Pokémon Journeys: The Series
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Pokémon Journeys: The Series (TV 2019) ?
How would you rate episode 6 of
Pokémon Journeys: The Series (TV 2019) ?
Alrighty, Poké-fans, this week's Pokémon Journeys recap is going to be a bit lopsided. Episode 5 of this first run, “Mind-Boggling Dynamax”, is a pretty fun little adventure that actually warrants breaking down and discussing. Episode 6, “Working My Way Back to Mew” is an altogether different story, offering so little by way of jokes, plot, or, well, anything, that I honestly struggled figuring out how to even go about fitting it into a review. It's not good, is what I'm getting at.
But we'll start with the good first, because “Mind-Boggling Dynamax” fits very well into the loose Poké-Mystery structure I discussed last week, and it features even more Scorbunny, which can only ever be a good thing. After getting sidetracked in The Great Scone Caper of last week, Ash and Goh have finally made it to the wild areas of the Galar Region where Dynamaxing can be observed. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the concept, “Dynamaxing” is a new mechanic from the Pokémon Sword and Shield games on the Nintendo Switch, whereby trainers use a doodad and some glowy stuff to make their Pokémon all big-like. It's all very technical, I know, but Pokémon Journeys eases us into the concept by taking an already big ol' chonker of a Pokémon, Snorlax, and then making it even bigger. There aren't any battles this week, really, and the plot is as simple as it gets: Big Boy Snorlax is sleeping on the train tracks, so Ash and Goh have to do something to get it to move, otherwise the train will… I don't know, crash or something? Honestly, you'd think the Poké World would have plenty of readily available “There's a Snorlax on the Train Tracks” contingency plans, but whatever. It's a petty problem that demands a solution that Ash and Goh can figure out in about ten minutes, so it gets the job done.
Besides, what we're all really here for is Scorbunny's quest to become Goh's Best Pokémon Friend, and this is a mission of utmost importance. The little critter just can't catch a break, first trying to get the gang's attention on the Galar train, and then struggling to help out with the Big Boy Snorlax dilemma, which nearly gets the poor bun eaten for its troubles. Scorbunny's desperately cute train shenanigans immediately reminded me of Paddington 2, which is one of the greatest movies ever made, and very good company for an otherwise breezy and simple episode of Pokémon to keep.
Of course, the critical part of me is prone to asking questions like, “Why can't Scorbunny just 'Mebun!' a little louder to get the gang's attention?”, but Pokémon Journeys doesn't give a damn about silly contrivances like “logic” and “basic common sense." Scorbunny needs to prove its friendship and loyalty to Goh, and by God, it will do it even if it means becoming a giant Snorlax's lunch in the process. Ash may be God's Perfect Idiot, but Goh is apparently the Perfect Poké-Pal, since all he has to do to make Scorbunny his BFF is throw a Pokéball and really want it. Since Scorbunny deserves nothing but happiness, love, and a lifetime supply of scones, this is a perfect note for the episode to end on.Then we get to Episode 6, which is just absolutely awful. I will admit, I am not the smartest critic on the internet: I literally did not catch on to the show's incredibly subtle pun of naming one of its heroes “Goh” in honor of the Pokémon Go mobile game until sitting down to write this review. I get it, too: Pokémon Go probably earns the Pokémon Company billions of dollars in sweet, sweet microtransaction cash every day, so it stands to reason that there'd be some kind of synergy going on between Pokémon Go and Pokemon's Goh. Still, did we really have to dedicate an entire episode to Goh just walking around and catching Pokémon with about as much effort as it takes to play the mobile game?
I'm serious, that's the entire episode. Goh decides he likes catching Pokémon, so he goes out walking around Kanto to catch some. He catches a Caterpie, and then a Metapod, and then a Venomoth. After that, he throws some Pokéballs at a Paras and a Parasect, and he catches them. Then a Pincer. For a brief second, there's a vague gesturing towards a plot when he can't quite catch a Scyther, but don't worry, he catches it later. Oh, he catches a Kakukna and a Beedril too. And a Venonat. Scorbunny gets poisoned by the Venonat, which is almost a plot, but then the kids just go to the Pokécenter and fix it. So it's fine. There's maybe thirty seconds of a half-hearted Pikachu battle, which is definitely the highlight of the episode. It's over pretty fast though. Then Ash and Goh leave.
I know that not every single Pokémon in the original series or its sequels was caught via battling or whatever, but I distinctly remember the old shows at least trying to frame each new Pokémon encounter with some kind of story. “Working My Way Back to Mew” is a complete nothing of an episode; it doesn't even have enough jokes to work as a slice-of-life episode. It's just twenty minutes of Goh throwing Pokéballs at things and going “Neat, I'm going to do that again!” Then he does it again. It is somehow less interesting than just looking over someone's shoulder while they play Pokémon Go on their phones, because at least then you'd get some exercise. Whatever comes next in the season, I can only pray Pokémon Journeys never again has such unmitigated gall to completely waste its audience's time like it did here.
Odds and Ends
• The Weird World of Pokémon: Okay, this is going to drive me nuts: At the end of Episode 6, Ash reiterated his dream to become a Pokémon Master, and Chloe had no idea what he was talking about. Goh even treats it as a "If that's your weird dream buddy, then go for it!" kind of moment. I mean… what??? I was under the impression that the title of Pokémon Master was a specific thing, with steps to accomplish and all that. Catch every Pokémon, get every Gym Badge, attack and dethrone Pokémon God—you know, the basic stuff. Am I now meant to believe that Ash just… made the title of Pokémon Master up? That everything he's ever done and striven for has been utterly meaningless to literally everyone in the world but him? What's going on here, Pokémon!?
• Also, I don't care how single-minded he is, I refuse to believe that Goh could live his entire life in a world that is all-consumed with Pokémon obsession and be so clueless about the most basic processes of how being a trainer works. Get yourself together, man. Scorbunny deserves better.
• Though I'm deeply troubled by the very existence of something as pointless as “Working My Way Back to Mew," I have to admit, Scyther is one of the Top 5 Best Mons of All Time, so I was happy to see it get its due.
Pokémon Journeys: The Series is currently streaming on Netflix.
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