The Master Planner is revealed, and his Master Plan is set in motion! As all of New York goes to hell, Spider-Man is on the job as a key part in the Planner’s scheme hinges on the capture of Gwen Stacy. Will the New Year’s Eve be her last?
Written By Randy Jandt
Directed By Jennifer Coyle
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Moi Animation
THE PLOT: Doctor Octopus is revealed to be the Master Planner, and bribes George Stacy into releasing over plans that could quite possibly help Octavious rule the world. He has Gwen kidnapped as insurance, which immediately has him on the outs with Peter. As Spider-Man, Peter searches high and low until he finds the Planner’s hideout and wages all-out war.
LONG STORY SHORT: Spider-Man foils Doc Ock’s scheme, but Ock gets the last laugh as he self-destructs the underwater fortress in an attempt to kill the wall-crawler once and for all. That doesn’t quite go to plan. As the New Year counts down in its final seconds and Peter repeatedly tries to confess his love for Gwen, Liz shows up at the door saying that she wants to be with him and proves it with a kiss. UH OH!
MY THOUGHTS: To pull the curtain back for a bit, an annoying habit that every writer intends to break is a habit of repitition. No one wants to read the same thing over and over again. That’s what this show has me doing a majority of the time, and it can sometimes bug me a tiny bit. That doesn’t mean I actively LOOK OUT FOR FLAWS, because that’d make me a tool. Of course when you’re talking about The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, saying how amazing and spectacular the show can be is just par for the course. Once again this is another great episode that builds on character development, plot development, has terrific action sequences, awesome animation and solid voice acting. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t perfect. Does it have some flaws? Well, I think so. But does that detract from the overall enjoyment of the episode? When talking about “Shear Strength”? Absolutely not. For the most part.
We open up the episode and after the first five seconds we are shown who the Master Planner is. This is another example of taking from comic book continuity in that if you haven’t read the three-part Master Planner arc in Amazing Spider-Man #31-33 a.k.a. “If This Be My Destiny…”/”The Final Chapter” then you may not see Doc Ock being the mastermind coming. Honestly it is quite a swerve and it’s even more unexpected in the original story. I did find it funny that we were just shown immediately it was Doc Ock the whole time and there was no build up to revealing who it was. But I can’t complain because I, like many saw it coming two miles away. It still serves as a great part to the story because (and I’m going to repeat myself again) Doctor Octopus is so incredibly awesome in this show. Peter McNicol once again gives an absolutely chilling performance as this sadistic mad scientist. He’s the calmest interpretation I’ve ever seen, and every scene with him talking on the phone with Captain Stacy was mesmerising in how cunning and cruel he came off as. His plan, while easier to swallow comparing to his initial appearance, did simply come down to taking over the world. (Of Course!) But A) he’s a supervillain and B) he’s a manaical psychopath. Trying to determine exactly why he wants to rule the world is a moot point. Another thing I liked was the relationship between Dr. Octopus and the Vulture, which we didn’t get in the last two episodes with them together. They did work together, and seeing them interact in their new supervillain personas was an interesting thing to watch. I really look forward to more scenes with them together, because its unique to the show and it has a lot of potential further down the line.
Talking about the love triangle scenes, we see more of Flash completely milking his injury for all it was worth, which I didn’t like seeing because it really made his character look like a schmuck. But as it was a means to an end, I can’t talk too much against it. We get some more of what we got in the last episode (Which seeing how that took place on X-Mas Eve and this is New Year’s Eve the time span is around six days) with Gwen stating that she refuses to be Peter’s second choice. That’s a nice character moment because it shows that even though Gwen doesn’t have as much self confidence in herself as Mary Jane or Liz do, she won’t degrade herself if she thinks Peter is just settling to be with her. It comes back at the end when she guts up and escapes the crumbling fortress with her and Spider-Man, and this once again shows how much of an improvement this version’s Gwen is over the original comic book’s version. Well to be fair, the original Gwen did have moments of spunkiness, but they were few and far between. Here we see those moments naturally develop and occur in much more harrowing situations than usual. Props to Lacy Chabert here are warrented as well. When she first wakes up and realizes the situation she’s in, her voice sounds so believably afraid for her life that it’s incredible. It’s as if Ms. Chabert herself was kidnapped at a young age by flying octogenarians and overweight nerds, but that probably didn’t happen. Still, her performance while always pretty solid was especially good in this episode. It again sold the reality of the episode and the life and death stakes that were being played. Josh Keaton turned in another terrific episode as a very pissed off Spider-Man who stopped at nothing to save Gwen. There was a noticably different tone in his voice that contrasts from the desperation he had when Gwen was kidnapped by Venom in “Nature v. Nurture”. You could tell by the anger and determination that this was a Peter Parker who as he was fighting to find Gwen was becoming very aware about how he felt towards her. It was a tonal difference that went from “Don’t, please don’t hurt my childhood friend” to “If you hurt Gwen I’m gonna rip off your arm and beat you with it”. It was a great way for him to finally come to a decision on which girl he perferred to be with, as well as upping his experience as a crime fighter. I loved the scene where he realized that Tinkerer wasn’t going to immediately folld so he had to bluff harder in order to get information. It was a total learning curve that you could see him using down the line if he ever needed to. There were also great bits with his character after he broke Gwen out of the cage where he would just look at her without saying or thinking anything.
This episode in many ways is a lot like the last episode, in that you have sort of the same Peter/Liz/Gwen conflict, Vulture and Electro, and lots on heftly atmospheric drama. What this one trumps the last one on is animation. Now it’s done by Moi Animation, not Dongwoo, which is interesting because it looks to me like the same crew who did “Destructive Testing” and “Nature vs. Nurture”. I only know Moi Animation from the Wonder Woman DTV movie that came out last March, but the animation is still very consistent. There was lots of weight given to the action, the webswinging was nice. Electro’s powers looked especially awesome compared to the last one in my opinion. The lighting was also a nice touch added, specifically in the scenes with George Stacy in the Homeland Security office and the scene with Spider-Man being trapped under the metal debris.
So all in all the voice acting was top notch, the action was great and the story was good. So what did I have a problem with? Well real quick, I didn’t understand why Kraven, Sandman and Rhino, who were shown to have escaped capture last episode weren’t included. But I can reason that as those specific three not really fitting into Ock’s overall plan. Sandman and Rhino are, well, dumb. And Kraven probably wouldn’t want to be a part of someone else’s schemes. So that’s not really worth talking about.
My biggest problem was the money shot of the episode. The big scene. The attention grabber that I think ever fan of the comics had their eyes on to watch out for since the words “Master Planner” was first said in the show. The lifting scene was underwhelming, I thought. I dunno man, I was just waiting for this awesome scene of triumph over incredibly struggle and impossible odds and I just don’t think they got it. For those of you who have not read the original story, what really makes the lifting scene memorable for Spidey fans is that it was all about overcoming incredible pain and being completely against the wall. The original scene took several pages to tell and it consisted of Spider-Man trying, trying and failing to lift the machinery over his body. I can’t do it justice. If you haven’t read the issue, go get Essential Amazing Spider-Man vol.2 and read it. If you just want the gist of it, here ya go.
Naturally, Spidey escapes. But you see how the odds are totally against him. The weight of his circumstances are staring him in the face as he sees the cansiter across him. Its about Spider-Man’s whole life up to that point being put to the test. Sure, he’s beaten difficult foes before. But he says it himself: “Anyone can win a fight when the odds are easy! It’s when the going gets tough-when there seems to be no chance-that’s when it counts!” That was the enitre point of the scene, and why its a classic favorite among many fans. Which is why I was so dissapointed with it in the show. It goes back the end of the third episode where Peter considers quitting. It didn’t feel merited to me, considering he had just one really bad night. It’s the same here. True, he does consider laying down and dying but then sees Gwen and snaps out of it. True he’s beaten and battered by the end of the episode. But thats all there is to it. It still feels to easy, and it didn’t get the point across as much as the original issue did exactly why Spider-Man is a terrific hero. He should’ve been trying and trying and trying to get that thing off of him. He basically tries once, gives up, looks at Gwen, and succeeds on the second try. I’m sorry, but that whole entire sequence fell completely flat. It’s also in part not because the situation is completely different from the original, but that the reference in itself shows that the writers clearly read the issue beforehand and didn’t get why it was so awesome. Or even if they did, it still feels like they misinterpreted it.
Even still, that was really my one and only gripe with the whole episode, and it was still very good afterwords. The ending was just as great as the ending to the first season, as the whole love triangle story was flipped on its head. Liz and Peter are now together, just when Peter was ready to chose Gwen. What does this mean for Spidey now?
all images taken from marvel.toonzone.net comic.anathenaguides.com and isotopecomics.com