Episode #8 - An In-Depth Review

"Battle Plans"
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 Redwall Animals] "And now, let's talk about villains! Villains come in various forms. And in the animal world, villainous animals look bad. Cluny the rat! The patch over one eye and tatty fur... a great tail, like a whip, which earned him his name "the Scourge"! And you usually find villains are bullies. They've got to go about in gangs. A bully has to have a lot of people to aid him, a lot of other creatures, and that makes him feel brave. Makes him feel strong. But he's not really. You'd strip them all away, and, in the end, a villain, somebody bad, somebody wicked, is just a bully. Nothing else."

[Character Spotlight on Bull Sparra] "Now, Cluny was bad. But, King Bull Sparra is crazy! He's crazy! He's the mad king of the Sparra. Sparra! Y'see? One time I was sitting, writing in my garden and I found out about the Sparra, because there were sparrows in all the trees! And suddenly I noticed these sparrows were speaking a language of their own! They were fighting, they were chatting, they were chasing each other..." [he begins imitating Sparra talk to say what SOUNDS like] "I-don't-like-this! Mouseworm!" [goes back to normal voice] "And King Bull Sparra is the mad king!"

[ASK THE AUTHOR Segment] "How do you come up with the character's strange names?"

"Well, names you can make up. Names you can find. Eh, if I am traveling on a train I'll take a pencil and a scrap pad and I can invent names. Names are easy for the baddies, y'know? Fattybelly, Snottynose. But, some of the other names you will find. Like the name 'Asmodeus'. I was looking in the Bible... it had the names of Satan... all the names of Satan. It had... eh... Lucifer, Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, Prince of Darkness. And then it had 'Asmodeus'. And I thought, 'Isn't that a wonderful name for a snake, with all those S' in it?' Asssssmodeusssss. So, that was a name I found. But, you invent a lot of them yourself."

SUMMARY OF NEW FOOTAGE

The episode opens by replaying the tapestry-shots from the last episode. They've added a fourth one, however. The order is now: 1) Captain Snow perched on a branch, his medal hanging around his neck. 2) Squire Julian crouching in his garden, munching on a carrot. 3) Basil and Constance standing on the ramparts as a barrel of hornets falls on the battering ram. And, 4) Cluny retreating while a GUOSIM shrew bites his tail.

As Matthias, Constance, and Basil observe Cluny's army, Constance begins hammering out a giant arrow and outlines her plan to the others (constructing a giant crossbow). Hidden on the outside of the wall is one of Cluny's captains, the fat-comical one with the Scottish accent who was sentenced to death in episode #6 along with Darkclaw (guess he survived. ;) The ferret grins and runs to tell Cluny (who is in the midst of another dream of Martin the Warrior).

As Cluny sleeps, Cheesethief sneaks into his tent with a dagger, intending to murder him. Cluny suddenly wakes up, however, and kicks Cheesethief out of the tent. Cheesethief sourly returns to a fire where Redtooth and other rats sit. Redtooth grins that Cheesethief failed to kill Cluny. Cheesethief angrily proclaims that by this time tomorrow he'll be chief of the horde. The Scottish Ferret (he needs to be named ;) overhears him and adds that to his list of things to tell Cluny.

There are assorted scenes throughout the episode where we see the construction of the crossbow: Matthias and Cornflower dragging a treebranch (although Cornflower's later called away), a couple of test shots where Matthias notes that it needs more support to absorb the recoil, and of Hugo allowing them the use of a kitchen table on which they mount the crossbow.

After the Ferret reports to Cluny and points out Cheesethief as the mastermind behind the attempted takeover, Cluny calls him into his tent. He taunts Cheesethief by eating slices from a wheel of cheese (ironic, isn't it?), then tells him that he's his only "loyal" lieutenant. He then says that he'll be away planning their next attack and during that time Cheesethief is in charge. The rest of the scene, of Cheesethief letting the "promotion" go to his head, is pretty much as it was in the book, although Cheesethief orders Fangburn around instead of Darkclaw (who is called into Cluny's tent).

The next day, we see Cluny ordering a handful of his horde to retrieve the haycart from the ditch by St. Ninian's. The Ferret (whom I think may be Killconey, actually) runs up to report to Cluny that he just saw Constance and the others test a crossbow. Cluny orders the Ferret to tell Cheesethief to memorize his battle plans-- which are in his tent. The Ferret is baffled, but Cluny growls for him to do it. Looking back at the work in the ditch, Cluny growls and shoves everyone aside as he single-handedly pulls the cart up out of the ditch.

Later, after Cheesethief's death, Basil, Matthias, and Constance inform the Abbot that Cluny has been killed. Staring at the tapestry, Mortimer sighs that the loss of even Cluny's life diminishes them all. Basil coughs and points out that with Cluny dead, the horde should scatter and Redwall can resume a life of peace. The Abbot admits that Basil is right, thanks Constance for what she's done and asks that the guards be removed from the walls. Basil interjects that the guards should remain until the horde actually leaves, but Mortimer is insistent that they've had enough of war and orders them once more to remove the guards. He then tells Matthias to go and tell Hugo to prepare a feast so that they might celebrate the end of this war. What follows is an assortment of scenes of the Abbey-dwellers celebrating and preparing the food for the feast. Cornflower and Matthias have a brief conversation where Cornflower admits her disappointment in having never found out if she was actually brave.

Later, Matthias meets with Constance on the ramparts. They notice that the rats aren't leaving and that something is amiss, although they can't say what.

The next scene shows Cluny's siege tower being rolled away from St. Ninian's on it's way to Redwall.

At the feast that night, we see Friar Hugo dismantling the crossbow as Abbot Mortimer asks that they all observe a moment of silence for the lives lost on both sides. As the celebration gets underway, Constance is unable to concentrate. She observes that with everyone inside, there would be no warning. Matthias points out that the Abbot only told her to take down the guards-- he said nothing of the mole's listening tunnels (a new addition, it would appear). Constance nods and goes over to Foremole, who gathers his moles and goes to the listening tunnels. As Constance and Matthias leave Cavern Hole, Basil joins them to give them one more pair of eyes as they make their rounds.

There's a short scene where Cornflower takes some soup to the moles at the listening tunnels, then takes some up to a mouse and an otter on the walltop (odd, considering the guards were recalled). The rest of the scene, where she burns down the siege tower, is as it was in the book (save one change, which I'll bring up in the next section).

Matthias, Constance, and Basil rush to Cornflower after the tower collapses. Basil begins ordering archers to fire volleys after the retreating rats as Matthias comforts Cornflower, pointing out that now she knows how it feels to be brave.

The tapestry-endings for this episode are: 1) Cluny standing over the dead Cheesethief, 2) Cornflower throwing a flaming pail at Cluny and the siege tower, and 3) A bright orange flame.


CHANGES FROM BOOK

- There is a scene of Matthias, Constance, and Basil standing atop Redwall's ramparts watching Cluny's camp, which is a short distance away. In the books, Constance did meet with Redwall's "Captains" (which didn't include Matthias, and doubtfully included Basil) on Redwall's wall, but the scene didn't have many speaking parts. Mostly Constance's thoughts. Here, though, her thoughts are distributed between all three characters (Matthias, Constance, and Basil) and given voice. Not that big of a change, but a change, nonetheless.

- The Solitary Beaver becomes "The Imaginary Beaver". ;) The Beaver didn't make it into this episode, which contained his only role in the book (constructing the giant crossbow with Constance).

- Matthias, Basil, and Cornflower help Constance construct the table in the absence of the Solitary Beaver.

- After his promotion, Cheesethief orders Fangburn to tell Killconey to continue his "spying". In the books, he ordered Darkclaw to send ferrets out for more dockleaves. It also takes place at night, not during the day. Minor change, to be sure. ;)

- Basil determines that "sunset" will be the best time to fire the crossbow. In the books, it's midday.

- Constance and the others are convinced they killed Cluny and tell the Abbot (which results in the guards being removed and so-forth-- see the "Summary" section). In the books, Cluny strides across the meadow shortly after Cheesethief is killed and Constance sees him.

- In the books, Cluny was completely shocked to find Cheesethief dead and had no knowledge of the construction of the giant crossbow. He decides to turn the death to his advantage, though, and creates a false story about Cheesethief plotting against him. In the TV series, not only was Cheesethief plotting against him, but Cluny knew about the crossbow and impending attack so he had Cheesethief sent into his tent so he would be killed. This makes Cluny far more manipulative in the TV show (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).

- In the books, Cluny launched an attack against the gates to divert the Redwallers attention away from where he intended to use his siege tower. Instead, with the Redwallers thinking the war is over, no such attack is executed.

- As the siege tower is set aflame, Cluny leaps through the blaze to confront Cornflower, who brandishes a spear. The tower crumbles before he reaches the wall, however. In the books, Cluny observed everything from the ground.

- While not restricted to this episode, I thought I should finally mention it. Redtooth was not killed. He regularly shows up, though not as Cluny's second-in-command. In the books, Redtooth was the one who accompanied Cluny into the Abbey (the show sent Darkclaw in his stead) and there he angered Constance, who swore she'd meet him again. When Sela takes the plans to Redwall, Constance kills Redtooth. As we know, the scenes with Sela were executed differently in the series so the opportunity never presented itself and Redtooth is alive and well.


VOICE CRITIQUES

- There are no new voices to critique this week.


CRITIQUE

To start off, I'd like to applaud the production crew for their execution (no pun intended) of Cheesethief's death. The coloring of the sunset skyline, the camera angles, the editing, and the music all combined to create one of the more dramatic and impressive scenes the series has had to date. Despite being aimed at children, the show did not shrink back from this particular death and we saw Cheesethief struck by the arrow and his silouhette fall. There was no blood shown, though (unless you count the tapestry depiction at the end), and the scene was carried out both faithfully and tastefully. Kudos all around.

There's very little for me to nitpick in this episode. No mention of the GUOSIM and Matthias doesn't show any sign of setting out from the Abbey again, but I expect that to come shortly (only five episodes left).

The omission of the infamous Solitary Beaver was a shame. Fans throughout the years have been very interested in this lone beaver, the only one to ever appear in a Redwall book. Bulding the crossbow with Constance was his claim to fame, but he's tossed aside for Matthias and Basil. ;) I can sympathize with the reasoning, however. The animators hardly need yet another character to design and draw, especially when Ambrose Spike isn't even included. The Beaver would have been a distraction and his appearance would have felt rushed and rather convenient, so it was omitted. In that, at least, I applaud them. No character should be short-changed, least of all the Solitary Beaver. ;)

Now, as for Cluny's manipulation of Cheesethief... I'm torn on this. On one hand, I think it was better to show that Cluny could be surprised and that he didn't know everything. On the other hand, changing Cheesethief's death from accident to design was a rather powerful move and served to build up Cluny as an excellent villain, a mastermind. That's definitely a plus. Deviations like this don't upset me all that much, because they result in a change that's beneficial to the series. Other changes are met with less enthusiasm because they seem to be there just for the sake of being there. In this case, I probably would have made the same decision. So, good job.

I still dislike Abbot Mortimer, however. Rather interesting, since he's long been my favorite Abbot from the books. The series version is far too condescending and takes pacifism to the extreme. Mortimer strives for peace, but he also realizes when there is no other option. This Mortimer (the series), on the other hand, shows no such qualities and makes basic military blunders, such as recalling the guards from the walls. This may sound callous, but I don't think his death in the series will be half as sad as it was in the book. The character is just very hard to like.

But, on the plus side, my tapestry shots are still coming. ;) We even got an extra one in the beginning. Very nice.




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Matthias