You know, Bizarro Sealab. Strangely prescient.
Eerily so, when you get right down to it. See, it would have aired sometime around November, 2002 – the beginning of the show's second season. Now, if you follow the timeline of the Iraq War that would also have been when Saddam was allowing arms inspectors back into Iraq and the UN was concurrently voting that Iraq had to be disarmed by all means. And shortly after the vote for the Iraq War in the U.S. Congress. Given how the war was prosecuted it must also have been around this time that the war plans – or at least their grand sweep – were being finalized.
If we take a hypertextual view of the episode, then, and graft the personalities and opinions of that day and age onto respective characters, we see what at first blush seems like nothing more than throwaway absurdist humor is actually a stern warning about the road the country was about to travel. Captain Murphy and his crew represent both the democratic minority and the wider general public (Which I see as the clueless but affable Stormy, the only one to try to befriend his counterpart.). They've been taken captive, tied in knots, by funhouse mirror versions of themselves – representing, no doubt, the conservative legislators and the administration. As one character asks the Captain, “why did you let them in?” To which he responds, “Well, they seemed so nice...” Like the real-life America, the Sealab crew was taken in by their captors, not realizing their true, polarizing nature which would warp and twist traditional norms – that they were so....bizarro.
But these “Bizarros” bring nothing but confusion and chaos and corruption. They have no clear plan for what they hope to achieve and, indeed, once they realize their goals are untenable switch on the fly to something else – altering their demands from a laser to “destroy the world” to a bunch of diamonds (Diamonds no doubt standing in for the vast oil wealth in the region.).
To show how serious they are, the head Bizarro – no doubt an ill-masked stand-in for the commander in chief – orders one of his subordinates to blow his own head own. Which he dutifully does, representing not only the suicidal policies of the administration, cutting off their own face to spite their noses, but also the lengths to which its supporters would go in order to support the administration. The Bizarros also engage in highly selective editing of speech. Attempting to insert their own phrasing - “Bizarro blank” - of events over the narrative of events – they are driven to attempt to redefine reality by controlling the language used to describe it. Similar in many respects to how Republicans are able to use talking points and politically correct language – witness the Patriot Act – to drive the narrative of events. Repeated ad nauseum to reinforce their message.
Now, Quinn, the supposed intelligent member of the crew represents the news media. Seduced by the Bizarros he openly consorts with Bizarro-Debbie (Willing, again, to do anything to further the Bizarros position even “using her breasts”. Breasts, of course, being a metaphor for the scare tactics and fear-mongering of administration mouthpieces to cow the public into supporting their position. Likening the lurid appeal of sex to another appeal to the lowest common denominator.), much as the media seemed to willingly cooperate with the administration in pounding the war drums. Much as Quinn pounded Bizarro-Debbie – behind closed doors subtly reminding us of how politicians use the cloak of anonymity when dealing with the press in order to further their own agendas. And much like the media he was not only unrepentant but ecstatic about his roll in events. When Bizzaro-Murphy cum Bush asks if he “fucked her in the ass” he gleefully replies, “twice!”
His counter-part, the turtle faced Bizarro-Quinn represents the horror and disillusionment of the Iraq War. His bursting from his egg in a film of viscous fluid midway through represents the dawning of the misguided nature of our desert adventure. He seems almost a parody of the other Bizarros, his babbling and exuberant speech serving to highlight the absurdity of the more lucid Bizarros.
From Bizarro-Quinn to Bizarro-Vision, it harkens to the administration's increasingly futile attempts to confuse and obscure the issue and the public's increasing skepticism of their buffoonish claims.
The real kicker, though, comes at the episode's end when, of course, the Bizarros having found themselves in an impossible situation have no idea how to leave.
Truly, frightening stuff.