The Beagle Birthday Massacre is, pardon the phrase, an odd duck of an episode. This isn’t a bad thing! Really, it’s a strong outing that expands the world of DuckTales in interesting ways, giving us a better appreciation for the Beagle Boys while also teasing the return of a classic villain. We also get further character examination of Webby—who, at this early point in the show, is one of its best fleshed out characters. Not to mention that The Beagle Birthday Massacre provides these things while framed in a spot-on parody of cult classic The Warriors. You know, for the kids!
The episode starts with Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby together, preparing a small rowboat for an adventure in the waters outside Duckburg. While excited at first, Webby’s becomes dismayed as the boys ease into a familiar beat during their preparations, sharing laughs and jokes that she, as the group’s newcomer, doesn’t have the context to appreciate. Driving the point home is that when the kids go to shove off, there’s only room for three in the boat. Webby, not wanting to rock the boat in either sense, volunteers to stay behind. It’s relatable and a little painful watching Webby deal with the awkwardness that comes with joining an existing social group. I’m glad that DuckTales is shining the spotlight on these sorts of common struggles and anxieties that kids face. Growing up is hard, and seeing your heroes deal with these day-to-day things all while also managing to fight ghosts and hunt treasure is empowering.
Luckily for Webby, thanks to a string of messages in bottles that seem tailored to pique her interest (we’ll get to that), Webby is led to a dilapidated seaside amphitheater where she meets series newcomer Lena. Lena is another young duck, but we shortly see that she is the yin to Webby’s yang: where Webby is “book” smart, capable, and longing for connection, Lena is savvy, charismatic and distanced. The “too cool for school” archetype is hardly new, but Lena and Webby help round each other out as the episode progresses. And progress it does, as Lena convinces Webby to break into a midnight junkyard party—“All the best parties are at burnt out junkyards,” Lena assures Webby—where the episode’s The Warriors homage begins in earnest.
It’s Ma Beagle’s birthday, and the Beagle Boys are celebrating in force. Now, we all knew that Big Time, Bouncer, and Burger weren’t the whole gang. But the introduction of the various Beagle Boy factions are a great concept in a few ways. The silly playfulness of the various subgroups allow for some great gags (The Glam Yankees! The Long Board Taquitos!), while also providing a quick way to shore up the threat of the Beagle Boys without relying on a sea of generic goons in red sweaters. Conversely, it makes the trio of Big Time, Bouncer, and Burger stand out as “the” Beagle Boys, which is a bit of distinction that only helps (“Well, obviously we should do it. I mean, we’re like the main guys, right?”).
Things predictably go awry, and Webby and Lena flee the junkyard, winding their way through nighttime Duckburg, trying to reach the safety of McDuck Manor. This is a well done sequence, deftly balancing The Warriors references (Almost run down by a bus/other large vehicle? Check. Hit progress called out on the radio? Check. Finger stuck in bottle? Check.), character moments between Webby and Lena, and the reintroduction of Huey, Dewey and Louie, who have been searching for Webby after returning from their outing. That everything ends well for the reunited kids isn’t a surprise, but to see that the night’s events have helped Webby grow a bit more confident and make her first friend outside of McDuck Manor makes their arrival at home all the better.
It’s a shame, then, that Lena isn’t what she seems.
Now, that’s not entirely fair. I’d bet dollars to donuts that Lena’s going to be conflicted by the time her aunt makes her DuckTales debut. The villain using a friend or family member to get an in with the heroes is a common trope, but with good reason: it’s a great way to introduce conflict on both sides of the equation. Lena has the potential to be an interesting character, and I’m pulling for her to be on team McDuck in the end. Will she be DuckTales’ Tommy? We’ll just have to see.
Next week’s episode looks to be Terror of the Terra-firmians! per Disney XD’s advertising, so join me next week as we review a new take on a classic episode!
Race Cars, Lasers, Aeroplanes: 6 Warriors out of 10
The action in The Beagle Birthday Massacre was serviceable, offering some fun beats as the kids dealt with the various Beagle Boy factions. Bonus points for somehow making a The Warriors parody work in a family show. I did like the Mad Max-esque garbage truck rigged up as Ma Beagle’s flagship—complete with Beverly Hillbillies perch top of the cab.
Might Solve a Mystery (or Rewrite History): 1 ancient Sumerian talisman out of 1
While we didn’t see an advance the mystery of Della Duck this episode, the introduction of Lena and the accompanying tease for Magica de Spell adds a new dimension to what DuckTales has already established. Is Magica involved with the Spear of Selene incident, or are these separate problems our heroes will have to reconcile? Either way, Scrooge and his family are in for some trouble.
Smarter than the Smarties: 4 kids in the boat out of 5
Again, DuckTales has chosen to turn the spotlight on Webby, and it was welcome. Webby embodies a lot of things everyone goes through when growing up and forging their own identities, and it’s cool that DuckTales is adding depth to its characters in this way. Lena’s got potential going forward for interesting growth, and we did get a glimpse at Huey as well—it was nice to see his empathetic side.
- “Are you saying that Louie would rather eat us than hot dogs?” “I do hate hot dogs.”
- “Shipwrecked raider crew surrounded by dolphins? Aww! Who are tearing us limb from limb? Oh no!” Dolphins are jerks. Scientific fact.
- “Every. Single. Time.”
- “Wow, you guys are so extreme! What are you going to do, ollie all the way over here?”
- “FOILED TO THE MAX, BRAH!”
- “She talks fancy. I trust her!”
- “Cute, with the names and the color coded outfits. Is that like your thing, you’re all exactly the same?” Again, I approve of the DuckTales writers’ willingness to poke fun at classic Disney history.
- “The Tumblebums? They sound adorable!” Ha, NO.
- “I promise we’ll never leave you off the boat again. We’ll leave Louie. He’s bad at most things.”
DuckTales airs Saturdays on Disney XD.
Click here for the GeekPiphany DuckTales review hub!