TV

RERUN REVIEWS: Spider-Man: The New Animated Series 1×07 “Head Over Heels”, 1×08 “The Party”, 1×09 “Flash Memory”

Once again, it’s time to delve into the wonderful world of Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. And once again I must prove that this show was better than sliced bread, world peace and Eric Clapton combined! WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE HOW AWESOME THIS SHOW WAS FOR THE LOVE OF CRIMINY! MY OPINIONS NEED VALIDATION!!!

 

“Head Over Heels”

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This episode has one of the most interesting premises in the series. Just wait until you hear it. You ready? Here it comes… Spider-Man gets a stalker. Yeah. You heard right. And, believe it or not, it’s actually a very good episode. You’d think it’d be too weird but it’s very engaging, very fun and one of the more creative episodes. Let’s not waste any time. What’s the story?

Peter is paired with an unusual lab partner, Christina (voiced by eminent voice over artist Tara Strong) who has invented an “ESP crown”, a device that she claims can read somebody’s mind. But whilst trying to read Peter’s mind there’s a malfunction. Gee, who could have predicted that? Anyway, it causes Christina to go bonkers as she starts to hear voices. Well, just one voice really. Spider-Man’s voice. See, she has a bit of a crush on him that gets blown waaaaaay out of proportion. Convinced that she is Spider-Man’s soul mate, and egged on by her hallucinations of him, she goes to desperate measures to make him hers. If you’re creeped out by this… that just means you’re sane, hold onto that feeling.

Meanwhile, in Sub Plot City, Mary Jane is pressuring Peter to reveal more about himself and proposes that they each reveal a secret about themselves to each other. And since Peter has one big secret that he can never reveal to ANYONE… yeah, you can see why he wouldn’t be too keen on that. And all this is happening while Christina is throwing herself of buildings, talking to pictures of Spidey and spying on his friends. All in all, a busy week for Peter.

Let’s talk about the sub plot for a moment. I really like the idea of Mary Jane wanting Peter to open up and it leads the way for a lot of character development, especially for her. And the scene where Peter fights crime while trying to come up with a secret that isn’t related to his double life is both creative and hilarious. But it does beg the question, surely he has other secrets? I mean he has had an interesting life outside of being Spider-Man. His parents died, his uncle was killed, he was bullied throughout school. There’s got to be something about his life that he’s never revealed to anyone, right? But still, it’s a good story despite that.

Now the main plot. It’s really interesting to see Christina’s decent into madness. Her obsession with Spider-Man is kind of fun to watch… okay “fun” might not be the best word. Interesting might be better. Much of that is due to Tara Strong’s performance, making Christina seem funny, disturbing and sympathetic at once. There’s a little of Harley Quinn in Christina, which I really like. Although, calling Spidey “Puddin” or “Mr S” would have been a stretch. Honestly, I have no major complaints about this episode. That said, I have one minor nitpick. Namely, Peter seems more invested in the sub plot that the main one. Understandable, after all it’s about him exploring his relationship with Mary Jane. But you’d think his lab partner throwing herself off a building days after being electrocuted by her mind reading invention would be enough to make him investigate a little, right?

That aside, this is an engaging, funny, mildly disturbing episode that, thankfully, manages to avoid any scenes of bunny boiling.

 

“The Party”

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This is the best episode. The… best. Out of all thirteen episodes, this one stands out as a shining example of excellence. It is as close to perfect as any television episode can get. I almost don’t want to tell you what happens in this episode. I’ve made a point not to spoil the endings of previous episodes but now I feel like divulging ANY plot details would just spoil the experience. So, to all of you reading this… stop. Stop reading and go watch the episode. Just go and watch it. And when you’re done, come back and read the rest of the article. Okay? So stop reading… here.

 

You back? You watch the episode? You loved it? Of course you did. I knew you would. Now there’s no chance of me spoiling the episode for you.

 

The story begins with Spidey rescuing classmate and friend Max Dillion, introduced in the last episode, from being kidnapped for a prank by bullying frat brothers. It turns out that, despite being quite a nerd, Max just wants to fit in and wants to pledge the fraternity, not knowing that the same people he idolises kidnapped him. Despite Peter’s warnings to stay away from them, Max resolves to go to a party of theirs later. Harry and Mary Jane are also planning to go and invite Peter, despite the fact that they know he’ll flake and not show up. Peter does actually want to go but knows he can’t as he needs to be available to fight crime. At the party, Max is violently hazed and rejected by the bullies, leading him to flee the party in tears, only to be struck by lightning and transformed into Electro! Twisted and driven insane by hatred and the accident that gave him his powers, he returns to the party to seek vengeance thus forcing Spidey to battle his friend to protect those that may not deserve it.

Ethan Embry voices Max and frankly, the guy is perfect. He manages to encapsulate everything about the character wonderfully. His shyness, his despair and his anger are all presented to us fantastically, making him even more engaging and sympathetic. To be blunt, this is how Electro SHOULD have been portrayed in Amazing Spider-Man 2. Electro started off as a good character in that film, but just becomes another generic villain by the end. This version never stops being interesting. Even when he’s trying to kill people he manages to be sympathetic. That’s hard to pull off but somehow they manage it.

On a more personal note, I can identify with this guy a lot. I was bullied a lot as a kid and I understand the pain and frustration that he goes through. The episode makes full use of it’s potential and really gets into how this guy feels. And so does Peter for that matter. Having been where Max once was, he does his best to help him but, simply put, fails. Throughout the final confrontation between the two of them he is constantly trying to reason with Max, even when he’s close to killing Spidey. It’s the perfect tragedy.

I could go on and on about this episode but I simply wouldn’t be doing it justice. If you haven’t seen it already then do so. It’s a sad, tragic story that I’ve watched a million times before and I’ll watch a million more times in the future.

 

“Flash Memory”

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But enough sad stuff, let’s have a fun episode! Yeah! A fun episode with Flash Thompson no less! He only appears in this one episode but it’s rather memorable to say the least. Let’s take a look, shall we?

It turns out Flash got into ESU via a football scholarship (That’s American Football, not PROPER football. I mean, they use their hands for goodness sake!) but, due to being as dumb as a sack of bricks, he is struggling with his grades. So he enlists the help of a tutor, Dr Zellner (voiced by Jeffrey Combs) who turns out to be a scientist working on a, get ready for this… smart drug. Yep, he developed a serum that increases intelligence. There are only three downsides. One, he’s getting his funding from two criminals using the serum to commit well executed robberies (Which begs the question, if he can make a drug that makes people smart, why isn’t he getting funding from the government or military?). Two, the drug wears off after a while (Still, with better resources he could find a way to work around the problem). And three, the serum causes the user to get progressively weaker and weaker until they die (……..Never mind). So it’s up to Spidey to stop Zellner, the criminals and save his high school nemesis.

I want to say right off the bat that they NAILED Flash Thompson’s character. He picks on Peter, but is never a massive threat to him. He’s cocky yet stupid. And best of all, he’s Spider-Man’s number one fan. This is a trait that goes back the comics of the sixties believe it or not. I loved it then and I love it now. Okay, when I said “I loved it then”, I meant when I first read the old comics. Not, like, back in the sixties. I wasn’t alive back then. Just wanted to clarify that. Crap, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Flash. The scenes in which Flash shows off his increased intelligence are rather funny to watch. However, I feel that this would have had more impact if he’d been in previous episodes. We’re not given much time to get used to “Stupid Flash” before we’re introduced to “Smart Flash”, so the intended effect is lost a little.

One other cool thing about this episode are the twins. These are the criminals that are funding Zellner’s experiments. Do they have super powers? No. Expensive technology? No. But they are super smart. Why do I bring this up? Because they use their newfound intelligence to outsmart Spider-Man. Yep. It’s kind of refreshing to see him being beaten by just two guys. And the episode goes out of its way to make it believable, which is appreciated.

But honestly, apart from all that, there’s not much to talk about. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad episode, just kind of simple. Still, that can be enough right?

 

Only four episodes left! Meanwhile, let us know what you thought of these episodes in the comments below. Next time we’ll be looking at an assassin with a fondness for silver and the return of Electro!

About the author

Scott Meridew