This episode of Generations features Team Plasma’s assault on Opelucid City from the second half of Black and White 2, in which the city is frozen by blasts from their flying ship’s Kyurem-powered cannons. It’s another one of those episodes that is basically showing us something we’ve already seen and know about, but manages to make it just that little bit more evocative through the cartoon medium than the games could originally manage.
At night, under the light of a full moon, Opelucid City (apparently the modern, technologically advanced imagining of the city that appears on Black version) is rocked by a series of sudden explosions that send the citizens into panic. The explosions are being caused by the attacks of a group of Liepard under the command of Team Plasma, with the purple sage Zinzolin at their head. Drayden and his Haxorus intervene to protect the city, and manage to hold off multiple Liepard, as well as Zinzolin’s Weavile and Cryogonal, all at once. Unfortunately for Drayden, Colress picks this moment to show up in Team Plasma’s airborne frigate and start delivering airstrikes from the ship’s gigantic freeze ray. As he prepares to fire the weapon, Colress addresses Kyurem, who is locked into the ship’s power core, and says something about using science to unleash the legendary Pokémon’s potential, regardless of the cruelty of his methods. The ray plunges several city blocks into frost and icy mist, but Colress is unsatisfied, and presses a dangerous-looking Big Red Button on his command console in order to have Kyurem “surpass [its] limits.” This causes Kyurem to go berserk and step up the power of the cannon, freezing the entire city in seconds. In the aftermath, we see the ground and the buildings coated in a layer of ice, huge ice crystals sticking up out of the ground, and- wait, holy $#!t are those people? People, sunken to their knees, caked in frost, unmoving – Generations are you telling me that all those people froze to death!? I mean, sure, I believe it, but wow; I didn’t think you guys were allowed to actually show us that. That $#!t is brutal. Wow. Anyway. Zinzolin, trudging through this frozen wasteland, reports to Colress via radio that he has obtained the DNA Splicers (the treasure guarded by Drayden that will allow Kyurem to fuse with either Zekrom or Reshiram). Colress replies, “I’ve seen what I wanted to see,” and Team Plasma moves out.
We basically knew about a lot of this; we more or less saw it happen in Black and White 2, after all. What’s new is Colress’ take on it – in the games, we don’t yet know at this point that Colress is leading Team Plasma in Ghetsis’ stead. And seeing Colress’ absolute, chilling dispassion towards the freezing death dispensed by his ship’s weapons upon the unsuspecting populace of Opelucid City… that adds something to the whole incident. This episode is titled The Frozen World, as if to remind us that what we see in Opelucid City – the frost-encrusted buildings, the diamond dust floating through the still air, and the terrible silence of the city’s people – is what Ghetsis intends for all of Unova, perhaps even the entire world. And Colress… Colress doesn’t really care, one way or another. For him, this is a test of Kyurem’s potential, and just another phase of his grand experiment, the inquiry into the most effective way of unleashing the hidden strength of Pokémon. “If the entire world is destroyed as a result,” he says to the player in Black and White 2, “then so be it,” and it’s one thing to hear him say that, but it’s another to see him follow through. Zinzolin’s words here, too, are thrown into sharp relief. He exults in the cold, embracing his shivering discomfort as a way of proving to himself that he is really alive (Zinzolin is sort of a “life has no meaning without pain” fellow). It’s easy to write off that attitude as empty philosophising when he expresses it in the games, but when he expresses no particular concern for his own safety as people literally freeze to death around him (and when we remember, again, that this is what Ghetsis wants to do to the whole world), it suddenly becomes starkly apparent that Zinzolin is deadly serious about his beliefs.
Zinzolin and Colress are both characters that I have major soft spots for. I think they’re some of Pokémon’s more interesting villains, and Colress arguably isn’t even portrayed as a villain at all in the games, but more of a neutral outsider to the main conflict. Here, though… Colress is sure-as-heck off-the-deep-end evil. From the way he talks about it, his attack on Opelucid City doesn’t even seem to be about the strategic goal of seizing the DNA Splicers; it’s just part of his experiments, as far as he’s concerned, and if those frozen people we’re shown really are dying there, he certainly doesn’t care. And at the end of the day… we’re okay with this guy. We basically let him take over what’s left of Team Plasma after Ghetsis’ final defeat, and go about his business undisturbed. I think for the sake of consistency we almost have to assume the aftermath isn’t quite as bad as it looks, but still… what the hell, player character?