DuckTales Episode 23 Review: The Shadow War!

While the action and comedy are of course amazing the real stand out of the DuckTales season finale are its characters.

This DuckTales review contains spoilers.

DuckTales Episode 23

This finale was a nonstop high stakes adventure that not only captured the feelings you remember from the original series (but better than they ever could be) but could have easily been a theatrical movie with little tweaking.

But I’m not going to talk about that because I want to focus on the thing DuckTales has quietly succeeded at for its entire first season. The thing that is its greatest strength. The thing that puts it head, shoulders, and beaks above its competition.

It’s very quick but incredibly powerful character moments. Throughout these twenty three episodes DuckTales has taken a series that could have just been a zany comedy or thrilling action series and gave it a lot of heart and soul. One that wasn’t afraid to brush against some incredibly heart wrenching topics. No better is that exemplified then in Lena’s story.

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Controlled by Magica, Lena desperately tried to bury any feelings of friendship she had for Webby. Slowly but surely though she couldn’t ignore them. Webby’s undying affection and love helped Lena feel accepted for the first time in her life. Seeing Webby with her own family made Lena realize how cruel and horrifying Magica truly was.

Even still she couldn’t break free. Magica exerted her control the moment Lena attempted to break free. It was a horrifying depiction of abuse, far more chilling than even the nightmare fuel this episode brought us (although Magica as Lena pulling at her eyes was gross as hell). 

“The Shadow War!” adds a brilliant new layer to this abuse coding to Lena; she’s literally just a shadow of Magica. It’s all conveyed in the middle of an incredible action scene with the triplets and Webby but that doesn’t lessen its impact.

Lena is completely defined by the relationship with Magica. It’s the whole reason for her existence. She’s nothing without her “aunt”. It parallels exactly how abuse victims can feel, especially with their families. They’re only there to fill an unending hole and get nothing but hurt in return.

Which is all the more empowering that Lena is able to escape from Magica in the end. She’s still a shadow but now she’s attached to Webby, her best friend. It opens up a world of possibilities for the character. Now that she’s free of her aunt what will she do? Will she try to replicate that relationship with Webby, bending to her every need even if she doesn’t ask for it? Will she become uncomfortable without that abuse, a constant in her life, and long to return to Magica? I can’t wait to see what Kimiko Glenn continues to do with this part because she’s consistently delivered.

Lena’s truly powerful character arc is one the series has only begun to tackle. 

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This kind of character moment is what gives the finale its true power. Without them it’d just be a bunch of (really cool looking) action sequences. Nothing wrong with that but DuckTales is committed to putting its characters emotions, particularly relating to  family, at the center of the action.

Webby and Launchpad, desperately trying to save a family they aren’t even technically apart of, is both hilarious and heartfelt. It could be argued Webby was the main character of the season and her arc reaches a triumphant moment when she’s able to bring everyone back together with the help of Beakley.

Let’s also discuss Donald. Getting Don Cheadle to provide his altered voice was a comedic stroke of brilliance but it also highlights an overlooked part of the character. Just because Donald often sounds unintelligible or foolish doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something of value to say. Again, like Lena, there’s some coding here but don’t we all know people who can’t fully communicate what’s in their heads? 

Donald’s brief altered voice here lets us in on how just how smart and heroic he is all the time. It tells us that even those we can’t understand (whether it be because of a disability or even a language barrier) are just as valid and amazing as the rest of us. We still should love them and appreciate them.

I could write about this finale for days. There’s a real value in doing a minute by minute analysis in its comedy, action, animation, and how it wraps up so many themes and arcs running through the season. It’s a jam-packed finale but never feels overburdened. Which actually feels a lot like the season as a whole.

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DuckTales has never been satisfied to let an episode just be “okay”. Even with the few episodes that were less than average (and it had VERY few of those) they still clearly had a lot of love and care put into them. You can tell that every single person working on this show took every opportunity they could to make it the greatest thing they ever worked on.

From the shockingly brilliant dark humor (did you expect so many death jokes?)  to the animation that puts movies to shame to the award worthy cast performances, you can tell this show is special to them all. It’s the kind of series I hope runs and runs because its potential is endless.

Special shout out to everyone who worked on this finale, including directors Tanner Johnson and Matthew Humphreys, writers Frank Angones, Christian Magalhaes, Bob Snow, Colleen Evanson, Madison Bateman, board artists Ben Holm, Vaughn Tada, Vince Aparo, Emmy Cicierega, Brandon Warren, Jason Zurek, executive producer Matt Youngberg, and the many many other crew members who poured their love into this finale and the entire show.

I can’t wait for the series to return. We all need something this fantastic in our lives.

DuckTales Quotes To Make Your Life Better 

– “Grunts lift. Leaders stabilize.”

– “Emergency bounce house!”

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– “I’m a former agent and a grandmother. I know how to weaponize guilt.”

– “CURSE YOUUU MEEEEEEEE!” (Bless Glomgold)

– “No more underwater labs. It’s volcanoes or abandoned castles from now on!”

-“I’ve been trapped for fifteen years. I’m entitled to a minute of gloating.”

Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter! Read more articles by him here!

Rating:

4.5 out of 5