This DuckTales review contains spoilers.
DuckTales Season 2 Episode 19
DuckTales is the funniest show on TV but when it wants to? It can also be the most gut wrenching, tear jerking one. When I talked last episode about DuckTales’ characters being well grounded in believable motivations that holds doubly true when the show tells a more dramatic story. Especially when it involves Lena.
After literally exercising her demons in her last full appearance, Lena hasn’t been doing well. She got the evil directly out of her life but the trauma of Magica still lingers. Lena and Magica’s relationship steps firmly out of the abuse coding that it had been up to now and full on acknowledges it, albeit in a dream plot where Lena turns into a monster that looks right out of Gargoyles (those wings, amirite?)
Lena is terrified of going to sleep because of her bad dreams. While we later learn they were caused by Magica, it still speaks to Lena wrestling with her trauma. She fears sleep because then she’ll have to face the horror’s of her life, so she does everything possible to stay awake. To keep moving, to not acknowledge the fear… But that only works for so long.
Webby attempts to reassure her that she isn’t evil, she’s good! Good enough to be their friend. Lena accepts it outwardly but you know it isn’t sinking in. After years of abuse it’s hard to accept you’re worthy of that kind of friendship. That love. Magica was the evil one but Lena feels more responsibility than Magica ever has or will. She did so much less but she feels like more of a monster than Magica.
Thus her dreams have her take on that form literally. Slowly at first but by the climax she’s almost turned into her worst nightmare, Magica. Magica needs Lena’s help to get her magic back and she’ll do anything to make it happen. The words Magica carefully chooses full on gaslight Lena, the abuse continuing once more.
“What did you do to me?”
“Me? This is all you. Did you think you’d turn out different than me? I’m trying to save you. You came from me.”
It’s not Magica, it’s all Lena’s fault! She can’t be better! She’s evil, just like Magica…. Magica… The only one who can save her.
It’s horrifying. DuckTales doesn’t need jump scares, blood, or violence to sell the most bone chilling moment in it two season run. It just needs words that are all too real. The kind that can completely crush a person’s soul.
DuckTales’ portrayal of abuse is deadly serious and, as we’ve seen in all the previous Lena episodes, incredibly effective. Lena’s struggle isn’t easily resolved. The abuse isn’t a one and done deal. It’s something that literally haunts her and the way she almost gives up here? Tired of fighting against it? That rang so heart breakingly true.
As I’ve discussed in past Lena episodes, I faced similar trauma to her and these episodes help me to understand my own feelings. Like the best media, it held up a mirror to my own life so I could safely look at it. It reminded me how some abuse victims put so much pressure on themselves to be “better”. It’s soul crushing. You hold yourself to a set a standards that aren’t even well defined. You just fear doing anything that could be “bad”, just like Lena in this episode. She shoved aside her own good actions because she wasn’t good enough.
One of the most important things you can do, and Webby shows Lena this, is acknowledge you aren’t your abuser.
“You’re not her. You’re you. You put so much pressure on yourself to be good. But you’re good enough.”
That says it all. You’re good enough. You deserve good things and good people. Don’t push them away or hide things, just because one-person hurt you doesn’t mean others will to.
Lena is able to break free of Magica and if the episode stopped there? It would have been amazing… but it didn’t.
It kept going. Magica appears in the real world and it’s revealed she was deliberately messing with Lena’s dreams. Yes it was with a fantastical dream machine thing but it was abuse. Pure and simple. However, Magica steps into the light and it’s revealed she has no real power. Without Lena she’s nothing. A shabbily mess. Damn near a dusk of a person. She cries out to her,
“We’re family. You need me.”
But Lena, in a moment that made me smile wide and pump my first in air, replies,
“I don’t need you. YOU NEED ME! You are no longer allowed in my head!”
It’s a brilliant line that externalizes Lena’s struggle with Magica’s abuse. This isn’t the end of that story arc, not by a long shot, but it gave Lena a triumphant moment. A moment that let he be in control for perhaps the first time in her life. Putting those words into action will be tough, but it’s the right first step.
‘A Nightmare on Killmotor Hill!’ is without question one of DuckTales’ absolute best. Not just because of the Lena plot but how it develops it. It handles the effects of abuse with great care and devastating power. My hat goes off to everyone involved with this episode, Emmy Cicierega for writing it, Tanner Johnson for directing it, Emmy, Vince Aparo, and Ben Holm for boarding it, and everyone who touched it.
There’s also the Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby, and Violent dreams which were just delightful. Huey’s dream especially was bonkers but extremely revealing. He wants his “oldest child” status to be made manifest yet he can’t even dream it properly, coming out as horrific sized limbs. There’s a lot to unpack there, buddy.
DuckTales Quotes To Make Your Life Better
– “Time loses all meaning in the infinite night of the Shadow Realm.”
– “If TV and movies taught me anything when you turn into a teen you just have to sing!”
– “Wake up, kids! What are you lot still doing asleep? It’s almost 6AM. Go get some jobs!