The Theatre! Heroes and Villains! Unrequited Love and everlasting Hate! Freaks and Geeks! As Spidey battles inside Ryker’s Island, he’s missing Liz on the first night of her play. Will he manage to escape to take his final bows?
Written By Greg Weisman
Directed By Mike Gougen
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation
THE PLOT: After volunteering to test out the newly built super prison “The Vault”, Spidey finds himself trapped inside by the Goblin and ends up running into some of his old sparring pals. While this is going on, Black Cat has broken in to free her cat burgler father. Meanwhile the Midtown Magnet’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” has premiered, and Harry Osborn is nowhere to be seen.
LONG STORY SHORT: Spidey manages to escape and briefly battles the Green Goblin. Cat meanwhile swears to never forgive Spidey for preventing her father’s escape. Little does she know that her father was the man who killed Peter’s Uncle Ben!
Hmm. I dunno about this one.
Okay, lemme backtrack. It’s a solid episode, but its another one that’s pretty much filled to the brim with action. That’s not a bad thing all the time, but it’s best when the action moves along the story. There’s actually a lot of plot to be found in here. We have Spidey’s realization that the Goblin’s back, Sha Shan and Flash seem to have reached a new plateau, we have the introduction of the Vault (which I don’t remember if the 90s show had it) and, most integral to the show, we FINALLY have the first speaking role of Hobie “I’m gonna be the Prowler eventually” Brown. It was a neat little thing to have him be the hero of the play and first speak to show that he’s quite a good little actor. It was also nice to have him be opposite Glory dressed in Goblin-esque garb, while her outfit was heavily similar to Spider-Man’s. Similarly, his colors could also be meant to forshadow his costumed future, as the Prowler’s suit is green and purple as well.
But the framing device of a Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the two things that conflict me about this episode. I’m not gonna lie, what little I studied of this play back in 9th grade was replaced with more pressing concerns that afflict every typical high school freshman. So I really don’t remember at all what the play’s specifically about or what the scenes that were going on really meant. I wasn’t dumb enough not to realize that they correlated somehow to the action scenes at Rikers Island, but I didn’t get the full impact of the juxtaposition. This is also something that the second season is chock full of; framing devices. We got the video confessions to Flash in “First Steps”, and the Ned Leeds interviews in “Identity Crisis”. Honestly, I felt those worked better because they were done either when action wasn’t taking place or at the start of every return from a commerical break. Here I felt they were a little too jarring, though I did like some of the lines being said as action was happening on-screen. That I thought was effective. So I’m of two minds about the play interstitals. I thought they worked when they worked, and distracted when they distracted. But if I had to keep ’em or leav ’em, I’d still have them in the episode because there was the background noise of Harry’s disappearance, Flash and Sha Shan getting closer, and the “diamond in the rough” that turned out to be Hobie Brown. (That’s one for you Bertone!)
Getting away from the part of the episode that doesn’t have Spider-Man in it, I thought the beginning with the introduction of the Vault was pretty funny. I liked Peter trying to figure his way out of it, and the way he ended up tricking he way out while taking time to gloat to Jameson. Classic. I also enjoyed the fights in the cell block, enhanced by the solid animation. It was quick and fast paced, but exciting. I wouldn’t think Mark Allen would be sentenced to Rikers Island though. I thought that was pretty rough. If he’s 18 years old, that makes sense. But he I would imagine that he would cooperate with the cops and be sentenced to Ravencroft or something. If freakin’ Max “I’mo kill you” Dillion, who takes the time out to electrocute kids is sentenced to a rehab institution, surely Mark can be given the same option. I just felt it wasn’t fair to the character to be put right across from the Rhino, who’s a repeat offender. We also got his stupid betting puns which I could have gone without, but whaddya gonna do? I also found it funny when Spidey’s walking through the cell block before it opens and mocks the villains he’s nabbed. My exact note reads “Yeah, this won’t come back and bite him in the ass later.” But it was cool to see him take on what was ostensibly the classic Enforcers. No powers, no armor, no helicopter and swimwear suits. Just Fancy Dan, Montana and Ox doing what they do best. We finally got to see Montana rope up Spidey, which hit me then and there that he’s never done it in the show until now. That’s Montana’s schtick! That’s his thing! I was surprised upon realizing that, but its cool we get to see it here. Fancy Dan’s fights against Spidey and Black Cat were cool as well. I liked it when she socked him in the face. I don’t know why, I just did.
Of course the 400 pound rhino in the room is the revelation that the Black Cat’s father, who’s another fairly obscure character from the comics despite appearing in the 90s show, is the same burgler who killed Uncle Ben. This is something that I’ve gone back and forth about, not really knowing what to think or how to feel about it. It’s not a retcon, so the story plays out the same whenever remembering Spider-Man’s origin. But it’s another example of the show kitting every character together to fit into the same universe. I don’t feel that that is always an idea to go to when trying to establish continuity. Part of it works in the comics, Molten Man being Liz Allen’s brother, or Green Goblin being revealed as the father of Peter’s college roomate. But do they work because that’s sacred comic book lore and we’re just used to them, or does that closer universe really make everything more accessible? Let’s examine the changes this show has made from established comic book continuity. Montana, a member of the Enforcers is now Shocker, a classic Spider-Man villain. Rhino and Sandman are now robbing buddies who’ve been together befor they gained their respective powers. Heck, most of Spidey’s rogues gallery in this show were created by Doctor Octavious under Nomran Osborn’s supervison to work for the Big Man, who is in this show Tombstone! It’s like six degrees of separation anxiety! *rimshot* The best thing about all this blasephemy to the comics (:P) is that they get the villains out there in a more believable way. It can get a little too weird when a villain pops in out of nowhere and starts attacking New York. So in the previously established scenarios above, I feel the changes work. Does this changing of the killer’s identity work for Spider-Man?
I say it does. Black Cat is usually “plan C” in the Parker romantic totem ploe after Gwen and Mary Jane. Having Peter not forgive the burgler, continue to hate him and prevent him from escaping prison which leads to a row between him and Black Cat is an excellent way to bring about tension. It’ll be real hard from now on for them to ever get close because of what happens here. Cat now hates Spider-Man and Peter will always feel weird around her due to who her father is. It’s a great thing to do to their relationship, even if it hasn’t even got off the ground yet in terms of where it eventually gets towards. It’d be awesome if she had mascara running down her face.
Lastly, I enjoyed the climax with the burgler staying behind to round up the bad guys, and Goblin mercilessly attacking Spider-Man out of nowhere. That was cool, when Spidey got bombarded by pumpkin bombs left and right. His reactions to seeing the Goblin again was also great.
So I did enjoy this one, but I had to think about it for a while. The framing device and the huge revelation weren’t exactly easy for me to swallow at first like it was for other people.
4/5 webs. One last episode left…
all images taken from marvel.toonzone.net