Thursday, March 14, 2013

Once Upon A Time (My Professional Jealousy)

I remember seeing this blog entry years back, and thinking it was funny how a guy could be jealous of a show he loved so much. "Professionally jealous" because it's a show he would make, done better than he could've done it. Well, now the joke's on me. I just recently got through the complete first season of "Once Upon A Time", and I was just amazed. Blown away at some points, even. I mean, I freaking love this show. This, to me, feels like a show I could've come up with. Or at least a show tailor-made for people like me who'd enjoy it the most, much like how the original "Kingdom Hearts" games were as video games. Like that adventure, this show is also heavy on the elements of fantasy, adventure, romance, redemption, mystery, backstory, fairy tales, dreams, struggles, happy endings, and yes, even Disney. Disney still owns ABC, who makes this show, so they get to use Disney names and trademarks in their renditions of classic fairy tale lore. As a huge fan of Disney, I ain't complaining about that. The show is also filled to the brim with tropes and conventions that I love. I love re-tellings and reinventions of fairy tales, folk lore, myths, and other such classic literature. I love the rebooting and modernization of things that are old and timeless. I love shows that run on an addictive formula but are not actually formulaic and bound to a status quo. And I love epic fantasy tales centering around a battle of good against evil. That's what really makes "Once Upon A Time" stand out from other modern live-action drama shows on TV these days, most of which I've no interest in seeing (though that's not to say I won't some day). TV Tropes puts this as an example of it being "Lighter And Softer" than those other shows, and despite it being much Darker And Edgier than the fairy tales it's basing itself around, it really is. As the site puts it: This might explain the show's success. After years of sexed up comedy shows, Dark and Edgy dramas with Black And Gray Morality conflicts, and grislier police/crime/medical/lawyer shows, a straight up battle between good and evil with an intriguing mystery at the core feels so refreshing to audiences by comparison. It's also a reconstruction of Disneyfied fairy tales. It starts off deconstructed from the get-go, then slowly begins to reconstruct itself and show that magic, true love, and happily ever afters do indeed exist. That is very clever and interesting to me, making a tale that I can get behind.

And lest we forget, this show (or at least the season I watched) tells a fantastic story. "Once upon a time" is the classic start to all great memorable stories, and this one definitely delivered. The first season's storyline could be known as "the Dark Curse Saga", as it tells the story of how the Evil Queen's curse time-trapped all fairy tale characters and cause them to lose their identities, homes, and all they hold dear. How that curse lingered in the form of the small town in Maine known as Storybrooke. And how through the work of the chosen savior, the curse was finally broken and happiness was restored. What's unique about this story arc is that it's told as two separate stories: the story in the fantasy world and the story in Storybrooke. Even more interesting is that while the latter story is told straightforwardly from episode to episode, the former story is told through flashbacks to the past of the characters' relevant to the current plot of the episode. Though as this show is written by two of the writers from "Lost", which used a similar "past/present" format formula, this comes as no surprise. But it's both confusing and frustrating to the audience having to keep backtracking or going forward in time again depending on the story (the first episode shows how the fantasy world story ends!), yet at the same time, it's intriguing having to piece this story together and figure out what comes where and when chronologically. Clues and allusions to story events are dropped all over, but it'll take a while for the payoff to come so we can realize what those things were all about. Very Greg Weisman-esque in some ways. I probably couldn't tell a story that well.

I could go on with gushing about the show, but I think I'll talk more about the characters now to demonstrate why I think it's so damn great. After all, what's a good story without a good cast of characters? But to anyone who might be reading this now who does not want to be spoiled, I suggest you DON'T READ ANY FURTHER, 'CAUSE THERE BE SPOILERS HERE! 

Emma Swan - The Hope. The Savior. The Chosen One. The daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. And the main protagonist of the series. I think this character is....okay. Sure, she's no Buffy Summers or anything, but she's plenty cool and works fine as the leading lady. She starts off as a bounty hunter who seeks out missing or wanted people for a living. We soon find out she's both an orphan and was a mother at age 18. Her past catches up with her on both levels. Her son Henry comes back into her life and leads her to his current home, Storybrooke, where Emma discovers her new calling and her ultimate destiny as the savior of the fairy tale people. She's got a good story, and a good personality as portrayed by Jennifer Morrison: she's rough, cynical, snarky, aloof, even a little cold and at time overbearing. But her heart is usually in the right place at the right time. However
I did see some problems with how she was handled. When she gets surrounded by quirky, interesting fairy tale supporting characters to interact with, she quickly becomes bland by comparison. She's always on the line between being a Straight Man and a Debbie Downer. Her ultimate role and abilities, what she can do and is capable of, were very Mary Sue-ish on many occasions. Her "superpower" of being able to detect lies got handled inconsistently and ultimately amounted to an Informed Ability. Her emotional plight of wanting to be there for Henry came off as Wangsty at points, seeing as she only just met the kid at the start of the show but got way too involved with him too quickly afterwards, which made it hard for me to get why she cares about him so much to the point of obsessiveness. Regina was clearly more of a mother to Henry, yet we're supposed to be on Emma's side 'cause she's his "real" mom, which didn't always come through. And towards the end of the story, her cynicism, self-loathing, and refusal to believe in fairy tales and grasp the truth about the curse even when it was right in front of her became an irritating hindrance. Jefferson alone should've given her enough proof of the curse's existence, yet she still refuses to believe in it when Pinocchio tries to get her to? Lame! None of these turn me against Emma Swan as a character. I like her, but she really didn't reach the greatness I think she was supposed to. She's decent at most.

Henry Mills - The biological son of Emma Swan and the adopted son of Regina Mills. Henry is the boy with the storybook: the kid who brings Emma Swan into the adventure. This kid shifted between being endearing and being irritating on a regular basis. I like how into fairy tales he is, and just how determined he is to bond with his long-lost mother, help her break the curse and set things right for everyone in Storybrooke. His fixation on "Operation Cobra" was a lot of fun to watch, and he served as a great foil for Emma: his bright optimism and firm belief in the fantastic contrasting with her cynicism and disillusionment. Plus, he actually gets some funny lines here and there. (I particularly liked his Genre-Savvy line of how "If the hero believed from the start, it wouldn't be a very good story.") Henry's a boy with a lot of imagination and a lot of heart, so I relate to him on some levels. But that doesn't mean he's any less annoying when he pouts about things not going the way he wants them, whines about how evil his stepmother is even when she's trying her best to be a good mom to him, acts presumptuous and all-knowing concerning things like Mary and David's love life, emotionally manipulates both of his mothers at points, mopes and dopes about how "good can't defeat evil" whenever the villains seem to be triumphing, does the dumbest things a kid in his situation could do, and in general will not shut up about his knowledge of the curse and the fairy tales, despite the fact that he should know how crazy it makes him sound! I'm just like, kid...shut up! But for all his faults, Henry is, like his mother, an okay character. I was engaged in his plight and how his future would turn out, particularly at the end of the season, where he almost loses his future!

Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard - Now this was a character whom I both loved and was frustrated by. Mary Margaret is a young elementary school teacher in Storybrooke, and also Emma Swan's roommate. In her past life that she does not remember, she is the pure hearted Princess Snow White. Which makes her also Emma's mother. Now that is seriously messed up! What frustrated me about this character is how completely different her identities' personas were from each other. Snow White, in stark contrast with her traditional depiction as a demure damsel, is tough, strong willed, sharp witted, snarky, greedy, feisty and stubborn. With this attitude combined with her petite body, good looks, and choice of clothing, she reminds me more of Lina Inverse than of the classic Snow White. Mary Margaret, meanwhile, is kind, well mannered, awkward, shy, a bit clumsy, and overtly good natured. Indeed this character is all sweetness and light in general, but one version of her has more spice while the other has more sugar. At times I even forgot that the same actress was playing both roles, they seemed so different. That's the sign of a good acting, and Ginnifer Goodwin gives two terrific performances. She is just so good at being likable and sympathetic, not to mention really funny, whether it be in her delivery of Snow White's snarky wisecracks, or her delivery of Mary Margaret's general wussiness. What she brings to the role(s) is why I love both past and present incarnations of the character. They're different but equal to me. Also, one of her quirks is the reason I've started putting cinnamon in my hot cocoa from time to time. And it's really not half bad!

Prince Charming/David Nolan - Wow, and I thought Snow/Mary was a frustrating likable character. This guy shows an even bigger disconnection between his past and present selves. Prince Charming (really Prince David but called Prince James) is...well, he's charming. He embodies everything you would think the typical fairy tale prince would be: he's brave, kind, smooth, dashing, handsome, romantic and faithful. The twist is that he's all this while keeping an everyman quality to him. It turns out that he's not a born prince, but a young shepherd whose twin brother James was adopted by King George, so when his brother died, he had to take his place as the new Prince James. So he can also be a bit simplistic, naive, and reckless at times too. But he has a strong heart, and is ultimately an appealing, well developed character. However, his present-day Storybrooke counterpart is David Nolan. Because Charming was at death's door when the curse hit, David ended up as an eternal coma patient in Storybrooke. That is, until Emma came to town and got Mary Margaret, a volunteer 
at Dr Whale's hospital at the time, to be at David's side when he mysteriously awoke. But David's at 
a literal disconnection between himself and Charming because he has amnesia. He can't remember either his real past life or his fake past life. All he remembers is that he loves Snow/Mary Margaret. And he'd do anything to spend more time with her, even cheat on his own wife! So as he pursues this mad romance, he continuously makes choices that hurt Mary Margaret, Kathryn, and himself. He's the total opposite of Charming: a weak, pitiful, inept, self-centered, thoughtless, wishy-washy wreck of a man whose mind and heart are always in disorder. I really liked Charming, but could not stand David Nolan half the time. He reminded me of that tool Mako from "The Legend Of Korra". But to his credit, he's still a better character than Mako because his schmuck moves do have consequences that hurt him as well as others, he gets called out for them by the women he's screwing with, and the narrative is clear that his negative portrayal is completely intentional. Oh, and he recognizes what 
a screw-up he is in the end, which makes the character redeemable, even if he's not redeemed in-universe. So he's actually what Mako should have been, and should still yet be in the next season.

Evil Queen Regina/Regina Mills - The main villain of the story. She is the one who cast the Dark Curse that trapped everyone in time and created Storybrooke to begin with. In the past life, she was an evil monarch and sorceress who became known as "the Evil Queen". When she cast the curse, she made it so that she would have comfort in the new world that was created, and she would hold power over everyone's lives. That way, she could freely make everyone else, especially her nemesis Snow White, miserable, and the only happy ending would be her's. Naturally, she ends up as mayor of Storybrooke, and one of five characters who knows the truth about what's really going on. Regina also wanted a family in order to make up for all she'd lost, particularly her father Henry, whom she killed in order to get the curse to work. So when Emma gave her baby up for adoption, Mr. Gold secured the child and brought him to Regina, who named him after her father. Regina is cold, stern, sly, power hungry and ruthless as mayor. She has an almost perpetually sour attitude, and is vindictive, vengeful and petty towards all she considers her enemies. She is also very vain, of course. When she wants something, she'll stoop to any low in order to get it, and the same goes for if she wants someone out of the way. So when Emma comes to Storybrooke, Regina senses the threat she poses both to her own relationship with her son, and to the hold she has on Storybrooke. Which is why she makes it a focus to degrade Emma at every chance she gets, hoping to drive her away from Storybrooke, away from Henry, and out of their lives. What's interesting about Regina is that despite how horrible she is, she's actually a well developed, interesting, three-dimensional character. She's even sympathetic at points, and only becomes moreso as the show goes on and we learn more about her and how she became the way she is. It turns out that her hatred of Snow White for being "fairer than her" is something of a myth. The real reason she hates her is because she allegedly ruined her life, for which she wants to take revenge. It takes a long time, but I was surprised to finally learn the full details of her history with Snow White. It was all so tragic and unexpected, and it hammered home how much I pitied this character. She wants love, acceptance, triumph, and happiness more than anything, but her all-consuming hatred and the evil she commits in pursuit of a false "happy ending" only makes her more bitter, empty, miserable and alone. The downsides to Regina's performance as a villain is, like Emma as a heroine, it's a little inconsistent. As the Evil Queen, she's kind of your typical Disneyfied fairy tale villain who chews the scenery when expressing her evil-ness. As mayor, she's often made a Designated Villain: we're meant to see an insidious, frightening villain in someone who really just comes off a nasty, unpleasant woman. She also fell into annoying repetition until halfway through the season. Always telling others what they can or cannot do or what to stay away from, bitching about Henry, or getting up in Emma's face to glare at her while arguing about whatever for whatever reason. And the balance between her being a straight-up evil villain worth hating and a tragic villain worth feeling for was a at points. Sure, she shows redeeming qualities and does really love her son, but then she goes and does terrible, unforgivable things that makes her look like a total monster...and then she softens up again. It happens in both her lives, and doesn't always add up. I think they should've made her either more evil or tragic from the very start and stuck with that portrayal the whole season, waiting 'til the next season to develop her other sides. Trying to do it both ways got mixed results. But Regina was an effective villain and a great character for the bulk of the season, and damn is she one nasty MoFo.

Rumpelstiltskin/Mr.Gold - The secondary villain of the story but in many ways the true Big Bad. It was he who created the Dark Curse that he gave to Regina, he also keeps his memories of who is in the present day, he actually holds higher power than Regina, and we gradually learn just how much he's had a hand in. Ultimately, he's responsible for the whole story and everything is part of his massive gambit. Y'know how I said that Regina was a little weak and inconsistent in how she was portrayed as a villain? Well this guy is the exact opposite: this is a great villain. He's got a fantastic backstory, a great visual appearance, and a deliciously devious performance by Robert Carlyle. He manages to be both a chilling, detestable villain and a sympathetic, gut-wrenchingly pitiful tragic villain too. Plus, he manages to get some great comedic moments here and there! It's just a perfect balance. In his past life, he was a crippled peasant who was influenced to take up the mantle of "the Dark One", a demon who's essentially the Devil of the fairy tale world. As such, he became devious, underhanded, and merciless, coveting his new power. When his son Baelfire tried to get him to give up his power in order to regain his humanity, Rumpelstiltskin chose power over his own son, and his son was lost because of it. Rumple succumbed to madness after this, becoming even less human and more of a crazed, nihilistic, manipulative trickster who made dark deals with several others in order to further his plans. When he gave his Dark Curse to Regina and told her how to use it, he worked in a deal that enabled him to keep power over her when the new world was born. In present-day Storybrooke, he goes by the identity of Mr. Gold, a wealthy pawnbroker who is so rich and powerful that he owns the whole town. He can spread his influence everywhere, even to the mayor, especially if he just says the magic word "please." And he's still very fond of making deals for business, deals in which he usually comes out better off. While a mischievous demon in the past,    he now looks and talks human again. Gold is sophisticated, affable, and witty, yet intimidating and diabolical at the same time. With the power he wields, he is the one person in Storybrooke the people fear more than Mayor Regina. When Emma comes along, Gold knows how to make good use of her in his schemes. In the end, he wants her to break the curse so that he can achieve something that basically amounts to having his cake and eating it too. I really love the way this character was written and the way Robert Carlyle played him really brought it home. As Rumpelstiltskin, he resembles an odd mash-up of Heath Ledger's Joker, Loki, the Elder Toguro brother, and Hannibal Lecter in how he looks and acts. As Mr. Gold, he's like a Scottish cross between David Xanatos and Lionel Luthor. His appearance and mannerisms differ, but he really sells that it's the same character. And he just jerks you back and forth between siding with him and abhorring him, unlike the more clearly villainous Regina. When he's bad, he is twisted: this is one evil ass motherfucker. But then when he's good, he's genuinely sympathetic and even likable. And it really, really works. The character is so wildly unpredictable and so very fun to watch. As such, he's become one of my new poster boys for a definitive Magnificent Bastard. He simply defines the Trope. And y'know, now I don't think I can go back to any other depiction of Rumpelstiltskin because of him. Damn, he's good!

Cinderella/Ashley Boyd - The ultimate Disney Princess and her Storybrooke counterpart only showed up twice but that was just enough to leave a good impact. We all know the story of Cinderella, but the way the show tells it has a twist to it. Especially where her Fairy Godmother is concerned, but I won't dare spoil that because it's really, really funny. In Storybrooke, she's a 19 year old girl who had an affair with a boy named Sean and is now pregnancy with his baby. But Sean's dad didn't want his son and his girlfriend to get saddled with the responsibility of parenthood, so he made a deal with Mr. Gold stating that Ashley would have to give her baby over to Gold for adoption as soon as it was born. Ashley is saddened by this until Emma gives her inspiration to take charge and change her life, much like Cinderella did. But what she doesn't know is that Gold's interest in her baby is a remnant of her past life before the curse, and a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that she had broken. Cinderella's character was so likable and sympathetic here. Thankfully, thanks to Emma, her story has a happy ending and she gets to keep her baby and see her prince again. I also liked how she was good friends with Ruby, and got a brief second appearance because of that.

Jiminy Cricket/Archibald Hopper - One of the most interesting and popular members of the supporting cast. We all know that Jiminy Cricket was a sentient little cricket who wore clothes, carried a lucky umbrella, and served as a conscience for Pinocchio, always steering him to do the right thing. What we didn't know, according to this show, was that Jiminy used to be a human who was always being forced into doing the wrong thing by his parents, two lowly sociopathic Thenardier-like crooks who stole from others for the sport of it. After being shown kindness by a would-be victim, a little boy who gave him his umbrella, Jiminy got fed up with his life and made a deal with the evil Rumpelstiltskin that would remove his parents as the problem holding him back, so then he could be free. This went terribly wrong and he ended up destroying someone else's parents while his own got away scot-free. To make amends for this, Jiminy wished on the wishing star and made a promise to the Blue Fairy that he be a conscience from now on, and wished to be transformed into his favorite creature, a cricket. In Storybrooke, Jiminy has been restored to human form and is the town psychologist whom Henry sees for psychiatric therapy, at Regina's request. Archie starts off as weak-willed, skittish, lazy, and easily swayed by the mayor's orders. But thanks to Henry, he remembers the type of person he wants to be: a kind, helpful soul who will always do his best to be good, for others and himself. Archie gets involved in more adventures afterwards, even though we stop learning that much about him. But the impression he left was very good: Raphael Sbarge was simply perfect in the role. He totally made me believe he was Jiminy Cricket, even as a human!

Gepetto/Marco - Gepetto, in both of his lives, is Jiminy Cricket's closest friend. The guy portraying this character does a fantastic job: his voice, accent, and the emotions he expresses gives him great presence, which is impressive for a character who doesn't show up that often. We also learn some interesting things about him in the past. He was the little boy who gave Jiminy his umbrella, and the boy whose parents were turned into grotesque, lifeless wooden puppets by Jiminy's potion meant for his own parents. This puts a dark, Freudian twist on why Gepetto dedicated his life to making toys, particularly puppets whom he always wished would come to life. Jiminy was his conscience before he was Pinocchio, and while Gepetto knew what Jiminy did to his parents, he tried not to hold it against him and was his best friend regardless. Years later, he made Pinocchio and after that familiar story played out and Pinocchio became a real boy, he was requested by Prince Charming to help build the magic transportation wardrobe out of the sacred tree. Gepetto did this, but with a catch that only he, Jiminy, Pinocchio, and the Blue Fairy knew about: Pinocchio would go through to the new world first before Snow White and her baby. Learning this was really surprising and changes the way you look at the first episode, and these characters' words and actions in them. Gepetto was ultimately a bit selfish and deceitful, but for an understandable cause. This gives the part where he and his son reunite in Storybrooke all the more weight, though he can't recognize him.

King George/Albert Spencer - The wicked stepfather of Prince Charming, who is the district attorney in Storybrooke. He only appears once as the latter, but is an important secondary antagonist as the former. Good lord, I hated this character. He's probably my least favorite character byfar, but in a good way. King George is meant be to absolutely reprehensible. Though his story in the past starts off pretty sad in that he and his late wife could never have children of their own, so he adopted James and later adopted David to replace James after James' untimely death, all sympathy you might have for him gets lost fast. For one thing, we see that he's always been a cruel, bitter, dark hearted old tyrant who liked to oppress and torture others beneath him. He raised his first adopted to be just like him, which is why he loved his son so much. When said son died and was replaced with David, George showed no such love for the new boy. He saw him as a weakling who was only a tool for him to use in his alliance with Midas' kingdom. He even threatened to kill David, kill his mother, and burn his family's farm to ashes if David didn't comply with his demands! When George finds out about David's love for Snow and how that could get in the way of the arranged marriage between "James" and Abigail, he does everything in his power to drive them apart, even locking Snow up in a dungeon and threatening his own stepson with execution should he seek Snow instead of his fiancee. It becomes clear that the man is a sociopath who doesn't believe in true love, and doesn't have a true loving bone in his body. When Charming David breaks his rules, George sends his men out to recapture him so that he can be put to death. He almost does this to, but hands him over to Regina to be tortured instead. He remains cold and unfeeling throughout all this. And from what I hear, he only gets worse in the second season! King George is a character who goes so far beyond being just an evil prick that he becomes this completely repugnant monster. His actor portrays this very well, making him patronizing and detestable in his every word and action. The man radiates with a pure evil presence whenever he's at work in stories. Definitely a solid villain you love to hate.

The Huntsman/Sheriff Graham Humbert - The town sheriff of Storybrooke, Graham Humbert, was a major character in the first seven episodes of the show, but we didn't find out who he was in his past life until the seventh. He was an expert huntsman who was raised by wolves in the forest. When the Evil Queen found out about him, she requested his services. He was to escort Snow White into the woods, then kill her and carve out her heart, which the Queen would add to her heart vault. The Huntsman was reluctant to do this, and ultimately could not after he saw what a pure heart Snow had and how forgiving she was willing to be of her stepmother. So he killed a stag and brought it's heart back to the Queen instead. But of course, the Queen saw through the deception and punished the Huntsman be ripping his heart out and then making him her sex slave for eternity. After the curse, the Huntsman became Graham. He's still in Regina's service, still does not have a heart inside of him, and still knows his way around the woods very well. He's great at tracking, though not entirely competent at the rest of his police work. Though he's a noble, amiable gentleman, his lack of a heart makes him unable to really feel anything, and so he goes through life an empty man. The only thing that can make him feel alive is sexual stimulation, which he gets from Regina and presumably all the other women in town. Emma's coming to Storybrooke leads him on the path to reclaiming his lost heart. Unfortunately, he only feels again once Regina takes it out and crushes it in her hands, killing Graham. His final moments were spent with Emma, whom he kissed and thanked for helping him to remember everything before he died. Graham was a fascinating and immensely sympathetic character, but ended up needing to be the sacrificial lion out of the initial main cast. I don't miss him all that much, but I felt terrible for him and was sad to see him go. Rest in peace, good Huntsman.

Hansel and Gretel/Nicholas and Ava - One-shot characters from the ninth episode. Their fairy tale story is the same as you remember it, except for a few minor details. Their father really did get lost from them rather than abandoning them, they were told by Queen Regina to go into the gingerbread house to retrieve her poisoned apple from the blind witch, and were then sealed into the eternal forest along with their father for defying Regina. Though in the same place as their father, the forest was so huge that they could never find each other. And they still were separated in their lives in Storybrooke, until Emma and Henry helped the family reunite. Gretel was a pretty strong character and well played by her young actress. Hansel on the other God, this kid was so dumb. And not just his actor's lack of presence and the characters lack of dialogue: he literally does the dumbest things. Regina tells the kids not to eat anything in the gingerbread house, Gretel reminds her brother of it when they get there, and then seconds later the dumbass kid gobbles something up! Nice job leading you and your sister to a grisly almost death, you little retard! On side note, Emma Caufield was kinda miscast as the blind witch. That character should've been absolutely terrifying, but came across as oddly sexual and goofy instead. What the Hell, Casting Agency?

Dr. Frankenstein/Dr. Whale - The part about his past life is a spoiler since that was never revealed 
in the first season. Needless to say, it made everyone go "What? That's no fairy tale!" But in this season, he was just the head doctor at Storybrooke's hospital. Though his focus is usually on medical procedures, he takes the same serious-minded and slightly twisted approach to his job the way he would with science. He's also a notorious lech, flirting with the town's ladies or looking at them perversely on many occasions. This guy was quite an interesting character, even though we went the whole season not knowing much about him. I guess a mystery is a big draw for some.  

The Genie of the Magic Mirror/Syndey Glass - Formerly the Genie of Agrabah who then became trapped within Regina's Magic Mirror, he's now the lead reporter of Storybrooke's newspaper, the Mirror. I never really liked this character as much as I think I should've. He's got a smooth, funny personality and the actor does a good job. But he rarely showed up in the present, his newspaper job barely got exposure before he got fired from it, and his partnership with Emma which was actually a Mole job for Regina didn't really go anywhere except for him taking the fall for what Regina tried to frame Mary Margaret for. He was never seen again after that, not even in the next season! And his backstory was full of holes. Where is Agrabah anyway? Why did he fall in love with some woman he only recently met? So much that he betrayed and murdered the man who gave him his freedom? 
I enjoyed the ironic end to his tale, though. He uses the third wish that King Leopold gave to him, wishing that he could be with Regina for eternity. But all magic comes with a price, so he ends up trapped inside the Magic Mirror: as much of a prisoner as he was of the lamp at the start. And of course, he continued to serve at Regina's side out of love and devotion even after he was free of the mirror due to the curse. His servitude was all he really had in the end. That Meanie Genie!

Belle/Lacey - A very popular character despite only appearing in three episodes of this season. In the fantasy world past, she's made to look and act similar to her Disney counterpart, but her character still comes off like a unique take on her due to the actress' performance. She's an Australian actress, thus Belle speaks with a clear Aussie accent. I found that to be both funny and surprisingly effective, adding much to the character's charm. Belle is a bold, spunky, intelligent, funny, adventurous girl who is willing to do big things and make big sacrifices for both the sake of her family and so she can get out and see more of the world beyond her bland, provincial town. Due to a deal she accepted, she ends up as a prisoner of a beast who lives at a fancy estate. And that beast is Rumpelstiltskin. During her time with him, Belle learned to enjoy herself at his place and Rumple warmed up to her as well. Eventually, the two began to fall in love. When Belle realized how much she loved him, she came back to him even after he'd given her a perfect opportunity to escape. When Rumple questioned this, Belle told him it was because she loved him. Unable to comprehend how anyone could show him true love, Rumple came to the conclusion that Queen Regina must have gotten her in her employ, thus he locked Belle in his dungeon and denounced his love for her. Days later, he set Belle free, and she left after giving him one hell of a The Reason You Suck Speech to his ugly face. Rumple is later told by Regina that Belle committed suicide out of despair, but it's a lie since Belle is shown to be alive and well at a bar where she talks to Dreamy about true love. In Storybrooke, Belle is an amnesiac, mentally ill girl named Lacey who Regina keeps locked up in the hospital's secret mental ward. In the season finale, she gets set free and is sent to Mr. Gold, thus reuniting with her former lover in a heartwarming moment that gets diminished by Gold's love for power taking dominance once again. I hear some stuff happened between her and Gold in the second season and then she got Fridged (she's not dead, thank goodness!), but I hope things get better for her and that she and Gold get some happiness together. Damnit, I know that relationship's unhealthy and toxic and wrong in canon, but my inner Beauty/Beast shipper just cannot keep them apart!

Red Riding Hood/Ruby - Another popular, interesting, and memorable supporting character. I loved this character the moment I laid eyes on her. As a resident of Storybrooke, Ruby's a punk rock type of girl with a perky attitude, a rebellious streak, and a good heart. She has a job at her grandmother's inn/pub that requires her to wait tables, take everyone's orders, and keep the place neat. She tires of this after a while but stays out of love for her grandma. Eventually she does quit her job in an attempt to find something better and show grandma that she's good at it. She assists Emma in her sheriff duties and finds out that she can do good at other things...but that doesn't mean she should, nor does it mean she wants to or even likes it! So she goes back to her grandma's job, has a heartfelt reconciliation, and finds out that she's to take over the place after grandma retires or passes away.
In the past, she was little Red Riding Hood, nicknamed "Red." Her story went in a totally different direction than the fairy tale. Here she lived with her grandmother in the outskirts of a village, had a boyfriend named Peter, and took in the runaway Snow White to live with her. The two girls have a very cute sisterly bond with each other. Of course, then Red finds out a dark secret about the Big Bad Wolf that often terrorized her village on nights with full moons. We're led to believe that Peter is the wolf, but it turns out that the Big Bad Red herself! Her grandmother's boyfriend had been a werewolf and left his mark on her. She passed on the werewolf gene to her daughter, who passed it on to Red. As a ravenous wild wolf, Red kills, rips apart, and eats her own boyfriend. This traumatizes her, but also confirms the truth to her and she comes out stronger for it. When Snow White and Prince Charming are endangered by King George and his men, Red uses her wolf transformation to fight back and help her friends. This was a badass character: very well played.

Widow Lucas/Grandma - Grandmother of the above mentioned Ruby and owner of "Granny's" inn/pub. This character didn't get much screentime, but was well performed in the scenes she got. 
I was actually kind of surprised at what a hardass this lady was. Definitely not your typical portrayal of an old granny. Of course, being an ex-werewolf who was turned that way by a monstrous lover and who now has to very protectively look after her werewolf granddaughter might have helped with this.

Princess Abigail/Kathryn Nolan - Formerly the daughter of King Midas in the past, now David Nolan's long-suffering wife in Storybrooke. The actress who plays her, Anastasia Griffith, isn't very conventionally attractive, yet she's got so much charm that she comes off as lovely anyway. When we first see Princess Abigail as Prince Charming's fiance in the past, she comes off as a stuck-up spoiled brat with lots of gold and jewelry and little love for the man she's been set up to marry. But we then learn that she's actually a pretty cool, brave, confident young woman who leads her own private army, and doesn't love Charming because she already loves a young man named Frederick, one of her father's knights who was accidentally turned into a gold statue. This works perfectly for Charming, since he loves Snow White. Neither party wants any part in this arraigned marriage, so Charming helps Abigail and Frederick get their happiness and they help him with Snow White in return. But after the curse, Abigail became Kathryn, a woman with false memories of loving and being wed to a man named David Nolan, who left her after a disagreement between them. When David comes out of his coma, Regina is quick to track Kathryn down and get her back into his life, just to keep Mary Margaret out. Though a tad sheltered and prissy, Kathryn is very nice, sweet, and likable. She is easily sympathetic in how she tries so hard to get her husband to remember her so that they can love each other again, but nothing seems to work because David is a fucking tool. But she turns out to be alot more strong willed and intelligent than expected in the end. It's also interesting how she's one of Regina's few friends, thus hangs out with her and turns to her for help alot. Of course Regina has no strong love for her and attempts to have her killed after she'd broken it off with David, just so Mary Margaret can be framed for the murder. Luckily, Kathryn survives and is put in the hospital. When David visits her, she reveals that she's okay with letting him go, which he agrees to. We don't see her again after this, or again since, like Sydney, her performer wasn't available for the second season. Supposedly she reunited with Frederick when the curse was broken and they're currently living in happily ever after. I hope so, 'cause she was, as David put it, amazing.

Grumpy/Leroy - Once the most prominent of the seven dwarves, Grumpy is now the town drunk 
of Storybrooke: a minor character named Leroy. But great writing and great acting made him a character who shined whenever he was on the screen. We learn his backstory too, and it's really interesting. He and all other dwarves were hatched from eggs blessed by fairy magic. The dwarves work underground in the mines, and are given their names when they receive magic pick-axes on which names appear, reflecting the dwarf's personality. This dwarf got the name "Dreamy", because he was a romantic dreamer. Dreamy fell in love with the perky young fairy Nova, who loved him in return. The affair grew so strong that Dreamy was actually contemplating leaving his life in the mines behind in order to spend his life with her. But the Blue Fairy told him that an eternity together would only prevent them both from realizing their true callings, and Nova in particular would never see her dream of becoming a Godmother come true. Thus Dreamy broke up with her and went back to the mines. In a rage, he broke his pick-axe and was given a new one, this time with the name "Grumpy". The pain caused by the loss of the love he could have had stayed with Grumpy, keeping him who he is. He says as much in a pretty cringeworthy line to Snow White. But he makes up for that line with a later one: "Let's show that king what Snow White and seven dwarves can really do!" Wow, Grumpy just made "Snow White And The Seven Dwarves" sound badass. In Storybrooke, Grumpy (Leroy) actually meets Nova (Astrid) again and falls in love with her all over again. He and Mary Margaret take on a wacky misadventure trying to sell candles for the nuns so that Astrid can be happy and impressed. This is tough, but it all gets resolved and the story has a happy ending. I really enjoyed this character, and apparently his role gets expanded in the second season. Hooray!

The Blue Fairy/Mother Superior - Leader of the fairies, the most magical beings in existence, in the fantasy world, and leader of the nuns in Storybrooke. This character's roles were often very important, yet very vague at the same time. She was there to turn Jiminy into a cricket, there to give her blue magic to Baelfire and then chastise Rumpelstiltskin for screwing that up, there to persuade Dreamy to break up with Nova, there to lead the fairies into battle against King George's forces, presumably the one who sent Cinderella her Fairy Godmother, and was with Gepetto and the rest when the fateful decision regarding the enchanted tree was made. She ended up being a part of Gepetto's plan, lying her little ass off about how many people can go through the wardrobe. In Storybrooke, her role was even less prominent, though she's there when the curse gets broken in the end. I liked her character due to how the actress portrayed her. Her voice is very light, warm, and magical sounding and she is played with sweetness and kindness, but also a bit of mischief and wisdom too, to the point where she comes off as downright shady. I sorta get the sense that she could be the secret Big Good (or Big Good Wannabe) of the entire story when all is said and done. Also, she's sexy. Fairy sexy, though I'll make no comments on her boobs except for that mention.

Nova/Sister Astrid - A one-shot character from the episode "Dreamy", but a very enjoyable, memorable one. In the past life, she was a cute, clumsy, hyperactive dork of a fairy named Nova. 
Her dream was to get better at magic so that she could be promoted to Fairy Godmother. She was assigned by the Blue Fairy to spread her magic fairy dust to give birth to dwarves, which ended up creating the seven (eight at the time) dwarves. One day when she was looking for diamonds, Nova met Dreamy and the two of them soon fell in love. Despite her obsession with her dream, Nova was very eager to have a long-lasting relationship with the dwarf. But the Blue Fairy forbade it, so Dreamy broke up with Nova, breaking her heart and making him Grumpy. In Storybrooke, the fairies are nuns, and Nova is now Sister Astrid. She meets Leroy when preparing for a town fair, and they become smitten by each other once again. Leroy agrees to help raise money for the nuns by selling candles, but can't sell a single one due to his lack of popularity around town. When Astrid asks about it again, Leroy fibs and says he sold them all, which Astrid soon finds out he didn't. But Leroy rectifies this at the fair itself, and so he and Astrid reconcile. I most remember this character for the humorous and touching episode which she starred in, and that the girl playing her was adorable as heck in the role.

Jefferson The Mad Hatter - A character who started off looking like a one-shot villain, but who returned with a vengeance in the two-part season finale. Named Jefferson in both lives, he's one of the few people in Storybrooke who remembers everything about life before the curse, but is powerless to do anything about it. In the past, he was a hat merchant who lived with his daughter, Grace. He was down on hard times when Regina asked him for his services, offering to reward him in return. Wanting to make things better for his beloved daughter, Jefferson was tempted into doing this, so he brought out his magic hat that pulled him and Regina into Wonderland. Regina was looking for something specific there, and once she got it, she turned on Jefferson and left him behind. Jefferson was sentenced to slave-labor working on hats for the Queen of Hearts. In the present, Jefferson was given a luxurious house to live in as an "apology" from Regina. But he lived right across the street from his daughter, who now lived with a new family. So every day, Jefferson's mind was tortured having to watch his daughter live without him, but he didn't want to just go over and tell her the truth in fears that it would destroy her innocence. So instead, he abducted both Emma and Mary Margaret one night. Using the latter as leverage, he tried to force Emma into making his magic hat work again, believing only the Savior could do so. He desired for him and his daughter to go back home, to the 
life they used to live. This makes him a very tragic character that one cannot help but feel sorry for. However, he's also gone really mad over time and is played as a creepy psychopathic killer. He has a frightening, unsettling presence and is a-okay with doing detestable things if they suit his needs. The first episode to feature him, "Hat Trick", was easily the scariest episode in the season. Despite seemingly meeting his demise in that episode, he's back in the season finale and is suckered into helping Regina again, under the promise of returning him to his daughter. Regina helps Jefferson get the magic hat to work again so that Jefferson can reach through it and pull out the poison apple from it's point in time. But when it ends up poisoning the wrong person, Regina revokes the deal, going back on her word again. This makes Jefferson angry and vengeful, so he releases Belle from the mental ward and sends her to go find Mr. Gold and tell him that Regina had her locked up. This was clearly the start of his revenge scheme, but it was left hanging after the season had concluded.

Cora The Queen Of Hearts - A minor but important character in this season, who becomes the Big Bad of the second season. She's Regina's abusive, controlling, selfish, power-hungry bitch of a mother, and also one of the most powerful witches in existence. She is a major contributor to all bad things at the heart of the story, effectively getting the whole thing going between her daughter and Snow White. Her crimes include killing Snow White's mother, hexing Snow's horse so that Regina could save her life and her father King Leopold could enter the picture, manipulating events so that a marriage could be arranged between the king and her daughter, manipulating Snow White into telling her Regina's secret love for Daniel the stable boy, killing Daniel by literally ripping out his heart, and ensuring that Regina's rage is redirected towards Snow rather than her. That she was also the Queen of Hearts in Wonderland is a spoiler, but goddamn was she creepy there. It was the total opposite of the Queen of Hearts from the book: shrouded and quiet rather than loud, bombastic, and in-your-face. Cora is easily the most evil character on the show. Of course, as we find out, this is because she's literally a heartless sociopath. She sees love as weakness, and desires power and prosperity for herself and her family above all else. Once she started climbing higher in power, she never stopped, and she wants her daughter to reach similar greatness as a testament to her legacy. She is a bad person to start with, but without a heart to give her any conscience or decency, she's basically 
a Complete Monster. Just one episode is enough to show Cora is a pure cold-blooded bitch.

Pinocchio/August Booth - BIG spoiler! This was probably the most surprising character in the season. August came to town at the end of the Hansel and Gretel episode, wearing his leather jacket and driving his motorcycle down the darkened streets. Nobody knew who he was and how he came to Storybrooke. He claimed to be a writer and was staying in town looking for story inspiration. He then proceeded to hang around Henry more often, taking a particular interest in his book of fairy tales. Henry didn't know which character August was supposed to be, and neither did the audience. August had a flippant, snide, sarcastic personality and takes a rather unprofessional approach to his job. He likes to insist that he always tells the truth, though usually it's half-truths he tells. He kept showing up to entice us with the mystery of who he was and what he was up to. It finally seemed to be figured out when Mr. Gold suspected him of being his long lost son Baelfire, and then he confirmed this too! But it turned out to be a lie: August was playing Gold in order to seal off his power. The next episode revealed who he really was...Pinocchio! Yes, Pinocchio: Gepetto's boy who only showed up in the first episode before now. It turns out that when Gepetto was told of the curse, he suspected that it might turn Pinocchio back into wood. So he, Pinocchio, Jiminy, and the Blue Fairy lied about how many people could go through the enchanted tree wardrobe as part of a plan to send Pinocchio through first so that he could be saved from the curse. But before Pinocchio was sent through, Gepetto was told that Snow White's baby would be being sent in afterwards instead of Snow herself. So he told his son to protect baby Emma once she came through, and make sure that she grows up believing in the fairy tale world so that she can break the curse and save them all by her 28th birthday. Once on the other side, Pinocchio took Emma to the orphanage but then got persuaded by other orphan boys to run away and have fun with them. He did this, abandoning the baby he was supposed to raise and protect. Pinocchio grew up to be a wastrel, and eventually payed the price for it when Emma came to Storybrooke and his body started turning back into wood as a side-effect. This is what drew him to the town, where he hopes to fulfill his duty for Emma and reconcile with his father, Gepetto. But due to Emma's skepticism, it doesn't end well for him. This guy was one of my favorite characters in the season. Eion Bailey is perfect in the role: he's got a nice deadpan tone and even has a fitting crooked nosed appearance. Yet I never would have suspected him of being the character he was and playing the role he ended up playing in the story. They turned a little wooden boy into a big wooden man!

Maleficent/The Dragon - A minor character from the second episode who ended up being crucial for the season finale. She's a bit younger and more vibrant than the legendary Disney villain she's based off of. And she's got a full head of white hair for some reason. It at first seemed strange that the mistress of all evil would act so courteous and almost nice, even if it was to her only friend Regina. And her losing a magic battle against Regina due to love for her pet...that doesn't seem like Maleficent at all. Regina even says "Love is weakness. I thought you knew that." It turns out that she was acting in this out of character way because she had swallowed a true love potion during an earlier fight she had with Prince Charming while in her Dragon form. One of the curse's effects was to trap Maleficent in her Dragon form, which is why Regina keeps her in an underground dungeon. This proves to be fortunate in the finale when Emma is able to fight and destroy Maleficent, retrieving the true love potion from the belly of the beast. Considering how great a villain Maleficent is for Disney, it's a bit disappointing to see her as a non-entity here, but she played her part alright.

And they all lived happily ever after. The End. OR IS IT???

Friday, March 1, 2013

Leniency on the 90's Spider-Man animated series?

OK, here's the set-up for this. Greg, a blogger with whom I'm familiar with has some strong opinions on Spider-Man. One of them being that he loathed the 90's animated series, which itself was a very "love or hate" thing with Spidey fans. For instance, Greg hates it alot, but people like MadGoblin from "Spidey Kicks Butt" had mostly good things to say about it. Doug Walker hated it when he watched it in the 90's, but Spider-Man/comic book fan Lewis Lovhaug gives it praise to this day. Me? I loved it as a kid: it was my first big exposure to Spidey, and for that I am eternally grateful. However, watching it as a teen and a young REALLY doesn't hold up very well. I remembered the show being as exciting to watch as "Batman" at the time it was on. Now I see that it, like Doug Walker has said, was trying to do that sort of thing but, for the most part, did it so poorly. I can spot it's many flaws whenever I see 'em now, 'cause they are so numerous and so glaring. But at the same time, I can see the good the show did as well and cannot ever bring myself to really hate it like many other people do. It still has a place in my heart for being my gateway to Spider-Man, after all.

But does that mean I should show it totally leniency? Well, 'how bout this? Greg once compiled a laundry list of complaints about the show, many that I agreed on but others that I was more understanding of. I'll go over that and address what I think of those complaints, and then I'll address my own issues with the show that he missed. Here goes:

 - The Hobgoblin before the Green Goblin!: Oh boy, this one was rather infamous. During the show's first season (there were five of them!), there was a small story arc about the Kingpin spreading his criminal influence in New York by teaming up with Spencer and Alistair Smythe, and Norman Osborn of Oscorp. The Kingpin also sought to take Oscorp from Osborn, ensuring that Osborn would keep working for him. However, Norman Osborn wasn't taking any of that. So he was going to become the Green Goblin and sabotage the Kingpin's whole operation, trying to take over the crime of NY for himself. It'd be very much like the Green Goblin vs Big Man feud we got in "The Spectacular Spider-Man." But the guy running the show (John Semper's predecessor) had the bone-headed idea to make Norman become the Hobgoblin rather than the Green Goblin, since Green Goblin was irrelevant at the time the show was being made. Everyone, up to Stan the Man himself, disagreed with this: Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin, no one else! However, a toy line featuring the Hobgoblin was already being made, so Hobby had to be in the show. So eventually a compromise was made: the show ended up having Norman Osborn plotting to take out the Kingpin by creating and selling Goblin gear to this anonymous punk, who became the Hobgoblin to do Osborn's bidding. Of course, Hobgoblin ended up double-crossing basically everyone so that he could take over as the Kingpin, so Osborn and Spidey had to work together to stop this. It's really jarring considering that in the comics, the whole point of the Hobgoblin was that he was taking up the Green Goblin's legacy, and so there was this huge mystery about who he was under the mask. Here, we didn't know who he was but that wasn't really an issue since he was the first Goblin supervillain to show up on the scene, leading Spidey to contently think of him as "Hobgoblin." But y'know what? I think they made this one work out. They got to build towards Norman's descent in madness and becoming the Green Goblin, and give Hobgoblin the screen time he needed to be an awesome villain: probably the best villain on this show. Now the handling of the Green Goblin that came later? We'll get to that later on down the line, but for now let's just say it's kind of a letdown.

- Horrendous voice acting, especially Mary Jane!: Giving one example of horrendous voice acting to justify the claim that the whole show had horrendous voice acting, are we? For one thing, MJ's voice (by some person named Sara Ballentine, if anyone cares) was indeed terrible and the delivery atrocious. That, along with MJ's hideous appearance, actually managed to butcher the "Face it, tiger: you just hit the jackpot!" moment. And for another thing, while there were some terrible performances in the show, it was usually a case of horrendous voice direction rather than truly bad acting. Greg has gone on to realize this, seeing as the voice director, Tony Pastor, had a terrible resume and was not a good, experienced voice director. At all. Out of the whole cast, there are about three performances that I found to be perfect in spite of the direction: Roscoe Lee Brown as the Kingpin, Mark Hamill as the Hobgoblin, and the always great Jim Cummings as the Shocker. ("SHOCKEEEEER!" XD) Everyone else was either bad or misdirected. For misdirected, let's look at Christopher Daniel Barnes as the main character. Throughout the show, he had great comedic timing for Spidey's various one liners. But that was all he was good at. For his regular moments, he sounded bland. For his dramatic or angsty expository moments, he spoke in a forced, whispery voice and talked at a ridiculously rushed pace. And for his "emotional moments", good lord was he a ham! His yells were over-the-top and ridiculous, most famous being the abovementioned yell at Shocker and of course "MARY JAAAANE!". Even when he almost got it right in a scene where he chews out Madame Web, he ends it with a needless "DO YOU HEAR MEEEEE?" Years later, Barnes would return to voice a version of Spidey in the "Shattered Dimensions" video game, under expert voice direction by Jaime Thomas, and he was natural and fantastic in the role. Another great example of a great voice with poor direction was Ed Asner as J. Jonah Jameson. Brilliant casting! Asner has a perfect grouchy, gravelly voice for this character. This should be great, right? The one problem: his performance is too restrained. He usually just grumbled and made angry declarations like a normal guy. JJ is not a normal guy: he's supposed to be super-animated and over-the-top. He's been so since the early comics, and it's faithfully represented in the performances of people like Darran Norris and (of course) JK Simmons. Asner wasn't allowed to go over-the-top all that much in this role, something that allegedly bothered him. And I know he can do over-the-top shouting delivery: just check out the beginning of this video!  So we had a Spidey who went too over-the-top and a Jameson who didn't go over-the-top enough! Yeesh! We also had several great talents like Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Neil Ross, Greg Berger, Jennifer Hale, Hank Azaria, Dorian Harewood, etc. all giving hit-miss performances. And other than MJ, two other crowning examples of bad voices would be the incredibly irritating and unconvincing Aunt May, and the gratingly whiny Harry Osborn. The latter especially bugs me. I mean, they had Rob Paulsen on the show voicing Hydro-Man for three episodes! While that performance wasn't bad, it was the wrong character for him to be voicing. In my opinion, Paulsen would've made a great Harry! But instead, we get a whiny voiced guy who sounds like he always has a stuffy nose voicing him and that gets real annoying.

- 90% of the series was stock footage!: Actually...this is entirely correct. Even in the first season, which had the best and most original animation, they often resorted to stock footage. An instance that stands out to me is in the second part of the "The Alien Costume" two-parter, when Kingpin and his henchman find out that the Promethum X rock they obtained was useless. It ends when, all of sudden, Kingpin is in a different room than he just was, pointing his finger at Smythe while saying "he knew it!". See the image to the left? That exact scene was used in an earlier episode when Smythe first became Kingpin's main lackey. Recycling it like that was blatant and incredibly lazy. WOW. Did the budget for this series really suck that much?

- No Gwen Stacy!: I guess this would be a big one, considering how quintessential Gwen has become to Spider-Man lore. To be fair, "no Gwen Stacy" isn't entirely accurate seeing as she did show up in an alternate dimension in the very last episode of the show. But for most of the show, I guess they chose to have Felicia Hardy playing the Gwen role for whatever reason. Maybe it was the same reason as putting in Hobgoblin before Green Goblin: they didn't feel Gwen was "relevant?" That'd be stupid since some characters are ALWAYS going to be relevant: Gwen Stacy is one such character. In any case, Felicia was a fun and likable supporting character.

- No Betty Brant!: Unlike the Gwen Stacy complaint, I find this one stupid. I mean...who really gives a shit if Betty Brant is in a Spidey series or not? Does she really NEED to be there? Unlike Gwen, she has not become a staple of the Spider-Man mythos. In fact, so many people refer to Gwen as "Spidey's first love interest", forgetting that technically Betty was! To be fair, I'm not too surprised. In the early comics, it was pathetically obvious that she was a Silver age Lois Lane ripoff. Same job, same role, same grating dumbass personality, and even a double initial name! Betty was never compelling as a love interest, which is why she was ultimately discarded as one and grew into something better. And outside the comics, what has Betty ever really done? She's a minor supporting character in the movies, a comic relief character in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" comic series, and that subplot with her and Peter in "The Spectacular Spider-Man" lasted 3 episodes before getting cut down before it even really went anywhere because she's "too old for him", thus reducing her to a background character. Really, Betty Brant does not contribute much that some other character could already contribute. She didn't need to be here and she isn't even missed by me.

- Electro being the Red Skull's son!: Ugh. I know, right? I'm all for reinventions of characters, but not when they deviate too far from the spirit of the source material, as I'll mention later. And making Electro a super-powerful and destructive German mutant and son of another notorious Marvel villain....that's really stretching it. Plus, it was too little too late to even bring in Electro at that point anyway. Having the rights to him now doesn't justify this move.

-Lame dimensional portals!: Chalk this one up to Executive Meddling. I'm positive that this came about because they weren't allowed to kill off Mary Jane and Norman Osborn. Strange seeing as how in the series finale, they used a variant of it to kill off the main villain, but whatever. My biggest issue with this one was that they used the Spot to introduce it into the show. So essentially, they made a throwaway joke villain like the Spot more pivotal to the series than the likes of Doc Ock or the Lizard. Wow, what potential did the writers see in that guy?

-Norman Osborn being the Kingpin's whiny bitch!: I don't know what went wrong here, but they really went here. Norman Osborn, Spidey's quintessential Big Bad, was made the Kingpin's whiny bitch. Like I said, in the first season Osborn was planning on bringing down Wilson Fisk the Kingpin to get him off his back and protect Oscorp. In his appearances in that season, he was portrayed as a ruthless businessman who didn't take anyone's crap: not Spencer Smythe, nor Hobgoblin, nor Spidey, or even Fisk. And he never had time for his son Harry, despite wanting to think of himself as a good father. This characterization was most likely used due to the initial plans to make him the Green Goblin. But that didn't happen. By the next season, Norman Osborn was suddenly as much of a spineless wuss as his son! His desire to take out Fisk was dropped and instead he was living in constant fear of Fisk's oppression. He was constantly in a state of stress and anguish, whining about how things weren't going his way. And whenever there was a threat, rather than trying something to fight it off or bail because it's the smart thing to do, he reacted like an absolute terrified coward. Yes, that's right: Norman Osborn openly showing fear. There was also the notion that he'd "turned good" ever since reconciling with Harry at the end of the Hobgoblin two-parter, and was only driven to madness and evil by all the stress he had to deal with, and the lab accident that "created" his split personality. All things considered, he was usually a pretty swell guy and a decent father, too. Yeah. this portrayal was disgraceful. It really didn't help that Neil Ross' vocal performance was all wrong. Rather than sound like an underhanded tycoon, he sounded like a decent gentleman. And that really started to reflect the mischaracterization of Osborn. Thank goodness we have versions played by Willem Dafoe and Alan Rachins to make up for this. Heck, I'd even take Steve Weber over this one! (His Norman, not his Goblin, mind you - his Norman is pretty awesome.)

-Doc Ock being Kingpin's buttmonkey!: This one's just as big as the Osborn one. Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man's regular arch-enemy: his second greatest villain after the Green Goblin. He's also one of the first villains I knew about when I first got into Spidey, the others being Hobgoblin, Scorpion, and Venom. And yet here he's yet again a pawn of Kingpin, who was this show's main villain. In his first appearance, Ock was decently portrayed. This show invented the "Octavious as Peter's science mentor" angle that "Spider-Man 2" went with, but Ock was more arrogant and less sympathetic in this show. His voice was by Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and it sounded great...except that they made him speak with an accent that could never decide what accent it was supposed to be. See what I meant about inept voice direction? Anyway, after starring as the main villain of one episode in the first season, he returned in the two-part second season premiere when the Kingpin broke six supervillains out of prison and had them form the, "Insideous" Six, a group that Ock himself formed in the comics. In these episodes Ock was still the field leader among the villains, but Fisk was calling the shots. Ock did not like working for Fisk: he made this vocally clear. I'd swear that was meant to be foreshadowing that Ock would bail on Kingpin and take complete control of the group from then on out. And yet the story ended, and...nothing. Ock's betrayal never occured. But Ock's characterization was still strong in these episodes (I particularly liked his scene with Aunt May, and his exchange with the unmasked Peter), so I could forgive it. I could not forgive how they treated him in the next three seasons. His third appearance was based on both the "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" and "Attack Of The Octo-Bot" stories from the comics, and again he was working for Kingpin. Again a "Ock as Starscream" hint was dropped, but nothing came of it because he was defeated by a child. By a child! After that, he was impossible to take seriously. So he became the Kingpin's flunkie full-time, and whenever he was opposed to Fisk's plans, Fisk had to just mildly threaten him and he'd obey. What a load of bullocks! To see a once great evil genius supervillain reduced to little more than an elite mook...again, disgraceful.

- Tombstone's Joker rip-off origin!: "Fall in there a second time and your hair might turn green!" Yeah, hanging a lampshade on it doesn't make it any less of 
a rip-off (a vaguely racist one at that!) but it was funny to hear Spidey address it all the same.

- Crappy CGI Backgrounds!: They looked cool at the time? -_-

- Super Soldier Black Cat!: Yes, yes, YES. God, I hated what they did to Black Cat. I stated earlier that Felicia Hardy was a good supporting character. Knowing that she was to be the Black Cat was why I think the idea of setting her up as a regular character was a stroke of brilliance. We'd get to see her go from a sheltered snob into a strong, quick, competent thief who would have a love/hate affair with Spidey. But what did we get instead? Some contrived story involving Felicia's father that tied into the creation of Captain America, and ended up using the same super soldier formula that created Cap on Felicia, to make her the Black Cat. Say WHAT? Yes, Black Cat had super soldier strength now, and a muscular design to boot. She was a vigilante heroine rather than a thief, her love/hate affair with Spidey was instead an incredibly forced and annoying partnership that abruptly ended halfway through the season when she went off with Morbius (ugh!), and Jennifer Hale's vocal performance turned incredibly irritating, making the character come off as irritating too. The "sexyness" was soooo forced. Gah, how is it that they got Felicia right but Black Cat wrong? That was supposed to be the culmination of her character, and yet it was her ruination instead! It's a shame we'll never see what was to become of the younger Black Cat in "The Spectacular Spider-Man": she showed way more promise yet got cut short of it too soon.

- Anna Watson being a bitchy old harpy!: You will hear absolutely no argument from me on this one either. This was a complete derailment of a character's personality, made the character annoying and her scenes unbearable to sit through, and it just made no goddamn sense! Isn't Anna Watson a friend of May Parker? Isn't that how the matchmaking between Anna's niece and May's nephew came about in the first place? WHY does Anna hate Peter so much in this show? Why is May friends with a woman who openly insults her nephew? Why doesn't she, or Peter, or even MJ tell her off more? Why is this character even here if all she's going to do is bitch like the one-dimensional bitch that she is? Please make it stop? Make it stooooop!!!!

- Giant "Uber Cool" Goblin Glider that just so happened to be a $30 toy on the shelves!: I mentioned the Hobgoblin toy line before, right? Like it or not, cartoon shows make for great vehicles to market toys. Should we really be that surprised by this one?

- Dormmamu and Morbius being way too prominent!: I only remember Dormmamu being prominent twice. Twice in the same season, in fact! The first time I can let slide because it was Dr Strange's day to guest star. The second time was inexcusable. WHY bring back Baron Mordo and the Dread Dormmamu in episodes that don't feature Dr. Strange, but DO feature Venom, Carnage, Iron Man, War Machine, and Madame Web already involved? That's overkill, and Dr. Strange's villains have no place as a recurring presence on a Spider-Man show. They're way too weird for Spidey to be dealing with. As for Morbius...I'll talk more about him later, but yes: he was way more prominent than necessary. One story with him as a villain was enough.

- Madame Web with crazy Beyonder powers!: Who cares about the powers? How about Madame Web in general? That old crone was obnoxious as fuck. Always popping up to whisk Spidey away into her dimension and give him lessons that he could probably already learn on his own or offer cryptic advice that doesn't help anything. Her attitude was also insufferably arrogant and holier-than-thou. And yet she was given special treatment because Stan Lee's wife was voicing her. Now to be fair, her purpose was that she was testing Spidey and preparing him for the ultimate challenge that awaited him in the last season. But seeing as that turned out to be a Spidey version of "Secret Wars" and one big Clone Saga reference, it was lame and not all that necessary to build it up so much. Personally, I'd rather she had not been here at all.

- That lame, lame, LAME series finale!: I...actually disagree with this one. Clone Saga references aside, I thought the series finale was as good as it could be for this show at least. I mean, we had Gwen Stacy (finally!), the Kingpin getting busted in at least one reality, Spidey going up against himself as the final showdown, an appearance by Uncle Ben, Spider-Carnage offing himself, Spidey getting to meet his creator Stan Lee, and Spidey accepting himself for what he is and appreciating his life for once. It's not perfect, nor is it one of the best series finales ever, but I thought it was handled well. Plus, in the second-to-last episode, we got this gem of a line that summed up what just about everyone thought of how the Clone Saga was being handled.

- Hydro Mary Jane!: Bleh. This story should've never happened at all. It started the whole clone ordeal, brought back Hydro Man as a villain (a clone Hydro Man actually, but the original was annoying enough in one episode: we didn't need another Hydro Man for a two-parter!), included a pointless mention of the overexposed Smythe, had MJ being as unengaging as ever...and oh look, she's a water clone too! And we see her melt away, leading to a hilarious freak-out from Spidey. If this story had been taken out of the show and it had just been the real MJ whom Peter had married, then that loose end of the real Mary Jane wouldn't be left dangling. Everything would've been tied up nicely. But Semper just had to throw in the Deus Angst Machina.

- Bad forced angst!: Speaking of which. This complaint...
I personally think it's needless. Sure, this show had bad forced angst. But the thing is...ALL incarnations of Spider-Man have bad forced angst as some point or another. It's a 50/50 chance thing. Sometimes the angst feels genuine and emotional, othertimes just whiny and unnatural. The original comics had forced angst from Peter at various points. Several of the stories would end with him boo-hooing over what a shit life he has because he has to take on the responsibility of being a superhero. The movies have many mopey or crying scences. And yes, even "The Spectacular Spider-Man" had moments of forced drama, Peter's time wearing the symbiote and relationship drama with Liz and Gwen being prime offenders. Or maybe in the end, what angst you find bad and forced is entirely subjective and depends on your tolerance for it. And I personally hardly minded it.

- Stupid lame portrayal of vampirism!: The network censors and executives strike again with this one, not that it's a defense for the show going with it's portrayal. To quote a review: "Despite the fact Morbius was an interesting character, both before and after his transformation, from his origin episode up until his joining Blade to fight vampires in later season, it was incredibly difficult to take Morbius plasma draining seriously. He’s a vampire and vampires drink blood. Any child knows this, the censors should too." As creepy as the visual of the suction holes in Morbius' hands is, the way they're used to "drain plasma" from people was laughably bad, as were his declarations of "I hunger...for plaaaasmaaa!" It never sat well with me when I was a kid, and it's only gotten more ridiculous with age. Morbius, you suck because you don't suck!

- No proper resolution at the end at all!: Except for the whole "For once I like my life, I like myself, and for the first time ever, I wouldn't want to change anything about me!" thing? Are people really hung up on the fact that we didn't get to see Peter and MJ reunite? Who the Hell cares? Peter wasn't interesting on this show, MJ wasn't interesting on this show, their relationship wasn't interesting on this show! Can't we have the hero get his happy ending without having to "get the girl" as a prize in the end? I certainly don't think it ruins anything.

- Peter looking bulkier than Spider-Man!: Okay, this was really distracting. This show's Peter's design had slicked hair, a handsome face with a square jaw, and was very well built and muscular. That's not how Peter is supposed to look. Peter Parker is a scrawny, lanky science nerd! And indeed, the design/model for Spider-Man actually looked less muscular than the one for Peter. Spidey had the build that Peter should always have, yet his build apparently changes when he's out of costume? I mean, even in a flashback to his origin where he's a high school nerd, he's a muscular nerd! And we're supposed to believe this guy was picked on? Check out his shirtless scenes too, where we can see his bulky muscles in all their glory. Yeesh! Just 'cause Christopher Daniel Barnes is doing the voice doesn't mean Peter has to look like Prince Eric. Except Prince Eric wasn't so goshdamn muscular! So seriously, what was the deal?

- No Sandman!: A shame to see a whole Spider-Man show run without a classic villain ever appearing. Hydro Man was a really poor substitute. But oh well.

- Overabundance of guest stars!: Ah, now this is one of my biggest problems with the show. This show is called "Spider-Man". It should not be used as a vehicle for showing off as many other Marvel superheroes as possible. In this show, we had Nick Fury, the X-Men, the Punisher, Blade the Vampire Hunter, Doctor Strange and his enemies, Daredevil, Iron Man, Captain America, Red Skull, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom, and the Beyonder all appearing! Why not throw in the Incredible Hulk and Thor while you're at it and be done with it? Crossovers with guest stars once in awhile is fine, but it gets old when it's done constantly, over and over again. And this brings me to a big problem that John Semper had: he didn't seem to understand his limitations, or how to properly execute continuity. He seemed to think that bringing in character and then re-using them again later on = continuity! When in truth, just because you can bring back certain characters to use in stories doesn't mean you should! He did this with Spidey characters like Morbius, the Lizard, Madame Web, Smythe, Silvermane, and Hydro Man among others: characters who would be best left off being dropped at a certain point instead becoming overexposed. And with guest stars, we saw Nick Fury, Storm of the X-Men, the Punisher, Blade, Mordo and Dormmamu, Iron Man, and Captain America on more than one occasion, even though one was really all we needed. This is supposed to be Spider-Man's show. Why couldn't it just stick to the Spidey stuff? Oh, that's right: 'cause Semper's a hack. Which is a subject I will be tackling at the very end of this list.

- "Sinister" is too scary: how about "Insideous?": This just stumps me. Just a WORD like "sinister" would scare kids? Huh? Shows like "Batman" and "Darkwing Duck" have used it before and I doubt kids lost any sleep over it. What's truly baffling is that this call was made by the network even when the Marvel Animation studio's "X-Men" cartoon could get away with using Mr Sinister at the same time! This is beyond dumb and confusing.

That's it for Greg's list. Now let me bring up some issues of my own:

- Character Misrepresentations: Let it be known that I'm not a "This character must be EXACTLY like he/she was in the source material or else he/she is ruined!" type of person when it comes to adaptations. I don't like that sort of elitist snobbery. When translating something from one storytelling medium to another, things will change. This is especially true with comic book characters. In the comics medium, there is no single definitive characterization for a character because there is no singular definitive writer: the comics and their characters get written by several writers that come in and out of the business. So I understand if liberties are taken with how such things are portrayed. Where I draw the line is when the core spirit of the character and their basic essentials that should always be there get absolutely buttfucked and thrown down the crapper. (I'll actually only forgive it if I feel like the core spirit and essentials of the original character were bad, thus the change is an improvement. Yes, we people will be hypocrites)  For instance, I think that all the major characters in the "Spider-Man" movies are valid interpretations of the characters even if they differ from the comics portrayals. In this show, however, I often felt characters were seriously misrepresented. Let's go back to our old pal Norman Osborn. As Greg has stated, he felt more like a good man gone bad than a bad man gone nuts. His mental illness was portrayed all wrong. His demons are meant to have always been there before the lab accident: all that did was bring them out to the surface. Stan Lee has said that he's a Jekyll/Hyde type villain in the duality of his personas: how one is a calm, stoic and civilized man while the other is a cackling psycho, with the latter being the man's true nature. It was not literal Jekyll/Hyde Smeagol/Gollum schizophrenia, but that's what the show gave him. The movie did it too, but at least that had a little bit of ambiguity in those scenes, and Dafoe's Norman was clearly a jerk from the word go. This show's Norman just was a pitiful whiner, and this character is not supposed to be that at all. (I did love it when the Goblin persona called him on this, though: "Quit whining, Osborn!")  There was also Mary Jane Watson. As a kid, I found her to be a terribly boring, unengaging, unappealing character. Her flaky girly manchild voice and her design (bright red hair, bright red lips, pale blue eyes, a manly jaw, a yellow sweater, purple jeans, and cowboy boots? ICK!) were just atrocious, and I remembered her more for Spidey constantly screaming her name than I did for anything she did. I cared nothing for her character and her and Peter's romance. Boy did that change when I got exposed to the other versions of MJ: she was nothing like that bore from the 90's cartoon! The core spirit of her character just wasn't in that show. The same can be said for characters like Aunt May, Anna, Liz, Doc Ock, Electro, Professor Miles Warren, the Vulture, etc. They just didn't capture the core spirits of these characters.

- Kingpin's Misuse: I enjoyed Wilson Fisk's character in the first season. Yes his "hidden Technodrome crime HQ in the Chrysler building" was dumb, but I still got the sense that he's the guy who controls New York's crime and villainy. Then when the second season started with the "Insideous Six" story, he started descending into generic bossing of supervillainy rather than behind the scenes management of crime. The first sign of overexposure came when he turned up in the X-Men two-parter, a story that did NOT need him. He was then featured in the "Tablet of Time" two-parter, which set him up for some character development at the end when his wife had it with him and left him for good, which seemed like a blow to him. His next appearance comes...nope, it's not ever followed up on or spoken of again! He's back to being the generic big bad guy! He got one more chance in the "Framed" two-parter, which revealed a bit about his background with his father and how he rose as a crime boss, showed the animosity between him and guest star Daredevil (whose father he killed), had Spidey learning of his identity as the Kingpin, and featured his son Richard. After such a big story for Fisk, what was the follow-up? Smythe ceasing to work for him, Richard Fisk never showing any thoughts of vengeance on his father in his only other appearance, and when Spider-Man finally confronted him face-to-face, it was in the Spot episode! That was it: he ceased to be interesting. Even worse is that was that he was just so overexposed as the Big Bad of the show behind almost every major bad thing that went on. He was for this show what Norman Osborn became in the comics. It's not cool when he does it and it wasn't cool when Fisk did.

- Morbius' Character Derailment: When Michael Morbius first became a vampire and a villain on the show, I thought he was very interesting. I could forgive the plasma suckers in his hands: I loved him when I was a kid. The main reason being that he was one of my earlier exposures to an Anti-Villain. He had come to the US to do research on a cure for a plague that infected his home country, but was a tragic victim of his own mistakes. I sympathized with him and totally understood why he wanted to go back to being normal but could not fight the hunger that was now a part of his natural instincts. I wanted to see him get stopped before he hurt anyone, but at the same time I wanted to see his desire to be cured come true. I thought that making his vampirism get created from the same radioactive neogenics that created Spider-Man was a nice touch too, and helped to make him more compelling. For a villain who was such a bore in the comics, this was an improvement. And then in the start of a two-parter which followed off of the Man-Spider three-parter that already featured him, Morbius decided that he wanted to give into his hunger and deliberately hurt others. He also decided that he wanted to turn everyone in the city into vampires. To inflict the same curse he has upon countless innocents. And why did he want to do this? The reason he gave was LITERALLY that "I woke up tonight and realized that I now like being this way! I want to stay an immortal vampire and to continuously satisfy my hunger! And I want to make everyone just like me!" Err...WHAT? That is terrible, terrible lazy writing and a total destruction of previously established motivations and characterization! He turns around afterwards, but only 'cause he's "redeemed by the power of love." Him shouting "I WILL LOVE YOU ALWAYS!" to Felicia was horribly cheesy. When he reappeared in Season 4, I hung onto hope that he'd become interesting again, but to no avail. He was now a boring hero and a boring boyfriend for Felicia/Black Cat. Our plasma addict got a raw deal.

- Silvermane's role in general: We already had Kingpin on the show. If Silvermane was to be featured, he'd have to be a minor rival to Kingpin, which is what he started off as. But then he became a major villain in a two-parter. He came up again when his dumbass daughter was running his gang. Then again when Smythe went to work for him and he was an evil talking baby who turned back into an old man. (Don't even ask!) And then again when his name was mentioned by Miles Warren, revealing that he was working for him. Thankfully nothing came out of this since the series ended shortly afterwards. This whole while, the character was boring and had a really grating voice. His overuse shows how Semper never got how to do continuity!

- The Lizard's Badass Decay: The Lizard usually works best as a one-shot villain at best, because most other stories to feature him are repeats of the first one. 
In this show, the Lizard was the villain of the first episode, "Night Of The Lizard", which was a damn good episode: probably the series' best. But of course Semper had to bring him back many times over. How did those return appearances go? First he gets owned by a young Silvermane. Then he gets made the king of a race of sewer-dwelling talking lizard men. Finally, he becomes a good guy during the Secret Wars since the Hulk still wasn't available. Way to tarnish the Lizard's good name!

- Lame youth-draining Vulture: Since this was a 90's cartoon, they used the 90's take on the character. And I hate that take on him. The Vulture is a bald old man with a crooked nose who puts on a costume with wings. That's why he's called the Vulture! Giving him youth-draining powers and turning him into a handsome young man with a full head of hair ruins the image completely! This version of Vulture was really annoying, and not written very interestingly.

- The Neogenic Nightmare: Past the initial 13 episode first season, the seasons started to have titles for their story arcs. Season 2 was "Neogenic Nightmare", Season 3 was "Sins Of The Fathers", Season 4 was "Partners In Danger", and Season 5 was "Six Forgotten Warriors" AND "Secret/Spider Wars". I bring up the "Neogenic Nightmare" arc because that was the one where the show took it's first decline. The first half of it was fine: the "Insideous Six" two-parter, the Hydro Man episode, the X-Men two-parter, and the Man-Spider three parter that it was all building up to. By the time that was done, it felt like the story was complete. But then there was the Morbius two-parter, the Tablet of Time two-parter, and the Vulture two-parter. And during those ones, Spidey's neogenic condition returned, threatening to turn him into the Man-Spider again! Now 
it was really starting to wear thin. Another example of Semper just not knowing when to let things go.

- The handling of Green Goblin: Green Goblin got it bad on this show. We already talked about his Norman Osborn persona, but what about the Goblin himself? His design was good, but the bad voice direction hampered Neil Ross' performance. His voice was 
an imitation of Dennis Marks' take on the character from the 80's cartoons (where Neil Ross had previously voiced Norman, a "good man gone bad" in those shows too). That's not bad in itself and 
he does a damn good imitation, but his laugh was awful and the voice would go through a variety of pitches, never staying consistent. In his first appearance it was perfect up until he got unmasked, 
at which point he suddenly starts to sound like he's inhaled helium (particularly memorable is the squeaky "Stooop staaaaaaring at meeee!"), then it sounded annoyingly high-pitched in his second appearance, dropped to sounding deeper than it was in his debut in the following episode, was high pitched again in a flashback at the start of the following episode, was back at a normal pitch in his fourth appearance, and sounded high and whiny again in his fifth and final appearance. That's right, 
he only had five appearances. Two of which he was a ghost or hallucination, and Harry was the Green Goblin in the present day. Harry was just laughable as the Goblin, his insanity was forced, and his voice was unbearably annoying. You thought Harry's voice was bad already? It's downright harmful to the ears when he's trying to sound evil, particularly in a scene where Smythe provides him with robots and he cackles "Excellent! Eeeeeexcellent!" Yeesh! Oh, and Norman Goblin felt for himself at times. I mean, always talking about how he "just wants to make Norman happy?" I got all sorts of wrong vibes from that! All in all, Green Goblin just didn't feel like the great adversary he's supposed to be. In fact, I was surprised to learn that he was Spidey's arch enemy, given how little he was exposed on this show. Spidey's number one villain totally deserved better.

- Smythe's Misuse: Alistair Smythe was another character whom I loved what this show did with. I loved that he became the Kingpin's main henchman who built all the machines and devices for him, and thought that the characters played off each other very well. I really enjoyed Kingpin's delivery of the name "Smythe!" for some reason. When he turned into Spider-slayer himself and turned against the Kingpin upon finding out that his presumed dead father Spencer could still be saved, it felt like the culmination of his character was near. But instead, we saw him receiving similar treatment as Doc Ock. He became an overexposed thug working for whomever the plot demanded he work with all in the name of "saving his father", which he never got any closer to and never succeeded in doing once the show was done. Yet another sad waste.

- Landon replacing Smythe: Just...why? If Smythe had to be replaced as the Kingpin's main lackey, then why replace him with this minor bigot from the X-Men two-parter who now looks like Two-Face and whose character now has nothing to do with mutants whatsoever? Because we have to bring back any character possible in order to strengthen the continuity, that's why! Ugh. Landon was a boring character and a really poor substitute for Smythe. And with David Warner doing his voice, we once again had a great talent wasted by piss-poor voice direction and bad delivery. I mean, why the heck did he slur his words so often as he did?

- That horrible Venom and Carnage two-parter: I honestly enjoyed "Rocket Racer" and "The Spot" better than these episodes. At least those ones, particularly the latter, were so bad they were funny. Not so with this two-parter. As I mentioned before, it had Venom and Carnage, Dormmamu and Baron Mordo, Iron Man and War Machine, and Madame Web all included at once. What I didn't mention is that it derailed Eddy Brock's character by having him suddenly thinking of himself as "fighting for the innocent" like he did in the comics. I enjoyed how Brock/Venom was handled in the first season and loved that they dropped that stupid aspect of his character. Bringing it in now is stupid because it does not add up with how he was portrayed before, which was as a selfish slimeball. Meanwhile Carnage, a lame villain to begin with, is made lamer by having to "drain lifeforce" from people rather than kill them. It's Morbius' plasma hunger all over again! And how does the story end? With Venom being redeemed by the power of love, of course! Towards a woman we just saw in these episodes, and spent little time with Brock on-screen. LAME. And Venom's "blue and red highlights" color scheme was even worse here than it was in his debut.

- Hobgoblin's pussification: This is one that really gets me. Like I already said, Hobgoblin was probably this show's best villain. Great design, great voice performance by Mark Hamill, and strong characterization that was dead-on accurate to how the character was portrayed in his original comic appearances. I enjoyed him in his debut two-parter, 
I enjoyed him in the X-Men two-parter, and I enjoyed seeing him again in the third season. But then he was unmasked and revealed to be Jason Phillip Macendale, the guy Felicia was currently dating. Now aside from the fact that Macendale was a terrible imitation of the original Hobgoblin in the comics, him being Hobby on the show isn't the problem seeing as Roderick Kingsley was not yet revealed as the real Hobgoblin at the time this was made and Macendale was acting more like Kingsley on this show anyway. The problem is that upon his unmasking, the character changed completely. He's giggling psychotically and boasting about how he was a former petty crook turned hired thug who became rich from crime. He was clearly now being set up to look as undeserving of the Goblin mantle as Green Goblin was saying her was. Then when Green Goblin came in to retrieve the dimensional transporter from him at last, Macendale launches a sneak attack...that Green Goblin disarms in a millisecond and knocks Macendale to the floor. And he goes down just like that! What 
a wussy! Then both Macendale and Felicia are forced to come along with the Goblin, who makes them both damsels in distress tied over a vat of chemicals. During this period, Macendale pathetically tries to bribe his way out of it by offering to pay the Goblin, but this fails because he's not interested in money. Once Felicia and Macendale are saved, the latter whines about how he HAD to turn to crime: he had nothing before he became a crook! When asked by Felicia if he really loved her, he can only stammer " things about you. Your looks...and your wealth!" At which point she turns down the putz and his ass is hauled off to jail. Considering how fun and cool Hobgoblin was on this show, I so was offended to see Jason Phillip Macendale turned into..Jason Phillip Macendale!

- John Semper's Author Tract: And in that same episode that pussified Hobgoblin, there was a part that really bugged me. John Semper made it no secret that he hated Hobgoblin. He found him to be a poor Green Goblin substitute in the comics, and hated him even more on the show because he was brought in to be the show runner during the time the decision to have Hobgoblin replace Green Goblin due to the Hobgoblin toyline being made. Semper's personal "saving throw" was to have Norman Osborn be the one to supply Macendale with the Goblin gear he needed to be the Hobgoblin, the same gear Norman himself would use once he became the Green Goblin. But the way the show expressed this was odd. "They were never meant for him!" Osborn claims "There was only one true goblin: the Green Goblin!" OK Normie: so when you made those tools for Hobgoblin, they were "destined" to be yours to use as Green Goblin? And we're expected to believe this? Apparently, we were. Because when Green Goblin returned and fought with Hobgoblin, he kept insisting he was "the REAL Goblin" and referring to Hobgoblin as "Cheap imitation" "Imposter Goblin" and "faker". This makes no sense in this context where the Hobgoblin clearly came first! If anything, it ought to be Hobby calling Gobby the fake! Then it all became clear when Green Goblin broke into Macendale's home, revealing that he knew who he was. "I know that it was Norman Osborn who gave you all your Goblin equipment. And now I'm going to undo his mistake! I'm taking back everything that ever fell into your misbegotten hands!" Once you've researched the behind-the-scenes drama of the Hobgoblin, you realize that Semper (who wrote this episode himself) is using Green Goblin as a mouthpiece to voice his views. When he says he'll "undo HIS mistake!" by removing Hobgoblin from the picture, it's not really the Goblin talking about Osborn: it's John Semper talking about his predecessor. Semper hated that the previous showrunner made the decision to put Hobgoblin in before Green Goblin, so this was his way of "getting revenge" and "making up for it."  The problem is that none of this makes any sense in the context of the show. In the show, Hobgoblin was the first Goblin. Nothing that Semper had the Green Goblin say changed that. Not even ending the episode with one more "REAL Goblin!" line followed by another laugh. At least Spidey spoke MY views in that same episode: "That laugh is REALLY getting on my nerves!"

- "Turning Point": Not so much the episode itself: I actually enjoy this episode, especially compared to the many wretched episodes that came before it. But it was quite literally the turning point of the show. While I liked the first season best, I found some things to enjoy in the second and third seasons. The fourth and fifth seasons that followed this episode were just bad. Bad in a bad way. Even as a kid, I could feel myself losing interest during the fourth season, and I never even saw the fifth season until my teen years. When I did, I found it okay.

- Scorpion's Badass Decay: Scorpion, a previously threatening villain, got turned into a mundane thug who only served to further other villains' plots. AGAIN. *Sigh.*

- Poor treatment of the elderly: Seriously, what was up with how this show treated old people and old age? Aunt May was regularly senile, Anna Watson was a bitchy harpy, Silvermane was a feeble old loon obsessed with getting his youth back, Vulture was also a feeble old loon obsessed with getting his youth back, Madame Web was an old hag, even Miles Warren was made into an older man than he was in the comics...just to show he's bad? 
Start respecting your elders, damnit!

- The Boring Prowler: My thoughts on the episode "The Prowler": Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

- Cheaper animation past Season 1: I've made it no secret that I consider the first season of this show to be easily the best. It had the best stories, the best pace, the most reasonable amount of continuity before Semper started dicking around with the plot, and above all, the best animation. For some reason the animation budget seemed better in the earlier episodes, where things wore more bright and colorful and detailed. Some episodes in later seasons like the Man Spider arc, "Enter The Green Goblin" and "Turning Point" got this quality back, but for the most part the animation got cheaper and blander. 90% of it being stock footage like was mentioned in one of the earlier points definitely did not help.

- Too much of a 90's thing!: And this is the last thing that went south after the first season. Season 1 could actually feel like classic Spidey. From Season 2 and onwards, it was very clear that Semper and the writing team was taking their inspiration from the kind of stories that were in the Spider-Man comics out at the time. The comics of the 90's. The 90's started the dark age of comic books that, in my opinion, has never really gone away. That they were looking at these modern comics (with stuff like the Symbiotes, Punisher and Blade, Doc Ock 
in metallic armor, youth-draining Vulture, Jason Phillip Macendale, Slayer Smythe, hired thug Tombstone, anti-hero Morbius, and of course, the Clone Saga) rather than starting with the older comics shows that they didn't have that much time or respect for Spidey's mythos, and so the tone 
of the show came off as very blatantly 90'ish. Not something I want to see in my Spider-Man.

- John Semper: Last thing I'll mention is the man himself, 
the show runner - John Semper Jr. This guy is not only a hack, but an incredibly arrogant, egocentric, smug, pretentious hack who has an over inflated image of both himself and the shows he works on, this one included. Actually, especially this one since he's boasted about it alot, pretty much calling it the best damn Spider-Man show ever. If you were to go read transcripts of his interviews, you'd see how much the guy kisses his own ass any chance he gets. And y'know, it's a shame. I can see where he was coming from with this show. Apparently the execs, censors, toy marketers, and other clueless crew members were always breathing down his neck in their crusade to make this show a hit with kids, to the point where inserting any sort of meaningful plot, continuity, and character development felt like sneaking something in past the radar for Semper. I can totally respect his intentions in what he was doing. Here's the problem: he has no talent in writing such things. At least, I don't think he does. And even if you believe he does have talent, that does NOT excuse his rude, stuck up and unprofessional attitude. This man takes way too much pride in what he does, so much that it's actually kind of revolting. Stop kissing your own ass, John fail. Big time.

Well, that was it. Can I end this on something positive about the 90's Spider-man cartoon show?

I don't care what you think of it, but that theme song ROCKS!