Al Simmons was your ordinary government assassin, until one day he was killed in the line of fire. Making a deal a demon lord named Malebolgia, Simmons is promised that he can return to Earth to see his wife Wanda but he must become a Hellspawn and serve in the demon’s army. Now Spawn has a choice: give in to his darker side and commit acts in the name of Hell, or overcome the evil that’s inside of him and become a hero.
Today I’m looking at the final episode of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, “End Games.”
1. Spawn’s Choice.
This entire season has been riding on Spawn’s decision: embrace his dark side and become another soldier in Satan’s army, or rebel and retain his individuality. After biding his time and sitting on his hands, Spawn finally acts and goes on the hunt to find Billy and Cyan. When faced with the choice to kill the child murderer or let him live, Spawn chooses the latter.
The Clown is incredibly pissed by this choice, with his gambit to push Spawn over the edge by involving Cyan failing. We last see the angry harlequin transforming into his demon form, leaving us with a nice tease of what’s to come: “He made a fucking deal. The boss won’t be happy when he hears about this.”
2. Wrap It Up.
“End Game” is a solid conclusion to the show’s first season. It’d spent the last five episodes crafting a crisscrossing web of storylines and for the most part, it really pays off. The show does suffer in some departments (which I’ll get to in a bit), but I don’t think you can fault it’s long game play. Most of the season’s bigger questions are answered, but it leaves the viewer with a lot of unanswered for the next season. When will Chapel fight Spawn? What’s going on with Angela? Wanda discovers Cyan has Al’s wedding ring – where will this go? Now that Billy is dead, what does that mean for McMillan and Wynn’s relationship? Is Spawn going to throw down with Malebolgia? Can Spawn become a proper hero?
3. End Game.
So how does the first season of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn stack up? It’s good, but flawed. Overall, I’d say its parts are stronger than the whole.
While it’s aesthetic is amazing, there are a few occasions where it overwhelms the scene and the animation is unfortunately inconsistent. The hit-and-miss voice acting is also distracting, with Keith David and Richard Dysart doing most of the heavy lifting.
Its biggest weakness is the pacing. It constantly shifts focus from storylines just as they’re getting interesting and leaves too many plot points hanging. For example, we don’t see Angela for the rest of the season, despite spending almost half an episode introducing her. As individual entities, the episodes feel dry. One at a time is not the recommended dosage. You’ve got to combine them. It feels a lot stronger and more consistent in three episode blocks, or as a done-in-one movie.
4. Honorable Mentions.
I’ve mentioned how the series snagged Batman: The Animated Series co-creator Eric Radomski as the show’s Supervising Director, but the series also included another B:TAS alumni, composer Shirly Walker who provides an ethereal, gothic score that’s as unsettling as it is good! It’s a somewhat similar talent model to what McFarlane did with the Spawn comics, where he brought on big name writers like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller to help attract readers and add to the comic’s lore.
I also spoke about the series using the comic’s colorist, Steve Oliff, a color consultant, but he wasn’t the only comic name who crossed over. The show also employed a couple of “Spawn” artists, such as Chance Wolf and fan-favorite Greg Capullo, along with mid-nineties Wildstorm title artist Aron Wiesenfeld, as the show’s main character designers.
Fun Fact #1: Doug Liman, director of Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Identity, was the director for the live-action Todd McFarlane intros.
Fun Fact #2: Jennifer Yuh, who worked as a storyboard artist and character designer, would go on to direct Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3.
If you dug this first season, I think the rest of Spawn is worth a watch. The second season ups the show’s animation quality significantly, although its story and writing isn’t as strong as the first season’s. The third season is the weakest of the three, but it’s not without its charms and moments. As much as I do like this series I don’t think it lived up to its true potential, which is a shame.
A follow up animated series has been in the works since 2009 – called Spawn: The Animation – but apart from some concept images of Sam and Twitch, nothing has come from it. It’s a shame, because Keith David was set to reprise his role as Spawn. Last year, McFarlane announced that he had finished a script for a new Spawn movie. At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con he revealed that he’s going to direct it and Blumhouse would be producing it. There’s also a Sam and Twitch television series in the works. Could either of these projects see Spawn’s return to animation? Only time will tell!