Episode #38 - All the Best People Are Mad
Original Airdate - November 26th, 2011
An envious Rhona turns Tomorrow Academy into a lethal maze of traps for Tony and his schoolmates, while her twin brother, Andy, turns out to be unexpectedly lethal as well.
Directed By Stephane Juffe and Phillipe Guyenne
Review by Arsenal
We’ve had enough high school superheroes for it to count as a subgenre of its own.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures is just the latest to join a pantheon already populated by X-Men: Evolution, Spectacular Spider-Man, Static Shock, Batman Beyond and W.I.T.C.H.
We might as well include Disney fare like Kim Possible and American Dragon: Jake Long as well. Even though the title characters weren’t created for comics, their shows still pit an untypical teen against supervillains, as well as normal high school woes like dating, grades and acne.
Now, I think all of the shows I just named have merit. However, many of them struggled to incorporate their high school setting into their stories. It’s difficult to involve average high school students in a superhero’s life without it seeming contrived.
For example, remember the Batman Beyond episode when Terry’s friend dated an out-of-control robot? It was embarrassing. Can you name a good episode of X-Men Evolution that centered on Bayville High? (Even as a fan of almost anything that paired Lance and Kitty, I thought “Shadow Dance” was ridiculous.)
But shows can find a way to make the school and superhero stuff overlap without embarrassing themselves.
Static Shock was at its most poignant during “Jimmy,” because a kid really could bring a gun to school. It’s a lot more realistic (and, consequently, affecting) than a bunch of monsters from another dimension invading a school dance.
Similarly, Spectacular Spider-Man (the gold standard for high school superheroics, in my opinion,) grounded all of its high-school plots in reality and used the setting to tell stories about isolation, class differences and steroid abuse.
And that’s where Iron Man: Armored Adventures and “All the Best People Are Mad,” specifically, fails.
It lets Tony Stark’s scholastic rivals Rhona and Andrew (who are revealed as the Mad Thinker and Awesome Andy, respectively,) convert their high school into a series of Saw-influenced death traps that only Tony can escape.
Turning a high school into a murder house might be in poor taste, considering the proliferation of school shootings. More importantly, it’s the sort of thing that strains the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
OK, I can believe that a teenage genius built high-tech armor and fights crime. I can even believe that he might have an equally brilliant rival who freaks out and tries to kill him and his classmates. However, I cannot believe that a person could suddenly install a series of elaborate death traps with pressure-control flooring, spinning razors and poisonous gasses in their high school between commercial breaks.
The scenario itself is so ridiculous that it’s hard to take anything in this episode seriously.
Moreover, Rhona’s big idea is to pit her intelligence against Tony’s. And she does it by making him answer a bunch of trivia questions that anyone with a smart phone could solve.
And that’s a shame because this version of the Mad Thinker – a girl so lonely she would build herself a brother – has potential. Had they focused on Rhona’s loneliness instead of silly set pieces, this could have been a good episode.
By focusing on Rhona’s psychological anguish, the writers could have made good use of the high school setting by reminding the viewer of how tough it is to be an adolescent and isolated.
And until Iron Man figures out how to ground its high school-centric episodes in recognizable situations and emotions, it will continue to tell silly stories like this one.
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