Episode #45 - Control-Alt-Delete
Original Airdate - March 28th, 2012
Seeking revenge, the Controller has created an elaborate scheme to mass-enslave the city via a new virtual technology called THE MAINFRAME. Tony finally realizes he’s in a virtual city created by the Controller, who has gone quite insane since the last time they met. He wants everyone to become a part of The Mainframe. Iron Man starts to destroy the virtual city byte by byte, catapulting him into the real world, where he takes on The Controller man to man.
Written John Shirley
Control-Alt-Delete is a decent enough story but it has one, nagging flaw.
It can’t settle on what story it wants to tell.
Is it a mystery about Tony Stark trying to find a missing James Rhodes and Pepper Potts?
Is it a sci-fi romp about Tony being trapped in the matrix?
Is it a coming-of-age story, starring Rhodey as he asserts his independence and overcomes those who would try to manipulate him?
Or is it an Icarus story for the Controller in which he flies too close to the sun and gets burned?
Control-Alt-Delete starts out with the first plot and then tries on the other three but it doesn’t quite cohere.
We open en media res with Tony trying to find Rhodey and Pepper. He quickly realizes something is awry and that something is the Controller.
The Controller has kidnapped Tony and put him in the Matri… excuse me, a universe he controls called the Mainframe. (I’m not sure if this a deliberate Reboot reference or not.) The Controller does this so he can learn the secret to extremis, which he can use to – y’know – control people.
Most of the episode works, if only because about half of Control-Alt-Delete is dialogue between Adrian Petriw’s Tony and Michael Kopsa’s Controller; and Petriw became one of the best things about this show awhile back and Kopsa does a wonderful job chewing the scenery.
However, Control-Alt-Delete loses steam in its third act because there are a pair of moments that are meant to feel big but don’t, and that undercuts the episode’s momentum.
The first moment belongs to James Rhodes. Now, I should explain that Rhodey is kept offscreen for most of the episode. He appears in the final act – his mind controlled by the villain – to fight Tony.
Tony tells Rhodey to fight it. Because that’s how every superhero in the history of the genre has overcome mind control – by fighting it.
So that’s what Rhodey does. He asserts his will over the Controller, even telling himself, “No one controls you. You’re James Rhodes!”
The voice actor, Daniel Bacon, sells the line well enough but both the line and moment come out of nowhere.
Up until that moment, this story has not been about Rhodey controlling himself or otherwise. It’s been about Tony in the Mainframe. So this supposedly climactic moment comes from nowhere.
I can envision a version of Control-Alt-Delete from Rhodey’s perspective in which we see him pummel Tony and slowly, through the course of an episode, he asserts his dominance over the manipulative villain.
In that version of the episode, Rhodey’s declaration makes sense and the moment would have resonance. Here – not so much.
Similarly, the episode ends the Controller frying his own brain and forgetting everything. (I thought the writers of this show had moved on from this crutch after they flash-fried Whitney Stane’s brain.)
That tag seems unnecessary. (Yes, the Controller discovers Tony’s identity in this episode; but, as even Tony notes, every other villain in New York already knows it.) I think – and this is just a guess – that the moment is supposed to provide some sort of epilogue to the Controller’s story.
But, once again, this isn’t the Controller’s story. It is Tony’s. So the moment just feels like an interruption – a particular macabre one at that – in the tale they’re telling.
However, having said all that, this episode does still have some fun stuff by which to recommend it. I can’t say enough good about the work Petriw and Kopsa do here. In fact, Petriw says what might be my favorite line of the series thus far:
“I caught you with your pixels down.”
So from the standpoint of a writer or a storyteller, Control-Alt-Delete has its flaws. However, I don’t think these flaws are going to upset anyone who is just looking for 30 minutes of entertainment.
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