Plot: Arnold, Gerald and their classmates come up with a Halloween prank to play on the adults. Most of them believe in aliens, so they decide to fake an alien invasion in town. However, the prank gets out of hand quickly, causing the entire city to panic and putting Helga and the other kids in danger of being attacked by an angry mob.
Breakdown: There aren’t that many Halloween specials, particularly animated ones, that ever really made me nervous as a child. And any that did manage to make my heart pump a little faster didn’t manage to continue doing that as I got older.
Arnold’s Halloween is one exception.
“Now, Twix,” you might be asking, “Why Arnold’s Halloween, of all things? It’s a very grounded show. What could possibly make you nervous here, especially as an adult?”
Well…my answer’s actually kinda depressing. It’s because the series is so grounded that this episode manages to make me nervous.
In this episode, Arnold and Gerald get a little annoyed that they’re being kept out of the boarders’ special Halloween plans because, ironically, they’re kids. They decide to get back at them by playing a prank on them. All of the people in the boarding house, and many other adults in the city, are believers in aliens and fans of a local alien TV show. Arnold and Gerald decide to take advantage of this and stage an alien invasion. Helga and the other kids in their class will dress up like aliens and visit the house, they’ll rig the nearby water tower to look like a spaceship and they’ll fake a radio broadcast announcing an alien invasion.
Their plan works very well….ridiculously well….Borderline unrealistically well. Basically, the entire city ends up in a complete panic over this prank, which is being spread because Arnold and Gerlad accidentally sent it out over the regular radio too and the local alien show host caught wind of the situation and broadcast an alert on TV. Everyone’s convinced the aliens have landed and are taking over. The city accidentally ends up in a blackout because of the lights they put on the local water tower, but somehow the water tower itself stays lit. It’s lit so well that no one can tell it’s a water tower, but no one questions where the water tower went.
It’s Hallo-freakin’-ween and hardly anyone has the sense to think this is a prank. Even if the alien show host starts prattling on about it, they should have the sense to think it’s just Halloween nonsense. They then start chasing Helga and her friends with rakes, mallets and sticks.
That’s where things actually start getting tense to me. This insane group of idiot adults is chasing after a group of children with actual weapons intent on hurting on them. Helga and the others try to prove that they’re just kids in costumes, but Harold got some crazy strong makeup that doesn’t rub off. (They could just take off their gloves, but whatever.)
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The one in town who is the most alien-crazy is none other than Helga’s dad, Bob. If you know Bob, you know him being crazy is a scary thing. He’s an untrained militant wack-a-doo who takes any opportunity to whip out his massive hummer and army gear.
He fully believes this invasion is real, so he rallies his friends to go attack the mothership. And by ‘attack the mothership’ I mean fucking BOMB IT.
He legit has bombs (in a bunch of beepers…..He owns a beeper emporium, you see.) that he plans on shooting into the ‘mothership’ after the ‘aliens’ board. Which means, he very nearly blew up a group of nine-year-olds, one of which being his daughter. Holy. Shit.
They also kidnap and tie up Principal Wartz for no other reason than he’s a weenie.
When the kids arrive at the water tower to get away from the angry mob, they become very pissed at Stinky, who is helping Arnold and Gerald, because he accidentally revealed that they were playing a prank the whole time, which greatly confused me. Why wouldn’t Arnold and Gerald let the other kids in on this prank? Maybe they’d like to help. But nope. Instead, they played a prank on them too by telling them to come to the boarding house for a Halloween party.
Helga and the others start attacking Stinky as he runs for the water tower. Seeing this, Bob sets up the others to throw the bombs on his signal and rushes to confront the ‘aliens’ attacking Stinky. He grabs Helga and holds her up in the air by her head, holy shit, and starts frickin’ shaking her over and over. She can’t convince him that she’s Helga because he just thinks that it’s alien mind control.
I was really concerned about Helga here. It may seem stupid in hindsight – this is a kid’s cartoon, Helga’s obviously not going to get hurt – but even as a kid I saw Bob as such an uncaring and intimidating asshole that he very well could have hurt her, especially in one of his crazy modes. I mean, come on, look at what he’s already doing.
Even after Arnold arrives to try and help, Bob doesn’t listen.
By the way, did you forget the bombs?
They hurl the bombs at the water tower, very easily could’ve hit the group below, and they blow a huge hole in the side of the tank. The water finally washes off the makeup, revealing that the ‘aliens’ were just Helga and the others all along. At the very least, Bob realizes what a horrible thing he nearly did (He even says straight out, “I almost killed my own daughter! I’m a monster!”) and hugs Helga, for a change, but, geez, those last few moments were really tense.
And, oddly, I find this episode even more tense as an adult, even though I know the outcome. The reason for this is, now that I’ve grown much older….I realize how stupid people can truly be. It’s still a bit of a stretch to say the whole town went into shambles in less than an hour over alien reports on Halloween, but…mass hysteria plus people being stupid….it’s a hell of a thing. If nothing else, I can certainly believe a small group of yahoos would go out and attack some poor kids, possibly even trying to blow them up. Be honest, if you saw a story like that on the news, would you be surprised? It’ll probably pop up next to a headline that says ‘Gender Reveal Parties Now Leading Cause of Wildfires.’
As much as I like that Helga finally got a hug from her old man and Bob realized what a psycho moron he was being….they didn’t really address the issue they were having throughout the whole episode. Like always, Bob was ignoring Helga, constantly telling her to go away and mistaking her for Olga, and no matter how much Helga wanted her dad’s attention, he wouldn’t give it because he’s an asshole. And….Yeah, after this episode, he’ll continue to ignore her and be an asshole. It happens a lot with Helga-centric episodes involving her parents. It’s quite frustrating.
Still, overall, this is a really good episode. It’s exciting and fun, and there are even some genuinely funny moments in there like Helga miming her dad as he tells his story and Gerald pretending to be the radio announcer. It’s not really a mainstay Halloween special to me, but it’s still one I revisit on occasion.
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