Monday, September 23, 2013

"Fraggle Rock" Month - Season 3, Episode 4: "The Grapes of Generosity"

Here we are in season three of "Fraggle Rock".  Once again, I'll be picking five especially interesting episodes to discuss over the week. Today will be a little different because thus far, I've only reviewed episodes that are objectively good.  Today's episode is... well, I hate to say it but it is not good.  Actually, it's bad.  But it's the reason why I disliked this episode that's why I'm bringing it and up at all.

And to be fair, "Grapes of Generosity" isn't even the worst episode I've run into so far.  Yes, I regret to say this but sometime near the end of the second season, I ran into the first episodes of "Fraggle Rock" that were honestly real duds.  "Red's Club" basically ignores the most heartwarming moments in "All Work and All Play" and Red treats Cotterpin horribly throughout.  "Doozer Is as Doozer Does" delivers a deadly earnest anti-peer pressure "just say no" message as if it's required by broadcast law (to be fair, it was 1984), with all the enthusiasm that implies (by the time we get to the scene where Wrench Doozer runs into an Uncle Matt postcard Gobo very conveniently left on the bridge he happens to be crossing, I could see the writer's crying, "Eff it!  For Chrissake, we're puppeteers and you want us to do an anti-drug message episode?!")  Furthermore, both episodes seem to go on for f-ing ever.

Basically, a bad episode of "Fraggle Rock" tends to feel like a betrayal of the characters and setting the writers have taken so much time and effort carefully constructing, or of the no-longer-surprisingly mature and non-condescending writing.  They're good markers for how incredibly awesome the series is as a whole.

So here's "The Grapes of Generosity".  I suggest, if you'd like to suffer slightly less through this episode than you would normally, to get a powerful drink and take a sip when you hear the word "generous(ity)".  I'll meet you down here on the floor.

The plot: So, there are these magical grapes that appear to a Fraggle who needs to learn to be more generous (drink).  They appear to Gobo, who's aw-shucks real happy to find the Grapes of Generosity (drink) but heck, he doesn't need them!  He's plenty generous (drink) as it is, right?  But the Grapes of Generosity (drink) are SO delicious, that Gobo ends up eating them all because... well, because we got a moral about generosity (drink) to give here so he's going to have to act wildly out of character for plot reasons, deal with it.

Anyway, Wildly-Out-Of-Character-And-AWARE-Of-It-Which-Makes-it-Worse Gobo eats all the Grapes of Generosity (drink) partially out of naked greed, partially because of a misconception that this will make him more generous (drink -- by the way, at this point it probably looks like I'm exaggerating but I am not.  So help me, the script really is like this).  But then Mokey arrives to clarify that if a Fraggle eats all the Grapes of Generosity (drink) by himself, he actually -shocker- becomes LESS generous (drink) and also becomes weightless (wut).

Well, you gotta admit, at least that last plot twist was... I'm going to use the word "different".  Be generous (drink), or the laws of physics are just going to give up on you.  Gosh, that's all well and good for fraggles, but what are we humans to do?  (Never mind the horrifying fridge logic - Gobo is damn lucky he lives in a system of caves.)

Anyway, Gobo ends up rescuing Red (ugh, speaking of characters acting weird for plot reasons).  And because he did this out of generosity (drink), he -uh- gets his weight back.  I guess because those were enough dodgy Chroma-key effects for one night.  And the characters all eat the Grapes of Generosity (drink) and good times are had by all.

What an overwrought, exasperating episode!  It's actually painful to see the main characters act as ridiculous as they do here.  At the same time, it's a good reminder of how much we expect from the show at this point in the series.

(And as lousy as it is, this episode at least has a fantastic reminder that it is 1985 in the Uncle Matt sequence.)

1 comment:

hyaroo said...

I'm enjoying your Fraggle Rock reviews, and mostly agreeing with your points. I do feel a slight need to defend this particular episode, though -- not because I think it's so incredibly good (it's not), but because I think there's a little more to this episode than might be apparent at first... it's just that the themes I see here are somewhat confusingly presented and lost underneath a number of self-contradictions.

In short, what I appreciate about this episode is that it reveals something interesting about Gobo... something which I do think fits his character, and that's the fact that he thinks he's more generous and selfless than he actually is.

We've seen him fall under similar self-delusions elsewhere, such as in A Friend in Need, where he's on top of the world after winning the Greaseberry race, and thinks he's the best at everything, only to rather painfully face reality when he gets in over his head and gets caught in the Gorg's trap.

Here, he has to face a similar and much more painful realization about himself; when he first hears about the Grapes of Generosity, he's so certain of his own selflessness that he sings a long song about how he'll give all his possessions away because he's so caring and giving... but when push comes to shove, he's actually far more selfish. He makes excuses, he'll be generous afterwards, when he's had just a few more grapes for himself, but in the end he can't fool himself anymore, and it's only when he acknowledges that he's being selfish that he is able to overcome his selfishness and truly become the generous person he's viewed himself as.

So to me, this is an episode where the theme is not generosity, but having to face unpleasant truths about yourself, because you can't overcome your flaws if you keep denying that you have those flaws. And that's not only a much more interesting moral than just "be generous," it also deepens Gobo's character just a little. ^_^

The presentation could have been better, though.