DD II Shrine
River of Tears
Episode written by Pat Allee and Ben Hurst
In the Double Dragons' secret
lair under the Dragon Dojo, Jimmy asks Billy if he's had any luck breaking
the Shadow Master's communications code. Billy, sitting at a large
computer, replies that he's getting closer. He says that the
Shadow Master has been really active lately, and whatever it is must be
We cut to an empty dam where Sickle is running an
illegal underground fighting tournament with connected gambling.
From a nearby tunnel, some street kids observe the mutant combatants.
One little boy starts imitating the mutants' moves. Vortex, a
homeless young man who looks after the kids, arrives. In a
surprising display of acrobatics, he flips onto his hands, picks the boy
up with his feet, rotates him over and over, then throws him in the air,
flips back onto his feet and catches the boy, unharmed. Vortex asks
the boy what he had told him about fighting dirty. The boy
sheepishly responds that martial arts without rules are lower than a
snake's belly. Unbeknownst to Vortex, Sickle saw the whole thing and
was impressed with Vortex's moves.
Later that evening, Vortex has put the kids to sleep.
Sickle approaches him, asking who taught him to fight. Vortex states
that he never had any training, but Sickle replies that he saw him showing
off earlier and attacks Vortex. Vortex is forced to use his martial
knowledge to defend himself, and his lie becomes plainly obvious.
Sickle tells Vortex that he will be in the tournament the next day.
Vortex refuses, telling Sickle that he's got the wrong man. Sickle
responds that Vortex will be there or the “kiddies” might just be “taking
a permanent residence” at the Shadow Dojo.
Elsewhere, Marian has just completed an arrest when she
is approached from behind. It is Vortex, who tells her he needs her
The next day, at the tournament, Sickle introduces
Vortex as “the new Storm-Trooper.” A few seconds into Vortex's
match, the police carry out a raid. Marian cuffs Vortex, telling him
he's under arrest all the while winking at him.
At the Shadow Dojo, the Shadow Master instructs Sickle
that the tournaments will continue, and that Sickle will find the
informant who ratted them out. The Shadow Master tells Sickle how he
plans to do so: catch a rat with a rat.
Vortex leaves a police car, thanking its driver
(presumably Marian, who is only seen from afar) for their help with the
Shadow Warriors. A robot rat has secretly observed the entire
conversation, relaying it to the Shadow Master (even though he presumably
assigned the task to Sickle). The Shadow Master contacts Sickle.
At that exact moment, Billy manages to break the code.
Billy and Jimmy listen in as the Shadow Master commands Sickle to destroy
the informant: Vortex. As the Lee brothers rush off, Jimmy asks who
Vortex is. Billy replies that Marian told him about Vortex.
Billy and Jimmy arrive at Vortex and the kids'
cardboard box homes. Vortex attacks them. Jimmy tells him to
calm down, and that the Shadow Warriors are coming. Billy encourages
Vortex to let the two of them take the kids to the Dragon Dojo, where
they'll be safe. Vortex remarks that the Shadows wanted to take the
kids to the Shadow Dojo, and concludes that the Dragons and Shadows are
all alike. He balances on one hand, simultaneously launching leg
sweeps at both brothers - one on either side of him. Jimmy jumps out
of the way, but Billy is tripped up - hurting both of them. Vortex
tells the Lee brothers that he's not going to be one of their lackeys, and
demands that they get out and stay out. In a rare reversal, Billy
storms off while Jimmy calmly follows, noting that he thought he was
supposed to be the hothead.
Seconds after Billy and Jimmy have left, Sickle,
Trigger Happy and some low-level Shadow Warriors arrive. Vortex
tells the children to get out of there. As the kids run into a
nearby tunnel, Sickle orders a couple of Shadow Warriors to find them and
take them to the Shadow Dojo. Trigger Happy begins blasting
everything in sight, but Vortex is too fast for him.
Billy and Jimmy hear the noise. Jimmy says that
they have to help. Billy questions whether Vortex will accept their
help. Jimmy responds that the Code of the Dragon states that to help
the weak is the duty of the strong, even if the weak don't want it.
Billy counters that Vortex is not weak. Jimmy replies that he was
not talking about Vortex, but the kids. They transform into the
Sickle fights Vortex, sweeping his feet out from under
him. Sickle concedes that Vortex is good, describing him as “the
best amateur” he's ever seen. Sickle then draws and twirls his
weapons, stating that if Vortex won't become a Shadow Warrior, then he
won't be a warrior at all. As Vortex lies at Sickle's feet, he has a
momentary vision of Sickle with longer hair wearing a different bodysuit.
Vortex shakes his head to clear it, and Sickle tells him he's caught like
a rat in a trap.
Just then, the Double Dragons arrive, saving Vortex and
joining the fight. The battle is turned against the Shadow Warriors, but
then Vortex takes off through a tunnel. Sickle throws a smoke bomb
to keep the Dragons from seeing where Vortex went, then rushes after him.
As Vortex leaves the tunnel, he sees the kids being
forced into a Shadow Copter, which then takes off. He leaps for it,
but just misses. Behind him, Sickle tells him that he's still got a
chance to get the kids back: If he makes it to the end of a
tournament, the kids will be freed. If he doesn't make it, he won't
be around to care what happens to them. As we hear Sickle talk, we
see the kids being imprisoned in the old tournament site, the empty
riverbed of the dam.
Sickle tells Vortex to be at the Stockyard the next day
at sunset, adding that if he is not there, he will never see the kids
again. The robot rat has again been observing, and as the Shadow
Master watches, he laughs.
The following day, as the sun sets over the Stockyard,
Vortex must face twelve consecutive challengers in a cage fight. He
gets more and more fatigued with each bout, constantly repeating his motto
to himself: “If you must fight, fight with honor.”
As the Shadow Master watches Vortex's progress from the
Shadow Dojo, he notices something very familiar about Vortex's fighting
style. He realizes that he's seen it before, but cannot remember
where. He then gets a call from Countdown, informing him that “the
Shadow Squad” is searching the riverbed where the kids are hidden.
[Note: No further detail is given on that point.
I assumed that the Shadow Squad is a police team specifically dedicated to
Shadow Warriors-related crime, and that Marian is probably a member of the
squad. I guess they were searching the riverbed for any evidence
left over from when they first raided the tournament. But this would
make the riverbed a pretty stupid place for the Shadow Warriors to hide
The Shadow Master remarks how convenient this is,
ordering Countdown to blow up the dam and “Take care of them all.”
After that, Countdown is to join the Shadow Master at the Stockyard for
the conclusion of the tournament. What the Shadow Master does not
know is that Billy and Jimmy are once again listening in on his private
conversations, and he's just told them everything they needed to know.
They again transform into the Double Dragons.
Driving the Dragon Cruiser, the Double Dragons arrive
at the riverbed. Countdown tells them they're all wet, then fires a
couple of rockets at the dam. As the Dragons race away from the
flooding riverbed, Jimmy notices the children trapped behind metal bars.
Billy cuts the bars, gets them all into the Cruiser, and yells for Jimmy
to punch it. The Cruiser speeds up the riverbed wall, escaping just
Only once the danger is over do Marian and the police
immediately show up, as does the robot rat.
Back at the Stockyard, Vortex has reached his twelfth
opponent, a giant, green-skinned, four-armed mutant. Vortex is
exhausted and sweating, and sustains a serious blow to the upper arm from
the mutant's heavy, dumbbell-like weapon. However, he continues to
utter “Fight with honor,” and wins the bout. Sickle then announces
that the tournament is not over, and leaps down into the cage.
Sickle reveals that Vortex has one more opponent: Sickle.
Sickle draws his weapons, telling Vortex that no one
wins against him. Vortex then draws his own weapons, which are
similar to Sickle's, but smaller, and fit over his hands. Sickle
grimaces, commenting that “The rat shows his teeth.” The two
exchange parries, and Sickle knocks Vortex down. As Vortex again
lies at Sickle's feet, for the second time in as many days, he has another
vision of Sickle with different hair and clothing.
This sets Vortex off, and he leaps to his feet, dodging
and flipping. However, just as Vortex seems prepared to take on
Sickle, the Shadow Master appears in a whirl of black and tells Sickle to
leave Vortex to him. The Shadow Master separates the two halves of
his weapon, blasting Vortex with energy from the sword. The Shadow
Master asks Vortex who trained him. Vortex merely says “I remember,”
and blacks out.
Just then, the Double Dragons arrive. Jimmy
throws the robot rat, now thoroughly trashed, to the Shadow Master.
The Shadow Master hisses, and fires energy from both of his weapons at the
Dragons. They return fire with energy from their swords. It's
a clear standoff, so the Shadow Master disappears in another black whirl.
Sickle tells the Dragons that he's still there, and is promptly blasted by
Jimmy. The Dragons check whether Vortex is alright. He's okay,
just semi-conscious, constantly repeating the words “I remember… I
Later, at the Dragon Dojo, Vortex tells Billy and Jimmy
that he remembers his childhood. A man stayed with Vortex's family
and taught him to fight. He was Vortex's friend. But something
happened and the man had to go. Then, the Shadow Master came.
One night, Vortex woke up to find Sickle (who then had longer hair and
wore a different bodysuit, as per Vortex's earlier memory flashes)
standing over him. He was so scared that he ran away. As we
see all this in flashback, the child Vortex then turns around to see his
home burning as the Shadow Master marches out. The child turns,
crying, and runs into the night.
Vortex believes he was a coward. He says he
couldn't fight the Shadow Master back then and couldn't finish fighting
him at the tournament. Vortex tells the Lee brothers that they don't
need a loser in their Dojo. Billy replies that Vortex is no loser,
stating that there's no disgrace in blacking out after fighting twelve
guys, Sickle and the Shadow Master. Billy concludes that they would
be proud to have Vortex join them. Billy and Jimmy then transform.
Vortex is surprised to see the Double Dragons in front of him, as he
realizes their true identities. Jimmy tells him to kneel, and as he
does so, they place their swords on his shoulders, dubbing him a Dragon
Later, Billy asks Vortex the name of the man who taught
him martial arts. Vortex replies that it was John Lee. Billy
and Jimmy are both shocked. Neither ever met their father, but Billy
is sure that he'd be proud to know that they're fulfilling their destiny,
fighting the forces of evil, together.
Epilogue Message: Recycled, from the later episode
(both in production and broadcasting order), “Rebirth.” While it has
a valid message about self-worth, it makes little sense. Michael's
reference to Chop's story is out of place as he's referring to something
that hasn't yet happened with a character we haven't yet met.
Eddie MountainGoat's review: This was one of the
earliest episodes I ever saw. A cynic might argue that the only
reason it was written was to sell Vortex action figures. Actually,
Vortex is unique, in that unlike every other Dragon Warrior dubbed in the
first series, Vortex is not given a Dragon name, being dubbed under his
The Shadow Squad is a bit of a plot hole. It
sounds like a group of Shadow Warriors (that's what I first thought).
And a stickler for detail might notice that Vortex's style does not in any
way resemble Billy's, yet they were supposedly both trained in the way of
the Dragon. Unless, I suppose, John Lee picked up or developed new
techniques after trusting his infant son to Oldest Dragon.
But that's something that does kinda bite. Not
really about this episode itself, but more about the entire series.
The conclusion leaves the viewer wanting to know more about John Lee.
His sons never met him and his third son-figure doesn't even know if he
survived after he left. If we actually did learn the truth, later
on, I would say that this was a well-handled way of getting our attention
and keeping our interest. But to dangle a cookie, then snatch it
I guess my favorite part would have to be seeing
Vortex at the very end. His patched-and-tattered clothes are
replaced with clean, new ones, he has a new home and a new purpose as a
Dragon Warrior. I don't always like clichéd, happy endings, but this
one pulled me in.