How The Canceled Second Season Of G.I. Joe: Renegades Gave The G.I. Joe Movie Its Cliffhanger Ending

"G.I. Joe" hasn't endured the way its 1980s boys' toy franchise contemporaries "Transformers" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" have. Whenever one "Transformers" or "TMNT" cartoon ends, a new one pops on the air in no time at all, whereas the most recent "Joe" cartoon, "Renegades," ended in 2011.

Of these three series, "G.I. Joe" is the one most tied to its era of origin. The 1980s were a more conservative and patriotic time in the United States. As new episodes of "A Real American Hero" aired every Saturday morning, the Cold War was reaching its anti-climax. "Transformers" and "TMNT" have both proven capable of reinventing themselves; "G.I. Joe" has its eccentricities (such as the rival ninjas Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow), but it's ultimately boxed into its military theme. "G.I. Joe" is basically "Team America: World Police" minus the comedy, and that's not as fashionable anymore.

In a recent interview with /Film's Rafael Motamayor, "G.I. Joe: Renegades" head writer Henry Gilroy revealed he and his team were aware of this problem. That's why they tried to reinvent the mythos, taking the characters of "G. I. Joe" and sticking them into a story modeled after "The A-Team." While the series only lasted one 26-episode season, someone at Hasbro must have been a fan; the series helped inspire the second live-action film, "G. I. Joe: Retaliation."

Ordinary Joes

"G.I. Joe" has traditionally been the story of the titular group, the US military's elite anti-terrorism task force, battling Cobra, a group of supervillain terrorists out for world domination. "Renegades" flipped this on its head. The Joes are fugitives while Cobra is a legitimate (but far from benevolent) biotech company.

In the pilot of "Renegades," Lieutenant Shana O'Hara/Scarlett recruits her old friend Snake Eyes and four soldiers (Duke, Roadblock, Tunnel Rat, and Ripcord) to investigate Cobra. They discover, and destroy, the manufacture of bio-weapons but are framed by Cobra for bombing a "pharmaceutical factory." The Joes have to go on the run, looking to prove their innocence and expose Cobra's wrongdoing. Along the way, they attract the interest of Cobra's Commander; instead of an out-and-out super-villain like the '80s, this time he wears the friendly, public-facing (and totally fake) face of "Adam DeCobray."

Gilroy explained this reimagining had to do with the political climate of the 2010s:

"Worldwide, the U.S. military was not looked at in a very positive light. We can't just have these guys be gung-ho, U.S. military guys shooting up everything because of what happened in the Middle East."

Indeed, the military wound up being antagonists for most of "Renegades," since they were hunting the fugitive Joes as much as Cobra was. The reinvention wasn't all about politics though. Gilroy continued: "We also thought, well, we probably could tell more character-centric, stronger character stories if we focus on a smaller group of Joes, and we have them on the run." Indeed, while "Renegades" has a small regular cast, almost every episode featured guest appearances by classic Joe characters.

Canceled conclusions

"Renegades" season 1 ended with the Joes clearing their names and an injured Commander promising a war. Gilroy confirmed this was set up for season 2 to go in a more traditional direction:

"We had a second season where literally Cobra Commander was Osama bin Laden, who's basically on the run full on [...] They were terrorists. Then the Joes were brought back to be special agents for the government who were hunting down Cobra terrorists so, it was going to be really fun."

Alas, season 2 wasn't meant to be; it's probably for the best that Gilroy and his writers ended season 1 on a semi-conclusive note.

Despite the objections of the "Renegades" team, "Retaliation" wound up aping their premise. In that film, shape-shifting Cobra agent Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) replaces the U.S. President (Jonathan Pryce). President Zartan then has the Joes framed for treason and wiped out before handing the White House over to Cobra. A few survivors, led by Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), have to expose the truth and stop Cobra.

Like the cartoon, the movie ended with the Joes victorious but Cobra Commander escaping, setting up the hunt for him in the third movie. Like season 2 of "Renegades," the third movie never came to fruition. The proof is in the pudding; mashing up "G.I. Joe" with another '80s relic like "The A-Team" wasn't the best way to modernize the franchise.