Red Herb Review - Mortal Kombat: Legacy Season II


Much to my unwittingness, last week’s debut of Mortal Kombat: Legacy’s sophomore season didn’t just see the first episode posted online – the whole damn ten part arc launched at once. I was of the expectation that it’d once again have the staggered release schedule season one did.

To hell with my expectations. You’re able to down the whole affair in one sitting, like I did, starting with Episode One.

To reiterate, Legacy’s first run of episodes impressed the pants off me. I didn’t care about blasphemous character reinterpretations or sudden budgetary dips. The series was stylish, thoroughly chocked with TV-MA action, and got way closer in spitting distance of the source material than 1995 and ‘97’s royally cheesy film adaptations.

So. Is Legacy’s second season a flawless victory? Short answer: no. Long answer: hit that Read More.

While the first season revolved around short vignettes fleshing out a roster of characters’ back stories, season two picks up at the ancient tournament in which defenders of the mortal coil protect their realm from a mystical dimension of hopped up teleporters and glowering sorcerers; the very same conflict that gives the series its title.


Legacy’s first mistake borrows from the eye-straining, time wasting theatrical menace Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, a sequel where returning characters were jarringly recast. The only new (re)cast members to stand out from the crowd of overacting nobodies is Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) and his washed up take on Johnny Cage – though, by the time we get around to his “You got caged, bitch!” moment, the performance blends into the foliage – and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s reprisal of Shang Tsung from the '95 film. 'Course, besides grimacing beyond the threshold a human face can withstand, the napkin thin script only gives Tagawa one standout, ironically action-free scene in which his Tsung calmly attempts to convert Liu Kang to the dark side in a tense conversation that could’ve taken place between old friends.

A new actor handles Legacy’s subdued version of Raiden, but the character is given nothing to do but regurgitate exposition – squandering all the potential setup in his brilliant intro in season one. Likewise, Kurtis Stryker suffers a serious downgrade as Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse alum, Tahmoh Penikett, is traded for…some guy. Again, a promising interpretation from season one leads to the character getting slapped around like a boneless cat until the story gives up and kicks him off-screen. With the complete excision of his partners Jax and Sonya, the character’s importance is deflated the moment he hits the screen, anyway.


New additions to the mighty fightin’ krew include a canon-close interpretation of Kung Lao (replete with his throwing hat…minus the bladed rim, sadly) and, in neat contrast, the aforementioned darker version of Liu Kang that tosses him on the bad guy’s side of the rink. Brian Tee’s performance is convincing enough but the overwrought visual cues of his plunge into darkness meant we’re to suffer through Kang’s affinity for hiding in pull-over hoodies while sulking at karaoke night, straight up Spider-Man 3 sabotaging the shit out of an otherwise interesting direction for the character.

But that’s this season’s MO in a nutshell. Promise and intrigue nearly always end their destination at let down street. Fan favorite Kenshi, the blind swordsmen, is thrown into the mix, even given his own reconfigured backstory that tosses in Ermac for kicks (though, Ermac is turned into a goofy cave-dweller befit an episode of Goosebumps). But his vignette pauses the flow of the season to treat us to a climatic battle that literally cuts away before it begins, a stark reminder of the series’ tiny budget. Eventually, we do get our Kenshi versus Ermac showdown. It’s a fight that encompasses blue and green force balls flung at one another and translucent CG tentacles. We’ve run a long way away from the grim, realistically brutal take first found in Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, kids.image

The depiction of the franchise spanning rivalry between Scorpion and Sub-Zero was some of the best storytelling to come out of the first season. It was tragic and badass all at once, served nicely by Ian Anthony Dale’s performance of Hanzo before he became the otherworldly spectre we know and love. Season Two attempts to complement Scorpion’s vignette with some perspective from Sub-Zero and his clan’s side. Unfortunately, the tournament is paused again to gain way for this backstory, which does a decent job of painting both parties as tragic heroes but hurts the pacing like a bastard, and then once we resume our fight in the modern day, the payoff is as short and unsatisfying as the rest of this affair.

Let me ease up a moment; this season is not an absolute travesty. Some of the fights are hard hitting and smartly choreographed. Some of the kills are gushingly brutal – enough to earn a stamp of approval from fans whose thumbs are indoctrinated from years of Fatality inputs. But throw these two seasons into a Test Your Might competition, Season One dices its slabs of concrete right down the middle whereas Season Two 'bout near breaks its fucking hand. The story is thin, the production quality is on the low end, and there’s no cohesion to what was supposed to be an arc finally focusing in on the tournament itself. And just…don’t get me started on Sub-Zero’s cheap paintball outfit. Good lord.image

If Legacy really is meant to be the springboard for a new feature length film, as director Kevin Tanchereon has repeatedly insisted, than there is a lot of work to be had before that dream’s a reality. I went in with high expectations – and rightfully so, that first season knocked me off my ass. This season, however, uppercut my hopes right into the goddamn Pit (Pit II, mind you; it’s a longer drop).

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