Netflix Review – Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus – Dear God, Why Was This Ever Cancelled?

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.

SUMMARY

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…

ZimFlorpus - 1DibChair
The rivalry is reignited and both sides are a little let down.

END SUMMARY

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. 

ZimFlorpus - 3Cupcake.gif
Like what became of the cupcake’s children?

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.” 

ZimFlorpus - 2JTHM
Yes, this is definitely for kids.

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.

ZimFlorpus - 4Toilet
Much like us, Zim was on the toilet for most of the wait.

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. 

ZimFlorpus - 5Space.jpg
This could have been a musical. Maybe it should have been.

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.

ZimFlorpus - 6Gaz.png
I mean, Gaz having open eyes is automatically lighter.

The art style is just as distinct as it was before, although, again, I think it’s a little lighter. 

ZimFlorpus - 7Art
I mean, it’s not much different, but still noticeable. 

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.

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85) Parent Teacher Night/ Walk of Doom (Invader Zim)

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. 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.

InvaderZimJohnny
A Good Candidate for a Kid’s Show

The show’s style is incredibly distinct, to the point that I have seen other shows adapting some elements of it more since the show was cancelled. It is very dark, but punctuated by extreme bright colors. The backgrounds are best described as a mix of Blade Runner, Lisa Frank, and LSD. The characters are typically insane, but all in their own distinct ways that allow everyone else to call them crazy while still themselves being off-kilter.

InvaderZimCharacters

One of the strongest parts of the show was the interaction between Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz), a megalomaniacal alien who is often incapable of even the most basic tasks (he was sent to Earth because his leaders thought it would kill him), GIR (Rosearik Rikki Simmons), Zim’s defective robot who is perhaps the greatest comic relief ever on screen, and Dib (Andy Berman), a human dedicated to exposing Zim despite the fact that every person on Earth thinks he’s crazy (as they should, the kid’s nuts except in this one case). Dib’s sister Gaz (Melissa Fahn), is probably my favorite character, because she’s basically the personification of anti-social behavior. She has no ability to care what anyone thinks, and won’t pretend otherwise.

InvaderZimGaz
All Hail Gaz

SUMMARY

This episode, like most of Invader Zim, was made of 2 separate 12 minute shorts. The first, “Parent Teacher Night,” is pretty funny. Since Zim is pretending to be a student while working out how to conquer the Earth, he doesn’t have any actual parents. To be fair, his species also breed from gene packs, so he didn’t have any to begin with. In order to keep his cover, he tries to program his two parent decoy robots to be normal parental figures, but GIR accidentally exposes them to modern pop-culture media, leading them to become violent and erratic. Keep in mind, this was before Jersey Shore became a hit, so this was slightly prescient.

InvaderZimParents.png
The key to women is the tutu goes with the gloves.

However, it’s the second short in this episode that gets it on the list. Walk of Doom is genius from start to finish. The worst part about it is that I cannot adequately describe why I love it, because its secret is in its absurd dialogue that is delivered perfectly. It’s the culmination of people going “what would be the funniest thing for a robot to do with its rocket legs’ fuel?” and answering with “replace it with tuna, because he misses his cupcake.” It’s a kind of absurd “logic” that was unique to this show. It also contains one of the few times where Zim actually displays a modicum of intelligence beyond just being from a scientifically, although not culturally, advanced species. He manages to create an amazing piece of technology that forms the impetus for the episode, but then, in typical Zim fashion, manages to screw everything up. It also has my favorite background gag: There’s a homeless man screaming that has a sign that says “Will Stop Screaming for Food.”

InvaderZimWalk

END SUMMARY

Really, this episode is basically all the fun of LSD without the brainworms.

PREVIOUS – 86: Gargoyles

NEXT – 84: St. Elsewhere

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

I couldn’t find the whole thing on YouTube, but here it is on Vimeo. I own nothing. Enjoy 12 minutes of pure madness.