I was pleasantly surprised with what Netflix did with their version of Tarzan and Jane, ditching much of the baggage that had accumulated over a century of books, movies and television shows, all dealing with the world’s most famous jungle man, by taking the fresh premise of Tarzan and Jane meeting as teens and becoming friends, not lovers. This idea took me a little time to adjust to — his magically induced animal powers I’m still on the fence about — but overall I was quite delighted with the first season and thus was very eager to catch the second.
With season one covering the new origin story for Tarzan, as well as its introduction to a new and spunkier Jane, Netflix didn’t waste time recapping any of that stuff, but instead jumped straight into season two’s key adventure — sadly this also means season two is only five episodes long opposed to season one’s eight episode run — and in this outing, Tarzan and Jane find themselves facing off against nasty animal-hating poacher. Wait, poachers? Seriously, not them again. Because evil white men coming into Tarzan’s domain to hunt and capture animals is a far from uncommon trope in Tarzan stories, that is when they aren’t hunting for the fabled elephant graveyard. While season one focused a lot of its time on animal poachers before getting into the fun stuff of stopping industrial sabotage and a hostile takeover of Greystoke Industries, season two opened with our young heroes chasing poachers through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. To say that I was a tad disappointed with this direction would be a bit of an understatement.
And why exactly are Tarzan and Jane visiting Rio de Janeiro? Well, apparently the Greystoke Aid Foundation, headed by Earl Greystoke (Paul Dobson) and being covered by Jane’s mother (Marci T. House), is starting a Rain Forest Relief Initiative to help fight the massive deforestation that is devastating the jungles of Brazil, and Tarzan (Giles Panton) and Jane (Rebecca Shoichet) are along for the ride. The two kids don’t get much time to take in the sights before encountering a cute Tamarin Monkey named Midas, who steals Jane’s wallet, and Tarzan spots some nefarious scoundrels loading caged monkeys into a van. Jane chases the Tamarin while Tarzan goes in pursuit of the van, only to find out that the thieving monkey and the poachers all work for the same bad guy — why poachers would also use their stolen animals to pickpocket is a bit of a mystery, seems like one crime would draw too much attention to the more profitable one — but after a bit of a tussle, Tarzan and Jane capture the villains and turn them over to the authorities. Having quickly befriended Midas, him being too cute and charming to stay mad at for long, our teen heroes decide to investigate the rash of poaching that seems to have depopulated the surrounding jungle of its animal denizens.
I love the idea of Tarzan being taken out of his familiar African jungle, plopping him down in a foreign one where he can’t just ask the local apes or natives for help, while also pitting him against whole new levels of dangers. Now, I mentioned the use of animal poachers being a bit of an issue with me, having been a key element of the previous season, but once Tarzan and Jane enter the jungles of Brazil, they find that encountering a couple of nasty poachers will be the least of their problems, as the mystery gets deeper and a lot weirder. As outsiders, Jane and Tarzan are immediately blamed for the deforestation of the jungle and the disappearance of the animals by the locals, with this rape of the jungle also destroying the way of life of the natives, and so Tarzan and Jane not only have to discover the mystery behind this massive poaching operation, but they also have to avoid being speared by the local natives, and have I mentioned the giant spiders?
When Jane discovers that this particular giant spider sports a barcode, and a test subject number as well, we start to get the inkling that we’re not dealing with your garden variety poachers, and when our two heroes have to evade automated gun turrets, (ones that fire tranquilizer darts) and cages dropping on them, I started to suspect that maybe Blofeld was behind these jungle shenanigans. Tarzan and Jane push on until they come across an ancient Incan pyramid, which Tarzan suspects the poachers could be using as a hidden base, and upon entering, they quickly find themselves trapped as the temple’s door closes behind them.
Lucky for Tarzan and Jane, they don’t encounter a bunch of cultists eager to rip out their hearts before burning them alive — maybe that will be season three — but they do find a very anachronistic glass elevator in the bowels of the temple, one which lowers them down to an underground facility that would give any Bond villain lair-envy. We get lots of Tarzan and Jane running up and down corridors, having found the place full of caged animals, and being chased by security guards, until they finally meet the season’s true villains, a couple of white rich assholes — who would have guessed that? Turns out, a pith helmet-wearing jerkwad named Marco Kane has been using the temple as a base of operations for a global animal smuggling operation — nothing too surprising there — but his partner, Dr. Evelynne Blutgelt, has more interesting goals in mind, as she’s all about animal experimentation — the giant spiders being her handy work — and she wants to use science to hurry evolution along. Did I forget to mention Tarzan and Jane encounter King Kong?
Season two of Tarzan and Jane both rehashes the old while also adding a whole lot of crazy — a mad scientist and a giant ape were certainly not what I was expecting — and though the short five episode run may spend a little too much time with Tarzan and Jane running up and down corridors, as if they were in an episode of Doctor Who, all is forgiven when we get to that big reveal in episode five. Turns out that Kane hadn’t just picked this temple for its easy access to local jungle animals, but because deep in the heart of the pyramid is an ancient stone well, one that leads down to the center of the Earth and the world of Pellucidar, where he can add dinosaur poaching to his list of crimes.
Those unfamiliar with the works of Burroughs, other than the popular Tarzan stories, may not know that he wrote a series of books about the adventures of David Innes and his explorations At the Earth’s Core. These stories are based on the Hollow Earth Theory — a ridiculous theory to be sure, but about on par with those of Flat Earthers — one that Burroughs utilized to give us a hidden world of dinosaurs. Seeing that this Netflix series is giving us a Tarzan/Pellucidar crossover puts me in full geek nirvana, and though the blending of these two Burroughs creations isn’t unheard of — the book Tarzan at the Earth’s Core having been published back in 1930 — having King Kong thrown in as well — that is simply amazing!
Tarzan and Jane (2018) Season Two
A five episode season is damn short, even if you no longer have to worry about the origin stuff, but season two of Tarzan and Jane makes up for its brevity by leading us to a tremendous crossover, who couldn’t love the idea of Kong and Tarzan teaming up, and you could almost consider this short season to be just a teaser for season three.