You’d be forgiven for having forgotten (or deciding not to) watch ReBoot: The Guardian Code, an airless reboot of the beloved ‘90s CGI cartoon that premiered on Netflix at the end of March. The show is, put simply, quite bad and a far, far cry from the original. But there is one episode you might want to watch.
There comes a time in every Netflix subscriber’s life when they find themselves scrolling through the library desperately trying to find something to watch, and it’s in these moments when we decide to give things a chance that we probably wouldn’t under any other circumstance. This is how I stumbled upon The Guardian Code, a reimagining of the original ReBoot, in which a quartet of academically gifted teens discover a secret, high-tech lab hidden in the basement of Alan Turing High (seriously) where they become the new generation of digital guardians.
While the original ReBoot focused largely on Bob, Dot, and Enzo’s adventures in Mainframe, where they dreaded being trapped in video games and fought to save their city from Megabyte, The Guardian Code is really more about its human heroes and their lives in the real world. That isn’t an inherently bad thing, but all of The Guardian Code’s humans are the kind of two-dimensional, nuanced characters that have historically made kids’ TV terrible (and yes, this is a show for kids, not adult fans looking for a nostalgia fix).
There’s Parker (Ajay Parikh-Friese), the quiet, nerdy type who has difficulty speaking to girls, and his best friend Austin (Ty Wood), a generic white guy red ranger type who’s immediately appointed the team leader, Trey (Gabriel Darku), the jock, struggles to find a healthy balance between his cyberspace adventures and the promising basketball career his father insists he has to pursue, and Tamra (Sydney Scotia) is a social media superstar who’s focused first and foremost on making sure that her followers know exactly what she’s doing and thinking at all times. If you’ve seen a few episodes of Degrassi, you know the characters and all of their personal plotlines are distractingly predictable and boring.
The kids are chosen by a sentient AI named V.E.R.A. (“virtual evolutionary recombinant avatar”) to combat swarms of viruses created by a nefarious hacker called the Sourcerer (waste of a good name) who’s trying to... destroy the world? It’s not entirely clear what his motivation is. In each episode, the kids step into a machine that digitizes them, run off to fight some bad CGI monsters, and come back home to talk about the Very Important Life Lessons they’ve learned.
There are moments where The Guardian Code brushes up against the edge of an interesting idea, like the antagonistic relationship between the Sourcerer and MegaByte, who he enslaves to carry out his bidding. But a proper follow-up to the original ReBoot, this show is not.
That being said, the last episode of the first season, “Mainframe Mayhem,” is legitimately fantastic and makes you wonder why the studio even bothered with the others. After an entire season of seeing neither hide nor pixel of ReBoot’s original heroes, Dot, Enzo, and Bob make their triumphant return just as MegaByte frees Hexadecimal from the cage that imprisoned her for years.
Free of the Sourcerer’s control, MegaByte gets back to his roots and sets out to spread his viral infection across the web, which pulls both generations of Guardians together for the first time. The thing that makes “Mainframe Mayhem” work is that for the first time in the entire series, cyberspace is treated like physical, lived-in place that the Guardians would actually want to protect.
Initially, Bob sees the new Guardians as a potential threat because they’re unlike anything that he ever could have imagined, given that he’s from a very different point in computing history. By that same token, though, the New Guardians find that there are things about Mainframe that they aren’t really equipped to handle on their own.
A stand-in for ReBoot stans plays a large role in the episode by digging out an ancient video game and popping it into his computer which is inexplicably connected to Mainframe. It’s insanely satisfying to watch that iconic purple cube descend upon the Guardians and genuinely clever that the new kids are unable to reboot within the game because their coding is incompatible with it.
In being so totally focused on cyberspace, “Mainframe Mayhem” allows you to actually get into the plot because you’re not being made to constantly adjust to seeing live-action shots interspersed with the TV CGI budget.
As counter-intuitive as it might seem, you can get away with not watching the rest of the season, jumping to the finale, and actually having a good time. It’d be a bit of a stretch to say that “Mainframe Mayhem” will convince you that The Guardian Code should come back for a second season, but if you’ve been dying to see Hexadecimal flirting with Bob again, you might want to check it out.