Written By Kevin Hopps
Directed By Jennifer Coyle
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation
THE PLOT: As Fall turns into Winter, Peter “webslinging'” Parker is met with several new tasks on his to-do list. Talking to Gwen Stacy about their kiss will have to wait though, as Mysterio makes his first appearance to challenge Spider-Man! Will this be Peter’s “Winter of Discontent”??
LONG STORY SHORT: Spidey appears to have defeated and unmasked Mysterio, but the joke’s on him as the one turned over to the police was a robotic decoy. The real Quentin Beck was apparently working with his partner the Tinkerer, under a mysterious new crime boss who calls himself “Master Planner”.
MY THOUGHTS: Second season! Finally, something current. Unlike some other super hero cartoons that for whatever reason tended to have consecutive seasons premiere uninterrupted like The Batman or Justice Leage Unlimited, the faithful fans without the treasure of youtube had to wait over a year for the new episodes to hit the US, as Canada did see the second season last year. But I digress; here we start off right where we left off with Peter dreaming about both the potential love of his life and his most dangerous enemy. Right away, this shows me that the quality of the show’s storytelling has remained intact. “Nature vs. Nurture” was indeed a very important episode in terms of character development (well, mostly) and pretty much outlining the bulk of this season. As Peter gains more and more experience as the Amazing Spider-Man, his personal life is affected in a number of ways, and that makes for a great viewing experience as people ask “What else can go right or wrong in this young man’s life?”
As a matter of fact, concerning this particular episode I found myself more enthralled by the scenes with Peter sans the costume. The Mysterio part of the episode was in a way distracting from what I felt was truly important to the overall story. The way Mysterio appeared, and the transistions between the fight scenes came off as a little tacked on. There’s always a strong need for action in a superhero story, but it is a trial to balance that aspect of a character’s life with his private life. Continuing on from the last episode, “Blueprints” is aptly titled as it lays the ground for the Peter/Gwen relationship as well as the Peter/Liz Allen relationship. So I found myself practically marking time until Peter was shown out of costume during the Mysterio fights. Is this the fault of the viewer, or the show’s writers?
Well its the writer’s, but by the end of the episode it proves to be a good thing. The Mysterio part of the episode played very linear. He would show up, cause a ruckus, Spidey would show up, (it was never explained how Spidey knew where Mysterio would be) they would fight, wash/rinse/repeat. Mysterio’s use of latin didn’t exactly help my understanding on what his motivations were at the time, nor did I find his little robotic bats very amusing although I did chuckle when one of them smiled before he bit Spider-Man’s leg. Really, the parts that mostly grabbed my attention were the scene of Spider-Man saving the driver from the river and the short fight in the shack when he took on the Mysterio robots respectively. I wasn’t 100% feeling the threat of the villain, nor did I ever truly understand how he did the things he did. Was the zapping of the people’s will just auto-suggestion? It was a little foggy for me personally. However, it was all made better at the end when Tinkerer showed up and they explained what they were trying to accomplish. I really liked the line of the Tinkerer asking Beck why he gave the robots his true identity. The characterization of Quentin Beck was very amusing. He really did turn out to be a corny revenge villain, but it worked in favor of foreshadowing down the road what’s in store for Spider-Man. Otherwise, the character would’ve ended up being pretty worthless as a throwaway villain.
But again, barring the super villain aspect of the plot this was still a good episode. I loved the fact that the first thing shown to be on Peter’s mind via a dream was analyzing his feelings towards Gwen as well as Venom coming back. I thought that was very realistic for him to have a nightmare about Venom, seeing as how not only is he Spider-Man’s deadliest enemy up to this point, but the imagery of Peter being webbed off of a building suggests that he’s unsure of himself defeating Venom a second time seeing as how Eddie seemed to know more about Peter than he did of himself. It was pretty symbolic and told well through a dream sequence. And the dream wasn’t wacky or LSD-esque like cartoon dreams tend to be protrayed as. Dreams tend to fool the dreamer into a visceral sense of reality, and fooling the viewer that the dream is real gives credence to fooling Peter that its real as well. A great way to open the second season.
Not only does this episode continue the mystery of Eddie’s wherabouts and the Peter/Gwen relationship, but it furthers the Liz Allen attraction to Peter that’s been developing since the second episode of the first season. I’ve stated before but I really do like Liz in this show. She’s not shown to be nearly as bad a person as, oh let’s say..SALLY AVRIL is, just because she’s a popular cheerleader. But since she is in the “in-crowd” she would have the confidence to come on to Peter when she wants him to notice her. And what’s great about that is that Peter can easily tell what’s going on. He just doesn’t know how to respond to it. He says at the beginning that even after Black Cat kissed him as Spider-Man, Gwen kissing him caught him off guard. Though he may be more confident as Peter Parker, he still doesn’t have the leeway of a secret identity as he does while being Spider-Man. So I can imagine how weird it must be to have one girl kiss you and another girl flirt with you, especially if that second girl wasn’t on your mind previously. And Gwen sulking in despair after seeing Peter and Liz together was another nice touch of reality. That’s a great thing this show does in terms of showing the teenage angst aspect of the early Spider-Man stories. It doesn’t feel hamfisted or even that terribly cliché, it feels natural. The one thing I could’ve done without was Mary Jane saying “So spill girlfriend!”, but even that still could’ve been worse.
The dinner scene ( rather “the dinner party of evil” considering it includes Norman Osborn, Miles Warren and Curt Connors all in the same room) was interesting in setting up plot exposition while still feeling organic to the story. The line that told us the two Warren professors were brothers felt a little overtly expositional, but that’s neither here nor there. What I really liked was how uncomfortable Martha Connors appeared at the prospect of re-hiring Peter. Curt, when not shooting up Lizard DNA sinisterly, always seemed like a amible fellow. But for some reason, this Martha Connors just seems to be very antagonistic in the show. I actually understood her reasoning for firing Peter, but she rather coldly kicked Eddie to the curb even after he told her he’d have to drop out of college without his job. She could’ve possibly reccomended him to a collegue of hers, but as “Natural Selection” proved the Connors have no collegues other than Miles Warren, who is more akin to his John Romita design rather than the white haired design more familiar to Clone Saga fans, which I liked. Warren is obviously from the get go not on the up-and-up, so the prospect of any cloning storylines doesn’t seem to be out of the question.
Other than that, there’s not much else to discuss with this episode. It was really solid in terms of taking sub-plots from last season, and carrying them over to ontegrate with the set up for the new plotlines. But that was really all there was to it. It honestly did feel to me like an old Steve Ditko drawn issue, because I remember every now and then being more invested in Peter’s civillain life and his troubles with Betty than I was with his life as Spider-Man. And if a modern-day cartoon can feel like a 1960s comic book, that’s a good sign in my book.
Best Line Contender*- Spider-Man: “Right, uh..who’re you again?”
Beck: “You put me away!”
Spider-Man: “Oh, did I? Cool!”
All images taken from Toonzone.net