Friday, January 27, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Six: "Dry Hard"

The idea is that there's this here heat wave, so this owner of a bottled-water company who talks like a game-show host, Bud Flud, decides that the only logical step is to poison all the other brands of water so that people will have no choice but to buy his stuff--though I'd think the real competitor, which he doesn't do anything with, would be tap water.  What I like about ol' Bud is that he has these giant-water-bottles-with-women's-legs following him about singing jingles, like those terrifying giant packs of cigarettes in those old commercials.  And when he's poisoning the water, he's accompanied by poison-water bottles, as why the heck wouldn't he be?

So Darkwing catches him in the act, and he falls in a tank of poisoned water (which seems to have become some sort of corrosive, acid-like thing) and dies.  It's quite gruesome for a show like this, really.  "All the better!" Darkwing cheerfully remarks, "cases are so much easier when the bad guy offs himself like that!"  This strikes me as awfully callous.

Anyway, big surprise, he's not dead for good--he returns as a guy made of water.  Also, he can psychically control water apparently, though this isn't exactly spelt out.  And he's changed his name to Liquidator, which seems like it would be bad for brand-recognition, given that he's still trying to sell water, albeit in a rather more coercive manner.  Ultimately, he makes all the water hard (and yellow, for some reason) so he can charge people for the regular kind.  But Darkwing foils him by pouring cement on him and making him into a statue, which is also rather more unpleasant than the fates most villains meet.

As I said, what I really like about Liquidator is the rotating cast of women in appropriate costumes that he has singing fifties-style jingles for him.  That's funny.  But I'm kind of assuming he won't have those in future episodes, which…well, we'll see if they can give him something else to make him stand out.

Stray Observation

-There's a great part where the bay is turning hard, and a fish is stuck on the surface and baffled by the proceedings.  Later, we see the same fish who, having decided to turn lemons into lemonade, is sitting on the water with an umbrella, shades, and a fruity drink.  That's my kinda fish.

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty: "Ghoul of My Dreams"

It turns out that Morgana, with the help of an evil little gremlin called Nodoff that rules (I guess?) the dream world, is putting people to sleep and getting them to give her their stuff (eg, a rich pig thinks he's a baseball pitcher and hurls his gold bricks out the window for her bats to catch in a net). It's time for Darkwing to come to the rescue, and also feel ambivalent due to his attraction to her!

I like Morgana a lot, as I may have mentioned, though here she has a disappointingly banal, if somewhat funny, motive: "And now, with the city asleep, I'll finally be able to steal enough money to pay off my student loans!" Nobody said becoming a horror queen was cheap. I also like her bats, Eek and Squeak, and her grumpy spider. They're endearingly expressive.

Thing is, I'm really not sure how this whole dream-world thing is supposed to work. Okay, Morgana's using dust she gets from Nodoff to put people to sleep. But…is this just normal sleep, or is it some sorta special sleep? There's never any indication that waking people from it is particularly hard, but in that case, why go into the dreamworld after Morgana when she's put to sleep, as opposed to just waking her up? How is this a good plan to rob a whole city? And how does just tossing Nodoff back into the dream world somehow apparently get rid of him for good, given that this is his kingdom? Confusion is mine.

Oh, and then at the end, the whole thing was a dream. SRSLY?

Stray Observation

-"We're investigating a crime spree, and you're the prime seduction, uh, SUSPECT."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season Awkshee-Boo, Episode Seven: "Tiff of the Titans"

So FOWL eggmen break into a military establishment to steal a special secret weapon thingie, but lying in wait to stop them, it's--Gizmoduck? Yeah, I imagine that would've blown yer mind if you didn't know in advance that Fenton was making an appearance. Which you already would have, since the episodes were run in such an eccentric order. Man, you really fucked that chicken, Disney. Nonetheless and at any rate, here he is. I won't deny that part of my motive for wanting to see this show in the first place was the promise of the odd Gizmoduck cameo, so I was looking forward to this to an extent--although as I watched the show, I came to realize that he's much less necessary here than he was in Ducktales. In that show, he represented a new--and very welcome--element, but here, he's actually not all that different from Darkwing himself, and thus, while I'm still glad to see him, he seems a little superfluous. Also, in this episode at least, he seems much more obnoxious than he was in Ducktales, immediately making huge presumptions on Drake's hospitality without permission.

Anyway, Fenton heads to St. Canard to serve as a guard for this here weapon before it's unveiled to the public; Steelbeak wants him and DW to be enemies so he can get away with stealing it, so he tries to get something like that going. The best part in the episode, probably, is when they see a crime on TV and both start mouthing the same furtive-disguised-superhero-type dialogue. Then, they dash off to combat Steelbeak and learn to work together and shit, in spite of their initial animosity towards each other. Drake and Fenton, who still don't know one another's secret identities, still hate each other, however.

An okay episode, although as I said, not quite as thrilling as I would have thought it would be before watching any of the show.

Stray Observations

-Steelbeak bites DW's gas gun in half, which as far as I can remember is the first time that the steel-ness of his beak has actually played a part in an episode.

-According to the Darkwing Duck wiki, "Gizmoduck, unlike Darkwing Duck, is a popular and well-liked hero. Because of this Darkwing Duck sees him as a rival of sorts." I don't get it--are we supposed to think that everyone hates Darkwing? If so, the show does a remarkably poor job of getting this across.

-So Gosalyn and Honker are watching "Nightmare on Pelican Island," some sort of Gilligan's Island/Nightmare on Elm Street mash-up? Sure, I'd pay to see that.

Darkwing Duck, Season Grr-Baah, Episode Six: "Something Fishy"

Pollution! All around! Sometimes up! And sometimes...down! But always...around!

Drake, LP, and Gosalyn go to the beach, but oh shit, there's litter. This was from when we had that crazy-ass fad of caring whether we destroy the entire earth, so it evinces concern about these things--though it makes the common error of conflating mere littering with more heavy-duty pollution. In any case, Drake is completely blasé about all this, which seems odd, but Gosalyn's all for wreaking bloody vengeance on the perpetrators. Literally: "Sorry, dad, but you can't use kid gloves on these polluters; you gotta fight to draw blood!" Good words to live by; I just wish we had some people in congress who thought that way.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, there's a sardonic, diminutive fish-woman named Neputunia who commands aquatic life and wants to fuck our shit up by flooding St. Canard. She's an appealing character, and it is to be mourned that apparently she only appears here and in the two-parter, though I suppose given her very specific situation, there's only so much you can do with her. She does end up flooding the city, and it's actually kind of bizarre; it's apparently deserted, as we see no indication that anyone's panicking or trying to escape or anything.

Yadda yadda, the day is saved, as Launchpad convinces her with very little effort that flooding the city is bad and stuff because good people live there too. Hard to see this as being much of a solution, though, since there's no indication the pollution won't nonetheless continue.

Stray Observations

-"Next time I get a day off, we're spending it in a library!" 'Day off,' eh? The plot thickens.

-"Danger, Launchpad, is my middle name!" "Yeah? Oh, funny, us being in a situation like this and me just now finding out what your middle name is!"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Five: "Jurassic Jumble"

Watching a few more episodes out of order here, so's we'll have all the necessary background when we do the big two-part episode.  In this installment, there's a bipedal pteranodon named Dr. Fossil, who, with the help of his lackey, Smegmutt, is getting together a plan to turn people into dinosaurs and wipe out humanity, by…hmm.  Okay, the exact mechanics here are unclear to say the least, but suffice it to say: that's his plan.  Can Darkwing thwart him???

Smegmutt is a good guy.  He's strong but child-like, possibly somewhat mentally disabled.  I don't find him all that appealing, but per the internet, he doesn't appear very often, so I guess that's okay.  But here's the question: is he supposed to be a former human?  And if so, why doesn't he get turned back at the end, along with all the other transformed dinosaurs?  And how about Dr. Fossil, who is definitely a transformed human?  And why is he on this big dinosaur-rights trip if he's not actually a dinosaur?  The show tries to lampshade the question by having Honker ask it and Fossil getting all offended, but it's really pretty nonsensical, and it just goes to show what I've said a few times before: the fact that your show has a very elastic reality should not be seen as a license to not put any thought into what you're doing 'cause what the hell.


Stray Observation

-Hey, Honker has a very Junior-Woodchucks-esque handbook.  Is he a member?  He oughta be.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Nineteen: "Days of Blunder"

Look, a movie called Days of Thunder was released roughly contemporaneously with this show, and that's reason enough for the title. Let's not go around asking dumb questions about whether or not it has any actual relevance whatsoever to the episode.

The idea here is that Quackerjack tricks Darkwing into thinking he's going to commit crimes so as to make a fool of him when he tries to stop these nonexistent acts of larceny; then, when his confidence is down, he poses as a psychiatrist and convinces him that the life of a crimefighter is not for him. Then the real crime spree begins, until DW can get his head back on straight.

In the previous entry, I complained that Quackerjack seemed kind of pointless; just a less-distinctive version of Megavolt. This episode is a big improvement, however; it does a good job of making him into a distinct character. For one--though whether this will be a recurring motif, I don't know--he demonstrates an ability to psychologically manipulate DW, which something ability that no other villain has evinced thusfar. Also, he comes across as a genuine psychopath: Megavolt may be crazy and amoral, but you don't get the impression that he's necessarily evil per se, whereas it's possible to imagine Quackerjack murdering you just for teh lulz, probably while making a terrible pun. He's about as scary as a villain on a show like this is likely to be, and if the writers are able to maintain this level of intensity in future appearances, he's definitely one to look out for.

Stray Observations

-One of Darkwing's more memorable indignities when the wrestler that he's going up against in a charity match makes him into a balloon-animal giraffe.

-"This is Dan Gander outside First National Bank, where the rubber chicken crisis has just entered its tenth incredibly tedious hour."

-I know this is Disney-world, where really obvious disguises are the norm, but the fact that the psychiatrist's half-red-half-purple face doesn't raise any alarm bells really takes this trope to a new level.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Nine: "Whiffle While You Work"

Watching another episode out of order, because this introduces the Quackerjack villain, who appears in the next chronological episode. Got it? Okay.

He's a deranged jester. He wants revenge of some sort because this videogame called Whiffle Boy drove his toy company out of business. Wait a minute--one videogame drove him out of business? No doubt the videogame industry has had some negative effect on sales of more traditional toys, but this still doesn't make a great deal of sense.

…but whatever. It happened, and it made him crazy, evidently. He's kind of menacing-looking for sure, but I have to say, his derangement seems like kinda weak sauce compared to Megavolt.

Anyway, this here Whiffle Boy game is one of those weird cartoon looks-nothing-like-any-videogame-that's-ever-been-produced-in-any-era things (and it plays with a 2600-type joystick, to further confuse the issue). The same sort of thing that appeared in Ducktales from time to time. It's some sort of platformish thing where you fight weasels. It's not at all clear to me how something so seemingly mundane could be so popular that random cops talk it up and that it has its own championships, let alone that it drove a company out of business. Nonetheless, both Gosalyn and Drake are obsessed with it, and they'e both entered a competition (along with exactly no one else, it appears). Naturally, they have interpersonal tension, along with the predicted Quackerjack-related tension. There's one somewhat unfortunate bit where Drake orders her not to participate, and she threatens to reveal his Secret Identity. I feel like that's a bridge too far; the sort of thing that really can't be part of their arguments if we're supposed to accept that they really love each other. Blah.

Anyway, DW gets sucked into the videogame along with Crackerjack, and the usual sort of hijinx ensue, and that's about that.

Stray Observations

-"Discuss the President you admire most and why. George Washington! He invented the dollar bill; THAT'S history!"

-"My gloves! I can't play without my power gloves!" I love the power glove. It's so bad.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Eighteen: "You Sweat Your Life"

Sweat my youth away, with the rules we have to play...

In this here episode, DW and LP catch these two crooks, a big dog and little dog, robbing a museum. Transpires they're working for an old guy named "Jock Newbody" who runs a health club and is looking to obtain a feather from "a true and pure hero." Also, the hero has to be a bird, apparently. DW goes to investigate, but his plan is complicated when Herb and Binkie Muddlefoot insist on coming along.

This episode had its amusing moments, but it also had more than its share of "guh? huh? wuh?" moments. Like, if Drake's supposed to be undercover, why does he appear in full DW costume almost immediately after getting to the club? And shouldn't Jock have an actual evil scheme of some sort beyond "I want to be young. Also, I'm going to kill you, just 'cause?" And we're really supposed to believe that Herb remains blissfully unaware of DW's true identity after they've been welded together at the wrists? And how come they magically come unattached as soon as they fall into the elixir? And I thought you had to drink it to de-age, not just fall in it?

I can attribute some of this to the plain ol' nature of the show, I suppose, but it just keeps piling up, and ultimately it made for a somewhat unsatisfactory viewing experience for me. I did like DW and Herb having to work together, though, unsurprisingly, this was rather underdeveloped. And Binkie plays almost no role.

At any rate, I think my thesis that quality of villain directly correlates with quality of episode has yet to be disproven. And Jock ain't much of a villain.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season Eleventy Billion, Episode Four: "Fungus Amongus"

Darkwing's got a girl-friend! Darkwing's got a girl-friend!

Well…only in a kind of notional sense at this time, but this remains a cool episode that adds a new dimension to the show. The idea is that someone--or something!--is stealing pizza toppings around the city. "The only toppings that haven't been grabbed are green peppers and mushrooms," Darkwing asserts, which suggests both that there are a LOT of toppings that were stolen off-stage, and that he has an encyclopedic list of every topping ever in his head. Well, that's superheroes for you.

Anyway, it seems a sinister horror-movie-ish cabal known as "Macawber Mushrooms Unlimited" is responsible for this deviltry, and there's a nice segment with DW exploring the house, complete with a physics-defying Escher-type room. And then, the head of the board, Morgana Macawber herself--a kind of Vampira (or Morticia Addams)-type--shows up. I like the way she glides rather than walking.

There's a convoluted and improbable plot involving the pizza thing, of course, but the main thing is the Darkwing/Morgana dynamic, which is surprisingly sexy for a show of this type. She's cool, she knows badass magic, and I very much like the fact that she isn't exactly reformed at the end--though we'll see how that plays out down the line.

In addition to just liking the idea, it seems to me that the writing on this episode was just more memorable than usual--I found myself jotting down a fair few lines as I watched. The show's never been exactly bad so far, but it has had some uninspired moments. Episodes like this represent the sort of thing it should be going for every time.

Stray Observations

-"You've got more fungus on your little finger than most people have in their whole heads!"

-"Perhaps we could get together again sometime! I could share facts about spores and slime molds!" "Ah, I'd like that! Sort of."

-"There is no market for grub and cockroach pizza!"

"Gee, DW--sorry about your girlfriend being a fiendish bloodsucking creature from the netherworld."

"Oh, Darkwing--if you insist on having principles, our relationship is doomed!"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Seventeen: "Bearskin Thug"

An oddly-structured episode, this. The first third concerns Drake's efforts to get ready for a camping trip in spite of the extremely recalcitrant Gosalyn's resistance. The second third is them out there in the woods engaging in various low-level hijinks. There's a giant killer bear around that's scared off all the rangers, but that doesn't really feel like a central conflict or anything. Then, the Muddlefoots (seriously, I have to force myself not to write "Waddlefoots." This may be because Gosalyn's original last name was Waddlemeyer, but really now, how long should a minor thing like that be sticking in my head…?) show up, for no particular reason. And then, finally, Steelbeak and a few FOWL agents show up out of nowhere with a fiendish(?) plan to hide missiles in trees. Drake doesn't turn into Darkwing until the last three minutes of the episode.

It's kind of jumbled, really. I kind of prefer the earlier bits, where it's just a bunch of slapsticky dicking around (though the opportunity to say anything interesting about Drake and Gosalyn's relationship is pretty much squandered). The entire bit with Steelbeak feels extremely rushed and perfunctory, as well it might when it only has five or six minutes to play out from start to finish, and I cannot help but note that DW never actually foils their plot, per se.

The episode has its moments, sure, but I think there's a danger here of writers using the fact that the show is so much more malleable than Ducktales as an excuse not to bother building even minimally cohesive stories, which is not to the viewer's benefit.

Stray Observations

-I think this is the first Launchpad-less episode.

"Let's see…bear…trees…Steelbeak…Gosalyn…nuclear missiles…more trees…"