Cells at Work!
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Cells at Work! ?
This episode of Cells at Work feels kind of like the end-of-unit review, never mind that there are still a couple of episodes left before the season is finished. With the return of Staphylococcus Aureus, that particularly nasty bacterium with the lovely golden color (in-show, at any rate, which Latin scholars will appreciate), we get to spend time flashing back to her first appearance in the scrape wound incident. The storyline attempts to justify this by saying that the Staph from then was this one's cousin and she's seeking revenge, which mostly works. But by and large, between the flashbacks to that episode and the recap of Red's escapades circulating, as well as reminders about fibrin and what Macrophage does, this has all of the hallmarks of not quite enough content for a full-length episode.
Granted, this is an edutainment show. When we think about it that way, it really does make sense to have this sort of episode linking the facts we've learned in previous adventures together. If the goal here is to give people a basic working knowledge of the human immune system, then we do need reminders beyond just the narrator rehashing definitions. Repetition is a tool that helps a lot of people learn, so reinforcing lessons is generally a good idea. Given the format that these particular lessons follow – animated episodes – flashbacks are the simplest way to do that. (And that damn narrator. She annoys me unreasonable amounts.) So from that perspective, handling things the way this episode does seem reasonable.
It also isn't all review. There are new elements introduced to the story, primarily Monocyte, the creepy haz-mat suited cell who steals Neutrophil's thunder when she saves Red from an invader before he can get there. That's probably one of the best scenes in this episode – poor Neutrophil bursting up through the grate, ready to defend Red at all costs…only to find the monster dead and get a grate to the head. Since he's usually the hero figure while Red handles the more comedic aspects, it makes for a nice change, plus it really is pretty funny, especially since we know the lengths he'll go to in order to keep Red safe.
It's actually a pretty bad episode for Neutrophil all around – not only does Monocyte one-up him, he also spends much of the fight with Staph wrapped up in the fibrin she co-opted from the platelets to defend herself. So not only does he miss the boat with the first bad guy, he has to just sit there unable to move when the Monocyte Squad charges in and finishes what he couldn't. While the WBCs in general are grateful for the save, you can see that there's definitely some wounded pride there as well.
The big reveal this time is, of course, that Monocyte and Macrophage are the same cell. Apart from the mystery of how she gets all of those skirts in that haz-mat suit (and I spent enough snowy Halloweens stuffing big skirts into a snowsuit to know that it is neither easy nor comfortable), the reactions of the other cells, Red particularly, when the hoods come off is pretty good. This feels like a triumph of character design more than anything else – both Macrophage and Monocyte have especially distinctive designs, and both are in direct opposition to the other: Macrophage is ultra-feminine and sweet while Monocyte is more like the clean up crew in a horror film. It makes for a fun juxtaposition, especially when you add in the voices; Macrophage's syrupy sweet versus the heavy breathing we hear from Monocyte is another very nice piece of opposition.
When you get right down to it, the issue with this episode is that it just isn't quite different enough from its predecessor monster-of-the-week ones. In fact, it relies specifically on that similarity, and while that makes sense from an educational perspective, it doesn't make for thrilling viewing. Fortunately for us, the review seems to be over and next week will give us heatstroke. I'm sure that's something a lot of people can relate to after this past summer.
Cells at Work! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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