OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes' Final Season Is Getting Deliciously Dark And Melodramatic

K.O. facing off against Professor Venomous. (Image: Cartoon Network)

OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes third and final season has had a more focused and, at times, urgent energy compared to the previous two, in large part because these episodes are trying to bring K.O.’s story to a satisfying end. Because we’ve seen K.O. levelling up gradually, the final season’s shifting into a higher gear that’s been a welcome change of pace.

Now that K.O., Rad, and Enid have become full-time heroes, the trio has spent a significant amount of time figuring out what kind of team they want to be going forward. After all of their various adventures, the heroes have gained a much more impressive degree of control over their still-growing powers, and so the season’s focused a bit more on each character’s emotional growth instead.

Both Rad and Enid have become much more mature people overall and confident in the personal choices regarding their respective hero identities. Enid’s fully embraced and unified the monster, magical, and ninja aspects of her identity, and Rad’s no longer ashamed to be a jock misfit from a planet of nerds.

K.O.’s youth and inexperience have resurfaced old insecurities about whether he’s got what it takes to actually stand shoulder to shoulder with his older teammates. But he’s consistently proven himself, both by winning in battles, and demonstrating his ability to understand and take responsibility for the actions of his dark, ego-driven psychic counterpart T.K.O.

Though K.O.’s grown just as much as his friends, Let’s Be Heroes’ third season has emphasised that he still had a ways to go in terms of fully understanding how to deal with his inner darkness beyond just trying to block it out through sheer will.

Even after K.O.’s able to defeat T.K.O. once again and banish him to new depths within his mind, he’s haunted by the idea that he has evil within him. And in “K.O. vs. Fink,” that idea begins to manifest itself as K.O.’s inner monologue... which is actually just a shadowy figure lurking in drain pipes and sewers just out of his line of sight. Mind you, K.O. can also still be a very gullible child at times.

After Professor Venomous’ evil sidekick Fink gets into K.O.’s head by teasing him for being a mama’s boy (an accurate assessment), K.O.’s at a loss as to how to deal with his frustrations. The answer, according to his inner monologue, is simple: All he needs to do to get back at Fink is tap into T.K.O. and use his rage to defeat the rat in battle, but he has reservations because of how T.K.O.’s anger makes him feel.

It’s great how K.O.’s concern for both his and Fink’s well being is contrasted by Fink’s overt hatred for K.O. and her willingness to risk hurting herself if it means that she can terrorise him. It’s obvious that Fink’s jealous of the relationship K.O. has with his mum, especially given that Venomous, while caring, isn’t exactly affectionate toward Fink in an outward way.

K.O. listening to his inner monologue. (Image: Cartoon Network)

Rather than paying attention to Fink the way a more perceptive mentor might, Venomous instead tends to be much more of a classical villain who’s singularly obsessed with making K.O.’s life a living hell. While that obsession isn’t enough for Fink, it sustains Venomous and in “The K.O. Trap” you see just how far he is willing to go to deeply devastate the kid.

By trapping K.O., Rad, and Enid in a small box, Venomous plans to drive the heroes to madness, but they while away their time chilling out and having fun, reasoning that Mr. Gar will eventually come to rescue them when he notices they’re missing. But as time goes on, the heroes slowly begin to fear that they might not be able to escape.

For a brief moment, it seems like there might be a slight chance to break free, but just as quickly as K.O. gets his hopes up, he’s horrified to realise that Rad and Enid are actually goo clones that die gruesome deaths right before his eyes.

In time, the real K.O., Rad, and Enid are able to reunite and escape Venomous’ lair, but the entire experience leaves the team understandably shaken because of the sheer wildness of what they’ve been through.

Following their ordeal with Venomous, the heroes briefly go back to their lives in the Plaza before spending some time adventuring in far-off places like the pocket dimension contained in a kangaroo hero’s pouch and Rad’s home planet. All the while, Let’s Be Heroes began very heavily telegraphing a major revelation about K.O.’s origins that would factor into how the series is going to end.

Though K.O. had never really expressed all that much interest in learning his father’s identity, he’s surprised when his mother readily tells him in “Big Reveal” with a story about how she and the hero Laserblast fell in love during their days working for P.O.I.N.T. Learning that his father was a hero brings K.O. some degree of confidence that he can gain full control over T.K.O.’s destructive impulses because he believes that he inherited his heroism from both of his parents.

But when K.O. decides to take Professor Venomous on again, the villain pulls the rug out from underneath the boy by revealing that he used to be Laserblast before losing his powers in a freak accident and faking his death.

Learning the truth about Venomous immediately forces K.O. to reconsider what the darkness within him really is, but what’s interesting is that K.O. doesn’t assume that he has to fully give up on trying to build a relationship with his father, even if it means accepting that he has the capacity for evil with himself.

In the most recently aired episode “Let’s Get Shadowy,” K.O. makes a point of spending the weekend with Venomous and Fink out of a desire get to know that side of his family, and while Venomous is still very much a work in progress, he’s trying, which is saying something.

Seeing Venomous and K.O. bonding despite their differences brings Fink’s jealousy back to the surface and tempts her to divulge even more of her boss’ secrets to K.O., but her feelings never come across as mere pettiness. She’s genuinely concerned about the things Venomous doesn’t know about himself and when it becomes clear that he’s on the brink of making a discovery that would likely break him, she instead takes it upon herself to explain everything.

In addition to being Laserblast, Fink reveals that Venomous is also K.O.’s inner monologue and the Shadowy Figure responsible for the illicit Glorb-dealing operation that’s caused to much trouble in Lakewood Turbo Plaza. Whenever K.O.’s inner monologue encouraged him to give in to his dangerous impulses, it was Venomous unwittingly pushing him closer to the darkness, all the while the Professor was helpless to stop himself because he truly had no idea what he was doing.

Even with all the cards laid out on the table, K.O., Venomous and Fink still aren’t exactly in a good place in terms of their feelings toward one another. There are still unaddressed jealousies and resentments, but the three of them are well on their way to becoming something more like a family with plenty of emotional baggage, but a genuine care beneath all the drama.

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