I bet there’s at least one reader out there (if you exist, you know who you are) who misses the 60’s style WWII of season 1. Well if that’s the case, boy do I have some good news for you. With the penultimate episode of Danger 5 aka Back to the Fuhrer, the worlds of season 1 and season 2 collide with some predictably wacky results. While I never thought much of Back to the Fuhrer after my initial watches back in college, with this rewatch it’s gone up slightly in my estimation. Granted, it wasn’t as much as Super Dead, but it was appreciable, and I’ll tell you why.
The Episode Summary
The episode starts in the middle of a heated Christmas time WWII battle. Everything is going normally, at least in terms of Danger 5 normal. Then Holly-Hitler strolls out of the mist, massacring Allied soldiers along the way with his/her superior firepower and aided by his/her invincibility. Nearby, Danger 5 arrives, interrupting a group of Nazi officers playing a weird mishmash of musical chairs and Russian Roulette.
The gang predictably splits up once they realize where they are. Namely, it’s the site of a past rescue mission. Tucker immediately runs off to find past Claire. Pierre follows Tucker, futilely trying to mitigate any damage an uncaring Tucker might cause to the space-time continuum. Jackson and Ilsa decide to chase after Holly-Hitler instead, figuring he/she is heading towards past Hitler.
In short order each team member encounters their past selves. Tucker quickly finds past Claire, knowing where she will be, and disabling past Tucker so he can save past Claire himself. Pierre, freaking out about changes to the past, ends up stumbling upon past Pierre’s party with the lady guards of the base. Ilsa and Jackson chase Holly-Hitler, who’s been repeatedly tossed around like a rag doll by various tank and vehicle explosions. They end up running into their past selves, who are carrying out their original mission.
While every member of Danger 5 ends up participating in their own wacky shenanigans, the mystery of Hitler’s season long scheme is finally revealed. Up in his mountain base, Hitler tries to draw the essence from women he deems perfectly Aryan. From this essence draining, he wants to take their perfect invincibility for himself. After one last failure, Hitler asked his scientists how long it would take to create the perfect Aryan (aka Holly) from scratch. The scientists are the same. It will take 18 years.
Down on the ground, the various Danger 5 groups start to come together. After some initial turmoil the teams end up gathering together to party by a cocktail waterfall. At the same time Holly-Hitler finally makes it to past Hitler’s base. By the time the teams arrive, past Hitler had already absorbed the essence of Holly-Hitler, achieving true immortality for his original body. The past team confronts Hitler, and are quickly slaughtered. After some timely distraction by a now un-possessed Holly, the gang, along with a freed Colonel Chestbridge, escape the mountain. Outside, they watch as the base gets bombed to rubble, burying Hitler. After some initial celebration by the waterfall, the gang, plus Holly, head back to the future. Once there, they the worst has happened aka Hitler is supreme overlord of the Universe.
Man, Back to the Fuhrer is a fun episode. Like with Super Dead, I’m not sure why I didn’t like rewatching this episode. It has everything that makes Danger 5 so fun, from both seasons no less. There’s all the requisite humor. There’s the standard goofy humor. I mean, how can you not laugh at the Heil of Doom? Plus there’s the standard surreal humor. I mean, if you want surreal, look no further than Pierre perceiving the timeline getting messed up. What really puts this episode over the top me though is the retrospection we get. The whole episode is a great exercise in showing us how much our main characters have grown over the previous 11 episodes, along with how they’ve stayed the same, often to their detriment.
For a more obvious example, look at Pierre. If we look purely at the characterization, this episode really solidifies the fact that Pierre has become the leader of Danger 5. I mean, he’s the one who brings the crew back in time. He’s the one who tries to keep the group from destroying themselves by not altering the timeline. Lastly he’s the one who chases after Tucker when he inevitably starts screwing everything up. Pierre has come a long way since he was just the heart of the team. We also see how he hasn’t changed when he encounters past Pierre and immediately starts partying with his younger self. This to me also shows how Pierre is still the heart of the team, but highlights the issues it creates. Namely, he gets too distracted by partying to go stop Hitler.
For a subtler example, look at Jackson. Past Jackson is still the uncomplicated patriotism loving block of testosterone from the first season. Future Jackson, on the other hand, has developed more emotional range, but has fallen in pretty much every other regard. You can really see it when the Jacksons and the Ilsas are at the cocktail waterfall, when past Ilsa makes her advances on Jackson. I mean, he clearly doesn’t take it well when past Ilsa says that what she finds attractive in him is how old and damaged he’s become.
It’s the culmination of the fact that all the character development Jackson has gone through over the course of the show has been, more or less, for nothing. I mean, look at Super Dead. Jackson puts his life on the line, and faced his fears of Communism. I mean, he got stabbed in the skull for God’s sake. And what does he get as a reward? Told his part doesn’t matter. I mean, it was Ilsa’s story, but it doesn’t discount what Jackson went through. To me, it’s in this response where Jackson realizes how he’s essentially lost 2 decades of his life, and I’m not gonna lie it made me really feel for Jackson.
If we really want to see how different the two teams have become, I’d look at their final confrontation with Hitler. The older team, knowing how deadly Hitler has become and the stakes involved, takes cover when they see Hitler has become invincible. The past team, on the other hand, takes on Hitler by gathering in front of him per season 1 tradition. To be fair, this may have worked on past Hitler back in season 1. In fact, he would have fled to a window by that point. That said, the older Hitler immediately takes the opportunity to blow the entire past team away.
It’s a pretty brutal scene, but it’s a stark reminder how the change in attitude from a 60’s style story to an 80’s style story resulted in a much more brutal show. Honestly, it’s something I didn’t even realize as the show went on. This is hammered home even more by how an un-possessed Holly does more to help the team fight Hitler than the entire past Danger 5 team. And this includes Ilsa even calling her useless as she’s helping them out.
If there’s anything I wasn’t crazy about with the characters, it’s how disparate the plot lines were, but at this point that’s to be expected. I mean, with only one episode left, my enjoyment of the episodes have depended on how well they deal with character plot lines that don’t intersect all that much, and if other elements can rise up to compensate. Within season two for instance this approach worked well for Johnny Hitler, but not much for Un Sacco Di Natale. Luckily Back to Fuhrer has enough going on where I can largely ignore this.
Man, I’ve been going on and on about the characters, I should give a mention to the setting and style as a whole. So when it comes to a melding of the attitudes and styles of the two seasons, I didn’t think it was as good as the comparison of the characters. While the setting felt like it was in season one, the style still felt rooted in season two. If you’re wondering what I mean, watch any episode from season one, and compare it to Back to the Fuhrer. While Back to the Fuhrer is set in WWII, it is shot like a season two episode. Namely, Back to the Fuhrer doesn’t feel like it’s shot and lit like a multi camera sitcom.
This means Back to the Fuhrer feels like a season two episode set in season one instead of a season one episode that features the season two crew and the attitudes they bring. Because of this, I feel like it low key undermines Back to the Fuhrer. Granted, this is a small quibble. But also, I ask you this. How hard would the death of the past Danger 5 crew hit us if the whole episode was shot like Final Victory? It would have stood out so much more, and highlight how things have changed all the more.
So how did Back to the Fuhrer fair? Well as the penultimate episode of the show, it gave us some great retrospection. It showed us how far everything has come since I Danced for Hitler!. It also sets us up for the ultimate battle of good vs. evil in the series finale Welcome to Hitlerland. It’s quite a juggling act, but barring some small issues I think Back to the Fuhrer was pretty successful on the whole. It makes you wonder what and how they’ll end Danger 5 next episode. That said, I’m betting it’s going to be as wacky and surreal as ever.
My Recommendation: Recommend
Writer extraordinaire in progress who hangs out with the Chicago Film Scene crew. I screenwrite for my fellow CFS filmmakers. I also write TV and movie reviews, and am a co-host/main writer of the Chicago Film Scene: Live! podcast.