The culmination of Impmon's story, and one of the franchise's dramatic highpoints
"Shadow of the Beast King" sees the next big step in Beelzemon's quest for redemption, with a climax that is often hailed as the dramatic highpoint of the series. Personally, I still think that distinction goes to the second half of "Homeward Bound", but this is a close second.
Much of the episode is pretty standard, with the kids once again venturing out to fight the D-Reaper. The only thing that stands out is the sobering footage of the destruction in the Digital World, which effectively conveys the gravity of this situation. The adults also learn that the kids have merged with their digimon and don't seem to take the news very well, though why the footage is broadcast to other places is unexplained. Worse yet, it's a fleeting development and is quickly brushed to the side. Calumon is a pervasively spastic distraction, while Suzie's involvement is superfluous as ever.
As is to be expected, Beelzemon's part of the story eclipses the rest, as he and Gallantmon make an effective battle duo. The projectile attacks look great, particularly that spiral joint blast; it's hard to believe these two fought each other at one point. Seeing him try to rescue Jeri is intense and engaging, a natural extension of the guilt over his actions. His determination is admirable, especially because the resistance from the Kernel Sphere just continues to escalate, culminating when it confronts him with Jeri's recollections. Beelzemon's response is handled almost perfectly, as he acknowledges the severity of what he did, but doesn't let that break his resolve to make amends where possible. It's quite possibly the best remark in the series. What happens next is a misstep. Beelzemon fires what is apparently a more powerful version of his regular attack and it fails. Even as a kid, I hated that. When a new ability is introduced it shouldn't fail, because then it's forever stained as useless. Beyond that, it just hurts the flow of this sequence and cheapens this guy's resolve. Fortunately, what follows constitutes the most compelling part of Beelzemon's history.
After utilizing Leomon's attack and coming within inches of saving Jeri, he is met with her hesitation. This is one of her few actions while captive that actually make sense, as she would naturally be afraid to take the hand of the one who killed her friend, even if he is being sincere. It's so poignant because it's utterly honest, without a trace of idealism. We sympathize with this guy, but recognize that this obstacle to his goal is appropriate. To top it all off, after losing his opportunity to save Jeri (and probably hating himself for it), he gets shot down by those sharp tiles, begging for another chance as he falls dang. One would be hard pressed to believe the series could top this before the finale, and they'd be right. Nothing after this episode comes close to this sequence, which is a tremendous shame because, as great as it is, it demands follow-up that is never truly delivered. Overall, Beelzemon's part in the episode is excellent, but the rest needed to make for a whole that flows better.
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