December 13, 2019

Off the Beaten Path | Final Thoughts and Impressions of “Danger 5”

Alright, after taking a bit longer than I originally anticipated, I’ve reviewed every episode of Danger 5. It certainly was a wild ride. Sometimes it was emotionally charged. Sometimes it was abjectly horrifying. One thing was for sure though. Even at its worst, it was always fun. So before I leave Danger 5 behind and leap into the next show I’ll review for you all, I’ll give you my final thoughts and impressions of the show.

My Initial Predictions

Before I started writing this, I went back and checked my original predictions for my Danger 5 rewatch. If you don’t remember, or more accurately, don’t feel like going back, my original predictions was that Danger 5 was going to be more consistent than season one of Love, Death & Robots. I thought that the questions about how I reacted to the show would be “does this hold-up?” and “what are they spoofing?”. 

With the rewatch behind me, the consistency prediction certainly came true. My other prediction aka the spoofing question I largely ignored. On the whole Danger 5 is more consistent than season one of Love, Death & Robots. Sure, Danger 5 had some problematic episodes, namely Kill-Men of the Rising Sun and Un Sacco Di Natale. That said, Danger 5 never had any outright bad episodes on the level of The Witness and The Dump. This wasn’t surprising to me since these were episodes I didn’t rewatch often.

If I had to compare Danger 5 to Love, Death & Robots on the other end of the spectrum of quality, Danger 5 didn’t get as high. While I certainly love episodes like Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich and Johnny Hitler, they never reached the heights of episodes like Good Hunting and Zima Blue. That said, these shows are entirely different beasts, so it’s not quite fair to compare the two.

My Final Thoughts

So what are my final thoughts and impressions of Danger 5 as a whole? When it came to season one, my opinions of Danger 5 didn’t change all that much. To be honest, this wasn’t that all that surprising to me. When I would rewatch Danger 5, I usually stuck to season one. Looking back, I think this was because it was less of a commitment. Compared to season two, season one is all fairly self-contained. Other than Final Victory, you could watch the episodes of season one in any order and not miss a thing.

Also, it was easier to watch only one or two episodes in a vacuum. Other than some ongoing running gags you only had to know the premise and you were good to go. This isn’t a bad thing at all since it also meant if an episode was bad you could easily ignore it in the grand scheme of the season story arc.

If there was a fault specific to season one, it was how rigidly it stuck to the status quo. Sure, this was to parody similar sitcoms in the 60’s (hell, other shows still do this even today), which I understand. That said if you watch one episode from season one, you know how the others will play out almost to a tee.

Each episode starts with the Nazis launching some scheme, followed by Danger 5 relaxing till they get a mission to stop said scheme. The gang gets split up, wacky shenanigans ensue, and they independently discover the specifics of said scheme. The main side villain gets killed off at some point, the team reunites by the end, and they almost kill Hitler. It’s not a bad formula by any means, but it’s one that becomes repetitive, especially if you watch them all at once.

Season two though was a real surprise for me. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much from season two. This could be boiled down to two reasons. The first was that based on how my opinions didn’t shift with season one, I thought season two would follow a similar trajectory. The other was that historically I preferred season one to season two, and would only rewatch one or two episodes (namely Johnny Hitler and Revenge of the Lizard Men). All that said, I enjoyed season two. It was certainly more volatile in quality than season one, reaching higher highs and lower lows. It also confirmed why I loved some characters (Pierre and Ilsa are the best), got me more invested in some characters (here’s looking at you Jackson) and more against others (again, fuck you Tucker), all of which I didn’t anticipate.

If there was one episode that surprised me, it was Super Dead. Frankly speaking, I’m at a loss as to how I didn’t fall in love with the episode when I first saw it. If it weren’t for that one scene I had an issue with (read my review for Super Dead if you don’t remember), it would easily be up there with Johnny Hitler

My guess why I generally avoided season two in the past was that unlike season one, season two can’t be watched in a vacuum easily. Because season two follows a season-long story arc, you can’t watch an episode late in the season without at least knowing what came before it. Hence why Johnny Hitler stayed in rotation. It was early enough in the season that it wasn’t bound to previous developments.

That said if you watch season two as a whole (it’s only 7 half-hour episodes, there are movies out there that have longer runtimes) it clicks. As of now, I’m already planning on future rewatches solely because of season two. Mostly it’s to catch on to references and brick jokes that flew over my head even on this last rewatch, but also so that I can fully watch the better episodes at the tail end of the season. 

If there is one issue to season two specifically, it’s that it lives or dies based on how you respond to the characters. This is especially the case if they were introduced in season two. The biggest example of this is the killing off of Claire early on, and essentially her replacement by Holly. I understand if you don’t like Holly. I’m currently on the fence, since my liking of Holly varies by episode. If you really don’t like her, season two can be a slog. I especially feel for fans of Danger 5 whose favorite character from season one was Claire, and who hated Holly (I bet there’s at least one out there). Man, I can see that one-two punch really ruining Danger 5 for those fans. On a smaller level, bit characters brought back from season one weren’t often utilized well, namely Mengele and Rommel. It got to the point I would wonder why Russo and Ashby would bring these bit players back at all.

There were some consistent issues I noticed as well over both seasons. Since the character plot-lines per episode didn’t often cross, episodes tended to live and die based on how well the episode brought in humor in the plotlines and other ways. The better episodes tended to have a lot going on within each storyline on top of background elements to compensate if the other plots strayed too far. Conversely, the worse episodes stuck out like sore thumbs because not a lot was going on with some of the individual plots. This meant you had to focus on the more unsavory plotlines.

For an example of both of these in action, consider Super Dead and Un Sacco Di Natale. Both had a prominent scene that featured “rape as revenge” played for comedy, which neither pulled off in my opinion. What made or broke these episodes though were the other plots. With Super Dead, we had the gang try to avoid a zombie apocalypse in an amusement park. With Un Sacco Di Natale, we had Tucker going through the same character development from Johnny Hitler in a house.

The other big issue that plagued the series was the recreation of attitudes of their eras. This one I can understand to an extent. I mean, if you’re going to parody an entire decade of culture, you’re bound to come up against the more unsavory aspects of the culture you’re parodying. Sure, the show, on the whole, tried to play those as ridiculously as possible. If you want an example of this, think of the plot and the use of yellowface in Kill-Men of the Rising Sun, which parodied the same practice often used in 60’s TV and cinema. That said, it’s still a risky move, and it’s a risk Russo and Ashby sometimes missed the mark on.

Looking back on my reviews, there are aspects of Danger 5 I should mention at least once before I move on. First and foremost, hats off to the technical crew working behind the scenes. Danger 5 wouldn’t function if the cinematographers, the SFX crew, the set designers, the costumers, the lighting techs, and everyone else I missed didn’t put their blood sweat and tears into this production. These men and women created a setting and an atmosphere that was as consistent as the Sun rising in the morning, even when the writing was shaky. It’s this crew that put Danger 5 on a higher level compared to similar genre parodies like Kung Fury. To put it simply, without these crewmembers, Danger 5 could never replicate the feels of both the 60’s and the 80’s.

I’d like to also give a shout out to the actors and actresses. Sure, none of the performances ever truly stood out to me like some of the harder-hitting comedies and dramas out there. That also means though that there was never an outright bad performance. In fact, everyone just seemed to be having an incredibly fun time, which translated well to the screen. If you want an example, look at Steve Parker’s performance as Nikita Khrushchev. He was clearly having a blast, and it made the role all the more fun. I honestly don’t know if I’ll see any of these actors and actresses again, but I’ll always appreciate what they’ve accomplished in Danger 5.

In Conclusion

All that said, I appreciated this rewatch, if only for my rediscovery of season two. Even with all the bumps, it’s a highly amusing ride. Watching Danger 5, we’re guaranteed at minimum a sensible chuckle. At best, we not only get belly laughs but we also get a whole range of other emotions, often at the same time. It’s a real shame Danger 5 isn’t on Netflix. It would probably retain if not gain some viewership here in the states.

I hope you all have enjoyed my reviews of Danger 5. If you haven’t watched them yet I hope I convinced you to at least try watching an episode. If you have watched Danger 5 before, I hope you not only revisit the show but also gain some insight into what makes these episodes tick. If you’re wondering what’s next on Off the Beaten Path. I won’t tell you yet what I’m reviewing next, but I’ll leave you with this hint. Prepare to follow Mr. Rabbit down a rabbit hole of deadly conspiracies and dubious morality.

Final Season One Recommendation: Recommend

Final Season Two Recommendation: Recommend  

Individual Season One Episode Recommendations:

  • I Danced for Hitler!: Highly Recommend
  • Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich: Highly Recommend
  • Kill-Men of the Rising Sun: Recommend With Caveats
  • Hitler’s Golden Murder Palace: Recommend
  • Fresh Meat for Hitler’s Sex Kitchen: Recommend
  • Final Victory: Recommend With Caveats

Individual Season Two Episode Recommendations:

  • Merry Christmas Colonel: Highly Recommend
  • Johnny Hitler: Highly Recommend
  • Revenge of the Lizard Men: Recommend With Caveats
  • Un Sacco Di Natale: Recommend With Caveats
  • Super Dead: Highly Recommend
  • Back to the Fuhrer: Recommend
  • Welcome to Hitlerland: Recommend With Caveats

Joseph MacMaster

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.

View all posts by Joseph MacMaster →

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