A Stretched Season that may Stretch Patience
And so, the world’s longest season (over a calendar year), and the “ultimate” series itself comes to a final, and in our opinion, overdue end. Not that there were not interesting and fun things this season, just that they came with too high a price tag.
Examples of this duality?
- Background on Grandpa Max. Good.
- But it was schmaltzy.
- Background on Azmuth. Good.
- But it was extra schmaltzy.
- Old (once fun) villains return. Good.
- But tired somehow.
- New transforms for Ben. Good.
- But completely out of nowhere.
- A resolution for the Forever Knights. Good.
- But it was sad and lame.
Season Two’s conclusion in a sentence: Ben, a character whose likeability only surpasses Julie’s, continues his careless bumble toward adulthood which regularly endangers those around him including only slightly less angry Gwen, likeable but slowly henpecked Kevin, and often the planet Earth, while also somehow corralling a parade of occasionally comical/stupid/obsessed villains, drinking a lot of sugary beverages, navigating through some real politically correct plots, and doing it all in a continually dark, underpopulated and vaguely depressing world.
That is not to say we dislike the show, on the whole we do not. But this incarnation (ultimate) was stretched too long without payoff. Build up has to reasonably yield resolution for enjoyment. We were past ready for the next reboot, Ben 10: Omniverse.
We appreciated the veiled Christian imagery of (once) noble knights defeating a demonic dragon. In this case, an evil other-dimensional being with the name of an ancient pagan god, Diagon. Once defeated by First Knight George, he now seemed more formidable.
Maybe it was Daigon’s never-ending supply of dimension-skimming, ninja-like esoterica. They got old, because we the viewers never got full satisfaction defeating them (they beat the good guys down again and again with apparently endless supply).
The Ben 10: UA finale asked us to believe our lackadaisical hero Ben, whose undisciplined mind lives on sumo-slammers and slushies, somehow pulls from within the ability to defeat the power of the enemy and change the whole world with the legendary Sword of Azmuth?
Whereas old George, living for 2000 years, the brave, disciplined, once single-handed vanquisher of Diagon, missed the mark? George’s pointless demise (completely un-mourned by Ben) was beneath a character long in the making, and a group (the Forever Knights) dating back to the start of the whole franchise in 2005.
Ben and his venerable arch enemy Vilgax play out a scene lifted almost word for word from one of our favorite Masters of the Universe episodes. The temptation of Heman in “The Search.” (Since Ben 10 producers sought “inspiration,” we are gratified they picked something memorable.
See segment below from 2:00-3:15.)
The extended season must have taken a toll on the writers. Some ridiculous, unfun, politically correct plots made the episode roster, often taking the form of Gwen lecturing us about evolutionary nonsense or about how people litter with plastic bottles, etc. Ugh. Save it for Captain Planet. Don’t tell us the villain this episode is a sentient pile of garbage?
Limits can paradoxically increase drama. Young Ben only had 10 aliens, and struggled with the omnitrix choosing wrongly or “timing out.” In Ultimate it seemed as though Ben had few limits. Why not always go most powerful alien or “ultimate?”
The ultramatrix was ill-defined. What were its (and Gwen’s for that matter) limits? It made for writing challenges, and susceptibility to plot holes. Imagine the challenge in writing villains for Superman (and not relying on Kryptonite every time).
Ben 10: UA was sometimes fun, but the spark was missing. They can do better. Let’s hope they get it straightened out for Omniverse.
Check out our Ben 10 franchise takes:
Tell the FORTRESS what you think!
(Or we will go humungasaur on your face!)