REVIEW: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet – Episodes 1-3

Welcome to Do You Even Comic Book’s Review/Episode Guide for Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet, premiering on Netflix today. This is a spoiler filled guide to the episodes so if you want to remain unspoiled for now, head over to our Spoiler Free review and our interview with Rebecca Hanson and Deanna Rooney.

Episode 1

The Movie: Mac & Me

Mac & Me is infamous among bad movie fanatics and for good reason. It’s good ol’ fashioned nightmare fuel. It’s a McDonald’s boardroom filled to the brim with cocaine and brought to life. Eric, your standard issue 80’s child-boy in a wheelchair, befriends a lost alien looking for his family, while shady but inept government officials hunt down both of them. Does that sound familiar? A little TOO familiar perhaps? Because Steven Spielberg would like to have a word with this movie.

It’s not 100% clear Eric’s mother is aware her child has a disability, because otherwise why would she move her family into a house overlooking a quarry, complete with a steep slope with no guardrails or fencing? Not only does Eric’s mother not seem to give the slightest crap about her son, the movie itself seriously hates this child, as illustrated by it’s climactic ending scene. Mac and his entire family aren’t any better off. No one involved with the movie at any point looked at the alien’s designs and went, “No, no let’s NOT go with the with blow up dolls with leprosy.” Also, Coca-Cola can heal all wounds and cure all ills, do not question this.

Rip Off Of:

E.T., the 80’s, a McDonald’s Executive’s Fan Fic

Invention Exchange

The Mads introduce Algernon, which Synthia has been taking in the off season to boost her intelligence. So much so, that she realizes that Algernon is bad for her. It’s a great way to give Rebecca Hanson’s character more to do during the season and make Synthia more integral to the story as we’ll later see.

Jonah and the Bots present Spez: ham and Pez combined. As horrific as that sounds in concept, it’s even more horrific sounding when the gelatinous blocks plop onto the counter from their robotic dispensers. Servo’s indignation at the whole affair is a highlight.

Host Segments

Opening Segment – The season starts with a great intro back into the series picking up at an indeterminate amount of time after the Season 11 finale. Jonah is back aboard the Satellite of Love after his near death experience with Reptilicus Metalicus, but if you’re looking for an explanation as to how that happened, you’re not getting one here. Minor updates to costumes and sets, a lady Bonehead, and Ardy’s new suit are welcome tweaks. Felicia Day is at her best when she’s loose and goofy in her ‘The Gauntlet’ movements.

Whistling in MACinesse – Really cute sketch, the back and forth plays out exactly as long as it should. Of course Servo is the best at it, there was no contest. And Kinga’s corn on the cob from a bowl? Not sure that’s going to be edible.

Forced Corporate Birthday Party – What’s better than forced corporate brand tie-ins? Off-brand forced corporate brand tie-ins!

Ending Segment – Jonah and the bots get to go down to Moon 13, a nice change from the SoL set for the crew. Crow is exactly too excited about the table saw and continues to be the reason ‘safety locks’ are made.

It’s Just a Show…

This is the section devoted to the MSTies out there who listened to the line of the theme song “Repeat to yourself, it’s just a show, I should really just relax” and went another way…

Jonah returns to the SOL carrying the red spacesuit he had previously crafted all throughout Season 11. No time is given for him to explain how he survived the jaws of Reptilicus Metalicus, and while it’s a great running joke through the episode, it would have been nice for a tiny explanation.

Synthia’s newly gained cognitive aptitude in this episode maybe creates a canon loophole with the new Dark Horse MST3K comic (Issues 1 and 2 available now). Within those pages, Synthia has already taken Algernon and is science-ing her way around her newly invented Bubbleator. Is the comic considered canon anymore if Synthia has seemingly just started taking the smartness drug in this episode? The comic can’t take place right after the end of Season 12 (for reasons we’ll get to later) and it can’t take place before Season 12 (Jonah being super alive and present).

Memorable Riffs

WITNESS ME!

He’s like a Teddy Ruxpin with the face torn off.

This is like if humanity evolved from Pinky and the Brain.

Yeah just drive down the middle of the street like Pac-Man, lady.

You know, they went through three Erics making this.

Damn you, Waze!

Verdict: 5 out of 5

Episode 2

The Movie: Atlantic Rim

Atlantic Rim doesn’t try disguising itself as anything other than a low budget knock-off of Pacific Rim, because that’s how Asylum Films rolls! The convoluted plot involves an Axe Body spray bottle in human form, Not-Kara Thrace, and store-brand J. August Richards piloting gigantic mech suits to battle sea monsters that had previously been minding their own business on the deep ocean floor. On the ground, Admiral Golden Corral squares off against Sergeant Roid-Rage for control of the mecha military operation, all while there is supposedly a state of emergency in New York City that suspiciously looks like your average Tuesday in Florida. It at least looked like an easy day of work for the extras who played dead on the street while the actors stumbled over them. The first portion of robot fighting takes place in the dark of the ocean because a background consisting of anything else past floating particles around the mechs would have cost money. The climax of the movie manages to somehow predate plot points from Pacific Rim: Uprising and the audience is left rooting for the monsters as the only redeemable characters in the film.

Rip Off Of

Pacific Rim, The Avengers, various mecha anime shows

Invention Exchange

The Inflatable Air Dancer Organ – The organ itself is technically amazing and the skit is perfect for showing off Growler. This is one of the inventions this season that could be legitimately cool if it were a real product. Max’s Supposi-Story on the other hand is for when you don’t feel like reading but you also ate Taco Bell that evening and this thing should never exist.

Host Segments

Opening Segment – Jailbreak at Gizmonic Institute with a guest voice from Rick & Morty’s Justin Roiland. For an institute chock full of super smart scientists, it’s surprisingly easy for it to be broken into/have secret experiments conducted within/become uncontrollably flammable.

Mech Suit Up – Had hopes of seeing the behemoth mech suits that Crow and Servo piloted at Dragon Con this year during this skit, but the tiny versions will do in a pinch. The meta-ness of the push for a new hit song works, especially coupled with the nonsensical yet catchy song (lyrics along the same line of ‘Idiot Control Now’s stream of consciousness) but seeing the actual Season 11 album included in the skit was a touch too much.

Bro! – You get a medal! And you get a medal! And you get a medal!

Closing Segment – Jonah and the Bots pour many ‘ones’ out for all the extras killed in Alcoholic Rim, leading to a lot of sticky clean up later.

It’s Just a Show…

For a show that has previously treated an interwoven plot as a background to the movie riffing, Season 12 steps up its game with cold openings like these with no explanation to them except the hope the mystery will be paid off later. A deeper dive into the world inside Gizmonics Institute would be interesting one day.

Memorable Riffs

Squid!

Go Go Dour Rangers!

Puppy orphanage!

Baltimore has never looked better.

He’s like if a puka shell necklace was a person.

And the movie ends as it began, as a garbage fire.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

Episode 3

The Movie: Lords of the Deep

This movie wants to be deep and philosophical about life after death and communication with the unknown, but it’s really hard to do that when an albino manta ray puppet is sucking on your face. The story involves a nebulous corporation, that’s practically a sub-division of Weyland-Yutani in its questionable staffing, encountering otherworldly forces underneath the sea. Or a man that turns into a plushie no one can properly deal with, either one. The movie is a big nothing; Lords of the Deep isn’t as outright bad as Mac & Me or Atlantic Rim, but its blandness seeps through every cardboard paneled crevice. The sets are drab, the costumes are worse, and the characters are interchangeable. The protagonist goes on a magical trippy voyage to the ocean’s fluffy marshmallow center, while the lead evil corporate guy wonders aloud where she went for a good 20 minutes. The world would be a better place if Megaweapon from Warriors of the Lost World could have made a U-Turn and come back for Trilby, the deep sea station’s AI helper.

Rip Off Of

The Abyss, Leviathan, Alien, Deep Star 6

Invention Exchange

Evil by Dronelight – the Threatening Drone Probes probably should be made with at least 25% less voodoo magic next time. The marionettes flying in from the top of the SoL are adorably detailed. Back on the SoL, a momentary bot mental breakdown doesn’t stop Jonah from showing off the Hand Dryer Air Hockey table. Servo’s contribution to the team shows effort but maybe TOO much effort.

Host Segments

Opening Segment – Jonah is a fast worker on that board if all of this is happening in real time this season, no wonder he works for Gizmonics. The chase from the Boneheads is reminiscent of Todd Nauck’s wonderful bit of fan art.

Scoop the Goop – While Servo needs to learn personal space, the goop puts Jonah Ray’s acting chops to the test as he switches back and forth out of the trance. The denials after each revealed detail make the skit memorable.

Rhyming in the Morning – Nice background prop gags by Jonah during the elaborate rhyming. This is also the first introduction of Dr. Donna St. Phibes, a character to whom fans at this year’s live shows were already treated to a preview.

Closing Segment – This is the strongest skit in Season 12 by far. Not only do we get Dr. St. Phibes, we get an amazingly performed animatronic monster. When the Lady goes berserk in Moon 13, the psychedelic freak out is directed and edited perfectly.

It’s Just a Show…

New information dump about Heston, he has a brother and like any nerd who makes good later on in life, his childhood moments could have gone… better.

Whether Dr. St. Phibes, of the St. Phibes Habitat for B-Movie Monsters, is docking at Moon 13 under her own volition remains to be seen, but movie monster caretaker is a dream job. Well, unless you have to look after a Lady of the Deep, that is.

We also learn a little more about Moon 13, the moon base where Kinga is crashing. The bots find blueprints that show Moon 13 used to be a ‘secret NASA dark matter Skunk-works’ and also contains info on Reptilicus Metalicus.

Memorable Riffs

Did Scott Bakula leap into this guy’s body?

Is her psychotropic journey becoming a Beggin’ Strips commercial?

Uhh, you’re not gonna Shape of Water with it, are ya?

She’s like if God didn’t quite finish making Michelle Pfeiffer.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5

Page Branson is a webcomic creator, martial artist, podcaster, dog petter and occasional sleeper. She is the creator of the Magical Girl webcomic Legacy’s Call and co-hosts the Level 7 Access podcast.

Page Branson is a webcomic creator, martial artist, podcaster, dog petter and occasional sleeper. She is the creator of the Magical Girl webcomic Legacy’s Call and co-hosts the Level 7 Access podcast.

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