Plot: After the usual prologue/pre-credit teaser, the full strength of H.E.A.T. (including N.I.G.E.L. the Doomed Robot) lands in “Costa Roja,” the first of several fictional Central and South American countries
exploited explored in the course of this show. “So how come I’ve never heard of this place?” Token Youth Randy Hernandez asks. Agent Dupre rises to demonstrate why she’s my favorite character, rhetorically replying: “Because you were educated in America?”
Said team, after the obligatory machete-hacking, comes upon a scene of pastoral devastation: crop fields (what crop? Surely not cocaina. No…that would be wrong. Drugs are bad, m'kay?) turned into giant trenches by the passage of “El Gusano Gigante.” “Humongoid Worm,” Randy translates for Dr. Mendel Craven…who’ll spend today’s episode living up to his last name.Because we’re only a twenty-minute show, El Gusano soon makes his presence felt for our heroes. Running, screaming, and the usual close-calls ensue, until (with an unbelievable level of stealth) Godzilla arrives to save everyone’s bacon.
Ah, but “the G-man’s” did not approach unobserved. With El Gusano distracted, the local military (in a response so rapid it shames the American response to the first Godzilla) pulls our heroes to (relative) safety before opening fire on both combatants. Nick’s pleas for sanity (“General, your weapons aren’t going to slow down those creatures. At best, they’ll only provoke the winner into attacking your troops.”) fall on deaf ears. The local generale has a brand new biological weapon on-site and he’ll be damned if some jumped-up team of Norte scientists is gonna tell him what to do with it.
On the (unnamed) generale's order, the troops fire a checker-board-patterned missile into the monster melee, releasing a cloud of yellow gas. El Gusano retreats after a bout of spontaneous mutation (warping its already out-there physiology to include horns and claw, along with the teeth and eyes--yeah, that's a "worm" alright). Godzilla, in what amounts to a surrealist parody of human inebriation, performs a short “Dude-I-am-so-wasted” dance before falling into the sea.It’s time for Science to swing into action. After many moments of analysis, H.E.A.T. discovers…it’s cancer (dun-dun-DUN!). Well, no, not really cancer…but el generale’s “bio-weapon” is slowly but surely killing Godzilla. Without a fresh sample to poke at, the prognosis is negative: Godzilla will die within hours.
Ticking Clock firmly established, it’s time for some espionage, courtesy Monique Dupre. With a stoic, workwoman’s sensibilities and backup from the amorous Mr. Hernandez, Monique penetrates el generale’s jungle base, conveniently located within easy driving distance of the shore.Meanwhile, back on the Heat Seeker, anchored alongside Godzilla’s unconscious bulk, Drs. Nick and Craven hold a little palaver. “I’m not cut out for this,” Mendel informs his nominal boss. “I’m a thinker, not a doer.” Nick agrees that, once this is over, he’ll be happy to cut Mendel loose—“no hard feelings,” no strings attached.
Unfortunately, Monique and Randy’s little adventure in provoking international incidents was all for naught: it’s impossible to synthesize an antidote from the “tainted” samples they pilfered. So it’s back to the jungle, where our heroes (including the reluctant Mendel) search for the rare orchid el generale used to create his little “bio-phage”. Shocker of shockers—H.E.A.T. finds hundreds of the little things growing in the rich, brown earth of El Gusano’s wake.”If we burn the rest of these plants,” Nick says, “we may at least slow down el generale’s weapons program.” Unfortunately, this attracts the Humongoid Worm, setting up our last action sequence. While the rest of the team keeps El Gusano busy, Dr. Craven voluntarily runs through the jungle (never looking back to see) on a mission to revive Godzilla and save the day.
Analysis: This being the second full episode produced, we see a series in the midst of defining itself. Themes and issues established here will haunt the rest of the show, to be handled or miss handled in turn. Monique and Randy’s relationship is only the most obvious example…with Godzilla and Dr. Nick’s relationship running close behind. In the former case, we see annoyance on the one hand, and horiness on the other, merge into the kind of instantaneous, mutual respect found only in action movies…like the ones Randy describes as he and Monique flee Costa Roja’s forces: “Did you see us in there? We were like Butch and Sundance, Thelma and Louise…uhhh—Sundance and Louise.” Indeed. The latter case is a bit more complicated.
Better to ask the question Mendel’s (all-too-brief) crisis of consciousness trips over: Is anyone really “cut out” for professional monster hunting? Just what are the effects of such a high-stress job? What kind of person would chose to spend long hours of strenuous field work in godforsaken hellholes full of monsters, week in, week out? Why does Mendel Craven chose this life at the end of the episode? Odd that episode writer Richard Mueller didn’t chose to answer this question with Elsie. No, it’s not love, but a near-life experience that triggering Mendel’s epiphany, leaving me to wonder, Why? I mean, I know I’d probably be driven away by a close encounter with Godzilla’s foot. Mendel crawls all over the capillary-filled tissue of Godzilla’s mouth in an attempt to revive the Big G. Hope you never planned to have children, Mendel—Godzilla’s probably putting out enough rads to turn your seed into popcorn. If Audrey Timmonds ever wants kids, she better get real friendly with an adoption agency. For that matter, everyone at H.E.A.T. better watch out for the Big C, king of real life monsters. I’m amazed Dr. Nick hasn’t instituted mandatory radiation suit procedure.Then again, Nick’s already lost his objectivity with regards to Godzilla. His comment at the big guy’s first appearance, make this obvious: "Godzilla followed us thousands of miles out of an instinctual need to protect…me.” Elsie’s response is priceless: “Give yourself all the credit, why don’tcha?”Good for her, bringing this up. How, exactly, does Godzilla track his adopted parental unit over hill and down dale? And air? And sea? “Instinct” is no answer, let me tell you . “Instinct” is a bullshit, catch-all phrase, translated from television-speak to mean, “Well…our writers were too busy, too harried, and/or too uncreative to come up with a good explanation. So we shrugged our shoulders, chalked it up to ‘instinct,’ and hoped no one would notice or think about it too awful much.”
Well, tough, guys. These are exactly the kinds of questions your audience will think about, assuming they’re smart. And daikaiju fans (no matter which side of the Pacific) are some of the smartest, most persnickety sci-fi fans around. We’re not Trekkies (yet…at least, not in this country) but we are a critical bunch, and we dearly love nothing a good round of pie-in-the-sky bullshiting. Having endured more crap in pursuit of our entertainment you’re your average bear, we know (if only on a subconscious level) a good explanation when we hear or see it. We know what works and we know what doesn’t. More often than not, we can even tell you why.“Instinct” fails to explain Godzilla’s behavior because instinct (to make a bald-faced, oversimplification) is the product of evolution…mind-numbingly slow evolution. Birds fly south for the winter because, over the course of millions of years, their species “learned” that this behavior guaranteed survival. Pack animals form bonds, hierarchies, and familial units for the same reason, and they will rush to protect their genetic compatriots at a moment’s notice. But whatever rough, bestial process created Godzilla, it had absolutely jack to do with what the so-called Scientists in this show casually call “evolution.” As if we all know what that word means and all agreed on its definition. We don’t now, didn’t at the time this show premiered, and the creeping terror of Creationism and has only muddied up the waters.
Without going down that road...let me say, then, that Godzilla and his ilk are not “evolutionary” beings. The Series’ label for them, “mutations,” is about as accurate as you’re going to get without Latinizing. They are the rarest of the rare—spontaneous, beneficial mutations, so divorced from Mother Nature she won’t even give them visitation rights. The Series’ creators, relying on buzz words like “instinct” and “evolution,” created a plot hole wide enough for the Godzilla to walk through...and then only filled it up inadequately and haphazardly.
Each daikaiju story invents its own excuse for the titular monster’s presence. Times were Godzilla went where he wanted, when he wanted, for reasons known only to him—a popular track, revived in the 1990s. In the 1970s Hanna Barbara cartoon, Captain Majors of the research ship Calico literally had Godzilla at his beck-and-call, thanks to the ultrasonic pager on his belt (derived, no doubt, from the same technology running Jimmy Olsen’s wristwatch). H.E.A.T. will eventually resort to a similar technique for emergencies…but in a way, this feels like backsliding, in an Alcoholic’s Anonymous sense of the word.
Let me explain: giant monster storytellers (print or film—and I very much include myself in this) are addicted to lazy storytelling. It’s our own damn fault, and I’m sad to see it. We do not challenge ourselves. We wait for audiences to challenge us once our work is complete and it’s no surprise audiences pay so little attention to the finished product. By and large, we’re all producing generic crap, from the heights of Toho Studios to the depths of my own hard drive. We do it because it’s easy—audience expectations are so low, anyway, something like Cloverfield can come along and be like unto a revolution…even though it’s not.
In Nick and Godzilla you sense there’s a chance for the Series to strike out in a new direction, take this whole Monster As Friend To Man thing beyond the perfunctory waves and shouted commands we see here. I just find it sad to see that opportunity missed. Missed opportunities always get me a little misty.