This DUCKTALES review contains spoilers.
Lena and Magica’s arc in DuckTales has consistently been the series’ strongest. While fantastical on the surface it’s been grounded in the very real emotions of trauma. It’s shown off the more dramatic side of the series and most of the Lena and Magica episodes have featured some incredibly creepy images.
All of that makes ‘The Phantom and the Sorceress!’ fall short in comparison. It’s DuckTales so there’s a lot to love but after two full seasons of building up a strong arc between Magica and Lena this episode rushed through a great deal of development that could have been spread out over a much longer series of episodes.
The biggest jump was Lena working with Magica. These two share a horrific history and the way Lena casually went to see her, even with some reluctance, felt off. This should have been a bigger moment for Lena or at least one that was driven by a more personal motivation. This could have been a huge emotional lynchpin of their story, Lena realizing she needs Magica’s help but afraid of what it might do to her. How Magica might ensnare her under her power again.
Instead Lena takes it mostly in stride. You could infer Lena’s gotten over everything she was struggling with in ‘A Nightmare on Killmotor Hill’ but those emotions needed to be addressed again in order to make this plot work. Lena going from that fear over becoming like Magica to casually learning from her needed more space to breathe.
It also leans much more on comedy than other Lena and Magica episodes. There have been comedy moments in those sure but they mostly came from other characters (let us never forget Huey’s legs.) Here Magica is the butt of a lot of jokes and I’m conflicted about it. On the positive side I loved the 80’s montage jam and Magica’s house is filled with a ton of great little details (the wall art was especially great.) We’ve seen Magica being played for jokes in ‘GlomTales!’ but doing it with Lena around robbed the arc of much of its power. You could say this is the ultimate way of taking Magica down several pegs but we needed more time for this to be earned.
There’s some great set-up at the start of the episode with Lena worried about everything triggering her magic and Scrooge off handedly mentioning “nothing good has ever come from magic.” I’m sure the team behind DuckTales didn’t want to feel like they were repeating ‘Killmotor’ again with Lena unsure how to deal with her past but there’s still a lot of untapped story potential in the after effects of her abuse. I wish the episode had delved into that instead of working with Magica so quickly.
The inclusion of Gladstone was an understandable choice even if it had somewhat underwhelming results. I like the character and his anguish at not having everything goes his was fun but he never quite clicked with the rest of the cast here. His bits felt like they could have been excised from the plot and you wouldn’t have lost much.
However the episode does manage to recover by the end as Lena begins to learn about her own magical powers. Magica attempts to get her to rely on anger but Webby shows her a different path. Magic powered by friendship! It’s the most Webby thing ever but after so much build up between her and Lena it feels perfectly earned. Lena’s only able to access her own magical powers when she thinks about friendship and manages to take on an all-new form, one that doesn’t rely on Magica’s powers. She defeats the enemy and delivers this killer line to Magica,
“I intend to protect (the world) from people like you thanks to your training.”
As much as the episode rushed past some important development between the two, this line alone goes some way to redeeming it. It speaks to an empowering side of Lena, that despite being hurt by Magica she refuses to do it to anyone else. She’ll take the lessons she learned from her abuser and use them to save others.
It also sets up a new story for Lena, one that lets her break away from Magica but could be much darker than it seems at first. Yes, Lena could use her friendship powers for good and that’s the end of it. Or she could take her newfound powers too far; so desperate to right the wrongs of Magica she loses all focus on taking care of herself. It’s another rich area to explore when it comes to trauma and abuse victims. I hope DuckTales takes advantage of it.
Until now the Lena and Magica arc had been DuckTales‘ strongest and most consistent story and while this episode didn’t derail it, it certainly stumbled at the wrong moment. It can still easily recover and there’s a lot of fun to be had with this episode, I just can’t help think about what could have been and how it rushed past something so important. Maybe the team behind DuckTales was given a directive from on high to get past the darkness of Lena and Magica and if so they did their best with what time they were given.
At least we got more Violet though and that’s always a plus.
DuckTales Quotes To Make Your Life Better
– “I suppose we could just as much fun exploring the complex realm of interpersonal relationships.”
-“She’s very strong for a bog woman!”