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DuckTales struggles to adapt Silicon Valley culture into its world

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I was looking forward to “The Infernal Internship Of Mark Beaks!” because I was deeply curious how DuckTales would incorporate more contemporary concepts, perspectives, and industries into its orbit. So far we’ve had two episodes with newcomer Lena, a character who’s teenage “too cool for school” vibe could be grating, but is mostly held in check by Kimiko Glenn’s measured voice work and the implication of an emotionally-troubled connection with the evil Magica de Spell–family troubles with a fantastical twist. (I like her well enough, but I have noticed she seems to be a bit divisive.) Introducing Mark Beaks (Josh Brener), a Silicon Valley-esque tech-head whose riches and supposed-technological genius butts up against Scrooge’s old-world money and hands-on hard work, would create a new foe, conflict, and dynamic that would solidify the reboot’s foray into the 21st century.


That is, decidedly, not what we get.

Sure, there’s bound to be an episode later in which Scrooge and Mark go toe-to-toe (web-to-web?)–Scrooge marches out of the Duckberg Billionaire’s Club with the mandate to beat him (financially) after all. But here, we get an episode that presents Mark Beaks as nothing but a frustrating and annoying collection of social media “viral” speak and dismissive “buzzworthy” attention-seeking. These are fine, basic traits to build a comic cartoon around, and DuckTales is looking to be more comic than its predecessor, but Beaks might be a step too far. It’s difficult to determine who he really is, even in cartoonish terms, and the Tah-Dah twist doesn’t clarify anything. Beaks obviously seeks attention and success, and possesses a conman-by-way-of-Silicon-Valley ability to create hype and snag investors over, literally, nothing. But what is his relation to all that, the mindset that facilitated their genesis? Does he believe in all this technological prowess, in Waddles as a company, in his value as the face and creator of it? What is his relation to all that, the mindset that facilitated their genesis? His casual indifference in explaining Tah-Dah as as scam suggests not, as well as that same indifference in being thrown off a roof. But his tours, the office atmosphere, and his dedication to his phone and his environment suggests he has some affinity for it. Beaks is a muddled collection of cliches; yes, he wants fame, attention, and money, but why? This episode doesn’t answer.


He does get the attention of two of the three incorrigible triplets, Huey and Dewey, but I have admit, this conflict feels really forced. I thought it was established that Louie was the lazy one, the one who’d most likely follow a “fake it till you make it” philosophy, the one who looked for easy outs and corners to cut. This feels like a fundamental different Dewey than the one back in “Woo-oo,” who aspired to be the best, or at least recognized. There was potential for conflict here–the meticulous, detailed-focused Huey battling the driven, respect-seeking Dewey for that coveted internship–but that is just not the Dewey we have here. This hurts the emotional moment between the brothers, despite it being interesting enough: Dewey admits to his tossed-off, “faking-it” actions because he’s jealous of his more thoughtful, careful, organized brother. But again, that just does not seem like Dewey, a Dewey that earned his Atlantis win in “Woo-oo,” and even his high score in “Daytrip of Doom.” This feels like a Louie thing, to the point that I kind of think this was a straight-up story error that was too late to correct.


The whole episode, honestly, feels like a series of sketched-out jokes than a fully-realized screenplay, with some lazy tech-culture gags that aren’t really funny or clever. As mentioned, I’m okay with DuckTales’ new and specific approach, but this episode felt undercooked, a perfunctory plot failing to reveal anything significant, new, or interesting about Beaks, Huey, or Dewey–the latter of whom feels like a step backwards. Comedy is subjective of course, but even the humor here just centered around “tech work culture is weird and random, right?” and nothing beyond that, which may be a problem if we come back to it (Duckberg’s version of Silicon Valley doesn’t have to defined per se–all we know about Scrooge’s and Glomgold’s businesses are that they’re pretty much a part of everything–but we understand those characters’ raw connections to their wealth, which we can’t say for Beaks). And, to be blunt, this is yet another episode in which one of the kids finds wonder in an adult-type figure, only to discover they kind of suck. This is a good lesson, but it’s never internalized, and we’ve seen it again and again. There’s just too much table-setting going on; when do we eat?


The B-story isn’t much better, but it’s at least weirder. After Scrooge and Glomgold test each other via a staring eye contest, Scrooge takes a passive approach and just listens to Glomgold’s entire ridiculous plan to kill Beaks, because he’s annoying (it masks another, deeper plan to kill Scrooge, but that whole part is treated as an annoyance). It’s pretty much a waste, since no matter what, Scrooge would never agree to a plan 1) with Glomgold to 2) kill anyone. It’s also bland to watch Scrooge just… sit there and make snide comments. I dislike comedy in which a smart person toss out commentary on obvious dumb ideas–the silliness of the dumb idea is already the joke; the commentary is like forced explanations of said joke. The only thing that saves it is Keith Ferguson’s utter dedication to Glomgold’s insanity and his nonsense plan, which elevates the story just a bit. But other than that, it’s wholly unnecessary.

Even though DuckTales is a more comic, exaggerated sitcomy-type show, it still, at its core, believes in the value of hard work and perseverance and preparation. And as easy as it is to throw shade and ridicule the culture of Silicon Valley–and believe me, that’s a culture that needs to be taken down few pegs–it is still driven by hard-working, dedicated people. DuckTales has nothing to really say here. And I’m not just talking about broad, satirical points. How does an industry like the one Waddles represents affect the world of Duckberg, and the characters within it? “The Infernal Internship of Mark Beaks” doesn’t say that either.


Stray observations

  • Prediction: A Marks Beaks vs. Gyro Gearloose episode.
  • Huey calls Dewey the “crazy, irresponsible, fun guy” which is part of his character, but Dewey also doesn’t seem particularly interested in that internship, so those negative aspects shine through outside of any real sense of drive or passion in him. Another reason why his third act honesty rings false. Dewey even says of the internship: “It’s everything I never knew I’ve always wanted.”
  • There is a brief moment where we get a hint of the “real” Beaks. When Dewey brings him his 2:15 coffee at 2:14, Beaks unleashes a brewing anger that hints at his true character. “I didn’t become an almost-billionaire by having coffee at random times of the day like some... commoner. There’s an order to things. My order! And I—” he monologues before Huey arrives with the correct coffee at the correct time. That’s the Beaks we need to see–the unchecked, exaggerated rage of an animated villain-leader of a global tech company–and we need way more than three seconds of that. The idea of an apathetic rich dude scheming nefarious plots just for followers and likes is better on paper than in action. Let’s see that fury.
  • Two twists today: that Tah-Dah was literally nothing but a scam for Beaks to steal investors’ money, and that Glomgold is probably faking his Scottish heritage to hide something more… sinister? The first twist I didn’t really see coming, but that’s because its hard read Beaks as a character. He’s a villain, but doesn’t have any connection to Scrooge or his family, so it was clever but still disappointing. Also the hiring of Falcon Graves (Robin Atkin Downes) was just him pulling an Ozymandias, but Beaks is no Adrian Veidt. The second twist has been predicted by a few of you in the comments, and this may imply Glomgold is hiding his “real” South African accent. I don’t know how I feel about that, mainly because I’m not clearly why he’d hide it, but I guess we’ll see!

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About the author

Kevin Johnson

Contributor, The A.V. Club, with a clear preference for all things cartoons; check out his main blog at http://www.totalmediabridge.com.