Warning: spoilers ahead for the second episode of LEGO MASTERS.
In the latest episode of LEGO MASTERS, it was all about motion – the first challenge saw the builders throw a curveball when they had to create a mash-up vehicle before the planned challenge required the to build a working theme park. This time, Matthew Ashton was joined by Richard Osman and Dr Shini Somara to judge the finished builds.
Nate and Steve were the builders to come out on top this week, with their elaborately themed Pirates theme park. Daniel and Jack made something that was considered too precarious, so were the third pair to be heading home.
In a moment edited out of the final episode, the builders vote for the pair that they feel achieved build the best model this week – but did they get it right? Once again, a panel of Brick Fanatics has been convened to decipher what went on and give their view on the judges’ decision.
Without the need for a series introduction, episode two of Brick Masters dropped us right into the action. Breaking the episode into two challenge rounds was a bit strange, and ate up time that could have been used to explain some of the functioning parts of the show. We see the contestants’ build stations, but never receive an explanation as to how they’re stocked or what’s available outside of what’s on stage. It was clear in the first episode that contestants had access to far more than what the audience sees. There was also no clarification about how much time the teams are given to plan their builds (in the case of this week’s second challenge), or if that is built into their allotted time for the challenge.
I can’t say I was overly thrilled with the asymmetrical nature of the opening challenge. In the end, you’re left trying to compare apples with oranges, and given that there was a second universal challenge, this first round felt unnecessary. All in all though, I felt James and Jamil and Nate and Steve handled the whole thing best.
For the second challenge, the brief was clear and interesting. Once again, Nate and Steve came through with what was easily my favourite of the builds, their Pirates themed park. Of all the entries, it had a clear, consistent theme tying everything together, and their octopus ride was cute and cleverly executed.
After what I felt was a pretty sound failure in the opening round, Nicolas and Kobe did a great job with their park. The shooting gallery was a great idea, and their implementation worked wonderfully. They had a nice variety of attractions, and all functioned well and looked polished.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was Jack & Daniel’s fortune telling machine/spinning death trap. The Zoltar-like fortune machine was nicely designed, but it was life sized, and their non-functioning swing ride was minifig scale. This is a similar problem to what they experienced last week, showing an inability to properly tie all the pieces together. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see them passed over for progress to the next round.
After perhaps trying to fit too much into one hour of TV last week, I was pleased to see more coverage of the main contestants this time and enjoyed the addition of another task rather than just the one.
I think that saying goodbye to Daniel and Jack was ultimately the right decision. I did enjoy watching them and they clearly had a lot of fun working together, letting their imaginations run wild. Where I believe they let themselves down was by not testing their models properly beforehand, which seemed slightly unwise, as well as perhaps not collaborating as effectively as their peers. It is quite hard to tell though, given that we only see what the TV editors show us. That said, their final model ‘Zol-Dan’ was a bit of a mess and the instability of the build was clearly an issue when the motors were activated. The lack of movement in their first challenge model was also not ideal, though I actually really liked the overall look and colour scheme of the ‘Dump-Marine’.
The judges’ choice could seem a bit controversial when some might question nine-year olds Guy and Abraham’s generally simplistic builds going against the much higher standard elsewhere. While true, I personally preferred their final challenge build, with the overall colour scheme far more evocative of a fairground than that of Daniel and Jack’s.
On the flipside, this week also helped emphasise who the stronger builders seem to be, with Nicolas and Kobe displaying immense prowess – both building huge scale models in a short amount of time as well as highly detailed, inventive minifigure scale builds. Nate and Steve also created one of my favourite builds of the week with their extremely cool Pirates themed theme park making great use of a popular AFOL technique for the water wave.
I thought that James and Jamil clearly enjoyed this task and incorporated some advanced mechanics in the model, but as Matthew Ashton pointed out, they need to perhaps be a bit more aware of the final aesthetic, something I think they struggled with last week too. I’m also warming to Jessica and Faolán but for now can’t help that feel they’re perhaps playing it a bit safe with their builds. They’ve clearly got a lot more up their sleeves, so I hope we get to see before it’s too late.
First off, I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of reality TV contests– so I wasn’t wild about one focused on my favourite hobby. LEGO bricks let you build freely without imposing judgement. TV contests are all about imposing judgements, with panels of experts voting off ‘weak’ contestants. So does the format suck all the fun out of such an inclusive hobby?
The first round didn’t bode well, as halfway through building a vehicle the teams were told to mix in a second one. The reasoning behind this was that ‘design briefs can change’, but the sudden announcement felt forced and didn’t produce the interesting mash-ups the judges were hoping for. It just created extra stress and a line-up of lumpy vehicles.
The second round was much more successful, with a brief to build a fairground and no surprise instructions halfway through. Rightly, guest judge Richard Osman wasn’t taking anything too seriously, pointing out ‘flaws’ like a lack of adequate parking.
Guy and Abraham, the two nine-year-old contestants, were having so much fun building that they seemed oblivious to the fact they were in a competition. It was a welcome change from the artificial stress and time pressure that reality TV thrives on. I liked their re-imagining of a spinning fairground ride to include a laser quest.
Jessica and Faolan came up with a flower-themed fairground with lots of fun touches. Nicolas and Kobe also built a charming funfair, including a monorail and shooting gallery with working conveyor belt. James and Jamil’s steampunk-inspired fair was criticised for its drab colour scheme, but couldn’t be faulted for its complex Technic mechanisms.
Teachers Nate and Steve created a Pirates themed fair, combining impressive aesthetics with technical wizardry. I particularly liked the rotating wave around the raft and the spinning octopus ride. Both used a clever mechanism and attractive build techniques.
Sadly, Jack and Daniel were eliminated at the end. Their zany fair included a large-scale fortune teller with spinning eyes, but the spinning swing ride on top didn’t spin reliably. The overall design didn’t seem as coherent as the others, so the judges were probably right. The steampunk fair was technically more impressive, but less wacky and less fun.
I enjoyed seeing what the builders made, and learning about why they love LEGO building. But I feel the competition format is still a bit too cutthroat for the happy world of the brick. They’d better not make any children or AFOLs cry, or I’ll be switching off.
With next week’s builds themed around nature, there are two challenges – a planned build, in which the teams populate a nature walk, and an unplanned build to see how quickly the teams can be build with minimal bricks. The episode will air on September 7 at 8.00pm on Channel 4.
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Graham was the BrickFanatics.com Editor up until November 2020. He has plenty of experience working on LEGO related projects. He has contributed to various websites and publications on topics including niche hobbies, the toy industry and education.
Follw Graham on Twitter @grahamh100.