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I was admittedly a bit worried about this episode. For one thing, the title, “Friendship Hates Magic,” is a play on the “Friendship Is Magic” subhead of the recent My Little Pony show, and we’re way past the era of show’s throwing shade towards that’s cartoon’s once-thriving popularity (although I wouldn’t mind seeing those two murderous kelpies again, which I kind of hoped this episode was about). I also had my concerns because this was an earlier episode that was switched out of order, which tends to mean it’s weak or tricky in some way–placed within a series or stronger episodes to not disrupt the flow too much. But “Friendship Hates Magic” is a pretty good one. It is a bit tricky to follow, plot-wise, but its strength lies in how it keeps a lot of good momentum going right through the end.

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“Friendship Hates Magic” focuses on the tragic fallout of “The Shadow War,” of Lena being a completely fabricated creation of Magica DeSpell. Lena has been stuck in the Shadow Realm (essentially Webby’s shadow) all this time, and apparently Webby has been visiting the library on occasion to reasearch as much as she can about it. On one particular visit, she meets Violet Sabrewing, another young girl with a stoic, straight-forward demeanor but her own glorified interest in all things supernatural–she has the very Shadow Realm book that Webby was looking for. Connecting further over shared ancient, dead languages, the two somewhat bond and decide to have a sleepover. This raises some concerns within Lena, who has been “following” Webby around, who thinks that any other character with that much interest in Webby must be evil in some way. And it kind of makes sense–Violet knows a lot about Webby, she casually mentions Magica DeSpell, and she even somehow has the magic amulet that gave Magica her powers.

Two things keep this episode lively and moving. The first is that Webby’s desperation to remove all magical and mystical stuff from the mansion to have a “normal” sleepover ends after the first act. This may seem like a “faint praise” comment, but I mean this sincerely. Rachel Vine’s script recognizes that it’s a comic bit that can’t sustain itself too much, and once Violet figures out what’s really happening, that whole bit is dropped and we get right into the meat of the story. The second thing that keeps it lively: we don’t know Violet’s motivations. She’s new, and while Lena spends the early portions of the episode snidely remarking on Webby’s passionate library trips, her sudden relationship with Violet draws out a variety of suspicions. They’re really a lot of deep projections, though, with Lena believing that Violet’s behavior is solely manipulative cause, well, that’s exactly how past Lena would have done it. This manifests as a deep fear of being forgotten (Webby dropping all reasearch into bringing Lena back is a valid explanation for those fears), which in turn manifest as jealousy-driven tulpas–spirits that look like Magica, then transforms into mirror images of Lena herself. There’s a lot of visual, reflective symbolism here, not just with Lena’s jealousy depicted as monsters; that they were first seen in the form of Magica props up the idea that her monstrously toxic and manipulated actions really is the root cause of all this.

The details of the story kind of feels a bit clunky, involving Rune dice, Baggle, seances, amulets, spells, and friendship bracelets, but they hardly matter. The real story of Webby gaining a new friend and Lena overcoming her jealousy to defeat the tulpas is endearing enough. It brings Lena back into the fold (after an almost dark twist of her disappearing as the Shadow Realm dissipates), and although I don’t know what this means for her in the long wrong (is she “real” real now? does the amulet still control her? should we be concerned about Magica somehow getting to her again?) it’s good to just see these three happy, alive, and existing together as friends. It’s wholesome. And we could use more wholesome episodes of DuckTales. Or any show, really.

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Stray observations

  • Violet’s whole story is that she was a complete realist and never believed in supernatural or occult concepts until The Shadow War incident. She vowed to find out all she could, which is why she knew about Magica and all these arcane ideas. She came in possession of the amulet by pure circumstance–it landed in front of her. It’s a bit of a narrative contrivance, but I do like the idea of hearing about other people’s experiences with the weird occurrences that happen the proximity of this Duck family.
  • Webby’s desperation for a normal sleepover is triggered by a lack of friends, which she flippantly shoots back onto Beakley, claiming she lacks friends too. This prompts the B-story, in which she tries to connect with Launchpad. It’s an amusing couple of beats (I especially love Launchpad drinking the soup with all four spoons at the same time), if a bit predictable. They have nothing in common except for a broad love of superficial masked heroes: once Launchpad introduces her to Darkwing Duck, she gets hooked, and they shoot a fan film together.
  • Beakley is skeptical of the “mythology” of the Quackerjack-Paddywhack-Banana Brain story, but I assure you, that actual episode of Darkwing Dark is quite terrifyingly good.
  • Entertainment Weekly snagged an exclusive clip of Friday’s secret episode “The Duck Night Returns!” I’m assuming this new-found connection between Launchpad and Beakley over their love of the show is related to it?
  • The visual of Webby being dragged away by that gelantinous combo of jealous talpas was really creepy and really well done by the animators.

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