Episode: 16 "Day of the Only Child!" 6/30/18
Starring: Huey Duck, Dewey Duck, Louie Duck, Webby Vanderquack, Bouncer Beagle, Big Time Beagle, and Burger Beagle
Costarring: Launchpad McQuack, Mr. Drake, Mrs. Drake, and DT-87
Featuring: Doofus Drake
Setting: Duckburg (the Junior Woodchuck camp grounds, McDuck Manor, and the Drake residence)
Plot: On “Only Child Day,” the nephews go their separate ways as only siblings before ultimately teaming up to help defeat their respective foes.
The DuckTales reboot has been characterized by change (duh!). Tonally, the more broad comedic strokes along with the warm-and-fuzzies of the 80s (where Scrooge was prone to doling out end-of-episode hugs to his nephews) have been replaced with biting sarcasm and self-referential irony. The straight-forward nature of characters like Gyro Gearloose, Mrs. Beakley, and Flintheart Glomgold are now more ambiguous and complex. These paradigm shifts have, by and large, been rousing successes (#IMHO). But no change has been as stark or revelatory than that of the handling of the triplets.
Gone is the monolithic quackfest that encapsulated the identities of Huey, Dewey, and, Louie. Instead of individuals, they were a generic representation of youthful exuberance. Now, we have actual, fully-feathered characters with independent thoughts, interests, and clothing. And, this episode is more-or-less a celebration of these unfettered ideals of singularity. However, not all change is good. The “reimagining” of Doofus Drake is, perhaps, the series’ biggest swing-and-miss to this point. Unfortunately, the boys’ middling adventures aren’t quite enough to overcome Doofus’ unsettling and disappointing debut.
As the moodiest and most introspective of the boys, it’s no surprise that “Only Child Day” was hatched by Dewey Duck. Conversely, it’s also fitting that the annual holiday is most disruptive for Huey who actually appreciates his brothers and revels in a sense of routine and order. Louie, on the other hand, has always kind of floated about and operates on any oddball whim that enters his consciousness. So, the three boys go their separate ways… yada, yada, yada… inorganically find themselves reunited and save each other from their respective points of conflict. Without Scrooge,* we don’t get much in the way of advancing the season’s story arcs, nor do we delve into the show’s rich history or mythology but we do get some real Junior Woodchuck’ing for the first time!
In the strongest of the triplets’ plot lines, Huey sallies forth in participating in the JW Annual Three-Man Cookout. However, troop leader Launchpad,** ever the stickler, prohibits Huey from competing alone without his brothers as teammates.*** Lurking in the forest, though, are the Beagle Boys who are plotting to kidnap Huey. But that’s before Launchpad mistakes Bouncer and Burger as JWs, resulting in an unlikely team-up with Huey that provides for the Beagle Boys’ most memorable appearance and one of the better comedic sequences of the series. Bouncer gives a fantastic performance as Huey’s second while Big Time shines while suffering through a series of hilarious pratfalls.**** Bouncer and Burger actually end up taking a liking to Huey in whipping up some Junkyard Stew for the cookout, eventually turning on Big Time, and even anointing Huey as their next leader. But, in a surprising bit of self-awareness, Dewey is the one who helps the Beagle Boys reconcile their differences by appealing to the importance of brotherhood.
Louie chooses to spend his Only Child Day attempting to befriend Duckburg’s richest kid, Doofus Drake. WHAAAAAT??? But… but… Doofus isn’t some reclusive rich kid. NAY! He’s the ‘coonskin capp’d, good natured, lovable lummox who would often be the recipient of the nephew’s derision while also playing sidekick to Launchpad McQuack’s heroics. The bottle cap lenses and rotund frame are still there but all the qualities and charm that made him a fan favourite are loooooong gone. Here, Doofus is a straight-up weirdo and a sociopathic villain to boot.***** His mind is so warped from being spoiled by his grandmother’s inheritance that he’s become an abusive and unintelligible recluse who has even gone so far as to relegate his parents to the role of servants. Doofus and Louie get along about as well as one could expect until he inevitably snaps and keeps Louie from leaving by force of the magnetic bracelet he gives him. Huey and Dewey eventually crash the party and they all escape but the damage has already been done… to Doofus’ character that is.
The idea of a Howard Hughes like villain who is also a child is intriguing and could have worked had it not also ruined the legacy of a character as iconic and established as Doofus Drake. A similar reimagining has been made to Gyro Gearloose where he’s now a snootier and more ambitious version of his unassuming former self. However, this change works because it adds an extra layer to the Gizmoduck storyline and introduces his rivalry with Mark Beaks while still maintaining Gyro’s identity as a brilliant inventor. Doofus’ most important quality is that he’s a “doofus”… a charming affliction that completely evades this most current iteration. When a reimagining stretches beyond the limits of homage, a simple change would suffice – no need to square-peg-and-round-hole the Doofus name into this unrecognizable monstrosity of a character.
(*) This is the third episode where Scrooge has been absent (The Beagle Birthday Massacre! (S1, E4) and The Terror of the Terra-firmians! (S1, E5).
(**) I love, love, LOVE seeing LP back in the role of troop leader. Just seeing this made the new Doofus all the more upsetting.
(***) I always assumed Huey was the only JW. Apparently, Dewey and Louie are members too… just much less passionate and involved.
(****) Burger used to be among the more colorful and recognizable of the Beagle Boy regulars but has essentially been reduced to an incoherent mute this series. In the 80s, he and Big Time always evoked the spirit of Curly and Mo from The Three Stooges while Bouncer was just that… the proverbial muscle.
(*****) Perhaps some of the reasoning for this is, that with the fleshed out/improved upon personalities of the nephews and Webby, there simply isn't enough room for another like-minded kid to the already burgeoning group. Maybe the only way they could go was to create a bad guy.
Dewey’s storyline as a Rupert Pupkin-esque character, who hosts his own late night talk show at home to an audience of no one, really should have had more room to breathe rather than being shoehorned into this already impacted storyline with no real payoff or resolution. I would’ve really liked to have seen them devote a whole episode to it and approached its similarities to The King of Comedy in much the same way as The Beagle Birthday Massacre! (S1, E4) paid tribute to The Warriors.
Unless it's an episode where Dewey is searching for his mother, Louie and Dewey's storylines and personalities mostly feel interchangeable to me. Louie could've just as easily been hosting his own talk show while Dewey could be seeking out Doofus' friendship. I get that Louie is the lazy quirky one where Dewey is the moody individual but the way these traits manifest each other can feel derivative at times.
Junior Woodchuck Rule #413: Never speak ill of a fellow Woodchuck.
The name of the security drone, DT-87, makes its second appearance after its mention as the security system in McMystery at McDuck McManor! (S1, E13).
Could that redheaded skeleton of a caveduck on the set of Dewey’s talk show be a reference to Bubba???