Video Games


Fan Fiction
Fan Art


Hosted Sites

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 something big.
     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 help.
     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 Double Dragons.
     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 prisoners.]
     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 in time.
     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 remember….”
     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 Warrior.
     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 given name.
     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 away?  Thumbs-down.
     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.

Rating: B-