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November 25, 2016

An Episode In Gaming: Code Lyoko (Part 5)

"Code Lyoko" review: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

So, Season 2 has passed, and Season 3 has brought a whole new lot of challenges for the Lyoko-Warriors. It’s gotten to the point that XANA might as well be the least of their worries – not that this would be true, considering their deadly opponent has already managed to wipe out two sectors of Lyoko, and plans to wipe out the others, which would leave them without a way to fight back. Only now, the series seems to deconstruct the entire concept of “children who juggle studying and saving the world”, by showing just how many obstacles would be in the way of the protagonists in such a story. That’s not a thing that can be explored in a matter of a few episodes, the entire series is required. And that’s one of the brilliant aspects of this show.

Meanwhile the drama theater teacher just had a brand new idea
for a play.

And to go along with the deconstruction, more and more of XANA’s attacks cause things that aren’t as easy to repair. Among others, in “Temporary Insanity”, XANA inverts Odd and Ulrich’s perceptions of Lyoko and reality, meaning they believe themselves still on Lyoko when they’re in the real world, viewing the students and staff as monsters, while they think that they’re on the campus once they’re virtualized in the scanners. Sure, that’s corrected by the end of the episode, but still, that’s another case of XANA getting close to winning (by almost destroying the Core).

"Why did it have to be a glitch like this? Why couldn't it
just give me an infinite number of copies of
the sixth item in my inventory?"
In the next episode, “Sabotage”, XANA, well, sabotages one of the motherboards in the supercomputer, causing glitches on Lyoko that allow his monsters to make quick work of the protagonists. And Jérémie only has about three hours to repair it and switch around the motherboards – something that would be simple, if only he wasn’t being forced by Jim to do some cleaning in his dorm room! Reality, old nemesis, you strike again! And yes, as you can imagine, the heroes still manage to get everything to be fine by the end. Plus, the glitches caused by the fried motherboard also affected the monsters on Lyoko, so that helped quite a bit. Although the way they won was a little weird: Aelita wiped out the Ice sector, by herself, which gave XANA what it wanted, but also gave Jérémie enough power to reboot the supercomputer. Yeah… don’t think about it too hard. The script writers behind the show still love to pull the strings to have the series go the want they want it to go, logic be damned…

3 out of 5 sectors wiped! XANA is just getting closer to victory by every attack!

By the way, quick complaint about the teachers: Why do they give BS excuses for giving lower grades to Jérémie? One day, they take away two points from him because of a mustard stain, the other he’s given an A- “to be reminded that there’s no such thing as perfection”. What the fuck, teachers? I mean, they still seem to be fair everywhere else, so this is either a poor attempt at a joke from the writers, or an implication that the teachers are jealous of their student’s intelligence… maybe?

"Hey! I can go through walls like a ghost! Like in that old
film! I wonder if Yumi is making pottery?"
We get an episode about Jérémie trying a new program to virtualize his friends directly in Sector 5. However his guinea pig, Ulrich, ends up with his mind separated from his body, and the mind alone coming back into the real world. While Jérémie tries to repair this, this bizarre situation gives Ulrich the ability to take control of other living beings… which helps him get out of trouble with his bad grades. By possessing Jim Morales and participating in the teachers' council. He must have been wishing to repeat “I’d rather not talk about it” a thousand times while controlling the old gym teacher. This is another example of Jérémie trying to create programs to help his friends on Lyoko, with less than stellar results.

Ah, good ol' Odd... He's always cloning around.
BTW, sorry for the symbol on the low right corner.
Had to get my pictures from another YouTube account.
And another one pops up in “Triple Trouble”, where Jérémie tries to give Odd a teleportation ability after the blonde joker complains that he no longer has a secondary power, the Future Flash. Only thing is, the test drive doesn't just teleport Odd, it actually copies Odd from a place to the other, resulting in three Odd Della Robbia. Oh no, three times more terrible puns! Or worse, the same bad jokes, repeated thrice! Yeah, the Odd clones all have the same mind, so they end up repeating the same awful wisecracks. Them going to the cafeteria one after the other does nothing to help (plus, Rosa the lunch lady gets tired of seeing Odd pass by for more). By the end, the three clones get on each other’s nerves. That’s when XANA attacks with a mist that petrifies those who get caught in it, and the three Odd are forced to team up to bring themselves back to normal, and then defeat their enemy on Lyoko! This episode has a lot of excellent moments, they really explore most of the jokes they could do with the concept.

Always pay attention to the eyes. Always.

And... The last normal sector is gone.
The last two episodes of Season 3 assemble the many plot threads seen so far; Yumi’s at risk of being expelled due to repeated absences in class (all because of her missions on Lyoko), and neither Ulrich nor Odd seem to be improving their grades. What’s worse, the latest plan from XANA has it attack Jérémie and take his place – all to forcefully bring Aelita to Lyoko and wipe out the sole remaining sector. Meanwhile, Yumi learns that William often has dreams of things he shouldn’t remember because of the Return to the Past; and the dark-haired boy stays behind to fool Jim in their photography class while Yumi hurries to the factory. The fake Jérémie even manages to get Odd, Yumi and Aelita on Lyoko! He bugs up Odd and Yumi, while the Scyphozoa takes control of Aelita. Despite the group’s best efforts, on both sides (since Jérémie and Ulrich had to fight the fake Jérémie), the possessed Aelita wipes out the Mountains sector. Now all that’s left is Sector 5, and Jérémie finally finds a way to virtualize them directly in it! But that’s not enough. Now, the team really feels the need to recruit a new member, and there’s only one choice: William Dunbar.

They never thought they'd need him. Now they do.
Let's just hope it's not a colossal mistake.

Yes, I get that this father wants his son to succeed, and for
this Ulrich needs good grades. Problem is, this father is
being a complete dickhead about it. Not a reasonably
angry father; A dickhead.
And so, we get to “Final Round”. William swears secrecy, and is then scanned by the supercomputer. He’ll need some training, but otherwise things should be just fine. After all, they’ve sunk so low, what else could go wrong? At Kadic Academy, there’s a skateboarding competition, and Odd is giving it his all. Ulrich’s bad grades finally catch up to him in the form of his asshole father and submissive mother. This man is so unpleasant, a kitten dies every minute he spends on-screen. He’s that much of a killjoy. It’s almost a good thing that he stays on-screen for 5 minutes, at most, over the whole series. Never a single smile on that face. That might be our protagonist's greatest challenge, greater even than XANA.

"It's a boss! I can beat it!"
"William, you idiot! This is not a video game!"
"Then why is a video game reviewer talking about our show?"

Seems like it really wasn't a good idea after all to add
him to the team!
Ulrich is left alone to deal with this unlikeable obstacle, while Aelita and William go for a test on Lyoko’s Sector 5, thanks to Jérémie’s new program. William and his giant sword turn out to be very powerful against XANA’s mooks. Unfortunately, the program traps William and Aelita on separate sides of a large Sector 5 room, leaving William to be caught by the Scyphozoa. And because he’s too eager to fight, he gets caught.

Before Aelita can even get to him, it’s too late; the Scyphozoa had caught William and turned him into a docile XANA servant. And a really powerful one, at that; more powerful than all of XANA’s monsters minus the Scyphozoa, combined. Even once Odd, Yumi and Ulrich are able to join so that they can protect the Heart of Lyoko, they get utterly demolished by the new William. After which, the XANA-tified warrior slashes at the Core, destroying Lyoko.

Boom! Ded. Lyoko's dead. And it's all thanks to William.
And, well, XANA, but it's never made entirely clear
whether William is all XANA or if he's a separate entity
that happens to be a very loyal slave of XANA, though
still able to make decisions of his own.

XANA has won this season, no contest. It’s the third time that he pretty much wins, too. Now, the heroes no longer have Lyoko to stop XANA’s attacks, they lost William (try to explain this to the faculty at school!), they might have also lost Franz Hopper… and worst of all, their grades still haven’t gotten any better! This extreme failure is compensated by the discovery that Franz Hopper is actually in the World Wide Web in virtual form, but still… that’s a lot of failures to take in a single day. How will they deal with this? In Season 4! Which begins…

…right away!

Once again, the fate of the world rests on a bunch of teenagers making
up an entire web of lies so that their fight can continue.
Rather than just sit around and mope, the Lyoko-Warriors swear to continue the fight as long as there is a glimmer of hope, and Jérémie immediately starts working on new programs: One that can send the Lyoko-Warriors in the Digital Sea and into the World Wide Web, and one to keep William’s disappearance a secret. They use the voice synthesizer from the supercomputer and mimic the voice of William’s father to explain to the principal why William might be gone. I can see a lot of ways in which this could backfire, and considering this is the longest season, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. Meanwhile, Jérémie has also been able to re-create Sector 5 of Lyoko, possibly with some help from Franz Hopper. The fight is on, once again.

He's always at a computer anyway. Him concentrating all
of his time to the fight against XANA is hardly new...
Only one week passed between Seasons 3 and 4. Gee, for such a catastrophic failure, you’d think it would take longer for the good guys to get anything done again… To be fair though, now that they’re in trouble way over their heads, the five teens know they just can’t stop the fight. Therefore, they’ll do their best to go back to heroism as soon as possible. This includes Jérémie, who will shape up over the course of the next episodes to become a complete anti-XANA hacker knight. Every day he’ll be working on something new to help the others on Lyoko – and, to his credit, he’ll be making a lot less mistakes than in the previous seasons. This season has a long, ongoing arc with a lot of developments and spins, so I’ll try not to focus too much on every single episode’s plot.

It's not time to try your illusionist tricks, William!
Everybody knows the "levitating woman" act is bogus!
And just to show that XANA hasn’t chosen to rest on his laurels after his victory, he sends a mind-controlled William back to the real world, and since this is the actual William and not a clone, he acts perfectly like the real William: all friendly and jokey and stuff! Well, until he kidnaps Aelita. This sets up that XANA, through its repeated run-ins with the heroes, has learned to perfectly mimic the minds of people it controls – adding just a twelfth layer to the paranoia the Lyoko-Warriors feel every day. As I explain earlier, it's also possible that William has kept a bit of freedom under XANA, hence why he's able to "revert" to what he used to be like when it's time to pull a Lyoko-Warrior into a trap.

Is that wat you call disco-shaming?
Oh, and we also have some regular student drama with Sissi taking control of the student journal and harassing the heroes… and after word getting out about Jim Morales’ old film Paco the King of Disco, the gym teacher forcing Odd through disco-dancing torture for a night… both cases, just to keep the good old teen drama portion of the show, and add some form of levity to a season that promises to be fairly dark. Plus Jim actually ends up with fangirls due to his disco flick, so it’s not all bad.

XANA has many overarching plans this season, and the first one involves him (or the possessed William) menacing to throw Aelita in the Digital Sea to force her father out of hiding. Meanwhile, William’s parents, and especially his dad, are getting worried about their son’s lack of response. On his side, Jérémie makes a polymorphic clone of himself, using resources similar to XANA’s own. As a result, the fake Jérémie goes to follow the various classes at Kadic while the real one stays at the factory to program stuff. Only downside being, the digital copy’s personality is wildly different from the real Jérémie; this one is a womanizer! Hey, Brainiac, the cheap flirty attitude belongs to Odd in this show, and to Odd only! Jérémie managed to achieved such a feat by taking control of a tower on Lyoko, also much like XANA used to – although of course XANA chooses to chime in and use the fake Jérémie for his latest plan.

This show was due for an update in its character desgns.
This episode reveals the main characters’ new outfits and weapons on Lyoko – somehow, Jérémie managed to change all that in a matter of a week. Granted, these outfits will turn out more practical, but they also remove the slight element of uniqueness in design that the Lyoko-Warriors had. Maybe Jérémie just likes spandex… in a purely scientific manner. Of course, they keep their own weapons and special abilities, often with upgrades (Ulrich now has two swords, and Aelita can now summon wings on her back to fly off whenever she wants). Come to think of it, the main five’s outfits also change outside of Lyoko a few episodes later. It’s like they collectively decided to toss out all of their copies of the clothes they used to wear and chose new ones, and bought 7 of each new item of clothing. Sure, it’s a whole new wardrobe for all of them, but they’re still all stuck with only one ensemble to wear. This is the season of major changes, it seems. (This actually led to a few problems, since the show still uses a lot of stock clips, it would use later Season 4 clips, with the protagonists in their new clothes, in episodes preceding the one in which they actually changed; or the opposite, clips from earlier season, with their old clothes, in episodes after they changed. A keen eye will let you notice when these errors happen.)

The principal doesn't even seem to know that he is
actually talking to some kind of virtual entity.
Oh, and we also get a digital clone of William that roams the campus now. A benevolent one created by Jérémie. Unfortunately, Clone-William’s program is non-evolving, meaning it doesn’t learn from experience. Therefore it’s stuck at being dumb as a brick; this William takes everything literally. Y’know, like the program that he is. It’s a funny addition to the show, but also quite an object of mockery – fans even used to call him Kiwi 2, like he’s the team’s second pet or something.

Of course, activities around Kadic don’t stop, and the singer of the Subdigitals, a band loved by the protagonists, is coming to school to find a promising new DJ to play the opening act of his band’s concerts. Aelita, who has shown a lot of talent as a DJ, applies for the position. One XANA attack later, she actually wins it. This episode also sets Jérémie’s status as a constant combatant, making the fight against evil his top priority, socialization be damned. He’s actually becoming kind of a jerk. Well, worse than what he used to be, at least. The boarding students also get a new recreation room, something that will probably be of use for, what, two or three episodes at most? It's a new setting for slice-of-life scenes, but it's rarely if ever used during XANA attacks.

Pay attention to the size of that ship!
I know, the Matrix-style camera shot is distracting.
Over the next few episodes, Jérémie and Aelita design a ship so that the Lyoko-Warriors can travel in the World Wide Web, which is like a giant undersea world. Kudos to this show, it may deal with somewhat magical science, it does portray programming realistically. It takes time to create things and code for Lyoko. Days, weeks, months even (It's implied that the ship took many weeks to make). Not to mention that in the earlier seasons, it could take months for Jérémie to complete an important program. And even once it’s done, the programs created by Jérémie can have unforeseen bugs and side-effects – some episodes already showed that he could mess things up pretty badly sometimes, although he can’t always be held responsible. In programming, a LOT of things can go wrong. Of course, more real world troubles and XANA attacks happen just as it’s time to finish the ship, and later during its maiden voyage. Hell, if I told you what Jérémie wound up having to do in order to get that maiden voyage actually done, you wouldn’t believe me.

And of course, I'm not spoiling it to you. Go watch the episode.
Here's a nice picture of the Skidbladnir instead.

Although, during that maiden voyage, the Lyoko-Warriors discover giant spheres similar to the outside of Lyoko, indicating that whatever XANA’s plan might be, it involves copies of the virtual world (which they dub Replikas). This will set the field for the next part of the season’s arc.

"Anyone else finds it awfully convenient that there is
a XANA attack that knocks Jérémiew out right after
he showed us how to use the computer?"
Meanwhile, Jérémie has realized that XANA’s attacks have started targeting Aelita and him more often. Since the two are the only ones who know how to make the supercomputer work (to virtualize the others on Lyoko – plus, Aelita is the only one who can deactivate towers), if they're out of the picture, the evil program wins. As a result, Jérémie decides to teach his friends how to use the supercomputer and its features. Aelita won’t be there though, due to auditioning to become the Subdigitals’ opening act. And guess what? Less than halfway into the episode, Jérémie gets knocked out by XANA, leaving Odd, Yumi and Ulrich by themselves to use the supercomputer and bring themselves (and Aelita) to Lyoko to fight the current threat. A very smart episode, and one that definitely shows why all these new precautions are needed.

Guess XANA isn't so creative after all. It had to steal
inspirations from Lyoko for the sectors in its Replikas!
The team visits their first Replika in the next episode, and they find out that every Replika contains a single Lyoko sector. What’s more, every Replika is located inside another supercomputer somewhere on Earth. This first one contains the Forest sector. After fighting against XANA’s mooks and William, the group realizes that their old enemy has infected at least one other supercomputer, meaning they now need to find a way to materialize in the real world to destroy those other supercomputers.

Wait… what? Wouldn’t it be simpler to destroy only each new Lyoko Replika? Oh, wait, no? We got to have a bigger story? Some sort of plan for the season? By causing untold amounts of damage in other places on Earth, destroying important supercomputers? Uh… Honestly, there’s got to be a better way, but hey, this show has more railroading than a DnD campaign held by a bad DM. Gotta follow their story…

Oh God, I remember all of these things from the Hebertism
tracks back when I was a young scout kid!
...I'd rather not talk about it.
In the next episode, the characters – including Jérémie – get the help of Jim to train against XANA attacks in the real world (although they don’t tell him the XANA part), and he puts them through boot camp hell – yup, including Jérémie. The Einstein of the group is gonna suffer! As you can guess, XANA takes this as an opportunity to attack, and Jim is wounded by the wild boar possessed by the malevolent AI. Jérémie and he are forced to hide while the others rush to the factory to do their usual heroic stuff. I love this episode because of the neat character moments between Jérémie and Jim. Plus, it contains plenty of jokes, and ties in nicely with a previous episode when Jérémie explained that XANA was going to target him specifically more often. In fact, at the end of the episode, Jérémie accepts to be in more of Jim’s boot camps! Guess he learned that he does need that extra training to survive in the real world against the enemy program…

Ooof, that is one nasty bruise, right there.

Hm, wonder how much damage these remains of shattered
asteroids will cause to the Academy?
I’ll end with episode 75 for today; it’s about XANA causing a meteor shower over Kadic Academy. On this one, the AI stops its attack after Aelita asks her friends to bring her HP to 0, bringing her back in the real world (where the meteor shower could easily kill her); as it turns out, the program needs her alive and on Lyoko in order to lure Franz Hopper out of hiding… So yeah, XANA saves the planet an destroys the main asteroid before it could reach Earth. We’ve got only 20 episodes left before the end of the series. Let’s view this in Part 6, shall we?

I didn’t think I would take this long to discuss the show honestly. Blame me, I didn’t think I would be talking about so many episodes.