Episode: 318 "The Fight for Castle McDuck!” 11/23/20
Starring: Scrooge McDuck, Webby Vanderquack, The Phantom Blot, Pepper, Huey Duck, Louie Duck, Dewey Duck, Fergus McDuck, and Downy McDuck
Costarring: Dirty Dingus McDuck (as a bust) and Murdoch McDuck (as a statue)
Featuring: Matilda McDuck
Introducing: Agnes (as a statue), Danny (as a statue), and Will O’ the Wisps
Setting: Dismal Downs, Scotland (Castle McDuck)
“Sometimes families fight. But the mark of a great family is one who can work through their petty differences to be closer than ever.” Blah-ba-de-quack-blah-quack. Scrooge’s words ring true but hollow when none of the familial squabbles amongst the various subsets of McDuck siblings provide much in the way of revelations or profundity. The most satisfying moment from the McDuck end of things is that Webby, after becoming catatonic from “joy overload” during their last visit to Dismal Downs during “The Secret(s) of Castle McDuck!” (S1, E21) is finally able to take it all in by interrogating the family and chronicling the events thereof. But it’s F.O.W.L.’s very own version of Webby and her budding partnership with the Phantom Blot that offers the most intrigue and development.
I hate to say it but there’s been a feeling of “been-there-done-that” with a lot of the Scrooge and his nephews storylines this season. That’s why the introductions to these new-to-us F.O.W.L. villains have been so much fun. Plus, it always does a story well to humanize and give as much clarity as possible to its antagonists’ motivations. Last week, for example, I was much more interested in Bradford Buzzard’s story than I was with anything involving the Greatest Adventure Family of All Time. And, here, it’s the expansion of Pepper’s character during her first mission that gives this episode that extra pep in its step.
We first met Pepper in “The Phantom and the Sorceress!” (S3, E8) when her inclusion seemed to be nothing more than assigning a face and a name to the nondescript gang of Eggheads. But she’s much more than that. Not only does Pepper break through the Blot’s hardened exterior, she also breathes a sense of life and humanity into the whole organization. Pepper appears to be the heart and soul of F.O.W.L. - the plucky overachiever who, through the sheer power of personality, is actually able to make friends and forge relationships amongst this group of hardened fiends and ne’er-do-wells. Plainly spoken, she’s too good for this lot but she doesn’t let that stop her.
In a lot of ways, she feels like the spiritual counterpart of, one, Webby Vanderquack. They’re both outsiders but, because of this, they find a way to embody the essence of their respective stables moreso than the actual members themselves. Analogous to how Webby has proven to be the much more capable and willing adventurer of the kids, Pepper has managed to do the same with her ingenuity (in figuring out where the bagpipes are hidden) and enthusiasm. Then, much like how Webby was able to break through Lena’s damaged exterior with something as simple as friendship, Pepper does the same with the Phantom Blot. When it’s revealed that the Blot got paired with Pepper because she was the only Egghead who wasn’t deterred by his unlikable intensity, he seems genuinely hurt and then moved by her willingness to work with him. This leads to the Blot saving Pepper’s life and even engaging in a high-five before retreating back into the shadows. The Blot has embraced the idea of being a part of a team with his new pal, Pepper.
Then, there’s this… when Webby tackles Pepper and they both greet each other by offering almost identical introductions, one can’t help to wonder if there’s more going on than meets the eye. Could Webby’s murky family history be traced back to Beakley’s entanglements with F.O.W.L. and even Pepper herself? Are they so similar because they are… *gulp*... family? One can only speculate but, considering the reveal from “The Missing Harp of Mervana!” (S3, E4) that Beakley is, in fact, hiding things and keeping secrets from Webby, it’s to speculate. But that feels like a Season 4 mystery and one that can’t possibly be solved with the care and attention it deserves anytime soon.
In what is supposed to be Huey’s Season, it’s a shame that he hasn’t gotten the focus and attention that Dewey (S1) and Louie (S2) received in their respective seasons. He’s had a few showcase episodes (“The Challenge of the Senior Junior Woodchucks!” (S3, E1) and “The Split Sword of Swanstantine!” (S3, E12)) but he’s been mostly relegated to toting Isabella Finch’s journal around while offering brief exposition of whichever Missing Mystery they’re looking for. Yet, there’s still some season left so we’ll see…
Again, who flew the plane to Scotland??? And, speaking of which, don’t you think Della might’ve liked to have visited her ancestral home especially after being away for so long? I assumed and predicted as much would happen but one of the show’s biggest (and only) flaws is that once Della became an actual character living amongst her family and not just mystery to solve or an out-of-reach idea, there really is no role for her. It’s hard to imagine a spunky go-getter like Della just lazing about at McDuck Manor while her family is off gallivanting about the globe.
The Blessed Bagpipes of Clan McDuck’s power is to “bring life to that which not.” I’m guessing that this means it can only bring life to inanimate objects, like the statues, and not actually raise living beings from the dead but we shall see…
Scrooge’s youngest sister, Matilda McDuck (not to be confused with Hortense, Scrooge’s other sister and mother to Donald and Della), was first mentioned in Carl Barks’ McDuck Family Tree from the 1950s and her appearance is often characterized by a flower in either her hair or hat. She was also the adoptive mother of Gladstone Gander through her marriage to Gustave Gander.
In this incarnation, there is no mention of Gladstone and Matilda is characterized as an entrepreneur with middling success. Her last venture involved goat-gurt and her current “big idea” is an emu farm where she would make her fortune selling their eggs (don’t think too hard about that one).
Don’t get too excited trying to figure out Matilda’s age because the immortality spell extends to her too.
Statuary Hall - where the most legendary members of Clan McDuck are memorialized in stone for all eternity.
No too beat this dead horse AGAIN but the theme of Scrooge’s mortality is once more broached when the prospect of him joining his ancestors in Statuary Hall is discussed.
Along those same lines, the Phantom’s magic sucking machine didn’t mess with the McDuck’s immortality spell, did it?
We finally get the story behind what became of Scrooge’s pet clump of hair, Whiskers. Matilda painted it for her Matil-dos, a “very popular salon” and another one of her businesses.
While Huey and Louie are searching through the bagpipes, they accidentally unleash green magical orbs called Will O’ the Wisps. In real life, the Wisps are a real life, scientific phenomenon explained away as bioluminescence but are known in folklore as little balls of light seen as fairies or ghosts that appear to travelers at night and are often misleading. Metaphorically, the Wisps are also a symbol of false hope or an impossible goal.
Of the McDuck’s memorialized in Statuary Hall, the only ones previously mentioned in the series are Murdoch McDuck and Dirty Dingus McDuck (Fergus’ father) who appeared as ghosts in "The Secret(s) of Castle McDuck!" (S1, E21).
The new members of Clan McDuck we meet in animated-statue-form are as follows:
The three statues that didn’t come to life appear to be Sir Eider McDuck, Hugh “Seafoam” McDuck, Sir Roast McDuck, Quagmire McDuck, and Molly Mallard who also all appeared as ghosts in "The Secret(s) of Castle McDuck!" (S1, E21).