Spectacular Spider-Man: the animated series #26-“Final Curtain” Review


finalcurtainThe revelation of Spider-Man’s arch-nemisis’ true identity is finally revealed in this truly immaculate season finale. No one comes out unscathed, and everything is changed forever.

A QUICK “OUTRO”: After 26 episodes, two seasons and more supporting characters and super villains included than I initally expected, we have finally reached the end of the Spectacular Spider-Man. As of this writing the show is offically on hiatus, and any word of its future remains unknown. With these scant few episodes being all that is left for the current generation to work with in terms of knowing the world of Spider-Man and his various related characters, has the show truly earned a hallowed place on the altar of Spider-Man history? It certainly came about at a time where many questions concerning the character’s future have been brought up. Such questions include “What villains will be in future movies” or “Will Spider-Man ever get married again?” Only time will tell if these questions will have a definite answer, but for now the people have this series to become familar with Peter Parker and friends. It’s a series that truly epitomizes the enduring appeal of the Spider-Man character and will forever be a “go-to” guide when one questions how creative and ingenious comic book mythos can be variously interpretated. Want specific proof? Look no further than “Final Curtain”.

gwenpeterCredits
Written By Kevin Hopps
Directed By Victor Cook
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation

THE PLOT: With the return of the Green Goblin made apparent to Spider-Man, the webslinger embarks on a manhunt to bring the villain to justice. But what will he do when it’s revealed that the Goblin isn’t, nor never was Harry Osborn?

LONG STORY SHORT: Peter and Gwen declare their feelings for each other, while unbeknownst to them Harry witnesses this from outside the window. Peter breaks up with Liz and begins to search for Donald Menken as Spider-Man in order to solve the Green Goblin mystery once and for all.

poedharry

MY THOUGHTS: This is it. The pinnacle of the show’s achievement in absolute quality and incredible storytelling. This is the episode that forever brands into the cheek of the Spider-Man franchise that special something which first touched readers back in 1962. Upon re-listening to Executive Producer Greg Weisman’s inital interview on the Spider-Man Crawlspace Podcast, I recall him saying that the intention for the series was to come as close as possible in being a “Batman: the animated series” type of show in terms of remaining as faithful and true to the original characters while at the same time staying fresh and exciting as possible.

It is my personal opinion that with this episode alone, this show is at the very least on par with the Justice League animated series in terms of perfection in character interpretation and magnificent storytelling.

With “Final Curtain” we’re shown the true identity of Spider-Man arch enemy, through a series of twists and turns, dramatic character beats and high flying action. Everything in this episode works from start to finish, and the season completes its run by leaving an indelible mark on fans minds across the world. Before I begin my analysis, if you are a Spider-Man fan and have not seen this episode or even begun to watch this show by now, stop reading the review and watch whatever you haven’t seen. I’m completely serious, do it now.

lefthangin

To start off, the animation was just excellent across the board. Whether it was due to Victor Cook’s solid directing or the fantastic storyboard artists, this animation was from top to bottom spectacular. Its interesting because I believe that this was that specific animation crew that I had been down on in past reviews. The models resembled that team. It’s a moot point, because this is a very action packed episode and any lags or flubs in the animation would’ve brought it down. Thankfully this one had none of that. Particularly with the facial expressions, the animation really shined. Norman gritting his teeth, Peter and Harry’s reactions to the Goblin’s death and the general action were all very well done. It’s those little things that add icing on the cake.

On the the excellent story, this episode sees the return of two aspects of the show which I felt were missing since around the Venom arc. Those being Gwen Stacy as a central character and Peter Parker’s perspective. Now the former is understandible since Peter was with Liz and Gwen was less of a central player in his life. Nevertheless, I missed Gwen, especially after she shined in “Shear Strength”. The second however is integral to every Spider-Man story and needs to be consistent. Peter Parker is truly a character for the audience and perhaps it’s because we got less from his input that I didn’t really care too much for the Gangwar arc. Looking back on that, Spider-Man was more reacting to the gang’s battles so that is understandable to a certain degree as well. However, with this episode you absolutely NEEDED Peter’s input, and thankfully we got it. Both aspects of the show leads to one of my favorite scenes in the entire series with the three main Midtown Magnet students at Gwen’s house. (Why they would converse about criminal activity at a cop’s house is questionable.) All three characters are to a certain extent at fault for things that happen later on in the episode, but for the most part they truly are sympathetic. Most notably Harry. He goes to his two best friends and divulges to them a very serious dilemma, then scowls menacingly upon hearing Gwen’s plans to dump him and go with Peter. Harry being present to hear Gwen and Peter declare their love for each other was a brilliant touch because it reminds the audience that the world of Spider-Man is never easy. There are no easy outs or truly happy endings, and there will always be obstacles to overcome. I did very much like Peter taking up responsibility and telling Gwen his feeling as well as apologizing for putting her through months of crap. It was more natural acting from Josh Keaton and great human drama from the show. It also makes him and Gwen just as sympathetic after viewing the ending.

donmenkin

Speaking of sympathetic, (and you knew this was coming) we see the annihilation of the Liz/Peter relationship and once again Liz is shown to be another very emotionally provoking character. I truly felt for her once she started screaming at Peter because you knew what was going through her head and I just knew she ran out of the cafeteria to go somewhere and cry. I just knew it. Within the past six months, this girl has lost her brother to Rikers Island and has been dumped by two guys in her class. What makes this even sadder is the fact that Peter called her twelve hours earlier aplogizing for missing her play and you get the sense that she feels vidicated from her suspicions of Gwen earlier in the season. Now we know that Peter did the right thing depsite the fact that he really should’ve done it sooner around New Year’s Eve. We also knew that this relationship was never going to last the season anyway. Despite that, Liz’s hopefullness in maintaining her relationship with Peter and her understanding of his “job” makes it even sadder yet much more realistic. You almost want to be mad at Liz and feel bad for Peter because that would be easy. You want for there to be an excuse where you say “It’s good that he dumped her, she wasn’t good to him” or something along those lines. But again, life is rarely that simple, and this show proves it once again with the breakup of Peter and Liz. Still though, poor Liz…

Often times in these reviews I mention that there is sometimes a case where I am more interested in the Peter Parker aspect of the story than I am with the Spider-Man action side. This is a very notable exception, as the Green Goblin mystery may very well be the most intriguing villain plots ever put in the show. (With Venom coming in a close second) Due to the lack of introductions to various other Goblins, consisting of Bart Hamilton, Phil Urich and, heh heh, Gabriel Stacy, I was stumped in figuring out who the Goblin could be when both Osborns were present off to the side as he attacked Spider-Man. The possibility of Menken being the Goblin was certainly interesting, even after realizing that it would be truly ridiculous upon hearing the Goblin point out to Spider-Man how ridiculous it’d be. The mystery was kept up throughout the intense action which put Peter up against the most harrowing odds since Venom revealed his secret identity. With thousands of pumpkin bombs flying towards him and dozens of Goblin’s henchmen attacking him in the sky, this is one of Peter’s more dangerous nights out with the mask on. While watching Spider-Man try to gain the advantage against these people you get the sense that this is no longer playtime for Peter. He has to man up and gain control if he’s to ever grow into the Amazing Spider-Man that we all want him to be in the future. Seeing him accomplish that by taking down the goons and fighting the Goblin made for a excellent “rite of passage” type of action sequence. You feel that after this night, Spider-Man’s stepped up a level in terms of becoming an all purpose super hero.

battered

And the revelation. The fact that Norman Osborn is, and always has been the Green Goblin. It could not have been done any cooler. It’s really funny because if we go back to the initial airing of “The Uncertainty Principal”, a lot of people called what ended up being revealed to have truly happened that night at the Osborn Penthouse.  Many people figured out that Harry was indeed a “red-hairring” (had to do it) and that with Norman offering to be taken in for Harry’s crimes as the Goblin, he was really the Goblin. And those people ended up being exactly right. But that doesn’t take away from how awesome the revelation came about. Going back to the first season, Harry and Norman were meant to be in Europe after Harry was “unmasked”. However in the very next episode, we see “Norman” on the yatch being revealed to be the Chameleon. Using the Chameleon was ingenious because in the way that they used him, he was seen after the initial Green Goblin arc, and wasn’t seen since his initial outing. It was so clever, and the fact that there were subtle hints dropped that Norman wasn’t really Norman the whole time, including the fact that he never apologizes which goes back to the very first episode of the series is nothing sort of incredible. This is also quite possibly the best incarnation of Norman Osborn and the closest to the comic book version. After Spider-Man unmasks him, he remains sounding cool and confident, but there’s defnitely an air of totaly lunacy in his voice. You now know that this IS Spider-Man’s arch enemy and again it shows how much Peter has to overcome to be a greater force for good. It’s also neat because Norman’s reasoning for becoming the Goblin stems from every main incarnation including the comic books, the 90s series, the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and the 2002 movie. It still feels fresh and the context that he drugged himself in small doses while Spider-Man battled the like of the Rhino, Sandman and Doc Ock works very well. Another brilliant touch was both Peter and Harry witnessing Norman’s unmasking as well as his “death”. Peter obviously didn’t intend to kill him, but Harry still saw it that way. This is again a new take on their relationship upon learning the Goblin legacy, differing from the comics and the movies.

The final scenes end with an utter masterstroke as Harry guilts Gwen into staying with him, leaving Peter with no one but himself to rely on. It was so great how Harry was shown to have a true touch of villainy completely independant from any chemical or depressant. Again, you do understand Harry’s motives. However here it is less sympathetic because the way the scene plays out you feel as though Harry did this as a sting against Peter and Gwen more than keeping Gwen for himself, almost as an act of revenge. It’s a masterstroke because it keeps Harry interesting and tainted, and not just the son of a wacko. It’ll also bring Peter back into a true sense of isolation in his class because now he can’t ever truly rely on Harry because we know Harry has ill intentions for him in the near future, and he lost Liz and Gwen. It’s a very difficult place for Peter to be in and we definitely need to see him survive this momentary pyrrihic victory just for the fact that assuming he can is less interesting than seeing him do it.

nevertheend There are really no words to fully describe how incredibly awesome this episode was. As a finale to an arc, as a season finale, and a possible-but-hopefully-not series finale it delivered above and beyond. Listen to me, THIS IS SPIDER-MAN at its finest, and it’s thanks to Greg Weisman, Victor Cook, Josh Keaton and countless others that have delivered one of the finest imports into the Marvel Comics mythology.

Stay Spectacular.

5+5/5 webs

*Best Line Contender:

Green Goblin: “Aww, what’s wrong Spider-Man? Off your game?”

Spidey: “Naw, game’s good. Just getting aquainted with the rules.”

Green Goblin: “Rule #1: All Spiders go splat!

Spidey: “Rule #2: Ignore rule #1!”

all images taken from marvel.toonzone.net