Mortal Marathon Part 4: The Essence

March 27th, 2011 by | Tags: , ,

Guest article series by Gabriel “TheJoker138″ Coleman who wants to apologize for the iffy VHS quality in the images.

We start today’s adventure in Outworld, where a girl with her shirt half ripped off is being tortured by a Shadow Priest. Now that’s kind of a weird character to choose for your MK series. I hope Mokap shows up next. Anyway, this is easily the most violent thing (save for fantasy stuff like Sub-Zero freezing people) that this show has done yet, but it’s still not the ridiculous somewhat light-hearted violence of the games. He is straight up burning this woman with a red hot branding iron. He’s trying to get information from her about something called the Essence, which Shao Kahn believes his step-daughter, Princess Kitana, has hidden somewhere in Earthrealm.

Speak of the devil, here come Shao Kahn himself, and with him is another woman, named Qali, who he accuses of being loyal to Kitana, who she has been friends with since childhood. There’s also the small fact that when he staged his coup to take over Outworld, he had her father beheaded in front of his entire army, which is a decent enough reason to hold a grudge. She insists that no, she is loyal to no one but Kahn, but he’s not convinced. The Shadow Priest on the other hand is convinced that the woman he had been torturing really doesn’t know who took the Essence, or where it is, so Kahn has him slit her throat, as a message to Qali. In the shadows, another cloaked figure has been watching this whole thing.

We’re only through the pre-credits teaser this week and there’s already two things I need to talk about. Let’s start with the good. Shao Kahn is awesome. He looks, and acts, like a complete evil bad ass. Meek has toned down his performance since the first episode, but now instead of over-the-top he has a more hateful, rage-filled, burning to every line he says. His voice is completely different as it is in his dual role of Raiden, as is his posture, and just the way he carries himself. In what has so far been a series that has ranged from mediocre to painful as far as acting goes, Meek is the one truly stand-out performance. Every scene he’s in drips with energy, and he’s fun to watch, regardless of whether he’s playing Raiden or Shao Kahn.

He also looks great too. The Raiden costume hides his physique, but the guy is huge. And despite the fact that instead of going full monster face like in the games he is just wearing a skull mask at all times, it’s still miles ahead of the “incompetent bald guy” portrayal of the character from Annihilation.

He makes this look work.

Now for the not so good. Not only do we already have a female character who dresses in all green and looks like Jade in the character of Vorpax (who I have been calling Not-Jade since the first episode), we now have a completely separate character who has Jade’s backstory of being a childhood friend of Kitana. I can’t decide if the people on this show loved Jade so much that they decided they could have twice as much of her by splitting her into two characters, or hate the character and just wanted certain aspects of the character but not the character herself. Either way, I’m just going to call Qali Jade from now on, because god damn it, it might as well have been Jade, even more so than Not-Jade who’s only similarity is the outfit she wears. Qali here on the other hand has a lot more in common with Jade’s characterization from UMK3, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Back to the episode, it’s now cut to Zhu Zin, where our protagonists are in a sauna, wearing towels. Surprisingly there’s more of a focus on bare-chested Kung Lao and Siro than there is on Taja’s legs and cleavage here, which has to be a first for this show. Sure, it’s still fake sexy pandering, but at least it’s towards a different demographic this time. It turns out Taja has made friends with the woman who runs the sauna, Mei Lin, and they were able to get in for free. Siro makes a joke about how he’s surprised a thief like her could make friends or some such, and Taja gets upset like she always does. You would think with every other thing Siro says to her being a joke about her former profession, she would get used to it and realize the guy is just messing around, but she continues to have thin skin about the whole thing. Mei Lin comes in to check on them, and Siro hits on her, and goes so far as to go to the door after she leaves the room to get a look at her through the window. There he sees her stealing all their money, and finds that she’s locked them in.

Back in Outworld, we get our first look at Kitana, as she meets up with Jade, who tells her about her run-in with Kahn earlier. Kitana says she’s going to go to Earthrealm to get it and find a new, better hiding spot for it, which Jade says is suicide. Kitana tells her that she should stay in Outworld if she’s worried about Kahn branding her a traitor.

In the Cobalt mines, we find out that the shadowy figure watching the torture earlier was Not Jade, who reports back to Shang Tsung about the events. Shang let’s her — as well as the audience — in on what the Essence is, at least in vague terms. The show has actually done a bit of research here, and gets the entire concept of “Outworld used to be Edenia before Kahn took over” thing down. The Essence is the soul of Edenia, and is something that Kahn has been after since taking over. Shang sees this as his ticket out of prison and tells Not Jade to go get it for him, but she’s worried about what will happen to her if she’s caught leaving. Shang calls over a water bearer, and snaps his neck, telling Not Jade that he was one of Kahn’s spies, and that they’re watching him, not her, and even if it comes up he can cover for her while she’s gone. This convinces her, and she heads off to follow Kitana to where the Essence is hidden.

I should mention here that all of this has happened in the first ten minutes of the episode. This thing is moving along at an almost breakneck pace, especially for this show which is usually full of pointless scenes that overstay their welcome by minutes at a time. This one, however, has set up the Essence, introduced two new characters, established that there are at least three parties after the Essence and added the subplot of the thief stealing Kung and Co.’s money and locking them in a sauna. If all the episodes moved this fast, this series might go from bearable to decent.

Anyway, we cut back to Shao Kahn drinking out of… Well, see for yourself…

This is what a pimp cup looks like in Outworld

He has Kitana brought before him, and the whole conversation they have is really, really creepy. It starts with Kahn staring at her, and she tells him, in as many words, that there is a portrait of her hanging in her dead mother’s former bedroom, and that maybe he should go jerk off while looking at it instead of forcing her to be there during it, and then tries to storm off. He of course doesn’t let her leave, and reminds her that she’s his daughter, which she counters by saying, “Yes, daughter, not lover.” Kahn then asks, in the sleaziest way possible, if she’s still loyal to him, while getting uncomfortably close to her. There’s A LOT of weird pseudo-incestuous stuff going on in this scene. Meek is able to sell the creepiness of Kahn, and the actress playing Kitana is also able to sell the impotent, skeeved-out rage that she’s experiencing being this close to him. After some more words about loyalty, with Kitana almost straight up telling him that no, she’s not loyal to him, and she is in fact actively trying to undermine him at every turn, he gives her the Outworld equivalent of a cop saying that he’s going to let you go cause he doesn’t have anything solid on you, but to keep your nose clean. Oh, and also that if he does catch her doing anything wrong it would be a waste to kill her. On her way to Earthrealm, Kitana meets up with Jade, who has decided to accompany her despite dreading the journey and what might await them when they return, if Kahn were to find out.

On the subject of Kitana, she’s a pretty good translation of the character in this, and other than the possible exceptions of Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung, is the closest to the game that we’ve seen. They namedrop both King Jerrod and Queen Sindel, and make reference to Sindel having killed herself after Kahn killed Jerrod. She wears all blue, and has her fans. Her actual characterization is pretty close to the first movie, but less understated in the secretly working against the forces of Outworld aspect.

Her and Jade have made it to Earthrealm now, and meet up with an Edenian warrior named Daahraan. He lets Kitana know where the Essence is hidden, and tells her that instead of trying to hide it herself, she should turn to Kung Lao, the champion of Mortal Kombat. She agrees, and tells him to make himself scarce, because Kahn’s forces will surely be following her, and he says he will, as Kitana and Jade leave to find Kung Lao.

Speaking of Kung, him and the others have escaped from the sauna, and are pretty pissed about having been robbed. Siro and Kung decide to go after Mei Lin and get their money back, while Taja beats herself up about not being able to tell a thief when she sees one, and swears off making any more friends, opting to instead go back to the trading post. Kitana and Jade are spying on them, and decide that they’ll deal with Kung’s friends if they pose a problem to them.

At the trading post, Taja is going through the now deceased Baron’s stash of jewels, liking what she sees, when Jade jumps her from behind, wrapping a rope around her neck, and saying she’ll squeeze the life out of her if she doesn’t tell her where Kung Lao is right now. Taja doesn’t take too kindly to this, and slips out of the choke hold, leading us into our first fight scene. It’s also the first fight scene since the first episode that Taja isn’t knocked out within seconds, showing that maybe she isn’t completely useless. Or so I thought when it began, because the whole thing is Taja getting her ass kicked. The best part is when Jade balances on one leg and then kicks Taja in the face with it five times. Before Jade can kill her, Kitana shows up and tells her to stop, and then Kung and Siro, having gotten their money back, also return.

Kitana refuses to explain the situation to anyone but Kung Lao, not trusting his friends, and while Kung doesn’t like it, he does recognize Daahraan’s name when she mentions it. Despite this, neither he nor Taja and Siro are willing to take her word at face value after what just went down with Jade, and Kung decides to go ask Daahraan himself about her. Kitana goes with him, leaving Jade with Siro and Taja.

They arrive at Daahraan’s old hideout to find him beaten and dying. His last words are, “Shao Kahn’s step-daughter… Princess Kitana.” Kung was unaware of the familial connection between Kitana and Kahn, and tells her if he had known he would have killed her back at the trading post instead of waiting till now. Kung, much like last episode with Shang Tsung, doesn’t follow through on his promises of murder. Kitana and him fight a little bit and then she back flips away, and he is distracted by Daahraan’s body, deciding to deal with him before going after her.

Back at the trading post, Taja and Siro have Jade locked up, and bring her dinner consisting of bread and milk. Jade is very excited about this, saying that they’re delicacies in Outworld, and Taja says that she’s full of it, because she doesn’t even believe that Outworld exists, having not seen it for herself. You would think after, over the course of a week, fighting a ninja with a snake-spear in his hand, another ninja that can freeze people, and then being rapidly aged by an evil sorcerer, Taja would be a bit more open minded about the whole Outworld thing. Jade also mentions something about how she wouldn’t mind having sex with Siro during this conversation, by the way, and also implies that she thinks Taja is probably sleeping with him and Kung Lao.

“So Taja, I hear Earthrealm girls are easy… ”

In the Cobalt mines, Not Jade gets back and reports in to Shang about having tortured Daahraan to death, but not being able to extract the location of the Essence from him. She also lets him know that Kung Lao and Kitana are on track to end up killing each other, which of course makes Shang pretty happy. Not Jade doesn’t understand how Kitana would be a threat to Kung at all, and Shao explains to her that Kitana, being an Edenian, is already 10,000 years old, so even from an experience standpoint she has Kung beaten. He tells her to get back to Earthrealm and follow Kitana to the Essence, and she complies.

Back in the woods, which look like the same exact location from the last episode, Kung is hot on Kitana’s trail when his head almost gets taken off by one of her fans. She lets him know that the next one will be in his heart if he doesn’t settle down, and he complies. She explains her backstory to him, which as I mentioned, is straight form the games. She was the daughter of King Jerrod, and is the rightful heir to the throne in Outworld, and Kahn’s adopting her was mostly a ploy to make his reign a bit more legitimate. She also explains that she took the Essence to Earthrealm after Kahn took over because nothing of beauty can survive in Outworld. Kung believes her, and their plan is for him to get the Essence and hide it in a new spot while Kahn’s assassins and spies are distracted with Kitana.

Kitana heads back to the trading post, looking for Jade, but finds that she escaped from the room Siro and Taja had her locked in. They had both assumed that she was heading back to meet up with Kitana, but Kitana has no idea where she is.

It turns out that following Kung Lao right to the Essence is where she is. She’s been working of Kahn this entire time. So we have a childhood friend of Kitana’s who betrays her while working for Shao Kahn. Why isn’t she named Jade again? To complicate matters more here, Not Jade also shows up and lets them know that she killed Daahraan and is also their for the Essence. We get a quick three-way fight between them, with Not Jade looking to steal the Essence, Jade looking to destroy the Essence, and Kung Lao trying to save it. You know, this fight is kind of just Kung Lao vs. Jade from the games, just split into two bodies.

Kung gets the upper hand, and then Shang himself shows up. Kung says he won’t let Shang get the Essence, and if Shang were to attack him he’d be in violation of the rules of Mortal Kombat, so there’s nothing he can do. Shang’s response to this is to shoot a fireball which opens up a portal, grab the Essence, and jump through it before Kung has time to even react. Kung Lao is the worst hero ever.

“Oh shit, I forgot he knew magic!”

Kitana has also shown up at this point, and is pissed off at Jade for betraying her trust. She tells her to go back to Kahn and report that the Essence has been destroyed. In the mines, Shang looks in the bag and it’s filled with nothing but maggots. Shang has nothing, as he can’t even let Kahn know that Kitana is working against him as it would reveal that he has been out of his cell. Luckily for him, Kitana can’t tell Kahn about him being free without revealing her betrayal, so it’s a stalemate as far as that goes.

It turns out that the Essence wasn’t in this bag at all, but was a flower that grows on a vine the bag was hanging on, which was burnt by Shang’s fireball earlier. Kung knew this though, and was able to save one of the flowers before it was destroyed, during the fight. He takes it off to somewhere it won’t be found, and parts ways with Kitana.

Kung gets back to the trading post that night, and finds Kitana in his room. They say goodbye to one another, possibly for the last time as Kitana is almost always under constant supervision, and may not get the chance to see Kung again. Raiden shows up after she leaves, and he and Kung have a brief discussion on how remarkable she is, and how she feels empathy for Earthrealm, having experienced firsthand what would happen if Kahn were to take over.

Back in Outworld, Shao Kahn is brooding in his throne room, seeing as all his plans have pretty much gone to shit at the moment, and the Essence is gone. Not Jade shows up, saying that she could be an ally to him, and very, very useful. Useful as in she’ll have lots of freaky sex with him, and maybe kill some people if he wants that done too. But mostly the freaky sex. I guess she got sick of Shang always threatening to kill her and being a huge dick all the time. Kahn says this is true, but not now, and sends her away for the moment, but at least he doesn’t kill her for being out of her prison in the mines, so that’s something.

This was easily the best episode. There were only 3 fights, none of which dragged, and one of them had two important characters in it with the Kung vs. Kitana one. The plot also didn’t drag, and a lot of it was ripped straight from the game. The whole Jade situation is still confusing, as I really do not understand why they made a character that is Jade, but then called her Qali. There was a lot of Meek’s Shao Kahn though, which I cannot stress enough how good is. If you were to watch anything from this series yourself, so far I would say this episode is the one, just for him.

Next Up: Episode 6- Noob Saibot… Featuring everyone’s favorite… that’s right… Kiri the Seer!

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