Episode Four – Dreadnoks Rising

Episode Synopsis

(This Episode was originally aired as “Episode 9″, even though it’s actually “Episode 4″ in continuity)

The G.I. Joe universe simply wouldn’t be the G.I. Joe universe without Zartan and the Dreadnoks.  Many fans have questioned why a mysterious, almost supernatural character like Zartan hangs out with a biker gang, and many others have lamented the Dreadnoks’ seeming lack of intelligence and questioned their legitimacy within the Cobra hierarchy.  Well, it’s far too early in the Renegades timeline to start that discussion, but we at least get off on the ground floor with the ninth episode.

This episode begins in a Kansas town where a new car dealership has opened…and finds out first-hand who really runs this little burgh.  Zartan and the Dreadnoks make their first appearance, as a biker gang noticeable by their total lack of British accents.  Beyond the speaking differences, though, there are many similarities between the Dreadnoks we know and this current iteration.

While not many of the Dreadnoks are named, its clear who we’re dealing with as Zartan steals the guy’s wallet and torches the dealership.

Not too far away, the renegade Joes cruise to a diner, looking for a bite to eat.  They quickly hear about the notorious “Zartan” and witness first hand some of the Dreadnok thugs who are terrorizing the town folks, in this case a gas station employee.  The Joes step forward and take down the Dreadnoks, however they unwittingly open a whole can of trouble.

Electing to leave town, Zartan and his gang decide to take revenge on the townsfolk by blasting the gas station to smithereens and kidnapping Wendy, the local diner waitress.

As the Joes drive down the highway out of town, Scarlett surfs the emergency band, making sure they’re in the clear, and they hear reports of the fire back in town.  Tunnel Rat turns around and heads back, much to Scarlett’s chagrin.  The townsfolk are understandably upset, and the sheriff is unwilling to do anything as long as Wendy is captured.  Snake Eyes heads off solo to try and help Wendy while the Joes talk to the sheriff, who would rather place them under arrest than accept their help.

Snake Eyes meets up with the Dreadnoks, but the fight doesn’t go well for him, and even though he’s able to set the waitress free, the Dreadnoks team up on him and take him down.

Back in town, the renegades begin working with the towns people on defending their town from the Dreadnok invasion.  Immediately they start getting together a plan for fighting back against the biker bullies.  In the hotel room, Zartan is interrogating Snake Eyes…and as he finishes his talk, he rips off part of his mask, and doesn’t like what he sees.  They figure out a better way to use their captive instead.  The Dreadnoks roar back into town…and they have Snake Eyes chained to the tow truck.

Immediately the town people decide to take action, and using some of the tools, and the help of the Renegades, they gain the upper hand on the Dreadnoks.  Meanwhile, Snake Eyes gets free and takes his own measure of revenge on his captors.  Notified by the sheriff, Flint and Lady Jaye are also closing in.

With pretty much all of the Dreadnoks dispatched, Zartan makes a last ditch effort and captures Wendy once again, threatening her with bodily harm unless he’s let go.  The sheriff, finally sick of being the whipping boy, tackles Zartan and they two men tussle.  Using some backhanded methods, the sheriff tosses sand in Zartan’s eyes, sucker punches him and takes him into custody.

With the town back under control, and the belongings returned to their proper owners, Flint and Lady Jaye arrive to take the Joes in…but when they ask to get their fugitives, the sheriff takes them back to where Zartan and the Dreadnoks are being held, as the Renegade Joes drive off into the sunset.

Episode Review

While there have certainly been fans out there who have dismissed G.I. Joe: Renegades as purely being an “A-Team rehash” I can’t say I’ve been on board with that.  Yeah, the whole “framed for a crime they did not commit” angle pulls from that story, but it’s not like the A-Team has a monopoly on that concept, and to this point, the stories have differed enough where I couldn’t really draw too many A-Team parallels.

Well, this episode certainly seems much more like a half an hour animated episode of the old familiar 80′s television series.  From the “passing through town in the armored vehicle” to the “random thug who owns the town” all the way to the “let’s train the town to defend itself” scenario, this particular episode is purely A-Team material.

All that being said, does that make it a bad episode?  No, not at all.  But it’s not truly fantastic either.  It’s another addition to the stockpile of the Renegades mythos, but there were some flaws with it that I wasn’t enthralled with.

I’ll start with the good.  No, Zartan is not Australian or British…but he is an awesome biker thug.  I think over the years in the Marvel run, Zartan’s identity kind of shifted.  I think he really did start as more of a straight forward thug biker guy who wasn’t especially mysterious, just big and tough, but with a master of disguise twist.  In Renegades, he loses pretty much all of his mystery, and appears to be just what he is.  A tough biker bully who likes pushing people around.  However, he does get some neat twists.  His concept of “owning” people by stealing parts of them is a very cool angle, and could lead to some serious identity crisis down the road.  He takes things from his victims, impersonates them with subtle vocal changes, and uses this as a form of intimidation and threatening.  I really like that.

The Dreadnoks are also not foreign, but pretty much retain all of the same personality of their comic counterparts.  They’re mean, ruthless, and not to be trifled with.  I love the fact that at least Buzzer got a name, and even though all the other Dreadnoks go unlabeled, I think we can kind of figure out who is who.  Road Pig with the Cinder Block hammer, Ripper with the swords, Torch carries his typical weapons.  Burn Out sports the dreadloks and the dynamite, and Buzzer is the guy in blue with the chainsaw.  I like how they’re all pretty new and unique, yet all pretty identifiable.

Along with those two, Snake Eyes is another very cool part of this episode.  I love the fact that they don’t quite make him superhuman.  His first meeting with the Dreadnoks ends up with him chained to a tow truck, though he does end up redeeming himself.  I also like that they referenced his facial scarring!  This is the first time we’ve seen this mentioned in the Renegades universe yet, hopefully we hear more about it.

But there were parts I didn’t like.  The cliche’d nature of the “training the town” scenario has kind of been done to death, and really made this seem very A-Team-esque.  Not only that, but at least in my world, Zartan is the ultimate bad ass.  This is a guy who can potentially go toe-to-toe with any other Joe or Cobra, has mystical martial arts abilities even above and beyond his more familiar camouflage technology.  In this episode, he gets one-upped and ass-whupped by a chubby small town sheriff, and that kind of left a sour taste in my mouth.  While Major Bludd pretty much went head-to-head with Snake Eyes himself in The Package, Zartan gets bonked by a chain, and then pinned by a nobody.  Didn’t really like that.  Granted, this Zartan is not the one we’re familiar with, but part of me was hoping he would hold the same water as the Real American Hero version, just in a different patterned glass.

Other things that are kind of putting bumps in the road…apparent continuity gaffes.  It would certainly appear that episodes are airing out of order, which is a bit disappointing considering how tightly woven the continuity is meant to be.  It would seem that they perhaps bumped up Homecoming in order to match a Christmas viewing, which does make sense, except that it throws some other stuff out of whack.  The clothes the Joes stole in last week’s episode were worn during the Homecoming episode, which aired almost a month ago.  Also, the motorcycle they stole in tonight’s episode is the one that Duke rides off on in Homecoming, too.  Hopefully somewhere down the line we’ll get these in corrected airdate order.

So yes, I did have some issues with this episode, but by and large, there was still a big entertainment factor.  I loved Zartan’s voice mimicry, I loved the bad assness of Snake Eyes.  The Dreadnoks were handled quite well, and even though I wasn’t especially happy with Zartan’s end result, I thought the character came across very effectively.  I would have loved to have seen him go up against Snake Eyes in a real hand-to-hand battle, but at this point I’ll accept the fact that the character is going to evolve into something more familiar, and simply look forward to seeing what Zartan becomes.  There are some pretty creepy and insidious roots there, and some cool stuff to build on, for sure.

Screenshot Gallery (Courtesy of Hisstank.com)

Episode Details

Original Airdate – January 14th, 2011
Writer: Eugene Son
Director: Scooter Tidwell

Easter Eggs

  1. At one point, Zartan tells the sheriff to buy himself some donuts.  In the comic book, the Dreadnoks’ favorite meal was Grape Soda and Donuts.