Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Thunder Discusses Phineas and Ferb: "Night of the Living Pharmacists"

WARNING! SPOILERS! This post contains spoilers regarding the Phineas and Ferb episode "Night of the Living Pharmacists".  View at your own risk, or try not to look for that matter, if you want to see the episode and find out for yourself what happens.

Hey, guys.  I'm here to discuss the Phineas and Ferb Season 4 episode "Night of the Living Pharmacists", seeing as it's Halloween of 2014.  Before I start, I've been thinking of turning this discussion post into a mini-series where I take a few notable Phineas and Ferb episodes such as "Save Summer", "Star Wars", and "Act Your Age" and give you my two cents on them.  Sound good?  Well, even if it's not, I'm gonna do it anyway.  Besides, these won't necessarily be reviews.  They'll be more like one or two things I want to point out and get down and dirty with specific details on them and then give my personal take.  And seeing how I got some negative responses from me claiming that ending of "Across the Second Dimension" was kind of low, I think it's best for me to get back into this.  After all, we're dealing with individuals in this world and each individual has his or her own personal opinion.  As I try to make the point with the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode reviews I do, everyone likes things for different reasons and everyone hates things for different reasons.  So if you don't like any negative responses I happen to give a Phineas and Ferb episode or at least a particular thing or two about it, then it's my guilty pleasure.  Besides, we're gonna find negative things in just about any form of media.  Nothing is without flaws and everyone knows that.  There's no such thing as perfection.  And with that said, it's time for me to discuss the one-hour Halloween special episode "Night of the Living Pharmacists"... or just something specific about it, for that matter.

So what I'm going to talk about is what this episode suddenly reminded me, that I now officially am sick and tired of what's known as the 'Phinbella' gag.  Why?  Because I'll have you know, as a fan of this TV series, I have watched Phineas and Isabella for the past five years now, ever since I got hooked into the series from watching the first three episodes of Season 1.  And after four seasons, there's been little to no development in their would-be relationship.  Now normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but the problem is that Isabella has a huge crush on Phineas, which even the episode "Act Your Age" didn't reveal how and why.  I guess she just has a thing for triangle-headed little boys.  So how is this a problem?  Well, Isabella has little to no courage to muster up and fess her feelings for him.  In this episode, as well as in "Happy Birthday, Isabella", she actually tries to make some effort, but is interrupted every single time.


It's like those moments in Card Captor Sakura Movie 2... only gayer.

Now normally you would tell me something like "It's all done for humor and it's funny to watch", but there's one major problem with that.  It's been going on for four frigging seasons!  Personally, for any television series, four seasons for any running gag of any sort is just too much.  Hell, this is one of the problems with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  Season 4 of that series pretty much gave us the same formula from the past three seasons and tried to pass it off as different because it was a story-long arc and Twilight Sparkle was a princess.  But from my point of view, nothing was different.  And any changes made ended up for worse and not better... despite what many bronies are probably thinking.  But this is different.  Here, this is just one running gag and after four seasons, you think it would change or show some development.  And it does neither.


In the TV animated series Danny Phantom, at least we were given subtle hints throughout the entire series that Danny and Sam would tie the knot and become boyfriend and girlfriend.  It was still hard to predict that it would happen because of complications here and there, but at least their relationship worked out.  In Phineas and Ferb, we don't get a ton of that with Phineas and Isabella.  Phineas is pretty much completely oblivious, Isabella's hints apparently aren't subtle enough, and when Isabella does decide to come clean, she's interrupted.  Now, I'd say about a good half a season would be able to pull this off and get away with it, but four seasons is more than long enough.  Too long, even.  Hell, I'm shocked that no one else is sick of this gag already.  It's gone on so long, that I'm about this close to saying that if the gag changes by breaking them up, I wouldn't care.  Now I know that some of us like to think that there are tiny hints that Phineas might like Isabella back or maybe pays even the slightest attention to her flirting with him.  But the sad reality is that this is nothing more than wishful thinking.  We have no real hints that Phineas is aware that Isabella loves him.  At the end of "Across the Second Dimension", we do get something that if Isabella did something crazy, Phineas would probably be okay with that.  And in "Operation Crumb Cake", it took me a while to figure out that Isabella's letter to Phineas was just full of romantic gush and given that she had planned it for years, I can only imagine she only had the girly knowledge of a toddler and would write something only a toddler knows, which is anything but genuine love.


Oh, right.  She has been in love with him ever since she was a toddler!  She might as well just sing that "Beep Beep" Schnuffel Bunny song!

So in short, the 'Phinbella' running gag hasn't evolved, despite the claims.  And whenever something happens that looks like it's gonna change the gag, something else comes along to ensure that the change is negated.  Why?!  There's no reason to!  What, are Dan and Swampy afraid that at their age, Phineas and Isabella's relationship would be highly questionable?  That's not really an excuse because it didn't stop them from having Baljeet kiss a little girl on screen!  It also didn't stop them from having Pilot Isabella in the "Star Wars" episode kiss Phineas on the lips!  Young love is a cute thing and it shouldn't have to be an eyesore... unless you're a soccer mom of course.  So like I said, just when the 'Phinbella' gag might change and possibly kick-start Phineas and Isabella's would-be relationship, it actually doesn't.  And this episode, "Night of the Living Pharmacists", is no exception.  Here's what happens.

First off, the Fireside Girls encourage Isabella to just tell Phineas straight out, which she should have done right from the very beginning so that things would take place from there, but of course in song form.


So she tries to, but is once again interrupted.  Only this time, it's those contagious Doofenshmirtz zombies roaming Danville, turning everyone they touch into clones of them.  Eventually, the power goes out and for some reason Phineas freaks out that Isabella isn't with him and his group of friends.  In fact, he even says he'd never forgive himself if she was already turned into a zombie.  What?  No...
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Yeah, so... this is a first.  Even so, why now?  But anyways, the Doof-zombies create a massive outbreak and the only way to stop them is sprinkling them with water and the newly installed tower seems like the best way to save the town.  Of course, one by one, the main characters are turned into zombies, with only Phineas and Isabella remaining.  And just in case it's the end for them, Isabella finally fesses up to Phineas that she likes him.  That's when Phineas and Isabella both get turned into zombies, but not before the water tower goes off and turns everyone back into normal.  And here's a shocker.  Phineas and Isabella have no memory of Isabella's confession, which means that once again for the umpteenth time, they're back to square one.

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I mean, with little to no development of this would-be relationship for four whole seasons, how in the world can we possibly expect anything to come out of this?  Oh sure, perhaps Dan and Swampy are like "Oh, having their relationship develop over time is just too cliched, so we'll just bring out a big surprise in the end.  And besides, fans have 'Act Your Age' anyway."  Really?  Because even if something big is saved for a series finale like with Danny Phantom and Avatar: The Last Airbender, we're not getting the impression that it's even gonna happen to begin with!  In those two animated series I mentioned, we get more than subtle hints and it was still nice to see those couples get paired up!  Really?  Do you think anyone is gonna be like "Oh, look at those hints.  They're definitely gonna get together, so there's no point in following along."  No, we still continue to follow along because we're supporting them!  It's the sign of good storywriting!  As for this 'Phinbella' gag, because it just keeps going from somewhere back to nowhere over and over and over again, for what going on four seasons now, I'm honestly surprised that not even the biggest fans of the show have thrown in the towel and said "You know what?  Fuck this.  Phineas and Isabella just aren't gonna have a relationship."  Oh sure, there's "Act Your Age", but you gotta admit that it was just a fan-requested episode and isn't even the Season 4 finale, so that means the doors are still open and we shouldn't have to be like "Eh, fuck this.  Phineas and Isabella are gonna hook up 10 years later, so this gag just doesn't bother me."

Well, this gag is bothering me!

And then the one final bomb that drops is this.  The whole special episode is hinted to be just something Stacy was watching on television, meaning that the episode likely does not even exist in the Phineas and Ferb continuity.  So even without the memory loss, things still end up back where they started just as they did before.  Lose-lose.

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And you know what?  I kinda mean it too.  Oh sure, the episode itself isn't horrible and tedious, far from it.  And even though I personally think zombie apocalypse plots are overdone and overused, this episode did a good job making fun of it to say the least.  It's a good Halloween special that's probably not gonna get old anytime soon, like the "Christmas Vacation" episode, but I'll tell you exactly what's gotten old.  This 'Phinbella' gag.

Five years ago, I started watching Phineas and Ferb.  And I have to confess that at first, I did it to see Isabella's crush on Phineas and see if things would develop, but after three episodes, I got hooked into the series.  But now, having watched these children for five years straight, seeing little to no development, even after four seasons, I see this episode, "Night of the Living Pharmacists", and still I get nada.  And who knows?  Maybe I'm not alone in this.  I'm sure we, meaning other fans besides myself, we were expecting even the teensiest something, something promising, something that once again looked like this gag that's dull and tedious would change for something cute, lighthearted, and better...
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I hate to say this, but after seeing this episode, this 'Phinbella' gag has now made me, for the first time in this series, disappointed in Dan and Swampy.  But to be fair, maybe they're not the only ones behind the gag.  Maybe there are some other staff members who are trying to decide what direction to steer these two kids in.  I know these things take time, but God help me because after a whopping four seasons spanning across seven years, you think we'd get change.  And we don't.  And I really, really hope Dan and Swampy aren't deliberately trying to piss us off.  But if they're trying to create something hilariously humorous from this gag... I can assure you people... I'm not laughing.  I'm dead serious.  I want change.  Because until something comes along, I'm not convinced that a would-be relationship between Phineas and Isabella would work at all.  And any episodes that deliver hints saying otherwise... I'm not counting those because they're just in other timelines or alternate universes.  So... you know what, Dan and Swampy?  I'm glad "Act Your Age" aired in Russia first, and maybe New Zealand even earlier.  I don't even care if it's not what you wanted.  Because if there's one thing "Act Your Age" taught me, it's that after all those years, we got the impression that Isabella wasn't even trying, meaning that we can no longer blame Phineas for not noticing her, especially given his lyrics from that duet.  Now I'm not saying this gag is ruining the whole damn series, if anything far from it.  The series itself is still awesome, family-friendly, somewhat action-packed, and sure to be a 21st century animated TV classic, but the gag... the 'Phinbella' gag... is officially getting on my last nerve.

And if that's not enough, to add insult to injury on my part, this episode had an alternate ending in which Phineas seems to acknowledge the Emotional Bravery patch and has an extended confession as well as showing how the rest of the world got cured of the zombie mess!  My God, why?!  Why did they not show this?!  They had to imply that Phineas and Isabella have no memory of Isabella's confession?!  I don't care if this was deleted for time!  It would have tied up all loose ends that some of us might have asked to see!  And maybe this episode could have actually been canon!  This isn't just disappointing for me!  If anything, when I first found out about this, I was pissed off even more!

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But seriously, why can't Isabella and Phineas be more like this?  No, I mean it!  Why can't they be more like this?!  What is so bad about it?  I want a reason!  Dan and Swampy are talented people, so I'm sure they can still work this into the series without going overboard.  I mean, it's worked for other series and honestly, I don't think age should make a difference, even if Isabella is considered less than 12 years old.  And personally, the younger a fictional couple is, the cuter it is to watch!  And I'm sure as hell that Phineas is smart enough to handle a relationship with Isabella.  And if not, I'm sure he's smart enough to turn to either Candace or his mom for advice.  So unless there's something I'm missing, so help me, I see virtually nothing that should be stopping Dan and Swampy or any other staff member from having a relationship between Phineas and Isabella build up gradually and lead to something in a possible series finale.  But right now, there is literally and virtually nothing... absolutely nothing... that is leading me to believe that one day Phineas will finally take up on Isabella's offer to go swimming with her.

And with that, this was my two cents on "Night of the Living Pharmacists", particularly my take on just how old the 'Phinbella' gag is getting.  And I can assure you, seeing it once again in this episode was my Halloween scare of the year, much more than anything meant to be genuinely scary or so scary it's enjoyable.  And if any of you hate me for this or get the wrong impression about me for this... then me saying all this and getting it out of my system was my guilty pleasure.  With that said, feel free to leave your takes on all this in the comments below.  This is The Thunder, signing off!  Happy Halloween!

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