Get ready for an epic recap post covering three whole episodes of Young Indy! These three episodes mark the beginning of the show's transition to the terrors of World War I, which it does surprisingly well for a show from the early 90s. Indy experiences trench warfare, German imprisonment, the world of spies, and a bunch of old soldiers in Northern Africa.
Trenches of Hell, France and Germany, 1916
The first World War I episode in this show does not shy away from showing how horrific war is. This episode reminded me of Saving Private Ryan without as much graphic violence, but all the same graphic terror. I remember appreciating these episodes less when I was young and first watching the show, but as an adult now, I found this episode by far the most engaging and fascinating story so far. As a "Belgian," Indy experiences a lot of discrimination from the French and gets sent to do jobs no one else wants, including trying to capture a highly defensible location controlled by the Germans. He also watches most of his company die in the assault before being captured at the end of the assault. The story is dark and definitely reminiscent of George Lucas' anti-war tendencies. Once captured Indy is imprisoned in a German fortress and meets Charles De Gaulle. He and De Gaulle hatch several escape attempts with one finally succeeding, but the message of hope in dire circumstances shines through after a very dark first half. Fun fact: While on a short leave from the trenches, Indy meets the author Robert Graves who wrote one of my favorite novels, I, Claudius.
Demons of Deception, Verdun and Paris, 1916
The two episodes combined to make this movie have minimal connective tissue, but there are a few thematic connecting threads. First, Indy is growing more and more disillusioned with the war effort based on his experiences. Second, Indy encounters lies and manipulation from both his superior officers and those he thinks he loves. I enjoyed the first half of the episode far more than the second half as the French commanding officers are sitting in posh residences giving orders while the grunts are being led to slaughter in the trenches. Indy develops a unique perspective on this contrast by running as a courier between the commanding officers and the front lines. Ultimately, he makes a dangerous decision to stage an accident on his motorcycle in order for some attack orders to never reach the front.
In the second half of the episode Indy's dad has a connection in Paris who pulls some strings for Indy and Remy to have some leave time in the city. In a fun little cameo, Ian McDiarmid (aka Emperor Palpatine) plays the Parisian professor who offers to house Indy for a week. Of course, you cannot keep teenage Indy away from adventure, and he happens to meet and fall in love with the infamous spy Mata Hari. Their love affair was full of lies, mistrust, and a surprising amount of sexual content for an ABC show in the early 90s. The plotline was fine but not nearly as engaging as the war plot, and Indy comes across as an annoying, whiny teenager, which I suppose he still is. Also, the last 10-15 minutes of the episode had some strange flash cuts of Mata Hari in front of a firing squad, which would be very confusing if you did not know anything about her story. They were still confusing and a strange editorial choice even knowing a little of her story...
The Phantom Train of Doom, North Africa, 1916
The final episode for today had perhaps the most "Indiana Jones" vibe to it. Indy joins up with some trope-filled old fart soldiers stationed in Africa, including Captain Selous, played by Paul Freeman (actor who played Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark), whom Indy had met way back when he was 9-years-old on his adventure with Teddy Roosevelt. The episode includes Germans, a hidden train mystery, a daring kidnapping and escape attempt, and lots of classic Indy blunders. Along the way Indy learns about trusting the wisdom of age (a theme I think might rear its head in the final Indy movie) and about how to be a better soldier, from a German colonel no less. This episode was a lot of fun and one of the few that seemed like it was originally meant as a two-parter. I also love that Indy's experiences in World War I take him to all the different areas of conflict in the war, however unrealistic that narrative conceit is.
Next up, Indy's adventures take him further into Africa and then back to France!
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