Review: WTF 101 “Crime & Punishment”

Rick and Morty forever, forever, and a hundred years…

Overview (Spoilers Below)

Doctor Gamma, who still has Professor Foxtrot and the gang held prisoner in the Q dimension, lambasts the educator for going against their shadowy cabal’s stated goals. Instead of pacifying the population to ensure the group’s eventual world domination, Foxtrot is educating the detention crew. Foxtrot says that she believes her mission is important, but Gamma doesn’t listen. He breaks Professor Foxtrot’s high-tech laser pointer and leaves the gang stranded in the Q dimension, presumably forever.

Foxtrot is resigned to her fate, but Mindy tells her that she needs to buck up and try to fix the pointer. Foxtrot, now emboldened, takes the kids on a tour of a few of history’s cruelest trials and sentences. First, the group goes to the Vatican, where she shows the sham trial of a pope’s corpse by his successor. The latter pope exhumed the previous one’s body, put it on trial, mutilated the corpse, had it reburied, dug up once more, and eventually thrown in a river. Subsequent popes would then spend the next centuries debating over whether or not the pope deserved his sentence.

After this, we move to the Persian Empire, where a horrific form of torture, named the boats, was used to punish the guilty. The victim is covered in milk and honey and strapped into two boats on the water. The milk and honey attract bugs that crawl all over their face, and the boat quickly becomes a cesspool for filth and vermin once the prisoner is forced to relieve themselves in it. After a few days, the accused goes into septic shock and dies. This barbarism, rightly, scars all of the children just in time for the malfunctioning teaching aid to return them to the Q dimension.

The device goes even further on the fritz and takes the group through a quick slideshow of the different animals and inanimate objects that have been either witnesses or defendants in show trials throughout history, including a goat, a chicken, and a statue. The four are then returned to the Q dimension where all seems lost yet again. Mindy gives the gang another inspiring speech, and Foxtrot again believes her. The educator tells the kids that they would scavenge for the parts they need throughout history, learning along the way, no matter how long it takes.

Our Take

If this isn’t a season finale, we’ve definitely hit midseason. After the past couple of episodes involving Dr. Gamma and the Q dimension, we finally see a conclusion of the storyline. While the kids aren’t getting home anytime soon, it seems as if the show’s status quo has been reset, if jiggered slightly. Now, it looks like the show will have a new set of parameters to base its episodes around, namely finding missing pieces for the laser pointer, hoping that the next poof will be the one that takes them home.

Quantum Leap jokes aside, this was a necessary move for the show, whose premise is fairly limited, and does need some sort of serial plot to keep things fresh. It’s unfortunate, then, that this skeleton of a plot idea comes across as more than a little derivative and not terribly interesting. College Humor/Dropout TV is, at its core, a sketch operation. While they have made some serious headway into what are essentially games shows on their streaming service, they’ve had less luck with serialized narrative.

The only things might fit that bill, besides WTF 101, are Lonely and Horny and See Plum Run. These shows are created by College Humor alumni (Jake Hurwitz & Amir Blumenfeld and Josh Ruben, respectively) who are more Dropout TV affiliates than the main cast. The service also boasts a video D&D campaign, Fantasy High, but that show itself is derivative of Critical Role, Harmon Quest or The Adventure Zone.

All of this is to say that WTF 101 has always worn its influences on its sleeve, but continuing to do so this brazenly after ten episodes begs the question of how much identity the show has on its own. After having Dropout TV for a few months, I do enjoy much of what is on the service. I think the team has an eye for game shows, to which I have always been partial. I also think their podcasting and comic content is good supplementary material for their shows. Narrative fiction is just a different beast, unfortunately, and the nascent service has yet to crack it. I think it’s certainly possible that they will eventually get a satisfying first-party show, but—so far—WTF 101 isn’t it.

Zach

Cartoon Philosopher

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