Episode: 303 "Double-O-Duck in You Only Crash Twice!” 4/11/20
Starring: Launchpad McQuack, Dewey Duck, Scrooge McDuck, and Webby Vanderquack
Costarring: Bradley Buzzard and Black Heron
Introducing: Agent Red Feather, Odd Duck, and The Egg Heads
Special Guest Stars: The Rescue Rangers (Gadget, Chip, Dale, Monterey Jack, and Zipper)
An Appearance by: Funso/The Phantom Blot
Setting: Duckburg (Funso’s Funzone and Audubon Bay)
While F.O.W.L. was a staple of Darkwing Duck, the secret society of ne’er-do-wells first appeared in the DuckTales ‘87 episode, "Double-O-Duck," which also served as a Launchpad-centric spy thriller. Back then, LP was still the loveable but dimwitted flyboy whose penchant for crashing belied his competency as an ace pilot. But most of all, Launchpad was defined by his heroism and heart. This version has turned his dimness up to eleven while completely disregarding his more commendable traits. Even though Launchpad’s antics are hilarious, often highlighting episodes and leading to oodles of scene-stealing moments, his character has become a bit of a soulless punchline. But this episode finally calls upon LP’s legendary courage and adds enough substance to fill his barrel-chested figure.
In Steelbeak, Launchpad finally gets his foil. Like LP, Steelbeak is dumb… like reallly duuumb. But unlike his counterpart, he’s all too aware of his deficiencies in a very unhealthy way. The rooster flunky’s obsessive refrain of “I’m not stupid!” is rooted in insecurity and desperation - it drives everything he does. For example, instead of simply getting Scrooge and his family to leave Funso’s, he completely defeats the purpose by bringing Launchpad and Dewey to F.OW.L.’s secret, underground lair. Then after using Black Heron’s Intelli-Ray against her, he absconds with it and hatches a plot to use it on all of Duckburg so it “will be full of dummies” - the implication being, if everyone is an idiot, he won’t be. All the havoc he reaps is a self-serving massage of his all too fragile ego.
Meanwhile Launchpad is also aware of his inadequacies but only inasmuch it affects those around him. During a daytrip to Funso’s Funzone with his best friend, Dewey, LP has begun to grow weary of Double-O-Duck, the uber realistic, augmented reality arcade game they have been playing. His slowness on the uptake results in them losing over and over again and he’s feeling the pressure. When Dewey tells him not to “overthink it” all he can do is frantically mutter to himself “gotta be smart, gotta win.” But what’s most important to LP and in stark contrast to Steelbeak’s motivations is the notion of not “letting Dewey down.” Launchpad isn’t so much concerned with proving his intelligence as he is in spending time with his buddy and making sure he doesn’t stand in the way of his good time… all while making it to the next level.
In sacrificing his “last life” so Dewey can live, Launchpad absorbs the blast from the Intelli-Ray that’s heading straight for his pal. In doing so he centuples his intelligence, thus making him “nimble and clear” of mind enough to finally fit the bill of Double-O-Duck. In his climactic showdown with Steelbeak, LP does more than prove that his nemesis’ suit “suits him better,” he predictably outclasses him in every way. Then in an heroic act of self-awareness, LP recognizes that he’s the only one stupid enough to act as a conduit for the blast from the reverse Intelli-Ray aimed at Duckburg. He willingly “sacrifices his intelligence” and even his newfound but not-yet-realized ability to “land a plane.” Double-O-Duck’s last words are “for Dewey and Duckburg” and, as the episode’s melancholic theme song plays on, he plunges into the bay while cradling his best friend safely in his arms.
This episode isn’t just a throwback to “Double-O-Duck,” it’s an homage to the Launchpad of old - the one who’s smart enough to combat his lack of brains with an overwhelming amount of heart and heroism. And even though LP doesn’t have enough intelligence residue to warn Scrooge about F.O.W.L., he’s done more than enough to fulfill his main objective of being good enough for his best friend, Dewey. Unfortunately for Steelbeak, his mission has failed and he’s left being cruelly reprimanded and mocked by his superiours. Perhaps if he had the support and acceptance from a friend like Dewey, whose confidence in and appreciation for Launchpad never wavers, he could overcome his shortcomings. Instead he’s likely destined for a life of bitter loneliness and low-level, fiendish larceny.
Along with “Double-O-Duck” the episode is a parody of the James Bond film series - where “007” is the code name for the titular spy. The title in particular plays upon the movie You Only Live Twice.
In fact, there were once plans to use the “Double-O-Duck” episode as a jumping to spin Launchpad off into his own series of the same name where he would continue his adventures as a spy. Though it never took flight, the idea evolved into Darkwing Duck where LP would serve as DW’s sidekick in his fight against F.O.W.L.
One difference between the DuckTales ‘87 F.O.W.L. and the one from Darkwing Duck and now, is the “F.” In “Double-O-Duck,” it stood for “Foreign” but has since been modified to “Fiendish.”
I can’t believe I never noticed this before but the colour of Launchpad’s hats depend on whether he’s acting as a driver (brown) or a pilot (green). However this begs the question as to why Scrooge had to pick them up from Funso’s, assuming LP drove them there (and why wouldn’t he have?).
With one of the more striking character designs the show has ever produced, it would be a waste if Agent Red Feather is merely relegated to the role of a non-player character from an arcade game. Although, it should be noted that female cardinals are mostly brown while it’s their male counterparts that boast red feathers from crown to claw.
Another NPC is Odduck whose first and only appearance was in “Double-O-Duck” as Dr. NoGood’s henchman. Like F.O.W.L. member and Rockerduck stooge, Jeeves, Odduck is also inspired by Bond lackey, Odd Job.
In Darkwing Duck, Steelbeak is a high-ranking F.O.W.L. agent and one of DW’s archest villains. While his appearance is virtually unchanged, he’s hardly the incompetent buffoon he’s portrayed as here.
F.O.W.L. is on high-alert because Black Heron’s Intelli-Ray is operational and currently stationed in their secret, underground lair deep beneath the ball pit. Even still, the chances are slim-to-none that the McDucks would ever have reason to be suspicious enough to even search for it, let alone find it. F.O.W.L. would’ve been better off leaving well enough alone.
The Intelli-Ray is powered by the same Third Eye Diamond that was listed as a Missing Mystery from Isabella Finch’s lost Adventure Journal in "Challenge of the Senior Junior Woodchucks!” (S3, E1). However, Black Heron describes the Diamond as a “mystical relic pulled from the fowl archives.”
In a role similar to but much less organic and meaningful as Goofy’s in “Quack Pack!” (S1, E2) are the Rescue Rangers (Gadget, Chip, Dale, Monterey Jack, and Zipper from the 1989 Disney Afternoon show of the same name). Their origin story is reimagined as ordinary rodents who become test subjects of the Intelli-Ray and have their intelligence centupled. They come to LP’s aid twice: once helping him and Dewey escape their holding cell and then assisting LP in defeating Steelbeak by electrocuting him - all while flying the Ranger Plane with an instrumental of their theme song in accompaniment.
The plot of the Double-O-Duck arcade game mirrors the plot of the actual episode: “Locate the villain’s lair. Once there, find the secret weapon, save the world. Then we get pizza.”
The B-plot involves Webby attempting to introduce Scrooge to video games and ends with him becoming the “richest duck in the arcade” after developing a ticket addiction from playing skeeball.
F.O.W.L.’s secret lair includes one of those platitudinous Leadership posters hanging on the wall.
The Eggheads are low-ranking F.O.W.L. foot soldiers and almost identical in both their role and looks to that of the Eggmen from Darkwing Duck. Their title was probably changed to reflect that women are now among their ranks.
Bradley Buzzard makes F.OW.L.’s intentions clear: “We’re not trying to destroy the world, we’re going to steal it out from under McDuck’s nose."