Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: Exo-Squad Season 2 Episode 23--Martian Luck

"My father used to say people make their own luck."

Martian Luck is the thirty-sixth episode of Exo-Squad. It kicks off the Return to Mars storyline. Quite a lot is going on here. Marsh gets promoted to Commander. Nara gets Able Squad. They're tasked to go to Mars and conduct a long-term reconnaissance mission, after reports from an intelligence asset stop coming in. Torres goes MIA, which causes Bronski to almost lose it, not knowing she's been rescued by Exo-Scout Troop 119. And, ticking away in the background, we're reminded that there's some kind of enormous installation on Mars that the Exo-Fleet knows nothing about.

What Works: The basic premise is pretty interesting. Marsh as a leader seems almost invincible, so giving the reins of the squad to Nara offers some interesting potential for character development. It's clear that she has a long way to go; her orders get ignored in the heat of the moment, and even J.T. is having a hard time letting go. Marsala, true to form, calls him on it, noting correctly that she and the squad need to see that she has his complete confidence.

Marduk, the Neo feeding Exo-Fleet intelligence, gets captured at the beginning of the episode, which kicks off the whole thing. I like how he gets nabbed while recording Neo Sapien troop movements.

The Neos don't squander their new asset, but use him to bait a trap at the Falls of Eris. It's the smart thing to do, and I like getting to find out a few new places on Mars.

That ambush actually goes halfway decently for the Neo Sapiens. They nail three members of Baker Squad, the other squad under Marsh's command, as well as Torres. Of course, they probably lose twice as many guys, so perhaps it's not a rousing success from their POV. But in terms of the narrative, the baddies are doing quite well. I especially like Marsala rescuing Marsh during the battle, especially considering that Marsh had originally come down to rescue him!
 The two squads relaxing in their cave on Mars is a nice bit. Marsh gives Nara a pep talk, Bronski & Takagi rib each other, Weston works on Burns' frame. Its all very nice character moments. Even Cosari, Baker Squad commander, is there, though he doesn't have much to do.

The Typhonus / Ixion dynamic is probably the healthiest we've seen between Neo Sapien General and Neo Mega adviser. They even joke and quip with each other a bit. When Marduk complains that they left him no choice about compliance, Typhonus observes that he could have chosen death instead. Ixion dryly remarks that, "perhaps he did not consider that a valid option." No, indeed.

Torres going MIA is definitely milked for drama. This gives Bronski a great character moment when he and Takagi disobey orders to go look for her. When they find the exploded remains of her E-Frame, he briefly pursues suicide by Neo, before Nara gets him to stand down.

Poor Kosari, commander of Baker Squad. He loses half his guys, then still manages to take command once Marsh is incapacitated and does a halfway decent job extricating them from the mess they're in. I like how matter-of-fact DeLeon is, taking his orders. I mean, there's no reason why he shouldn't be, but one gets the sense that Able Squad generally plays by their own rules.

The battle between the six Exo-Scouts and the one Neo Command E-Frame is kinda neat, and about what you'd expect between six capable children with very high-tech toys and one military-grade exo-suit. (But, see below.)

The title, Martian Luck, seems a bit random, but the writing pulls it together by making frequent mention of Luck. Torres just ran out of it. Nara's first encounter with a Neo patrol was just bad luck. Etc.

What Doesn't: I can't say there's much I fault. Perhaps my biggest complaint is with the basic premise of the Exo-Scouts. We're almost three-quarters of the way through the story. Did we really need a group of cute kids?

I don't particularly care for Nara's E-Frame. This is unusual, since normally I'm a big fan of the designs in this show. It just seem odd to squish her frame and Marsh's together like this. I'd have been fine with her commanding from a Ground Support E-Frame, or perhaps one of the other models not used by a member of the squad.

Watch For: Baker Squad is introduced this episode. Under the command of Kosari, it appears to consist of seven troopers with six mechs. (The E-Frames aren't terribly consistent from episode to episode or even scene to scene. We'll keep track of how the squad is doing. I do like that each squad member gets their own character design. I'm less keen on the color pallet, though I suppose I see why it's necessary.

This episode, three of Baker Squad's frames are wrecked, taking their pilots with them; a Takagi-style Exo-Wing, a Marsala-style Rapid Assault E-Frame, and a Napier-style Enforcer E-Frame. It's tough to tell but I believe that Kosari should have a Bronski-style Ground Assault E-Frame, a Weston-style Repair E-Frame, and a DeLeon style Intelligence E-Frame left. (Again, this will be woefully inconsistent.) We'll keep watch as this storyline progresses. Spoiler Alert: it's much better to be a member of Able Squad than of Baker Squad.

Of course, the giant underground Martian complex will put in an appearance. The gun on the wall has now been seen twice, it'll definitely get fired.

Bio: Butler. On the plus side, it's a new one. On the minus side, he has nothing to do with the episode, and there's no new footage.

Overall: A strong start to an important new plotline. If anything, it seems like perhaps they crammed in too much material. The Martian mission itself is critical, and Nara's new role is interesting. If anything, it's the Torres MIA / Exo-Scout plotline that feels a tad superfluous. Though, of course, it's a bit early to tell. As ever, we'll stick around and see how things shake out.


Monk of War said...

I saw this episode twice and took notes about Baker Squad, in order to write entries in the Exosquad wikia.

When both exosquads penetrate Mars's atmosphere, I think you can see Baker Squad's full complement of e-frames, including a red field repair e-frame (same type as Maggie's) and a purple ground assault e-frame (like Bronski's). The last time you see the red repair frame is when the Neo ambush at the Falls of Eris kicks off. What happens to it is never shown because it not seen after that or in the next three episodes.

The purple ground assault e-frame is piloted by a female called Henshaw (named in the episode 'Call of the Unknown'). It can be seen briefly when Alec guides both exosquads into the caves to escape the Neos.

In the subsequent episode The Lost Patrol, Marsh reports that four members of Baker Squad were lost in the Falls of Eris although we see three e-frames being wasted.

Even though we clearly see a police enforcer e-frame from Baker get destroyed, the same coloured vehicle appears in the next three episodes. I don't know if it's a continuity error or if Baker has two of these frames.

Monk of War said...

Forgot to add, Baker did have an orange field comms e-frame (DeLeon's type)which appears at the beginning. Just like their red repair e-frame, you never see its fate.

Poor Baker Squad, they really got a raw deal but Kozeri did manage to do some damage.

Jimtron said...

I've tracked it and it does seem to change quite a lot from episode to episode. It's really that sixth mech... the show is pretty uncertain exactly which one it is.