Episode #13 - An In-Depth Review

"The Final Conflict"
BJ QUOTES
[From the Introduction] "Hello! I'm Brian Jacques and welcome to Redwall!" [Matthias/Cornflower footage is shown] "Sit back and enjoy the excitement on today's episode of Redwall!"

[When asked about Courage] "Courage is the moment when ordinary beings become extraordinary. Courage could be a situation where you have to sum up your bravery to do something. Picture, in Redwall, Matthias! I mean, at first he wanted to be a warrior. Then, when he sees Cluny's hordes, I should imagine it gives him a bit of a start. A little mouse against... up against all them big vermin, ferrets, rats, weasels, stoats! But, he gets the gift of courage! And that is what makes him extraordinary. That's what makes him stand out from the crowd. Courage is like greatness. Sometimes it is thrust upon us."

[Character Spotlight on Mattimeo] "Some are warriors born, others are warriors made. Martin the Warrior is the warrior born. Matthias was the little mouse who had to learn to be a warrior. Now, his son, Mattimeo, was the Abbey brat. Yeah. At the beginning of Mattimeo, Mattimeo is the naughty little mouse in the Abbey, whose dad is the great warrior, and he plays a lot on that. And he gets away with a lot... So, how is Mattimeo going to learn to be a warrior? It's funny. But, when you're in a hard place sometimes, that's when you start to learn. So, when Mattimeo is taken captive... he's taken slave by Slagar and all his little friends and they've been sad and they're worried and they're frightened and everything... he realizes that he's the warrior's son. He has to help. And that's the way his character, as a warrior, starts to form. And, like his dad, he becomes the warrior. But, he has to learn harder lessons."

[ASK THE AUTHOR Segment] "Which character do you think is most like yourself?"

"There is actually one. Eh, but it's not in Redwall. It's in the book Mossflower. It's a little mouse called 'Gonff, the Prince of Mousethieves'! And that was me, when I was a kid around the Liverpool docks, I suppose. He's nice. I like 'im."

SUMMARY OF NEW FOOTAGE

The episode opens with a family of dormice (Plumpen's) hiding in some bushes as Darkclaw and Fangburn drag a weasel (against his will) to swear allegiance to Cluny. Fangburn says he smells something, but Darkclaw urges him on. Plumpen ducks down to comfort his family when Fangburn returns and grabs the youngest child. Plumpen moves to fight the rat, but Darkclaw drops a bag over him. Overhead, Dunwing observes Plumpen's capture and flies off. The scene fades into last week's tapestry-ending-- 1) Matthias holding Martin's sword aloft in a sea of skulls; 2) Matthias, Log-A-Log, and the shrewmaid falling over the waterfall on their raft; and 3) A very powerful shot of Matthias standing opposite Martin, each staring at the other with "I AM THAT IS" printed overhead. Unlike last week's version of this shot, however, which was revealed through a panning camera, the shot is shown on-screen in it's entirety.

Then, at Redwall, Dunwing informs Matthias and Log-A-Log of what she saw. Log-A-log asks if she saw the GUOSIM in Mossflower. Dunwing confirms that they're moving through the woods rapidly. With a nod, Matthias says he'll meet them. Turning to the Redwallers assembled on the lawn, he asks for volunteers to meet the shrew army, warning that it's a dangerous mission. Despite that, everyone volunteers.

There are a few scenes of the GUOSIM shrews sneaking through Mossflower, followed by Cluny receiving the new prisoners (Plumpen and his family). He turns away in thought to observe the Redwallers repair of the gate and the scene switches to Basil and Cornflower. They hold a short conversation over how long they can hold out against Cluny.

During their search for the GUOSIM, Matthias and his band of volunteers (no notable characters among them) encounter a rat, who is knocked senseless by them.

There is a short scene where Abbot Mortimer makes a speech to the Redwallers, assuring them that Cluny won't lay siege to the Abbey for long and they will know peace once again. Until then, they must tighten their belts. Constance quietly mutters the pessimistic view that Cluny won't leave until he's dead.

We see Cornflower tucking in a mousemaid named "Dorothea", assuring her that they're safe from Cluny, before she, herself, goes to bed.

In Mossflower, the GUOSIM, marching towards Redwall, walk right past Matthias, who is leaning against a tree waiting for them. He tells them that they must return to Redwall at once.

After Cluny proclaims Redwall "Cluny's Castle", we're treated to some tapestry shots. Cluny leading his rats into Redwall, who have the Redwallers cornered (and Basil in chains).

While Cluny invades Redwall, Matthias leads the GUOSIM to the horde's camp. There, they discover the "rats" are all dummies-- a ruse.

During the final battle (which is expanded to show the actions of more characters... Mortimer actually fighting, for instance), Cornflower rushes Cluny, who grabs her and drags her into the belltower.

As Matthias and Cornflower exit the belltower, observing the aftermath of the battle, Captain Snow and Squire Julian are there. Julian says, "Who knows, my friend? Maybe the sword does possess some magic." In light of the carnage shown of the fallen mice, shrews, and vermin littering the Abbey lawns, that line is rather morbid.

After Mortimer dies, the scene fades into the final tapestry-shot: Martin's picture on the tapestry with Matthias standing opposite him in full-armor and with the sword. Martin's voice recites: "Who says that I am dead, knows nought at all, I am that is, two mice within Redwall. Martin the Warrior sleeps, but in the riddle see, Matthias, I Am That Is, my sword shall wield for me."

The tapestry scene fades to John Churchmouse writing the "epilogue". The order in which he writes is as follows: 1) About the shrews and the bees; 2) Constance collecting woodlanders; 3) The Joseph Bell being recast; 4) A break from John's narration to show Cornflower and Warbeak strolling, picking flowers. They go to see if Matthias has caught a fish. We briefly see Matthias in the boat with "Abbot Alf", as in episode #1; 5) John's narration picks up to explain that "Abbot Alf" (no mention of "Mordalfus") went fishing with Matthias; 6) John is interrupted by a child's shout of "Grandfather! Grandfather!" (don't worry too much. I'll explain in "Changes"). He turns to watch Mattimeo playing with a toy sword and shield. He tells "Matthias Methuselah Mortimer" to "stand to attention". When the dibbun complies, he laughs that "Mattimeo's" candied chestnut is in the usual place. He turns back to the book and signs his name, listing relations and so-forth. He adds, as a postscript, "Please be sure to visit us if ever you are passing Redwall. The roses have bloomed early this season." As soon as he mentions roses, we see the laterose, which slowly fades into a tapestry depiction of it.

And then the episode, and the adaptation of Redwall, ends.


CHANGES FROM BOOK

- Plumpen's family, numbering twenty in the book, is now only five (himself, his wife, and three children).

- Basil and Cornflower oversee the gate repairs. In the book, Cluny watched them from afar (as he does in the show), but they weren't shown from the Woodlander POV.

- Cluny speaks to Darkclaw (who should be dead) about the gates rather than Fangburn.

- Plumpen sits between Brother Alf and Brother Rufus when hauled up the wall in the book. In the show, he's with an unnamed mouse (might be Rufus) and Foremole.

- In the book, Cluny provides Plumpen with a stolen Redwall habit so he'd blend in. In the show, Plumpen makes no change in attire (definitely not standard Redwall issue, either).

- The workers are hauled up at night and Plumpen immediately goes to the gate to open it. In the book, it was afternoon and he sat through a meal, then hid in the gatehouse until dark.

- Plumpen doesn't grease the hinges of the gate. The "bolt" is also a letdown, something you'd see on a bathroom stall. Not something that could keep out a horde of fighting rats.

- Cluny and his horde break through immediately after Plumpen unlocks the gate. In the book, Cluny bided his time for a half-hour or so.

- Constance has the net thrown over her in bed, which is obviously in the dormitories. In the book, she slept on the Abbey lawn in case of an attack and was netted there.

- Basil is put in stocks and chains. No such attention was given in the book.

- Cluny shouting to Martin's tapestry that a voice told him he'd be rid of his dreams by sunset was removed (a pity).

- Some of Cluny's "new names" weren't used, and "The Lake of Drowning" was changed to "The Drowning Pond".

- Dunwing informs Matthias and the GUOSIM of Cluny's attack, not Warbeak.

- Plumpen's role of greasing the other doors for the GUOSIM was removed. Instead, they gain entrance by having the Sparra attack a guard while Matthias sneaks up behind him.

- Mortimer urging the Redwallers to comply with Cluny's demands (to avoid bloodshed) was removed. Odd, to remove a scene where he's supposed to say something like this when they shove it into nearly every other scene with him.

- Cluny singles out Cornflower ("The one who burned me!" [on the siege tower]) as the first to die.

- Matthias faces Cluny in full-armor. His voice (at first, anyway) is also accompanied by Martin's.

- When Cluny asks who Matthias is, he replies, simply, "I Am That Is". It's a shame, because the line from the book ("I am that is! Martin, Matthias, call me what you will.") is far more powerful.

- Cluny immediately turns tail and runs from Matthias. In the book, Frogblood died first and Cluny flung Killconey's torch at Matthias.

- Matthias merely stalls Frogblood's attack with a pointed sword. In the book, Frogblood was cleaved in half.

- It's implied that Constance kills Fangburn by... biting him, if you catch my drift. Like Asmodeus. ;) In the book, she catches him in her net and swings him against the gatehouse wall repeatedly.

- Friar Hugo's role in the belltower is now filled by Cornflower.

- Matthias and Cluny don't trade blows until the belltower. In the book, they first clashed on the Abbey lawn and fought all over the Abbey-- ramparts, Great Hall entrance, and so-forth.

- When he enters the belltower, Matthias takes off his helmet, casting aside his shield and cape. During their battle, when the armor is damaged, he casts that aside, as well. In the book, Cluny, during their earlier fight, had forced Matthias to abandon the shield and, of course, Matthias didn't have the armor.

- The tip of Cluny's tail is cut off in the belltower, not on the lawn.

- Matthias chases Cluny up the staircase. In the book, he ran up on his own to escape Cluny's attacks. At the top, Cluny jumps down and grabs Cornflower, putting them in the right positions for the "bargain".

- The belltower has two levels in the series. The ground and then a second floor, made of wood. The bell crashes onto Cluny and through the wooden floor in the series-- in the book, it only hit the ground, because that's all there was.

- Matthias' line, "I kept my promise to you, Cluny. I came down." wasn't included.

- Ok, this isn't a change, more of a gaff on their part. They leave in Mortimer's line, "I hear you've restored Martin's sword to the Abbey." In the context of the book, that's fine-- it was the first time Matthias came home since recovering the sword from Asmodeus. The problem is that Mortimer was with Matthias in the TV show when Matthias got the sword home last episode! If they want to change things, they need to keep them straight and remove contradictory lines.

- A quick summary of things changed during Mortimer's death scene. First, he does not name the sword "Ratdeath". Secondly, he tells Matthias he is "protector of Cornflower" rather than telling Cornflower that a warrior needs a good wife. Third, he doesn't proclaim that they should live in the gatehouse.

- John Churchmouse doesn't mention Silent Sam or "The Summer of the Talking Squirrel" in the epilogue.

- In his list of relations, John Churchmouse claims to be "the father of Cornflower" and "the grandfather of Mattimeo". Well, we know this is completely and utterly untrue, of course. Cornflower's father is Mr. Fieldmouse. John Churchmouse is the father of Tim and Tess. And, as we all know, Tess marries Mattimeo. John is, definitely, not Mattimeo's grandfather (I've been told season two corrects this mistake, so don't worry. ;)


VOICE CRITIQUES

Plumpen - At this late stage, I really have no complaints, nor props, to give to Plumpen's voice. It was a low-key role and there was nothing to make it outstanding, nor anything to make it bad. It was simply average.

John Churchmouse - Like Plumpen, too late in the game for me to seriously critique this voice. It was not bad, but neither was it that good. It didn't fit what I had in mind for John (far more fatherly, in my mind), but it was well acted and fit with the John they were going for.


CRITIQUE

Well, here we are. Episode #13. The conclusion to the series' first season and Redwall.

Sadly, this episode didn't quite measure up to the likes of episode #11, at least to me. It was excellent, don't get me wrong, but it seemed too rushed. There were too many little changes jumping out at me and I think a few of their scenes could have been cut to give more attention to the final confrontation. I, for one, would have loved to see Matthias and Cluny battle all across the Abbey locales. Instead, they don't lock swords (figuratively speaking, of course) until the belltower. That cuts out alot of what was a hard battle for Matthias. It gave the ending, in particular, a very rushed feeling. To be honest, I didn't feel any sense of closure. There was nothing to say, "This is the end. Our tale is done." The whole resolution was subdued.

Another nitpick that really jumped out at me was the "bolt" Plumpen unlocked to let in Cluny. As I said in the Changes section, it's the dinky sort of thing you'd see on a stall at a public bathroom. If I had rammed my shoulder against the door, it would have fallen away-- and Cluny had hundreds of rats! There's no way that lock kept him out. Sloppy job on the animators' part. A simple crossbeam, as the other gate had, would have sufficed.

Speaking of Plumpen, I was disappointed with his depiction. With "plump" in your name, you expect a fat ol' mouse. And short. Probably akin to Friar Hugo's depiction. Plumpen did not look at all like I had pictured him and the dormice, in general, are weird. A cross between the show's depiction of voles and mice.

For the last few nitpicks, Mortimer was dressed when he died. "What?!" you say? ;) Well, he was shown fighting in the last battle in his nightshirt. Then, when Matthias comes out of the belltower and is taken to him, he's laying down in his brown habit. It's inconsistent and when a person is dying, you don't change their clothes. I'll admit it's a small thing, but it bugged me and these are my reviews, so I get to include it. ;)

It was odd that Dunwing seemed to replace Warbeak. Warbeak only appeared in the epilogue and was silent, at that.

Another gaff on the part of the animators was.... why, look who that is, invading the Abbey! It's none other than Cheesethief! You remember, the rat who was shot to death in episode #8? ;)

Okay, maybe I'm being hard on them. These things just jump out at me, though. I was disappointed Matthias' sword wasn't named "Ratdeath" in the show. That they flubbed and said John Churchmouse was Cornflower's father. That the "Martin, Matthias, call me what you will." line wasn't used and that a lot of the interaction between Cluny and Matthias was cut, right down to the "I kept my promise to you, Cluny. I came down." line. After so many changes, so many scenes being messed with, I wanted some grand finale where they actually stuck to the book, left the really powerful lines intact, and gave a real sense of closure to the whole story. Again, they didn't.

That's not to say the episode was bad, though. Far from it. It easily ranks up there as one of the best episodes from the first season. It kept things in the context of their interpretation, even if it didn't end things to my liking. The music and animation during the last battle was outstanding and I was surprised at how violent Constance was, especially since she didn't bite Fangburn in the book. The Sparra flying in formation was particularly dynamic. Plus, there was this one part during the belltower fight where Cluny stood on the bell axle with his cape drawn around him. He looked very much like a vampire (or, since I've been playing Chrono Trigger lately, like Magus). That's actually a good thing, BTW. A very fearsome image, one that fit Cluny to a "T". When remembering the series, Cluny in-particular, that's most likely the image that will be brought to mind. Very nice job.


CONCLUSION

And, so, Redwall is over. It was a fun ride-- from Matthias' origin, to Methuselah's delayed death, to Chickenhound and Sela's early visit to Redwall, to the apparent lack of any non-rats in Cluny's horde (despite their names), to the Sparra Kingdom, to Cluny's Clowns, to the wonderfully performed Basil Stag Hare, to Farlo the Dormouse, to the death of Cheesethief, to the introduction of Captain Snow, Squire Julian, and the GUOSIM, to the fight with Asmodeus, the recovery of the sword, the discovery of the armor, and the final fight with Cluny. And, let us not forget the wonderful music and the outstanding tapestry-shots! It was a fun and enjoyable experience. Definitely interesting to see a new take on the story of Redwall.

Despite all my nitpicks, by the way, the series comes highly recommended. It's one of the better series airing on television these days. And, if you're a fan of the books-- even if you think the changes will annoy you too much, watch the series. You'll be swept away by the fact that Redwall has come to life. That alone is worth any change. Trust me.

And now, let us turn our attention to Mattimeo. See you here next week.




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