Hey everyone! Thanks for swinging by for another installment of Marvel’s Spider-Man on Disney XD. Peter Parker is still being controlled by Otto Octavius, and this week he has to face his biggest challenge yet, High School! (Sproing sound) Being a teen can be tough, but even more so if you’re a mad scientist pretending to be a cool youth. Pull up a web and enjoy as we talk about Season 2, Episode 16, “Critical Update.”
1 A plausible Parker impersonation
In the last episode of Spider-Man, the majority of the tension came from the internal struggle of Doc Ock having recently taken over Peter Parker’s body. Most of the time that Ock spent out of mask was in isolation making way for an intense personal conflict. In “Critical Update”, we get to see one of the most fun aspects of the Superior Spider-Man story, watching Ock navigate the world of Peter Parker’s personal life.
One of the highlights of these episodes is listening to Robbie Daymond speak with the awkward and often incredibly formal language of Doc Ock. In fact, this is one of the best aspects of the decisions of the show creators to take everyone back to high school. It is hilarious to watch Ock struggle to act and sound like a teen. Every interaction with his “friends” is incredibly uncomfortable, his natural arrogance raising red flags. “Peter” is demanding his friends serve him lunch, treating them as if they are minions, rather than full fledged team members. The icing on top is that, of course, Doc Ock is oblivious to just how bad of a job he is doing, which makes all of his unfounded arrogance all the more entertaining.
2 Superior Spider-Man Shakes Up the City
The episode begins with some typical Spidey goons having a secret meeting in a warehouse scared and exhausted. Spider-Man has been on a crime busting spree, but using more intense methods than the mooks remember. Spider-Man has become stealthier, no longer making quips as he enters a room. The new villian that rises to fill the void created by Spider-Man is Sandgirl, upset that Spider-Man has removed her crime mentor Hammerhead, suggesting that if all the gangs team up they’ll be able to take care of the spider.
One of the themes of Dan Slott’s “The Superior Spider-Man” is the question, “What does it mean to do good?” Peter Parker does good almost recklessly, often sacrificing jobs, relationships, or reputation to make sure that his world is a better place. For Peter Parker, there can never be enough good and that’s why he’s always pushing himself. Doc Ock, on the other hand, prioritizes what crimes are important enough for Spider-Man’s intervention. Ock is also taking other shortcuts like mass surveillance and spiderbots to do some of the heavy lifting. But the biggest difference comes in the difference in power used. Early in the episode, it’s implied that Ock has begun to take more of a judge, jury, and executioner role, rather than allowing the system to handle the criminals. Later, the episode showcases this as he prepares to shatter Sandgirl who has turned to glass because elec heat. While Miles is there to intervene, it’s an intense and serious moment, it would be a point of no return tarnishing Spider-Man’s legacy. It works well, and really makes you think about what makes Spider-Man a good hero.
3. Miles Shines as he investigates his friend
While all of the Spider-Team notices that Peter is acting weird, Miles is the only one who sees the need for further investigation. Gwen attributes it to stress, Anya seems to be impressed with Peter’s more assertive nature, but Miles has been training with Peter, knows the way he sees the world, and decides that he needs to get to the bottom of this.
In this episode, Miles fills the traditionally heroic role usually held by Peter. In fact, Ock uses this to his advantage, distracting Miles with the types of crises usually handled by Peter. Using Miles in this role is important because it further shows how important Spider-Man is, not only to his city, but his friends. Miles is concerned because Peter is not being the hero that Miles is trying to become and that speaks volumes. When a person becomes a hero others try to emulate, it means that the mission has become bigger than them and is well on the way to becoming a legacy. Miles represents that legacy, but just as important, he shows what is means to be a good friend.Continued below
4 Fun (?) in CyberSpace!
As Spider-Ock is fighting crime, threatening media figures, and quitting Horizon Academy to find a school that will appreciate him, Peter Parker is struggling to survive. Peter is trapped in the neural cortex, the robot body that housed Doc Ock’s soul, and is perceived as a virus. Peter has to fight to escape programs designed by his friends to fight viruses and escape as the program literally begins collapsing around him.
Every part of the cyberspace segments were great. The look of the digital world was something right out of Tron or similarly designed digital environments. In fact, one of the best visuals of the episode was Peter being chased by blocky 8-bit heads of Miles. Gwen, and Anya, representing security systems. It was nice to see Peter use his intellect to escape the slowly collapsing program by remembering how the inner workings of the neural cortex, Peter is an incredibly gifted scientist and this helps to showcase that.
The section also features the joke of the episode. After finding the backdoor Doc Ock used to download himself into the brain, Peter has to guess the password to escape. The password? “I hate Spider-Man.” It’s this kind of pettiness that really makes the villains of this show fun
5. A difficult juggling act weakens the villain
All the parts of this episode worked, but the episode felt a little overcrowded. Sandgirl was a fun villain, and seemed to be smarter than her dad by capturing Spider-Man in an electric cage and using her sand abilities to do some surveillance of her own, but was ultimately underdeveloped. It would have been nice if more time was given to her, or if the villain better paralleled what was happening in the Peter storyline. Ultimately, it might have been wise to give the “trapped in the computer” subplot its own episode. Not only would it have allowed the villain to get some more time to shine, it would have increased the mystery of what happened to Peter. In the past few episodes we were given a glimpse into Peter’s situation, but it would have become more powerful if that mystery was really allowed to create some tension.
“Critical Update” continues the generally well executed Superior Spider-Man story, which once again showcases the impressive voice talents. I’m personally having a lot of fun watching the story unfold (and secretly hoping that we’ll get some cameos from The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, one of my favorite comics!) Which villain would you like to see Spidey outsmart next? Who is your dream cameo? Let us know below!