krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
As the short second set of episodes of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival approached, I might even have got to the point of a little anticipation. However, with "The Gauntlet" becoming available on American Thanksgiving, the "Turkey Day" long linked with the show, I accepted I wouldn't be able to start into it as soon as some people. As for the first weekend following, a pre-Christmas get-together with my family took up most of it. By the time it was over, though, a sudden chill had fallen over me.

I'd happened to run into a brief comment that the first episode of the new block, featuring the E.T. ripoff "MAC and Me," had a putdown of The Phantom Menace in the "riffing." While the beginning of the revival had managed to break through a decade and a half of personal uneasiness for not seeming to be made up of "invoking the same current convenient targets everyone else just keeps putting down," one late episode had included a seemingly out-of-nowhere putdown of that movie, so it was possible to imagine it happening again. It was also easy enough to think "'MAC and Me' has a goofy alien; I know how this will turn out." This started bringing back thoughts of how the last few years of MSTings, just following the movie, had far too often felt like marching into minefields, and how I steered clear of both Rifftrax from its beginning and Joel Hodgson's earlier return to riffing Cinematic Titanic. I am completely aware this is wide open to swift dismissals, but it's something I've been stuck with.

Just lately I had got past a disparaging reference in the "372 Pages We'll Never Get Back" Armada episodes, though, and I did get to thinking that maybe the five episodes remaining in "The Gauntlet" would turn out better for me. When I could make the time for the episode (knowing it and its fellows were several minutes shorter than the series just before, just as the original series had started fitting in more commercials between its third and fourth seasons), I started it on Netflix. Where waiting for the possibility of something that disagrees with me is one thing, though, expecting that moment but not knowing just when it'll hit is something else. (Of course, these moments do vary between people...)

The beginning of the episode did make a light, sustained joke of "how to come back from the cliffhanger ending of the revival's first set of episodes"; I did think a bit of how I'd been ready to see a way out as established in those episodes even if I'd wondered about "writing a MSTing opening" to record a theory outside my mind (although "the MSTing to follow" might have been nothing more than one of my old works with a good bit of search-and-replace and a few "riffs" revised, doubtless reducing it to "for personal consumption only.") As I got into the movie itself (which I'd long been aware of from a disparaging comment in an video review magazine my family's newspaper had once included, and indeed had its own peculiarities), I did start thinking the riffing seemed pretty good in general, somehow blending into "the series as a whole" better than that seeming emphasis on "the way we live now" references to online services that had stuck in my mind a bit in the episodes just previous. That, though, did inspire some thoughts that it would be a shame this generally agreeable outing would have to work around a personal kneecapping...

Then, all of a sudden, I was thinking "that's not a 'putdown'--that's just a reference!" Some of the previous episodes had, in fact, made similar references I'd managed to accept. I'd thought I'd agreed with most of the other opinions of the person who'd made the comment that had first worried me, but now I was wondering if he was in fact touchier on the subject than even me. I managed to settle back, still wondering if the crucial instant would hit somewhere else but letting the general moment-by-moment passage of time even soothe me a bit.

Before the end of the episode, though, one moment resembling an older and more loudly accepted image from the Star Wars saga brought forth a riff that, at the full risk of "paraphrasing," included the declaration "overly possessive fans couldn't accept Luke Skywalker's character arc in The Last Jedi." That took a bit more contemplation than bouncing clear off an all-too-familiar "prequel putdown." To say that a certain amount of complaints about the Disney Star Wars movies are made by people who also wallow in what hits me as unsettling "performative offensiveness" just risks admitting I haven't turned away from those more focused comments, although not everyone keeping up criticism operates from that specific nasty gutter. I can at least try and cling to the subtle distinction "could I accept a fallible Luke Skywalker? Perhaps, but a Luke who makes one mistake, however consequential, only to just collapse into unending depression and isolation afterwards, until shamed out of it with a lesson he should already have known, but still has to give his life to make up for everything, would have needed more development than it seems to me he got."

In any case, the Mystery Science Theater episode itself did seem to end in a better way than I'd been concerned about starting off, and that got "The Gauntlet" off to a better start. The shortened episode had one fewer "host segment" than all the ones before, and also left out the faux "commercial bumpers" that had broken up the first episodes of the revival. This could let the movie sections feel sort of dominating. Still, for all that I don't intend to rush through these episodes any faster than I would get through a DVD set, "cautious optimism" may have perked up a bit afresh looking ahead to other possible doozies.

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