Three episodes in Danger 5, we’ve seen monument thievery. We’ve seen mind-controlled dinosaurs. It’s time we come back down to Earth with mind-controlled super soldiers in today’s episode, Kill-Men of the Rising Sun. It’s easy to see this episode as a step down in the humor, especially when compared to Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich.
You’re not wrong. This episode isn’t nearly as insanely fun as the last few episodes. Thus it wasn’t one I’d rewatch often. What I did realize with this rewatch though was that while the humor was lacking, it was replaced with surprisingly high stakes based around the characters and the scheme. If you’re wondering what I mean, let me explain.
The Episode Summary
Kill-Men of the Rising Sun starts with Allied pilots around China getting curb stomped by Japanese planes that are piloted by what look like robotic super soldiers. Danger 5 is thus given their mission; capture one of the soldiers, find Japan (which seems to have vanished completely), and, of course, kill Hitler. Danger 5 flies into Chinese airspace to provide backup for the Allied pilots. They are then quickly brought down by the super soldiers. Thus, the group is split up based on the order they were shot down. Tucker and Ilsa were shot down almost immediately upon contact. The other three, on the other hand, put up enough of a fight to bail on their own.
They all end up on an unknown island, though to us it’s quite apparent it’s Japan. Each group ends up in different situations. Tucker and Ilsa are taken to a spa, while the other three are taken to an opium den run by an old friend of Pierre. Separately they (mostly just Ilsa and Claire) find out what’s going on.
First, Emperor Hirohito has created a method of brainwashing Allied soldiers into becoming Japanese robot super-soldiers. Hitler intends to use these supersoldiers to destroy the Soviet Union through an eastern invasion into Stalingrad. The second is that Japan disappeared because the island has moved, like a boat, to both pick-up shipments of opium for Hirohito and to be in the perfect position, off the coast of Burma, to start the Soviet invasion. The team must then race against the clock to stop the invasion, which starts while they’re captured, all before the Soviets launch their planet-destroying doomsday weapon in self-defense.
So, where to begin? Like I mentioned above in my intro, this episode has surprisingly high stakes compared to the other episodes. For example, look at I Danced for Hitler!. Sure, the Nazis are stealing national monuments. While it’s evil, it’s based on the idea of a long term Allied morale killer as opposed to, you know, an actual military victory. I mean, Danger 5 blows up the rest of the monuments at the end, and nothing changes. In Kill-Men of the Rising Sun, on the other hand, we are explicitly shown what happens if Hitler’s plan isn’t stopped. Not only will the Nazis get a decisive military victory that puts them within spitting distance of final victory, but it will also result in the death of millions through the Soviet doomsday device.
Even more so, Danger 5 must race against the clock since the actual invasion has started while they were distracted. They only manage to halt the advance of the super-soldiers mere moments before Stalin was about to activate the doomsday device. I mean, we know Danger 5 was going to win in the end, since there are three more episodes in this season alone. That said, the fact we got such a race against the clock added a legitimate feeling of suspense to a show where the stakes never felt so present. It added a dimension of enjoyment to the show I forgot even existed.
To further add to the stakes, Hitler also takes a larger role in the plot. In this case, he orders Hirohito around to reposition Japan and to create more super soldiers. It’s made clear that with Hitler behind the wheel, the schemes are more deadly and more efficient than the individual schemes of Goebbels and Mengele. I mean, he would have won if Danger 5 was delayed by a few more seconds.
Another example of Hitler’s effectiveness on a smaller scale happens when he recognizes a partially brainwashed Tucker and a captured Ilsa. A lesser villain would gloat and lord it over his captives. If you need an example, think any classic Bond villain, they have a whole trope named after them with this in mind. Hitler, on the other hand, immediately recognizes the plan is in jeopardy with them around, and he has them transformed into super soldiers on the spot. It’s small, but it shows that Hitler isn’t fucking around when it comes to the business of war and world domination (not like Mussolini, who’s a literal child with a foul mouth that needs babysitting). In other words, Hitler demonstrates why he must be considered a true adversary that must be taken down aka what I wanted to see from Hitler in the previous episodes.
That said, this was the weakest episode so far for a few reasons. First was the humor, which felt much sparser. Other than a few hearty laughs like with baby Mussolini and Stalin’s secretary taking refuge in his mustache (I mean, how can you not laugh at that?), the humor didn’t land nearly as much. It might have been because this episode wasn’t as crazy plot-wise as the previous episodes along with the higher stakes, but more humor would have been appreciated.
The bigger thing though is that this episode clumsily highlights the negative faults of 60’s media and culture. This undercurrent has been present throughout the show so far, mostly with the treatment of Claire by everyone around her, the men in particular. In this episode, the subtext became the text. I mean, she wasn’t even a damsel in distress, she demonstrates why she is the most effective member of Danger 5, and she still doesn’t get respect. This is especially in the opium den with Jackson and Pierre (why Pierre why!?), what with the men commenting on women in a rather sexist manner in front of her. While Pierre does apologize for his behavior, but it doesn’t excuse what he said.
We also get another negative hallmark of 60’s culture; white actors playing non-white characters. Here we get white actors portraying exaggerated caricatures of Japanese people in yellowface. I mean, just look at Tucker mid brainwashing. Sure, the show does try to show this isn’t an accurate or fair portrayal of the Japanese people, what with the people running the transformation spa dismiss one man in yellowface as confused and annoying. What doesn’t help Danger 5 is the fact it’s largely played straight. I mean, everyone who’s not Pierre’s love interest a white person in yellowface. This causes the episode to fall into the realm of awkward and uncomfortable. In other words, no one escapes unscathed from the dark side of 60’s culture, and it puts a cloud over the rest of the series. Honestly, I can understand if people get turned off of the show by this episode, which is a shame.
So what do I think of Kill-Men of the Rising Sun? I found it entertaining mostly for the fact this episode felt impactful through the raised stakes. Sadly, other than a few gags, the humor of the episode feels more like Tucker’s “Sensible Chuckle” rather than the laugh out loud insanity of the last few episodes, and that’s not even getting into the unsavory aspects of 60’s culture the episode tries to lampoon. It’s easily my least favorite episode of Danger 5 so far, but it’s still a fun watch if you can ignore the flaws.
My Recommendation: Recommend With Caveats
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.