Last time: Ash and Misty fended off a violent gang and Ash was about to catch a Pokémon.
This was an episode all about love. Obviously. Both overtly and openly. Ash does indeed capture a Caterpie and the celebration that ensues is befitting an utterly charming dork. Ash celebrates catching his first Pokémon as if he had just won the Pokémon League, which I guess given that’s something he’ll never experience he might as well take his wins where he can get them.
He parades his newly captured Caterpie (which again he proclaimed “You’re mine!” as he caught it, continuing his weird obsession with subjugating these poor Pokémon relentlessly) like a trophy he worked his whole life to win, rather than the fact that he yolo-balled the first Pokémon he stumbled across in the woods. But it’s adorable. The music rules too!
Then comes the love portion of the episode. We’ve already established that Misty has a deep unrequited (?) love for Ash but she has to confront that on multiple levels in this episode. First of all she no longer has any reason to be with Ash. Now she’s just a stalker. She faces that one down by just continuing to follow him. Subtle.
The other element she had to confront was Caterpie’s love. You see, while Misty may have a real fear of bugs – her true fear is her love for Ash being exposed. They squabble like an old couple married 40 years in this episode and it’s adorable. However it’s less her fear of bugs she’s confronting but rather the fact that Caterpie is a surrogate for Ash in this scenario.
Caterpie immediately falling head over heels for Misty makes her confront her own adoring love of the utter buffoon that is Ash. She looks at Caterpie and immediately sees a gross, weird but kinda charmingly cute bug. She sees Ash. And she freaks the hell out when it comes for her. This is the obvious deep subtext of this scene and this episode as a whole. And poor Caterpie when it gets rejected. Sobbing and withdrawing from the world. If only Misty could confront her true feelings Caterpie wouldn’t get hurt.
Me hiding from the terrors of the world. pic.twitter.com/Qdz8w2Do5F
— Garrett Kidney (@garrettkidney) November 9, 2018
The other major theme in this episode is Ash becoming moderately competent as a trainer. Ash is book smart. He knows the Pokémon League rules state all battles must be one on one (a rule they clearly threw out the window by the time something like Rotation Battles came about) but he did not know sending a Caterpie out to fight a Pidgeotto is a bad idea. BIRDS EAT BUGS YOU DOPE!
Over the course of the episode though, Ash bonds with his new Pidgeotto, brings the best out of Caterpie to the degree that it evolves into a Metapod and conquers Team Rocket yet again. He begins to form his trademark heart before brains approach to battling and it works for him.
He begins on his road to being a Pokémon Master.
– Who’s that Pokémon? It was Caterpie. Central to the episode.
– There’s a really sweet scene in the middle of the episode where Pikachu and Caterpie have a little chat and bond. It’s entirely without dialogue but it fleshes Caterpie out as a character longing for something more – be it evolution or love. It’s amazing that the show took the time to deepen the characters of the Pokémon as well as the humans – explaining why Caterpie was looking for love. Of course that longing for something more comes back in a little while and my heart isn’t ready for that quite yet.