Sons of the Fathers (Static Shock season 1 epsiode 8), despite a somewhat silly name, is an episode I’m rather fond of. If I think about it, it epitomizes many of the traits I enjoy about the show in general: an honest treatment of heavy real-life social issues (albeit in a somewhat preachy and simplistic matter because the target audience is kids), showcasing the characters and their relationships (especially Virgil’s relationship with his dad, Robert Hawkins, and with his best friend Richie Foley), and a sprinkle of cheesiness and superhero action.
It starts with a brief and entertaining sequence of Static fighting the Meta-Breed, a supervillain team he often clashes with. The leader Ebon and the comically crazy Shiv manage to get away, but bird-like villain Talon is arrested.
It then switches to Virgil’s house where Richie is hanging out. Virgil points out that Richie spends a lot of time at his (Virgil’s) house and with his family, but the reverse has never happened – Virgil hasn’t even met Richie’s family, despite the two being best friends. Richie seems evasive, but agrees to a day when Virgil can come over. But when the day comes, it turns out that it was a day when Richie thought his dad would have to work in the evening, and it just so happens that Richie’s dad (Sean Foley) actually had the night off after all. Richie is not too happy, and Mr. Foley seems to take an instant dislike of Virgil.
As Virgil has dinner with Richie’s family, things feel rather awkward as the family eats in silence. Optimistically, Virgil tries to break the ice, still trying to assume there’s nothing really wrong, but it quickly goes downhill as he mentions rap music and Mr. Foley instantly criticizes it. Still, when the two boys go upstairs, Virgil continues to assume the best, pointing out it’s normal for older generations to be disapproving of newer music. However, when Virgil walks down the hall, he overhears Mr. Foley talking with his wife, a conversation that makes it clear that Mr. Foley is explicitly racist toward black people. Disheartened, Virgil realizes that he’s not willing to continue the sleepover. He communicates this to Richie and goes home. After this, Richie blows up at his dad, and shortly thereafter runs away from home.
The next day Virgil has a heart-to-heart with his own dad about the strangeness of the fact that someone as good-hearted and open-minded as Richie can have a father who’s a bigoted jerk. His father points out that there’s no logic to racism and that what matters is that Richie has made up his own mind. Shortly thereafter, Richie’s mom calls Virgil and asks if he has any idea where he is, cluing Virgil into the fact that he’s ran away.
The show cuts to a brief scene of Richie on the streets, then to Mr. Foley talking with Mr. Hawkins at the community center where Hawkins works, trying to find out information about Richie’s whereabouts. Foley is rather hostile to Hawkins, but Hawkins challenges him on his assumptions of racism and manages to get through to him somewhat, at least to the extent that he’s actually willing to receive Hawkins’ help. Meanwhile, Virgil is searching for Richie as Static, and manages to find him. The two talk and Virgil convinces him that going home is the right thing to do. Unbeknownst to them, however, Ebon is watching and thus realizes that Richie is Static’s best friend. Thus, when Static leaves, he takes advantage of the opportunity by kidnapping Richie.
Meanwhile, Mr. Foley and Mr. Hawkins are searching for Richie, and the Meta Breed are keeping the kidnapped Richie in their hideout. Their plan is to only let Richie go if Static breaks Talon out of jail – a “friend for friend” exchange of sorts. The Meta Breed try to get Richie to tell them how to contact Static, but Richie plays dumb, pretending that he and Static aren’t actually that close. However, he secretly turns on his Shock Box (walkie-talkie) and semi-stealthily communicates his location.
The fathers are continuing their search, but they follow a bad tip given to them by a troublemaker and end up right at the Meta Breed’s hideout. They confront the Meta Breed to ask them to free Richie, but unsurprisingly, they’re not able to overpower them. However, Static zooms in just in time to fight them. At one point Ebon has the advantage over Static, but Mr. Foley helps by distracting the supervillain. Finally, the foes are defeated and Mr. Foley tearfully apologizes and hugs his son. As the final scene of the episode, Virgil is at the community center and Richie and his dad come up to him since Mr. Foley is giving the two boys a ride to the local comic-con, signifying a more positive relationship has developed between Mr. Foley and the two boys.
Overall, I think this episode struck a great balance between covering a serious and uncomfortable topic in a way that’s reasonably true-to-life while still remaining fun and pretty lighthearted. Sean Foley felt like a realistic depiction of a narrow-minded, judgmental man who’s also an uncaring father, including details such as him not knowing much about his son’s life and feeling entitled to his loyalty just because he provides the basic necessities of life. He’s the kind of person who thinks of himself as an upstanding citizen and judges anyone and anything that doesn’t conform to his view of the way things should be. The only problem is that they show him turning away from the error of his ways too easily, but even then I don’t mind it that much because, for one thing, it’s a kid’s show so a little unrealistic positivity is somewhat understandable, and for another thing, it is somewhat believable that such an individual would make a change like that on a superficial, temporary level, and the show never conclusively shows that he’s changed deeply and “for good”.
In addition to the moral lesson, this episode also contained some good humor, witty dialogue, and superhero action that makes the end result just plain fun. It’s not high art or anything, but it’s a well-written piece of children’s media that’s plenty entertaining.
All in all, it’s a great episode that shows the strengths of Static Shock rather well, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to give the show a try.