For last week’s TRON Tuesday post, we took our first look at the sadly short-lived animated series TRON: Uprising, focusing on the first six of its nineteen episodes. Today we’ll be focusing on episodes 7-12, and let me tell you, programs: it gets intense. Are you ready for torture, pixel gore, and the darkest version of Tron himself ever depicted? Then let’s jump back in.
So what’s it about?
The short version is, a rebellious program named Beck teams up with Tron to try and get the programs to rise up and take down CLU from the inside. The long version (continued from last week’s post) is:
Price of Power (Episode 7)
Beck captures a prototype superweapon that, when attached to one’s identity disc, gives a program increased strength and agility. Beck promises Tron he’ll destroy it, but is forced to use it instead when he’s ambushed by Paige and several soldiers, all of whom he easily defeats. However, the weapon begins to warp his mind.
He uses the weapon again back at the garage when Bartik and Hopper start harassing Zed and Mara about a tank they were supposed to repair. Beck hides in the tank while it’s taken back to Tesler’s base; once there, he attacks Tesler. Able, who came to the ship along with the tank, is injured during the attack and Beck takes him back to the garage. Pavel suggests that Tesler take hostages to lure the Renegade, and Bartik suggests getting them from Able’s garage. Pavel takes everyone in the garage prisoner.
Back at the hideout, Tron scolds Beck for not destroying the weapon like he promised. (Take it easy on him, Tron – this isn’t the first time Elijah Wood’s been corrupted by a powerful round thing he was supposed to destroy.) Beck insists he needs the weapon to save his friends, and asks for Tron’s help. When Tron tries to take the weapon to destroy it himself, Beck attacks him. He comes to his senses just as he is about to derezz Tron, and Tron tells Beck that he chose him because he knows he’s strong, and tells him to prove it.
Beck returns to the garage to destroy the weapon, but it falls into Pavel’s hands and he uses it against Beck. The laser Beck was trying to use is turned on during the struggle and wreaks havoc around the garage, killing guards and doing damage to just about everything. Zed saves Mara from being crushed by a falling lightjet and helps Hopper get Bartik out from under a large piece of debris. The bystanders all escape as Beck recovers the weapon from Pavel and destroys it using the laser.
As everyone works together to rebuild Able’s garage, Mara wishes aloud that she could thank Tron for saving her. Beck tells her it wasn’t Tron who saved her; it was Zed. Back at the Occupation headquarters Tesler is enraged that Pavel let the weapon be destroyed. However, unbeknownst to Tesler, Pavel recovered half of the weapon – and it’s beginning to self-regenerate the other half.
The Reward (Episode 8)
The episode opens on Tesler having a nightmare that Argon City is retaken by the Renegade. After he awakens, he gathers all the programs of Argon City and orders them to turn in the Renegade, lifting the curfew and offering a new roadster as a reward for the Renegade’s capture. Tron and Beck, as usual, watch from a safe distance. Tron says that this changes nothing, but Beck insists they take a break and lay low for a while. Tron reluctantly agrees.
All over Argon City, residents are turning in their friends and neighbors to the Occupation insisting they’re the Renegade. Meanwhile Beck, Mara, and Zed enjoy hanging out together for the first time in a long while. In the Coliseum, Pavel approaches Link (David Arquette), a program enviously eyeing the reward roadster, and offers to give him information which he claims will lead to the Renegade so Link can collect the reward. Link readily agrees. As Beck and the gang hang out at the nightclub, Pavel, Link, and a group of guards burst in and arrest Hopper (who had previously complained about all the interrogations they had to carry out on the programs being turned in), accusing him of being the Renegade. “I knew it!” Bartik shouts. “That roadster could have been mine!” But Hopper insists he’s innocent.
Beck asks Zed to talk to Bartik and prove Hopper’s innocence, then leaves to talk to Link. Paige enters and asks Bartik what’s wrong and he explains that Hopper’s been arrested, then, feeling overwhelmed with betrayal, leaves the club. Paige is suspicious about this strange turn of events and Zed and Mara tell her that they can prove Hopper’s not the Renegade.
Pavel, angry that Tesler took away his job of finding the Renegade and gave it to the general public instead, enlists the help of a program named Gorn (Kathryn Hunter) to alter the memories on Hopper’s identity disc so it appears that he is the Renegade. When Pavel brings Hopper to Tesler and shows him the disc, Hopper insists on his innocence and begs for mercy. Tesler is angry that the Renegade turned out to be a sniveling coward rather than the worthy adversary he believed the Renegade to be.
Paige confronts Pavel about the recent arrest. “You’re trying to embarrass Tesler in front of CLU,” she says. “You want him to arrest the wrong program, you want him to appear incompetent in capturing the Renegade, and you want CLU to see it and replace Tesler with you.” She brings out Zed and Mara to back her up, but when Tesler enters he refuses to hear her explanation and arrests Zed and Mara as well.
Meanwhile, Beck confronts Link in his new roadster and convinces him to help publicly prove Hopper’s innocence before his execution by having Beck make an appearance and pretend to attack Link. However, the spectacle has already begun, and Beck realizes with horror that Zed and Mara are there as well. Beck races off to Argon Square in Link’s roadster to save them before it’s too late. Just as Mara, Zed, and Hopper are about to be torn limb from limb by lightcycles (holy cats, that’s pretty gruesome for a Disney show) – and Mara appears to be confessing romantic feelings for Zed – Beck bursts in and cuts the ropes attached to the lightcycles with his disc.
Pavel tries to shoot Beck and the others down, but they all escape in the roadster. Hopper, overwhelmed with gratitude, tries to attack Beck and Zed kicks him out of the roadster. Beck separates the vehicle, leaving Mara and Zed to drive home themselves; Zed tries to push Mara to finish what she was saying earlier, but she pretends not to remember. Beck returns to Tron’s hideout. “I thought you were taking time off,” Tron says. “Easier said than done, I guess,” Beck replies.
Scars – Part 1 (Episode 9)
As a ship passes through one of the checkpoints outside Argon City, it sets off an alarm in Tron’s hideout. Tron grits his teeth; the scar on his face worsens. “Dyson,” he says.
Dyson (John Glover) lands at Tesler’s fortress, saying he’s there for a routine check-in – and to see what’s happening with the whole Renegade situation. Tesler orders Paige and Pavel to stay with Dyson and make sure his stay is brief and “uneventful.” Meanwhile, Tron orders Beck to capture Dyson – CLU’s highest-ranking soldier – and bring him back to the hideout so Tron can “extract” some intel from Dyson. Beck offers to just steal his identity disc instead, but Tron says he has “bigger plans” for Dyson. Beck, though hesitant, agrees to do as Tron says.
We flash back to the days before CLU’s reign on the Grid, when Dyson was Tron’s friend and second-in-command in the Grid’s security detail. They and the other security programs go to disperse an angry mob of basic programs trying to drive ISOs out of their neighborhood. Tron almost talks them down, telling them that they would dishonor Flynn’s vision by rejecting the ISOs, but when an unknown instigator throws a disc from the ISOs’ side which derezzes a basic program, the crowd erupts into violence and attacks the ISOs. Dyson’s face is disfigured while he tries to protect the ISOs, but as we return to the present we clearly see it is whole again. He tours the city, wondering aloud why Tesler can’t keep it in line.
In another flashback, we see that Dyson’s attitude towards ISOs has been dramatically changed for the worse. CLU, Tron, and Dyson meet with Flynn. Flynn ignores their concerns about unrest and repeats his belief that the ISOs are the “key” to changing everything. Dyson tells Flynn that the ISOs are the problem, but Flynn assures him that the ISOs have just as much a right to be there as the basic programs he created.
In the present, Tron is using his healing chamber (which keeps his injuries/scars manageable) only minimally. Beck tries to prove that he can get Dyson’s disc without getting Dyson, who would have to be derezzed if he saw the hideout. Tron, however, is having none of it, and demands that Beck bring him Dyson.
Beck tries to lay a trap for Dyson, but Dyson quickly discovers and avoids it. Paige says it must have been the Renegade, and Pavel – who hopes to take Tesler’s place – plays up the Renegade’s reputation, mentioning that some even say he’s Tron. Dyson says he’s not Tron, and that he was there “when Tron and Flynn almost destroyed the Grid.” Paige asks: “You knew Tron?” and Dyson replies, “Knew him? I watched him die.”
Another flashback reveals that Dyson was part of CLU’s initial attack on Flynn and Tron. As Tron lays injured, CLU says that he “made Dyson perfect again” by healing the damage to his face. “Dyson, I trusted you!” Tron says. “He [CLU] betrayed us!” To which Dyson responds: “You’re wrong. Flynn betrayed us – betrayed all of us. Now CLU is free to cleanse the Grid of the ISOs.”
Beck returns to the hideout without Dyson. “I told you not to come back empty-handed,” Tron growls. Beck responds, “Just answer me one question: is this about fighting the revolution, or derezzing Dyson?” Tron: “This isn’t your battle. Stay out of it.” Beck tries to stop him from leaving, saying “I don’t care what you do to me; I’m not letting you kill for revenge.” Tron electrocutes Beck and takes back the half of his disc that gave Beck the Tron suit.
“I didn’t ask your permission,” Tron says.
Scars – Part 2 (Episode 10)
Beck awakens on the floor of the hideout and watches through the window as Tron drives his lightcycle towards Argon City. Soon Beck is pursuing him on his own lightcycle and tries to stop him. “Come on, Tron, this isn’t you!” he shouts. Tron successfully jams Beck’s lightcycle and escapes, but Beck has managed to put a tracking device on Tron’s lightcycle.
In another flashback we see the severely injured Tron imprisoned in a giant glass tube in a room filled with row upon row of similar tubes. He watches in horror as the programs in the surrounding tubes – including members of his security team – are repurposed to become CLU’s soldiers. He is removed from the tube and moved to a large interrogation room. Dyson enters.
Back in the present, as Tron prepares to ambush Dyson (while Paige leaves to investigate a power overload), Beck confronts him. Beck tries to convince him to get Dyson’s disc without derezzing him, but Tron attacks Beck, disarms him, and handcuffs him to a railing on a catwalk. “The cuffs work on a timer,” Tron says. “By the time they unlock, Dyson will be dead.” Beck pleads with Tron not to end the revolution before it begins, but Tron leaves.
Paige discovers Pavel is behind the overload and threatens to show Tesler the memories on her disc proving that Pavel is trying to undermine him. Pavel tries to get Paige to form a secret alliance with him to keep themselves safe if Tesler goes down, but Paige refuses and leaves. An explosion set by Tron catches Dyson off guard.
Another flashback: in the interrogation room, Dyson tortures Tron, who endures the pain in total silence. Dyson reveals that he has repurposed all the other security programs. He tries to convince Tron to join CLU willingly, but Tron refuses, and Dyson produces a spinning light-blade. “I’m going to show what it’s like to be imperfect,” he says, bringing the blade towards Tron’s face. When the guards go to retrieve Tron and take him to CLU, we see his face has been horribly disfigured. Later, Dyson watches as the recognizer taking Tron to CLU crashes into a hillside and explodes, leading him to believe that Tron is dead.
In the present, Tron attacks Dyson. As the pair fights below, Beck struggles to get his disc back so he can break out of the cuffs. He eventually succeeds and goes to stop Tron from derezzing Dyson. When Tron disarms Dyson and knocks him down, he unmasks himself. “No, it’s not possible! I watched you die!” Dyson cries, to which Tron replies: “You watched me die? I’ll watch you die.” As Tron approaches him, Dyson reveals that he modified Tron so that he’ll die without access to a regular energy source, but he offers to fix him if Tron joins CLU. “I’d rather stay like this forever than be the puppet of a tyrant,” Tron snarls.
In a final flashback, we see that Tron was freed by a sympathetic guard, Cyrus (Aaron Paul) just before their recognizer crashed. Together, they jump to safety before the explosion, and Cyrus drags Tron to shelter. Tron asks Cyrus why he’s doing this, to which Cyrus responds: “I can’t let the revolution end before it has a chance to start.”
After being reminded of this memory, Tron suddenly snaps out of his vengeful rage and spares Dyson’s life, telling him it’s only so that he can deliver a message. Later, back at the hideout, Tron recovers in his healing chamber and admits to Beck that it was never about getting Dyson’s disc, then thanks and apologizes to Beck.
Dyson returns to CLU and tells him that Tron lives. “Who else knows about this?” CLU asks, and Dyson abruptly derezzes the only guard in the room. “Nobody,” he says, “only us.” Clu responds: “Good. Let’s keep it that way.”
Grounded (Episode 11)
The episode opens on a program who is out past curfew and being pursued through Argon City by a lightcopter and a handful of soldiers. Soon she’s trapped and taken into a recognizer. However, Beck quickly frees her and a group of other programs bound for the Games.
Tesler, meanwhile, wants to crack down on the rumors that “Tron lives.” He broadcasts a message on recognizer-borne video screens across the city in which he tries to further turn public opinion against the Renegade and increase support for the Occupation forces by offering to abolish the curfew – and free those who violated it – if the Renegade turns himself in at Argon Square by the end of the cycle (approximately a day in the show’s version of the Grid). However, if the Renegade doesn’t show up, Tesler will send the captured programs to the Games.
Back at the hideout, Tron warns Beck not to do as Tesler says, since he’d be walking into a trap. Beck says that he has to free the programs somehow: “Tron doesn’t give up. Never has, never will.” Tron reluctantly agrees, but says they must put a strategy together first. Beck leaves to ask Zed to cover his shift at the garage. Elsewhere, Pavel is giving Tesler upgrades to battle the Renegade. When Beck returns to the garage he runs into Able, who chews him out for being late again and orders him to stay at the garage until the beginning of the next cycle.
Tron watches from the hideout, waiting for Beck. At the garage, Beck argues with Able and insists he’s not keeping any secrets from him. The other programs start leaving, to go and see if the Renegade will really turn himself in. Able is among them, but he leaves Link in charge to make sure Beck stays at the garage. Beck leaves anyway; Link doesn’t stop him, but says he’ll tell Able the truth if he asks. In Argon Square, as Tesler criticizes the Renegade for not coming out, Beck crashes through a giant video screen showing CLU’s picture and lands on the ground. “What’d I miss?” he asks.
Tesler releases the programs arrested for breaking curfew and faces Beck down. Together they plunge down into an arena below Argon Square to fight as the whole city looks on. Tesler has the clear advantage, at one point growing an arm cannon that blasts a massive hole through the wall behind Beck (who responds: “…Seriously?“). Beck dodges and fights back the best he can, but Tesler is vastly overpowered. Just when he appears to be on the verge of derezzing Beck, a masked program rides in on a lightcycle and cuts off Tesler’s right arm with their identity disc.
Tesler flees, as does the mysterious program, leaving Beck the clear victor in the eyes of all the programs watching (before he leaves too). Pavel orders everyone to return to their homes – the arrested programs may have been freed, but the curfew is still on. The crowd gradually thins out until it leaves one program still staring down at the arena – the woman who Beck saved at the beginning of the episode.
When Beck returns to the hideout, Tron congratulates him for standing up to Tesler, believing it will inspire other programs to rise up and fight as well. Beck thanks Tron for saving his life in the arena, but Tron doesn’t know what he’s talking about; he’s been at the hideout the whole time. This leaves Beck wondering who the masked program was.
At the garage, Able demands to speak to Beck in his office. Beck, certain that he’s about to be fired, is shocked when Able reveals he knows Beck’s the Renegade. “How long have you known?” Beck asks. Able says: “Too long. I was foolish to think I could keep you here – to think I could protect you.” Beck realizes aloud that Able must have been the one who saved him in the arena, but Able modestly waves off such a notion claiming that he’s too old to pull off a stunt like that. Beck apologizes for getting angry before, and Able forgives him. He says that they have a lot to talk about – when Beck is ready.
We Both Know How This Ends (Episode 12)
Beck once again infiltrates Tesler’s fortress, this time using his mechanic skills to sabotage the fleet of tanks. However, he’s ambushed by Pavel and a group of guards, forcing him to flee on his lightcycle. Back at the garage, Able leaves to take care of some business, putting Mara in charge while he’s gone. Mara asks Beck and Zed to help her.
In the frozen Outlands, Able has to flee his vehicle when it goes over a cliff, forcing him to continue on foot. Meanwhile, Mara’s coworkers are taking advantage of her being in charge by slacking off, much to Mara’s frustration. Beck assures her that everything will get done before Able returns; cue a bunch of recognizers landing at the garage. Pavel emerges and orders the mechanics to fix the fleet of sabotaged tanks, threatening Mara and the other mechanics with a punishment “worse than the Games” if it isn’t done by the end of their shift.
Back in the Outlands, Able reaches his apparent destination and sets up a shelter. At the garage, Mara examines the damage to the tanks and announces that it’s constantly mutating and irreversible, but that they may be able to isolate the problem before it spreads if they open each tank’s code up one by one. Her coworker Dash undermines her authority by ordering the other programs around, convincing them to follow his orders or else they might all end up derezzed. As the programs work on the tanks, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
As Able secures the shelter in the Outlands, Tron appears. In the shelter, Able gives him more energy for his healing chamber and asks Tron to stop training Beck; Able is worried that Beck may be derezzed. Tron tells him that Beck knows the risks of being the Renegade. “Beck is not ready for this and you know it! We both know how this ends!” Able replies. Outside, we see a swarm of gridbugs advancing on the shelter.
Mara, meanwhile, realizes that the malfunctions the mechanics have been triggering can be used to fix the tanks. At the shelter, Able tells Tron he’ll stop helping him if Tron continues to involve Beck in the revolution. “I won’t watch him become another one of your mistakes,” he says. But their argument is interrupted as the gridbugs begin to swarm into the shelter. They try to fight the bugs off, but there’s too many, forcing them to set a bomb in the shelter and escape on Tron’s lightcycle.
Mara figures out how to fix the tanks and stops Beck from leaving. She assembles the other mechanics and gives a stirring speech in which she assures them that they can fix all the tanks if they just work together – and, if not, that she will go to the Games in place of everyone else. They all succeed in fixing the tanks – and recovering one that had plunged into the sea – in time; this angers Pavel, who wanted to send them all to the Games, but he leaves with the tanks. When Able returns, he praises Mara for taking care of things while he was gone, saying he made the right choice by picking her.
So holy shit character development, that’s what. In addition to giving new dimensions to many of the primary characters – and some secondary ones – we see a side of Tron in these episodes which doesn’t appear anywhere else in the TRON series thus far. A dark, vengeful, murderous side.
“But Zanne,” you might be saying, “what about Rinzler in TRON: Legacy?” Well, Rinzler is different. Rinzler is a brainwashed/repurposed Tron, the “puppet of a tyrant” he didn’t want to become. The Tron we see in the “Scars” episodes is a completely different story. This Tron is still arguably himself, which makes his transformation much more terrifying.
Throughout most of the series it’s clear that Tron has been changed from the character he was in his first appearance. True, the Tron in the first film is very much serious about his mission (even in a deleted scene where Yori is trying to have a romantic moment with him, he just asks how they’ll get to the I/O tower), but he also seems optimistic and sometimes happy.
YAY! I GET TO TALK TO MY USER!
I have a hard time imagining the grim Tron in TRON: Uprising smiling, even on the very rare occasions when he shows his sense of humor. He seems much more withdrawn and wounded, hesitant to even see Beck as a friend – as if he’s afraid Beck will fail him, betray him, or simply be derezzed by the Occupation.
But the Tron we see throughout most of the TV series is still grounded, apparently adhering to the belief that neither he nor Beck should derezz another program unless absolutely necessary. So to see him out for blood in the “Scars” episodes is shocking, to say the least.
“You watched me die? I’ll watch you die.”
Though he goes back to being his usual self at the end of the second part of “Scars,” it’s impossible to see him the same way we did before those episodes. While his decision to show mercy rather than killing Dyson reinforces his heroic nature, it also underlines how dangerous Tron can be when he’s pushed too far, casting a threatening shadow over the events of the second half of the series.
Next week we’ll conclude our look at TRON: Uprising by covering episodes 13-19, the cancellation (and the fans’ reaction), and the questions left in its wake. See you next time, programs.
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