By Eva Mae King

Arts and Culture Editor

If you want to make a show about Wade Whipple, don’t call it “Knuckles.” 

The first season of the “Knuckles” TV show made its way to streaming on Paramount Plus on April 26. This show is technically supposed to be about its title character Knuckles, voiced by Idris Elba. His sidekick Wade Whipple, played by Adam Pally, ends up getting a majority of the attention and more screen time than Knuckles himself, and I still can’t understand why.

“Knuckles” is a spin-off of the “Sonic” movies, which are inspired by the “Sonic the Hedgehog” game franchise. The show takes place after the events of the movie “Sonic 2,” where Knuckles, the tough anthropomorphic echidna, came to Earth in search of a magical emerald and decided that killing Sonic and his sidekick Tails was the best way to get it. At the end of the movie, Knuckles discovers he was tricked into working with the villains and decides to join Sonic’s side.

In the show, we see that Knuckles now lives on Earth with Sonic, Tails, and Sonic’s human friends Tom and Maddie, who for some reason refer to the three as their children. Knuckles isn’t adjusting well to living on earth, and he gets a visit from the ghost of an elder from his tribe, Pachacamac, who tells him that he needs an apprentice to teach the ways of the echidna, and somehow that will help him adjust to Earth. 

Luckily for Knuckles, there’s a perfect candidate: local loser and cop Wade Whipple. Wade has a big passion for bowling, even though he just got kicked off of his best friend Jack’s bowling team right before the big National Bowling Competition. Knuckles and Wade decide they need to drive to Reno to go to the bowling competition. Some scary agents are also out for Knuckles so they can sell his quills to “The Buyer”. He has no actual name, just The Buyer. That’s the basic plot of the show.

Later in the first episode, we find out that Wade’s big character motivation is that his father abandoned his family inside a TJ Maxx when he was young. Yes, specifically a TJ Maxx. Wade is still extremely upset by his father’s absence, because he is the one who gave him his love of bowling. To add even more drama, we find out later that the team he was going to compete against in the championship includes his father, who goes by the bowler name Pistol Pete.

The fourth episode is by far one of the most interesting. On their way to Reno, Jack ends up capturing Wade in a cage for story reasons. While trapped, Knuckles calls Wade on the phone and tells him to go to the “Great Battleground in the Sky,” where he sees Pachacamac. Wade is then guided through a theatrical rock opera about Knuckles’ life, complete with background dancers, costumes, and low-budget props. Supposedly this all happens so Wade can learn that true strength comes from within.

This sequence was probably my favorite part of the show, and the song was catchy enough for me to be thinking about it days later. It’s packed with plenty of game references too, and even replicates the earlier games with some rudimentary set design. My only problem about this episode is that Knuckles only appears in this 24-minute-long episode for a total of one minute and 51 seconds, including the short phone call he has with Wade. 

Lots of Wade-related drama happens when they finally get to Reno, especially involving Wade’s father. Pistol Pete seems to completely disregard the fact that he abandoned his family inside a TJ Maxx, brushing it off with the explanation that he was “looking for something.” Personally, if my father left me inside a TJ Maxx, I can’t say I would be that quick to forgive him, especially with that kind of explanation. 

The final episode is, once again, all about Wade. Wade bowls against his dad, and Knuckles isn’t even in the audience with Wade’s family, he’s watching on a TV at some mysterious Reno bar. Knuckles ends up fighting The Buyer, but it seemed more like an afterthought, like they forgot Knuckles even existed.

Despite being the title character, he’s actually only in one third of this episode, and at the end he doesn’t seem to have gotten any type of satisfying conclusion. It’s never addressed if Knuckles did a good job at showing Wade the way of the echidna, or if he enjoys living on Earth now. The only thing that really happens is that Wade won against his dad at bowling. 

Overall, I thought the show was decent. It reminded me of an Adam Sandler movie with the way the story and characters were structured. There’s plenty of stupid jokes and it’s entertaining, but I wouldn’t have watched it if it wasn’t related to the “Sonic” franchise. I was hoping for more character from Knuckles and not just the dumb muscle trope. 

The animation and cinematography was well done, and there were a few good references to the games scattered throughout. There’s a big design motif about ’80s pop culture too, with the soundtrack featuring classic songs like “The Warrior” by Scandal and “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler. Even with all of that, I really can’t forgive Knuckles getting sidelined in favor of Wade.

Eva King

Eva King is an editor and writer for The Clackamas Print. In her free time, she plays video games and enjoys theater.

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