“Death ain’t a joke, baby.”
Death is not a joke, baby. It’s a complicated, evolving, helpful process, and it’s what this episode is all about and what it boils down to in the end as the subject is debated ad infinitum.
A rather different looking Dandy finds himself on a planet steeped in death; the “corner of everywhere and nowhere” known as Planet Limbo, a way station of transition. A world where your own funeral procession happens right in front of you with you leading the way. A world where everyone is given their “own personal black box” that catches you up to date on the circumstances of your own death. A world that wandering souls are drawn to (enter Dandy, apparently meeting his maker at the hands of the Dark Nebula), as you exist on a sterile plane of necros with none of the pain or attachment, where there is no sadness because everyone’s already dead. Dandy argues that this is impossible and you can’t have happiness without in turn having sadness; that they’re entwined and this planet is a lie accordingly.
As the episode decides to delve into these larger philosophical questions early on, it also frames all of this with a very Memento-esque setup with a particularly emo looking Dandy unable to remember what happened to get him here, or how he came to be wearing the cloak and clam shell pendant that he’s now in. Throw in the black box that Dandy has on him and you have the makings for a mystery.
All of this is bookended with the sort of gorgeous animation that this show is known for, but everything looks particularly crisp and vibrant this time, as Planet Limbo gets bathed in a heavy pink and purple filter. While the presence of death is such an encompassing message of this entry, the animation finds opportunities to grow and flourish. Small touches like the rainbow that’s formed when Dandy spits out water, or how the water droplets dance across their surface are beautiful, and injections of weirdness like the floating chandeliers that are seemingly tethered to nothing, or the half cat/half aristocracy chimeras that roam the land are visual standouts. Brilliant, different work is done during moments like when the aliens’ faces crack and chip away like porcelain as they discuss the fleeting nature of life, physically depicting what’s going on internally for them. This is one of the weirder planets we’ve visited and it appropriately feels like it as we only get a taste of the unusualness that makes it up, with no context accordingly.
Stellar designs are also put into the aliens that form the makeup of Planet Limbo, which offers up a real grab bag of insanity. There are female motorcycle monsters that feel like pure spinoff material (Heat Vision and Dandy, anyone?), gator beasts that wax on philosophical, the extremity-lacking talking-in-unison chorus creatures, the living alien candy which seems like it’s out of some twisted fairy tale, or the haunted dream-type clowns that look they’re right out of the Sega series, NiGHTS. In fact, the whole planet has a very NiGHTS and Zelda infused hybrid influence as we see more and more of this landscape that used to be full of life until it eventually destroyed itself.
It naturally then only makes sense that an episode with such an oddball of a setup would be rife with touching, beautiful music underscoring it all. The passage that plays toward the end as Dandy and Lady Limbo discuss the future is really effortless stuff. It all has a very funereal core to it, helping it feel as natural as possible.
This is an episode concerned with discussing how you can have happiness and death in your life, without sadness, with Dandy being the only opposition to this mindset. Yet, when Dandy’s finally given a second chance at life, his friends let him down and ultimately let him die. Planet Limbo’s core is sapped and drained at the expense of helping Dandy, which falls on deaf ears (another sadness/happiness divide). There may not be sadness in this world, but there will be in ours, as the episode even abandons its typical end credits for a much more mocking, somber, clinical ending that seems to accentuate the fact that Dandy is dead. We of course know that he’ll be back next week, the previews even tease him saying “I might even be dead right now.”
They know what they’re doing. They know they’re playing with us.
The River of Time is again seen briefly as it’s intentionally teased in the opening because of this show’s ability to overwrite itself. For most programs death may be the end, but here, it’s simply another route for Dandy to go down; it’s merely another planet to be hopped to. In this sense, Dandy and crew essentially die every week as the episode cuts to black, with newly regenerated versions of them present the following episode. The happiness of completing a “mission” is mixed with the sadness of it now being over. This is a balancing act the show tries to have us negotiate each week, it’s just now at its most overt.
Next episode might have Dandy back as his usual living, breathing, cloak-less self, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t also a Dandy dead as a doornail that’s slowly making time with Lady Limbo. He’s surely smiling too, because really, what’s they’re to be so rotten about when it comes to death?