Thursday, April 18, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Forty-Seven: "Dead Duck"


Well, it was bound to happen eventually: finally, Darkwing fucking DIES.  Surely he didn't think he could be on the receiving end of all that slapstick violence FOREVER without eventually having to pay the piper, did he?

He dies by crashing into a wall helmetless while in pursuit of Megavolt, and the show evinces at least some vague awareness of the whole non-threatening nature of violence in this show.  I am sort of surprised they were able to actually show Satan shoving souls down into eternal perdition, but they totally do (if this were a Chick Tract, that would be God doing the shoving--funny, that).  We even see Satan and St. Peter getting into an argument about who should get his soul.  But, he returns to Earth as a ghost and has to try to figure out a way out of this, in spite of being pursued by the Grim Reaper.

This is all reasonably amusing, and it's surprising the show would be permitted to tread such territory.  But…surely from the very, very beginning everyone was able to see the lame ending coming.  YES, IT'S ALL A DREAM.  Hmph.  Only Super Mario Bros 2 can get away with that one, in my book.  I suppose giving tacit approval to this particular cosmology by having it be otherwise probably wouldn't have been permitted, but that doesn't make it any less lame.  And the flowers bloom like madness in the spring.

Stray Obsevation

-"Goodbye, Morgana! I'm sorry we never had the chance to get together!"  Okay but no seriously, what G-rated explanation could there possibly be for this comment?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Forty-Six: "My Valentine Ghoul"

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

...what, you say it's not Valentine's Day?  HA!  TRICKED YOU!  Happy April Fool's Day!  

...what, you say it's not April Fool's day?  HA AND HA AGAIN!  You fell for my diabolical two-part trap!  You FOOL!

...right.  Enough nonsense.

Darkwing and Morgana are having a romantic evening out in a graveyard (quick question: is Morgana supposed to know DW's secret identity?), but they get in a spat because he doesn't want her helping him with crimefighting stuff because she turned him into a rutabaga last time and also because he may have vague suspicions that she's not all the way reformed.  Negaduck, who is nearby stealing diamond engagement rings (pretty penny-ante behavior for the guy who's supposed to be the show's biggest heavy, I must say), when he sees them fighting and decides, ho ho, he can maybe perhaps unreform her and enlist her help.  

To this end, he pretends to be himself reformed, in a performance that makes Pegleg Pete's many fake reforms look downright convincing.  I feel like if he really wants this to work, he should sound less heavy-handedly sarcastic all the time.  But the act kinda works, in part because, hey, if Morgana can really be reformed…

So this tomfoolery goes on for a while; in the meantime, Gosalyn and Morgana's spider Archie and her bats Eek and Squeak, who were grossed out by the DW/Morgana mushy stuff, nonetheless try their best to get those two lovebirds back together, in part by brewing a love potion, and if you can't guess the sort of things that go wrong here, I can only assume you've never been exposed to media before--though in fairness, DW and Gosalyn both in turn being smitten with Negaduck is pretty funny.

Solid episode; the focus on this relationship is more engaging than most of the pro-forma villain-showdown things we see, and the whole thing's more well-written than not.  There are some good/terrible lines: having immobilized Morgana by encasing her in chocolate, Negaduck samples a bit and remarks "I've always loved women with good taste!"  GROAN.  Also, when he's kind of creepily trying to seduce Morgana, he declares "your beak is a golden temple of rapturous bliss," and if there's ever been a more thinly-veiled bit of R-rated (at any rate) dialogue in a Disney show, I'd like to know what it is.

So anyway, more like this would be fine.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Forty-Five: "The Incredible Bulk"

Worth noting that in this episode, DW bursts in to harass Bushroot before he does anything villainous.  I suppose we're meant to assume that there's some sort of standing arrest warrant on the villains in this show, but we've certainly never seen any such thing before.  They're supposed to actually do something before they get DW'd.

The idea is that Bushroot's invented a special plant food that he uses to make giant, macho Daisy enforcers, which makes his pet man-eating plant Spike jealous. It's really not at all clear what he plans to do with these guys, but…there you go.  I guess he'll have to be stopped anyway.  And, as in "Planet of the Capes," said stopping involves plants and DW successively growing bigger with plant food (there's a subplot where DW, deciding that he relies too much on his intellect, decides to get tougher; this plays into that a bit).  I know I'm repeating myself here, but it really is kind of The Usual Thing.  Also, he finally defeats the main daisy by unleashing a giant bee on it.  C'mon, people--bees are good for flowers.  Why would this scare it?  Less dumbness, please!

Not so exciting, then, though there were a few Bushroot parts I liked: when the daisies are roughing some, uh, tea inspectors (or something), he protests: "Oh c'mon guys, you can't blame them just because tea is made of plants!"  Unusual clemency there; usually he's pretty hardline when it comes to plant stuff.  Also, at the end, he doesn't get caught; he escapes with Spike, remarking "what a disaster--oh well, at least I can depend on you, Spike ol' boy!"  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did.  I've never seen a villain in this show get such a…heartwarming…conclusion before.  So that's fine.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Forty-Four: "Twin Beaks"

Bushroot is in prison, but then he sees this blinding light and, bam, nothing left but desiccated Bushroot husk with empty eye sockets--undeniably creepy.  Truth is, I've never seen Twin Peaks, but I feel like I have a pretty clear idea of the Lynchian aesthetic, which seemed to come through well enough in this episode.

So Honker's family has DISAPPEARED.  Where could they be?  Must be this Twin Beaks town, which has few people and a bunch of giant cabbages just sitting here and there and everywhere, and once again this is effectively surreal.  Less effective is the plotline running through this whole thing where Launchpad decides he has psychic powers that he can use to solve crimes and shit; it just comes from nowhere, doesn't feel true-to-character, and doesn't even tie in with the main story in any meaningful way.

Be that as it may, it turns out that the criminals are alien body-snatching cabbages, and Bushroot's actually been recruited by sapient alien cow from the planet Larson (HO HO HO), to stop them.  And, well, DW has a cool-looking dream sequence that doesn't amount to much, and the aliens are ultimately stopped, though in a very deus-ex-machina-y way.  Also, Honker has an Aunt Trudy, who looks exactly like Binkie only with an eyepatch.  I thought you'd want to know that.

This episode does create a really effective atmosphere in places, but it's all tied to a less-interesting overarching story.  I wish the creators had had the courage of their convictions, and just told a surreal story without clambering back onto that life-raft of comfortable genre tropes.  But, they did.  So, there we are.  

AN' ANOTHER THING: can I tell you how sick I am of that "yep, yep" thing DW does when he's being casual about his awesomeness?  The answer is "very."  I don't know if it's become more prominent of late, but it really grates, and emphasizes the douchey side of the character to a really unnecessary extent.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Forty-Three: "Dances with Bigfoot"

…so it can't REALLY be the case that this episode features the line "that's the snack god!  As in, the favorite meal of the Clinton god!" can it?  If nothing else, surely this was a year or so early for a Clinton joke to have much currency?  Hmm.

Well, it seems Gosalyn wants to be a superhero too, and she has this rather chic red and black "Crimson Quackette" ensemble she's put together.  Drake is less than supportive of this notion, but then the next day, OMG, he disappears, and it's up to her and Honker to find him.  I like the first part which is just the two of them together; they have a good give-and-take, and frankly, I'm finding lately that DW himself often kinda gets on my nerves--a little of that incomptence/massive egoism goes a LONG way.  This first part also features my favorite line: "Bored with your dumb job?  You can become a zeppelin operator today!"  

Be that as it may, they eventually, inevitably find him.  It turns out he's been captured by…savage natives who are going to sacrifice him to a volcano god, and it never ceases to baffle me that cartoons--in the nineties, fercryinoutloud--were able to get away with the kind of thing that would get old comics banned for all eternity (or at least until Fantagraphics' magic diplomacy made itself felt).  Not that I'm exactly viscerally offended by it, but it's certainly tasteless and not very clever, though admittedly there are a few amusing moments, as when Honker tries to frighten them away by shining a flashlight under his face only to have them retaliate by blasting him with klieg lights, or when our heroes are going to fly away only to have them pile into a passenger plane that they just happen to have lying around.  On the whole, though, I found the first part of this much more engaging than the second.  I kind of wish the writers were a bit more willing more often to concentrate on the secondary characters like that.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Forty-Two: "Twitching Channels"

"Megavolt's latest device accidentally transports him and Darkwing into a universe of "hideous beakless mutants" (i.e: the real world), where Darkwing Duck is only a cartoon," sez the wikipedia entry for this episode, leaving the viewer to wonder: they're not really going to actually include a live-action segment, are they?  

This here device of Megavolt's allows him to enter televisions and reach out of them and take stuff--a rather limited method of thievery, and he doesn't seem to have any overarching gameplan here; he just appears in various TV shows and takes various random stuff until such time as he and DW are ejected into the "real world"--which is not, as I knew in my heart of hearts it couldn't be, actual live-action, though the preponderance of "realistic" cartoon humans is at least a little disconcerting.  The Megavolt business takes a back seat as DW, realizing that his cartoon is popular in this world ("When you're Drake Mallard, what job do you have?" a child asks him--oh, show.  You're so self-aware), decides he wants a piece of the pie.  

He goes to see the show's producer, "Thaddeus Rockwell" (a goof on real-life DW creator Tad Stones), and I am amused by the fact that the episode's willing to assert that its creator is a dimwitted, mercenary narcissist.  Turns out he creates the show by using this magic helmet to pick up radio-wave-type things from DW-world (and goddamned if I haven't at times only semi-jokingly wondered if, given the sheer force of my Disney fandom, it's not possible that duck characters are "real" in some alternate-universe kind of way, so I can relate).  And then some other stuff happens, and DW and Megavolt go home.  It's mostly enjoyable, though the Chip'n'Dale Rescue Rangers shout-out at the end seems to me to be too cute for its own good, even in one of the cuter episodes in recent memory.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Forty-One: "It's a Wonderful Leaf"

I've said before that Bushroot is the most sympathetic villain, and his motives have never been more so than they are here: he's just trying to go Christmas shopping when he's tramped by stampeding shoppers, has some jerkass yank his stuff right out of his hand, and is chased off by a torch-wielding mob on accounta being "a plant monster."  His response to this may be disproportionate (he animates a buncha evergreens to fuck shit up and steal presents)--although a lot of it seems to just be exacerbating already-existing tendencies in people--but you kinda wish in this case he and DW could come to some sort of compromise rather than it being the usual "villain is villainous; defeated" business.  But, no.

In spite of being pretty standard, I did like this episode okay, but I must point out a few things: first, there's a really blatant continuity error.  First, Drake and Gosalyn are at home.  It's Christmas Eve, presents are under the tree, and Gosalyn's scheming to figure out how she can open her stuff early (at which she is thwarted by a surprisingly on-the-ball Drake).  But then later, we see Drake and LP at the mall buying huge loads of presents.  Guh?  It's obvious that they're there so they can get involved with Bushroot, but they really should've figured out a way that didn't break the episode's logic like this.

Also, at the end, everyone gets their presents back, but oh no, the Muddlefoot family does not.  This is so there can be a heartwarming bit where the Mallards give their presents away, but it's never explained why the Muddlefoots in particular should've lost their stuff for good.  Again, a kinda lazy way to go.

Still, as Christmas episodes go, it's all right.  And at the end, Santa's ho-ho-ho-ing sounds alarmingly like that of Robot Santa from Futurama.  So that's okay.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season the Second One, Episode Thirteen: "The Merchant of Menace"

Ever wonder what Herb Muddlefoot does for a living?  It's an obvious question.  Turns out he sells "Quackerware" (ie, Tupperware) door-to-door.  And not only that, but he's the best salesman ever, with all kinds of trophies and people willing to buy all his stuff just because they're starstruck by his awesomeness.  I really like the idea that this doofus should turn out to be really good at something--though I'd also like to note that I was contemplating what the DW version of Death of a Salesman would look like well before it transpired that the villain's name was "Weasel Loman."  Hell, Herb and Binkie have two sons, so most of the cast is in place.  Hey!  I think I just came up with the perfect story arc for the next Darkwing Duck comic!

Anyway, what happens is that SHUSH has determined that a jewel thief who's just hit St. Canard is actually--dramatic music--HERB HIMSELF!  OMG!  Drake doesn't believe it, so when Grizzlikoff is put on the case, he goes with Herb on his rounds to protect him--and turns out, naturally, to be a monumentally shitty salesman.  

This takes up the first two acts, which I quite liked; I was a bit less enamored of the third bit, where, having been unmasked, it's necessary to do a fairly standard villain stand-off with Weasel (who, in an Herb disguise, was stealing stuff by secretly selling people robotic Quackerware that takes the loot and brings it back to him).  Also, if the episode's going to feature Grizzlikoff, it really should've made the villain look less ursine; I didn't know he was meant to be a weasel until his name was mentioned.  I had assumed there would be mistaken-identity hijink here to go along with the ones surrounding Herb, but nope.  Still, we do get to see Herb in his "One-Man-Quackerware-Defense Squad" outfit, which is kinda great.  

Generally, this was good; I like the fact that we get to see more of Herb's character.  The idea that he's unaware of Drake's secret identity becomes less and less plausible by the minute, however.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Forty: "Darkwing Doubloon"

This episode doesn't even try to frame its events in some way: Darkwing just tells us, hey, kids, now for something completely different!  This takes place three hundred-years ago, when there was a pirate version of me!  Let's check out his shit.  I may be paraphrasing.  Nothing intrinsically wrong with a whimsical change of setting like this; it's just that in practice, it often leads to laziness, as the writers, not feeling any need to dig at all deeply, just rely on the laziest of genre tropes.  To use an analogy that no one will get, it's why Startropics is a better game than Startropics II.  It's also summed up in this classic Onion short.

Past Darkwing is named--well, what the title says, and I immediately got hung up on that: why "doubloon?"  What do doubloons have to do with anything?  Well, clearly, the answer is that "doubloon" is an old-timey word, and this is an old-timey setting, QED.  Not the show's most brilliant moment, surely.  But that's neither here nor there.  The episode as a whole is almost a redux of "Just Us Justice Ducks," but not quite: it does feature Megavolt, Liquidator, Bushroot, and Quackerjack working under Negaduck, but as for the good guys, there's no Morgana or Neptunia.  They're replaced with plain ol' Launchpad and Gosalyn.  Man…I actually liked Neptunia, but do we get to see her again?  Nooooo…we're stuck with the craptastic and instantly forgettable Stegmutt, whose name I always want to mistype as "Smegmutt."  We do get  Fenton (unrecognizable except by voice when he's not wearing the Gizmosuit), but as much as I love Ducktales Fenton, I'm pretty disillusioned with the DW version.  I would also note that apparently his secret identity is common knowledge to everyone in seventeenth-century-DW-world.

I guess I haven't said much about the plot itself.  Once again, I just don't find it that memorable.  The characters clash, but none of them really get a chance to shine or show off their idiosyncrasies.  I need a really good episode to come up in the near future, so I can remember what it is that I like about this show.  It's true that it's never exactly egregiously dumb in the way that the worst Ducktales episodes are, but it is too-frequently lazy lazy lazy.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Nine: "Planet of the Capes"

Okay, thanks to some prodding from Ryan Wynns, I shall try to resume DW entries.  Okay, "prodding" is an overstatement, but really, if I've set myself to do something, I bloody well ought to do it--though I don't suppose anyone would be too upset if I bailed on Quack Pack (though I'm not going to--oh no; my masochism is FAR too great).  It's not like watching DW episodes is a chore or anything; I just get into a rut of not watching a thing, and…

…well but anyway, this episode marks the triumphant (?) return of Comet Guy, and if he still has the uncontrollable dancing thing, we don't see it here.  He shows up to recruit DW for a SPECIAL TASK back on his home planet.  It turns out that everyone on Mertz is a square-jawed superhero (shades of Monty Python's Bicycle Repair Man).  There's one Ordinary Guy they spend all their time rescuing, but now he's gone missing, so DW's been bought in to sub for him.  DW angrily protests that he does too have superpowers, but, of course, he doesn't--though really, I still maintain that there's no way that teleporting thing he does isn't a superpower of some sort.

It's one of these premises that's kind of clever, but in the context of being clever is also kind of facile, if you know what I mean.  You sort of expect things like this from DW, and I think as far as these things go, this episode is kind of mediocre.  On a number of occasions, we see egregious examples--and I know I've pointed out before how the show does this, but it just keeps doing it and it keeps showing what I think is the fundamental flaw here--of characters remarking how horrific and fatal it would be if something happened, and then the thing happens, and it's not even a tiny bit fatal and, in fact, barely even inconveniencing.  Obviously you don't expect people to actually die in this show, but at least in Ducktales there was a sense that the world was such that somebody potentially could.

Anyway, the climax is when the erstwhile Ordinary Guy shows up, having become heartily sick of being "saved" all the time (as well one might), decides to be a supervillain.  He and DW keep alternately hitting themselves with his expanding ray, and become giant, eventually to the point where they barely fit on the planet (reminding me of the time when Calvin started to become giant for no clear reason), and they fight by throwing stars at one another and whatnot.  And the whole thing just ends with giant DW, having beaten OG, just standing there on the planet (which you would assume at this point must be fucked beyond repair, if not for, you know, DW logic).  Not even any kind of conclusion with Comet Guy and company.  Kind of an anti-climactic way for the character to bow out of the series, really.

OH WELL!  More SOON, and this time I MEAN it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Fifty-Six: "The Haunting of Mr. Banana Brain"

I've been reading Boom's DW comics, and, noting the appearance of the one-shot villain known as Paddywhack, I decided to see the episode where he originates.  'Course, there's no denying that some of the comic's potential impact is gonna be lost on me: if you'd seen this episode back in the day, you'd read the comic and think, dude--that guy's back! COOOL!  Whereas for me, it's just, wow, some guy I'd never heard of is now in a comic; let us see where he first appeared.  Huh.  So that's where he first appeared.


So the plot of this episode is that this toy museum has a jack-in-the-box containing an evil spirit (how did they obtain this thing?  Stop asking dumb questions).  Ultimately, it escapes from the box and possesses Quackerjack's Mr. Banana Brain doll; they work together for a while, but then the spirit--Paddywhack--decides that there must be more than this provincial life, and turns on QJ.  Ultimately, he and DW have to work together to defeat it.

I had mixed feelings about this episode.  I liked some things about it, but I also feel like it missed its share of opportunities.  There's an obvious story here: I've always said that Quackerjack is the most "evil" of the recurring DW villains, so what we have here is the opportunity to show that Paddywhack is a REAL badass by showing that Quackerjack is only a piker compared to him.  

But the thing is, in spite of its intentions, the episode doesn't *really* show that Paddywhack is uniquely evil.  He basically thinks and behaves in standard-villain mode.  The writers try to differentiate him from Quackerjack by having QJ assert that "Darkwing Duck always ruins things! It's no big deal; it's just part of the game," which in a way is kind of interesting, but in another way shortchanges his character a bit.  The idea being, at any rate, that QJ is not *that* bad, so PW can be worse--if you have to play down the initial villain to make this conception work, you're not doing it right.  And in any case, Paddywhack really is NOT all that horrific.  He uses the same sort of slapstick-y methods that any villain does, and although the way DW and QJ team up to beat him is kind of amusing, it's not really any more difficult or climactic than the way any OTHER villain goes down.  Mah.  The guy's ably voiced by Phil Hartman, which lends him a certain amount of gravitas, but to me, he does not go down in the annals of great villains.  Also, I think it would be cooler if we only ever saw him as a shadow, rather than his "true form" actually manifesting itself.

Still, there's a somewhat amusing framing device where Drake, LP, and Gosalyn are each competing to tell the story in their own way.

Stray Observations

-Quackerjack gets pissed off when Gosalyn gets bored of the toys and wants to go play videogames--I like that the writers remembered QJ's origin story.

-"Mr. Banana Brain! Your voice has changed!"  I also like the fact that he apparently doesn't realize that the doll's normal "voice" is just himself talking squeakily.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Eight: "Disguise the Limit"

Hmph!  I wait two months between watching episodes, and THIS is what I come back to?  Dick move, show.  Or maybe I'm just being punished for my tardiness.  Who can say?  But in any case, I was decidedly not enamored of this episode.  The idea is that, oh no, Negaduck is dressing as DW and committing crimes to frame him, a pretty banal idea, really, but okay.  So SHUSH uses a special ray to disguise DW, since now he's wanted for crimes, but it turns out the ray transforms him into people he looks at.  Only sometimes, though; it seems to happen only it's convenient for the writers.  And when I say "transformed," I don't just mean appearance; he actually takes on the personality of the people he's changed into and thinks he's them.

Hijinx ensue, but they're not really all that wacky.  Thing is, most of DW's transformations are apparently meant to be funny, but if so, they're jokes without punchlines: the writers seem to think that merely the fact of the transformation will be amusing.  It's really not, though.  I like how when transformed, his voice changes into a DW-voice imitation of the people he's being, but that's about it.  It would've been more interesting, and made more sense, if the idea were that he changes into his conception of Launchpad, Gosalyn, etc.  Then we could get some good character depth going.  But as it stands: bah.  There IS one sight gag I liked, where DW and Negaduck are falling off a cliff on DW's motorcycle thing and DW's all, relax!  I'll just put this parachute on the cycle, and he does and, sure enough, the cycle slows its fall, only the two of them immediately fall off.  Mebbe you had to see it.

Anyway, show, you gotta try harder than this.