One of the most unique shows ever put on television gets revived for a special and it just makes me realize how sad it was that we had to wait so long for it.
It’s been years since alien invader Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) and his Robot assistant, GIR (Rosearik Rikki Simons), have been seen and the constant obsession with finding him has led his nemesis Dib (Andy Berman) to become a fat, smelly blob attached to a chair, much to the disgust of his sister Gaz (Melissa Fahn) and his father Professor Membrane (Rodger Bumpass). Then Zim comes back, with a new plan to impress the leaders of the Irkin Empire, the Almighty Tallest (Wally Wingert and Kevin McDonald), if only he can remember what Step 2 is…
Look, I don’t want to spoil this special, so go ahead and take an hour to watch it. Go on, I believe in you. Do it.
Awesome, wasn’t it? I mean it’s not quite as good as “Walk of Doom” or some of the better episodes of the series, but it’s a really good special and it proves one thing: This show had a lot more room to explore before getting cancelled.
For those who are getting their first taste of Zim, here’s my previous description of the show:
“Invader Zim is what happens when Nickelodeon doesn’t fully investigate who they’re giving money to. It’s similar to how WNBC got Howard Stern. They heard something was popular, decided to get the person responsible, then immediately realized that it conflicted with their image.
Showrunner Jhonen Vasquez is a messed-up human being, and the creator of such works as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Squee. He is also a darkly comic genius of the highest order. Invader Zim was a show that ran on the logic that whatever would confuse, amuse, or disturb the audience the most should be the next image on screen or line of dialogue. Sometimes this was frightening or irksome, but, usually, the juxtaposition was hilarious.”
Sadly, the show’s sense of humor was a little to dark for kids and, despite the fact that it set up a bunch of potential recurring characters (including Tak (Olivia D’Abo) whose ship appears in this special as an acknowledgement), the show ended up getting cancelled before even the second season was finished. This special, much like Rocko’s Modern Life‘s reboot, is a chance to reintroduce this brilliant show to an audience that will hopefully now be more receptive, in part because it blazed a trail a decade and a half ago.
Perhaps the most notable thing about this special is that it’s one of the rare occasions on which Zim actually can be considered a credible threat. In general, Zim is too stupid to ever really be a villain (that’s sort of the point of the series), but in this special he actually does, albeit through a lot of luck, serve as a serious antagonist to Dib. Watching Zim be semi-competent is really enjoyable, because even when he seems to be doing well, he’s constantly grasping at straws to keep everything from falling apart. He even relies on GIR to compose a hit song in order for his plan to work, though GIR promptly knocks it out of the park. Even when the plan does work, however, the side-effects are still insane and devastating due to his own idiocy.
In terms of tone, I think most people will note that this special is lighter and lacks a certain amount of the nihilism found in most of the works of Jhonen Vasquez, but I still think that it has the same off-kilter and challenging humor that made the original series great. The character designs are mostly unchanged, but Gaz, for example, is more talkative and less emotionally combative than she typically was during the series. The special also has an actual emotional arc concerning Dib and his father. While the fact that Dib’s father is pretty much absent from his life was brought up in the show several times, here it’s much more focused and Dib’s feelings are much more prominent. It’s basically summed up by Dib telling his father “I wish you were on my side!” only to be told “Wishing isn’t very scientific.” We feel a similar emotional desire for approval from Zim with regards to the Tallest, but unlike Professor Membrane’s neglectfulness towards Dib, the Tallest genuinely hate Zim. It gives us a wonderful compare and contrast between our lead characters, something that the show didn’t do much.
The art style is just as distinct as it was before, although, again, I think it’s a little lighter.
Overall, if you liked the series, you’ll like this. Mostly, if you like this, you’ll wonder why in the heck they cancelled the original show when they clearly have so many more directions to take the stories. If you’ve never seen Invader Zim, try it anyway. This kind of show deserves the effort.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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