November 14, 2019

Danger 5 “Johnny Hitler” Review | Off the Beaten Path

How many of you remember high school? Did you all have a great time and consider it one of the highlights of your life, or was it just a hellscape you dreamed of leaving as soon as possible every day? Either way, I can tell you for sure that your high school experience wasn’t nearly as surreal as what is displayed in this Danger 5 review, Johnny Hitler (makes me wonder what the Australians think of our public school system). I mentioned in my review of Merry Christmas Colonel that there were only 2 episodes of season 2 I would revisit over the years, and Johnny Hitler was the main one, both for how familiar it feels (I’ll get into the mounds of references later) while being entertainingly insane. So let me explain what makes Johnny Hitler the most Johnny Hitler a Johnny Hitler can Johnny Hitler.

The episode starts off in the high school that seems to be the focus of Hitler’s schemes, with the student body (in particular Holly, a preppy blonde senior and the main character in the high school) fascinated by the new kid in school; bad boy rebel from out of town Johnny Hitler (aka Hitler in a letterman’s jacket). At the same time, the members of Danger 5 prep to infiltrate the school themselves to figure out Hitler’s scheme and stop it (Tucker plans on going in as a teacher, while the rest are going in as students). Shortly after they arrive, they gang all gets split up along two plot lines. Pierre and Ilsa remain at the school hunting Hitler and trying to stop the scheme, but their plans quickly go awry; Pierre because he’s so famous his cover is blown almost instantly and spends the rest of the time hanging out with various high schoolers, while Ilsa gets caught up her own task as secretly given by Krushchev. Tucker and Jackson both end up out of the highschool plot, both ending up on the tail (or fleeing from) Mendes; Jackson immediately gets detention supervised by Mendes and ends up fleeing for his life, while Tucker has a mental breakdown after encountering Hitler and receives ninja training from McKenzie in order to get his revenge against Mendes.

Before the group gets split up, we find out Hitler’s grand plans for the episode; he wants to win over Holly, get her to be his date for the Christmas prom later that day, and be crowned king of the dance. The first part of Hitler’s plans go swimmingly, winning over Holly over a game of lunch ball against Pierre enough where she asks him out. The last part of the plan goes awry for Hitler though, with the student body voting in Pierre and Ilsa as the dance king and queen largely because Pierre was so cool to the students and Ilsa being a hot, mysterious Australian foreign exchange student. Hitler then goes on a complete rampage, slaughtering everyone he can like an old school slasher villain while Pierre and Ilsa get Holly to safety. Meanwhile, Jackson and Tucker ended up taking on Mendes in combat, and barely scrape a win, with Tucker decapitating Mendes in kind. The episode ends with Danger 5 framed for the massacre at the school by a new FBI agent (aka Agent Hitler) who has come to help the police with this lead less case. 

So as I mentioned in my intro, Johnny Hitler was always one of my favorites of season 2, largely for two reasons (there are other positives I could talk about, but I’ll stick to these two); the story that’s just chock full of references (both to pop culture and itself) along with the humor in all its surreal glory. I’ll start off with the references (a lot of the humor plays into the references). For me, Johnny Hitler is a lot like the second episode of season 1, Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich in terms of appeal. Going back to Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich, one reason why I loved it was that it was a glorious mishmash of 60’s inspired stories that I actually recognized; namely the combination of Ray Harryhausen effects and stories mixed with stuff from Planet of the Apes, Amazonian stories, and gladiator fiction. With Johnny Hitler it’s a similar case, throwing out the adventures in a far away land for 80’s style high school stories. Off the top of my head, I picked up references in Ferris Bueller (Hitler’s entrance in the school), Street Fighter (the battle between Mendes and Jackson and Tucker), Neon Genesis Evangelion (Ilsa’s school uniform), A Nightmare on Elm Street (the score during the slasher sequence, along with being a slasher sequence), along with a fair number of story tropes straight from the 80’s (I mean, how can an 80’s influenced story not feature a training montage). 

There are even background references to previous episodes and story lines from season 1. For something more of a background detail, there’s one from Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich (there’s a poster of the ape men band in Pierre’s room if you’re curious), which adds some interesting continuity along with some solid rewatch value. For a more character based callback, just look at Tucker’s breakdown. It’s very reminiscent of his breakdown back in Final Victory (to the point I thought of Johnny Hitler while watching Final Victory), with him just losing his shit when he thinks he’s lost Claire. All of these play together to create a story that is, to put it lightly, completely wackity schmackity, but in the best of ways.

Which brings me to the surrealness of the episode. While Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich (and every other episode for that matter) are plenty surreal, Johnny Hitler is on another level. To me at least, this is because compared to the other episodes so far, this one deals with the team conducting a mission in a setting that everyone experiences (in this case, high school). In the process, they turn something that’s fairly mundane into something that seems so exaggerated it might as well have been a pastiche created by an alien attempting to piece together adolescence through old school fiction. For a good example of this, look at the episode’s side characters in the school population. Everyone who gets some significant screen time are based on some kind of stereotype taken to hilarious extremes; my favorite examples are the dweeb who’s so into porn he keeps masturbating in the showers even when there’s a naked girl in the shower with him, and the jock duo who take their joking homo eroticism to the point they might actually be gay (I mean, they at one point paint a penis in class together while locked in a staring contest). 

This is combined and made even more extreme through some of the now patented Danger 5 lack of reaction to the truly outlandish. I mean, look at everyone infiltrating the school. With Hitler for instance, everyone treats him like he’s just some typical bad boy from out of town, even though he looks, sounds, and acts like a German dictator in his late 50’s at the very least (and who was very much a world threat not that long ago even in the world of Danger 5). Another great example is with Jackson, with the guidance counselor treating Jackson like some 16 year old hooligan instead of the man who looks closer to his 40’s (also the fact he was only given detention for drawing his gun in the school is insane to me in this age of secured schools). For an under reaction based on action, again look at Mendes confronting Jackson in detention. I mean, Mendes shoots a kid to death and Jackson runs through a wall, and no one even bats an eye.

If there’s anything to complain about with this episode, it would be the introduction of elements to the overarching story that could strike people wrong. First is that this is the first episode to feature Holly, Hitler’s Christmas dance date and as of the end of the episode our replacement main cast member for Claire. While she’s not bad in this episode (there are in fact two jokes related to her in the beginning that I always laugh at), I remember her being a drain on the remainder of the season (though this could certainly change with this rewatch), which could color opinions about this episode for the worst if you especially don’t like her. Another is the previously unseen supernatural elements of Hitler (namely when he appears as a holographic head to Holly, Pierre and Ilsa during his rampage), which feel like they come out of nowhere. Personally, I know this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of the supernatural when it comes to the Fuhrer (I won’t tell you more, since I feel like my complaints in general are already rather spoilery), but if you’re watching this for the first time I can easily see it being a surreal joke that’s too out there to be all that funny. That said, these are fairly minor complaints overall to the point I can easily ignore them in favor of just enjoying Johnny Hitler on its own.

So to wrap everything about Johnny Hitler up, the surreal humor and the sheer density of references creates an episode that while more mundane for Danger 5 is easily the most surreal, and also one of the outright funniest. It also brings us to the main narrative thrust of the season by introducing us to our new cast member Holly (for better or worse). It’s enough for me to largely ignore anything that I might consider a negative, which will help since I’m bound to keep rewatching Johnny Hitler for years to come, and I’m betting you will too.

Final Rating: A- 

3 thoughts on “Danger 5 “Johnny Hitler” Review | Off the Beaten Path

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