Episode: 110 "The Spear of Selene!" 4/5/18
Starring: Donald Duck, Dewey Duck, Webby Vanderquack, Scrooge McDuck, Huey Duck, and Louie Duck
Costarring: Launchpad McQuack
Featuring: Storkules, Zeus, and Selene
Introducing: Charybdis and Ligeia
Plot: After crashing on the mythical island of Ithaquack, Dewey and Webby set forth on finding the Spear of Selene while Scrooge and Donald reconnect with old “pals” Storkules and Zeus.
DuckTales is a show about family. But what if that family is broken? Simmering beneath the surface of all the happy-go-lucky troublemaking, treasure hunting, and globetrotting is the mystery behind the absence of Della Duck and the rift it’s created between Scrooge and Donald. That’s why I was absolutely giddy upon seeing this episode’s title bearing the name of what appears to be at the core of this puzzle: The Spear of Selene. What I didn’t anticipate is the emotional weight and trauma that Della’s absence is having on both Dewey and Donald and the consequences that follow. Meanwhile, Scrooge and the rest of the gang find themselves in the middle of another family’s legendary dysfunction of epic proportions.
Ever since "The Great Dime Chase!" (S1, E2) where it’s revealed that one of Della’s last known acts was absconding with the Spear of Selene, Dewey and Webby have been waiting for their opportunity to investigate matters further. That’s when, during a cross Mediterranean flight*, the two trick Launchpad into crash landing onto the mythical island of Ithaquack, the apparent home of said Spear. Quickly peeling off from the group, Dewey and Webby make their way to the Temple of Heroes which houses the Garden of Selene. For Webby, she doesn’t quite grasp the gravity of it all and sees this as just another adventure and fun mystery to solve. She repeatedly refers to Della taking the Spear as an act of treason and outright betrayal against Scrooge and Donald. At first, Dewey tries to laugh it off but becomes increasingly and understandably defensive over his mom's character. The emotional roller coaster of getting ever-so-close to finding some real answers eventually leads Dewey to shutdown and decide he doesn't want to go any further. He even physically prevents Webby from entering Selene’s chamber. More important than discovering the truth is Dewey’s need to protect his truth - that Della is a hero and didn’t just wantonly steal a family artifact and abandon him and his brothers. The two ducks do end up coming to an understanding and enter the garden together where they find Selene who confirms that her friend, Della, “loved her family more than anything and wasn’t just a good person, she was the greatest and made everyone around her better.” Unfortunately, though, she hasn’t heard from her in years and doesn’t know anything about a “spear”.** But she does give Dewey the SPHERE of Selene and encourages them to continue in their quest.
Less optimistic and cockle warming is Donald’s brief and dark reckoning over Della’s absence. We learn that the famed trio of duck adventurers have been to Ithaquack before and when his friend/acquaintance, Storkules, inquires about Della’s whereabouts, he can only give his pal a knowing look that's loaded with pain and regret. Then later, when Donald cryptically and heart-breakingly reveals to Storkules that he doesn’t adventure anymore*** on account that “someone always gets hurt,” Storkules chastises him asking "what would fierce Della say if she heard you now?" "Well, she can’t!," Donald snaps back. Who is that “someone” though? The obvious answer is Della but what if Donald is referring to himself? Whether he’s mourning the absence of his sister, feels aggrieved by it, or both; Donald’s spirit appears to be thoroughly broken. It just begs the question: why wouldn’t Donald be turning over every stone looking for her if she is, in fact, still out there? As far as he knows, maybe she truly is gone and that's why he's so hopeless. It's just hard to believe that Donald Duck, famed adventurer and sailor of the seven seas, would give up so easily.****
The episode’s other storyline is, on its surface, decidedly and ironically less burdened with pathos and mythology. It details how Ithaquack, the once popular vacation spot for gods and heroes, became the sparsely populated and diminished island it is today. It turns out that during their previous visit, Scrooge’s rousing popularity among the locals pushed Zeus into a jealous rage where he unleashed a year long lightning storm that drove away his friends and family. Back in the present, Zeus forces Donald, Huey, and Louie to compete in a series of events against his son, Storkules, in a futile and desperate attempt to save face and ultimately regain the departed gods' admiration and respect. The action and shenanigans thereof are less interesting than whatever parallels (if any) that Zeus’ family crisis has with that of Clan McDuck’s. Could Scrooge’s own brand of wrath have forced Della to leave in the same way Zeus drove out his family? In extending this metaphor, Donald is Storkules in which both parties have remained (somewhat) loyal***** to their paternal elders in lieu of removing themselves from the situation entirely. What makes this all the more puzzling is Scrooge’s ability to rise above Zeus’ pettiness in calling him out for allowing his “pride get in the way for decades” while noting “it’s our families who suffer.” This definitely reads like Scrooge is subconsciously evoking his own familial strife in relation to Donald and Della.
As Launchpad tells us in the pilot, “family is the greatest adventure of all!” And, if you measure adventure by the greatest reward deriving from the most perilous of circumstances, then the rehabilitation of Clan McDuck would definitely qualify. On one hand, Donald seems to have completely given up and has succumbed to reiterating his bleak and unsettling mantra of adventuring leading to hurt. But then there's Dewey, who pushes through the pain of an adventure he may not like the outcome to, only to come out the other end with restored faith in the goodness of Della and a renewed sense of resolve in finding the truth. And, in doing so, he proves Storkules' words that "getting hurt is part of the adventure." That, of course, leaves us with Scrooge who comes off as completely in denial and oblivious to whatever part he may have had in Della’s disappearance and the impact it's had on him and his family******. Regardless, I think it’s Donald who will end up playing the largest role in finding Della because, as Storkules says, he is a “hero” and “adventure is going to find (him) whether he likes it or not.”
(*) It's never said where their true destination is. To that end, could the lightning storm be a product of Zeus' wrath?
(**) Webby posits that the Spear of Selene may not be an artifact at all. My zany theory is that the “spear” is a rocket ship that Della flew into space… hear me out, we know Della was a pilot and Selene is the Goddess of the moon, so the most logical conclusion is that she became an astronaut (just like she happened to be in the comics!).
(***) This actually checks out too since Donald has been conspicuously absent from the last two “adventure” episodes in The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra! as well as The Impossible Summit of Mount Neverest! Although, he was present for The House of the Lucky Gander! but, fittingly enough, that’s because his cousin, Gladstone Gander, was in trouble and needed help (Donald cares about his family above all else!).
(****) There is hope though - Donald does snap out of it and spring into action when he fears Huey and Louie are in danger. One would think he’d react the same way once he realized the emotional toll Della’s absence is having on Dewey.
(*****) Although, Donald did ostracize himself from Scrooge and remained estranged from him for some time before reluctantly returning to the fold when it became beneficial to his nephews.
(******) Sure, he was down in the dumps when we first met him at the beginning of the series and, whether that had something to do with Della or not, the arrival of his nephews seemingly knocked him out of whatever doldrums he was wallowing in.
All three Greek Gods we encounter are voiced by real-life Greek actors! Michael Chiklis is Zeus, Chris Diamantopoulos (the current voice of Mickey Mouse) is Storkules, and Nia Vardalos is Selene.
Ithaquack is a stand-in for the not-mythical but real-life island of Ithaca which is also located off the coast of Greece.
Ithaquack was also a locale in the Original DuckTales in the episode, "Home Sweet Homer."
Storkules is, of course, a play on Heracles who, in Greek Mythology is the son of Zeus and demigod who is known for his strength and far-ranging adventures.
Traditionally, Zeus is King of the Gods and the God of Thunder.
Storkules reveals that Louie's real name is "Llewellyn."
In Greek mythology, Selene is, in fact, the Goddess of the Moon and would drive it every night across the night skies.
It’s a shame we didn’t get more of Launchpad. Just like in "The House of the Lucky Gander!" (S1, E6) he crashes the plane in scene one and is left to fix the plane, only to appear again in the final scene.