Episode #14 - An In-Depth Review

"Slagar the Slaver"
BJ QUOTES
[From the Introduction] "Hello! I'm Brian Jacques and welcome back to Redwall! Several seasons have passed since we last saw Matthias and his friends in the Abbey. Much has happened... the Abbot died and appointed Matthias "the Warriormouse of Redwall". Cluny was defeated and Redwall Abbey rejoiced! Matthias the Warrior has wed Cornflower and they now have a son of their own, Mattimeo! Meet him in this episode of Redwall."

[When asked about Medicine] "Medicine, doctors, men... are constantly coming up with new recipes for cures. New drugs, wonder drugs... things... They all go back to this. They all go back to nature. To herbs. To things that people knew about in times long ago. Mmm. And the herbs were widely used at Redwall.

"If I could go into some friendly little old mouse and he would make me something to settle me stomach. Like, 'I'll do ya some dandelion and burdock, and... For that little scratch you've got there, we've got some sanicle. And sanicle's a wonderful herb for healing, put that on.' It'd be better than rolling your sleeve up and having to see this injection coming your way, wouldn't it? Owww!!! [laughs] I think I'd sooner have the medieval doctor, actually."

[Character Spotlight on Slagar the Cruel] "I've got a secret for you: Chickenhound wasn't gone. In Mossflower, Chickenhound, being a healer fox, healed himself. He stayed out in the forests. And, his face, even though he lived, was horribly disfigured by the snake's bite! So, Chickenhound wore a silken harlequin mask of many colors and he became 'Slagar the Cruel', the slave trader and the robber!"

[ASK THE AUTHOR Segment] "The Redwall characters are so descriptive. How did you come up with them?"

"Well, some of them come from the imagination. But, some of them are people I've known in my life. And, it's an author's job to observe the human condition, as well as the animal condition. [chuckles] I can look at my little dog and think he's somebody else."

SUMMARY OF NEW FOOTAGE

The episode opens with Orlando the Axe crouching in a field of flowers, picking some to take home to his daughter, Auma. Some birds fly overhead, cawing, and he begins to sniff the air. Looking around, he sees a plume of smoke rising from his home and gasps. He shouts out Auma's name and the scene shifts to see a young badgermaid (Auma) being forced to march in chains. She holds a mountain flower in her hand, similar to the one Orlando just picked. Switching back to Orlando, the badger leaps over a log shouting out Auma's name. He kneels in front of some cart tracks where a trampled mountain flower lays. He wonders aloud, in tears, who has taken her when he notices pawprints. He exclaims, "Slagar the Fox! Slagar the Slaver!" Then, he storms into his burning house to fetch his axe, which is mounted over the fireplace. Once outside again, he begins running down the forest road, swearing that he'll find Auma and follow Slagar to the end of his days. Then, it fades to the episode title screen.

There's a short scene of Slagar driving his followers on. The camera moves in for a close-up and he says, simply, "Revenge."

While Slagar and the others are approaching Redwall, there's a short scene where a young hedgehog whines to Auma that he wants to go home. The slaves are told to be quiet, but Auma assures the hedgehog that her father will be coming soon.

We see Slagar's men collect the dibbuns, as well as surround John Churchmouse and Lettie Bankvole (although we don't see them attacked). The scene fades to the cart leaving Redwall, then to the tapestry ending.

The tapestry shots are: 1) Orlando standing with his axe, screaming in rage; 2) Slagar standing on a hilltop with a whip, pointing; and 3) A large panning shot of the slave train walking down a path towards some mountains.


CHANGES FROM BOOK

- The initial scene with Orlando is slightly different. First, in the book it was explained in the past tense through a narrative. Now, converting a narrative into live-action is extremely difficult, so they were forced to show the events as they happened. They did change some of the events, however. First, in the book Orlando was off on a trip, away from home, seeking food and rock plants for Auma. He encountered Slagar, who gave him a wide berth, which is how he knew Slagar kidnapped Auma. In the show, he simply recognizes tracks.

- The scene of Cornflower searching for Mattimeo only to find out that he's fighting Vitch was removed. Instead, the first scene at the Abbey is Matti and Vitch rolling around.

- Mattimeo's reason for attacking Vitch was changed from, "He said I wasn't a Warrior's son!" to, "He said I wasn't a Warrior!" Although, Vitch did shout the correct taunt out while they were rolling around.

- Mattimeo is sent to his father before Vitch is drug off to the kitchens. In the book, it was the other way around.

- Unlike in the book, Cornflower was not present for Mattimeo's "dressing down".

- The scene of Slagar arriving at St. Ninian's is now placed after Mattimeo and Vitch's fight. Also, Slagar refers to Vitch as "my spy" rather than by name. Presumably to keep the viewer guessing.

- Matthias' talk with Mattimeo is held at night, not in the morning. In the book, Matthias had been too furious to deal with Matti that night and had decided to wait till morning.

- Cornflower is present for Matthias' talk, at first, then asked to leave by him. In the book, she was never there.

- In the series, Matti is defiant at first, arguing that Vitch insulted him. In the book, he was apologetic from the get-go.

- Matti's punishment is changed from doing double what Vitch did the prior day to taking over Vitch's chores.

- Matti warns Matthias about Vitch, saying something isn't right about him. Matthias ignores him. In the book, no warning was made.

- Given the time change for the punishment, Mattimeo's talk with Martin is also changed from morning to night.

- Vitch reports that the feast will begin "tomorrow, before sunset" rather than "One more moonrise, then the early evening following."

- Some of Matti's punishment scenes were shortened, but not many.

- Mordalfus meets up with Matthias (to fish) as Matthias passes Basil (in the scene where he takes Cornflower and Mrs. Churchmouse's flowers). In the book, Matthias fetched Mordalfus in the kitchen.

- Most of the Nameday games were removed, as were Rollo's songs (that last one is a real shame).

- The scene of Nadaz speaking to Malkariss is removed.

- Slagar calls out Mrs. Churchmouse's name rather than Mrs. Bankvole's.

- John Churchmouse and Lettie Bankvole were each carrying the end of a basket rather than just being too busy to drink the drugged ale.


VOICE CRITIQUES

Abbot Mordalfus (John Stocker) - Mordalfus was a little too gravelly for my tastes. My dislike of it was surprising, as Stocker's "Brother Alf" in season one was adequate.

Ambrose Spike (Paul Soles) - This is a hard voice to describe. Not what I pictured for Ambrose Spike, but not necessarily bad. There aren't any bad qualities to focus on, so it's an acceptable performance, one that won't bother me all that much.

Auma (Kristin Fairlie) - Auma sounded a little too old to me. It's a minor annoyance within a very good performance, however.

Basil Stag Hare (Richard Binsley) - Basil maintains his excellent quality from the first season. Binsley especially reminded me of John Cleese during the "toast for toast" scene. Richard is easily the best VA Redwall has cast. No complaints, whatsoever.

Constance (Janet Wright) - A perfect continuation from Redwall, just like Basil. At this point, I'm especially used to Janet's voice, so it makes the performance all the better.

Cornflower (Melissa McIntyre) - Cornflower is one of two characters who have undergone voice-changes since the first season (the other being Slagar/Chickenhound). Ms. McIntyre is especially suited for the role, aging Cornflower from her youthful self in the first season to the mother of Mattimeo this season. There's a little tentativeness in the voice, but I expect that to disappear as she becomes more comfortable with the role.

Foremole (Graham Haley) - Exactly the same as before. While still no replacement for BJ himself, I like this voice a lot more than I originally did. Graham has adapted to mole speech quite nicely. Kudos!

Matthias (Tyrone Savage) - Among the early viewings of this season, many thought Matthias had a new voice actor. Well, that's not the case. Tyrone Savage is still voicing Matthias, his voice has merely deepened. Although, if you listen closely enough, you can tell a teenager is voicing Matthias (who is a father), it's not immediately recognizable. A very nice performance, one I'm enjoying far more than the first season.

Mattimeo (Michael Seater) - A good fit for the role. As with most of the others, no flaws in the performance, whatsoever. Solid acting, not too old-sounding, yet not too young, either.

Mrs. Churchmouse (Catherine Disher) - Eh, well.... Ms. Disher might be a good Hon Rosie, come time to adapt Mariel of Redwall or The Bellmaker. As Mrs. Churchmouse, she sounds a little off.

Orlando the Axe (Anthony Bekenn) - Another voice that's hard to describe. It sounds both deep and normal at the same time. Pretty good for a badger, all things considered. Very nice acting in the Prologue.

Slagar the Cruel (Tim Curry) - The famous actor in the bunch. ;) Tim Curry's role as Slagar has been hyped and promoted for an extremely long time (or so it seems, anyway). How did he fare? Pretty well, actually. He was mostly snarling and going on about his revenge in this episode, but he still did a very good job. Much better than the original voice of Chickenhound, in my opinion. I'm looking forward to his take on future events.

Tess (Sarah Gadon) - Your standard little girl voice. Nothing notable, but nowhere near being bad.

Vitch (Jake Goldsbie) - Vitch definitely came to life as the little jerk he is, and you have to give Jake Goldsbie credit for that. Nice job.


CRITIQUE

First, I have to tell you that Mattimeo had this unbelievable build-up over on the LP Forum from Canadian and UK fans, as well as US fans whose stations quickly moved through the series. I wouldn't let my expectations get too high, however, as I saw how Redwall had been treated.

Consequently.....

I was absolutely blown away. As the episode ended, I left the room with a smile on my face. This is the reward Redwall fans have been given. After years of waiting, after a season where the quality of the adaptation spiked up and down on a weekly basis, we finally see Redwall Abbey come to life.

That was the first thing that jumped out at me.

Instead of seeing an interpretation of a Redwall Abbey, instead of seeing the story modified into a weekly format with numerous changes, the Redwall Abbey I knew had finally come to life. The atmosphere was there, everything I knew was there, and it seemed teeming with a life that had been absent in the first season. This was the Redwall Abbey from the books. And that alone makes this episode outstanding.

Although there are quite a few miniscule changes, as I've listed above, for the most part you don't notice. I didn't notice until I sat down to do the review. Nearly everything in the episode I remembered from the book. I applauded the way they were able to work around the narrative problems with Orlando's prologue scene. Everything was top notch.

For the first time since I started writing these reviews, I have no nitpicks for the episode. None, whatsoever. The only thing even remotely close is that, in the extra footage, they revealed Chickenhound was Slagar before you learned it in the story. It ruined the surprise. But, that's an editing problem, not an episode problem.

There is not much praise left to shower upon this episode, although it deserves every bit it gets. Great music, great animation, great voice-acting, and my much-liked tapestry-endings are still there.

Quite simply, this episode is outstanding. Wonderful build-up to a very good cliffhanger. Kudos to everyone involved!




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