Warning – full episode spoilers follow.
The problem with Ultron is that, no matter how many times you pound him into scrap metal, he always returns in a new body and with a new plan for wiping out humanity. The Avengers learned that the hard way in this week’s episode of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. "Ultron Unlimited" picked up where "Behold… the Vision!" left off a few weeks ago, as the robotic villain sought to replace the Avengers with his own, "perfected" Synthezoid Avengers. Unfortunately, "Ultron Unlimited" turned out to be the first instance where the show’s new, largely standalone approach to episodic storytelling took its toll.
The problem is that the idea of the real Avengers battling their evil replacements is a little too familiar coming so close on the heels of the Skrull invasion saga. Hawkeye even seemed to point out that fact when he quipped, "Just so we’re clear, I’m the real me." That brief moment of levity didn’t do much to spice up the conflict, however. Even Vision’s fight scenes felt strangely diminished, as the character was far from the unstoppable powerhouse he was in his first appearance. Chalk it up to his conflicted feelings on his mission, I suppose. The best that could be said for the action in this episode is that, like in "Assault on 42", the fact that the Avengers were fighting inhuman opponents allowed them to be more brutal and decisive in combat than animated superhero shows typically allow. The rampant battling was entertaining enough, just not particularly noteworthy.
The focus on Avenger vs. Avenger brawling meant that Ultron himself was largely relegated to being a backseat player. We were never given a clear idea of what Ultron’s larger goal was beyond swapping the Avengers out for Synthezoids.It was cool to see the team eventually unite to battle Ultron in his all new, all adamantium shell, but by that point the episode had too little running time left to take advantage of the scenario. And while Vision’s evolution from uncaring soldier to would-be human was engaging, it could have been fleshed out and expanded upon. That’s to say nothing of Jocasta, who played so little role in the episode it’s enough to wonder why she was introduced at all. I don’t know if she’s intended to return before the end of the season, but if she does, hopefully the writers will actually do something with her and her relationship to the Pym family.
"Ultron Unlimited" was at its best when it focused on that family dynamic and Ultron’s Oedipal relationship with his "mother," Janet. It’s too bad Hank didn’t make his long-awaited return here, because there’s plenty of good material to mine with these characters. A script that downplayed the Avengers and devoted more time to Ultron’s efforts to both please and supplant his father would have worked a lot better. Sadly, as far as I’m aware, this was Ultron’s final appearance for the remainder of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The most we can do is hope that Avengers Assemble takes a slightly more dark and psychological approach to the character.
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