Screenplay By: Todd Felderstein, Morgan Gendal Directed By: Brandon Vietti
Guest Starring: John C. McGinley as Richard Damian, Gina Gershon as Shikata
THE PLOT: Shikata, deadly assassin with a weird code of honor, is hired to capture Spider-Man for Richard Damian’s private collection of rare creatures. As it happens, Spider-Man proves to be more difficult o capture than any rare animal, so Shikata changes tue rules of the game and challenges him to a death match for honor.
LONG STORY SHORT: Spider-Man refuses to kill her, but manages to break her katana sword, which somehow kills her. Oops.
MY THOUGHTS: This is a weird episode. Easily the strangest in the series thus far. Nothing makes much sense, little is explained, and characters’ motivations are practically non-existent. It’s a step back into “Heroes and Villans” territory where Spider-Man’s nothing more than a do-gooder with little insight into the hows and whys of the situation as he’s pushed along by the plot. Mary Jane is at her most dimwitted, and the villan Shikata is not much more than a Dragon Lady stereotype who borrows heavily from Lady Shiva. It’s episodes like this which I typify the series to mainly consist of, and while it’s not out-and-out awful, it isn’t very good by basic standards.
I just found myself asking several times “Why?” Starting with the villan, why was Richard Damian (played by John C. McGinley) interested in hunting Spider-Man? He had to be told by his henchman halfway through the episode “Uhh…you know this is kidnapping right?” Spider-Man’s clearly a sentient being with a human conciousness. Treating him as though he were an animal to the point where you literally have a cage with his name on it is moronic. He didn’t want to kill him, just have him in a cage. He didn’t want to study him, he didn’t want to know his identity, he wanted him in a cage. Comparisons to Kraven are inevitable here, but Kraven’s motivations at least leave Spider-Man dead. What exactly does Damian think Spider-Man will do in a cage, nothing? That’s was nonsensical.
Even more confusing was Shikata’s entire deal. We can gather that she’s some sort of mystic, asian immortal, probably Japanese. She seeks honor in a death duel because that’s the custom of the Samurai, even though she’s an assassin for hire. She should’ve been a reluctant ninja, it would have made more sense. Be that as it may, he entire deal with healing by the moonlight, energy blasts and overall age wasn’t in the least bit explained. It all was just shown to us without any comment or follow-up. That type of writing is egregious in that it throws things at the audience and expects us to be entertained without question. She could’ve been a simple assassin with a code like Ghost Dog, the mystic element just did not work. It’s a shame, because as a character I liked her a little. Voiced by Gina Gershon, she showed some hints of a personality at the beginnning when she appeared excited at the prospect of fighting Spidey. By the end, she devolved into a trope character fitting more along the lines of an episode of the 1967 Spider-Man series.
What’s even worse is that there’s this whole dillema of Spider-Man being challenged to kill or be killed, and we never see the character reflect on it. In the movies, Spider-Man was absolved from killing the villans by having them do themselves in. In the third one, he attempts to murder Sandman, and upon thinking he did is told by Aunt May that Spider-Man doesn’t kill people. That’s an assumption with the character, but it’s a trait that’s never given much attention to in the films, and is far and few between in the comics. This would’ve been a perfect opprutunity to let the character evaluate his morals and develop him in a way that would’ve been safe from the continuity trappings of the film series. But no, Spider-Man just makes bad quips and punches his way through the fight until the plot resolves his problems for him. Talk about lazy storytelling.
It’s MJ time again, and this is the worst outing for her yet. She’s downright stupid, which I suppose in a way hearkens back to the way she was written in the early Romita days but, come on. We all know that never entered the minds of the writers. What got me most in this episode about her was when she took about ten seconds to realize that Damian’s head was severed from his body after staring at it. It’s an animation timing problem, maybe. In the episode as a whole, Mary Jane came off as very flighty and bubbly, which automatically makes her stupid. Okay, maybe not, but compared to how she’s been written in this show before, it kind of does. The focus on how the series wants to portray is so inconsistent, that it brings everything down. Again, I really like Lisa Loeb’s portrayal of her. It’s a shame she’s given little else but be flirty towards Peter and Spider-Man.
Speaking of which, are we really going with this thing of Mary Jane kissing Peter at the end of every episode? Why doesn’t she just sleep with the guy already? It doesn’t make any sense, and the whole concept of her even entertaining the idea of being in a relationship with Spider-Man is too stupid for words. I remember this being rightfully laughed at in the Mary Jane Loves Spider-Man series, because it’s devastatingly unrealistic. Lois Lane proved that thousands of times in her Pre-Crisis series.
There were things I liked in this. The animation in the cold opening with Spider-Man catching up to an out of control car (again, this happens in every episode) was really nice. Spider-Man always moves great in this show, but in the opening scene was especially well storyboarded, with the way he rolled into webslinging from wall crawling. It was alos kind of nice to see him fight a genuine threat. Before Mary Jane figured out that Shikata lived through her sword (somehow, it’s never explained) you did wonder how Peter could outfight her, if he even could. Shikata was an legitimate test of his fighting abilities, which would have been doubly satisfying to see had the main character of the series realize the danger he was in and we saw it.
Overall, this episode was dissapointing. Not that I had high hopes going in, but it had honest potential that was frivously squandered in favor of generic fight scenes and incomprehensible plot threads.
2/5 music videos
All images taken from Marvel.toonzone.net