Friday, October 14, 2016

Mike's Quest, Part 1 ("Thundermans: Secret Revealed")

Is Dan Schneider taking notes?

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. This is part one of Mike's Quest. I'm like that guy......that Spanish guy who fought the windmills. I don't know, Don Quixote or something. Anyway, I made a goal to review one episode of every current live-action sitcom on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel by the end of 2016. Some shows will be alright, and some shows will be terrible. But maybe, just maybe, one show will be good at least. My hopes aren't high, but I'm sticking to my promise. Just a few things to clarify:

1. Shows that I have already reviewed (Henry Danger, Girl Meets World) are off the table.

2. Despite Bella and the Bulldogs ending in June, I decided to make this one exception and review it anyway. It deserves the attention.

Okay, let's do this.

What is it? Half-hour multi-cam sitcom about the lives of a superhero family trying to conceal their identity and live a normal life in a new city.

Where does it air? Nickelodeon since the fall of 2013.

Who stars in it: Kira Kosarin, Jack Griffo, Addison Riecke, Diego Velazquez, Chris Tallman, Rosa Blasi.

Why are we reviewing this? It's part one of Mike's Quest.

Unknown really knew what he was doing by introducing shows this way. Gives the blog a more professional touch.

You might recognize this show because this isn't the very first time that The Thundermans is being talked about on this blog. However, this is the very first time that I'm going to look at an episode in-depth. I have two other Nickelodeon shows on tap, and I'm not looking forward to either of them. But you know what? I knew I had to start my quest off right. And when I found out about this episode a few days ago, I knew it had to be the first one. So why don't we kick this off with a bang?

The Thundermans is a good show. I'm not being sarcastic or just giving them a little credit. I genuinely like watching this show, and it has definitely improved since it first came out. Even in season one, I thought the show was entertaining and deserved props for being a live-action sitcom that's actually good. That's like a unicorn discovery in 2016, and while The Thundermans is nothing groundbreaking or out of this world, it's without a shadow of a doubt the best live-action sitcom Nick has. The jokes are actually funny, the characters are entertaining, the stories are interesting enough, and the superhero concept adds a great amount of suspense. I don't think this show would be anywhere near as good without the superhero stuff, but just take a look at Henry Danger. Even with the superhero stuff, that show has turned into a complete train wreck. The Thundermans does everything Henry Danger tries to do with actual competence and style.

The crossover didn't do The Thundermans justice. It's a much better show than that episode showed you, and with this episode, it's proof that an episode with actual stakes and actual hype.......can live up to expectations and doesn't always have to fall flat on its face. You want another comparison? Take this episode and put it next to "I Know Your Secret," where Jasper finds out that Henry is Kid Danger. That episode had inept storytelling and tried getting emotion out of characters who are nothing more than walking punchlines. The people working on The Thundermans actually care about these characters, and this episode is what happens when you invest time and effort into making your characters mean something.

So, why don't we just cut to the chase here? The title explains it all, but let me give you the details: The town of Hiddenville finds out that the Thundermans are superheroes when Mrs. Wong exposes them, and Max is finally pushed to the dark side. If you've been watching this show from the beginning, you know that Max's desire to be evil has been built up for a very long time. They addressed it in the Haunted Hathaways crossover, which was proof that Max looks at being evil the same way a little kid growing up in the hood might look at gangsta rappers. It's just something cool to him, and Max refuses to compete with Phoebe because he knows she will be a better superhero than him, so why not be the best supervillain? However, this is the first time in the actual series that Max does go there. It's surprisingly dramatic at times and I was genuinely invested in seeing where the plot was going.

One thing this episode knew was that it had to deliver something interesting, and we saw that. Max's desire to officially become a villain in this episode is affected by everything that happens to him. Dark Mayhem, the world's most dangerous bad guy, gives Max an orb designed to take away Phoebe's powers. He's not even one hundred percent behind doing this to Phoebe, and he struggles with his decision until Phoebe not only finds out about the orb, but takes away his powers and says that he did it to himself. Combine that with Hank and Barb turning Max's room into a family room, moving Dr. Colosso to their room and grounding him, it all plants the seeds for Max's eventual heel turn. I was genuinely shocked when Max's powers were taken away. It's very rare that a kids show these days can actually catch me off guard, but it did, and it says a lot about how much I care about these characters that it affected me.

Max is able to get the orb back from Colosso, and he's able to override the system so he can get his powers back and take away the powers of his own family. He also uses his superpower of being a human freeze ray to prevent the family from escaping. There were real stakes in this episode. Not only was the family secret revealed, compromising the reason the family moved to Hiddenville, but Max was finally becoming the villain he always imagined himself being. He did a legitimately evil thing in leaving his family in the house as helpless prisoners. The final confrontation between him and Phoebe actually had me guessing what was going to happen. The tone of the episode was a little more intense, more serious than usual because of what was on the line.

You see, when you have an episode like this, you have to up the ante a little bit. Being a sitcom isn't an excuse. No one said that it has to be nonstop comedy. With Henry Danger, the tone is usually over the top and the pacing is unbelievably slow at times. Because of this, they can't handle more intense stories without dropping the ball. The Thundermans writers understood they had to tell a more dramatic story, so they let the drama do what it had to do while still being able to tell jokes. However, the most important part was in making sure the story was coherent. No emphasis on gags, no overly long scenes, no phony attempts at emotion. It was an episode that was entertaining throughout the 44 minutes, with a strong story, decent jokes, and some much-needed character development for Max.

I say much-needed because Max is now a superhero, and with the show entering its fourth (and most likely, final) season this month, it's the right time to start telling different stories for the character. Max has officially sided with his family, started dating someone new, and made peace with Phoebe after taking down Dark Mayhem and his crew. Writing him in a slightly different way could be interesting. Maybe as an Alex Russo-type character that's prone to goofing off but is capable of being the best hero in the family when he takes things seriously. Just a thought.

It will also be interesting to see how the show deals with the family now being famous superheroes. I don't expect too much to change, but the whole point of moving to Hiddenville was so the Thundermans could protect their identity. Now with the secret exposed, what can the writers do to shake things up? One thing's for sure, I'm genuinely interested in where the show goes this season. The Thundermans is the longest-running live action show on Nick right now. It's survived changing dates and time slots, managed to improve over time, become more consistent with quality, and even outlasted The Haunted Hathaways like I predicted. If this episode is any indication, I'm going to miss the show when it's gone, and I appreciate the fact that this show actually tries its hardest to entertain.

When the stakes are high and the chips are down, The Thundermans comes through with great season finales. Season two brought us a baby, and season three brought us the exposure. What can we expect in season four? I have no idea, but at least there's something to look forward to.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Kira Kosarin and Jack Griffo. Phoebe and Max really carry this episode but they both do a great job of being relatable and likable. I don't hate Max in this episode because this is the result of wanting to be the bad guy for three seasons, and Phoebe is the ultimate hero so in a way, I can understand her not caring too much that she took Max's powers. The character motivations make sense and help give the story legs instead of dragging it down. 

-The next show I tackle will most likely be Game Shakers, followed by School of Rock. That's what it's looking like.

-Tonight's Girl Meets World was hot garbage. I stuck to my word by not being a part of the ratings for it, but watching it on DVR is really no less shameful. I'm interested in the next one where Topanga hits Riley with a steel chair. Should be exciting.

-There's an okay subplot here that deserves some attention. Billy and Nora want to fight crime but Hank and Barb tell them they're still too young, so they take the hero aptitude test to see how ready they are. Nora passes with flying colors, while Billy fails of course, because he's Billy and he's stupid. Nora switches the scores to boost Billy's confidence, Billy starts thinking he's a hero mastermind, Nora tells the truth, and during the big fight, Billy proves his mettle. I always wondered whether or not Billy has some kind of learning disorder. Either that or he's prone to severe mental problems but the show's never made that clear.

-Phoebe and her friends decide to go to the junior prom with each other and to demonstrate that, do the "Single Ladies" dance multiple times in the episode. I'm not even that upset that the show is referencing "Single Ladies" because I guess that song is going to end up being one of those timeless hits. I'm more upset at the fact that half the time when they do the dance, they're not even trying.

-At the museum, when Phoebe caught a jewel thief, she ended up exposing the Villain League's hideout so that's why Max ends up meeting them at the burger joint. I'm glad they actually bothered to explain why they were meeting there. If it was another superhero show, the scene would just go on without the characters wondering why the meeting wasn't at the hideout.

-I really like how pissed off Hank and Barb are for Max meeting up with Dark Mayhem. It's like, they know he's been interested in villainy for a long time but they never thought he would go as far as to consider taking Phoebe's powers so they really drop the hammer on him.

-I was wondering why Max was wearing different clothes once he got the orb back and took the family's powers. I guess he had time to change into a villainous outfit? I also like how nonchalant he was about walking into the prom dressed like Dean Ambrose and threatening Phoebe with the orb, like it was just a normal thing for him to do and no one would question why he was doing it.

-You might know Max's girlfriend from See Dad Run. I say might because that show didn't exist for a long time. Also, she has a high pitched voice and she's pretty short. I loved her attitude in this whole episode, just being freaked out and aggressive about everything. Her hypocrisy when it came to protesting prom until she found a nice dress, yelling at Phoebe because she didn't know where Max was, and just telling the boys in the hall that if they want to take her to prom, meet her outside. I had no idea Ryan Newman could actually play a funny character.

-The Thundermans' secret being exposed could have been its own episode, but I liked how they threw it in here without having it take away from the story of Max becoming a villain. I also had a suspicion that since Hiddenville knew the secret, the Hero League would force the family to move out, creating a cliffhanger for season four. However, that didn't happen. That was a surprise too, so seeing how the show handles the family's new status has me curious.

-A good joke in this episode is when Phoebe's friends are shocked that she's a superhero, and Cherry's just like, "I knew for a year." I was almost expecting the show to do a joke where Cherry forgets she knew the secret.


  1. Thundermans is alright. It has it's charms, but does fall in the same traps as most modern Nickcoms, mosttly the generic charecters and mean humor. But it has somewhat improved and has plenty to like, including this episode.

    Thundermans is taking more cues form Mighty Med than Henry Danger, that's for sure. Nothing hugely against that show to be honest, but it's nice to have some actual story in a show like this.

    As for World of Teror, I'll go more into detail on my blog, but yeah, it did have a coherent story this time, but there was no reason for it to be a Halloween episode.

    1. Yeah, I know the bar is low in 2016 and you shouldn't praise mediocrity but I really like this show. It has its thing (the superhero concept) and does that thing very well.

      I'm not looking forward to the other reviews though.

    2. Mike,

      Here's a question I'd like to ask you, Mike.

      Imagine if, on the evening before prom, when either Hank or Barb come down to Max's lair to serve him his dinner (It's assumed that he was forced to eat his meals down in his lair while grounded), Max goes into a huge frenzy and says this:

      "Mom/Dad, I promised Allison I'd take her to prom tomorrow. She will probably break up with me if I'm not there. And, my band is playing at the prom tomorrow as well. I will accept the fact that you're keeping Colosso, and I'll accept the fact that you renovated my lair, and I will even do all of my siblings chores, if you'd just allow me to go prom tomorrow. Please! Please! PLEASE!!!!!!"

      What do you think Hank or Barb (Depending on who came down) would say in response?

  2. Also Mike, given that you said that you liked how Barb and Hank dropped the hammer on Max, I have to wonder this. Did you even approve of them locking Max up in his lair? Please, please, please answer this question.


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