After stumbling a bit with an overly crowded Gizmoduck adventure (more on that whenever I finally get around to reviewing it), DuckTales more or less made up for those shortcomings by delivering what is easily its darkest and most powerful episode to date, raising the stakes in a manner the show hasn’t seen so far as Lena finally chooses a side. Of course, this is still ultimately a comedy series, so Bigfoot was somehow involved, but that still didn’t stop things from ending on a genuinely unsettling note, hinting that things are going to get even scarier from here.
The original DuckTales never went out of its way to be an “adult” show. While it was more or less the definition of a cartoon that could be enjoyed by all ages, it also never allowed for itself to get too intense, with Merlock raising Scrooge’s mansion from the ground in DuckTales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp probably being the only time things got truly hair-raising. The new DuckTales, meanwhile, has been attempting to achieve a certain kind of balancing act, with humor playing an extremely large role as it tries to include a healthy amount of drama as well. “The Other Bin of Scrooge McDuck!” feels like it resembles something of a turning point for everything, though whether it’s for the rest of the first season or even possibly beyond that remains to be seen.
But let’s get to the plot. After Lena fails to cut a his Number One Dime from his neck using an enchanted blade as he sleeps (as Magica endlessly nags her, because this episode is still full of jokes), Scrooge–sensing someone tried to rob him without knowing who did it–takes drastic action by placing the treasure inside of his “other” bin until he can up the security in his mansion. Webby catches Lena in the act during her would-be theft, but Lena is able to come up with a sloppy bluff that she was only doing so because she’s become “obsessed” with him in the same way her friend as. Webby is more than happy when she hears this, ecstatic over the prospect of having another McDuck fangirl she can confide in, but she quickly becomes uneasy when Lena suggests they investigate “the other bin.” She informs her that this is where Scrooge only stores “his evil artifacts,” and the fact that Webby–someone who is normally embracing of violence to the point of appearing borderline disturbed–is expressing fear at the prospect of going there is a warning to the audience that they should be on edge as well.
Lena is able to egg Webby into complying without too much of a hassle, however, though part of her agreeing to do so may be her feeling the need to impress someone she looks up to. As much as Webby loves her surrogate brothers, she is able to bond with Lena in the way that only two children of the same sex can, as there is a certain level of unspoken commonality that comes with that. Of course, she has no idea that Lena’s motives are dictated by her demonic aunt, and when they arrive at “the other bin,” it’s like an endless cavern of prison cells, all containing unknown horrors. Still, even when afraid Webby is an extremely resourceful young woman, and is able to deal with a deadly unicorn (which I could swear is probably a reference to The Cabin in the Woods) with ease.
Eventually, Lena is able to reluctantly ditch Webby in order to steal the dime undisturbed, and then…all hell pretty much breaks loose. Though she hesitates, Lena does finally snatch the item of her aunt’s wishes, and immediately afterwards, Magica goes completely mad with power. She turns Webby, freshly heartbroken over her friend’s betrayal, into the plush toy of herself from the original DuckTales, and while that might sound funny on paper, the execution of the action is like something straight out of a John Carpenter film. Modern DuckTales Webby would view such a doll as a mockery of herself (probably why it was seen with an arrow struck through its heart in her room during the pilot), and that’s exactly what Magica’s demented spell is: a mockery of Lena’s attachments, her desire for friendship, and her longing to be free of whatever trap she’s stuck inside. Magica uses the doll (essentially Webby’s lifeless corpse) to violently attack Lena, mimicking her voice in a sing-song manner in order to verbally go after Lena as well. Then…things get even more insane, as Lena’s necklace suddenly appears to take a mind of its own and completely vaporizes Webby.
So…okay, yeah, the entire sequence does turn out to be a “dream” of sorts, thanks to Lena accidentally encountering a dark dreamcatcher which Webby referenced in an extended lecture on Scrooge’s adventures from earlier. Deeply shaken, Lena decides to abandon her aunt’s mission, which is just as well, since they were looking in the wrong place for the dime anyway (turns out it was fittingly hidden inside of Scrooge’s “number one bin”). Magica scolds Lena for failing her once again, but Lena–after experiencing her worst fears–finally takes a stand against her, telling her she’s done doing her biding. But just as Lena, eager to take action before her insecurities can take over again, is in the process of telling Scrooge of Magica’s scheme, her eyes abruptly go black. In exasperation and confusion, she desperately tries to speak, but her aunt is robbing her of her speech, and before long, of her entire body. There’s something extremely unsettling about the concept of wanting to speak but being unable to do so–which is probably why it is a common nightmare for many–and Magica’s hi-jacking of her niece plays like an unholy violation of their familial connection. Magica may get plenty of funny moments in this episode, but at her core, she is a sadistic creature. And now she has easy access to her enemies.
Now, there was another story going on in the episode involving the nephews, with its sheer silliness perhaps intended to bring some levity to some of the heavier moments in the main plot. To make a short story out of a long one, Huey befriends Bigfoot (from A Goofy Movie), and brings him home to the mansion because he’s “helpless on his own.” However, it turns out that Bigfoot is only pretending to be a stupid animal in order to mooch off of Huey’s goodies at home, even to the point of being fully sentient and capable of speech. Most of the delights here come from the banter between the boys, whether it’s over Dewey’s determination to make it into a record book for something or Louie’s relaxed if not unambitious attempts at being a con artist (the comedic highlight of that? A fake charity he has created for himself which he tricks Donald into giving money to every year).
In the end, though, the main story is so “important” here that the Bigfoot stuff almost plays more less as an afterthought. And that’s fine. In the past, DuckTales has proven that it’s more than capable of eliciting laughs and even tears, but with this episode it provided something else: tension. And that makes it one of the best episodes of the season so far for me.
* We still don’t know what Lena’s “debt” to her aunt exactly is, though it would seem safe to say that Magica is currently without a body of her own (given how delighted she is over learning she is able to possess Lena’s). Then again, a trailer that premiered at Comic-Con pretty much revealed that she is going to be confronting Scrooge in a big way…
* Louie tricking Dewey into doing his laundry for him was great. Of the three boys, I’d say his “lazy guy who wants to get rich quick” persona is probably the best established so far.
* I’m sure there were Easter Eggs hidden throughout “the other bin” that I didn’t mention here.
* As I mentioned in a previous review, the horizontal stripes of Lena’s shirt symbolize a prisoner, while her finding her “worst fear” inside of what is essentially a jail further emphasized that. She is truly someone who’s trapped.
* No worries, I will be reviewing the Don Karnage episode ASAP, but I wanted to ge this one taken care of first due to how eventful it was.