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    Five (and a Half) Thoughts on the DuckTales Season Finale, “The Shadow War!”

    By | August 20th, 2018
    Posted in Television | % Comments

    DuckTales is back from hiatus to finish out the first season of the reboot, and now it’s made the jump from Saturday mornings on Disney XD to the Disney Channel proper. So, let’s dive in! In this week’s episode, Magica De Spell finally makes an appearance in the flesh, just as Scrooge has driven everyone away in the hour-long season finale.

    1. A great conclusion

    DuckTales has had its ups and downs for me, but this season finale really nailed it. I was really worried going into the episode since both the Magica De Spell and Della Duck season-spanning arcs have been very uneven. Luckily, both were handled well. The episode resolved the family’s split in a satisfying way, finally revealed Magica with the appropriate amount of fanfare, and gave us a substantive tease for Della Duck and the just announced Season 2. It also managed to give many of the shows supporting characters great little character moments without feeling shoved in. My favorite of those was Fenton and Manny riding into the shadow storm. Describing how an armor-less Gizmoduck hops on a Morse Code clopping horse with a scrooge bust for head, armed with a gun powered by an AI light bulb sounds pretty ridiculous written out, but it totally works in the episode.

    The only part of the episode that didn’t quite work for me was sad sack Scrooge. I think the extent of how much he let himself go was a bit of a stretch. Nothing that we’ve learned about the character would have him living in grungy clothes and leaving empty pizza boxes around, let alone even eating pizza. It was forgivable, however, because it provided a quick way to communicate Scrooge’s mental state and was also the source of a couple great gags. Scrooge’s shirt-pizza and the pizza box effigies of Donald and the boys were hilarious.

    2. Oh, so that’s why the coin was so important

    The reveal that Magica had been imprisoned in Scrooge’s number-one-dime this whole time was a revelation. The coin being just a MacGuffin may have worked in the original series, but it never made sense in the reboot with how seriously they’re taking the overarching story elements. I think Lena’s quest for the dime would have been a little more effective if we had known what its true significance was earlier, but it’s a good way to give a classic element of the original series a much better new purpose. And the recounting of Scrooge and Magica’s last battle was all the more engaging with this new knowledge.

    3. The parent trap

    We haven’t seen much of Webby and Launchpad together yet, and after this episode there should definitely be more. They’re adorable together. Pairing up the two emotionally stunted characters made them even more endearing. I don’t think the parent trap plot would have worked with anyone else without feeling contrived. Both Webby and Launchpad idolize Scrooge and his family, so their earnestness in reuniting everyone felt genuine, and you couldn’t help but to root for their flimsy scheme to work.

    On another note, Webby is probably the most multi-faceted character besides Scrooge. And while the writers seem to have trouble illustrating the boys’ full spectrum of characteristics, it seems like everyone has Webby nailed. Just the fact that she can be seen as a naïve little girl that wants her family to get back together, and the ringer that comes in to fight Magica and keep her occupied in the final battle is a testament to how well she is depicted in the show.

    4. One of the best voice casts in TV

    Part of why Webby works so well is the amazing vocal work that Kate Micucci does. All the facets of her character would not work without Micucci also shifting her performance to match. I’ve gushed over David Tennant as Scrooge before but it’s definitely worth revisiting for this episode. He has to be depressed, commanding, fatherly, and switch between all of those sometimes multiple times per scene. Catherine Tate really shone in this episode as well. Her Magica is the perfect blend of grandiosity and over-the-top villain, with just a touch of aloofness. The rest of the cast carries their own also. The vocal performances have been one consistently excellent part of the show, and kind of surprising since many of the actors mainly do live-action—a lot of times that makes for a distracting experience because live-action actors don’t always have the skill set for just voice work. The addition of Paget Brewster as Della Duck next season will only make it better. Most people will probably know her as Prentice in Criminal Minds, but she also has a handful of comedic roles in her filmography, as well as a strong voice acting resume as well.

    Continued below

    5. Some good (and earned) emotional moments

    Launchpad and Webby’s scheme wouldn’t have worked without Mrs. Beakley coming in as the closer, and she then provided my favorite scene of the episode. Yes, she was trying to guilt Donald and the boys into forgiving Scrooge, but she does it with such finesse that it barely feels like the manipulative tactic that it’s intended as. It’s also a great illustration of empathy for the boys and everyone that’s watching. It’s easy to relate to the boys losing their mother, but Scrooge projects such a strong front (well, before this episode at least) that Mrs. Beakley’s defense of Scrooge is a welcome and necessary one, since Scrooge is not a very effective communicator.

    On the other side of the split, Scrooge working through feeling sorry for himself with Magica/Lena and coming to the conclusion that his family was worth fighting for was just as good. It really felt like Scrooge had a legitimate breakthrough (that will stick this time). It also made the reveal that Lena was never more than a spell even more of a gut punch. Where other moments in the series that were meant to be heartfelt came off as hollow or unearned, this episode’s emotional journey was earned and effective.

    5 ½. Season finale thoughts

    After a full season of this DuckTales relaunch, the show has me feeling frustrated more than anything. At times (like this episode), it feels like a truly great all-ages show. There are satisfying emotional beats, overarching plotlines that pay off in meaningful ways, truly memorable supporting characters, and the phenomenal cast. At other times, like the first half of the last episode, it feels like it’s being phoned in and just relying on the fact that the target audience is young and won’t care about the lack of a compelling narrative. I hope that it’s just growing pains of the first season, because having said all that, I think the back half of the season was mostly strong, and they’ve done a great job of setting up Season 2. I can’t wait to see the how they search for, and hopefully find, Della next season.

    Afterthoughts

    • There wasn’t a good place to talk about Don Cheadle as Donald, but I thought it was great. I’ve been clamoring for more Donald and giving him Cheadle’s smooth vocals was a fun way to put him in an active role in the finale.
    • “Grunts lift. Leaders stabilize.”
    • Magica-as-Lena provided some of my favorite little moments of the episode, like her angrily skipping or uncharacteristically gesticulating like a super villain.
    • Yet another classic Disney Afternoon reference with Cape Suzette. I can only hope that more of TaleSpin makes its way into the show.
    • “Emergency bounce house!”

    //TAGS | DuckTales

    Justin Beeson

    Justin Beeson is a dad, husband, DevOps engineer, and comic book and Android enthusiast. He covers news, TV, and does the occasional review at Multiversity Comics, and can be found on Twitter at @thisJUSTin816.

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