I feel like my fellow Tough Pigs have already said their praise up top in previous reviews, so I’ll be brief in my ramble: this show has surpassed every expectation I had of it going in. What an utter delight Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock has turned out to be. My literal only complaint about the entire show that I refuse to shut up about is Lilli Cooper as Doc never gets a song, which is a crime. Other than that? Sheer perfection. All right, there’s my obligatory gushing. Let’s get to the review!
To be perfectly honest, I think ‘Craggle Lagoon’ is one of the weakest episodes of the show’s run. Now TO BE CLEAR, this in no way means it’s a bad episode! There is not a single bad episode in this entire season! I simply mean that it’s not a stand out – not for me personally. This episode feels more like a vehicle for setting up what will take place in the rest of season one, while doing a nice tip of the hat to the original Fraggle Rock.
And what tip of the hat would that be? Why, Inspector Red, of course! This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Red don her sleuthing gear and magnifying glass. In season five, episode ten of the original Fraggle Rock, Red makes this transformation in order to solve who stole the missing Fraggle Horn. We even get the song she and the Inkspots sang together in that episode – though this time with the addition of the character Lyle Craggle.
The episode starts with the Fraggle squad getting an Uncle Traveling Matt postcard about his discovery of vacations – a word the Fraggles have never heard before. We get a sequence of Matt “taking a vacation” in an office. He humorously points out that the silly creatures there “love it, why else would they come here every day?” The memento he sends along is a garbage can which he entitles Mega Cup. This inspires the group of friends to take a vacation of their own.
After wrapping up their 30-minute work week, the Fraggles decide to take their vacation at Craggle Lagoon – complete with a whole Jimmy Buffet-vibe song about the destination. But when they get to Craggle Lagoon they are shocked to find all of the water gone! Enter Inspector Red, who’s on the case! We get a running joke of Red talking all noir-like to the camera, narrating her every thought, only for her friends to immediately remind her that they can hear what she’s saying. They soon run into Lyle Craggle (voiced by Ed Helms), and Red decides to interrogate him while the rest of her friends go home to start a bucket brigade to bring water to the Lagoon.
This episode is the introduction of the Craggles, a group of creatures we’ll see more of in the oncoming episodes. Craggles have slight distinctions in their appearance from the Fraggles. They wear monotone colors, have smooth hair, and have no baloobiuses.
We see Red hyper focus on the fact that the biggest crime of the water missing is that it’s ruining her vacation, not the fact that the Craggles’ entire way of life has been thrown off. She attempts to get answers out of Lyle, and he mentions that the Mantivore could be behind it. They go to see the Mantivore, a praying mantis type monster who is enormous, but it’s quickly revealed that he’s actually a really nice guy who just talks and looks scary! He also reveals that he knows who took the water! It was… Red! What a twist!
That boulder the Fraggles moved way back in episode one that created a new waterfall in Fraggle Rock? Yeah, that was the water that supported life at Craggle Lagoon, and moving that boulder rerouted it. Oh no! Red’s quick fix is to bring the Craggles back with her to the Rock, offering them a place to stay until they can solve the water problem. It becomes clear that some bigger problems are going to arise in the oncoming episodes, leaving the viewers to wonder how it’s going to work itself out.
In this episode we’re given three subplots. With the Doozers, Turbo and Wrench want to start putting the pink goo to use while Cotterpin wants to do more research first. When Cotterpin goes to lend a helping hand with the bucket brigade, she returns to find Turbo and Wrench have passed the goo along to the other Doozers and it’s already being worked into the radish sticks. Then we get Doc and Sprocket having a stay-cation of their own. Since Doc has to focus on finding lab space on no budget and can’t afford to travel like her fellow grad students (curse you, Marshall!), she sets up a projector for her and Sprocket to take a frugal “trip” around the world. In the end, Doc realizes she can use her home as lab space, making the most out of what she already has.
Both these subplots tie in nicely with what’s going on with the Fraggles – the Doozers’ goo will directly effect the plot the rest of this season, and Doc has a story that mirrors Uncle Matt’s postcard (ie. the importance of a good vacation). The third subplot does tie in with the overall story, but it’s much more standalone than the other two. We find Junior Gorg on his own, his Ma and Pa having gone away for a trip (a vacation, if you will) and he’s all alone with his plant friend, Junior Jr. (who henceforth will be called JJ to make it easier on all our brains). Junior’s mission is to find his plant the sunniest spot in the whole Gorg kingdom, but just as he’s setting JJ up, some shrubbery pipes up about how, if the plant is put there, they’ll wither from lack of sun. Junior is left with a dilemma – follow the mantra of “Gorgs deserve the best” or take the lives of others into consideration.
Look, I am all for the changes this show has made. If anything major from the original series shifts, there’s a good reason. I love Junior from the original run but, let’s face it, until the end he’s kind of just a big, lovable doofus and that’s really it. Not a whole lot of depth there. But on this show? We see Junior as a nurturer. His plant is his best friend, and we get to see him relish in taking care of JJ. This adds so much depth to a character who didn’t have much from before. In this episode, Junior learns that sometimes you can’t always do what you want if it means taking away from others.
In a way, Junior is unlearning systematic oppression in this episode. Gorgs see themselves as royalty. Everything is theirs, no one can tell them what to do. But we see Junior realize that if he gives JJ, whom he’s made an honorary Gorg, the sunniest place in the garden, other plants are going to wither from his decision. Ultimately he makes the choice to find another spot, as he can’t bring himself to harm the other plants. I mean, hey, if that’s not a metaphor for unlearning systematic privilege, I don’t know what is.
So we get Junior unlearning some inherited toxicity, Doc making the most out of what she’s got, and learning we shouldn’t judge books by their covers with Manty – but what about Red? Does she learn a lesson by episode’s end? When she brings the Craggles to Fraggle Rock she tells her friends, “I really took it for granted how good we got it here. Maybe it’s time the Craggles got a vacation.” So she does learn something, but also she spent a whole lot of time at Craggle Lagoon complaining about her vacation being ruined while the Craggles entire friggin home was ruined. I guess I would’ve liked to see her apologize to Lyle? Or have a bigger lesson-learned moment? I don’t know, I guess the one line she says solves it, but I would’ve liked to see a bit more self-work here.
Overall this episode is a good one. It does sort of feel like filler at times, as it’s setting us up for a lot of what’s going to happen in the following episodes, both with the pink goo and the upsetting of the ecosystem / way of life for everyone at the Rock. Even as a stepping stone towards the second half of the season though, this episode is still incredibly enjoyable and magic all the way. Plus it gave us the line “Great Doozer on a Snoozer!” and that, to me, is everything.
Strongest Moment: While this episode is leading us into some big events to come, bringing back Inspector Red really adds a whole lot of flavor! It’s nice to see the show make continual nods to what Jim Henson created back in the 80’s, while still shaping it to be its own thing.
Weakest Moment: Not! Enough! Pogey!
MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): I’m gonna do something a little different and give my MVF nod… to a Gorg! Watching Junior make the compromise of finding a good, sunny spot for his plant without harming other plants is just a really lovely chunk of this episode! (If I had to give it to a Fraggle, it’s Red’s because dang, does Karen Prell knock it out of the park.)
The Grand Return Of…: Inspector Red!
Classic Musical Moment: I was certain the songs in this episode were both new, but to my surprise “There’s A Lot I Want To Know” was in the ‘Inspector Red’ episode from the original series! I’d completely forgotten!
New Musical Moment: “Craggle Lagoon” is a catchy new number that has major beachy vibes!
Coolest Puppetry Effect: The Mantivore (Manty!) puppet is just cool all around. The image below was taken from Dan Garza’s Twitter (@outtapez), and Dan mentioned how it took five puppeteers to make Manty walk and talk!
Special Appearance By: Ed Helms as Lyle Craggle – he nails the number he sings with Karen Prell.
Darkest Moment: Looking deep into my soul and realizing that I am Doc because I, too, can’t afford a nice vacation and just stay in my house with a dog every single weekend wishing I had more funds.
One More Thing…: I can’t get over that Wembley claimed to have put out a fire during his work week stint, only for it to be revealed that the so called “fire” was Boober’s cold soup. Boober then making Wembley feel guilty about it the rest of the episode is priceless.
Okay, One More Thing…: This episode showed Mokey holding a surfboard, Boober drinking a shaved ice concoction, Red shaking maracas, Gobo wearing a snorkel, and Wembley wearing floaties (and even directly calling them floaties). That’s a whole lot of silly creature inventions that they just so happen to also have!
Click here to find the sunniest spot in the Gorg garden on the ToughPigs forum!
by Julia Gaskill