Episode: 123/124 "The Shadow War!" 8/17/18
Starring: Scrooge McDuck, Magica DeSpell, Donald Duck, Dewey Duck, Huey Duck, Louie Duck, Webby Vanderquack, Lena, Launchpad McQuack, and Mrs. Beakley
Costarring: Gyro Gearloose, Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera, Manny the Headless Man-Horse, and Lil’ Bulb
Introducing: Della Duck
Appearances by: Gladstone Gander, Flintheart Glomgold, Roxanne Featherly, M’ma/Officer Cabrera, and Gabby McStabberson
Setting: Duckburg (McDuck Manor, the Money Bin, Donald's Boat, and the docks)
Plot: While Launchpad, Webby, and Beakley attempt to reconcile the family, Magica De Spell’s revenge plot finally materializes, resulting in an epic showdown.
The Finale was great. It was a rollicking good time with fantastic character moments and it leaves us with MANY things to discuss. However, I’m having a tough time getting past that final reveal of Della just chillin’ on the moon.* The ramifications thereof are potentially show shattering and it’s making me reconsider EVERYTHING.
I know I’ve said this a million times but, if I may quote myself, “DuckTales is about family.” And, when I say “family,” I’m more-or-less talking about the relationship between Scrooge and the triplets. Sure, Donald has more of a presence this time around and maintains his role as the boys’ primary caretaker** but the fulcrum by which the series turns is when, in the Pilot, a previously stagnant and cranky Scrooge declares “you kids are nothing but trouble... curse my kilts, I love trouble!” And that, right there, is the show.
So, what’s the problem? The problem is that Della is alive and well, leaving us hurtling toward the inevitable happy reunion and, thusly, the end of what makes DuckTales... DuckTales. Scrooge’s newfound and reinvigorating bond with the boys can no longer be the driving force of the series when the nephews’ long lost mother, of whom they’ve never even met, enters the equation. Della automatically usurps both Scrooge and Donald as the parental figure of note, irrevocably changing the family dynamic and show.
The idea of Della works great as a season-long mystery to solve, possibility to consider, and wound to heal but the reality of Della just doesn’t make sense. Her return would be akin to the mom from Full House rising from the grave and appearing at the Tanner’s doorstep in Season Two. What would happen to Joey and Uncle Jesse??? It doesn’t work! Everything regarding Della’s disappearance and how it has been dealt with, up until the reveal on the moon, was pitch perfect. The guilt, the regret, the anger, the sorrow is all so real, so affecting, so raw. The way the grief manifests itself through each character feels earned and appropriate.
All these emotions still exist and the McDuck family does deal with them and reconcile by episode’s end but only because of deus ex machina like circumstances, in the form of Magica DeSpell. Her rise to power and imminent threat to Duckburg accelerated the issue, forcing them to reunite. In a meta moment where the show seems to be coyly shrugging at its less-than-nimble efforts, Scrooge calls out the fact that Magica is the one who saves his family. Ironically, Magica’s much ballyhooed return was revealed to be nothing more than a mere plot device while Della ultimately eclipsed her “Shadow War.”
Even with all of Magica’s bluster about her revenge plot deriving from her family’s “centuries old war” with Clan McDuck, she was defeated before Scrooge could even get his dander up. The Magica/Lena arc has always been more about her unholy union with Lena than it’s ever been about Scrooge. In the end, Magica’s storyline felt half-baked and underserved. Nobody knew she was coming and, shortly after she arrived, she was defeated and left crawling out of the Money Bin like a pathetic, albeit hilarious, old crone.
Meanwhile, the reveal of Lena’s true nature is tragic. All along, we’ve been left bread crumbs intimating that the question we should be asking isn’t “who is Lena?” but “what is Lena?” She isn’t Magica’s niece at all nor is she even a real duck. She is just a magical shadow-creature conjured up by Magica to do her bidding. But her friendship with Webby is real, making Lena real as well… until she wasn’t. But Lena’s death by the hands of Magica looks to be only temporary as, unbeknownst to Webby, she seems to have bonded to her BFFs shadow. Like Della, Lena will be back too (yawn).
Where do we go from here? This season had three throughlines: Della Duck and the Spear of Selene, Magica De Spell’s Revenge, and (on a much smaller scale) the humble origins of Gizmoduck. Della will be back (hopefully later/never rather than sooner), Magica will be back (hopefully sooner rather than later), Lena will be back in some form (eh… whatever), and Gizmoduck will continue to come into his own as a superhero (hopefully not at the detriment of Launchpad). I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of speculation but I’m confident that we’re in good hands and I’d be just as welcoming of revisiting/reimagining old Barksian plots as I would with the show giving us entirely new storylines and characters to consider. The groundwork has been laid and here’s hoping to many more seasons of “Woo-oo!”
(*) How did Scrooge’s various rescue missions not spot Della on the moon?
(**) Unlike in the original series when he left them in Scrooge’s stead while he went to serve in the Navy.
Louie’s reluctance to give up the Golden Khopesh of Tothra along with the reveal that he knows a lot about gold from the “Secrets of Castle McDuck” (S1, E21) further helps differentiate him from Dewey and will hopefully payoff in a Scrooge/Louie related plot in the future
Donald’s Cape Suzette brochure boasts the same font from TaleSpin along with a picture of Baloo’s plane, the Seaduck.
The Webby/Launchpad team up was amazing. Random pairings of characters that otherwise rarely interact never disappoints.
Papa Swan’s Pizza is a parody of Papa John’s Pizza. Let’s hope that Papa Swan isn’t as big of a racist jerk that Papa John is.
Magica mentions Scrooge conquering Plain Awful and finding the Lost Crown of the Mongols. Both of these are references to old Uncle Scrooge comics. “Return to Plain Awful” details Scrooge’s trip (along with Donald and the nephews) to Plain Awful to procure some roosters that lay square eggs. “The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan” was both a comic as well as an episode of DuckTales ‘87.
Making Magica a green mallard would’ve been a nice touch (fully aware that only male mallards are green). However, the green is just a byproduct of her powers.
While Magica is unleashing her wrath on Duckburg, M’ma Crackshell Cabrera can be seen arresting Gabby McStabberson.
Webby mentions Magica’s duel with Scrooge on Mt Vesuvius. This is where her secret lair is located and harkens back to her Italian roots before she became Russian and now British.
The Barksian Modullator is an ode to Scrooge creator Carl Barks.
Donald became the capable and legendary adventurer he was once known for once the voice modulator gave him Don Cheadle’s voice.
“Four... Homerun... Tennis Thing... Sports!” They better bring Magica back. She’s a great villain and is hilarious!
Gyro’s underwater lair had his cardboard cutout from “Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System.”
Granted, she’s greatly outnumbered but this is the third time Beakley has had her tail handed to her in a fight (Goldie and Black Heron).
Donald fights off shadows of the Beagle Boys, Falcon Graves, and Stabby McStabberson.
Fenton saving Manny and Lil’ Bulb by using his brains and without the aid of the Gizmo Suit is a nice touch.
When we see Della on the moon, we get a brief, musical nod to the Moon level from the classic 8-bit "DuckTales" Nintendo game.