Animated Series Episode 21 Review – “Babel”

The last couple of weeks have weighed heavy on Green Lantern fans given some of the news we’ve been dealt as well as the wonderfully tragic and powerfully dramatic episodes of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, “Loss” and “Cold Fury”.  Needless to say we all could have used a light hearted diversion from all the gloom and doom and the ever omniscient producers of the show come through as they always do to deliver “Babel”, a fun romp in the Green Lantern universe that serves as a bit of a cosmic sorbet, cleansing the palette before we jump headlong into the conclusion of the Anti-Monitor story arc and, sadly, the series.
Written by Charlotte Fullerton (the widow of Dwayne McDuffie) and Kevin Rubio, “Babel” picks up after the conclusion of “Cold Fury” when the Aya-Monitor tells the crew of the Interceptor to talk to the hand, sending them headlong into space without the means to pilot the ship.  When the crew finds the ship pulled into the gravity well of an alien planet they discover themselves without any power left in their rings to fly, protect themselves and unable to understand each other without the aid of the translator functions of their power rings.

Razer tries to power up the failing Interceptor

Stuck on a planet without an oxygen enriched atmosphere, Hal, Kilowog and Razer set across the surface of the planet to bide their time while their power batteries recharge.  The three find themselves unwanted in the nearby domed city and after a number of run-ins with the locals they manage to survive the experience and by the end of the episode return to the Interceptor and depart.

While not much happens in this episode to advance the overall story, “Babel” is perhaps a filler episode, but one which is needed to break up the heavy tone the series has had recently.  While the geek in me wants to believe that the episode title is a nod to the translating nature of the Babel fish of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the reality is more likely linked to the literal translation of the word babel and how it relates to the confusion between the three characters once their ability to understand each other comes into play.  Either way, the aptly title episode is a treat from start to finish.

Shades of “Return of the Jedi”, not that that’s a bad thing!

It could be argued that given the nature of what’s just transpired it would seem uncharacteristic for the crew to be so happy go lucky, but if you just surrender to the notion that all three of them are trying to make the best of their situation and deal with the pressure with a little bit of humor it goes a long way to put that out of your mind and just enjoy the show.  Between the humorous military cadences of Hal and Kilowog, Razer pulling an arsenal of hidden weapons out of his pocket to barter for a lift and Razer acting as the unlikely translator while Hal and Kilowog trade barbs “Babel” never ceases to entertain.  Razer’s reaction when Kilowog tosses him the head of a Manhunter makes me laugh every time I watch it!  And when it’s time for a little action director Sam Liu pulls off a Rancor pit inspired fight sequence which gets the heart pumping.

What’s really refreshing is how the creators embraced the notion that while the ringbearers are dependent on their power rings for so much, what really matters in the strength of character each had to be selected in the first place.  They also didn’t hide from the fact that not every planet has a breathable atmosphere and that not everyone in the universe knows English.  In fact, for this episode Rubio created languages for Kilowog and Razer, translating their English lines to the newly created alien tongues.  According to producer Jim Krieg, both he and Giancarlo Volpe wanted to use the language barrier as a gag earlier on, but Bruce Timm suggested it be used as a main point for a story rather than a secondary bit.

Click on the image to see some of the original lines of dialogue before Kevin Rubio translated them.

Kevin Michael Richardson and Jason Spisak do a superb job of making sure the audience understands the tone of what Kilowog and Razer are saying without ever understanding the words so that we aren’t as lost as Hal is.  Josh Keaton’s rousing speech during the climax of “Babel” might have been lost on the crew, but it reminded me of why Hal has always been my hero.

Giancarlo Volpe tweeted that this episode was inspired by “The Hangover” and even though “Babel” is certainly not the adult fare of that film it manages to provide twenty or so minutes of humor and fun.  Sometimes it’s important to be reminded of the simple joy of being entertained and “Babel” does that in fine fashion.  Four out of five lanterns.

About the author

Life long Green Lantern fan and co-host of the Podcast of Oa. I'm a Barbecue snob and aficionado of blues music. Hal Jordan is my co-pilot!

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