This Son of Zorn review contains spoilers.
Son of Zorn: Season 1, Episode 3
“Nobody wanted this war, but war it must be….”
I wasn’t sure how quickly Son of Zorn would be returning to the glorious sight gag that ends its pilot episode. I also thought it could entirely be possible that Alan having cartoon legs might be something funny that’s never really touched on again and is just a secret that we’re left to share with him. However, it’s very exciting to see his cartoon-ness getting brought up almost immediately in the series. Rather cleverly, the episode pushes the idea that this acts as the subject of embarrassment and bullying for Alan, no different than if he were self-conscious over tiny genitals in the locker room. The episode expertly takes this very absurd element of Alan’s life and treats it like any other thing you’d be embarrassed about. With Alan’s Phys Ed class shifting its focus to swimming, something’s going to have to give here.
While we’re on the topic of sight gags, I’ll admit that the one of Zorn’s humungous sand castle made me chuckle and is yet another decent example of inserting Zorn into basically any everyday situation and getting something absurd as the result. I feel these tend to work better when the gag is falling back on something impressive visually and Zorn’s castle on the beach looks legit. It’s another one-of-a-kind sort of visual that you can only get from this show and the series should strive to continue to have at least one of these per episode, whether it’s a giant bird slaying or whatever.
Meanwhile at Zorn’s job, in spite of him managing to finally be getting the lay of the land over there, he finds himself longing for battle. It’s all good and dandy that Zorn’s collating skills and mastery of the copier have gotten better, but it’s been forever since he’s eviscerated something and the malaise of that is setting in for him. As a reaction to this, Zorn ends up fabricating a villainous agenda for a neighboring Body Shock employee, Derek, and starts engineering his own conflict when it won’t come to him naturally. Fortunately for Zorn’s testosterone, Body Shock Employee is kind of a dick so Zorn gets to feed his need for vengeance and even gets his own Insane Bloodlust Theme to play in his head whenever Zorn’s new nemesis particularly lays into him.
As much as the show enjoys juxtaposing Zorn’s immense strength with his normal surroundings, I think this premise works even better when Zorn’s finding himself in a position of powerlessness or obsessing over some piece of real-world minutiae (ie. hot sauce). This episode offers up both. Plus, I sort of love the idea that Linda thinks that a lot of Zorn’s Zephyrian examples are actually anecdotes about Pokemon.
This workplace stuff was really doing it for me this time around, probably mostly due to the fact that Zorn’s plans are so damn terrible or just downright confusing (“Why did you have to be naked?” “Believe me, there was truly no other way”). After last week, I was hoping that we’d be getting more of Mark Proksch’s character on the show, but Bobby Lee’s Jakton is just as satisfying and works as a great foil and sidekick to Zorn’s office scheming.
The resolution to all of this is also perfectly insane with Zorn trying to force a battle out of Derek by tricking him into drinking blood. It’s a beautiful scene where they’re both so quick to tear each other’s heads off. The climax is made only better by Zorn practically begging Derek not to apologize and forfeit this fight. He needs to settle this on the battlefield. As crazy as all of this is, there’s something also deeply human about it and you can feel the sadness in Zorn as he’s worried that this fundamental part of who he is might be lost from his life now. It’s a very relatable story, especially in the context of starting a job in an office environment where you’re maybe compromising your ideals. Equally humanizing is Zorn’s realization that dominating at your job can be just as gratifying as killing a whole army of crab people.
Much like last week’s episode, “The War of the Workplace” does a commendable job spreading its time both within Zorn’s job and Alan’s social life and is better off for this split focus. Both facets of the series continue to get expanded in necessary ways, and while this sort of set-up isn’t predictable or overdone yet, it’s a lot more effective than just spending time solely with one or the other.
With Zorn mostly occupied with his Quest For Hot Sauce, this leaves Alan’s bullying up to Craig and Edie to resolve, which is what I was hoping for here (although Zorn’s brief inquiry on Alan’s bully, “What sort of armor does he wear? Enchanted?” made me laugh). This show has continually left me wanting more Craig and while this might not be the time for that, it does give a little more fleshing out to Edie’s character in some encouraging ways.
The end of Alan’s problems also plays out in a satisfying manner. It understandably feels kind of off when it looks like Edie simply lying for Alan and him running away from his problems is going to be the answer to all of this. Rather than accepting this easy out though Alan instead decides to embrace his differences and confront the inevitable. Theres’s some welcome duality present in the episode here where both storylines are dealing with an avoidance of conflict. In Zorn’s case he’s being forced to avoid fighting as the “right” thing to do whereas the opposite is true for Alan. In his situation running away is a sign of cowardice and he instead chooses to face his problems head on. Monica Padrick’s script wisely uses both sides of the discussion on violence to make insightful points for each perspective.
Plus, Craig Cackowski as the gym teacher is also another great piece of supporting character casting on this show. I could have easily watched much more of him riffing on how many have died through swimming negligence. Both of his lines made me cackle and they even felt like off the cuff improvs from the talented performer. I desperately hope that this isn’t the last we see of him.
I still think that three episodes in is relatively early for a show and still allowing a little time for the series to continue to develop its voice. Zorn continues to feel more natural in its storytelling and is building a nice, little world here. Workplace rivalries and locker room bullying are hardly unique plots here, but for every traditional storyline this show indulges in, there’s some great, ridiculous joke coming as a result, like the visual of Zorn moving through the air vents and his sword slicing through the material beneath him. This show at least is getting surreal, new mileage out of cliché ideas. I still think the show could strive a little harder in its storytelling aspirations, but like I said, this is still very early in the show’s life and there’s sometimes a certain luxury in using more basic stories during a series’ infancy in order to emphasize things like character. I’m laughing more each week though, so that’s certainly saying something, too.
And I hope that wasn’t the last we’ve seen of Zorn’s inanimate workplace pals. We need more of their adventures, stat. And that’s the biggest swampliment I could give.