While we take it for granted today, it is hard to believe how far computer-generating (CG) animation has come in 30 years. We have made major leaps from the rather basic use of rudimentary shapes and flat textures of early CG to the organic facial capture and stunning imagery of modern CG. At the forefront of CGs’ acceptance into mainstream culture was a little Canadian television show called ReBoot.

A year before Toy Story landed in theaters, ReBoot hit the airways in North America. Playing off the fact that it’s the first-ever CG TV show, ReBoot is set inside a computer known as Mainframe. While the setting may look innocent on the surface, Mainframe’s denizens — mainly the sprites of Bob, Dot, and Enzo — deal with a host of problems caused by the virus siblings of Megabyte and Hexadecimal. On top of these problems, the trio must engage random Game Cubes, which come from the enigmatic User.

While you may only know of the show thanks to the Netflix reboot (no pun intended) and its corresponding backlash, the original show has aged like a fine wine. This is thanks to its impeccable writing, fleshed out characters, and simplistic yet crisp animation.

For those interested in checking it out for themselves or wanting to take a trip down memory lane, all 47 episodes across four seasons of ReBoot are available to watch for free on Shout Factory’s website. If you don’t have the time to watch the entire series, here are the episodes you should check out first.

The Tearing/Racing the Clock/ Quick and the Fed

Season 1, Episodes 1-3

While the iconic intro does an incredible job of introducing ReBoot’s premise, the first three episodes set the tone for the series. Not only do they provide the basic world building for the show, their focus on the three main characters (Bob, Dot, and Enzo) and strong introductions of the villains (Megabyte and Hexadecimal) makes these episodes the perfect entry point.

In the span of three episodes, we get a feel of:

  • Bob as the goofy yet always reliable hero;
  • Dot as the confident and capable businesswoman;
  • Enzo as the naïve yet good intentioned kid;
  • Megabyte as the cold and calculating villain, and;
  • Hexadecimal as the absolute wildcard.

Also, side characters, such as Hack, Slash, Phong, and Al, all get their time to shine.

Wizard, Warriors and a Word from Our Sponsor

Season 1, Episode 9

Although he makes a small cameo in the previous episode “Enzo the Smart”, “Wizard, Warriors and a Word from Our Sponsor” serves as a proper introduction to arguably the funniest character in all of ReBootMike the TV! From Bob’s desperate pleas at the start of the episode to Mike’s endless advertisements — Bucket O Nothing is comedy gold — Mike is constant source of comedy and a perfect foil for our semi-serious main cast.

While Mike is the star of the show, the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired Game and the hilarious situations it puts Mike, Bob, Dot, and Enzo in makes these 22-minutes fly.

Talent Night

Season 1, Episode 10

Most episodes of ReBoot’s first season are spent introducing new characters, fleshing out Mainframe, or defining the rules for this world. “Talent Night” stands in the face of all that to give a fun side story about preparing a talent show for Enzo’s birthday.

From the YMCA-parody song “B.S.’n’P.” to the YTV logo robot, this episode is filled to the brim with references. These references cover everything from the crazy censorship the show faced from ABC to William Shatner’s spoken word performance of “Rocketman.”

And to top it all off, the episode culminates in the most epic guitar duel ever seen on TV.

Painted Windows

Season 2, Episode 5

Although there is a grand total of three episodes where Hexadecimal gets top billing as villain, she is far more successful in causing chaos and destruction than her brother. What makes Hex so special is her unpredictability. For example, in “Medusa Bug,” she turns all of Mainframe to stone, only to change everything back when Bob points out how boring it’ll be for her.

“Painted Windows” follows a similar narrative to “Medusa Bug”. Hex gets uses a powerful program — this time, Mainframe’s paint program — to gain full control of Mainframe. However, this episode offers fun twists, such as Bob teaming up with Mike, Hack, and Slash, or Enzo being turned into a series of VidWindows, that shake up the dynamics of the show in unique ways.

Add in a wonderful climax and an ending that sets up the final — and most significant — arc of the season, and you’re left with one of this ReBoot’s finest episodes.

Nullzilla

Season 2, Episode 7

Picking up right where “Painted Windows” ended, “Nullzilla” sees Hexadecimal get infected by a web creature that escapes her Looking Glass. In her infected state, Hex is rushed by thousands of nulls (the result of a sprite or binome losing a Game), creating the titular monster.

“Nullzilla” is fondly remembered for wonderfully parodying both Godzilla and Power Rangers. Both of which lead to an incredible robot versus monster battle and some very poignant jokes at the expense of the 90s’ spandex-wearing phenomenon.

As the first episode in season two’s four-part final arc, “Nullzilla” serves as the bridge from ReBoot’s more kid-friendly procedural “story of the week” format to later seasons’ episodic format. In a way, ReBoot was growing and maturing along with its audience, a change that would mark the pinnacle of this series.

Gigabyte

Season 2, Episode 8

Even with Nullzilla defeated, the web creature isn’t done with Mainframe as it infects Megabyte. The infected Megabyte then tracks down and fuses with Hexadecimal becoming the unstoppable juggernaut known as Gigabyte. Enlisting the help of Mouse, Hack, and Slash, Bob finds a way to split the three entities and save Mainframe … for the time being.

While it carries on the plot from “Nullzilla”, “Gigabyte” is much more serious in tone. Gone are the light-hearted jokes and referential humor; in its place are allusions to horror films and the injection of stakes as Gigabyte comes the closest to completely deleting Mainframe and a couple cast members.

Furthermore, the mysteries of the third entity — which the audience already knew as the web creature — and Mouse’s true intentions are tantalizing cliffhangers that I missed as a kid but love as an adult.

Trust No One/Web World Wars

Season 2, Episodes 9-10

As the final two episodes of season two, “Trust No One” and “Web World Wars” marked the thrilling conclusion to the web creature saga.

Constructed as a loving parody of The X-Files, “Trust No One” dives straight into the horror mystery genre as Bob and Mouse investigate a series of disappearances in Mainframe. On the other side of the spectrum, “Web World Wars” is pure action. Mainframe’s denizens come together to hold back the threat of the web creatures and close the portal to the Web.

If I can gush for a moment, these two episodes of ReBoot are my personal favorites. They are the culmination of ReBoot’s transition to a more serious tone and perfectly appealed to maturing tastes of the show’s fans. And, for the life of me, there are no better cliffhangers than the final line of “Trust No One” and Megabyte launching Bob into the Web just before closing the portal.

To Mend and Defend

Season 3, Episode 1

With Bob forcefully exiled from Mainframe, Megabyte and Hexidecimal direct all viral forces to attack the Principal Office. Even with morale shattered, Dot steps up as Command.COM of Mainframe while Enzo takes Bob’s place as acting Guardian. While this unwavering resolve and a conveniently timed Game Cube stave off the viruses’ assault, it won’t be for long.

Although it took a year and a half — which is an excruciatingly long time for kids — season three was well worth the wait. Gone were the censors of ABC as ReBoot was able to let loose and tackle more mature subject matter for a kids show — as clearly demonstrated by this episode’s Evil Dead-influenced Game. Also, the time away allowed Mainframe Entertainment to give the show a considerable upgrade in terms of modeling and animation. This upgrade allowed for more detailed models, better shading, and fluid animation.

Firewall/Game Over

Season 3, Episodes 3-4

Apart from the serious tone and mature subject matter, a defining feature of season three is that there is no status quo. Divided into four major arcs of four episodes each, season three kept viewers on their toes as the story kept changing and evolving. No two episodes demonstrate this more than “Firewall” and “Game Over.”

Aside from having an epic opening credits, “Firewall” serves as the heroes’ greatest victory against the viruses to date. Trapping Megabyte and his viral forces behind the titular firewall, all seems to be fine in Mainframe. That’s when “Game Over” comes and shatters the viewer’s false hope.

In “Game Over,” Enzo’s inexperience as a Guardian gets the better of him. He, AndrAIa, and Frisket enter a Game — styled after Mortal Kombat — they can’t win. Although they escape nullification by switching into Game Sprite mode, Mainframe is left with no Guardian just as the viruses discover vulnerabilities in the firewall.

P.S. Dot’s bone-chilling scream still haunts my dreams.

Number 7

Season 3, Episode 7

Jumping from Game to Game in search of Bob and a way back home, the all-grown-up pair of Enzo — now going by Matrix — and AndrAIa find themselves in a strange Game. This Game transports them back to a pristine version of Mainframe, unaffected by the events of the past season. But everything isn’t what it seems as the two sprites reboot into Megabyte and Hexadecimal, respectively.

The genius of “Number 7” is how multi-faceted the episode is. At its most surface level, “Number 7” is one bizarre 22-minutes that gives a unique perspective on the characters. Dig a little deeper, the episode is a powerful character analysis of Matrix and his fears of becoming the virus that fuels his rage. Pay a little more attention and the episode drops plenty of subtle hints at what is really going on — which I completely missed until a recent viewing.

Megaframe/Showdown/System Crash/End Prog

Season 3, Episodes 13-16

Bob, Matrix, AndrAIa, and Frisket finally return to Mainframe, but it isn’t how they left it. With no Guardian to protect it, Megabyte has taken control of the system and let it rot under his thumb. It’s up to Bob and company to join forces with Dot’s Resistance to oust Megabyte and stop the system from crashing.

From the Matrix’s showdown with Megabyte to Bob’s verbal sparring with a Megabyte simulation to Mainframe’s system reboot, these episodes are filled to the brim with moments that define the series. They wrap up everything that has been building since the season two finale while leaving the door open for more stories — which I will get to in a nano.

Better yet, the Gilbert and Sullivan-inspired musical finale is the wonderful cherry on top.

Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus

Season 4, Episode 8

Building off the few loose ends of season three, season four is mixed bag of sorts. It starts off with the action-heavy “Daemon Rising” arc. The arc is fun due to its vast Net-wide threat but lacks the personal stakes that made the last two seasons of ReBoot so memorable. The “My Two Bobs”  arc skews too far in the other direction, trying to recapture the zany comedy of the first two seasons. Well, that’s until Megabyte makes his triumphant return.

With Megabyte back in the picture — and now as a shapeshifting Trojan horse virus — the heroes launch a plan to detain the virus once and for all. Unfortunately for them, Megabyte’s shapeshifting abilities are a lot harder to handle. As a result, he seizes control of the Principal Office right from under their noses.

In a series known for excellent cliffhangers, “Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus” has the most infamous. After Megabyte takes control of the Principal Office, he talks about getting revenge against Mainframe in the form of a hunt. Subjectively, this is a wonderful cliffhanger. In fact, I still get chills watching it to this day. Unfortunately, the reason why it’s so infamous — especially among ReBoot fans — is because Mainframe Entertainment never got the chance to pay it off. The series would be cancelled before properly concluding the story.

While a three-part webcomic called ReBoot: Paradigms Lost tries its best to wrap up these loose ends, it still stings that we never got a proper conclusion. At least, there will always be the promise of the Hunt.

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