Friday, February 17, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Three: "Aduckyphobia"

A good example of how you can make a title seem, in retrospect, like complete gibberish: presumably, this episode is named after the 1990 film Arachnophobia.  But sticking "ducky" in the title in place of "rachno" completely severs the relationship to spiders, leaving anyone not up on their middling horror movies completely in the dark.  "Aducky?"  So it's the fear of…an absence of ducks?  Wuh?  Well, I guess we're all probably experiencing that to an extent as we wait for a new Disney publisher to emerge.

I'd kinda forgotten about Moliarty.  Well, not literally; I may at some point have vaguely thought, huh--I wonder if that mole guy's ever gonna make a reappearance.  But his initial appearance didn't make much of an impression, and honestly, I didn't really remember what he was like.  Well, now he's back.  Hurray?  Sure; why not.  Though here, at least, he's really nothing more than a generic dick who wants to destroy surface life just 'cause of some kind of molecentrism.  He's messing around with radiation 'cause he's after a rare mineral called "canardium" to power his evil machine, and a spider gets mutated and grows to be giant.  I thought it also mutated to have a human face, but as we later learn, all spiders of that species are like that.  Weird.  Anyway, he's really childlike and sweet but also quite dumb and easily manipulated, so Moliarty enlists his aid.  When he bites DW (for which he is immediately contrite), the latter grows two extra pairs of arms and decides that his new superhero identity will be "Arachnoduck." 

And that's about that.  Moliarty, like, loses and stuff.  And that's about it, really.  Nothing too spectacular, although I really do like the giant spider.  If they had wanted Moliarty to feature more prominently in the show, they really should've done more to make his character distinctive.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season ?????, Episode Nine: "Battle of the Brainteasers"

Same explanation for this out-of-order episode as for "Calm a Chameleon!"  We will be returning to normal next time.

Honker witnesses a meteor crash, but no one is willing to listen to him until he tells Gosalyn.  It turns out that, big surprise, it's aliens.  They're these three alien, um, hats, that hop on people's heads to control them, sort of like the handlingers in Perdido Street Station.  Their names are Flarg, Barada, and Nikto.  Um, shouldn't that first one be "Klaatu?"  Well, we learn at the end of the episode that that's the name of the leader of the hat people.  But I don't know why they wouldn't use the name for the guy who's part of the trio.

I won't say these guys are particularly compelling villains, but this is still a cool episode because the day is saved entirely by Gosalyn and then a little by Honker at the end.  Drake spends the whole episode first playing videogames and then possessed by a hat; during the latter segment, he's wearing the Darkwing costume for unclear reasons, but he never does any Darkwing things, which is a first for the show.  And it builds up some pretty good Body-Snatchers type tension as Gosalyn tries desperately to avoid being assimilated.

Stray Observations

"I thought your hat was an alien!"  "No--it was made right here in town!"

-Also, Honker is able to stand up to Tank, which is nice.  And his family's reactions when the hat controlling him goes on TV to announce their imminent takeover of the world is relatively priceless: "And he's usually so shy!  To think our little Honker could soon be ruling the planet!  Looks like you might have to give him the bigger bedroom, dear!"

-Oh, an' also, we see the return (or perhaps first appearance? I'm all mixed up) of "Whiffle Boy," the videogame from Quackerjack's debut.  Whoo?

Darkwing Duck, Season Mystery, Episode Eight: "Calm a Chameleon"

There is no particular reason to be watching this episode out of order--I just didn't want to bother switching discs, is all.

Gotta love that title, anyway.  I'm not saying it's a work of genius or anything, but it's a sort of cute, somewhat clever pop-culture reference of a sort that you simply would not have seen in Ducktales.

The idea is that there's this shape-changing witch called The Chameleon.  Her main goal is to steal special ink so she can counterfeit money, which seems like a pretty low-ambition scheme, really.  Oh, and also, there's a companion plot where Honker's feeling picked on so he reads a book that DW apparently wrote in his spare time about being assertive.  This makes him instantly turn into Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

The Chameleon is really named Camille.  Her story, as she explains it, is that in school she was beautiful, but everyone nonetheless picked on her for unexplained reasons.  She wanted to blend in--like the chameleon!--so she managed to do some sort of DNA-related thing to make her into a human chameleon.  Now, she actually looks pretty cool in her regular form, I grant you, but she's pretty thin as a villain.  It's never made clear why "desire to fit in" mutated into "desire to commit crimes," and she never really becomes anything more than the "changes forms" conceit.  Maybe if they had made her a recurring character, they could have developed her better.  Although given that our heroes defeat her simply by turning up the heat, it appears that she would have been done in anyway on the first really hot day to come along.

Stray Observations

-She may be able to look like anyone, but she always has this hissing voice that gives her away.  But when DW goes "hold it Launchpad--there's something funny about your voice!" it's just so instantly obvious that his IQ is going to momentarily dip by ~fifty points and he's not going to have figured out the truth.  I feel like you should strive to avoid this kind of predictability, guys.

-"If I was a fiend named The Chameleon, what would I do?"  If you WERE a fiend, dammit.  Superheroes need to be on top of the subjunctive mood.

-"DW, you really oughta schedule your chase sequences to avoid rush hour."

Darkwing Duck, Season Two Hundred Eighty Two Thousand, Episode Five: "Slaves to Fashion"

Well, the initial idea is that Gosalyn is kicking Honker's and Tank's asses at soccer, and seeing this, Drake allows himself to be convinced that Gosalyn is insufficiently lady-like and should therefore be made to serve as a "hostess" at this school charity function to girl her up.  I must say, while this plotline is interesting in theory, in practice it's just way too programmatic.  I mean, what do you think is going to happen?  If you said "Gosalyn is utterly hostile to behaving in an even slightly 'lady-like' fashion," then congratulations: you've watched at least one episode of Darkwing Duck, or at least heard of it.  I'm not saying that Gosalyn should start acting contrary to character, but if you're going to have a plot like this, use it to do something interesting; reveal some new wrinkle.  Otherwise, what's the point?

Ahem.  Anyway.  So the problem is, Tuskernini, whom I've never found to be a very interesting villain, has this hypno-gas that makes people act like what they're dressed as.  Or else just makes them do what Tuskernini says.  Or both.  It's never made very clear.  He wants to use this scheme to rob the charity and stuff.  Gadzooks!

So at the dance, there's a baffling bit where Gosalyn is hanging around chatting with these three boys and acting exaggeratedly girly about it to…annoy Drake, apparently.  Only it's not at all clear why this is meant to be something that would annoy him.  I guess the boys are disreputable or something?  I would not describe this as the result of good writing.  Then, everyone starts getting hit with the gas, resulting in hijinx.  I do like the fact that Drake is dressed as Darkwing (causing nobody to notice anything suspicious, of course), and it's a real philosophical conundrum when he gets hit with the gas: now he acts like DW?  More so?  What does it mean to be made to behave "more" in the manner of your alter-ego that's for all intents and purposes exactly the same as you?  Hmm.

And there's an entertaining conclusion where Tuskernini, DW, and LP have all been hit by the gas and rapidly go through a whole bunch of different costumes and behaviors.  And then Drake learns that he should accept Gosalyn as she is.  So good for him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Two: "Double Darkwings"

Take a tall drink from a jar, act so gay-o
War is over, Johnny's back, back on the bayou

Jambalaya Jake's witchdoctor grandmother makes a zombification powder for him to use on Darkwing.  Great plan--but things go wrong because LP is dressed in a DW costume to learn to be a more effective "decoy," and, naturally, he gets hit with the potion instead, giving Jake the bright idea of making him commit crimes to frame the real DW.

Hmm.  I'm sort of ambivalent about Jake.  He is fairly entertaining to watch, I'll admit, but there's something about him that just makes him seem a little out-of-place to me.  It's probably in large part the fact that while all the other villains are, you know, special in some way, he's really just a short guy with no discernible superpowers.  I feel like I either want to sympathize on some level with a supervillain, or else find them so impressively badass/evil that I don't care.  Jake sort of falls between the cracks in that regard.

Anyway, grandma wants Jake to cough up ten thousand dollars for this powder, and she shows up at a very inopportune moment to demand the money; when he can't pay, she de-zombifies LP so the heroes can kick his ass.  Geez, granny, you've gotta give him some time.  It really doesn't seem reasonable to me to expect the money before he's had time to deal with the resident superhero.  What you have to ask yourself is: do you actually want that ten thousand dollars, or don't you?  If you do, you're going to have to learn to exercise some patience.

Nice ending, in which our heroes make Jake and Gumbo dress in the DW costumes to frame them for the crimes that they had framed DW for.  I like how thoroughly dimwitted the TV reporter is.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episodes Twenty & Twenty-One: "Just Us Justice Ducks"

I've enjoyed most of these Marvel superhero movies that have been released over the last few years (the exception being Iron Man 2, about which the less said the better), but I'm still having a hard time conceptualizing how the upcoming Avengers movie can actually be good.  'Cause seriously, dude, you're trying to cram a half dozen-odd unconnected heroes together and give them all time to shine in the space of a two hour movie?  It's difficult to see how this can possibly be anything but really overstuffed and ungainly.

At any rate, perhaps "Just Us Justice Ducks" (love the title, if nothing else) can provide us with a preview, since here, in the space of forty-two-odd minutes, it's Darkwing and Gizmoduck and Morgana and Neptunia and Stegmutt versus Negaduck and Megavolt and Quackerjack and Bushroot and Liquidator.  Whew.  Honestly, it seems kind of pointless to take the time to put together whole teams like this without ever using them again--doing it just for the sake of the thing, because it's a superhero convention--but what the hell: let's see how if fares on its own terms.

So DW has a date with Morgana, but before that can happen, he has to deal with Megavolt being villainous.  And what's this?  There's Quackerjack being villainous, too!  Actually, the two of them are pretty funny together; I could deal with more of that.  Throughout the course of the first episode, the various heroes and villains are introduced, more or less awkwardly, and DW, being a lone-hero type, drives them all off.  Will he learn the True Value of Teamwork?!?

YES!  The second episode deals with having so many heroes and villains by more or less compartmentalizing them: in the first half, it's Neptunia versus Liquidator, Morgana versus Bushroot, Stegmutt versus Quackerjack, and Gizmoduck versus Megavolt.  In each case, the villain gets the upper hand, and Negaduck is going to drain their powers and incidentally kill them until DW shows up.  Then, they each pretty much smash the shit out of a villain in such a way that it's hard to know why they had so much trouble in the first place.  For all this talk of "teamwork," there really isn't all that much of it--they basically each just do their thing.

So okay.  That's that, I guess.  Not terrible, but there's a certain feeling of anticlimax, like we were building up to this whole big thing and now…well, the thing happened!  Back to the ol' grind!  I'm actually kind of looking forward to that, though; novelty notwithstanding, it's hard to imagine how this was ever going to be a really great episode, having to divide its attention so many ways.

Stray Observations

-I must admit, Negaduck is a pretty magnetic villain here, much better than in that "super-speed aging" thing.  It's never made clear why all the other guys are following him, though.  They're all different levels of bad, and they're all basically anarchists, so this seems like a doubtful notion.  Bushroot in particular is only very nominally a villain; it's hard to really swallow the idea of him getting all excited about fucking shit up in the same way as, say, Quackerjack.

-Man, Stegmutt is surely the worst character this show has come up with yet.  Jeez Louise.  On the other hand, I'm a li'l bummed that we won't be seeing more of Neptunia.  You can see why we won't, though.  "Neptunia," Gizmoduck sez, "your command of the creatures of the sea will be of great help!"  Is he being sarcastic, or what?  Is this a thinly veiled poke at the widely-noted impracticality of Aquaman's powers?

-"Bullsh….no no no no don't say the B word!"  Really?  This show can do that?

-"Morgana!  You have a mystical hideout-finding power, maybe perhaps?"

-"Flowers!  Flowers for Negaduck!"  "I hate flowers!"  "Did I say flowers?  I mean, uh…skulls!  Skulls for Negaduck!"  "Ah…I'll be right there."