1994 Spider-Man episode #43-“The Cat” Review

Spider-Man gets involved with a mystery that leads him to the flying doors of S.H.I.E.L.D., the office of Jonah Jameson, and the wherabouts of Felicia Hardy’s father!

Story By: John Semper
Written By: Sean Catherine Derek
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

THE PLOT: As a remedy for the “girlfriend lost in space” blues, Spider-Man seeks out Felicia and manages to save her from the clutches of Doctor Octopus once again. But this puts him on a mystery to find out what information Doc Ock was threatening to blackmail the Hardys with that leads to the knowledge of their patriarch John Hardesky.

LONG STORY SHORT: Spidey goes to S.H.I.E.L.D. and despite their rebuffing learns that Hardesky was a witness to the formula that created Captain America. While all this is happening, the Kingpin kidnaps Hardesky and blackmails him for the information with the life of his daughter Felicia!

“Good evening Mr. Bond…”

MY THOUGHTS: I have to say while I enjoyed the previous episode “Guilty”, I honestly thought that was a fluke and that it would be it for this season as far as the writing quality for season four went. I was mistaken. This is a very good beginning to the Black Cat arc “Partners in Crime”. It continued Peter’s grief over Mary Jane while bringing back continuity with Doc Ock and the Hardys and provided an interesting backstory to a character I had never really thought about until this episode. I suppose if Felicia really is so well off, you have to wonder where all the money is coming from and it was never explicated exactly what her mother does for a living. In the comics, Felicia really is mostly known as the Black Cat more often than not, and her parents came from a more humble background. Here, we get a look into Felicia’s background and can see how she’s come up in the world without a father.

What makes this episode, the last episode and the majority of season three work is that the pacing is very well done. Nothing seems like wasted space and it always moves on to the next scene in less than a minute. Yet it doesn’t feel that it’s going too fast or the plot is too incomprehensible for twenty minutes, and there is actually a LOT of plot going on here. But the show does take time out to let the atmosphere of some scenes play out like the flashback with young John Hardesky going through the back entrance to the bar to meet the nazis. It’s very little, but a little goes a long way. Also in terms of flashbacks, the one from “Day of the Chameleon” worked because the story point of the pin specifically came in to play. It established history without padding or dragging out the time of the episode.

“Hate to love ya an’ leave ya, but…”

One thing people like to mention when discussing the detractions of this series is how Doc Ock ended up becoming a lackey to the Kingpin of all people. I have to say I agree, but his introductory scene in the beginning is very strong. I mean it’s clearly him in the shadows talking from the chair, but his menace and Anastasia Hardy’s fear when addressing him is palpable, especially when considering the fact that Doc Ock really doesn’t appear all that much in the series, which isn’t a bad thing.  About once a season. Last time he ended up being an utter joke, taken down by a dying latina girl, but here I felt there was some “oomph” in his role.

Of course the turn starts when he is kidnapped by Kingpin and coerced into helping him in his plan to break out Hardesky. At the start, he really didn’t have a choice since Fisk dropped him out of an airplane. But what I felt needed to happen was the emergence of Ock’s own planning once Kingpin brought him in the inside. Having him run around watching Fisk and his new buddy Two-F, d’yah I mean Landon do science and breaking Chameleon out of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters just made him look weak and ineffectual. I’m sure that wasn’t part of the production crew’s intentions with him but it was certainly a byproduct. And again, what purpose did Ock have to stay with the Kingpin after being threatened? If anything, I would see Ock killing Kingpin the second he could just for being threatened. Having Ock be the one impressed by someone else’s planning just does not fit with the character in my opinion. It’s kind of interesting that it is the Kingpin, but just the same it should be the other wa around. Ock should always have his own agenda and never be a lackey, no matter what the circumstances.

 Even worse, they made the Chameleon into a bio-android by being able to track him like a robot and inserting him with science so he doesn’t need to change identities with his belt. I think the writers twigged how dumb that was initially since the belt is red and green and isn’t inconspicuous in the absolute slightest. Yet if we’re talking about villains being made into henchmen, why is Chameleon all of a sudden on Kingpin’s payroll, especially after “Battle of the Insidious Six”? All six member pretty much abandoned the guy, so what impotece does Chameleon have to let Kingpin just play around with his DNA all he wants? Sure it makes him more effective as a spy and terrorist, but he also is basically a servent now. Alright look, Kingpin is cool and everything, but he’s not the Batman of the Spider-Man rogues gallery. He can’t just do anything he wants because he can. The villains in this show have their own motivations and goals independent from the Kingpin entirely, and to see them all start to fall in line and serve him is ridiculous. Landon himself is bad enough because he was double dealing him from the very start. It just goes to show how much this series misses the Fisk/Smythe relationship. Back then, Smythe worked for Kingpin but it was always a begrudging relationship. He never liked it. Now all of a sudden Kingpin has the guys on his contacts list that would just love to work for him. Why?

Contrary to all that, I liked how combative S.H.I.E.L.D. was to Spider-Man. Not in the sense that they completely forgot all he did for them in “Day of the Chameleon”, but they weren’t just going to roll over for him and give up all their secrets. It made sense that these guys were still government officials that had just loads of red tape ready to show Spidey the moment he needed anything.

Yep, it’s SCIENCE alright!

The Captain Amercia aspect of the plot did really make the Hardesky backstory intriguing, as it brought in another Marvel character without it feeling shoehorned in or taking away from the main plot. And another funny thing about it, for a show that’s notorious for it’s censorship there were a ton of instances where the words “Axis” and “nazis” were said out loud. I just find it funny now that there is a Captain America movie coming out where the dude doesn’t fight nazis, while a cartoon show said it with glee several times over back in 1997. Just funny to me.

Overall this was a solid first part into the next seasonal arc, with really my only thing about it being Doc Ock’s complacency as Kingpin’s tool.

4/5 “FELICIA…..”s

Best Quote Contender-

Spider-Man: *after shooting Agent 13 with the glue gun* Well that should save me expenses on web fluid for a while..!”

All images taken from drg4.wariocompany.com and marvel.toonzone.net respectively.