When Gumball and Darwin poke fun at their father’s incompetence at school, they depress Richard and anger the rest of their family. If they want things to return to normal, they’re going to have to find some way to make their dad feel like a hero again.
“The Hero” is an episode that I wanted to like, and in some ways, I did. However, it missed the mark because it just never found the right tone. In the beginning, the boys’ mockery of their father was understandable. It was still mean, but it was understandable. Yet when they got home, Anais and Nicole began to treat them like dirt as if they had committed some unspeakable act, refusing to feed them or let them bathe. Why? Nicole has said many of the same things about Richard – in fact, later in the episode, Gumball’s line about how Richard can’t change mirrors completely what Nicole said in season one about how she’s given up on Richard and that it’s too late for him to grow up. Talk about double standards. Nicole even lied to him for several decades about something he cherished. But then the episode slips up again when the boys are placed in a life-threatening situation and are forced to rely on Richard for help. Gumball continues to make fun of his father during his botched rescue attempts, which was a bad move on the show’s part. They should have had the kid come to his senses sooner, as the whole thing felt wrong.
That was a lot for the episode to overcome, and frankly, it failed to overcome it. I really liked Richard’s song, and seeing all of the photos from years-gone-by was a great touch. We even got to see a small glimpse of the day Gumball got Darwin as a pet fish, which will likely be focused on in more detail in season three. I admired the concept behind this episode, and I liked how Richard behaved in general. Richard has been the most improved character in season two and he didn’t do anything in this episode that I disliked. There just wasn’t much else that worked in this episode. I hate to say that, as I can tell that a lot of effort went into this episode in order to make it emotionally powerful, but it just didn’t turn out right. Genuine reactions are a hard thing to put into an animated program, where hyperbole rules the day, but I fervently believe this could have been a brilliant episode if things hadn’t gotten so mean-spirited.