instinct is to shoot him, but he's rational enough to see that Marsh is trying to rescue Simbacca and needs all the help he can get. Smart move on Marsh's part to trust him, not just because they need the firepower but because it gives him extra credibility with Simbacca when he's sprung from the brig.

Barca: suave and charming in a smarmy sort of way, Barca is a quick study of the situation and can use his words to turn the crowd around. He seems to be Chubail's right hand man and uses his position well. That he's also sold himself to Phaeton makes him very dangerous. He takes a shot at Marsh during the initial battle rather than risk his escape, a smart move as the Neo's man. He's the first Iago we've had in the series since... well, since early season 1 Phaeton. He's a much more base character, clearly motivated by greed than by any kind of political destiny, but he still reads as real to me.

Besides the characterization of the Pirates, we've got a strong episode. Right from the beginning, the story kicks off with a bang. The Neo fleet certainly seems to be menacing Tethys, doesn't it?

There are a plethora of great little details, like the Neo shuttle landing on Tethys. We see the landing gear deploy and hiss, then the airlock cycle. Later on we see a magnetic shield keeping in the air when Marsh's Pirate shuttle launches. Little touches like that make this feel like a universe.

When Typhonus shows up, he's the very picture of arrogance. Based on what we know of the Pirates, we could easily predict that this imperious attitude wouldn't go over well, but it's perfectly in keeping with what we know of the character, and how the Neo Sapiens operate. "Ambassadors do not come armed," objects Simbacca. "We do," notes Typhonus dismissively. Great stuff.

I like that the Neos are so focused on their own double-cross of Hollis, when he comes aboard with Marsh and DeLeon as prisoners, that they don't expect his betrayal. I can completely buy two ExoTroopers in E-Frames creating a beachhead on the ship. (but see below.)

DeLeon hacking the Neo computers is a slick way to justify them finding Simbacca and well in keeping with the character. I also love the moment when he starts narrating his progress and J.T. subverts the genre with a quick "Don't give me a play-by-play, DeLeon."

I also like that, once they get to Simbacca, they get pinned down by Neo forces and can't easily fight their way out. DeLeon gets Simbacca a few seconds radio contact with his forces, which is all the time he needs to rally a huge counter-attack.

The counter-attack is another very slick bit of television. This isn't a full-scale fleet-to-fleet battle, but rather a mass attack by personal-scale craft against the Neo Fleet. There's a fantastic tracking shot as Chubail rakes damage across the entire flank of Typhonus' flagship. We also see damaged pirates kamikaze the Neo fleet. "Long live the Clans!" cries Chubail jubilantly, and it seems well earned.

This is the first time we see the Neo utility-type E-Frame in action, one of my personal favorites. It seems to be the Neo equivalent of Weston's frame, designed more for construction than for combat. It's a shame we never got a toy of it, it's neat.

What Doesn't: This episode cheats a bit to get where it needs to go. I can totally buy that the Pirates would take apart the e-frames to reverse engineer them, but I have a much harder time believing that they could be put back together so quickly and easily. And nothing is missing? If this was an element the writers wanted to include, better to have them in the very early stages of being disassembled.

Once Marsh and DeLeon get on Typhonus' ship, they seem to have the run of it. Where are all the Neo E-Frames? Even when the Neos have them ostensibly pinned down, it looks like just a couple of troopers with hand-held blasters. The corridor really should have been full of the purple Neo mass-attack frames.

After Typhonus abandons ship, he spots Marsh. It looks like they're about to have a battle... and then don't. It's an odd beat to have, one that doesn't have any payoff as to the best of my recollection Marsh and Typhonus never face off again. (Though DeLeon will.)
EDIT: Looks like I'm wrong, they have a pretty decent dogfight in Heart of Mars. It's not especially central to the plot of that episode, though.

Watch For: Colleen O'Reilly makes a quick cameo in the one scene in the episode set on Io.

Bio: This episode it's Nara Burns. It doesn't add much new.

Overall: A very satisfying way of bringing the Pirates into the war. Yes, there is a bit of hand-waving. Still, it feels emotionally real, and saves the Exo-Fleet's bacon. Barca was never outed, so you know he'll continue to be a thorn in the side of the forces of light. Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Review: Exo-Squad Season 2 Episode 2--The Embassy

"The mines, and miners, of Tethys were abandoned. From the struggle to survive, the Pirate Clans were formed. Metals were dug, ships were built. Whatever else the clans needed they took from the Homeworlders who had lied to them for decades."

The Embassy is the fifteenth episode of Exo-Squad, continuing the initial kick-off of Season 2. The focus is solidly on Marsh and DeLeon, and their mission to enlist the pirates. They see first hand the enmity between the Clans and the homeworlds, but do their best to secure an alliance. When Typhonus shows up to do the same, things seem desperate. Meanwhile, the arrival of Burns and Weston kick-off another space battle, and the resistance leaders are understandably reluctant to put themselves under Exo-Fleet command after operating independently for so long.

What Works: This episode is all about the Pirates, so it's important to see things from their point of view. This episode manages to keep what we know about them (brutal, ruthless, generational hatred of the Exo-Fleet) and yet give them a POV that's sympathetic. Their backstory, as convicts cruelty abandoned on Tethys, is heartbreaking, and pretty much gives them a pass on their years of raiding of homeworld craft. It's just a great backstory, and tying it into the Neo Sapien uprising makes the universe feel consistent. Seeing infant, then young adult Simbacca is pretty cool too.

It also helps that we meet a fourth named Pirate character, Hollis. He's obviously young and inexperienced, and nearly walks in on the end of Barca's illicit chat with Phaeton from the end of the last episode. He's easily the most relatable of the big-four Pirates, though we're just getting to know him here.

The antipathy the Pirate crowds have for the Exo-Fleet is palpable and very well done. I love someone in the crowd shouting "Remember Enceladus!" That feels very real.

There's also a brief ambush where an ENORMOUS pirate and three compatriots waylay Chubail and Marsh. Chubail decides to just step back and see what happens. What happens is that Marsh and DeLeon take them apart in a fight that's as short as it is vicious. In less than 20 seconds four pirates are on the ground.

The ending, too, is fantastic, with Typhonus' smug face appearing on the monitor with an offer of friendship. It really feels like things can't get any worse for our heroes than this.

Speaking of, Typhonus wants to try to overwhelm the GRAF shield and Phaeton nixes the plan. I like that Phaeton is wrong occasionally. Setting up a blocade is a good compromise, though. "The Exo-Fleet must either starve or run," Phaeton correctly observes.

I love the visuals of Tethys in this episode. It looks completely different than the last time we saw it, which is I suppose a continuity error, but this is a much more interesting interpretation.

The Takagi/Weston relationship is acknowledged, when Kaz is concerned that "Maggy" is taking fire as she and Burns attempt to run the aforementioned Neo Sapien blockade of Io. This in turn kicks off another very tough fight for our heroes. Nothing seems to be a given these days. (but see below)

On the resistance side, Napier gets a nice moment when he tells it like it is to the assembled Exo-Fleet brass and resistance leaders. I especially like that he retreats from this arena and winds up back in a bar. Old habits and all that.

What Doesn't: Winfield bluffing about the GRAF shield (and the clueless trooper who nearly gives it away) seems like an awfully big risk. It's consistent with the character, a known softie, but if the Neos figure out the shield is down, that's it for humanity.

The trial by combat between Chubail and Marsh feels forced to me. I can just about give it a pass, given what we know of Pirate society, but then Marsh in the end refuses to slay Chubail and thus seemingly costs the Exo-Fleet the alliance. This feels like Saturday morning cartoon morality, not the grey areas this show has been routinely delivering.

I don't think it was necessary to have Napier join Marsala as gunner. He's pretty strong as a quasi-political figure this episode, he didn't need the extra cred as an e-frame pilot too.

Watch For: Most of the hooks in this episode are the obvious ones. It's nice that Phaeton remembers (and is still stung by) the loss of his Venutian fleet to a GRAF shield. "Draconis' blunder on Venus" are the specific words he uses.

Bio: This episode introduces a new segment, character bios. We get Marsh, but it's mostly a rehash of what we already know. Noretti is in it, and Marsh's feelings about flying from Betrayal are reiterated. This feels like killing time more than anything else.

Overall: Things are still going strong. The Pirates continue to be fleshed out, having come a long way from the two-dimensional caricatures they were for the first three episodes of season 1. This season continues to deliver.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review: Exo-Squad Season 2 Episode 1--The Gathering

"They have gathered themselves in one convenient place just to make it easier for us."

After the powerhouse that was season one of Exo-Squad, season two has big shoes to fill. The Gathering, the fortheenth episode of the series, picks up at the two year mark. It's been another few months since we last left our heroes. Marsh and DeLeon are dispatched to Saturn to attempt to forge an alliance with the pirates, which gets off to a rocky start when the Pirates take them prisoner. Able Squad is tasked with gathering resistance leaders from Earth and Venus and bringing them back to Io to better coordinate. Typhonus follows them back and locates the Exo-Fleet base, precipitating what could easily have been the final battle in the war. The Exo-Fleet is seriously outmatched, but they've been working on a GRAF shield and use it to force back the Neo Sapiens... though the shield breaks in the process, leaving them defenseless. To make things worse, Phaeton has co-opted a high ranking pirate, Barca, and is well aware of the dangers of an Exo-Fleet / Pirate alliance.

What works: Big-picture-wise, this is a great episode. It's exciting, picks up right where the last one left off (in plot, if not in time), and the tension of the outmatched Exo-Fleet is a great dynamic. Perhaps my favorite bit is the return of Doctor Algernon and the GRAF shield. It makes the Veil of
Doom plotline feel much more relevant to the overall story. That the GRAF fails in the end due to substandard parts is both realistic and dramatic. Dramatic in that the Neo Sapiens think that Io is impregnable when it very much isn't, and realistic in that this was originally presented as a multi-billion dollar project. The idea that cobbling another one together wouldn't work well makes perfect sense. There are hints of Algernon's former arrogance, though now frustration seems to be at the fore.

The return of the pirates, though of course brought up last episode, is a welcome development. We get to know two more of them by name, Barca and Chubail. (Spelling uncertain, but Will Meugniot, the Executive Producer, said that mine look about right.) While both are antagonistic towards the Exo-Fleet, Chubail seems to have a strong code of ethics, and Barca seems to be more the opportunist type. Since the potential alliance is shaping up to be an important plot point, it's nice to get more named Pirates to root for and against.

Another plot thread picked up is the strained relationship between Typhonus and Phaeton. "I will have one head or another" threatens Phaeton. Typhonus has apparently spent the last 8-9 months scanning the asteroid belt and coming up empty, which is mostly reasonable, but see below.

Winfield has gone grey. Nice touch. The poor guy has been through a lot. The scene with him giving DeLeon the mission has some nice body language as you see a close-up of J.T.'s and Alec's hands as they hear the news. I also like the compartmentalization of the scene, keeping Marsh's mission to Saturn very much separate from the gathering of the resistance leaders. No need for the left hand to know what the right hand is doing.

There's another very tough fight this episode, as Able Squad attempts to grab resistance leaders. Bronsky (who is once again in the wrong frame, another recurring theme) gets pinned down by six Y-Wings. Torres and Takagi can barely spring him, though they manage. We also meet Nick Tyree, the Australian resistance head-honcho destined to become another antagonist.

As a measure of how tough the fight is, Bronsky comes in hot and apparently can't get his legs down, leading to a crash landing. DC teams get deployed and everything, which is pretty cool.

I love the moment when Marsh and DeLeon defeat a couple of Neo Sapien scoutships and shout "yes" in triumph, only to have the moment ruined by the decloaking of Pirate vessels. It's a nice way to yank the rug out from under the characters and the audience.

Phaeton remains sharp. He had apparently proactively recruited an agent among the Pirate Clans (Barca, as we learn at the end) well in advance of Winfield's mission to Saturn. He also instantly sees the danger of a Pirate / Exo-Fleet alliance. The Pirates possess a large spacefleet of vessels with unparalleled cloaking technology. The Exo-Fleet possess superior fighter technology and have much more experience in attacking planet-based targets. Putting them together is a real threat to Neo Sapien hegemony.

 Marsala takes Tyree down a peg when the latter starts to insult Admiral Winfield, which is nice character development for them both, but the real gem is when he makes the excuse that he's "all thumbs." That's legit funny right there.

The new credits are great! I mean, my episodes have been using the S2 credits all along, but if you were watching back in the 90s, this would be your first exposre, and they're fantastic. (But see below.)

What doesn't: Most of  the flubs are pretty minor. There are occasional animation flubs here and there. There's a beeping sound they use three times in the episode that's pretty annoying. I'd have given it a pass, but three times is an awful lot in one episode for the same FX in different contexts.

The credits feature two new characters, Butler and O'Reilly, neither of whom are in this episode. Not horrible, but a bit awkward. (What's worse is that they won't be in it until episode... I want to say 7.) Though, other than the two of them, the S2 credits work remarkably well for both seasons.

The time jump is a little awkward. There's some hand-waving to make it work. Typhonus spent months combing the asteroids, but there's a line of dialogue last season about how the Exo-Fleet had been spotted departing the Jovian system. Also, there are only a handful of outer planets, you'd think you'd start by checking them before sweeping a massive asteroid belt. Moreover, it's not really necessary. One can imagine that it took Winfield a few months to make contact with the Pirates and establish some sort of dialogue, but this episode could just as easily taken place at month, say, 16, and nothing would have been any different.

Watch for: The ship flying Able Squad around is the Jumpship Arnhem. (Possibly related to the new jumptroopers in the credits? Yes indeed.) This ship will become one of the more important vessels in season 2, now that the Resolute is out of the picture.

Unsurprisingly, Tyree, Chubail, and Barca will all continue to play important roles as the series progresses.

Overall: This is a great episode, serving as an adequate introduction to the series and a great continuation from what went before. The tension is much higher here than it ever was during season one, in part because the situation has become so dire. One base, severely outgunned heroes, desperate alliances, villains several step ahead. If this is what season 2 looks like, count me in!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: Exo-Squad Season 1 Episode 13--Defying Olympus

"Humanity's treatment of my kind has been... inhumane. But Phaeton's way is worse; it is genocide."

Defying Olympus is the thirteenth and final episode of Exo-Squad, season 1. Don't worry, there is a much larger second season yet to come. Picking up where we left off, the gang fights their way outside of the complex with Phaeton as a hostage. He breaks free, only to get shot off the mountain by Nara. They break back in, find their e-frames, and use them to force a nuclear detonation under the lava that will destroy Olympus Mons and the brood center with it. Phaeton returns, furious, and has a tense one-on-one fight with Marsh. The team is trapped on an erupting volcano, only to be rescued by Takagi and Weston.

And thus ends season one, with Mars devastated by an enormous eruption, Phaeton and the Exo Fleet both crippled, and Marsh and Typhonus both sent on important missions. Great stuff.

What Works: Unsurprisingly, the episode is a strong conclusion to a strong plotline. The e-frame fight between Phaeton and Marsh at the climax is exciting and satisfying, though there is by necessity a bit of wiggling to line up the leader of a political faction to face off against a Lieutenant fighter pilot. I can completely buy that Phaeton felt humiliated at his treatment as Marsh's prisoner and wanted to rectify things personally. Had he gloated less and fought more logically, he certainly could have prevailed. It was evident that his gear was technologically superior, and while he was doubtless less experienced with eframe operation than Marsh, his superior reflexes could have balanced that out. As it was, Marsh was only able to win with help. The fight is full of nice moments, like Marsh spinning around uncontrollably, and Phaeton dipping Marsh's wing into lava. Marsh using that flaming wing moments later to defeat Phaeton was a nice touch. I also like the little nod they give each other after Marsh has won and Phaeton has lost, warrior to warrior.

Likewise, the fight between Phaeton and Marsh OUT of their frames was nicely lopsided, with Phaeton easily trouncing Marsh. Nice to see that Marsh didn't even have a chance at that one.

I like that Typhonus went straight to poisonous gas once our heroes fled to the ventilation systems. Dark. Again, Phaeton seems unable to resist gloating, in this instance about "inferior terran lungs." Love that expression on Phaeton's face.

The aforementioned help Marsh received was Bronsky's frame, seemingly acting on telepathic/remote instructions from Bronsky. This was later touched upon when Marsh's frame bids him farewell, even after being disconnected. Marsh is nonplussed. It's an intriguing development, one foreshadowed by DeLeon's frame snarking at Bronsky earlier in the series. Oddly, this plot thread won't really be picked up on again in any serious way, but I won't count that as a negative here. In the context of S1, it's an interesting and logical development. "Farewell operator J.T. Marsh."

An interesting development that will get further exploration is the crush that Nara has on Marsala. After he saves her life during a difficult climb, she starts to move in for a kiss and then backs off with a blush. It's good character growth, but it's also excellent body language, a perennial strength of the series.

Watching the e-frames walk into the lava with their ordnance stuffed into their cockpits was a surprisingly emotional moment.

After trouncing Phaeton, leaving him to run (unsuccessfully) from the lava exploding around them, Marsh gets one last bit of juice from his frame to save his team on their plummeting lift. The superb directing managed to wring quite a bit of tension out of this, with J.T. and his frame both clearly struggling and the frame losing an engine at the last second. The jeopardy felt real.

I really like the Neo mechanics the gang has a brief scuffle with. Just the design of them, they look very blue collar for Neo Sapierns.

The ending is fantastic. Winfield sending Marsh to negotiate with Pirates makes a ton of sense. In fact, the first time I was watching the show I was just starting to think to myself "hey, weren't there pirates in this show?" around episode 11 or 12. It's a great example of hanging a gun on the wall early and firing it late. The Exo-Fleet is smashed, and despite the Neo's setback on Mars the Neos are in ascendance. Winfield needs a fleet, and the pirates have one.

Likewise, the second ending, with Phaeton in a life support suit and Typhonus tasked with hunting down Marsh, Marsala, and Winfield has a wonderfully ominous quality to it. Phaeton has always been proud of his physical superiority, how will he react to being grievously injured? And what are the extent of those injuries? Serious enough for him to require assistance with both mobility and breathing, apparently. It's fun to see Typhonus get some comeuppance for his role in Phaeton's injuries, though really I'm not sure how Phaeton would have expected him to handle things differently.

What Doesn't: There's a repetitive moment where one of the mechanics goes over a ledge in an e-frame, echoing Phaeton's fate moments before. It's visually dull.

After defeating the mechanics, the gang conveniently finds all of their e-frames, brought into the complex for examination. It's a very cartoony moment, when it would have made more sense to just use commandeered Neo equipment. (Of course, you'd miss out on the AI stuff, but again, that doesn't really go anywhere anyway.)

Watch for: Aside from the obvious hooks built in for season 2 (Marsh's mission, Typhonus' mission, Phaeton's injuries, Marsala's and Nara's relationship), one of the fleeing Neo Sapien scientists is Praetorius, an important character from season 2. As a geneticist, it makes sense that he'd be in the brood center.

Overall: Great stuff! I got to the end of S1 back in 1994 and was on the edge of my seat for months. One gets the sense that the Exo Fleet is battered, beaten, but not even close to ready to quit. The Neos may be stuck with homo sapiens for another year or two while a new brood center is created, but they've still got the upper hand in terms of ships and frames. It's gonna be an uphill fight.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Exo-Squad Season 1 Episode 12--Betrayal

"I am a Neo sapien. Created by Terrans, feared by Terrans, abused by Terrans, but no more! My place is with Phaeton, and yours is in extinction."

The penultimate episode of season 1 of Exo-Squad is Betrayal. Marsala half-convinces Phaeton he's switched sides and effects the capture of his squad. Phaeton even uses a mind probe on Marsh but isn't 100% convinced, prompting Marsala to offer to execute his former squadmembers. This is the crux of his ruse, and once armed he and Able Squad secure Phaeton inside the Brood Center. Meanwhile, Winfield does his best to get his people extricated from the battle and orders the fleet to limp back to Io, though he allows Takagi and Weston a scout ship to attempt to retrieve their squad.

What Works: This is another powerhouse episode, with just about everything working together as a seamless whole. While most of the emotional weight of the episode (and hence my summary) is down on Mars, about half the episode takes place up in space where there's quite a lot of action to be had.

The show opens with a quiet panning shot, no music or fx, of a very damaged Exo Fleet vessel. Then it explodes and the music and battle fx start up and we realize that the Exo Fleet is still being hounded. It makes sense, Phaeton would press his advantage, and it affords the opportunity for some great space battles. But just the opening is beautifully done.

Phaeton directs the battle from Earth dispassionately. When four Exo-Troopers are reported captured, he inquires as to their rank. Discovering they're not officers, he casually orders them disposed of. (Though see below.)

Marsala is the true star of this episode. He plays Phaeton's ego perfectly, flattering without flattery. His impassioned speech to the apparently about-to-be executed members of Able Squad is so good that I feel compelled to reprint it in its entirety: "You Terrans have never seen your brood mates sold, beaten, mistreated, treated as cattle and worse. Created as slaves, but with a will to be free. Forced to work, to suffer, to die in horrible conditions for Terran greed. Denied even the right to speak up against such tyranny. This is what I've been through. Speak not to me of loyalty. I am a Neo sapien. Created by Terrans, feared by Terrans, abused by Terrans, but no more! My place is with Phaeton, and yours is in extinction." Then the quick wink and smirk he gives Nara after... just perfection. 

We see a little more of the first Neo Sapien Uprising. Phaeton was one of the lynchpins of the failure, getting captured (by a young Winfield) and forced to out the leadership, which included Marsala. This shared history gives additional weight to the Phaeton/Marsala dynamic. It might also explain Winfield's tendency towards over-reliance on e-frames, some mix of nostalgia and operational familiarity.  

The title is great because it works on multiple levels. Certainly, Marsala's apparent betrayal of his team is the obvious one. His betrayal of Phaeton at the end is another. But Phaeton, too, betrayed the rebellion fifty years ago.

The fight at in the Brood Center is another really well choreographed battle. Everything works, but I'm especially partial to JT rushing a guard and Torrez catching his flying weapon, and Nara's spinning kick wherein she appropriates a different guard's blaster.

I like that Phaeton, flattery aside, isn't easily convinced. First he trots out the mindscan, and even then he (correctly) observes that this only proves that Marsh BELIEVED Marsala a traitor.

Speaking of the mindscan, Noretti shows up again. JT is still feeling guilty about her demise. I also rather like the nightmarish vision of Marsala and Phaeton lurking in his subconscious.

Winfield taking over the Exo-Carrier Dominion from Captain Furlough was rather satisfying for the viewers. (But see below) Furlough is never seen again; in my head cannon, he's executed as the mutinous dog he is. As the apparent highest ranking mutineer left alive, that's only apropos.

What Doesn't: This episode has a number of animation errors, including Marsh sitting on an invisible mind probe and Phaeton's tattoo being partially missing.

Phaeton is apparently commanding the battle remotely from the Brood Center. It's odd that he's not out in space with his fleet, or at least in his Martian White House. Presumably he flew here to confront Marsala, though it's have been more logical to bring Marsala to him.

Winfield apparently lands on a ship, takes off again in an e-frame and rejoins the battle, and then commandeering Furlough's ship. It's an odd sequence of events, especially since we've never seen him in a 'Frame before or since. Though I'd have given it a pass if we'd ever gotten a proper toy of Winfield with this mech.

Speaking of, Winfield's a bit of a softie, huh? There's no way I'd have let two pilots go on what really seems to be a suicide mission after the losses he took.

Bronsky apparently gets shot in the gut, and yet moments later he's cannonballing a Neo off a catwalk. I guess he was wearing body armor? But why allow prisoners body armor.

I'm not quite sure I bought that Kaz allowing their scout ship to get shot and playing dead was a winning strategy. Since we'd seen that Phaeton was looking for officers to capture, that was a hell of a gamble. On the other hand, those Sloop-class vessels look really awesome. I'm guessing these are the equivalent of something like a PT boat. I'm also a bit unconvinced by the Kaz/Maggie kiss at the end.

Watch For: This whole episode is setting up the finale on Mars. There aren't a lot of seed sewn beyond the obvious ones. The Kaz/Maggie relationship will endure (a bit) beyond the season.

Overall: The show continues to be an outstanding example of what to do right. The pacing was terrific, the action pieces exciting, and the emotion very real. Characters emote through voice, face, and body language. The ship and mech designs are neat. The stakes keep getting ratcheted up. One more episode to go in this season!