FINALLY the group reaches Vermillion City. Since they haven’t eaten for three days the first stop is the Pokémon Center. It’s there Ash learns about how strong the gym leader, Lt. Surge, is. Misty talks down to him again since he never earned a badge through battle. Ash is eager to go to the gym, but Pikachu is pretty freaked out by all the Pokémon that the leader’s defeated. Ash insists that Pikachu won’t end up like those Pokémon because it’ll win.
They reach the gym which definitely has a much more foreboding atmosphere than the first two. Lt. Surge finally appears and gives Misty a hug and calls her cute. That’s something that sure happened. Lt. Surge sends out his big scary looking Raichu. Pikachu becomes super determined to fight. Raichu hurts Pikachu bad in just one shot, but Pikachu still wants to fight. Team Rocket watches the battle and actually worries about Pikachu getting defeated this badly. In the end Pikachu has to go to the Pokémon Center, with a broken spirit.
This begins the turning point of the episode. Nurse Joy offers Ash a thunderstone to evolve his Pikachu. Ash is conflicted on if he should use it or not so he gives Pikachu the choice. Of course Pikachu refuses. It wants to beat Raichu just the way it is. They return to the gym to face Lt. Surge once again. They run into Team Rocket pretending to be cheerleaders. They genuinely don’t want to take Pikachu, they’re just that moved by it’s determination. He goes against Lt. Surge, but this time relies on speed instead of strength. Raichu can’t keep up with Pikachu’s speed, it never learned any speed enhancing moves. This gives Pikachu the edge and Ash legitimately (as far as Misty’s concerned) earns his badge.
- Pokemoral of evolution not always being the best answer
- Ash letting Pikachu choose to evolve or not
- Team Rocket trying to help Ash
- The group recognizing Team Rocket
- Ash and Pikachu’s lucky stars
I liked this episode quite a bit. I can’t even really think of any real problems I had with the episode. This was a great payoff of the journey to Vermillion City. It starts off a bit slow, with the trio stuck in the Pokémon Center for the first few minutes. As soon as they meet Lt. Surge the plot never stops.
I like watching Ash struggle, but in the end get better. This episode really shows this quality of his well. He really has to learn not to use just strength alone. Fighting Lt’ Surge twice in the same episode sounds rushed, but it really keeps works in favor of Ash’s growth. Especially since in between battles there is a bit of a heavy moment with Pikachu. It not only shows great characterization in Pikachu, but also is a great way of keeping Pikachu his cute marketable self. The message of not evolving just to be stronger is also a good message for kids playing the game. Just because you can evolve this Pokémon into a super cool strong one with this stone, doesn’t mean you should just yet.
The most refreshing part of the episode is probably Team Rocket. Never once to they interrupt the plot with unneeded comic relief. While they don’t get much screen time and don’t actually contribute to the plot, it’s really nice to see them in this way. They spend the whole episode watching Pikachu from outside of windows. This starts during the gym battle, where they’re pretty concerned for Pikachu. They watch Pikachu’s big moment of refusing to evolve through a window. James and Meowth even cry at Pikachu’s desire to fight Raichu as it is. This leads to my favorite moment of them dressing up in disguises and giving Ash a little cheer. It’s just a cute moment that shows they aren’t as bad as they seem. Even though Misty sees through their disguises (which basically never happens again if I recall correctly) they still watch Pikachu’s rematch against Raichu and cheer from outside their window.