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DuckTales lets Fenton define himself outside of Gizmoduck–and Mark Beaks outside of hashtags

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The newest “new” character in the DuckTales universe is one Gandra Dee. Voiced by The Good Places’s Jameela Jamil, Dee is a punk rebel scientist who scoffs at white suit types who sell out their brilliance for the needs and whims of billionaires. She’s also, ironically, working for Mark Beaks as a spy, although her excuse is that she works for no one, that she only uses him for funding and resources. It’s a lot of self-righteous bloviating (people working for plutocrats never do it so they can work on their own things *rolls eyes*), but the episode doesn’t really call the hypocrisy out. But my main concern is really that this is the third newest character that they’ve introduced that’s structured around the question of whether we can really trust them or not (Lena and Violet being the other two). It’s fine for a solid plot motivator, but it’s also pretty overused by now.


Fenton is exhausted after fighting crime as Gizmoduck for so long. The constantly media attention that his alter-ego gets doesn’t help matters. But when he meets Gandra Dee, the two “fake” hit it off, and they weave back and forth between romantic courting and scientific competitiveness, with the help of Huey and Webby (who are kind of just... there). It’s cute, but the main thrust is Fenton trying to define himself by his scientific prowess, utilizing it to impress someone outside of just being Gizmoduck. It’s a good emotional thread to pull, although I sort wish it went a bit deeper, really delve into the character’s insecurities about the matter. Also, this is nit picky, and I know they changed Fenton from an accountant to a scientist, but it would have been cool to see a callback to original Fenton’s wildly gifted ability with numbers.

The more interesting thing, at least for me, is how they developed Mark Beaks here. I mentioned before how DuckTales seem to be struggling with the character, who leaned way too much as an annoying, social media obsessed Youtuber with money, instead of the weird, eccentric, abnormal weirdo that most tech capilatists seem to be. Well, they fixed that! Beaks, bored while watching Gandra work Fenton into providing the Gizmoduck password, downs a bunch of what looks like test tubes of water, but it’s portrayed like he’s downing shots of alcohol. When breaking into the lab, he plays that “It’s a Date” song while dodging all the laser shots and hacking them one by one, while dancing and pirouetting with a carefree demeanor. Oh, those test tube shots? There were nanobits, which, in a stunning bit of animation, causes him to bulk out and become a literal monster. The social media obsession still comes off a bit awkward (not a single person on any show ever has said “hashtag-whatever” and sounded like a human being). But fusing that with his outlandish behaviors and his obsession with Gizmoduck gives a creepier, dangerous, nutty side that feels more true to the “rich tech head” conception of the character.

This all culminates in an extremely tense, extremely well-animated battle between Mega-Beaks and Gizmoduck, which is not-so-subtly meant to resemble the Iron Man/Hulk fight in Age of Ultron. It’s brutal (with Mega-Beaks ripping a part of Gizmoduck’s visor off so one eye is visible), but I think some things get a little muddled, plot-wise. I don’t quite know why Beaks needs the code that summons Gizmoduck to trigger his Mega-Beaks transformation. His motivation to kidnap Huey and Webby and climb his Waddles tower for social media attention makes sense for his character but feels like a random direction for the whole scene to go. And Dee shocking Gizmoduck when she does, to then try and shock Mega-Beaks later, feels like the show trying to showcase her “works for no one” attitude, but lacks clear motivation in the moment. In other words, I don’t know why Dee shocked Gizmoduck first, then Mega-Beaks later. The heel turn makes no sense. That and the rushed ending hurt what could have been an above-average episode, but at least Fenton becomes a more confident scientist, and Beaks becomes a more specific, dangerous antagonist with specific, dangerous peculiarities.


Stray observations

  • That weird “It’s a Date” song was... well, weird. But I kind of liked it?
  • I also kind of like that the show is ridiculing the whole secret identity thing. Webby immediately guesses Fenton is Gizmoduck. He has a list of people who already know, including “everyone on his block.” Beaks and Dee know. There’s a casualness to it all that’s pretty amusing.
  • Fenton getting legit angry at Dee when he finds out about her betrayal is a good moment, allowing the character to experience an honest emotion outside of “well-meaning, semi-clumsy nice guy.”

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About the author

Kevin Johnson

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