Last time: Ash caught himself a Bulbasaur!
You know, there’s a fundamental decency to Ash. He’s a dope. He’s usually pretty self-centered. He can occasionally let his own stubbornness and pigheadedness get in his own way. But when push comes to shove – he always wants to do the right thing. He wants to help people. He wants to help Pokémon. He’s a good guy.
It helps that he’s guided by Brock as a sort of moral authority to guide him. Misty is there too I guess. This episode is about Ash and Brock being good guys.
The easiest episodes, the most effective, simply juxtapose that core goodness against somebody who’s an utter jerk. Damian in this episode is that jerk. Anybody with an English accent that whiny and high pitched is destined to be a jerk – such is the way of things – but his flippant mistreatment of Charmander is up there when it comes to acts of Pokémon cruelty. The dude literally left the Charmander on a rock to die. Like, seriously?
(though I guess in Pokémon GO you grind up Pokémon into candy to feed to other Pokémon so who is the true monster?)
Team Rocket used their advanced knowledge of hole traps from Melanie in the last episode to dig the perfect hole trap here. And it worked! They also had a very elaborate drill, rubber suits and a device that trapped Pikachu in a balloon. Where do Team Rocket get all this stuff? Is there some sort of evil doers catalogue you can order an assortment of villainy tools from? Or is this a James Bond situation where there’s some Team Rocket version of Q churning out weird and wacky tools? These are the Pokémon answers I want.
Like a true jerk Damian sees Charmander blast off Team Rocket and wants him back. This show loves to make people truly unlikable. Not only does he demand Charmander return to him, but he’s even cruel while doing that. He doesn’t pretend he was wrong in order to win Charmander’s trust – he just says his approach was right all along. I wonder how much of the anger and distrust Charmander projects onto others when it evolves is down to the mistreatment by Damian? Or is it technically because Charmander wasn’t originally caught by Ash so it stops listening to him as it levels, like the games?
Either way another another good character intro episode!
– Who’s that Pokémon? It’s Charmander. How charming?
– There’s a moment in this episode where Pikachu attempts to communicate how Charmander feels through charades that feels like a missed opportunity for better slapstick. I am a noted fan of Pika-slapstick.