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Friday, June 09, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 64 - Riot's Hope

Previously on Jem Reviewed, we saw Minx undergo a personality change after Rio saved her from drowning.  Thankfully, she reverted back to her "charming" anti-American brat personality by the end of the episode.

I can't believe that this is the penultimate episode of Jem.  I didn't think I'd make it through to almost the end.  I also can't believe that this episode is all about Riot, who up to this point has been a very nauseating character.  But hey, we have to have one in every show, don't we?

This is Episode 64: Riot's Hope.  It's a play on words as there was actually a soap opera called "Ryan's Hope" that aired from 1975-1989.  And the plot of this episode is one that could be featured in a soap opera.

Before we get into that, we have to watch the intro of the episode which features a rather angry middle-aged man and his timid wife lounging at a patio set next to a swimming pool.  Before I get to thinking that this is Jem and Rio in the year 2017, we learn that this couple are Mr. and Mrs. Llewellyn.  Otherwise known as the couple that brought Riot into this world.  We don't learn Mr. Llewellyn's first name, but his wife is named Mildred.  And we know from "The Stingers Hit Town" that Riot's real name is Rory.

And since we're talking about real names, in this edition of
Jem Trivia, I have some info about the other two Stingers.  Though they are never revealed on the show, the Jem Bible states that Minx's real name is Ingrid Kruger, and Rapture's is Phoebe Ashe.  Now you know.  And frankly, Riot, Minx, and Rapture are better rock names than Rory, Ingrid, and Phoebe.

Riot has dropped by the Llewellyn household to pay his parents a visit, and Riot's mother is overjoyed to see him.  Aw.  Riot's even brought his mother a gift - a copy of the Stingers' debut album.  

But while Riot's mother is happy that he is back in town, Riot's father isn't so much.  Ironically, he launches into a riot about how disappointed he is in his son and how he is not welcome there.  Wow, that escalated quickly.  Riot's mother tries to diffuse the situation, but Riot and his father are at complete loggerheads with each other.  The fight ends with Riot's dad taking the album and throwing it in the swimming pool, which Riot takes as his cue to leave.  He says a sad farewell to his mother and departs from the house.

At the same time, Riot's mother is furious that her husband would just let him leave, and Riot's father is upset that Riot came back in the first place.  I get the feeling that something really big happened between the two, but we don't find out what it is because Mrs. Llewellyn passes out on the patio!  Oh my god, they KILLED her!  Well, not really.  But she's not well at all, and Mr. Llewellyn quickly dispatches an ambulance.

Later that night, the Stingers are throwing a rooftop party celebrating their success.  I can only assume that at this point Riot doesn't know about what happened, as he surely would have cancelled the bash.  Interestingly enough, Riot has asked Jem and the Holograms to be guests at the party, and all five of them are talking in the elevator to the roof of Stingers Sound.  Aja seems to think that the Stingers just want to rub their success in their faces, but Jem seems to believe that the Stingers genuinely want to share their success with them.  

Of course, Kimber can't resist poking fun at Jem by mentioning that she still gets red in the face whenever Riot's name is mentioned, and Jem responds by telling Kimber that she's her face turns as red as Kimber's hair.

It's a who's who of celebrity guests at the Stingers' party - minus the Misfits who weren't invited.  Or maybe they were but they chose not to come as the Stingers essentially took their place both in the music industry and on Jem itself!  But Riot is not having a good time at all.  In fact, he barely greets Jem with a hello because he's so down.  Normally, Riot would plant a big wet one on her.  This is very out of character for him.

It's a good time to hear a song about it.  The song "Take It Or Leave It" is the only repeat song by the Stingers.  If you recall, the song was first heard in Episode 55.  The use here is just as good though.  And as the song concludes, an uninvited guest crashes the party and bops Riot one square in the jaw upsetting the punch bowl!

Riot's dad is the uninvited guest and he flat out accuses Riot of causing his mother to collapse and be hospitalized!  Wow, talk about escalation!  Riot has no idea what he is talking about but seems to really respond badly to the fact that his mother is ill.  Riot wants to see her, but Riot's dad basically tells him that he is not allowed anywhere near her before being thrown out by security.  Told you this episode was like a soap opera!  It's interesting to note that Riot's dad is in full army gear - something that you should make a note of for later.  It answers part of the reason why the feud between father and son erupted in the first place.

Jem, Minx, and Rapture run to Riot's side, and Rapture is shocked that Riot even has a father.  I'm guessing Rapture must have slept through the "how babies are born" part in sex education class.  Riot is visibly crestfallen and wants to leave.  Jem offers to take him to the hospital to visit his mother, and Riot agrees.  The other Stingers don't seem to mind, and I get the feeling that even though they can come across as being jerks, the Stingers have a secret admiration for Jem and the Holograms - even if they don't want to admit it.

As Riot sits down by his mother's bedside, Jem tells him that she will wait for him at a nearby coffee shop.  When she arrives, she sees Riot's dad sitting down and tries to get him to talk about his relationship with Riot.  Riot's father is filled with rage over Riot, and doesn't say too much about it.  Just that he had a dream that he would have the perfect family in the perfect home, with a perfect white picket fence...but that dream ended when Riot did something that he did not approve of, and he cut him out of his life ever since.  What did Riot do?  Rob a bank?  Kill an elderly woman?  Threw a Milky Way chocolate bar wrapper in the middle of the street?  I just can't imagine any father disowning their son.

Seeing as how she won't get any info from him, Jem decides to talk with Riot and offers to drive him home.  I should also note that Riot's place is actually quite nice, and surprisingly humble for a rock star - well, minus the Stingers posters, of course.  Riot hands Jem a drink and asks her if she was close with her father.  Given that if it wasn't for her father, Jem would not exist, Jem emphatically says that yes, she and her father were extremely close.  Riot goes "that's good, because me and my dad hate each other."

It all started when Riot was six years old.  Apparently his mother was a music lover and she was determined to teach Riot to appreciate music too.  She tried to teach him how to play the piano and Riot fell in love with the art of music.

Too bad Riot's father didn't share that same enthusiasm.  He yells at Riot, tells him that music is for "sissies" and spanks Riot enough so that he bursts into tears.  Man, Mr. Llewellyn is a grade-A jerk, huh?

It doesn't change much when Riot becomes older.  In his teen years, he is given a gift of a guitar from his mother - only for his father to smash it to pieces when he learns that Riot has been wasting his time playing music.  Okay, I'm starting to see why Riot hates his father.  Riot explains that music was the only constant that he had, as his father's role in the army meant that his family moved around a lot, and he never really had the chance to make long lasting friends.  This might explain why he comes across as a sociopath sometimes.

Jem is saddened that Riot went through so much, and I have to admit, I'm feeling bad for him too.  Riot explains as he builds a fire in the fireplace that he always wanted to get his father to accept him.  And since his father was proud of his service in the army, he decided that the moment he turned eighteen he would enlist in the services.  

Bet you never thought you'd see Riot with short hair, huh?  Riot tried to make the best of it, but he genuinely hated being in the service.  He desperately wanted to spend his time making music, but felt obligated to stay in the services to please his father.  Ah, the whole "let's sacrifice my dreams so that others can live theirs" spiel.  I know it all too well.

It wasn't until Riot was stationed in West Germany that his life began to change.  When he was on leave, he frequented a music club that hosted a band named - wait for it - Nirvana.  Gee, that name rings a huge bell.  And get a look at the synthesizer player.  Yes, that happens to be Ingrid "Minx" Kruger herself.  Interesting that she came from an entirely different band. 

Well, one night, Riot was witness to a fight between Nirvana's lead singer, Jerry, and the guitar player.  The fight ends with the guitar player quitting the band right before Nirvana is supposed to play their gig.  Riot volunteers to take the guitarist's place, which Jerry outright opposes as it's HIS band, and HE can decide who he wants in it.  Minx defends Riot and wants to hear him play - in which Riot manages to play a guitar solo so awesome that even Jerry is impressed.  It's also here that Riot adopts his stage name.  It's a nice tale, but we're still quite a ways away from how the Stingers' were formed.

Riot explains to Jem that he made the decision to tour Europe with Nirvana and for the next six months, Riot had the time of his life.  At least until the band returned to Germany and Riot was promptly arrested!  Seems as though Riot had deserted the army and went AWOL which was very bad indeed.  Riot managed to avoid still penalties, but he was given a dishonorable discharge and was barred from enlisting again.  Of course, Riot hated the army anyway so it was no skin off his nose.

But to his high-ranking army father, it was the greatest sin that he could ever have committed, and that was the day that his father disowned his son for good and told him never to come back again.  The fight happened five years earlier, and it left both Mrs. Llewellyn and Riot broken hearted.  But Riot knew that he made the right decision, and when he went back to Europe, he rejoined Nirvana and the band played together in perfect...ahem...nirvana, so to speak.

At least that is until Riot started clashing with Jerry, and Riot began to feel that he was BETTER than Jerry!  Ah, there's that Riot personality shining through!  Jerry responds by kicking him out of Nirvana, but doesn't count on Minx abandoning him to join Riot in starting his own band.  Jerry is very upset...but don't feel so bad.  I heard that he recruited some new guys in time for the grunge movement and by 1991, they were releasing a lot of new songs that had everyone smelling like Teen Spirit.  Or, so I heard anyway.

In the meantime, Riot and Minx began their own group called the Stingers.  Riot's old pal from America, Phoebe "Rapture" Ashe joined the band not long after, and Riot tells Jem that the first year the band was together was a rough one.  

The story is told through the song "It's A Hard, Hard Life" - which coincidentally is my favourite Stingers song.  It shows how the band played on the cold and frozen streets of various European cities for pocket change, and how despite the odds being against them, they developed a following and quickly became one of Europe's greatest success stories.  I also must say that this song also helps me understand why the Stingers have such an attitude when it comes to success.  They legitimately worked hard for it unlike a particular group that only achieved success through a computer named Synergy.  Not that I'm accusing anyone, of course.

And that success pays off, as the last flashback scene shows Minx informing Riot and Rapture that they are about to make their debut at Le Klub Kool in Los Angeles, California - which you might recall was shown in the Stingers' debut episode!  

After Riot concludes his story, Jem is completely on his side.  She tells Riot that she understands him now more than ever before, and Riot seems relieved that he could finally tell someone about all that he went through.  Jem encourages Riot to try and make peace with both of his parents - especially now that his mother is in the hospital, and Riot reluctantly decides that he has to pay his mother one more visit.

And initially, it appears as though Mrs. Llewellyn is doing better, as she's awake and alert and speaking with her husband.  The doctor states that all she needs is a few days of rest and she should be good as new.  But when Riot and Jem arrive at the hospital to visit, Riot's dad immediately launches into a verbal sparring match with his son right in front of his wife!

Unfortunately, the battle between father and son is so intense that Mrs. Llewellyn's heart cannot take it and she FLATLINES RIGHT THERE ON THE SPOT!  Now look what the Llewellyn boys have done!

The doctor manages to resuscitate Mrs. Llewellyn back to the land of the living, but angrily throws both of them out of the hospital.  Because when your argument nearly kills a patient, you know that's one intense fight.  Of course, once they leave the hospital, father and son are still at it with both of them accusing the other one of hurting Mrs. Llewellyn.  Jem is visibly frustrated and tells both of them to shut up, but neither man will listen.  It's like trying to referee toddlers with these two!

At Starlight Mansion, Jem is upset that the fight between Riot and his father is still on, and she believes that both men are the reason why Mrs. Llewellyn is doing so poorly.  Raya points out that if Jem could speak to Riot's mother, maybe she could find out how to mediate the situation better, and this causes Jem to come up with a great idea.

She uses Synergy to disguise herself as a nurse so she can gain access to Riot's mother's room, and even though the pink hair and JemStar earrings are a dead giveaway, Jem manages to sneak in without any suspicion.  She sits down by Mrs. Llewellyn and takes care of her as she babbles on about being tired.  Tired of all of the fighting between both her husband and son, and how all she wants to do is take a really long rest.  I'm guessing that Mrs. Llewellyn is dying of a broken heart and all it will take is one more fight and she could die.  And of course, Jem wouldn't want that. 

You know, I've given Jem a lot of flak for being selfish - and rightfully so, might I add.  But this episode is one that really makes me realize that Jem truly does have great intentions, and that maybe she's not so bad.  Heck, I'm actually thinking that Jem and Riot would make a great couple - and NOT because they are narcissistic snobs.  They really do bring out the best in each other - whereas all Rio does is make Jerrica hide her true self.  It's definitely got me thinking about what to write in my recap for the final season.

So Jem begins the quest to reunite father and son by visiting Mr. Llewellyn at home, and interestingly when Jem arrives, the man is looking at the album of the Stingers that he threw in the pool the day his wife became ill.  Jem tries to talk to him, but Riot's dad won't hear of it.  He calls his son selfish for abandoning the service to waste his life playing music and doesn't call it much of a life.  It's here that Jem impresses me even more by defending Riot's choice.  She says that Riot is one of the finest musicians in the world, and he got there by playing for pennies in the streets of Europe.  She tells him that Riot worked hard for all of the success he shares now, and that if he would just go to one of his concerts, he'd see just how much of a success he is.  I don't know if she got through to him, but as she leaves, he's incredibly silent.

Later on, she goes to visit Riot and tells him about the discussion that she had with his father, and Riot is initially pissed that Jem would interfere.  But Jem simply tells him that he has to trust her.  Riot has an incredibly puzzled look on his face as Jem leaves.  What is she planning?

Apparently, Jem's plan is simple.  Get Riot's dad to see him in concert, and have him judge Riot for himself.  Riot's father comes to the show dressed like a soldier going into battle - making him look totally out of place compared to the rest of the crowd!  Luckily, the guy sitting next to him doesn't mind at all, and he tells him all about how wonderful the band is and how Riot is the best part of it all.  Wow, that had to make Mr. Llewellyn's heart strings tug a little bit.

And by the time the Stingers hit the stage, we see one of the most emotional songs ever performed on the series.  Okay, so the music video imagery is incredibly cheesy - but then again weren't most music videos in the 1980s a little bit cheesy?  The song "Let Me Be" is certainly a song that could best be written and performed by a son who wants to stand up to his overbearing father and to live the life he wants for himself.  I'm not sure if Gordon Grody ever had those feelings himself, but his performance as Riot's singing voice is excellent. 

After the show ends, Riot's father tries to go backstage to see his son, but is stopped by security.  Mr. Llewellyn tries to explain that he's Riot's dad, but the security guard doesn't believe him and says that Madonna is his sister.  Snarky...but then again, doesn't Madonna have like nine siblings?  It could be possible!

Of course, Jem vouches for him and leads him to the Stingers' dressing room where Riot is stunned to see him there.  It takes a little bit of small talk to get the ball rolling, but Riot's dad admits that Riot was amazing on stage and he understands why he followed that path that he did.  Riot in turn explains that he didn't mean to hurt anybody, but he wanted to have the freedom to make his own way in the world.  It has taken five years, but both Llewellyn men have seemingly come to terms with each other, and realize that they have one final thing that they have to do.

And with Jem happily watching along the sidelines, both Riot and his father make a plea to Mrs. Llewellyn that the feud between them is over and that their main concern is making sure that she gets well.  The show ends with a warm embrace by the Llewellyn family and an admitted change of heart from this blogger.

When the Stingers first came on, I saw them as arrogant, mean, hateful schemers who had no concept of real love.  That, plus they demoted the Misfits to background extras which I felt was unnecessary.  This episode changed my opinion completely.  At least, when it comes to Riot.  There's always going to be that side of Riot that is smarmy and cocky, but that comes from the fact that he enjoyed success too quickly...before he had a chance to really be humbled by it.  But as we can see, he also had a troubled childhood - one that he managed to overcome with the love of his friends, his mother, and the faith he had in himself.  That has to be respected.  So, I no longer hate Riot.  Truth is, after this episode, he has moved up on my like list a lot.

And that marks the end of Episode 64.  Next week is the finale of the series, and while there are some questions that remain unanswered...we at least see the resolution of one loose end.

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