1994 Spider-Man episode #50-“The Haunting of Mary Jane” Review

After Mary Jane disappears…AGAIN, Mysterio breaks out of prison to aid Spider-Man! Can he be trusted, or does he have a another…more sinister reason?

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

THE PLOT: Mary Jane has been hired to resume the final two scenes of the movie that was ruined by Quentin Beck two years prior. But when her father seemingly returns to her, she disappears. Spider-Man goes after her with the aid of Mysterio.

LONG STORY SHORT: Miranda Wilson, the previous star of the film Mary Jane was working on, hoped to switch her mind with MJ’s, but Beck prevents it from happening. The two die horribly in an explosion, which Spider-Man and Mary watch from afar. After going through the threat of losing her once again, Spider-Man unmasks in front of Mary Jane.

MY THOUGHTS: This episode is unique from all the others in a number of ways. For one it’s very much a simple, almost one-in-done Spider-Man story. Mysterio returns and is up to his old tricks, yet continuity is key here in Spider-Man figuring out how to beat him. This is also a mystery, and a good one at that. MJ’s father seemingly comes back again, but this time we’re not shown up front that it’s all a trick. We know it has to be, otherwise why else would the guy be glowing like he is? At the same time the episode is good enough that it gives you virtually no clues as to what’s going on. The audience is just as confused as Spider-Man. Why is Mysterio helping him? If he’s not behind all of the illusions, who is? It’s a very well done detective story that is new to the series. We see Spider-Man play detective all the time, but more in the sense of him finding out where the villains’ hideouts are. In this episode, everything’s in the dark and things go deeper and deeper.

…I’m trying to hold myself back.

Hands off the merchandise!

As said before, this episode makes nice use of continuity and it goes into Spidey’s favor. He pretty much takes Mysterio down in five minutes using experience and deductive reasoning, and I really like that. I’ve said time and again that an experienced Spider-man is always more engaging than an inexperienced one in my and many people’s opinions. It must be said that the beginning sequence is classic Spidey, with the set up of the heist, Jameson giving him grief and some choice chemistry between the two of them. (It also reminded me of the 1970s Amazing Spider-Man episode “Night of the Clones” with the costume party.) The way Spider-Man took down the robots without webbing was cool, and though I do question the ridiculousness of Mysterio rigging every door and window with a steel sheet EXCEPT THE FRONT DOOR, I liked pretty much everything about the beginning battle between him and Spidey. Using his New Yorker geography was very cool as well, and something I’ve not seen typically done in the comics.

Beck himself was also interesting. He’s had two previous appearances, with the latter rolling with the Insidious Six. One thing that was always kind of neat at the end of “Battle of the Insidious Six” is that the Six are never captured and they all go their separate ways at the end. So at first I was wondering how Beck escaped from prison, before I realized that he’s been a free man since the beginning of season two. Throughout that entire time he’s either been laying low or dealing with the Kingpin which was a fine reveal. It’s one of the ways I felt you could include the Kingpin without making him feel unwelcome, as he was a few episodes back. It made perfect sense that Mysterio would be someone Fisk would go to for robotics after Smythe left his services. Also nice was the fact that Beck legitimately didn’t care about Spider-Man anymore. Though slightly contradicting his first appearance which was all about him getting revenge on Spidey sending him to prison, this time around you get the sense that he either doesn’t want to mess with him again or he simply just does not care. That’s always a logical way for villains to act, and this was done in Spectacular Spider-Man with the Sandman as soon as he got his powers. So thus far, Beck’s motivations are perfectly logical.

(Keep yourself in check, keep yourself in check…)

Beck being seen by Kingpin as a suitable replacement for Smythe helped explain some of the crazy super science that was going on in this episode. It’s one thing to be able to create realistic illusions, and even that is pretty ingenious. To be able to make perfect robotic duplicates of Doctor Octopus and Rhino is another thing entirely. A combination of Kingpin’s tech and Mysterio’s abilities explained it away, and it lead to some nice surprises. Seeing Spidey fight Venom and Carnage was great, and I don’t know about you guys but the sight of Venom breathing fire was awesome! Even Spider-Man commented on how Beck upgraded the robots from the originals in terms of weaknesses. It was necessary for some fight scenes since Spidey beat Mysterio rather easily earlier in the episode, and Mysterio was on his side in the second half.

So with all this in mind, an intriguing mystery, a villain helping the hero and Venom and Carnage returning in a way, you’d think this episode was pretty good right?

Ghost in the Shell

If you still think that by now, you may have perception problems.

In the final four minutes, this episode manages to fall off harder than anything I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. I cannot believe how stupid things ended up, and the fact that it’s compounded with an episode that began and maintained such promise is doubly frustrating. Basically, the actress from the original cut of the movie returns from the dead as a diabolical lunatic who wants to switch brains with Mary Jane because she lost her beauty in the explosion. If that alone didn’t knock you off your chair, consider the following:

1) Miranda Wilson says she managed to make it to the nearby catacombs offshore from the bridge, and was there dying until Beck broke out of prison to rescue her. The accident happened two years before Beck broke out of jail. It’s mentioned in both this episode and in Beck’s initial outing. How did she not just die in the interim between? She had no food and no medical equipment to sustain her which Beck provides when he finds her.

2) This is the first mention of Miranda Wilson in the entire series. Why wasn’t she brought up in the entirety of Mysterio’s appearances? In all those episodes, Mysterio’s just some dude with a gimmick he employs so he can rob banks. Now all of a sudden he’s a noble lover boy who robs to keep his love alive?! Compare him to Doctor Octopus who had his own goals for working for the Kingpin. Mysterio never raised his hand and said “Actually, if you could help out this girl I like, then I’ll work for you.” He just goes about his business, and he laughs an awful lot during that two parter as well.

3) How did Miranda stage all the accidents and illusions on the set if Beck was in jail? Spidey goes to him in prison, and Beck doesn’t know Miranda is up to anything until Spidey mentions Wonder Studios. So she had to be taught how to make the illusions from a far off place. And if that’s the case, why didn’t Mysterio ever think to do that before? He’s always within a stone’s throw reach from his illusions, why if he can be miles away?

4) Why didn’t Mysterio just tell the cops or somebody to help Miranda with her condition. I suppose she made him not do it because she’s so hideous, but then you have to figure that Beck had been keeping her alive with his technology this entire time. Only it’s not his technology, it’s the KINGPIN’S! And he couldn’t have had access to the Kingpin’s tech until Smythe left, back in season 3. But Miranda says Beck found her and saved her life when he broke out of prison, which was in season 1. Unless he can travel through time in a TARDIS, how did Beck save her with that technology?

5) Why, oh why did Beck think telling Miranda she could switch bodies with Mary Jane was a good idea? He lived with her for an undetermined amount of time, but it has to have been at least two years…somehow. He knows she’s inexplicably crazy by this point, and she has access to his technology, He must have known she would try this at some point. Sure, the odds of the director of the movie being stupid enough to finish the film with a lookalike actress was slim to nil, but the idea was put into her head somehow by Beck. What was he thinking?

This leads to one of the more intensely annoying climaxes in the series. Beck shows up saying she shouldn’t, Miranda fires back with “Actually…I MUST!!!” and begins to switch brains with Mary Jane (I say brains, MJ has kind of gotten to be rather thick by this point in the series.) Mysterio interrupts the process by busting a chair over the computer. Then Spider-Man surmises that the machine was never intended to work in the first place, which is apparently true. How did he figure that out? It would have made sense if nothing happened when Miranda tried to switch brains, but Beck interrupted the process. And if the machine was never going to work, why was Beck so desperately trying to get to Miranda and Mary Jane in the first place? Oh, there’s a reason. It’s because Mysterio is in love with Miranda! How convenient. So the whole reason he lead her on with impossible hope is because he loved her. Sure why not?

And when I say this is one of the more redonkulous endings to an episode, I was actually referring to Miranda choosing to blow herself up along with the catacombs and Beck in tow. Because Beck installed the “Energy overload device” for just such an occasion in the event that he wanted to induct a suicide pact with the woman he was trying to save. So Spidey and MJ escape while Mysterio dies holding Miranda in his arms.

What the deuce?

I almost feel that there are no words to sufficiently say how bad of a reveal this all was. It started out so promisingly and it ended up like a pumpkin thrown onto a car from an overpass.

But wait, there’s more!

This episode is nearly saved by Peter finally unmasking to Mary Jane, which is a killer ending admittedly. The fourth season may not end up as the best in the series, but no one can take away how dramatic things got. The stakes have been escalated, and real game changers occurred every few episodes. Really, this episode would be entirely forgettable were it not for the shocker ending.

“There goes my film debut, up in smoke!”-actual dialogue after MJ watching two people just die.

I cannot tell you how good this episode was going until the final four minutes. The animation was very solid throughout, and it felt like a nice, solid Spider-Man story. There wasn’t any baggage, and the continuity with Mysterio was played well. But man…those last last four minutes hurt so bad. I suppose this episode deserves props for effectively killing off a character and getting away with it, but the lead up to it was so utterly moronic that it takes away all sense of pathos and power in the scene.

If you can get to the final four minutes, skip them and watch the last 30-45 seconds, then it’s a decent episode. Grading it as a whole however is rough. Due to the gargantuan plot holes and the sheer imbecility of the ending, this has to be ranked accordingly.

2.5/5 “MARY JAAANE!!!”s

Best Quote Contender:

*After drowning the robots*

Spider-Man: “Well that should stop them.”

Jameson: “What if they can swim?”

Spidey: “No way! It’s flesh that provides buoyancy, or hot air! Which means you’d never drown!”

Jameson: “Why you…”

All images taken from Marvel.toonzone.net and drg4.wariocompany. respectively.

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