Episode #25 - Tales of Suspense, Part One
Original Airdate - November 28th, 2009
Gene Khan wasn't always the Mandarin and leader of the Tong, his step-father Zhang once held that title. Now Zhang is back for the Makluan Rings, and he'll stop at nothing to get them all. Zhang captures Gene, Tony, and Pepper, and forces the location of the fifth ring from Tony. And while Rhodey struggles to find his friends, Tony and Gene are faced with the fifth guardian... an ancient dragon by the name of Fin Fang Foom. But without Tony's armor and Gene's rings... what can kids do against a dragon?

Episode #26 - Tales of Suspense, Part Two
Original Airdate - November 28th, 2009
Secrets are revealed and friendships are destroyed forever as Rhodey dons the War Machine armor to save his friends from Zhang and Fin Fang Foom. With all five of the Makluan Rings now within Tony and Gene's reach, it's machine versus magic as Iron Man and War Machine fight against the dual threats of Fin Fang Foom and the Mandarin, in a battle that will change everything.

Story Editor Christopher Yost
Written By Christopher Yost
Directed By Stephane Juffe and Phillipe Guyenne
Review by Arsenal

Two nitpicks, and then we’ll get to the review.

Firstly, in Tales of Suspense, there is a scene in which Tony Stark, Pepper Potts and Gene Khan are abducted. They have been kidnapped by Khan’s father-in-law, who has re-assumed the title Mandarin.

While surrounded by the Mandarin’s ninja cronies, Stark begins to tell Khan that he is Iron Man; but he is interrupted by the arrival of Gene’s father-in-law.

OK, I understand why Stark would tell Khan that he’s Iron Man. They have been building to that moment for 25 episodes, but why would he do it in front of the Mandarin’s goons? Does he think the ninjas are deaf? Mute? That they won’t tell his arch-freakin’-enemy?

Stark and Khan are not even whispering.

It’s bad writing, period. The creators wanted that plot point. They wanted the moment where Tony almost tells Gene his secret, so the audience can shout, “No, don’t do it, Tony! That guy is (also) the Mandarin!”

But they eschew logic to get to that moment. It’s a cheat. A good writer would find a way to have that moment make sense or, contrarily, cut out the moment because they knew it did not work.

Secondly, when James Rhodes takes the War Machine armor into space, the internal computer warns about reaching temperatures of “absolute zero.”

It’s not cold in the space right by earth. You don’t freeze. In fact, if anything, you burn because the ozone doesn’t protect you from the cosmic rays. (Yes, I realize the second nitpick is ultimately unimportant; but I needed to get it out of my system.)

Now, let’s talk about Tales of Suspense.

It’s the season finale and throws a lot of big moments at us. Rhodey dons the War Machine armor. Khan learns Stark is Iron Man. Stark learns Khan is the Mandarin. Khan admits that he blew up Tony’s jet and, more importantly, that he has kidnapped Tony’s father and kept him alive. The armory is blown up. A classic Iron Man villain makes its first appearance.

Simply put, a lot of important stuff happens.

But not all of it resonates with the audience.

Part of the problem is too many big things occur for them all to have maximum impact. The Rhodey-War machine stuff works. The Khan/Stark secret swap works. Even Khan admitting he blew up the jet works. But the Howard-Stark-is-alive reveal rings false and cheapens the other big moments.

The reason the Howard-Stark surprise does not work is the creators didn’t prep it properly. If Khan kidnapped Howard Stark for information on the Maklu… Maclu… Mack… power rings, shouldn’t Khan have gleaned some information from him? Couldn’t the audience at least see Khan talking to a captive, let us assume it was his father-in-law and, then, surprise us with Howard Stark’s survival?

You have to build to surprises. You need to earn them by hinting (even obliquely) to the audience that they might be possible.

You can’t say, “The butler killed him,” if you haven’t revealed there was a murder yet.

In the end, it just seems like one more plot point that the creators wanted to force in.

I still can’t call Tales of Suspense a bad episode. It gives us the conclusion to plot lines for which we have been waiting all series and a few, worthwhile surprises. But the discerning viewer will be disappointed by the haphazard nature of some of the plotting.

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