Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Eight

At last we meet the famed Governor Pizarro. Honestly, what are the odds of landing the Solaris on the exact beach where Pizarro's armies are stationed? I thought the intention was to get away from Gaspar and Gomez, not sail right into their home port. Given that Mendoza is a navigator, and Zia seems to know a fair bit herself, there's no way they could have not avoided Lima if they wanted to.

This episode is full of accidental brilliance on the part of Esteban. Even suddenly stopping from his fear of heights probably saves him from getting crushed by the lowering drawbridge. He also comes face to face with a prophecy concerning himself for at least the second time. At least he doesn't let it go to his head, though it'd be nice if he could catch a clue once in a while.

It seems like they save a new trick of the Solaris' for every episode. This time it's a light focusing laser beam which somehow even chooses its own targets. I love how Gomez seems to think his tiny little ship will be able to damage a ship the size of the Solaris. Of course, the first mistake was Pizarro not stationing guards on the ship in the first place.

Favorite parts:

Mendoza showing Zia what the Spaniards are likely to do to her if she does not agree to decipher the golden quipu for them. He really does have a heart, even if she doesn't see it.

Tau explaining that the lever Esteban accidentally pulled was right next to what amounts to the ship's self-destruct button.

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The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Seven

Ahh, back out to sea. Familiar but strange in their lovely ancient but futuristic vessel, which somehow still has plushly decorated living quarters untouched by the ravages of time. Obviously whatever material the ship is made from doesn't rust, either. Tau turns out to be an incredible nerd, running around everywhere with his nose in a book.

One thing that struck me was the comment about the wheel on the ship. Sure, we're used to seeing a convenient wheel for steering sailing ships, but apparently that was a relatively recent invention, requiring mechanical or even hydraulic systems to operate. There's no doubt that the Solaris is mechanical, and more. Despite this attention to historical detail, Mendoza anachronistically declares that the sound coming from inside the sealed metal block is mechanical in nature. So much for accuracy.

Favorite parts:

Esteban insisting that the toggle on the block was more than just a decoration.

The solar sail rising to replace the cloth one.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Six

Now we're getting into parts of the show I don't remember at all. I did remember Tau running off with Zia, but my memory included something about a cliff, rather than a treehouse. I had completely forgotten about the hidden temple, and Tau's jar. Poor Tau...I wonder how long he's been alone like that; it's no wonder he seems a little eccentric.

I think this episode has an equal number of surprises for all parties. Sure, Mendoza's gun is a shock to poor Tau, but honestly, how can a guy who keeps a monster iguana for a pet really think it's all that frightening? This episode is the first real step into the mysterious world of the cities of gold; Mendoza's science is no longer able to explain everything going on around him. We finally get a glimpse of the true scope of the adventure awaiting us.

Favorite parts:

Tau whisking Zia off down the zipline.

The Solaris emerging from its hiding place.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Five

What do you do when stranded on a deserted island? Eat turtles, cactus, and whatever the natives are cooking. Wait, I thought you said this island was deserted?!

I've been waiting for this episode for a while now. Mendoza is pretty capable and all, but he seems to represent all that is scientific and ordinary in the world. Things never get truly crazy with him and his minions around. While Tao is my least favorite of the children, his introduction means that all of the main characters have finally been presented. Now we can get down to interpersonal conflicts and real adventures.

Favorite parts:

This is the part where Esteban really begins to shine. I loved the part where he swam out after Zia, both because it shows his courage and because it proves that he can survive independent from Mendoza. I also liked when he explained how tired he was from swimming all that way...but that he was still up for a fight, if that's what it came to.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Four

This episode was pretty choppy as far as cutting the scenes together. It's almost as if they forgot to draw some of the footage the editor needed. The sound effects were also somewhat lacking when the ship started breaking apart. It also contains the first blatant inaccuracies as far as science goes; the ever-popular shark attack.

Plot-wise, there's really no surprises. As the ship is damaged in the storm, the rest of the crew exhibits typical every-man-for-himself behavior, except for Gaspar who is so bent on his revenge that he'll risk a sword-fight even in a half-submerged cargo-hold. The children, Mendoza, and his lackeys are abandoned on progressively smaller pieces of the ship, eventually making it to shore on a raft.

Favorite parts:

Esteban climbing the mast to escape the crewmen, insisting that he can't make the sun come out even as it does.

Almost a counter-point to Esteban's sun-calling; the mast glowing with St. Elmo's Fire.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Three

Mendoza, staying at the wheel for 4 days and 4 nights, steers the ship through the Straits of Magellan. He becomes popular with the crew, much to the captain's dismay, but now it becomes an easy task for anyone to guide the ship to Lima. Esteban causes a conflict by trying to steal a cup of water for Zia, but a storm blowing in interrupts Gaspar's revenge.

There's an odd part which seems to be about Esteban imagining a giant sea monster, that makes me wonder whether there was some internal monologue cut from the translation. This episode also has the first obvious use of recycled footage, as Mendoza recaps his rescue of Esteban while sailing past the place where it happened.

Favorite parts:

Esteban coming on deck as the sun emerges behind him.

Gaspar getting pegged by a flying fish.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Two

The transitions in this episode make it obvious that the show was written as a continuous story; only divided into pieces later for airing on television. This episode isn't quite as smooth as the first one, skipping any early dialogue between Esteban and Zia, and several spots seem to be translated roughly. The story moves quickly, through both the historical content such as the explanation of the Straits of Magellan, and the plot exposition which includes the revelation that Esteban and Zia possess matching sun pendants.

Esteban seems to have several dreams/hallucinations while on board the ship to the New World. He wakes up from one of them to overhear the captain of the ship discussing plans to get rid of Mendoza and to use Zia to find the lost cities of gold. It is revealed that Zia knows the Incan form of writing, which uses knots on thread. Also, talking to Esteban she tells him he is 'not really Spanish', which is very ambiguous, given that he is drawn with much paler skin than she and Tao are.

Favorite parts:

The golden butterflies on the water; proof that they are nearing the coast.

That sound Gaspar makes when the captain tells him to be patient. I have that in wave format somewhere, labeled as 'the most intelligent thing [he] ever said'.