THE PLOT: Christina, a nutty science student paired up with Peter for a mid-term project, has a major crush on Spider-Man. During an experiment where she shows off to Peter her mind-reading device, a short in the electrical outlet zaps her head and causes her to hallucinate images of Spider-Man talking to her, prodding her on to prove her love for him. Meanwhile Mary Jane guilts Peter into coming up with a list of personal things to confess to her in order for the two to become closer.
LONG STORY SHORT: Christina turns homicidal and kidnaps Mary Jane in order to force Spider-Man to…something. A fight ensues and Christina ends up in the hospital, mistakenly thinking that Spider-Man’s real identity is the Starbucks attendee on the student campus.
MY THOUGHTS: This sucks.
Sorry, let me try to be less agressive…nope, can’t do it.
This really sucks. This is a bad episode.
This isn’t one of those times where something is so bad it offended me like ASM #665, but if it weren’t so funny and laugh inducing, it could get up there. This episode is really terrible, and that’s mainly due to the writing. There are one or two concepts that could be worthwhile, but the script for this episode is clumsy and mishandled in every way. Contrivances are all over the place, the story makes no sense in terms of its own inherent logic, and the story on the whole is just lame and stupid. I like the idea of girl having a celebrity crush on Spider-Man, as that’s not been done too often since the Liz Allan days of the Ditko era, but the jump from making her a fan-girl to making her a deranged killer was so jarring and so badly executed that it’s almost embarrassing. The main plot is awful, and the subplot is almost as bad if not worse, further cementing this show’s total incompetence in writing Mary Jane. There were some things I liked here and there (mainly owed to the animation), but overall this is easily the worst script the show has put forth up to this point in the season.
It’s a shame, because I went into this one thinking I might like it. Again, the premise is interesting, and if anything I’d have thought that this episode would pull the focus back towards Peter and less on the villains. The character of Christina looked to be fun, and she was voiced wonderfully by Tara Strong. She gave her a Brooklyn accent while still sounding like a college student in the early 2000s. The voice acting in this show is usually solid (save for Max Dillon, who makes his appearance here. I didn’t care at all for his voice.), but the things they’re saying sound so pathetic you nearly forget about the talent that’s voicing them. Right away, I knew this character was going to be a problem conceptually because not only was she revealed to be a Spider-Man fan, but she’s introduced as this wacky mash-up of a punk/emo/goth/hipster/whatever-the-hell type of college caricature from the get go. We see her small room, her freaky posters and wardrobe, and are introduced to her spouting off conspiracy theories at a mile a minute. The show wants to get across that this girl is a weirdo; a freak, but it comes off as incredibly cynical and cheap. It smacks of men of a certain age writing down towards viewers of a certain age, and it’s not good. In this episode Christina isn’t given anything in terms of sympathy or empathetic characterization. She loves Spider-Man and is instantly bonkers once she sees Spider-Man in her computer talking to her. She doesn’t freak out at the sight of it, she doesn’t question anything-not even when Spider-Man says “Hey, you know what’d be really awesome? If you killed Mary Jane Watson.” after he JUST TOLD HER that he had romantic feelings for MJ. Clearly she’s meant to be presented as someone who probably needs to be medicated, but she shouldn’t be tossed off as a bad person. A goofy girl who has a crush on Spider-Man shouldn’t have to be viewed as antagonistic, and yet…she is. She’s completely unsympathetic and downright irredeemable in how evil she gets by the end of the episode. Spidey tries to chalk it up to her brain dish messing her up, but seeing as how that doesn’t make a lick of sense we’re not given any indication that she’s a character to be pitied. The characters don’t even pity her, they just see her as a weirdo. It’s unfortunate, but the blame is solely on the writers for making the character so crazy. It was lazy and annoying.
Christina however wasn’t the only character that the writers failed, as Mary Jane was made out to be as utterly unlikable and borderline crazy as she’s ever been seen. In the last episode she witnessed Peter getting kissed by Indy and “Betty Branted” herself from the scene. In this she gives Peter an ultimatum and goes on to act like the two are in a relationship.
Not only does this contradict what she saw at the end of “Tight Squeeze”, but it doesn’t add up in terms of their relationship up to this point. Peter has never insinuated that he wants anything to do with Mary Jane romantically. Sure, its obvious to everyone that he probably does, but Mary Jane is acting like they’re kindergarteners trying to express how they feel to one another. What prompted this? Why did this have to happen? After Peter says “No” more than once, she just pushes herself onto him again and again. Why can’t she take a hint?
Granted I did enjoy the scenes of Spider-Man fighting crime around the city while trying to think of things to confess, but not all that much. The show changes its view on the Peter/MJ dynamic from episode to episode, and it’s completely nonsensical. She could just say “Peter, I know you like me more than you say, tell me why we can’t be together”, and that would be the end of it. Again, I know this show was trapped between Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, but the way its going about dealing with the fallout is still bad. Mary Jane comes off as desperate, needy and more of an actual stalker than Christina does in reality.
This episode encapsulates everything wrong with the series. It’s not about Peter, it’s all flash and no substance, and the substance it makes attempts at is mishandled in the worst way. You get the sense that ideas are thrown out and the scripts aren’t made until the last minute, as though they’ll come naturally but are proven to be more difficult when it comes down to it. The thing of it is, it’s really not that hard to make this show interesting. Spider-Man as a franchise is predicated upon the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker and how he deals with his double identity. Christina, being a classmate of Peter’s having a crush on Spider-Man is a deceptively simple idea to move forward on. Mary Jane can also be involved. Don’t have the “other girl” be a mustache twirling villain, don’t have the love interest pester the hero to the point of being insufferable, and don’t have Peter be a background character in his own show. He shows no thought or contemplation on Christina, and shrugs his shoulders as he tries to satisfy MJ. Any inner turmoil we get from him is shown in the scenes between him and Harry, which is good, but the reason he has turmoil is because of him being Spider-Man. Self-evident as that may be, we need to see him go through it, not explicate it to someone else in order to give them screentime. The dilemmas have to serve a larger purpose for our characters.