Halloween Review, Show

“Billy and Mandy’s Jacked Up Halloween” isn’t as jacked up as you remember but it’s still pretty good.

The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy is one of those shows that is so quintessentially 2000s, that it’s hard to explain. Would this dark comedic, episodic cartoon about two kids, one an idiot and the other sociopath who befriend the Grim Reaper get on TV today? Probably not.

I don’t even know if it could survive as a Netflix show unless it was directed towards an older crowd.

And that’s a shame.

It always bordered and often crossed the line in to inappropriate, down right disturbing and unsuitable for children’s viewing. Which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Despite not being a huge fan of its Nickelodeon counterpart Invader Zim for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy had a huge influence on my young psyche…Whether or not that’s a good thing has still yet to be determined.

So of course, this dark-humor oriented show starring a Jamaican-accented Grim Reaper had a Halloween special. Two of them actually, but I’ll only be looking at the first.

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Billy, Grim (just the head) and Mandy

Was it the best Halloween special of all time? No. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Their Christmas special oddly was a lot better in my mind (considering I’m not a huge fan of Christmas specials in the first place) as was the TV movie “Big Boogey Adventure.”

But, the 22 minute “Billy and Mandy’s Jacked-Up Halloween,” is something to behold. Even its title likely is something that wouldn’t get past the censors today. I wish it was good as I remembered.

The episode follows the trio one Halloween night, while they’re out trick-or-treating. After pranking a rude old woman, they go to a cemetery Grim tells them the origin of “tricking” on Halloween.

Hundreds of years ago, Grim was sent to take the soul of an incorrigible trickster named Jack. However, Jack managed to steal Grim’s scythe and demands that Grim gives him immortality in exchange so that he may pull pranks forever.

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Grim and Jack make a deal

Grim agrees to the condition but cuts off Jack’s head as revenge. Jack replaces his head with a pumpkin and is forced into hiding due his appearance, only coming out on Halloween night to pull pranks on the unwitting citizens of Endsville.

 Billy being his usual oblivious self, gives Jack Grim’s scythe not long after. Jack unleashes an army of demons to take over the world and make it eternal Halloween and takes Grim hostage, leaving it up to Billy and Mandy to rescue him…by pulling the greatest pranks ever.

And of course, things don’t go according to plan.

After watching it this week for the first time in God knows how many years, I found the plot to be incredibly thin and stupid; I also realized that Billy and Mandy’s friend Irving is even more annoying than I remembered. But all in all, the episode is still pretty enjoyable; it’s ridiculous, over-the-top, funny, and perfectly on theme.

I definitely felt nostalgic.

I think there are a lot of regular episodes of Billy and Mandy that are more memorable like the one where Billy turns into a chocolate sailor the infamous beauty pageant episode that ended with the titular three becoming the Powerpuff Girls. (And I’ll willingly admit that I still don’t understand that ending and I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to.) But, I feel as though “specials” should be…special, like besides their length, there should be something to make the episode stand out. Billy and Mandy’s Jacked-Up Halloween just feels like a pretty regular episode.

But otherwise, it’s still pretty good. It just decided to push boundaries in its own way and do whatever it wanted. Nearly every episode had some kind of ridiculous ass pull that wouldn’t work in any other show.

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Irwin gets humiliated

For example, the show had a handful of episodes dedicated to a Harry Potter-expy named Nigel Planter who went to a wizarding school run by a toad. In like the third or fourth episode he was in,  it turned out he was never a wizard and his nemesis the evil Lord Moldybutt is actually just trying to get Nigel to take over his rightful place as head of a peanut conglomerate. (Seriously. That was a twist I never saw coming.)

It felt like most of the time they just picked out some random ideas from a hat mixed them up and just picked which three or four ideas worked together well, then made an episode. And I don’t mean that in a bad way; it’s very hard to do something like that and make it work. Billy and Mandy had that down pat.

Typically, I lean towards serialized television shows. I love watching characters grow and change, and I love watching people work towards a goal and see what changes along the way. But, episodic TV has its strengths: No need to follow any plots, no need to know the characters. No need to debate about foreshadowing or whether a certain line was a throwaway or a hint because it makes no sense for the character. Just random adventures with an interesting group of characters.

And in many cases, anything is possible because everything will be back to normal by the next episode. And this Halloween episode just strengthens that argument; we don’t need foreshadowing leading up to Jack’s reveal, we don’t need to debate why he didn’t join up with the Boogie Man. We don’t need to deal with the aftermath of another demon attack, because there were plenty of episodes where the characters died or there was an apocalypse. You just gotta sit back and enjoy the ride.

And that’s the scoop.

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Score: 7/10

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If you enjoyed this review read: The Hollow is a hollow tale

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Length: 22 minutes

Available: DVD, YouTube

Creator: Maxwell Atoms

Episode Directors: Juli Hashiguchi and Robert Alvarez

Writers: Maxwell Atoms, Brett Varon, and Paul McEvoy

Voice Actors: Richard Steven Horvitz, Grey DeLisle, Greg Eagles, Vanessa Marshall, Jennifer Hale

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