To Mend and Defend: The Best Episodes of ReBoot
While we take it for granted today, it’s hard to believe how far computer-generating (CG) animation has come in 25 years. From the rather basic use of rudimentary shapes and flat textures of early CG to the organic facial capture and stunning imagery of modern CG, CG has taken major leaps in that time. At the forefront of its acceptance into mainstream culture in the early to mid-90s was a television show from Canada known as ReBoot.
A year before Toy Story landed in theatres, ReBoot hit the airways in North America. Playing off the fact that it’s the first-ever CG TV show, ReBoot is set inside a computer known as Mainframe. While the setting may look innocent on the surface, Mainframe’s denizens — mainly the sprites of Bob, Dot, and Enzo — deal with a host of problems caused by the virus siblings of Megabyte and Hexadecimal, and the random Game Cubes which come from the enigmatic user.
While you may only know of the show thanks to the recent Netflix reboot (no pun intended) and its corresponding backlash, the original show has aged like a fine wine. This is thanks to its impeccable writing, fleshed-out characters, and simplistic yet crisp animation.
For those interested in checking it out for themselves or want to take a trip down memory lane, all 47 episodes across four seasons of ReBoot are available to watch for free on Shout Factory’s website.
The Tearing/Racing the Clock/Quick and the Fed
Season 1, Episodes 1-3
While the iconic intro does an incredible job of piecing together ReBoot’s premise, the first three episodes set the tone for the series as a whole. Not only do these episodes provide the basic world-building for the show, but their focus on the three main characters and strong introductions of the villains also make these episodes the perfect entry point.
In the span of three episodes, viewers start to get a sense of the characters. Bob is the goofy yet always reliable hero. Dot is a confident and capable businesswoman. Enzo is the naïve yet good-intentioned kid. Megabyte is the cold and calculating villain. Last but not least, Hexadecimal is the absolute wildcard. Also, side characters, such as Hack, Slash, Phong, and Al, all get their time to shine.
Wizard, Warriors and a Word from Our Sponsor
Season 1, Episode 9
Although he makes a small cameo in the previous episode (“Enzo the Smart”), this episode serves as a proper introduction to arguably the funniest character in all of ReBoot — Mike the TV! From Bob’s desperate pleas at the start of the episode to Mike’s endless advertisements (Bucket O’ Nothing is comedy gold), Mike is a constant source of comedy and a perfect foil for our semi-serious main cast.
While Mike is the star of the show, the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired game — and the hilarious situations it puts our heroes in — makes this 22-minute episode fly by.
Season 1, Episode 10
Most episodes of ReBoot’s first season are spent introducing new characters, fleshing out Mainframe, or defining the rules for this world. “Talent Night” stands in the face of all that to give a fun side story about preparing a talent show for Enzo’s birthday.
From the YMCA-parody song “B.S.’n’P.” to the YTV logo robot, this episode is filled to the brim with references to everything from the crazy censorship the show faced from the ABC Television Network to William Shatner’s spoken word performance of “Rocket Man.” And to top it all off, the episode culminates in the most epic guitar battle ever seen on TV.
Season 2, Episode 5
Although there is a grand total of three episodes where Hexadecimal gets top billing as the villain, she is far more successful in causing chaos and destruction than her brother. What makes Hex so special is her unpredictability — and her spotlight episodes demonstrate that expertly. For example, in “Medusa Bug,” she turns all of Mainframe to stone, only to change everything back when Bob points out how boring it’ll be for her.
“Painted Windows” follows a similar narrative to “Medusa Bug.” Hex uses a powerful program (this time, Mainframe’s paint program) to gain full control of Mainframe. The episode is filled with fun twists, such as Bob teaming up with Mike, Hack, and Slash, or Enzo being turned into a series of VidWindows. Also, add in a wonderful climax and an ending that sets up the final — and most significant — arc of the season, and you’re left with one of this show’s finest episodes.
Season 2, Episode 7
Picking up right where “Painted Windows” ended, “Nullzilla” sees Hexadecimal get infected by a web creature that escapes her Looking Glass. In her infected state, Hex is rushed by thousands of nulls (the result of a sprite or binome losing a Game), which creates the titular monster.
“Nullzilla” is fondly remembered for wonderfully parodying both Godzilla and Power Rangers. Both of which lead to an incredible robot versus monster battle in the climax of the episode and some very poignant jokes at the expense of the 90s spandex-wearing phenomenon.
Serving as the first part in a four-part final arc for season two, “Nullzilla” serves as the bridge from ReBoot’s more kid-friendly procedural “story of the week” format to later seasons’ episodic format. In a way, ReBoot was growing and maturing along with its audience. Moreover, this change would mark the pinnacle of this series.
Season 2, Episode 8
Even with Nullzilla defeated, the web creature isn’t done with Mainframe as it infects Megabyte. The infected Megabyte then tracks down and fuses with Hexadecimal becoming the unstoppable juggernaut known as Gigabyte. Enlisting the help of Mouse, Bob and company find a way to split the three entities and save Mainframe … for the time being.
While it carries on the plot from “Nullzilla,” “Gigabyte” is much more serious in tone. Gone are the light-hearted jokes and referential humor. In its place are allusions to horror films and the injection of stakes as Gigabyte comes the closest to completely deleting Mainframe and a couple of cast members. Plus, the mysteries of the third entity (which the audience already knows is the web creature) and Mouse’s true intentions are tantalizing cliffhangers that I missed as a kid but love as an adult.
Trust No One/Web World Wars
Season 2, Episodes 9-10
The final two episodes of season two, “Trust No One” and “Web World Wars” mark the thrilling conclusion to the saga of the web creature. Constructed as a loving parody of The X-Files, “Trust No One” dives straight into the horror mystery genre as Bob and Mouse investigate a series of disappearances in Mainframe. On the other side of the spectrum, “Web World Wars” is pure action as Mainframe’s denizens, including both heroes and villains, come together to hold back the threat of the web creatures and close the portal to the Web.
If I can gush for a moment, these two episodes of ReBoot are my personal favorites. They are the culmination of ReBoot’s transition to a more serious tone and they (along with the following season) perfectly appealed to my maturing tastes. Plus, for the life of me, there are no better cliffhangers than Bob’s final line in“Trust No One” and Megabyte launching Bob into the Web just before closing the portal to the Web.
To Mend and Defend
Season 3, Episode 1
With Bob forcefully exiled from Mainframe, Megabyte and Hex direct all viral forces to attack the Principal Office. Even with morale shattered, Dot steps up as Command.COM of Mainframe while Enzo takes Bob’s place as acting Guardian. While this unwavering resolve and a conveniently timed Game Cube stave off the viruses’ assault, it won’t be for long.
Although it took a year and a half — which is an excruciatingly long time for kids — season three was well worth the wait. Gone were the censors of network television as ReBoot was able to let loose and tackle more mature subject matter for a kids show — as clearly demonstrated by this episode’s Evil Dead-influenced game. Also, the time away allowed Mainframe Entertainment to give the show a considerable upgrade in terms of modeling and animation. This allowed for more detailed models, better shading, and fluid animation.
Season 3, Episodes 3-4
Apart from the serious tone and mature subject matter, a defining feature of season three is that there is no status quo. Divided into four major arcs of four episodes each, season three kept viewers on their toes as the story is always changing and evolving. No two episodes demonstrate this more than “Firewall” and “Game Over.”
Aside from having an epic opening credits, “Firewall” serves as the heroes’ greatest victory against the viruses to date. Trapping Megabyte and his viral forces behind the titular firewall, all seems to be fine in Mainframe. That’s when “Game Over” comes and shatters the audience’s false hope.
In “Game Over,” Enzo’s inexperience as a Guardian gets the better of him as he, AndrAIa, and Frisket enter a game (styled after Mortal Kombat) they can’t win. Although they escape nullification by switching into Game Sprite mode, Mainframe is left with no Guardian just as the viruses discover vulnerabilities in the firewall.
One last thing of note, Dot’s bone-chilling scream still haunts my dreams.
Season 3, Episode 7
Jumping from game to game in search of Bob and a way back home, the all-grown-up pair of Enzo — now going by Matrix — and AndrAIa finds themselves in a game that transports them back to a pristine version of Mainframe, unaffected by the events of the past season. But everything isn’t what it seems as the two sprites reboot into Megabyte and Hexadecimal, respectively.
The genius of “Number 7” is how multi-faceted the episode is. At its most surface level, “Number 7” is one bizarre episode that gives a unique perspective on the characters. However, if you dig a little deeper, the episode is a powerful character analysis of Matrix and his fears of becoming the virus that fuels his rage. Pay a little more attention and the episode drops plenty of subtle hints at what is really going on — which I completely missed until a recent viewing.
Megaframe/Showdown/System Crash/End Prog
Season 3, Episodes 13-16
When Bob, Matrix, AndrAIa, and Frisket finally return to Mainframe, it isn’t how they left it. With no Guardian to protect it, Megabyte has taken control of the system and let the system rot under his thumb. It’s up to Bob and company to join forces with Dot’s Resistance in order to oust Megabyte and stop the system from crashing.
From the Matrix’s showdown with Megabyte to Bob’s verbal sparring with a Megabyte simulation to Mainframe’s system reboot, these episodes are filled to the brim with moments that define this series. They wrap up everything that has been building since the season two finale while leaving the door open for more stories — which I will get to in a nano. Plus, the Gilbert and Sullivan-inspired musical finale is the wonderful cherry on top.
Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus
Season 4, Episode 8
Building off the few loose ends of season three, season four is a mixed bag of sorts. It starts off with the action-heavy “Daemon Rising” arc, which is fun due to its vast Net-wide threat but lacks the personal stakes that made the last two seasons of ReBoot so memorable in my opinion. The “My Two Bobs” arc skews too far in the other direction, trying to recapture the zany comedy of the first two seasons.
Well, that’s until Megabyte makes his triumphant return. With Megabyte back in the picture — and now as a shapeshifting Trojan horse virus — the heroes launch a plan to detain the virus once and for all. Unfortunately for them, Megabyte’s shapeshifting abilities are a lot harder to handle as he seizes control of the Principal Office right from under their noses.
In a series known for excellent cliffhangers, “Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus” has the most infamous. After Megabyte takes control of the Principal Office, he exposits about getting revenge against Mainframe in the form of a hunt. Subjectively, this is a wonderful cliffhanger. In fact, I still get chills watching it to this day. Unfortunately, the reason why it’s so infamous, especially among ReBoot fans, is because Mainframe Entertainment never got the chance to pay it off. The series would be canceled before properly concluding the story.
While a three-part webcomic called Reboot: Paradigms Lost tries its best to wrap up these loose ends, it still stings that viewers never got a proper conclusion. At least we will always have the promise of the Hunt.