1994 Spider-Man episode #49-“The Return of the Green Goblin” Review

When we last left young Harry Osborn, he had learned that his roommate Peter Parker was Spider-Man! Does he talk to him about this like buddies should? No! He dons purple and green latex tights and throws pumpkins at him! All this and the Punisher returns!



Written By: Mark Hoffmeier
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

THE PLOT: Haunted by nightmares of the Man-Spider and Green Goblin, Harry Osborn is set upon by the Green Goblin who communicates to him through mirrors and reflective images. Goading him on by promises of his father, the Goblin tricks Harry into receiving the Goblin formula and has him attack Spider-Man in his own image. Meanwhile, the Punisher is on special hire from Anna Watson of all people and is looking for answers on the disappearance of Mary Jane Watson. His number one suspect: Peter Parker.

LONG STORY SHORT: Driven insane by the knowledge that his father was indeed the original Green Goblin, Harry fully immerses himself in the role and tries to murder Spider-Man. A battle at the Brooklyn/George Washington Bridge ensues and Spider-Man and the Goblin are separated. Returning to his old home, Peter is accosted by the Punisher who has apprehended Harry. Just before his identity is exposed, Peter is saved by Mary Jane who shows up out of nowhere with no memory of where she’s been the entire time. After the Punisher returns MJ to Aunt Anna, Peter takes Harry to Ravencroft to get psychiatric help.

MY THOUGHTS: After a string of episodes ranging from decent to bad to crap, we have an episode that seriously deals with all the heavy drama of the past two and a half seasons, ups the stakes and answers questions while raising new ones. Lots of action takes place, yet at the same time there’s just as much engaging character moments and interactions that it’s all told at just the right pace. I won’t go as far to say it stops being an action show in places, but there’s a certain level of pathos which puts this just above the typical Saturday morning cartoon fare and it starts being something else. After a season full of dealing with the ramifications of “Turning Point”, we have a showdown that takes the personal stuff with Peter, Mary Jane and the Osborns to a whole new level, and it’s great. I must say unabashedly that this is a terrific episode.

Written and produced in 1996 and premiering in ’97, this was obviously done to model the early 90s J.M.DeMatties Spectacular Spider-Man stories with Harry losing his mind and his relationship with Peter becoming deeply contemptuous. While the bulk of this episode certainly maintains the feel of the DeMatties run, it should be noted that the beginning scene with Peter and Liz going into Harry’s apartment and having it blow up in their faces is a near-direct translation from the beginning scene in Amazing Spider-Man #123, substituting Liz for Mary Jane. Originally in the comics, Harry found out Peter’s identity just as he did in the last episode and became the Goblin of his own volition. Long story short, he eventually lost his memory, regained it through dreams of his father and got nuttier and nuttier until he presumably died saving Peter’s life at the last second. What’s interesting about this interpretation is that Harry is given a little more more credit as a person for the first half of the episode. In this series, he really hasn’t done too much besides being a romantic foil to Peter for Mary Jane’s affections. As viewers, it’s not really possible for us to like Harry based solely on his action and role as the son of Peter’s worst enemy as well as Peter’s romantic enemy.

This is what makes his character interesting to me in this episode. Harry still remains to be a cypher. A means of vengeance from the Green Goblin, and a means of misplaced guilt and frustration for Peter. At the same time we do see a side of Harry that shows a more three dimensional side to him. He shows anger towards the Goblin, and more importantly he lashes out at Peter (dressed as Spider-Man) saying that he can’t be trusted.

And Harry is exactly right.

This is something I never really understood from the comics, the “best friend” relationship between Peter and Harry. In the comics, the two were enemies who eventually became friendly and shared an apartment together. After Gwen and Norman died, Harry became the Green Goblin, eventually lost his memory, got married and ran Osborn Industries until he became the Goblin again and “died”. During all that, to the best of my knowledge I never got the sense that Peter and Harry legitimately became best friends. Peter and Flash being best friends makes more sense considering the two have been a part of each others live much more consistently. So in this show, I felt that they translated about as much of the comic history as they could for the two men’s relationship. At the same time a realization must have occurred that Peter was a very pathetic friend to Harry. Previously in the series he’s always been ditching him which is doubly hurtful to Harry since Peter came to him on the word that they both needed each other after Mary Jane vanished. Before that there was the whole MJ triangle, which Peter never really explained to Harry and Harry certainly wasn’t willing to listen. When exactly during all this did the two become best friends? Heck, in the first Hobgoblin episode Peter says they barely know each other. We get the sense that a relationship will soon develop and indeed it does, but it’s nowhere near as amicable as Peter or for that matter the show would like to have us think.

This is also why the Punisher really couldn’t be blamed when he thought Peter was the Green Goblin. His scenario, that Peter snapped after MJ broke up with him and became engaged to Harry was completely wrong, but would make perfect sense to anyone that doesn’t know Peter is Spider-Man. (Well, less than perfect since both Harry’s dad and MJ disappeared.) This just leads to the larger point of how screwed up socially Peter always seems to be destined to be in relationships with other people. We’ve seen him in this season go through a relationship with the Black Cat and use that to deal with the loss of Mary Jane, but as Spider-Man. Looking at Peter purely from the lens of his civilian identity, the guy’s a terrible person. He mooches off of Harry’s emotional vulnerability by returning as his roommate, not to mention the fact that he was perfectly willing to leave the city on a whim with the Black Cat just last episode. Seriously, the man has issues.

This episode sees the return of the Punisher, and again it’s a shame that in the very episode after they handled Blade so wrong they maintain to make great use of Frank Castle. This is the best use of a guest start so far, whereas the Blade cameo felt like he really didn’t need to be there (much less his mother) Punisher made perfect sense for this type of story. What really makes his appearance awesome is the fact that he hires himself out to Anna Watson of all people, further making her one of Spider-Man’s more diabolical villains. It was also a nice use of continuity in several places when he decided to go after Peter Parker. The headline which Chip brings up to recognize him is a callback to season one where Peter saved Wilson Fisk from the Hobgoblin. It’s also slightly referential to the comics because the Punisher first appeared being hired by the Jackal to get Spider-Man for the revenge of the death of Gwen Stacy, which of course is what “Turning Point” is entirely analogous to. I also really liked that when everything was said and done, Punisher was the one to bring MJ back to Anna like he set out to do. At the beginning of the episode no one has a clue to where she’s been, so you’re thinking “Yeah right, he’s not gonna find her.” So him walking through the door with MJ in his arms was a nice touch I thought.

With all the heavy psycho-drama being dealt with, the one thing that kind of stinks about this episode is the fact that it brings back the Time Dilation Portal and uses it in the most clueless way possible. Green Goblin using it to communicate to Harry was a really silly thing to see, especially since it’s never explained how he can only communicate with Harry and no one else, as well as the fact that for some reason he can’t escape the portal despite all this. The image of the Goblin seeing Mary Jane always strikes out as very very dumb, due to the idea of it. It’s all elaborated and explained later down the line, but I must say how all the kooky portal stuff nearly brings the episode down for me.

The ending with Mary Jane though comes out of nowhere and appropriately makes everything stop. It sets up a huge mystery which has a relatively stupid payoff, but after all this time spent on mourning her it does make for some excellent drama for her to just show up out of nowhere. Also, somewhat reminiscent of the scene in the comics when the Gwen Stacy clone first appeared in front of Peter.

While the animation was inconsistent throughout the episode, this one had some great action sequences. The best by far was Peter escaping the Punisher on a Goblin Glider. It was a fun idea that you didn’t expect to see, and while Peter’s an idiot for using that after he tried to convince the Punisher that he’s not the Goblin, it did lead to a great line once Harry shows up in costume. This episode also had some very funny lines from Spider-Man, my personal favorite being his reaction after Harry goes crazy and fully immerses himself in the role of the Goblin. “This isn’t exactly what I had hoped for…” I also liked his line after the Punisher, almost randomly, blows up Oscorp. “You know, I’m really getting sick of that guy blowing up everything!”

I really love this episode, and was surprised how much I did. It’s one of the most personal shows this series ever did and it brings back so much baggage from the last season, confronts it, and brings on even more things to look forward to. Barring the Time Dilation Portal mess, I struggle to think that this could have been written any better.

5/5 “MARY JAAANE!!!”s

Best Quote Contender-

Peter: *To Punisher after seeing the Green Goblin fly around* “Well whaddya know! That must be me up there!”

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

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