Knuckles Review

Not content with the domesticity of Green Hills life, Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba) takes on hapless deputy sheriff Wade Whipple (Adam Polly) as his protégé, attempting to train him in the ways of a warrior.

by Nicola Austin |
Published on

Streaming on: Paramount+
Episodes viewed: 6 of 6

As the film landscape’s obsession with cinematic universes continues – hell, there’s even a horror-themed Poohniverse in development – Paramount has its (speedy) sights set on expanding its SEGA-assisted Sonic-verse between big-screen sequels. Enter Paramount+ spin-off miniseries Knuckles – another live-action/CGI hybrid production, like the big-screen outings – arriving before this year’s Sonic 3 (set to introduce Keanu Reeves as Shadow the Hedgehog), expanding the family-friendly franchise with a show focused around the Idris Elba-voiced Echidna.


Die-hard fans looking for mythology deep-dives and tidbits setting up the Blue Blur’s next instalment should, however, temper their expectations. While Knuckles kicks off with a solid first episode helmed by Sonic director Jeff Fowler – opening with a fantastic training sequence which feels ripped straight from the games, along with extended appearances from the whole spiky gang – it quickly becomes apparent that the spinoff isn’t necessarily chasing the same gold rings as the Sonic movies.

There’s plenty for fans of the Sonic franchise to enjoy.

Following a spiritual encounter with the “force ghost” of Pachacamac, the previous Chieftan of Knuckles’ Echidna warrior clan (voiced by a stand-out Christopher Lloyd), Knuckles establishes its true premise: an unapologetically silly road-trip-turned-family-comedy, centred around a baffling bowling tournament, taking a wacky turn with a narrative involving Green Hills Deputy Sheriff Wade Whipple (Adam Polly). Cue villainous hijinks courtesy of two ex-agents from G.U.N,, the Guardian Units of Nations (previously featured in Sonic 2), madcap motorbike duels, robotic showdowns and – of all things – an utterly leftfield Mighty Boosh rock opera crossover starring Julian Barratt himself. Among it all, the series does ultimately become the Wade show, with Knuckles seemingly absent for a large chunk of the series – particularly in the fourth episode.

Although Polly undoubtedly shines as hapless goofball Wade – complete with an endearing arc involving a scene-stealing Cary Elwes as Wade’s bowling-champ dad, Pistol Pete Whipple – it is somewhat disappointing to see the stoic echidna taking a backseat in his own show, especially as Elba is finally afforded some zingers and Knuckles some much-needed character development. While Knuckles’ disappearing act is likely due to budget constraints (CG characters are notably more expensive than flesh-and-blood humans) the heart and humour of the spin-off lies in his and Wade’s unlikely friendship – much-missed when they’re apart. There’s also a Robotnik-shaped hole in the villain department, with Rory McCann, Kid Cudi and Ellie Taylor (playing foes ‘The Buyer’, and G.U.N. agents Mason and Willoughby, respectively) failing to capture the zany, moustache-twirling magic of Jim Carrey from the Sonic films – understandably a tough act to follow.

Still, there’s plenty for fans of the Sonic franchise to enjoy – whether you’ve embraced the bonkers vibe or not – with fun easter eggs and film throwbacks, chaotic combat, pure ‘90s nostalgia (hello, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles duvet cover) and that iconic cowboy hat. There’s also a banging ‘80s and early ‘00s rock soundtrack to boot, with Patty Smyth’s ‘The Warrior’ proving an inspired character anthem. Good luck getting “unskilled, untrained, so unworthy” out of your head following Episode 4. Knuckles isn’t exactly a level up, but it’s far from a fall into a pit of spikes.

This is more ‘Wade’s World’ than ‘Sonic 2.5’. Still, Knuckles’ solo side-quest proves fun filler fluff as fans await the arrival of Shadow in the threequel.
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