In “Escape to Amphibia,” Mr. X is granted additional assets to hunt down the Plantars. Meanwhile, Dr. Jan and Terri work to open a portal to Amphibia to send the Plantars home. Terri provides a list of supplies to stabilize the portal, sending the Boonchuys and the Plantars grocery shopping. Mr. X intercepts the families in the grocery store parking lot and takes the Plantars. They prove far less helpful than Mr. X anticipated, not being the alien invaders he hoped for. Anne rounds up all her allies to bust the Plantars out. However, they’re quickly caught and imprisoned. Terri and Dr. Jan steal the FBI headquarters’ generator, cutting power and unlocking the cages holding Anne and her friends. They all make their escape in a stolen FBI van but not before Mr. X plants a tracker on it. The generators aren’t enough to power the portal, but the FBI arriving activates Anne’s abilities. Anne’s powers strengthen the portal enough for her and the Plantars to pass through. When they return to Amphibia, it’s very different from the place they left at the end of season 2.
I’m glad they opted to do a full-length episode after Amphibia’s hiatus, as opposed to the show’s standard 2-part split segments. This story wouldn’t have worked in 11 minutes, and there’s no reason to cut something so important short. I just hate that Disney Channel implements these breaks at all; I know channels (and sometimes even streaming services) do this to spread their content out, but it’s very annoying. We haven’t had an episode since November’s holiday special, and it feels like it’s been even longer. Regardless, “Escape to Amphibia” is an excellent episode to usher the show back, and the title couldn’t be more fitting. As usual for the show, Anne’s feelings and internal struggles are just as important as any physical threats. The plot concerns getting the Plantars home, but just as much focus goes to Anne’s fear of leaving her parents again.
I love the way Matt Braly and his team portray Anne’s family in general here. A highlight of “Escape to Amphibia” is Anne’s lightsaber fight with her dad in the supermarket, culminating in her mom sneaking and saying she was her mother all along. I loved this as a throwaway gag, but it actually factored into the story later in the episode, making it even better. I also found it very relatable when Anne jokingly told her dad she was too old for this (lightsaber battles), only to attack him with her own saber. Same, Anne. This is the kind of foolishness you never age out of. I’ve said it before, but Braly is definitely one of us. We also get small glimpses into Anne’s parents’ relationship in “Escape to Amphibia.” Anne’s mom jokingly implies they got married because her dad is good at arranging groceries in the van. Later in the episode, he looks on adoringly at his wife’s crazy (and unexpected) driving skills when being pursued by Mr. X. In isolation, these are small moments that the show mostly plays for laughs. But they represent the depth in a relationship the show hasn’t explored much before, and I appreciate that. This is also the most outwardly supportive Anne’s mom has been yet, encouraging the downtrodden girl and pointing out how much she’s grown. Mr. Boonchuy’s playful affirmations are endearing, and their interactions feel very much like those a real family would have. I’ve also been watching and enjoying The Owl House on Disney Channel, but this familial vibe is what places Amphibia above it for me.
That extends beyond the nuclear family, too; “Escape to Amphibia” is also the return of multiple characters we’ve met throughout the season. The I.T. Gals, Humphrey, Dr. Jan, Terri, some of the old Thai ladies, etc., are back in full force to help get the Plantars home. I’ve loved the expansion of the cast this season, in the form of both new allies and antagonists. Along with bringing voice actors I love onto a show I love, this has introduced dynamics not possible back in Amphibia. The teamwork displayed by Dr. Jan and Terri in building the portal comes to mind, as well as Hop Pop’s friendship with his doppelgänger Humphrey. Dr. Jan and Humphrey are voiced by Disney veterans. Anika Noni Rose played Tiana, and Wallace Shawn voiced Rex in Toy Story and Mr. Huph in The Incredibles. Kate Micucci (Terri) played Webby Vanderquack in the DuckTales! reboot. Rose notably played opposite Keith David in Princess and the Frog and is once again one of the protagonists to his antagonist King Andrias.
Speaking of antagonists, I wonder what they’ll do with Mr. X now that Anne and the Plantars have made it back to Amphibia. Andrias is their biggest threat, and now he’s close to them again, with Mr. X trapped on the other end of a portal that seemingly can’t be opened without Anne’s powers. When he says he has questions for Anne’s parents, they turn it around on him. Furthermore, the FBI is unlikely to grant him the type of immunity he’s previously enjoyed now that his targets have escaped. When Mr. X was first introduced, I just assumed he would eventually join Anne’s side. He’s silly, charismatic, and obviously gay, even being voiced by RuPaul. That last thing, in particular, made me doubt Disney would make him an actual villain these days. His fascination with frogs also made it seem like he didn’t want to hurt the Plantars, but his behavior in “Escape to Amphibia” says otherwise. I genuinely look forward to seeing what they do with this character; I hope they don’t just write him out. But they’ve been so good about using characters in a meaningful way in this show, I’m not too worried about it. “Escape to Amphibia” is an Avatar: The Last Airbender-level character reunion, after all, bringing back nearly every friend the Plantars have made this season.
“Escape to Amphibia” is a very good episode, combining the show’s heartfelt themes with fast-paced animation, solid comedy, and a satisfying character team-up. My one gripe is with the villains; we don’t see Andrias at all, and the heroes wipe the floor with Mr. X.