DuckTales is back, baby! Sooner than you’d expect, considering that the season one finale only aired in August. And while the show had its ups and downs, the final three or four episodes ended on a high note, providing enough juicy narrative and character material to work with for season two. And if “The Most Dangerous Game... Night!” is any indication, DuckTales’ second go-round is poised to be a more confident, self-assured, rousing outing, breaking past its first season flaws and slightly retooling them so they mesh better with the story and the characters within them.
The most prominent flaw was DuckTales’ habit of metacommentary, in which the writers tended to go overboard talking and commenting on the various adventures and the idea of adventuring, while also doing the same for Scrooge and many of the franchise’s characters. And while it could be clever and occasionally funny, it often smothered basic narrative beats and opportunities for character development, but also muddied up what exactly this new take on DuckTales was supposed to be. The last few episodes of the first season, and this premiere, suggest that the writers’ fascination of being able to play and poke in this universe has subsided, and now are more interested in telling richer stories within them. To be clear, all iterations of DuckTales possessed plenty of self-awareness, but they were usually channeled in quick asides or specific moments. And for this episode, they’re specifically channeled through Louie, but it also allows them to examine the triplet who often uses blustering self-awareness to mask his feelings and insecurities.
After the reveal of what happened to Della, one of the most interesting things to notice was Louie’s reaction. The one with the loudest mouth was shockingly quiet, suggesting that there was a lot more going on with him emotionally. “The Most Dangerous Game... Night!” builds off that suggestion, in a way that’s somewhat unexpected, but works very well while also leaving enough room to explore it further. Louie is lethargic and clumsy in the midst of another adventure, where Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, and Webby are thriving. His “Ooooh!–Wait, what?–Ahhh!” explanation feels a part of the show’s tendency to comment on adventures again, but it’s clear that it’s coming from something deeper, personal, and painful, especially when they return home. Seeing everyone so eager to immediately go on another adventure has the green one dying for a break, and he suggests game night.
What’s funny is how the episode swerves on two expectations: the first being Beakley’s warning about Scrooge being manically competitive, and the second being Gyro’s sudden shrink ray appearance. The first implies we were going to get a crazy, borderline dangerous Scrooge as the family plays their games, but he was fairly... normal (save a few hilarious tiffs with Donald). The second implies Gyro’s minuscule adventure would be a background running gag, but ends up being a significant part of the story, especially at the climax. Louie tries his darndest to keep Gyro’s whole thing under wraps, but it only gets worse, with the small civilization revolting and waging war on the “giants,” and then Launchpad getting shrunk. Huey makes a good foil to Louie here, despite his distraught struggle with sewing his slightly-torn sash, finally getting him to admit what has him so frazzled and desperate to avoid another adventure.
Louie opens up, admitting that he’s just not an adventurer, but prone to talk his way out of it. Adding to that? The fact that Della was a great adventurer and still got lost in space (as far as they know). If their great mom got hurt, what hope does he have? It’s a honest, powerful moment, and I like that it’s small. I wish that we got a bit more out of it, a clearer sense of how Louie feels, but we have a whole season for that! And even in the midst of the chaos, where the flies shrink everyone down and those tiny natives (and one giant native) has the family on their webbed heels, it’s Louie who saves the day, whose clear-eyed vision of everyone and everything allows him to strategically guide his family to victory and provide a safe-haven for those little people. Scrooge compares that ability to something that Della had, which allows the green triplet to beam with pride. I don’t quite understand the “Louie, INC.” ending (which makes a kind of sense because Louie would definitely try to profit off it, but feels pat, especially after such an emotional beat), but very little else in “The Most Dangerous Game... Night!” can be minimized. This was a grand start to the season.
- There’s a small B-plot in which Webby and Dewey, who function perfectly in tandem during adventures, struggle during the mundanity of game night. It works because regular game night forces the two to interact in a more personal, face-to-face way, exposing themselves to each other flaws, but also has Scrooge give a good speech on how that’s perfectly normal in a close family dynamic. It also ties into Louie’s dilemma as well. It all just comes together so well!
- I think they got better on the “how to understand Donald” issue. Webby comments on it, but Scrooge repeats what Donald says at one point and they simplified the things he says. We talked about this in the comments over the summer!
- Huey and Louie tear up when they realize Launchpad survived the collapse of the Jenga-knockoff. It’s a small moment but sweet, showing the heart and relationships that underline this show.
- Scroogeopoly was hilarious, and the only thing that bothered me was that it took more than ten seconds for Scrooge to destroy his opponents.
- Speaking of hilarious, there were some great facial expressions here. Dewey’s shock when Scrooge still didn’t know Dewey’s name (he does, but he sometimes forgets), and Scrooge cracked head-turn when Louie even first suggest game night. The animators are always on point.