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The penultimate episode of Green Lantern: The Animated Series‘ first season has been unleashed upon the masses, and as we might expect, things go from worse to worst for the crew of the Interceptor and as we head into the season finale things are indeed looking the grimmest they ever had.  And, yes, I know it’s technically the series’ finale but I’ve either reverted back to the first stage of grief and am in denial or I continue to hold out hope that something will happen to bring this amazing show back to the airwaves.  Or maybe it’s a bit of both!

Ernie Altbacker is back as the writer for this episode and he does a superb job of balancing out the action and drama that needs to build towards next week’s climax and putting in enough humor to keep things from getting too dark.  Along the way we see some great nods to characters who have appeared in the series thus far and a teaser for at least one long awaited character that we might get to see if we do get a second season.

Director Sam Liu is in the driver’s seat of “Ranx” and he brings his A game to the show as he seems to do with everything he touches.  Liu posted online that this was his last episode and, as with everyone in the cast and crew, I thank him for helping to breath life into the show and putting all the love and care that the creators have done with every minute of every episode.  Green Lantern: The Animated Series is better for you having been a part of it, Mr. Liu.

When Manhunters attack the seemingly uninhabited planet Ranx the Green Lantern Corps are sent to intervene and find out what has drawn their formidable attention.  Hal, Kilowog and Razer are still shipless what with Hal using the Interceptor as a battering ram against the Aya Monitor last week.  Hal has been getting signals on his ring from someone, but the identity of the sender remains a mystery after Appa Ali Apsa  sends the trio to Ranx to assist in the assault against the Manhunter army.

“The calmness of the lake” indeed!

Before they depart Kilowog tries to appeal to Razer about the very real prospect that there is no saving Aya, forcing him to accept the alternative that she’ll need to be destroyed.  Altbacker shows us some real growth for Razer here as we see how his time on Odym has affected him, something which will come in handy later on.  Hal finds himself relating to Razer when they three arrive near Ranx to learn that Guy Gardner is not only in charge of the assault team, but he’s been promoted to Honor Guard, leaving Sector 2814 in the hands of that “fake newsguy”, John Stewart.

Altbacker uses the Hal/Guy dynamic for some great lines, succeeding in both building the tension between the two and providing some great grin inducing dialogue.  Guy is captured perfectly here and while he is used to create most of the lighter moments during the episode he still makes an apt commander for the Green Lantern Corps.  What follows is a sequence that I’ve been waiting for – the entire Green Lantern Corps assembled.

Altbacker ratchets up the Hal/Guy tension

Making their return is Ch’P, Tomar-Re, and the comedy relief of Larvox and Chaselon.  Ke’Haan, who made a blink and you’ll miss it cameo in “Reboot” is here as well along with a huge number of nondescript members of the Corps.  The creators do a clever job of creating an army of Green Lanterns using elements from other characters and I consciously had a flashback to my childhood using Tomy’s “Mighty Men and Monster Maker” to design my own army of  Corpsmen as young Fantern.  I picture the animators using a 21st Century CG version to put together a collection of their own.  I was a tad surprised and saddened not to see Sinestro among them, and while he could have been one of the number engaged in battle I would highly doubt he would allow Guy to be in charge if he were there.

The tightness of the scripts has been a hallmark of the series and once again the writers weave elements from past episodes into the fabric of later shows.  Altbacker uses Razer’s training with the Blue Lanterns as a tool to allow Razer, Hal and Kilowog to creatively bypass the Manhunters until Razer is unable to deny his emotions, triggering a desperate flight to the surface when they are caught on the other side of the battle lines.  Hal has some nice moments trying to help Razer deal with the strength of his emotion and then completely embracing his convictions when he casts himself headlong towards what would have been his death had he been wrong.

As always the animators pay attention to the details, like Razer’s predominant emotion at this moment.

For the uninitiated “Ranx” is a another shout out to Green Lantern comics continuity, being the name of a sentient city which eventually becomes a member of the Sinestro Corps, nearly destroying Mogo at one point.  With regard to the episode Ranx appears to be sentient until our trio of heroes discovers that the long abandoned planet has become the sanctuary for the head of the Anti-Monitor, which itself had become a vessel for its essence after Aya removed it during “Cold Fury” several episodes ago.

The Anti-Monitor’s head makes a deal with Hal and crew, appealing to their good nature to protect him from Aya.  There’s more to their benevolence than their commitment to their ideals since the Anti-Monitor reveals that he maintains a “time displacement cylinder” which Aya has learned about.  The cylinder would allow her to rewrite history and it’s preventing that eventuality that is utmost in their minds.

Of course Aya arrives on the scene and despite an awesome display of power by the Green Lantern Corps she doesn’t even break a robotic sweat getting by them before making her way to the planet’s surface and getting her hands on the cylinder despite Razer’s dramatic attempt to make a final appeal to her.  As the episode comes to a close the Red Lantern has a disheartening realization that Kilowog was correct earlier and that there is no saving Aya.  Overpowered and outmaneuvered the good guys find themselves up to their norts in trouble with one episode left to set things right.

The symbolism of Fanterns versus the robots at Cartoon Network is unintentional, but apropos

“Ranx” is a powerhouse of an episode in a series filled with them.  In trying to think about what I know is going to be an amazing conclusion I’ve been pondering the seeds that the show’s creators have planted knowing that how the plot is resolved will not come from some sort of poorly conceived Deus Ex Machina but from what has come before.  I’m drawn to some key concepts from the second half of the season that I personally believe will have great bearing in next week’s episodes.

Mainly, it’s the overarching narrative about love that has played out throughout the whole series that I think has great significance.  In particular there’s are a couple of lines Carol Ferris said in “Love Is A Battlefield” that I find the most compelling.  “Love is a about doing what’s best for the one you love.  It’s as simple as putting his or her needs before your own.”  With Razer having come so far and realizing that he does truly love Aya I have to wonder if he will live up to Carol’s definition when the time comes next week.

The Anti-Monitor is always one step a-head of the good guys…..

Aya’s plan is to use the “time displacement cylinder” to change the origins of organic life in the universe, but could Razer in the end use the same device to do something to change the more recent chain of events?  The potential here is powerfully dramatic and not necessarily an entirely triumphant solution that would leave some unanswered questions we might not get an answer for.  But Razer’s journey from being consumed by grief and selfishness rage to making the ultimate gesture of love would be extremely fitting.

Of course, there’s also a potentially happier way out using same solution, or there’s the matter of the Ion entity revealed in “Scarred”.  That could come into play should Hal find it necessary to merge with the entity in order to level up enough against this game’s final boss battle.  I don’t know for certain how it will end, but I know that I’ve never been let down by this cast and crew before and I don’t expect I will next week, either.  “Ranx” is a great ride that I was sad to see end and worth twenty out of ten lanterns – this show has defied any scale I can come up with!

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