Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Flash Gordon Episode Three: Infestation Review


With a title like Infestation, you think that it would be a tense action/drama. The fact that Infestation revolves around laughs diminishes what should be serious material. There is nothing wrong with having a lighter episode. There is something wrong when you try to make light of a character's potential death.

Baylin (Karen Cliche) is about to endure one of the most daunting trials on Earth: a wedding. No, not her own. Somewhat reluctantly, Baylin is going with Flash Gordon (Eric Johnson) and Dale Arden (Gina Holden), as the idea of leaving Baylin alone is too dangerous. Flash's best friend Nick (Panou) is serving as best man to Nick's brother Michael, so off they go.

Advised by Dr. Zarkov (Jody Racicot) that a rift has opened, Flash and Baylin investigate at the worst time. Making matters worse for everyone, one of the 'happy bugs' that slipped through the rift has infected Nick. Baylin knows that Nick is a dead man, as the 'happy bug' kills within a day while making the victim feel joyful. Feeling sad will temporarily prolong life, but only the Omadrian Cure can save him. To get the Cure, Baylin and Flash go through the rift while Dale has to do her best to make Nick sad.

The Omadrians do not welcome visitors, especially men. These Amazonian types will only trade the Cure, but Flash has nothing to offer. Rashly, he tells them he will recover and return the Urn of Omadria, a sacred object, to them currently held by Ming (John Ralston) and stolen by Baylin at his command. Infestation then goes between Flash and Baylin's efforts to retrieve the Urn, with some help from a reluctant Princess Aura (Anna Van Hooft) while Dale attempts to bring the increasingly joyful Nick down.

Image result for FLASH GORDON INFESTATIONInfestation is a curious episode in that it seems an odd choice to have something so light so soon within the series. Again, having a lighter, more humorous episode is not wrong, but Infestation might have been shuffled to play later in the season when we could have used some laughs.

It isn't as if Baylin's culture clash didn't already provide some humor. Whether finding her dress too useless for combat or at the end taking bites out of the wedding cake, we had some really good moments with the character. This is one of Infestation's best qualities, as Cliche is turning out to be a surprise: adept at handling comedy with action without making Baylin look ridiculous.

As such, a whole light episode could have been reworked around her interactions with the wedding. You could have even put in some danger, even with the 'happy bugs', but as structured here Infestation flounders.

At a certain point Nick's glee is so annoying you almost wish he would die. "I know you can't help being a bitch sometimes", he tells Dale with a smile after another failed effort to make him miserable. Bless Panau and Holden for doing their best with the material they had but both seemed forced in their performances, as if trying to make this funny when it really should be serious. Johnson did well as Flash too, managing the action and lightness.

There's a strange tonal imbalance in Infestation that I think viewers would end up puzzled. There's also a lot of hanky-panky going on with Flash either undressing or looking at Baylin or Aura with some desire and only Aura reciprocating. As they fight, Aura makes the not-so-subtle suggestion that Flash has an erection. If she only knew that earlier, the Omadrians were about to make him a eunuch!

Infestation also has a question left unanswered: there were two 'happy bugs' that came through but only one did anything? Whatever happened to Happy Bug Number 2?

To its credit Infestation does look at times fantastic with beautiful cinematography, but on the whole Infestation either could have been made into a straight drama or shifted later in the season for a few laughs. Apart from Cliche's performance Infestation is a poor stumble so early in the season.


Next Episode: Assassin

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