It’s safe to say (I think) that DuckTales has finally got past the giddiness of being a reboot of a well-known, well-recognized show and is starting to come into its own. It needed to get out of that stars-in-their-eyes headspace, shake the cobwebs of snarkiness, winking irony, and self-aware jokiness, so it could just be a show that stood on its own. The potential was always there. It just need to burst through. And with last week and this week, we’re finally in a place where DuckTales can start telling its own stories. In the old show, Mrs. Beakley was hired as a nanny to take care of the nephews because they were getting too rowdy (she was the only one of a series of potential candidates that could take the triplets out of Scrooge’s feathers and ALSO win them over). In “From The Confidential Casefiles Of Agent 22,” Christian Magalhaes’ script delves into Mrs. Beakley past as a spy, and how she and Scrooge met.
It’s kind of a strange, random meeting, part of the show’s still awkwardly-handled first acts, but it works well enough, and makes sense for new-DuckTales’ bizarro logic. In flashback, we learn that Scrooge is brought in as a rich secret agent partner to Bettina Beakley’s veteran spy on a mission to buy an old parchment at an auction, and his off-the-cuff antics butt up against Beakley’s by-the-book personality. It isn’t clear why or how Scrooge is brought aboard, but again, it’s not really in this show’s best interest to track that side of things. All we need to know is that the two have joined forces in the midst of a S.H.U.S.H. mission to stop the F.O.W.L. agent Black Heron from acquiring the parchment for her nefarious deeds. And, if you’re following, yes, those are references to the two organizations that were used extensively in Darkwing Duck. (In fact, the flashback storyline is almost beat-for-beat taken from an episode of Darkwing Duck, in which the the freewheeling crime-fighter is teamed up with the straight-laced S.H.U.S.H. agent Gryzlikoff, and antics ensue. That’s just a bit of neediness from me, though.)
It’s an episode filled with classic references though, much better ingrained into the plot than previous episodes. Whether you pick up on all of them or not doesn’t matter, as the high stakes and rich characterizations keeps the action moving. So yes, the parchment in question not only contains visual references to the Gummi Bears, but also has the formula for the infamous Gummi Beary (Bearie?) Juice, granting its consumers the ability to bounce wildly around. (Another classic reference is the off-kilter, semi-used Duckverse character Ludwig Von Drake, who in this incarnation is the leader of S.H.U.S.H.) It all works because it commits to these ideas within the story (as opposed to references for the sake of references), along with the contrasting combo of Beakley/McDuck, allowing for some great jokes as well as some solid action, all perfectly suited to their characters. Heck, even Black Heron stands out in her own odd way, who really seems as obsessed with finishing her evil tropes (filmstrips, monologuing) as she is with general malevolence.
That flashback is intercut with the modern adventure, in which Scrooge and Webby team up to find Beakley when they discover that she was kidnapped by the Black Heron. The past/present intercutting method of storytelling is a well-worn technique, giving us here a great visual and narrative comparison of two pairings that go from frustrating mistrust to perfectly suited partnership. Watching Scrooge and Webby connect with each other is a fascinating, lovely beat, a bit more rewarding than Scrooge/Beakley, but that’s mainly cause the former is really what this episode is focused on. The only reason I didn’t give this episode a full A is because it seemed very odd that both Scrooge and Beakley underestimated Webby’s skill (I can see Scrooge missing this–he notoriously fails to pay attention to people–but Beakley actively has been training Webby for this kind of situation). But Webby holds her own, even defeating the Black Heron with some juice-induced bouncing in an amazingly animated sequence by Tanner Johnson. It’s slick, exciting, and fun as all heck, the kind of adventurous episode that DuckTales, both old and new, is capable of.
- So this pops up every so often (and probably will for a while), but the whole change of both Webby and Mrs. Beakley from unique, strongly-feminine-coded figures to secret badasses (essentially to make them look “cooler” to the show’s “young boy skewing” demographic): At this point it’s something viewers will have to accept, even if it works for their approach so far. I still think it was an unnecessary, concerning change, though–somewhat lazy in that inability to keep them female/girly and still appealing.
- The headline is a reference to the very theme song of the show this episode reference. So many layers!
- The Scrooge/Webby pairing works when compared to Scrooge/Dewey and Webby/Dewey pairings. It’s quite clear why they all seem to be on the same page when it comes to these adventures.
- Black Heron was voiced by April Winchell, which makes me miss Wander Over Yonder quite a bit–reviewing it and watching it.