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The Penguins of Madagascar - "Arch Enemy/The Big S.T.A.N.K." Recap


Arch Enemy: While testing Kowalski’s newest invention, the “Nexto-Skeleton,” Dale the Snail approaches the Penguins, seeking revenge against Private for crushing him. That accusation is only reinforced by Private accidentally crushing Dale at every chance he gets to apologize, and by King Julien, who vilified Private in front of all of the zoo animals. Who really crushed Dale? And can Private clear his name?

The Big S.T.A.N.K.: Rico and Skipper accidentally reactivate the S.T.A.N.K. (Super Toxic Aromatically Noxious Kaboom-boom) Project, a stink bomb disguised as a toilet designed to trap Dr. Blowhole. Upon trying to properly dispose of S.T.A.N.K., King Julien steals the toilet, believing it’s the proper throne to replace his old one. Can the Penguins break the lock, save Julien, and escape before the bomb detonates?





Note to self: Send a tweet to Bob Schooley (@Rschooley) saying that he was right about the series becoming weirder. 

That previous line best summarizes my thoughts toward this pair of new episodes (New episodes of Penguins? Unbelievable!). After a ton of new Kung Fu Panda, Winx Club and SpongeBob episodes, Nickelodeon finally turns its attention to this and T.U.F.F. Puppy, however briefly.


From @Rschooley: Wrong RT @pickledbeetles: I still can’t believe Lewis Black is allowed on kids shows. Guess no one making the show has seen his stand-up.

“Arch Enemy” introduces us to Dale the Snail, voiced by comedian Lewis Black. He does a fine job introducing us to this lilliputian character while also transferring his trademark style over to a kids show like Penguins, albeit toned down. I wasn’t too keen on the way Dale was portrayed here, as it made him seem too one-dimensional, only here to exact his revenge against the Penguin who crushed him. Just one question: how does Dale keep surviving accidental crushes by robotic and Penguin feet? With a slimy forcefield and an anodized steel shell? Oh, the joys of tiptoeing around the topic of death and the magic of cartoons…

It also seems like “Arch Enemy” has a little too much going on as it starts with Dale viewing Private as an enemy, which leads to Marlene siding with Dale, which culminates in the entire zoo believing that Private is a menace to the zoo. It seems like there wasn’t enough time to adequately clear Private’s name, leaving it to a promise at the end (and Dale firing lasers at Kowalski). That’s it for complaints; let’s move on to what this episode gets right. 


Even though I don’t like Dale’s personality for appearing to be one-dimensional, it’s that cantankerous one dimension that makes him likable, similar to Carl Fredrickson from “Up.” It was also nice how the Nexto-Skeleton didn’t work right for Kowalski, and yet it worked perfectly for Dale. Maybe Kowalski should take it as a sign. But in the meantime, I knew that Private did not crush Dale, although it was funny to see Private carelessly stepping over him multiple times, then believing that saying he was very sorry over and over again would make Dale forgive him. Not quite.

What I appreciate most, however, was when Maurice introduced King Julien to the zoo animals because it’s similar to his introduction in the Madagascar movies and “Happy King Julien Day!,” minus the et ceteras. I also liked the slight nod to Private’s Quantum Hyper-Cute pose introduced in “Cute-Astrophe.” If you didn’t know by now, I love it when they make references to previous episodes because it shows that the series is aware of what happened before. It’s that small, but Lexus-like attention to detail that makes Penguins a well-polished show.


As for “The Big S.T.A.N.K.,” well, it shows that Penguins has taken a turn for the weird. Bad pun, I know, but I thought that King Julien riding a tuna melt sandwich in “All Tied Up With A Boa” was strange enough until I watched this. 

Counting how much salt and pepper was in the salt-and-pepper shakers? Building a giant stink bomb toilet to trap Dr. Blowhole? And then disposing it in a specific rest stop in New Jersey? The sheer randomness of “The Big S.T.A.N.K.” makes it feel like the pilot episode for a different show as they’re trying out different gags, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Even the acronym for S.T.A.N.K. was weird, reminding me of the acronyms used in Codename: Kids Next Door (remember that show?). There’s more that works here than what doesn’t, and that’s a good thing.




At the same time, because it is an episode in the series, the sudden change makes “The Big S.T.A.N.K.” feel like it’s conflicted between the classic slapstick nature of Penguins and this newfound weirdness. I’m not saying that I don’t like it, I do, but I wasn’t expecting this level of strange. Diehard fans of the show may be left scratching their heads at this episode, while late newcomers may be put off by the weirdness. Also, what’s with the constant references to New Jersey on Penguins? Heck, it spread to the new Fairly OddParents special that aired over Thanksgiving (Timmy’s Secret Wish). I just want to know why this happens so often.

 

From @Rschooley: J/K NJ. RT @Jada_Shantel: Everbody stay tryin to fade Jersey. Even penguins of madagascar. SMDH

Moving on from the weird aspects of this episode, Skipper would make a great trucker with his usage of various truckers’ lingo. At first, I was expecting “The Big S.T.A.N.K.” to follow a similar premise as the SpongeBob SquarePants episode “Stuck In the Wringer” because crying actually solved both problems where a main character was stuck in an infernal contraption.

 


As always, Penguins has kept me guessing how this would turn out because it became a race for the solution and a race against time, not one suffering at the hands of another (ahem, Patrick). It’s worth noting how this marks the first time Skipper has cried. Sure, we’ve seen him scream, and beg, and hug, but cry? Not until now. And all it took was remembering past scenes from previous episodes with King Julien. Take note, Dr. Blowhole and Hans…



“Arch Enemy” and “The Big S.T.A.N.K.” aren’t the best episodes, but they are good. I’m digging this strange new direction that the show is going; as long as it doesn’t diminish what The Penguins of Madagascar is at its core, it’s all right with me. I’m only hoping that DreamWorks and Nickelodeon can come to their senses and allow this show to continue past Season 3, but that’s a subject for another time. Even though “Arch Enemy” had Lewis Black as a guest star, I have to say that by Roy’s level of patience, “The Big S.T.A.N.K.” is the better episode of the two because it is the ambassador to a new era for Penguins.

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