by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
The Reflection ?
Despite being a superhero show, action has never been The Reflection's strong suit. There have been a couple of decent action beats, like the bayou showdown back in Episode 5, but for the most part, the show's inconsistent animation and general visual style have made extended fight sequences more trying than thrilling. This week, The Reflection picks up with the battle in the hair salon and, surprisingly enough, a significant portion of the episode's runtime is dedicated to watching Eleanor, X-On, Lisa, and I-Guy take on the baddies. The last time we got such a heavy focus on spectacle and fisticuffs was the series' premiere, which remains easily the show's weakest outing to date.
So what's even more surprising is how successful the first half of this episode is. The overall direction is still a bit wonky, but there's an undeniable joy to seeing our crew finally face off in a no-holds-barred punchout with the Wraith's cronies. Episode 5 was the warm-up, but this feels like the first real Superhero Fight™ this show has given us, and it ends up being a lot of fun. Seeing the different approaches that the heroes take to combat does a good job of illustrating how these characters shape their powers around their personalities: X-On is reactionary and defensive, while Lisa goes all out, expending all of the energy and force she keeps pent up when she's confined to her chair. I-Guy is predictably flashy and showy, prioritizing spectacle over caution and reason; as X-On points out later, this showboating is the direct cause of poor Maggie's demise. Eleanor, meanwhile, earns her heroic stripes with her relentless perseverance, rushing into the fray over and over, even though her teleportation is swiftly outmatched by Flaming Fury's brute force. However, the single best beat of the episode comes after everything has gone to hell, when X-On and I-Guy duke it out over the death of Maggie and the disappearance of Nina. The fakeout-to-fireblast combo that X-On deals is probably the single coolest moment of the series so far, proving that The Reflection is absolutely capable of delivering satisfying superheroics when it commits to them.
The second half of the episode shifts its focus squarely to Ian and gets decidedly messier. While the other heroes try to figure out their next move, Ian returns home to sulk about his bruised ego, eventually deciding to duck out to an empty park and busk for a while with his acoustic guitar. A series of flashbacks work to highlight just how unhappy Ian is as a hero and how much he misses being able to perform for people. Unfortunately, the animation in some of these flashback sequences is really inconsistent, and the ugliness of the visuals doesn't pair well with the generally redundant storytelling. Learning about how Ian delusionally clings to his past as a one-hit-wonder was interesting at first, but there's only so many times I can listen to that damned Sky Show song before I start to lose my patience with Ian's plodding character development.
It seems like the Wraith agrees with me, since she sends her crew to brutally murder every last one of Ian's tech crew, after a frankly nonsensical discussion with the Wraith themselves. This scene is again marred by its sloppy writing; we barely learned this crew's name before they were killed off, so even if it does a decent job of pushing Ian forward as a character, the emotion of the scene rings hollow. There's also the way that Ian accidentally activates a recording that explains the Mark II I-Guy suit Ian's friends managed to build before they were all slaughtered, which is another instance of the script scrambling to get its plot moving in the most convenient manner possible. Still, Nagahama and his team have an eye for striking visuals, and the striking use of contrast in this scene makes up for the lacking script with a double dose of mood and visual storytelling. The screenshot I captured above is one of the last images we get this week, and it's one of the prettiest and most effective frames that The Reflection has produced.
We're little over halfway through the season now, and the Reflection has really settled into both its strengths and its weaknesses. It will never be the smoothest or most action-packed series, and the script doesn't seem like it will be letting up on its tendency to rush through things any time soon. That said, its cast of misfit marvels are really growing into their roles, and the show is figuring out how to use all of them in creative ways, both in the fight scenes and the quieter, more dialogue-focused sequences. At long last, it also feels like we're at least a little closer to figuring out the details of The Wraith's frustratingly nebulous “Master Plan”. There's an argument to be made that a superhero story is only as good as its villain, and while there are obviously exceptions to the rule, having a compelling and terrifying Big Bad can only help a show like The Reflection. Hopefully we'll get some answers in the coming weeks.
The Reflection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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