Welcome to Pokemon Catch-Up, an article series that goes through the Fast Track Viewing List to get you up to speed with the Pokemon anime.
Instead of trudging through over 900 episodes of Pokemon, the Fast Track Viewing List cut that down to a minimal number of “important” and “plot-worthy” episodes.
The beginning of the episode list is pretty slow and that’s because the first season of Pokemon is packed with plot-heavy episodes like this one. A quick fun fact, last time I mentioned that Pokemon Red and Blue came out after the anime made its debut. In fact, the first 14 episodes aired before the games were available.
I’m not from the US so I can’t vouch for this, but according to Wikipedia, the first 41 episodes were aired pretty quickly, from September 8th 1998 to November 20th 1998, giving us less than 3 months to watch almost an entire season. From there, the show took on its usual Saturday morning spot on WB. In case you’re wondering, the entire first season is currently available on Netflix.
Today’s episode: Season 1 (Indigo League), Episode 2: “Pokemon Emergency!”
Phew, now that my preface is done, let’s get into the actual show!
We pick up where Ash last left us, entering Viridian City with a badly hurt Pikachu and an angry Misty with a broken bike tailing him. Within the first minute of the show, we get the foreshadow of what’s about to come: an introduction to Team Rocket, a duo of Pokemon thieves photographed on the Wanted poster.
This fact is broadcasted across the city by none other than Officer Jenny, a staple character in the Pokemon anime, no matter what city you enter or how far you travel, there’s always a Jenny relative that looks exactly like this first jenny.
Officer Jenny stops Ash on his way to the Pokemon Center, suspicious of this young man with no identification. Ash quickly finds out that his Pokedex serves as his ID and Officer Jenny takes out her awesome bike to take him to the Pokemon Center, all the while leaving a disgruntled Misty in the dust with her charred bicycle.
This is when we get to see the Team Rocket duo for the first time, for real, floating off in their iconic Meowth-shaped balloon. They introduce themselves as the villains they are and gasp! a talking Meowth!
This episode is definitely Team Rocket-centric.
Meanwhile, Ash and Jenny finally make it to the Pokemon Center where the ever-helpful Nurse Joy and her sidekick Chansey take Pikachu into their care. And, Ash gets a proper scolding for not taking good care of Pikachu. Seriously Ash, take care of your Pikachu better.
Time goes by slowly as Pikachu stays in the recovery room. Our hero calls his mother to pass time. By the way, this is the first, and to my knowledge only, mention of Ash’s father who took 4 days to get to Viridian City from Pallet Town when he started his own Pokemon journey. Ash’s mother also insinuates that she’ll tell Ash’s father how far he’s come already. I’m sure this short exchanged spurred a whole internet-full of fan theories.
Anyways, she gives him a pep talk and asks him about his underwear-changing habits. Then she hangs up.
Ash notices a plaque hanging above the reception desk that features several legendary Pokemon. My guess is Moltres, Articuno, Zapdos, and, for some reason, Arcanine.
Ash assumes that the top right Pokemon (what I believe is an Articuno) was the Pokemon he saw in the first episode. Refer to the first article to see what I’m talking about. When he went on his Johto journey, Ash confirmed that the Pokemon was, in fact, a Ho-Oh and not an Articuno. I’ve no idea what the significance of this scene was but this would make for a great trivia question.
Anyways, Professor Oak gives him a ring and they do a quick videochat. Oak tells Ash that he bet Gary a million dollars that Ash would have at least one new Pokemon by the time he reached Viridian City. Oh boy, he’s probably still paying that bet off.
Ash tells Oak about his legendary Pokemon sighting and Oak dismisses him. Oak logs off just in time for Misty to finally catch up with him.
And is she angry! She’s still carrying her blackened bike. Today is not Ash’s day, let’s just say that. He promises to help Misty get a new bike after Pikachu gets better. Fortunately, Nurse Joy brings Pikachu out on a stretcher. “Pikachu should be fine!”
And that is when Team Rocket puts their plan to steal Pokemon from the Pokemon Center into play. They enter the Pokemon center through the roof and let their Koffing and Ekans out. In a haze of Koffing’s smoke, they announce their entrance with their favorite motto… “Prepare for trouble…”
And from that point on, we’ll hear their introduction for every…single…episode. Also note that James remarks that a Pikachu is not really a rare Pokemon and they’re not interested in it at this point in time.
They attack, vandalize the Pokemon Center and take the power out. Ash and Co. make it to a backroom area where a hoard of Pikachu make up the backup generator. The “emergency Pokeball sequence” gets initiated. The Pokeballs zap out of existence and zap back in inside of the Pewter City Pokemon Center.
Alas, Team Rocket break through their closed doors. Ash uselessly tries to fight back by throwing random Pokeballs forward to defend against Ekans and Koffing.
Misty takes over the fight with her Goldeen…and then makes it return because there’s no water for it to swim in.
Ash tries to run away with his Pikachu and he’s stopped yet again. The power-generating Pikachu come to the rescue! You might have seen a gif of this scene around the internet.
The Pikachu pile on Ash’s Pikachu, zap Team Rocket, and restore Pikachu’s energy. Ash and Pikachu talk briefly by saying “Pika” to each other and then Ash hops on Misty’s messed up bike and starts pedaling, trying to generate enough electricity to power up even further Pikachu who subsequently continuously zaps Team Rocket. The lightning spreads to Koffing’s flammable gas and they blast off for their first time!
Team Rocket vows to catch this powerful Pikachu as they hang onto their failing balloon later in the night.
The next morning, half of the Pokemon Center is in shambles, completely destroyed.
Misty and Ash, in the meantime, have already taken off through the Viridian Forest together.
Ash spots a Caterpie and decides to catch it. He throws a ball. But will he catch it? We’ll see in the next episode!
This episode is pretty important because not only does it introduce us to Team Rocket but it also tells us why Team Rocket will continue to follow Ash through all the regions of the Pokemon world. We also get to see Misty officially join Ash’s company as they continue their journey.
Anyways, I guess you’ll see me next time for episode 3, “Ash Catches A Pokemon!”