Episode: 304 "The Lost Harp of Mervana!” 4/18/20
Starring: Webby Vanderquack, Louie Duck, Mrs. Beakley, Huey Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Dewey Duck, Della Duck, and Donald Duck
Featuring: The Harp of Mervana, Aletheia, Vero, and King Honestus
Huey Duck is leading his family on an underwater voyage to find the lost Harp of Mervana, the first of Isabella Finch’s Missing Mysteries. But this adventure quickly sheds its allusions of treasure hunting in lieu of solving the riddle that is Mervana. In doing so, Webby and Louie find themselves in the spotlight after squabbling over their respective “personal truths” in a way that mirrors the downfall of Mervana amidst its own lack of balance. Most interesting though is how the Harp’s truth-telling ways illuminate potential issues between Webby and her granny, Mrs. Beakley.
As legend has it, Mervana was once a “shining civilization” consisting of a mystical race of half-man, half-fish creatures whose legs would transform into fins while underwater, allowing them to live on both land and sea. But their “enlightened leader,” King Honestus, eschewed such balance in favour of bringing his people underwater permanently to “escape the troubles of the land” (i.e. hard work). As for Honestus’ fate, “one day he left to find his personal truth and never returned.” Today Mervana is a laid back, hippy-dippy commune completely “free of all suffering” and, like their absentee king, prioritizes finding one’s “personal truth” above all else. But it also holds a dark secret… there’s a monstrous sea creature lurking just beyond their aquatic paradise. It’s the transformed figure of Honestus whose hideous fate awaits all mer-people who stay submerged and in avoidance of truth for too long.
Upon arriving in Mervana, the McDucks get a breezy history lesson of its civilization from Alethia and Vero but Louie’s con-meter goes off and he mutters to himself “something’s fishy here...” Webby is having none of it though and immediately challenges his penchant for “always assuming the worst.” “Oh please,” Louie bites back, “life is not some fairytale filled with happy endings.” With that, the two diametrically opposed adolescents peel off from the group in hot pursuit of disproving the other. As they continue to squawk back and forth, Beakley eventually catches up with them. She then pulls Louie aside to impress upon him the importance of allowing Webby to maintain her innocence and ability to see “the best in people.” Not wanting to gloat once the Harp lets the fish out of the net in pertaining to Mervana’s dark truth, Louie offers a newly cynical Webby and the crestfallen mer-hippies (both beaten down by hard truths) a much needed pep-talk. He even adopts Webby’s own maxim, saying “someone once told me you have to look for the best in people, not assume the worst.”
Another point of growing tension is between Webby and Beakley. Once they find the Harp, Beakley’s problematic philosophy of sheltering Webby from the harsh realities of the world burbles to the surface. Beakley is a loving but hardened soul. As a spy for lo those many years, she’s seen the worst in people and the world. Exasperated by the Harp continuing to call out her non-truths, Beakley snaps; “What do you want me to say? That people often lie?! That i don’t think you should trust anyone, especially not a pack of murmurdermaids?! That I lie to my granddaughter?!” This outburst puts Webby in the aforementioned funk that Louie eventually rescues her from. Beakley’s gone to great lengths to protect Webby from the world. She’s literally “kept her in a mansion for a decade.” By Beakley’s design, Webby’s “optimism is her greatest strength.” But that strength is in danger of crumbling under the weight of Beakley’s fussy cynicism.
This episode is a confluence of conflicting currents all rushing towards the same remedy: balance. Mervana, a civilization whose very foundation is built upon sharing time among land and sea, needs to rediscover that harmony in order to thrive once again. Webby and Louie, the yin and yang of differing outlooks, must rely on each other to embrace both the good and the bad. And then there’s Webby and her granny who are embarking on a new level of discourse in their relationship. Can Beakley truly be honest with her granddaughter and thread the needle between dishonesty and protection? The Harp forecasts choppy waters ahead while singing “she’s fibbing!” in response to Beakley telling Webby “I have no secrets from you from here on out.”
As an aside to this otherwise delightful episode, I’ve got a bad feeling that we may be dipping our toes into yet another search-for-a-long-lost-parent with Webby playing the part of the triplets. Do we need this? While the mystery of it all provided a lot of intrigue and a compelling storyline, Della’s being back in the fold kind of flies in the face of DuckTales. The point has always been and still should be based upon Scrooge becoming these orphaned childrens’ defacto guardian, benefactor, and conduit to globe-trotting adventures. Lest we forget, the series’ Pilot clearly provides the shows’ thesis: an old man becoming reinvigorated by the endless trouble that comes with the enthusiasm of youth. And if we get another biological parent, it only minimizes Scrooge’s role even more than it already has been. Anyway, the only way this could be cool (if it’s even happening at all) is if Webby’s parentage is somehow wrapped up in F.O.W.L., with Beakley selflessly extracting her from a less-than-desirable situation and raising her as her own.
The presumed season-long-arc of Finch’s Mysteries provides a much needed return to and focus on the McDuck family business of globe-trotting adventuring.
This is also Donald’s first adventure in a loooong time. He looks to have finally moved past his policy of “no adventures” and fear of bad things happening. In Mervana, he finds his personal truth before anyone and reaches a point of calm that’s only broken after learning his nephews have been lying to him about the quality of his chili.
Della has once again usurped Launchpad’s role as pilot in captaining the submarine (a role he performed adequately enough in “Woo-hoo!” (S1, E1) when he took Scrooge and co. to the lost city of Atlantis). And if the best storyline they could come up for her is that weird bit about not liking fish parts (ichthyophobia), the episode would’ve been better served bringing along LP so he could reunite with his aquatic gal pal, Oceanika, from “The Depths of Cousin Fethry!” (S2, E2).
After arriving in Mervana, Webby’s line, “look at the stuff, isn’t it neat?,” is a lyric from Ariel’s “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid (1989).
Aletheia (Greek) and Vero (Italian) aren’t lying, both their names mean “truth.”
While Webby and Louie manage to find the harp through exploration, Scrooge and the rest of the nephews are stuck attempting to prove their worthiness by designing ceremonial fins during arts and crafts hours. Once they all find their personal truth, Aletheia and Vero promise to show them the harp.
The Harp of Mervana is inspired by the harp from the DuckTales ‘87 episode, “Raiders of the Lost Harp.” Although she was much smaller and was said to have once belonged to Helen of Troy, she was also a lie-detector and sang the very same refrain of “he’s fibbing, fibbing, fibbing…!”
With the Missing Mysteries in mind, the episode establishes the precedent of finding and not taking. Scrooge, of all people, recognizes that the Harp belongs with its people, “telling shiftless hippies to work hard and get a job.”