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A somewhat clunky DuckTales parallels Della and Donald to mixed results

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I don’t know if I buy “The Golden Spear’s” throughline–that Penumbra is basically another version of Donald. It’s one of many throughlines that get tossed around here, the main one being the overall contrast between how Della takes in the chaotic, adventurous life (optimistic, carefree, determined) and how Donald takes it (exhausted, world-weary, literally molting). An episode emphasizing the differences and similarities between these two siblings sounds, in theory, amazing. This episode never quite nails down a cohesive, specific point though. It definitely enjoys playing with these characters and making them work (or suffer) through the typical Duck life–Della regales the Moon people with incredible stories of her adventures, while Donald can’t even take a medically necessary nap. But it never quite sets up the side-by-side, narrative/structural relationship that I think it Bob Snow’s script is aiming for.


Story-wise, there isn’t much going on. While Della rebuilds her ship, Penny, er, Penumbra, grows more and more distrustful of her. At first she expects Della to launch an attack, which is mostly due to Penumbra’s inherent warrior spirit and upbringing. But it becomes something more personal/cultural when Della’s stories inspire the people of the Moon (“Moonlanders” the show calls them, per the credits) with the great stories of Earth and everything she did while on it. There’s a sudden conclusion jump in which Penumbra thinks such stories are making everyone think the Moon is weak and uninteresting, a kind of hurt pride/patriotism that is now pushing her more unorthodox behavior (Lunaris calls it jealousy, but that’s not quite what it is). I don’t how I feel about that, but part of the issue is that we never really get a sense of the Moonlanders, or their people, or their society (other than its gold-driven) to compare it to what Earth has to offer.

The episode then has to take some hard-to-swallow leaps in the plot to jump-start and table-set what looks to be the second season’s overall story arc. This includes a scene in which the Moonlanders suddenly want to go to Earth with Della, but she says she can’t, which is clearly since the rocket is obviously too small. It’s unclear why Della never suggests the most self-evident solutions–either to come back with a larger fleet, or just bring a few back to Earth for now–but she then changes her mind and says yeah, she will find a way bring them all. This leads to a seething Penumbra to force Della to launch early (an earlier heart-to-heart with her doesn’t seem to be of any effect), and Della gives Lunaris the instructions to build more ships so they can follow. Lunaris then lies to the crowds, claiming Della betrayed them, fought him off, and left without helping the Moonlanders on purpose, in order to plan his own mass invasion of Earth. There’s a lot of narrative shortcuts that take place here (Lunaris somehow masterminding the whole thing, including Penumbra’s actions, is a big one) but what gets me is how easily and quickly the Moonlanders buy into... well, everything. I mean, I get it–mob mentality, ignorance of the masses, etc.–but that they fail to see obvious issues feels forced, like the ship being too small to bring them all to Earth in the first place. A lot of shows seem to do “whip up the crowd into a frenzy” stories at the expense of making said crowds look really, really stupid. I know the Moonlanders have no idea what Earth is, but it still seems all so forced.

As all this Moon stuff goes on, down on Earth, Donald has to contend with his family’s shenanigans while attempting to get some much needed rest. The good news is, yes, more Donald! The less good news is that the way Donald is utilized here is less than ideal. I don’t want to say “mean-spirited,” since Donald being the victim of things completely outside his control has been part of the character since his inception, but “The Golden Spear!” lacks the low-key emotional underpinning that makes this particular iteration of the character work. If Donald, exhaustively but aggressively, forced himself to contend with the antoginistic forces that threaten his nephews, that would have been one thing. But here, Donald just wants to sleep. Watching him lose more and more feathers as he passively runs from zombies, avoid Zeus’s lighting bolts, and survive some kind of parallel dimension is kind of just uncomfortable, despite all the efforts of the show to portray it as comically as possible. Scrooge and the boys eventually do give Donald a much-needed vacation, but in a final cruel and ironic twist, Donald sees return of the Spear, climbs in to see Della, only to accidentally blast himself back up into space. Again, this feels as narratively contrived as all the stuff on the Moon, but it also all happens in the span of like, a minute, so even that kind of narrative irony doesn’t get a chance to stick.


Donald blasting into space as Della finds herself back home, at least, will provide some really interesting story potential for next week’s batch of episodes. It also helps the audience quickly move on from the harsh narrative changes that occur here into the next episode. Getting a sense of who Donald and Della are, in parallel to each other, is a fun and potentially rich idea on paper. But “The Golden Spear” needed to propel the story arc forward, ultimately weakening everything in the process.

Stray observations

  • I don’t think Penumbra is anything like Donald, to be honest.

Contributor, The A.V. Club, with a clear preference for all things cartoons; check out his main blog at http://www.totalmediabridge.com.

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