November 14, 2019

Danger 5 “I Danced for Hitler!” Review | Off the Beaten Path

To kickoff my reviews of Danger 5, we’ll start with the first episode for broadcast, I Danced for Hitler!. Don’t let the rather benign title (compared to future episode titles) make you think this is a tame comedy. It’s anything but. As the first official episode (there was a YouTube pilot, but it was never broadcast on tv and Netflix) and our introduction to the wacky and surreal reality of Danger 5, I Danced for Hitler! needed to stick the landing with audiences and get them hooked. Safe to say, it does this with aplomb, and I’ll explain how.

I Danced for Hitler! follows a fairly regular structure which all episodes in season 1 will follow. In Act 1, the Nazis kickoff the plot with some wacky yet evil scheme. Danger 5 are then tasked with stopping said scheme and killing Hitler. During Act 2, they will get split up either doing their own thing and/or getting caught up by the forces of the episode. This often happens multiple times, with each group finding out the reasons for said scheme independently (these schemes are usually driven by one of Hitler’s underlings). They finally all get back together in Act 3 to stop said scheme and attempt to kill Hitler. It may be formulaic, but it’s all about the ride the story takes us on. In I Danced for Hitler!, this inciting incident is the Nazi’s stealing national monuments from all over the world, starting with the Eiffel Tower. Danger 5 are thus tasked with finding out why the Nazis are stealing the monuments, and to kill Hitler. They quickly get split up by Nazis when they go to a French resistance bar ala Casablanca to investigate, soon finding out why the Nazis are stealing world monuments; a massive propaganda piece orchestrated by Joseph Goebbel’s, where the monuments are assembled Voltron-like into a massive super monument (made to look like Hitler giving a Sieg Heil), all as a birthday present for the Fuhrer to be unveiled at his upcoming birthday party. The group splits up again; Jackson leaves to protect Lady Liberty while the others head to the birthday party. They all eventually  manage to infiltrate and ruin the birthday party despite setbacks and betrayals, but fail to kill Hitler (who jumps out of a window).

So yeah, I Danced for Hitler! needed to introduce us to the wackiness of Danger 5, and it succeeds on all fronts. The first two scenes (which make up Act 1 of the episode) actually act as great establishing scenes for the show, giving us a taste of what the show has to offer and hopefully getting us on the hook for the rest. The first scene, when the Nazis steal the Eiffel Tower, establishes for us two things. First, it shows us that these aren’t like the horrific Nazis of actual WWII, but are instead a goofy force of pure supervillainy ala Specter or Cobra Command. Secondly it shows us that we should expect a show that aims for the aesthetics and style of the 60’s stories it emulates but the fact they use cheap props (the Nazi blimps with claw machine claws picking up a model of the Eiffel Tower) with exaggerated acting (the Frenchwomen’s reactions to the tower being stolen) and outlandish characters (the German shepherd puppet that commands them in perfect German on top of everything else). The second scene is our first look at the members of Danger 5, relaxing in their luxurious safe house. In this scene we get snapshots of each character either doing something (like Tucker playing chess by himself) or interacting with each other (Pierre and Ilsa hanging out at the bar telling war stories), but in the process we get a strong enough sense in each character’s personality where they already seem distinct and memorable (my favorite was Pierre, what with the recounting of a story followed by improving a drink telepathically). Sure, both of these scenes are brief, but they are pitch perfect in introducing us to Danger 5 as a whole.

But what about the rest of the episode? Man where to start? Well, after these Act 1 scenes, the episode just keeps topping itself in ridiculousness. For instance, on a single joke level, there’s the mechanical German shepherd Jackson uses to infiltrate and later destroy the Nazi base where they were holding the captured women (“Sexy bitch” mode just gets me everytime). For something on a story level, I mean, the ultimate reveal of the monument thefts and Hitler’s birthday party is just super funny to me. It just goes to show how this show will always double down on the absurdity when the opportunity arises. I should also give special mention to the characters themselves. Based on this episode, my favorite characters have quickly become Pierre and Ilsa. Pierre was largely because he has all the heart of the episode, what with his romance with Celeste and its tragic end, but also because his plans hilariously tend to involve having a fun time (escaping the Nazis by tricking them into partying). Ilsa largely because this episode shows that she is as much of a free wheeling badass as she is hilariously petty (the fact she’s jealous Hitler thinks Claire is the hotter of the two Danger 5 women just strikes me as hilarious). That said, every character gets their fair share of humorous hijinks and jokes, and I can easily see them becoming favorites for other viewers. Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the running gags. Throughout the show, each season is chock full of running gags, but the gags of season one are something else. I’m especially fond of Hitler escaping death by Danger 5 rain of bullets by jumping out of the window (made even better when they reuse the same stock footage of Hitler jumping out of the same window every time), but my favorite are the “perfect” cocktail recipes Pierre gets when an ancillary  character dies in his arms (the perfect Fruit Madrid sounds gross, but the perfect Heil Hitler sounds interesting). Each gets their start here in I Danced for Hitler!, and just like in every other episode they’re in, they provoke some hearty laughs.

There are only two complaints I have with I Danced for Hitler!. First is that while the episode is hilariously wacky, it’s wacky in a way that feels more familiar with some of the other episodes. Like, stealing the world’s monuments is a pretty stock super villain trope that’s been used over the years; I mean, it’s the premise behind Despicable Me, and that came out fairly recently, plus I remember this plot popping up in childhood cartoons way back in the day. I mean, the episode plays it off well, but compared to other episodes, it feels rather safe.  The other is that Hitler isn’t given much to do. He’s the chief antagonist in general, but it isn’t until season 2 when he reliably starts driving the machinations of the plot as opposed to his underlings every episode. Otherwise he just is in the background while his underlings drive the schemes and the plot. That’s definitely the case in this episode. He doesn’t order the monument theft or direct the birthday party, and instead just hangs around being served his every whim. In fact, other than Claire, he doesn’t even interact with any of the members of Danger 5 until the very end. It’s a common issue with the supreme overlord trope in general (look at Lord of the Rings as a prime example of this), and Danger 5 falls into this regularly.

So what did I think of I Danced for Hitler!? Despite some small issues (quibbles I dare say), this was a very effective and entertaining introduction to not just the 60’s inspired WWII setting of season 1, but to Danger 5 as a whole. I mean, there’s a reason this was the first episode of the show, and it is one I regularly visited and plan to revisit in the future.

Final Rating: B+    

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