This week’s episode of Mortal Kombat: Legacy is all about the build. And finally, we get the introduction of what were always my favorite characters back in the day, Scorpion and Sub Zero. The episode begins feeling very authentically like a Kung-Fu movie. Images of nature are shown while a voice over narration tells us about the history of a powerful clan of warriors.
Their leader, Hanzo Hasashi, is one of the most feared fighters on the planet. We learn early on, as his myth has grown through the ages he eventually started being known by another name: Scorpion. Boom, shot of Scorpion in full ninja garb, he throws his patented kunai on a rope straight at the camera, and we have our title card. What an effective way to gain my interest.
The episode then cuts to a frantic chase through woods. A man is being pursued. There is implied danger at every turn. There are glimpses of movement from all sides, but no clear shot of what threat lurks. Finally, his attacker pounces, and it’s revealed that the man being chased is Scorpion, and the one doing the chasing his young son Jubei. For the large chunk of this episode we get father/son bonding between Jubei and Hasashi. Despite the fact that he is very young, Jubei wants to be a warrior like his father, a plan that doesn’t sit well with his mother. She wants him to be a singer, and in fact she wants him to sing a song to honor a Shogun that is visiting their village. But, most importantly, what you can take away from the extended middle sequence of this episode is that Scorpion is a happy man with a loving family. And if watching years worth of action movies has taught me anything, it’s that you only spend time getting to know a happy family if something terrible is about to happen to them.
It doesn’t help that the woods in which Scorpion and his family live are shrouded in winter. Snow gently falls throughout the episode, streams ice over, a fire rages inside of their home trying to keep out the cold. The sense is conveyed that winter is closing in, and most likely Scorpion’s arch nemesis Sub Zero is going to be following soon after. Sure enough, when a couple of warriors show up at Scorpion’s door and tell him that the Shogun has arrived early and that he needs to go to the castle right away, things seem fishy. When their eyes flash blue after Scorpion goes inside to get his things, you know that it’s on.
So what episode 7 of this series seems to be is the classic setup for a revenge story. While Scorpion gears up and takes the trail through the woods to the castle, we get shots of the warriors coming back to his house and abducting his wife as she sleeps. Things are never going to be the same for Hanzo Hasashi, and I imagine he’s going to be doing a lot of killing before all is said and done. The episode isn’t over though, when walking through the woods, Scorpion comes upon the Shogun. He sits still in a chair, with his back turned to the camera. When we get the reveal on his face, it’s plain to see that his entire body is frozen solid. And then we get some of the best gore that this series has given us yet as Scorpion is blindsided by an attacker and thrown into the Shogun’s body, which explodes into a frozen, bloody slushy. Cool. Of course, the man doing the attacking is Sub Zero, and right before they can really start attacking each other… the episode ends.
This episode could be a template for the ideal format this series should take. So far my biggest concerns about Mortal Kombat: Legacy have been in how it balances its storytelling with its action. This show has largely been a failure when it comes to dramatic work and dialogue scenes, but the action has been fairly satisfying. That said, you couldn’t have a show that is just ten minutes of fight scenes over and over again, that would get tedious fairly quickly. What this episode does is spend all of its time and all of its energy building to a fight.
We get a sense of dread, we see that Scorpion is a doting father, we understand how he will react if his family is harmed. And all the while, you know that Sub Zero must be lurking in the shadows. By the time the episode ended I was primed to see a fight between the two characters. I was ready to watch Scorpion throw his bladed rope, the move that was the easiest way to frustrate opponents back in the original game, I was ready to see how they handle Sub Zero’s ice powers, which could come off either as really cool or really cheesy depending on the effects. Put in ten minutes of build and by the end of the episode my mouth was watering for a good fight scene. And then they ended it, leaving me wanting more. Now next week’s episode can be one big, glorious battle scene and I wouldn’t mind the lack of story, because it’s already been set up so well. That’s what a Mortal Kombat series should be doing, focusing on the fights and building to them so that they mean something when they happen. Compare this to the Mileena and Kitana storyline that was a lot of setup, backstory, and little else, and the Scorpion and Sub Zero storyline is already hugely superior. Of course, I might not end up getting the big fight I want next week either, and then I’ll be disappointed. We’ll all have to wait and see.