I find myself at a bit of a loss to say much about the new episodes of Thunderbirds Are Go (premiering on Amazon Prime starting today) that I didn’t say about the first set of episodes that premiered earlier this year. Amazon has labeled this second set of 13 episodes “season 2,” though it’s really the second half of the first season as it aired originally in the U.K. No matter what you call it (and I’ll settle on Amazon’s naming convention in the name of being a good American Imperialist Pig), Thunderbirds Are Go provides excitements galore for the young and the young at heart, with daring rescues conducted with high-tech gear in nail-biting races against the clock.
In the year 2060, the five Tracy brothers run International Rescue, a secret organization dedicated to pulling off search and rescue missions far too dangerous for the conventional authorities. Each Tracy brother pilots a specialized vehicle dubbed “Thunderbirds,” with Scott Tracy piloting the hypersonic rocket plane Thunderbird 1, Virgil providing heavy lift capabilities in Thunderbird 2, Alan driving the outer space rocket Thunderbird 3, Gordon diving under the waves in Thunderbird 4, and John providing overwatch in the orbiting satellite Thunderbird 5. They are aided by their engineer Brains and their young chief of security Kayo, who was revealed in the first episode of this series as the niece of the world nemesis known only as “The Hood.” Extra assistance comes from the aristocratic spy Lady Penelope and her faithful driver Parker, who has retained many of the extra skills acquired in his checkered past. Every episode features the Tracys in a scenario that steadily progresses from bad to worse as they struggle to pull off their latest rescue mission.
Thunderbirds Are Go is gleefully, unapologetically retro in its sensibilities, feeling almost like period piece science fiction. International Rescue doesn’t live in the actual future – they live in the future as envisioned by sci-fi in the 60’s, and their straight-arrow morals and grit-teeth determination also mark them as characters from that era. This is emphatically not a criticism of the show in any way; in fact, it’s quite refreshing to find so many characters that can act with such old-fashioned heroism. Since this second season is really the back-half of the first, there isn’t much visible change or improvement in the model making or CGI animation that brings the vehicles and humans to life, respectively. Among the best episodes this season are “Extraction,” where a father and son are trapped in an illegal mining machine sitting on an explosive reserve of hydromethane; “The Hexpert,” where a scientist traps herself inside a vault storing a highly unstable particle that’s going to become a massive explosion in a matter of hours, and it’s up to Parker to break into the vault; and the three episodes that form the finale and center largely on Kayo.
In fact, I feel slightly churlish in criticizing the few things that don’t quite measure up in the series. First and foremost is the way the show takes so long to get to Kayo. One of my initial complaints about the series was that she was such a cool and interesting character who was even given a wickedly dangerous looking vehicle of her own, the Thunderbird Shadow, but then effectively vanished for the rest of the season. While Kayo and Thunderbird S get plenty of room to show off in the final 3 episodes of this season, they are effectively MIA for the 10 prior episodes. Her subplot had enough depth and complexity to it that it could have easily sustained a few more episodes during the season. It’s also a bit disappointing that this is really all that her “character arc” entails. I was also less enchanted by the one mostly comedic episode “Designated Driver,” which was saved (literally and figuratively) by the guest appearance of the late Sylvia Anderson as Lady Penelope’s Grand Aunt Sylvia — a fine, fitting tribute to one of the co-creators of the original show.
But both of those are minor quibbles for an otherwise excellent continuation of the series. Thunderbirds Are Go is still a retro-themed delight, consistently providing excellent, nail-biting thrills.
Thunderbirds Are Go Season 2 (US version) is available for streaming now on Amazon Prime.