....."During a struggle between G.I. Joe and Cobra, an accident triggers an experimental weapon. The Joes are plunged into unconsciousness, and when they awaken, the explosion has hurled them into an alternate reality, where some things are identical to our world, while others, like the disease-bearing insect that stings Steeler, are very, very different. Washington, D.C. has become the capitol of an evil empire. Flint, Airtight, and Barbecue are captured by the Dreadnoks as enemies of the state, and Lady Jaye, Clutch, and Footloose face doom in the skies, as we begin Part II of 'Worlds Without End'....."
.....Avoiding the missiles fired by the Rattlers, Lady Jaye, Clutch, and Footloose manage to destroy a squadron of the fighters, leveling the Cobra Commander Memorial in the process, and creating a mess throughout much of the rest of the Washington Mall as well. However, more fighters appear, leaving the three back at square one.
.....Meanwhile, Flint's group is being brought to the Cobra police headquarters, passing by a food line. Torch asks Buzzer, who is with Flint and Airtight in the back seat, what he thinks Zartan's reaction will be, seeing as how the Joes are supposed to be dead. Buzzer replies that they could make some money by taking the three Joes to Cobra Commander or Destro, of which Ripper wonders would pay more. The Dreadnoks' lack of attentiveness allows Barbecue (who is sitting in the front passenger seat) to stomp on Ripper's foot, sending the car out of control and allowing the Joes to escape.
.....In the Proving Grounds, Steeler stops running, and finally collapses, giving Grunt time to catch up to the delirious tank driver. However, Steeler throws aside Grunt, forcing him to give chase yet again in his AWE Striker. Unknown to the two, a Cobra is flying above them, taping everything.
The Cobra is transmitting to the female Cobra that had been reporting to the Baroness earlier. This time, she reveals that Steeler is likely suffering from a strain "D" bacterial infection, which the Baroness presumes was a result of a sting from a mutant insect developed by Destro. The Baroness then sends her aide off to help him.
.....At the Cobra Gate Plaza Imperial Police Headquarters, Zartan gives the Dreadnoks a good dressing down for letting Flint, Barbecue, and Airtight escape, but not before confidently announcing that it is of no matter before leaving to deal with them himself.
"No matter-they won't get far. I'll see to that."
.....Meanwhile, the Air Patrol Leader fighting Lady Jaye's group calls Destro, announcing that the Joes are nearing his position. In response, Destro opens a door on the top of the Washington Memorial, revealing a device.
The electrical "net" fired by the device drains all of the energy from the three Sky Hawks' laser cannons, much to their dismay. Destro cuts into their channel, announcing that this is why the device is called the Parasite Matrix. As Destro laughs merrily, Clutch, Footloose, and Lady Jaye struggle to get free, as the ejectors and their laser pistols fail to work. To their dismay, the netting contracts, crushing the decrepit Sky Hawks, and leaving them to the mercy of the Parasite Matrix.....
.....In the Washington Mall, Cobra's work detail goes on, as Flint, Barbecue, and Airtight try to get out of the city. Stopping shortly to marvel at Cobra's unique plan to solve unemployment, the three tackle a pair of Cobra soldiers, taking his laser pistol, which they use to cut their handcuffs. They unfortunately pass by Zartan, who fires a flare, revealing their position to a number of FANGs. In the ensuing firefight, they are able to down one of the FANGs without destroying it, giving them some much needed transportation. They shoot down a statue, trapping another FANG long enough to give them a nice head start.
.....At the White House (which has a decidedly gold sheen), a Cobra soldier is speaking with Cobra Commander-who now has Clutch, Footloose, and Lady Jaye. Entering an interrogation room, the Commander demands to know where the Joes have been hiding. When Lady Jaye attempts to explain the truth, ol' Bumper Face gets even more upset, and begins to turn a dial, which causes the fan blade-like platform the Joes are on to spin. Stating that they are on the Centripetal Persuader, Cobra Commander brags that they will give him the answers he wants-or he'll crush them to a pulp!
"But as you spin faster, the pressure will increase, until it crushes you to a pulp!"
.....Continuing his chase of Steeler, Grunt is finally able to catch up to Steeler. Steeler struggles, and the two are thrown down into a crevice. The fall knocks some sense into Steeler, who begs Grunt for help.
"Help me, Grunt....PLEASSSE!!!!"
Grunt props his friend up, and the two begin to walk away, but fail to notice something on the ground.
The two fall to the ground, and are horrified by what they see when they stand up. It's a body. After climbing up to light the area with the headlights of his AWE Striker, a total of three skeletons are revealed.
.....Grunt slides back down the slope, and reads the dog tag belonging to the first body. It's Clutch.
"Steinberg, L. Wha....Bu....That's Clutch's name!"
Grunt moves on to the second body, finding the impossible. The dog tags read, "Graves, R. W." A horrified Steeler reminds Grunt that that's him! Knowing that he's certainly not dead, Grunt surmises that these men are Joes of this world, likely caught in the middle of some weapons test. Still, Steeler needs to know the identity of the third skeleton.
"That one.....Who's that one?"
Fearfully, Steeler reads the dog tag himself.
"Pulaski.....It's me! ME!!!!!!!!!"
Scared out of his wits, Steeler runs up the cliff side, until a HISS stops at the ledge. The Baroness' aide, emerges, and tells Grunt that she can help-if they come with her to see the Baroness.
.....At the White House, after accusing his captives of plotting treason, Cobra Commander plans a "game" for them to play. Transporting them to another chamber, Cobra Commander encloses Lady Jaye, Clutch, and Footloose in an electronic netting much like the one Destro trapped them in earlier. Laughing, the Commander promises that they will be embarking on "the ultimate adventure"...
.....At the Baroness' estate, Steeler is recovering as Grunt explains to him what is going on. Before Grunt can explain fully what the Baroness' reasons for taking them in, Layla and the Baroness enter the room. Layla quickly ushers Grunt out of the room, so that the Baroness can be with her "beloved". A confused Steeler watches as Grunt leaves, and the Baroness quickly gushes over him. Stunned, Steeler asks if she is a Cobra, and the Baroness wonders how he can say that-until she remembers that amnesia is one of the symptoms of the infection. Steeler asks if she is part of the resistance, and the Baroness nods yes. Now even more confused, Steeler asks for her to bring Grunt back in to help him figure out what's going on.
.....Back at the White House, Lady Jaye and her group continue to plead with Cobra Commander, but are quickly rebuffed when the Commander fails to believe such nonsense. In reaction to their seemingly ridiculous claims, Cobra Commander releases the netting, having the three Joes hung by their arms. He then releases robot snakes for each of them. Specifically, robot boa constrictors. Robot boa constrictors designed to squeeze them to death......
"Heh-heh.....Specifically, boa constrictors-to squeeze the very life from you!"
.....Still being chased by a FANG, Flint tells Airtight and Barbecue that they might just make it out of the city alive. Barbecue is skeptical, until Airtight shoots down their pursuer-and quickly reneges his claim when a wing of Rattlers appears. The Air Patrol Leader notifies Destro of his bounty, and Flint is quickly caught in the Parasite Matrix.
.....Later, Cobra Commander's torture session is interrupted when he receives a message revealing what Destro has been up to (specifically, capturing Flint, Airtight, and Barbecue). The distraction gives Footloose enough time to start swinging on his manacles. He shakes off his boa constrictor just as Cobra Commander's visitor leaves, and the robot crashes through the window, wrapping itself around their enemy. Luckily, the disoriented Cobra Commander backs into the power unit for the manacles and the snakes, which allows them to break free. Lady Jaye swings through the window, and knocks out the Commander, clearing their way out of this alternate White House.
.....At the Baroness' house, Grunt and Steeler have finished telling the Baroness that they are in fact from another world. The Baroness doesn't believe them, until she sees Steeler's tattoo on his arm.
"Wait a minute.....Steeler-my Steeler-has a tattoo on his right arm, not his left."
Grunt tells the Baroness that her Steeler is dead, shattering her brief hopes. Grunt tells her that they're just trying to get home, to which the Baroness responds by having the two follow her.
.....Elsewhere, a Cobra notifies Destro that his prisoners are about to arrive, which brings quite a smile to his face when he sees (and correctly identifies) Flint, Barbecue, and Airtight. Before he can do anything, the Baroness appears, with Grunt and Steeler in tow. She claims that the two are defectors-to their side, not Cobra's. Furthermore, according to Grunt, Cobra Commander is preparing to bump off Destro once and for all. Angered, Destro leaves the prisoners to the Baroness, unwittingly freeing them in the process.
.....In the White House, Cobra Commander finally comes to, and receives a call from the Baroness, who tells him the exact reverse of what she told Destro: it is Destro that is plotting a coup, and predictably, Cobra Commander is angered, moving to take care of Destro.
.....Later on, Lady Jaye's group is finally able to fight its way out of the White House. Wondering where to go, they are noticed by Flint and the Baroness, who are in a HISS. Before leaving for the Proving Grounds, Flint notices a commotion nearby.
"I've just instigated the first Cobra civil war.....and I don't want a ring-side seat for my handiwork."
The Baroness has singlehandedly caused a civil war between Destro and Cobra Commander to fully erupt, and now she wants to get out of Dodge before it gets really bad.
.....After they have obliged the Baroness and gone to the spot where they first awoke in this world, the Joes notice a black rift-the gateway between the two dimensions.
"Look-there it is!"
Relieved, Flint orders everyone into the rift so that they can finally get home. However, Steeler begins to consider his options when the Baroness mentions that she's going to lose him again.
"You know, there's really no one waiting for me back there...."
Meanwhile, Footloose, Airtight, and Barbecue waste no time going through the gate. Then, Steeler drops a bomb on Flint when he announces his decision.
"Flint-it really does matter whether Cobra wins or loses. I see that now, and I want a chance to do somethin' about it. I'm stayin' here."
Almost challenged by Steeler's decision to stay, Grunt chimes in and declares that he, too, is staying.
"Well, count me in, too, old buddy! I ain't lettin' you hog all the glory!"
Visibly shocked, Flint and Lady Jaye receive another surprise when Clutch decides that he's going to stay, as well.
"Flint, I heard what they did to me-I mean the other Clutch."
Despite Flint's attempts to dissuade them, the three remain firm. The portal begins closing, leaving Flint and Lady Jaye no choice to jump for it, leaving their friends behind.
.....Meanwhile, in our universe, Duke and Doc are surveying the wreckage site, as Doc says that it's pretty much hopeless at this point, when Duke notices something. Flint, Lady Jaye, Airtight, Barbecue, and Footloose emerge from the pool of water, safe and sound. Duke asks what happened, when Flint responds by saying that that's a long story. Doc asks where Clutch, Grunt, and Steeler are, and Lady Jaye answers that it's an even longer story, and that they are "some place where brave men are needed....badly."
Flint humbly agrees, and wishes them well as they look on, into the pool of water in front of them.
.....As I'm pretty sure I've mentioned somewhere else on the site (even in the initial version, as this was the last review finished for the grand opening), the best cartoons are those that push the envelope, be it due to groundbreaking animation (G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and "Flowers and Trees"), exciting new characters ("Three Little Pigs", "A Wild Hare"), the use of speed ("The Tortoise and the Hare", "Fast and Furry-Ous"), or even the use of music (the entire run of Cowboy Bebop, "Steamboat Willie", "What's Opera, Doc?"). However, I would argue that the crème de la crème, with few exceptions (like the ones I've just listed), are those that push the boundaries for story content.
.....I mention it here because the second part of "Worlds Without End" does this, and as a result, pushes the entire two-part episode into the realm of legend. Unburdened by the Matter Transmuter (which is mentioned only in passing in Jackson Beck's recap) and the establishment of locale, the episode is allowed to do what the series does best: tell the story and load it up with some action.
.....One of the more noticeable things about the first scene of the episode are the inconsistencies with Part I. For starters, the sky is a completely different hue. Secondly, when the Cobra Commander Memorial is demolished, the statue is of the Commander wearing his helmet, not his hood (as in the earlier episode).
It wouldn't be as apparent if the recap hadn't featured the raw animation for the Memorial, and had ended with the same footage that closed Part I. The explanation for why this happens is rooted in the production order of the two parts. Part I's production number is 600-27, and Part II's is 600-34. Checking Zartan's Domain (which had it's return during this site's extremely long gestation period), it's actually the rule and not the exception: there's a whopping 16 episode gap between each part of "There's No Place Like Springfield", for instance. It's just that the difference in animation is that much more jarring, because of the "instant gratification" of the opening scene.
.....Continuity issues aside, the opening scene looks and plays very well, and is a good setup for future events. The next scene sums up a Cobra Empire perfectly, as the Dreadnoks are more concerned about who they should present Flint and company to than actually hauling them to where they need to go. Torch pulls out what is a major no-no in some countries, as he calls the Joes "bleeders", which is cockney slang for "pussies".
"Gee, Zartan'll be wantin' to have a look at these bleeders, eh, Buzzer? Seein' how they supposed to be dead!"
Of course, this is par for the course, as the Dreadnoks and Jem's British Misfit, Jetta, frequently said things that mean nothing here, but are quite adult abroad. Of course, it's not our fault that the Brits think in the gutter when they hear these words...... ;)
.....The animation of the car as it careens out of control looks pretty cheap, but is partially saved by the background, which scrolls a bit in order to match the car's movement. It still looks ugly, though. One has to question the logic of the Dreadnoks here, for putting Barbecue alone in the front seat with Buzzer-not exactly the smartest decision they've ever made, in either universe.
.....The quick fade-out before going to the Proving Grounds and Steeler is odd, as Marvel or Sunbow never really did that sort of thing, particularly with such a "clean" fadeout. We're able to see that a good deal of time has passed, though, as Steeler looks awful.
"No point......neither......side'll ever win.....Gotta quit G. I. Joe......"
The mystery with the Baroness is developed very well, as she, for the first time in the series, actually speaks with compassion, and is also not wearing her trademark glasses. Her bending over is good for some laughs, as it looks more appropriate in a porno or something, and not a children's cartoon show.
"Then he was bitten, no doubt, by one of the mutant insects Destro breeds on the Proving Grounds."
.....The next scene opens with the biggest and funniest joke of the two-parter, as the Watergate Plaza (infamous, of course, for the break-ins that doomed Richard Nixon's presidency) is the Imperial Police Headquarters!
Zartan's office is quite sophisticated, keeping in line with the "true" appearance of his swamp hideout, as seen in "Cold Slither".
"And then you captured three survivors of the Joe team, and allowed them to escape!?!"
The scene ends not only with Zartan taking charge (proving yet again that evil can never trust its' underlings), but another bit of irony at the expense of Cobra's answer to modern law enforcement. Hearing Torch decrying the Joes' lack of respect for the law is downright hilarious given that Cobra's entire regime is an insult to the very concept of law and order.
.....In the next scene, we see the Cobra "Air Patrol Leader" talking to Destro, and it's again the A.V.A.C. (Firebat pilot) that is seen in the "regular" universe at various points during the first season. The "character" seems to have been born out of the need for a fill-in for Wild Weasel whenever Pat Fraley was unavailable (or, though it never happened, if he had too many characters to voice in an episode), but actually helps make Cobra look like more than a faceless organization, as they usually do once you get past the bigwigs.
.....Another change to a national monument is made apparent when we see the Washington Memorial, which is not only gold now, but has a device hidden inside. Naturally, Destro is proud of his little toy, dubbed the Parasite Matrix (which is easily one of the most nonsensical names imaginable for such a device). He even gets in a hearty belly laugh, which is surprisingly cut off before it can be finished.
"But of course! Why else would we call this weapon the Parasite Matrix? Hmm-hmm-huh Ha-hahahaha-"
.....Destro's weapon is quite successful, as it sucks out the juice from the Joes' laser pistols (one of the few times that they are emphasized as being such in the script), and disabling the ejector seats of the Sky Hawks, even though ejector seats are mechanical devices. Act I ends effectively, with the focus on the Joe the audience should care about the most (Lady Jaye), and a hushed scream that's actually quite chilling.
.....Act 2 begins with a shot of the Washington Mall, which is again a perversion of its real-life equivalent. What is typically one of the most beautiful of locations in the DC area is now a slave labor camp-which Barbecue points out, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, is an effective remedy to unemployment. Airtight's commentary about the Dreadnoks and their ability to traipse around undetected seem a bit out of place, but the revealing shot of Zartan is nicely effective in turning the line against him. The Cobra who threatens Flint, Airtight, and Barbecue after they've been ratted out by Zartan changes voice actors from Arthur Burghardt to Buster Jones for his second line of dialogue ("Throw down your weapons!"), and it's extremely noticeable, as Jones uses his "Doc" voice, which sounds thoroughly different from Arthur Burghardt's voice. Apparently, there was a line change, and the overdub was done by a "good enough" replacement.
.....The battle that ensues has some serious breaches of reality, as Flint pulls the roll bar of a crashed (but yet somehow not destroyed) FANG that's resting on its side-with one hand! It's a bit ridiculous, as I personally doubt that even Roadblock could pull that feat without seriously injuring himself. Of course, I could be wrong here (what with the "no military training" thing). However, there's no doubt that reality is severely breached when Barbecue shoots down a statue, which latches onto the roll bar of a passing FANG and holds it down until all three Dreadnoks can move the statue. It's moments like this that piss off anal comic fans, I tell you. (Of course, mention the fact that a Tomahawk once did a barrel roll in the comic, and watch them shut up. :))
.....The next scene begins with a shot of the White House, which is, like many buildings in this universe, nice and gold.
"The prisoners are in interrogation room twelve, Your Highness...."
Of course, since this episode was written right in the middle of the Reagan era, it's safe to say that it's a rip on the politics of the time. The interior of Cobra Commander's digs is also revised from its real-life equivalent, and it looks decidedly high tech (even without the lovely torture room).
.....We also get to see yet another example of Cobra's internal treachery, as Lady Jaye, Clutch, and Footloose were delivered from one of Destro's men. It's just another day at the office for the Commander, who makes it sufficiently clear that he wants to know where they've been hiding. CC is pretty impatient here, as he gets right down to business with his little play toy, the Centripetal Persuader. I really like the ghosting effect as the Persuader speeds up, as it's fairly realistic (to say nothing of looking really cool).
"At first, you will simply feel dizziness, and the pressure slowly building."
The pained expressions on the faces of all three Joes sells the scene nicely, leaving the viewer more than a little worried for our heroes as the scene ends.
.....Of course, the scene at the White House is mere window dressing compared to the scene that follows. Grunt is still trying to catch up to Steeler, and we quickly see that he's in absolutely awful shape now. Steeler's completely delirious, and the fall after his brief struggle with Grunt manages to restore him to lucidity. Chris Latta again puts his great talents on full display as Steeler sounds painfully desperate, begging his friend for help.
.....What happens next is one of the most chilling moments in the history of televised animation, as Steeler and Grunt stumble upon the remains of a dead man. The animators really do their job here, as the expression of horror on the Joes' faces is perfectly done.
The shot keys on Steeler, who was questioning the very validity of the G.I. Joe-Cobra conflict not even 24 hours ago. It's an absolutely chilling moment, exceeded by the revelation that there are three bodies below.
Grunt recognizes the basic outfits, and we're again shocked. These men are-were-members of G.I. Joe. The story editors of G.I. Joe, particularly Steve Gerber and Buzz Dixon, tried to instill a distinct message in the series, that War Is Not Fun, and this is the surest example of that edict. Three men are dead, and there's a pretty good chance that they were ruthlessly slaughtered by Cobra. And it only gets worse.
.....The revelation that one of the bodies is Grunt is handled excellently, as we get a close up on the corpse, and the living Grunt, our Grunt, speaks with a justified sense of skepticism.
It's Grunt's counterpart, who, along with the Clutch of this world, and another Joe, seemingly for no reason at all. It's the risk that all of the Joes run every day when fighting Cobra, but it's relentlessly cruel when we're actually faced with the possibility.
.....Steeler's fears about the third body, which are fueled by his delirious state, are wonderfully animated and voiced, as it leaves no question that Steeler is still convinced that he's really dead, and this is his little corner of Hell. Best of all is the close up on Steeler's face as he reads the dog tag belonging to the third body.
Steeler is quite literally out of his gourd, and you can't help but feel sorry for him.....just as you shudder over what has just been shown on screen.
.....The long shot of Layla as she gets out of the HISS is consistent with how she appeared during her brief appearance in Part I.
"Look, whoever you are...."
However, once the shot switches to a closer angle, she's reverted to the design as seen in Act 1 of this episode.
"Don't be afraid; neither you nor your friend will be harmed."
Apparently, someone objected to Layla's slightly skimpier look, and it was revised some time after the first part was finished, and unable to be re-shot (as, despite Rhino's bungling with the escape sequence in the second act of Part I, neither episode experienced a re-take, as such things were excessively rare on G.I. Joe. Regardless, she is far warmer now in her speech patterns, as was the Baroness in her scene earlier. However, Grunt (quite wisely, it should be noted) doesn't believe her claim that she won't harm him or Steeler, especially once she mentions the Baroness. In fact, as the scene ends, he looks pretty damned scared (again with the wiseness here).
.....Given how the scenes are presented, it doesn't seem to take Cobra Commander too long to get bored with the Centripetal Persuader. Other than the fact that it gets Lady Jaye and company out of their restraints, this short little scene is total filler. However, it's presented quite nicely, and it manages to show that this Cobra Commander is very much like ours-although with a decidedly greater control of the situation, plus some far nicer forms of torture at his disposal. Still, there doesn't seem to be any real point to the scene, except to check in with one of the two other groups while Layla takes care of Grunt and Steeler.
....The following scene is a serious change of pace, as we see a Baroness completely unlike the one in our world. In addition to having a far less severe accent and no glasses, she has.....compassion. This is definitely one of those "very, very different" things about this world, that's for sure.
.....What I find interesting about this scene is Layla's enthusiasm towards Grunt. She practically drags him out of the room, and I seriously doubt that it's just because she's happy for the Baroness. (Methinks that Layla also wants a piece of Gruntlovin'..... ;))
.....Steeler has a classic look on his face as Layla says the word "beloved".
It's bad enough that he's on some other world recovering from a funky form of germ warfare, but now he's the Baroness' "beloved"? Girls, take note: if you suddenly show an overt interest in a guy, you can make him squirm like this, too. :)
.....All joking aside, the Baroness acts completely out of character, smiling with tear-streaked eyes at the sight of Steeler.
The payoff comes, however, when the Baroness admits that, at least on this world, she's a member of the Resistance (and, one would presume, has been a double agent since the days of the Joe/Cobra war). It's certainly an interesting detail, given this quote from her original filecard: "'Her [the Baroness'] main weakness is in the division of her loyalty between COBRA Commander and Destro. Her chief strength would seem to lie in her ability to play them against each other.'" We saw this previously with the Baroness back in MASS when she played the two off each other, in effect causing the disruption (Destro's assumption of command in "A Stake in the Serpent's Heart") that made it much easier for the Joes to win the day. And, more recently, the Baroness helped the Joes defeat Cobra Commander in "The Phantom Brigade" as a matter of "job security". But this episode asks (quite fittingly), "What If...?" While the question was never answered (although one has to wonder if the Baroness was Sunbow's first choice to fall for Mainframe in the classic Season 2 episode, "Computer Complications"), it's a weighty idea in an episode loaded with them.
.....The closing scene of Act 2 is certainly designed to provide a kick in the action meter, and quite possibly filler (especially since Cobra Commander's torture methods could have easily skipped the "painful energy net" stage), but it does its job well. Although we again get a snake reference in one of Cobra's devices, this one reinforces the artifical nature of the world as controlled by Cobra. Also, Cobra Commander again makes like the '80s cartoon villain he is, and uses big words when he's pissed. Today's word: poppycock. ;)
.....Act 3 begins with even more action, as we get another look in on the continuing escape of Flint, Barbecue, and Airtight (a chase which by now is screaming "filler"). Of course, the chase (which seems oddly insignificant for an episode of G.I. Joe) is given a somewhat merciful end as the three end up getting caught in Destro's Parasite Matrix (the Destro in the "normal" world never had it this easy, that's for sure). A funny moment occurs when they finally lose the FANGs......only to run into the squadron of Rattlers led by the A.V.A.C. Air Patrol Leader. Oops.
.....There's a big animation goof in the next scene as the Cobra who gives Cobra Commander the note about Destro's new "guests" turns into a Cobra Officer in one shot, and reverts back to being a lowly Cobra as ol' Chrome Cheeks throws him out.
The animation as Cobra Commander begins his temper tantrum in terribly choppy, and lacking the in-between frames necessary to make it look anywhere near realistic, indicating a likely error in photography (the source of some 90% of all errors in Sunbow cartoons I'd guess, both before and after the re-takes). The traditional end-of-episode CC abuse continues as Footloose manages to get his boa to fly through the window and grab onto the Commander. Again I must say that Cobra got lucky in this world, because Cobra Commander is still a geek.
.....Pure luck ensues as Cobra Commander manages to destroy to power console for both the snakes and the manacles, but it's Act 3, after all. Time to get things moving, and all that. Lady Jaye gets in one good kick, though, as she jumps through the window.
Ouch. #o Another quick scene change (the Sunbow trademark-screw MTV, it's Sunbow who killed the American attention span!) brings us back to the Baroness, who's dealing with the "We're from another world" speech with the same level of skepticism as Cobra Commander. (Big "duh" on that.) Steeler's tattoo (a detail that's particularly eerie when you consider the fact that it's located exactly where Shipwreck's tattoo is-was Sunbow considering allowing Shipwreck to be written out of the series?) convinces her otherwise, and her hopes are again shattered. The moment is handled well, as the Baroness' pain is honest and heartfelt.
.....An odd moment occurs at the start of the next scene, as we see a number of Cobras surrounding a pair of rather large hamsters (or gerbils), each located on pads that look reminiscent of Star Trek's old transporters (and each have matching control panels that look vaguely like the standard Trek transporter control panels). It's never explained, and just a random image that's just.....there. And very weird.
.....Destro's mood certainly brightens when Flint, Airtight, and Barbecue show up in his base. Barbecue certainly sums up perfectly when he replies, "If he'd known we were comin', he'd have baked a cake." Things get seemingly even better for him when the Baroness brings Grunt and Steeler with her, as defectors to their side-and not Cobra's, either. Steeler really sells it with his expression, and Grunt places the icing on the cake when he gives his analysis of Cobra's (and, more specifically, Destro's) political standing.
"Face it, Des, Cobra Commander's tired of sharing the throne with you. He's building his own army to knock you out of the box."
It's a classic example of the Baroness playing on Destro's hatred for Cobra Commander (much like in "A Stake in the Serpent's Heart"), and Flint, Barbecue, and Airtight quickly see through the ruse as Destro storms off. The next scene is the direct counterpart to this, as the Baroness manages to get Cobra Commander pissed off, again using the Commander's hatred for his partner to her benefit. Again, we see just how thin the difference between the Joes winning the war and Cobra winning it is, as the failings of Cobra Commander and Destro are precisely the same on this world as in ours.
.....The beginning of the following scene is pure exposition as our heroes are reunited. However, they stumble upon the start of what the Baroness calls "the first Cobra civil war", a concept with undeniable potential by itself. There's an odd pageantry about the start of this war, almost as if Cobra Commander and Destro had expected this day to come. Of course, questions abound as to how this war would turn out. We know that Zartan would appose Destro-at least as long as it looked like Cobra Commander would win. Scrap Iron, who has long been assumed to be Destro's weapons tester, is equally predictable as to his loyalties in this conflict. But what about Major Bludd, or Tomax and Xamot (all of whom are notoriously absent in this two-parter)? What about the Crimson Guard, Wild Weasel, Firefly, and Storm Shadow (again completely absent)? Extending this beyond Season 1's cast, one can wonder about Dr. Mindbender's allegiance. Additionally, what about the Vipers? Or the Eels (which by default includes Cobra's Polar Forces, the Snow Serpents)? Virtually every potential faction within Cobra can be questioned as to which side they would be on, to say nothing about potential Resistance members within Cobra, or disillusioned members of their organization (such as Mercer and Raven). And, of course, we know nothing about the current status of this world's G.I. Joe team, save for the fates of Clutch, Grunt, and Steeler. This war could be their chance, as it would take only a few Joes (Duke? Scarlett? General Hawk?) to form a coalition, and certainly the same thing could be said for the Oktober Guard or the other international anti-Cobra forces (presuming such groups as Action Force and the Commandos Heroicos exist in the Sunbow Universe). God knows if the Autobots live on this world, they'd be willing to help (especially if Cobra has allied themselves with Megatron and the Decepticons). Similar help could be given by the Inhumanoids, and it's even possible that the Benton sisters would be willing to pick up a gun if the need arose. Basically, like Jerome Bixby's classic Star Trek episode, "Mirror, Mirror", the interference by the heroes of "our" world has caused an incredible crossroads for a parallel world.
.....At this point, we await the fateful return home of Flint and his unit, a moment that, in Bixby's world, was made memorable by our Captain Kirk's impassioned speech to the other universe's Mr. Spock (a scene which Bixby would possibly surpass only in the heartbreaking end to his third season episode, "Requiem For Methuselah"). Martin Pasko's climax to "Worlds Without End" meets this high standard as Steeler admits that he really has no one to go home to as he prepares to leave this alternate, compassionate Baroness. He makes his decision-he'll stay, and help this world against the tyranny of Cobra, and is quickly joined by Grunt and Clutch, as we, like Flint and Lady Jaye, watch in shock as three Joes, our heroes, decide to make a brave sacrifice for a world that isn't even theirs.
.....A skeptical voice will note that the three Joes who stay behind are relatively unpopular, and neglected elements of the original 1982 lineup, and they're probably right. Grunt, the toyline's original poster boy, didn't even have a speaking role on the cartoon until the archaic episode, "Cobra Soundwaves", and this two-parter is his only other speaking appearance in the entire series. Clutch, despite getting a new release with the VAMP Mark II in 1984, quickly disappeared after the battle at the Island of No Return in The Revenge of Cobra, and Steeler himself was neglected after being paired off with Short-Fuze in "The Worms of Death" to great results. However, these brief moments in the spotlight have endeared all three to many of us, and apparently Flint and Lady Jaye, so their loss is ours, as well. And then, Lady Jaye and Flint rush to get through the portal home in time, and three of our heroes are gone.
.....With a quick wipe, we're back in the "real" world, and, apparently, time has flowed differently because it's the middle of the day, and Joe divers are scouring the lake for signs of Flint's unit. It seems to be (at least) the next day, as Doc has begun to give up hope. Of course, cue the convenient "Look!" from Duke (exacerbated by the fact that there's not even a minute left in the episode). The scene is extremely cramped, largely because the rest of the episode is so full of..... stuff going on. However, it can't take away from the final sentiment from Lady Jaye and Flint, which is one of the few moments in the series that could be deemed as being overly patriotic. Of course, it's more than that, as it's a statement about sacrificing everything for something you truly believe in, to say nothing of the resolution of Steeler's conflict. Part I began with him doubting the importance of fighting Cobra, and by the end of this episode, Steeler has "seen the light", so to speak. A somewhat clichéd storyline, yes, but one that's definitely done very well in this instance.
.....Despite having some moments with less than adequate animation, the first part of "Worlds Without End" managed to set the bar fairly high for the conclusion. Simply put, Part II meets those expectations and then some. Martin Pasko's script paints a rather allegorical portrait of America's political climate, particularly that of the Reagan era (which, if you had AIDS or were gay or bisexual, was certainly akin to the dark ages), while still focusing on Steeler's conflict and our heroes' quest to get home. The animation itself is much better, as well, with better shading and some truly wonderful night skies. All in all, another fine half hour of animation from Marvel and Sunbow.
.....Alternate universe episodes can be tricky. Not only can they devolve into formulaic efforts, the alternate universe has been the source of many memorable television episodes (Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror" and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "The Wish"), comic books (Marvel's What If...? and DC's "Elseworlds"), and even serious pieces of speculative fiction and/or essays from historians (professional and amateur). People, places, and things we take for granted are suddenly turned upside down, providing a mirror to our own world, and adding new insights to those things we hold sacred. (God knows that the Vampire Willow's bisexuality and her relationship with the vampire version of Xander Harris in Buffy's alternate universe provided the impetus for much of this sort of insight.) "Worlds Without End" is no exception. Not only are there jabs at the US government, the G.I. Joe-Cobra conflict seems much more precarious due to the possibility that even the most insignificant of battles could be the reason the alternate Marvel/Sunbow Universe's Earth is ruled by Cobra. Additionally, we now have to wonder if the Baroness of our world is a double agent, or capable of being one like her counterpart obviously is.
.....Such speculation is what makes the "What If....?" scenario so fascinating to many viewers, since it's the ultimate thinking man's concept. To quote Robert F. Kennedy, "Some men see things the way they are and say, 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say, 'Why not?'" Interestingly enough, this was not Martin Pasko's only alternate universe story-an episode of the '80s Twilight Zone penned by him and Rebecca Parr, "But She Can Type", focused on an alternate universe (where secretaries are revered), and aired on December 20th, 1985-a month and a half after this episode's original airdate. While that installment of The Twilight Zone is fairly lighthearted, "Worlds Without End" is a very dark piece, and G.I. Joe received the better of two entertaining scripts. An intelligent, wry, and heartbreaking adventure, "Worlds Without End" is a true classic.
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