Lots of Marvel fans lamented the loss of the late, great Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon, but we understood when Marvel chose to replace it with a new cartoon, Avengers Assemble, that hewed more closely to the cinematic universe. And it sucks.
Sometimes it's just not very good, and sometimes, it's so bad I have to dust off the "Worst Episode Ever" column to fully explain what a disaster it is. Last weekend's episode, "One Little Thing," was one of those episode. Despite its title, there are two things going on in this episode: 1) a bunch of Pym particles get loose, which have the effect of making things randomly grow or shrink, and 2) the Falcon's mom comes to visit. Both are stupider than you can possibly imagine.
We begin in Tony Stark's lab at Avengers Tower, where he and Falcon are jointly manipulating a device that supposedly helps transport a loose Pym particle from an open petri dish to a containment unit which the Hulk brings in. Now, you may be wondering why it takes two people to operate the claw machine that picks up the particle, but that is sadly the least idiotic thing going on here. See, Hank Pym — Ant-Man — is guest starring, as he wanted help disposing of these particles in the containment unit. Which means, by necessity, Ant-Man brought the Pym particles over to the Tower, which meant they were already contained on his way over unless he had them loose in his goddamn pocket.
The Falcon's cellphone rings across the lab. Tony is super-bitchy about the distraction, since they need to be so extremely careful handling the Pym particle — as Tony explains, one rogue particle could shrink the entire Earth into nothingness — and somehow despite all of Iron Man's inventions somehow turning off cellphone remotely (or even just muting his own armor) is somehow beyond his abilities.
Immediately after Iron Man says the fate of the very world depends on their careful handling of this particle, the Falcon stops working anyways to go answer his phone, and Hulk slams his massive cellphone on the single table where the open Petri dish sits. After the Falcon answers his phone, he freaks out and runs screaming from the lab, even more totally ignoring the fate of the world; it's at this point the Hulk's cellphone rings, topples over, hits the Petri dish, flips it off the table, forcing Ant-Man to appear out of nowhere to catch it and start bitching about coming to Avengers Tower in the first place.
Again, your first instinct may be to question how a particle — a visible particle — stayed inside a Petri dish as it flipped end over end off a table, or maybe it's just to wonder why the Avengers let Falcon on the team if he's such a moron. But I want you to consider this: Who called the Hulk? What person in the Marvel universe, has ever felt the need to call the Hulk for any reason? Most importantly, where the fuck does Hulk carry his cellphone?
Despite the fact there was clearly only one Pym particle in the dish, another Pym particle — one that no one was keeping track of, apparently — touches Hulk on the nose and he shrinks out of sight. This is when the Falcon bursts back into the lab to reveal the horrible emergency that caused him to briefly abandon a task needed to protect the very existence of the entire planet: "It's my mom! She's here!"
Yes, the Falcon is panicking because his mother is coming to visit Avengers Tower, and she doesn't know her son Sam Wilson is the Falcon. So the premise of "One Little Thing" is that Sam and the Avengers try to keep Sam's mom from figuring out her son is an Avenger while dealing with a Pym particle crisis (she thinks he's merely a SHIELD liaison). This isn't an Avengers adventure, it's a goddamn sitcom episode from the '90s (and '80s, and '70s, etc.). This story would be too stupid for an episode of Jim Henson's Avengers Babies, if it existed. But here it is, and we're going to have to watch Captain America, Thor and Iron Man — let me repeat that: Captain America, Thor and Iron Man will have to lie to a grown woman because Sam is afraid if she finds out he's the Falcon she'll make him quit. Quite the superhero.
The next segment starts with the Falcon having literally pulled the Avengers alarm because of his problem with his mother. When the Avengers burst in, trying to determine what the terrifying foe has arrived, Sam yells "My mom is on her way!" despite the fact that literally the last thing he said was "She's here!" because Avengers Assemble is a diabolical plot by Mephisto to make us hate the Marvel universe. The Avengers are very understandably annoyed, except for Hawkeye, who is happy to lie to score some of Falcon's mom's cookies, and Iron Man, who is still slightly more concerned about the Pym particles and the planet and all that jazz.
The Falcon, in a panic, changes out of his uniform and begins running around Avengers Tower pulling down posters of the team off the walls and I have to stop again right here because this is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever seen. First of all, the Avengers have posters of themselves on their wall? That's insane. And they're not pictures of themselves, which would be reasonable — they're definitely posters because they have the fucking Avengers Assemble show logo on them. I don't even know what to say to that other than a blistering string of profanity. Second, Sam seems to be taking the posters because they have him as the Falcon on there, as if the only proof of the Falcon's existence were those posters — as if somehow, despite being the heroes of New York and all the accompanying press and news footage of their constant, public battles around the planet, god knows how many cellphone pics and vids — no one had ever managed to capture a visual image of the hero known as the Falcon. Except, of course, for the mass-produced posters the Avengers somehow think it's appropriate to hang in their lobby.
But back to the other half of the episode: Ant-Man shrinks down to find the Hulk battling Iron Man's "nano-janitors," which are tiny robots that clean the Tower unseen, and have determined Hulk to be some kind of mess. I find it weird that Tony would make "nano-janitors" who disposed of refuse by shooting things with lasers, but I'm rolling with it. However, Hulk spies the blue Pym particle that made him small — or maybe a different one — gets mad, punches it, and it explodes into hundreds of more particles, because that's how science works. They are helpfully colored coded; yellow particles makes things grow, blue makes them shrink. Despite the fact that one particle had the potential to destroy the world, Iron Man and Ant-Man are more annoyed than terrified. Iron Man issues another, slightly more valid alarm, although it doesn't actually seem to accomplish anything other than revealing Tony's passcode is "I heart ascots," because it's nothing he'd ever accidentally say, which I will also give this episode of Avengers Assemble.
Elsewhere, the Falcon's mom arrives and immediately shows she has no social skills or sense of self-preservation when she tells the Avengers all the crappy things the Falcon has told her about them behind their backs (for instance: Thor sheds his hair everywhere. Stop slacking, nano-janitors). At this point, shit starts randomly growing and shrinking, although when I say shit I mean "90% laser-equipped nano-janitors and almost nothing else." Of course, once they're big, they deem all humans (and nothing else) to be garbage and begin trying to shoot them. Since Tony has somehow failed to create some kind of an off-switch for his nano-janitors, the Avengers are forced to fight them.
The next several minutes devolve into frenetic action marked primarily by two things: things randomly growing and shrinking, and the Avengers repeatedly asking for the Falcon to suit up and help while the Falcon spins more and more bullshit in order to pretend he's not the Falcon. The Hulk shrinks again. Hawkeye grows. Ant-Man, who had been the only person doing anything about the particle thanks to his particle-vacuum gun, stupidly leaps in front of a particle slowly heading toward Falcon's mom, shrinks into the microverse, then sullenly sits on a molecule. Because he can't change back Iron Man also shrinks and joins him. Mjolnir shrinks and flies back into Thor's hand; a nonplussed Thor says, "Well, this is humiliating," and doesn't know how right he is. Eventually, the Hulk grows so damn big — along with Falcon's mom's cookies — that he busts through the wall, leaving a hole for the Pym particles to escape. Falcon, as the smartest person not miniaturized, is the only person who can save the planet. His response to this situation: "I'm going to get fired and grounded!" Because Falcon is apparently a man that can still get grounded by his mother.
Finally, Sam decides to suit up, admit his secret to his mom, and save the goddamn world. Here's how he saves the day: He takes Cap's shield, wraps some copper wire around it, pulls out something from what looks like a wall-mounted fire alarm and all of this somehow turns Cap's shield into a particle magnet. Then Falcon grabs Ant-Man's particle-vacuum gun, which is suddenly not powerful enough to suck up all the particles. Falcon runs into a supply closet and — I shit you not — puts an attachment on the gun which fixes this problem, a solution that only the Avenger's second-smartest member could think of, but not the first smartest member, or the guy who's such an expert on the particles he not only discovered them but they're named after him. The Falcon then shrinks down into the microverse and begins searching for Ant-Man and Iron Man who are literally sitting glumly on one solitary molecule in a bajillion zillion — with his mother riding on his back so she can "see something cool." I'll leave it to you to determine which is stupider.
With Ant-Man and Iron Man regular size, Falcon uses his amazingly upgraded particle-vacuum to suck the hundreds of particles hanging onto Cap's shield. Unfortunately, now the vacuum gun is unstable again, and they have the giant Hulk to deal with, but suddenly the original containment unit needs to be upgraded! While Ant-Man does that, the Falcon sucks the Pym particles out of the Hulk, flies back through Avengers Tower, and throws the –about-to-explode particle vacuum gun into the containment unit just before it explodes. And the day, whose problems were 100% generated by the Avengers themselves, is saved.
Now please, bear with me as I examine exactly how this conflict got resolved:
• The Falcon turns Captain America's shield into a particle magnet, an idea the infinitely smarter Tony Stark and Dr. Pym don't have.
• Despite attracting hundreds of particles from throughout the tower, Cap's shield somehow neither grows nor shrinks.
• The Falcon needs to upgrade Ant-Man's particle-vacuum gun, which he does by finding a perfectly usable upgrade in a supply closet (seen below), which is another solution which again neither Iron Man nor Ant-Man were able to think of.
All that is staggeringly lazy writing, but here's what makes me the most mad: Why did any of that require Sam putting his Falcon uniform on? Maybe he needed it to fly among the molecules (sigh), but there was literally nothing that prevented him from coming up with or implementing his solutions, while still lying to his mother.
Anyways, the Falcon learns a valuable lesson about lying, and if the idea about an Avengers cartoon where one of the Avengers needs to learn it's wrong to lie doesn't make you want to scream, then you may be 5-years-old. But here's the kicker: Sam's mom knows he's the Falcon. You might think that this is because Sam looks just like the Falcon, has the same hair as the Falcon, lives at Avengers Tower with the other Avengers, and she's not a fucking imbecile.
No. she's knows because Nick Fury asked her permission if Sam Wilson could be an Avenger.
Because Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon, is 17 years old.
Now, to be fair, this partially goes a long way to explaining why Sam Wilson, the Marvel superhero known as the Falcon, acts like an idiot over the course of this episode. It doesn't explain why the Falcon looks, talks and acts like an adult for the entirety of the Avengers Assemble preceding it. It doesn't explain why Nick Fury thought this random 17-year-old kid should be a superhero, since he wasn't even old enough to join the armed forces and thus could not have had any military experience. Nor does it explain why it's okay for a 17-year-old to be trusted with crazy techno-wings and the responsibility to saving the world.
And most importantly, it doesn't explain how if the amazing Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes was canceled to make a series that more closely adhered to Marvel's cinematic universe, why Assemble's Falcon has nothing in common with the charming, likable badass Sam Wilson introduced in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Yeah, this was way better than the cartoon that gave us updated, streamlined and massively entertaining adaptation of Marvel stories like Avengers Under Siege, Walt Simonson's Thor comics, The Korvac Saga, Secret Invasion, and so many other tales. Yes, so much better to ignore the entirety of the original Marvel universe so we can learn it's important not to lie. I mean, what do kids of all ages really want to see: an ever-growing pantheon of heroes and villains, or the Falcon's mom? Avengers Assemble knows. Unless it's lying.
• There is a brief scene where Hawkeye is eating Falcon's mom's cookies, goes to the fridge, discovers someone put the milk container back in the fridge even though it was empty, and begins screaming about the importance of milk during cookie-eating. Earth's Mightiest Heroes!
• While giant Hulk is eating giant cookies, giant crumbs fall onto Central Park nearly crushing and killing people. EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES!
• While flying on the Falcon's back in the microverse, Sam's mom yells, "Avengers Moms Assemble!" Not only is this dumb, but Cap's mom, Hawkeye's mom, Iron Man's mom, Hulk's mom, probably Black Widow's mom, and arguably Thor's mom are all dead. Falcon's mom is pretty much the only Avengers mom alive. So yeah, Mrs. Wilson, all the moms are assembled wherever you happen to be located.