So, yeah. Spongebob.
I mean, does this show even need an introduction? It’s one of the most iconic animated shows of all time, arguably one of the best cartoons in history, and certainly one of my personal favorites, what with its brilliant, hilarious, clever writing, unique premise, creative episodes, and memorable characters. It’s been on air long enough to the point that two generations have grown up with it. We all know about the show, and most of us love it — otherwise the show wouldn’t have survived as long as it has.
But by now, I think most of us also know about the “controversy” surrounding the show: the debatable decrease in episode quality — seasonal rot, if you will — that many fans feel began after The Spongebob Squarepants Movie hit theaters in 2004, and, probably not coincidentally, around the time the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, stepped down as showrunner. These episodes are called “post-movie” episodes, or “Modern Spongebob,” and most of them are not looked upon fondly due to the fallen quality of writing: boring or recycled premises, a complete change of humor style (transcending from mostly clever verbal jokes and creative slapstick to mainly gross-out or shock humor) … then there’s the flanderization, and worst of all, character assassination — not to mention the episodes that can be considered downright offensive, such as the one where Plankton is literally driven to trying to commit suicide because he was being psychologically tortured by Mr. Krabs, or the one where Mrs. Puff literally tried to have Spongebob killed because he accidentally crippled her for life.
(Disclaimer: While Classic Spongebob had dark, probably-inappropriate-for-children episodes, such as the one where Spongebob and Mr. Krabs thought they killed the health inspector and tried to cover up his “murder”, these particular post-movie episodes, along with other controversial post-movie episodes, are considered poorly executed and rather tasteless in the way they were written.)
Obviously Modern Spongebob is popular enough to stay on the air, but considering the decrease in ratings compared to that of the pre-movie era’s, and the post-movie episodes receiving so much negative reception, along with the fact that pre-movie episodes are held in more esteem by fans and critics alike, it’s safe to assume that most people believe Classic Spongebob to be superior to its successor.
I just want to clarify that I didn’t bring any of this up to bash the show — far from it. I’m bringing it up to explain why I’m so excited right now, because I don’t think I would be able to stress my sheer happiness if I didn’t give you some backstory.
For you see, many Spongebob fans that have been there since the pilot have given up on modern episodes due to these perceived issues. Most of us had abandoned all hope, shunning the modern episodes and hiding in the safety bubble of pre-movie episodes, clinging to our nostalgia by making memes from episodes we grew up with, or constantly referencing old episodes over the internet.
So after years of avoiding Spongebob, I heard several people say that after the second Spongebob movie, 2015’s Sponge Out of Water, premiered and Stephen Hillenburg returned to the show’s writing team, Modern Spongebob’s quality has started to increase and feel more like its older self. Episodes that premiered after Sponge Out of Water are called “post-sequel” episodes, and most people agree that 2017’s episode, “Mimic Madness,” is one of the best of them.
So I thought I’d give it a shot, and …
They were right. This episode is wonderful. An absolute treat, and, hopefully, the return to something similar to the classic formula that made Spongebob Squarepants so amazing.
So let’s dive into it, shall we?
Premise / Summary
“Mimic Madness” is about Spongebob mimicking (literally mimicking — he shapeshifts) the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom in order to make them happy.
Similarly to his actions in the pre-movie episode “Ripped Pants”, Spongebob takes his shenanigans too far and literally loses his identity among all of the impersonations he does, deforming himself.
Terrified and confused by his new self, Spongebob flees Bikini Bottom. We get a nice song about Spongebob’s lost identity, “Who Am I?”, while his friends band together to help Spongebob find himself.
Cute and Original Premise!
While the episode has aspects from other episodes, such as “Ripped Pants,” and “What Ever Happened to Spongebob?”, it’s still its own thing, and conveys ideas from previous episodes in a fresh and unique way.
One of the complaints about some of the post-movie episodes is that they’re riddled with filler due to the episode’s premise not being long enough. Here, no second is wasted.
Everyone’s in Character!
There’s no flanderization or out-of-characterness here! All of the characters in this episode are like their old selves. Mr. Krabs is concerned about Spongebob, but also wants to help him because the mimicking has affected his business. Patrick was back to the lovable well-meaning dumbass we all remember (and every joke he had was funny). I thought it was odd that Squidward laughed at Spongebob’s impersonations (or at least, that he laughed at the ones that mocked him) but hey, maybe SB caught him on a good day. With that being said, Squidward being 100% done with being at work in the beginning of the episode, and kind of annoyed with the fact that he had to help Spongebob was in character for sure. Sandy wasn’t flanderized here (post-movie episodes are notorious for making her only care about science and nothing else). She was put into the leadership role to help SB, which was nice to see. Most people agree that Plankton’s character wasn’t really changed in the modern episodes, and he was his usual self here as well.
The most important one here is Spongebob, though. Most of the post-movie episodes I’ve seen tend to make Spongebob too stupid, to the point where he ends up harming others (I’m looking at you, “A Pal for Gary,”). Here, Spongebob is sweet and helpful, but overindulges from his desire to make everyone happy. Wanting to put a smile on everyone’s face is the most in-character motive you can give SB, for sure. He is definitely the Spongebob that I remember.
I’d like to put a little disclaimer here. The newer episodes shouldn’t have to cling to the past to be considered good, for sure. It’s still nice to hear a few references to the older episodes, however. And we got a handful of them! I won’t spoil them all, but my favorites were, “I’m ready,” (a running gag for Spongebob, starting with the show’s first episode, “Help Wanted”), and most importantly, the return of the French Narrator!
It was just … it was nice, y’know? Everything about this episode is nice.
I already mentioned Patrick’s in-characterness previously, but there’s a little bit of dialogue that made me so happy I thought it deserved its own segment. After Spongebob’s friends decide to give him an intervention about his mimicking, this happens:
- Sandy:All right, remember guys, this is an intervention, so we need to make sure that above all, SpongeBob knows how much we all care about him.
- Plankton:Why don’t we just destroy him and get it over with?
- Squidward:Here here.
- [Patrick grabs Plankton and Squidward and strangles them really hard.]
- Patrick:You leave my best friend alone!
- Plankton and Squidward:[muffled] It was just a suggestion!
While there are some pre-movie episodes that show Patrick being a bad friend to Spongebob (“I’m With Stupid,” being the most infamous one), Modern Patrick is / was notorious for going from a lovable, well-meaning oaf to a mean-spirited douchebag who is not only a bad friend to Spongebob, but a terrible person in general. So after seeing so many modern episodes where he was a bad friend to Spongebob, it’s nice to see him care about Spongebob here.
Tom Kenny is one of the best voice actors around, and it was cool to hear him essentially imitate his coworkers and their characters. He did a fine job, as always. And of course, there’s his singing voice. The world needs more Tom Kenny, basically.
“Who Am I?” is pleasant to listen to, and its lyrics are very well written. It was a great addition to the episode.
The episode’s art and animation style is different from what I remember, even from the post-movie episodes I’ve seen. It’s kind of bouncy, faster, more fluid, more … cartoonish, I suppose? For this episode, it works, considering Spongebob’s body was constantly changing forms. I don’t think this episode could have looked as good with the show’s previous animation style, so I’m glad this episode was made recently. It was cool to watch, and showed that while this episode had a lot of elements of Classic Spongebob, this is new Spongebob, and it’s trying new things, which is great.
I only have one true complaint: the pacing. It could have been better. We go from everyone loving Spongebob’s imitations to them hating it in like … half a millisecond. Granted, the quickness of it allowed us to get the French Narrator timecard gag, but still. The shift between Spongebob’s imitations being healthy and them getting out of hand was far too quick, and it was somewhat jarring.
I mentioned before that this episode is similar to “Ripped Pants,” in that it’s about Spongebob doing one thing to make people happy, and then overdoing it, to everyone’s annoyance. But the pacing in “Ripped Pants,” was better than the pacing here. The shift between Spongebob ripping his pants and making everyone laugh, to him overdoing it was done right — probably because they showed Spongebob ripping his pants in different scenarios, and we slowly saw everyone around Spongebob slowly begin to find Spongebob’s shenanigans less funny and more stale. Then he takes it too far, and everyone hates him for it. “Mimic Madness” has no scenes where people slowly start to become annoyed with Spongebob’s imitations, so we literally go from them loving it to hating it with nothing in between to show the change (save for that timecard, but to me that only works as a joke, not as narrative).
I think this episode would have had better pacing if it were a 30-minute special, rather than a regular 11-minute episode. That way, we could have gotten more scenes of people slowly getting tired of Spongebob (and maybe we could have seen more of him being lost in his mimic madness, too — that part of the episode was really short).
Other than the pacing, I have no complaints. Honestly, the pacing isn’t too much of a problem, considering the time limit. The episode doesn’t suffer from it enough to really lower my enjoyment of it, but it was still quite noticeable.
To someone who is such a fan of Spongebob but hasn’t watched the show in years due to disliking the style of the more modern episodes, returning to the show and letting “Mimic Madness” be the first choice was a pleasant surprise. No — an absolute delight.
This episode has everything — good writing, funny jokes, great characters, an awesome song, cool animation … and most importantly, a message. A message for all of those who miss the Classic show, who want the new episodes to have the same goodness as the old. I mean, the premise alone is very meta — Spongebob has forgotten who he is, and must be found again? Yeah, in some ways, “Mimic Madness” could be an 11-minute allegory for what happened after the first movie premiered.
But this allegory seems to be heading toward a happy ending. Just like Spongebob returned to himself in this episode, so may the show’s quality — for good, hopefully. The whole time I was watching this episode, I had the feeling that this is what the writers were trying to tell us, and I heard it loud and clear.
Spongebob seemed to feel it too, in-universe. “I am Spongebob Squarepants,” he shouts triumphantly, after regaining his lost identity … and honestly, after watching “Mimic Madness,” and its good sister-episode “House Worming”, learning of Stephen Hillenburg’s return, and hearing so many people declare that the show is back … well, I think the little guy just might be onto something.