In this episode, Marcus's job satisfaction takes an immediate decline when he learns he'll be working with a Crispin Freeman character.
Digimon has never been a stranger to cliche. The Digimon call out the names of their attacks, sheer willpower is often enough to overcome massive obstacles and there are friendship speeches up the wazoo. While Frontier generally kept to the tried and true cliches that we're all used to, Data Squad introduces a host of new ones for us to discuss. Thomas H. Norstein, as he's introduced, is a ridiculous cliche, and just because Digimon hasn't done this one before doesn't mean it's new or good.
Given the kind of temperament Marcus has, it's only natural that the requisite rival character would be a proper, by-the-books fellow that relies on shrewd calculation more than rash violence. To a much less exaggerated extent, this dynamic applied to Takuya and Koji as well. But while we've seen elements of Marcus's personality that stray from the impulsive and violent side (such as loyalty to his family, strict adherence to The Marcus Code and acknowledging his inexperience), everything about Thomas is amplified to make him a ridiculously manufactured foil.
It's one thing to make Thomas intelligent, respectful and efficient. But he's also an acclaimed genius, talented boxer, teen heartthrob and Austrian nobleman. In the DATS employee handbook, “Thomas H. Norstein” is part of the benefits package. Miki and Megumi, who at first glance appeared to be little more than this season's Riley and Tally, turn into drooling fangirls in his presence. Thomas mocks the Most Interesting Man In The World for drinking Dos Equis. How can a rough newbie hope to stack up to that? He's even voiced by Crispin Freeman! Now that's just unfair!
While we'll learn about all of Thomas's foibles down the road and Marcus will inevitably step up his game, Marcus's early days in the Data Squad are less of a measured series of character introductions and more Gulliver's Travels. He goes from towering over the ordinary, rather mediocre Yoshi to looking up at a giant that is practically perfect in every way. The development of the trio's relationship and their unified objective becomes an asset to the series. Right now, their differences in ability are so steep it's silly.
Per The Marcus Code, Marcus fights Thomas and is dismayed at Thomas's faith in an inferior dogma like the Unified Rules of Boxing. As unbelievable as Thomas is as a person (especially the idea that someone of his pedigree would have any time for the likes of DATS), his unwillingness to allow Marcus to faze him works to his credit. It's clear that Thomas neither likes nor respects Marcus, but it takes a lot for him to be reduced to Marcus's level. Instead, he brushes him off at every turn, makes sure that Marcus is not allowed to endanger any missions and calmly assures Commander Sampson that Marcus has no value to the team. Marcus initiates all the fireworks.
Commander Sampson, meanwhile, just trolls everybody. He gives a direct order to Marcus not to pursue the mission. When Marcus disobeys, Sampson seems to enjoy watching what will happen. After Marcus succeeds with an unorthodox approach of feeding Demimeramon enough fire energy to make it big and slow enough to punch, Sampson teams up the two guys. Clearly he sees the potential in both of them and wants them to not hate each other, but it's a job where agents work separately with their own partners, in any fashion they prefer (Thomas and Yoshi's styles are far different). Such a team is unnecessary and probably unprecedented. I bet Sampson finds it hilarious.
My Grade: B-
- After four seasons of mysterious waif little sisters, typical teenager big sisters and annoying princess little sisters, we finally get what we always wanted: the snarky smartass little sister.
- Marcus's job training for such a secret, vital organization must not be very thorough if they didn't even show him how to work his Bluetooth headset.
- Wait... they aren't trying to turn “it's fightin' time” into a catch phrase, are they?
- Miki and Megumi's sudden personality shift really is alarming given how little they did in the first two episodes. From stock bridge bunnies to Yuki Sohma's fanclub in one episode's pretty impressive. They even read the episode title!
- Marcus's big stink about whether he or Thomas is the senior employee suggests that while Japanese culture is very serious about being respectful to anyone with a longer tenure, this is not part of The Marcus Code.
- Marcus does get too much flak for heading to the second Demimeramon outbreak, given how time-sensitive keeping it away from gas tanks should be. Thomas wasn't going to get there in time, so what were they supposed to do?
- Homer suggests that strong wind can be used to fan flames rather than extinguish them. This was probably supposed to be a metaphor for controlling natural abilities. Marcus instead literally fans the flames in order to make it big enough to punch, evolve Agumon and let GeoGreymon deliver the one-hit KO.