Welcome back to our review of Frisky Dingo, the Adult Swim series from the creators of Archer for bingers on a TV diet. Season one concludes with episodes ten through thirteen. Let’s jump into the gonzo highlights.
1. “Brother of Menelaus”
If the Flowers for Algernon, Harrison Bergeron, Tom Bergeron, Agamemnon word association scene aboard The Xcalibur doesn’t almost make your beverage of choice shoot out your nose, then you’re probably not getting much mileage out of this series. In the final episodes of Frisky Dingo season one, the Xtacles begin to take center stage, and it’s a welcome development. Their hapless bumbling and weird peccadillos are the highlights of the show, but it’s in their service as the everyman vantage point that their brand of comedy hits its stride. The petty and vindictive smack talk is gold, but there’s an underlying fraternal camaraderie that makes these guys appealing. Viewers will like root for them the most as they are pawns in the other characters machinations just trying to eke out a living—as a lethal robot force.
2. Death Rabbits
Torpedo Vegas runs the death rabbits in Chinatown. There is so much funny and wrong in that sentence. These aren’t the distant cousins of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. This is more like BattleBots but with bunnies. There’s an eerie coincidence here as the airing of the first season closely coincided with a story that came to the forefront in national news in 2007 when NFL star Michael Vick was indicted and plead guilty for his involvement in a barbaric dogfighting and illegal gambling enterprise. Watching these episodes again, I had to wonder if the series pivoted away from more than this establishing shot of Simon’s weird little moneymaking venture. As presented, it makes for an effective comedy beat. It’s one of the few times that the show exhibits restraint, and it’s better off for it.
3. Strong Females
In a series that is largely powered by bro-centric comedy, the female characters have been given short shrift. Apart from Antagone’s lust for revenge against Xander Crews, the man for whom her alter ego, Grace Ryan of Force 10 News, still pines, the girls frankly haven’t been given much to do, and suffice it to say the series has not fared well on the Bechdel test at this point. Now that Sinn and Valerie begin to seek retribution for the events that have left them in dire straits, the series begins to show these characters as real instruments of change and not just put-upon supporting characters even though Mr. Ford, the pet shop owner turner gun purveyor, hasn’t gotten the memo.
4. Move over, Grace Ryan, it’s Darcelle Jones of Team Jaguar
It’s probably time to talk about the elephant in the room with this series. There are quite a few jokes that hinge on stereotypes. While there is good representation in the series, it principally avoids the racist trappings by making fun of everyone’s foibles equally. Once again, your mileage with these types of jokes, and in fact the entire series may vary greatly, but looking back on the series through a lens crafted by the age of social media, it’s easy to see how the show might be viewed as offensive even for the most open-minded viewers. At one point the series finally meets it head-on when Taqu’il, the rapper who is often depicted shirtless, calls another character racist for intimating that he obviously is a fan of African American news anchor Darcell Jones. Wendell Stamps, the Department of Labor agent investigating the death rabbit fights who makes his debut in episode 11, even admits to Taqu’il that he’s racist and that the rapper turned actor has won him over while doing research for a movie role. Chinese stereotypes abound as well, but through it all there is a subversive kind of retribution for the most egregious purveyors. Frisky Dingo might have had difficulty getting made today, but the targets are so widespread and indiscriminate that there is clearly no malice of intent. It’s all in good fun.
5. Xander and Killface, BFFs
As mentioned in our last recap, Xander Crews and Killface’s burgeoning friendship, predicated on Crews’s flimsy Barnaby Jones disguise, has been a strangely touching aspect of the latter half of season one. After Crews reveals his true identity to Killface at the conclusion of episode twelve, it’s back to world domination business as usual for Killface, but it’s in Killface’s perceived betrayal that the conclusion of season one takes on a surprising resonance. When the Annihilatrix is finally activated by the most unlikely culprit, neither Crews or Killface want it to happen. I choose to believe it’s because, like all hero/villain dynamics, Crews and Killface are not complete without one another.
Join us next week for a look at the beginning of season two. Season one felt like a distinctly different viewing experience than it did over ten years ago, but when the presidential campaigns depicted in the next twelve episodes begin to unfurl, you may laugh so hard you’ll cry at the cultural parallels. In Frisky Dingo, it’s not the political election we needed but the one we deserved. Or did I get that backward? Also, did anybody ever remember to get pickles?