The Premise of Darkwing Duck
Batman, if Batman was a duck, had an adopted daughter, and if Robin was miraculously even more of a doofus than before. (and also a duck)
That was easy! Moving on...
I went with this episode first because when I was a kid, this was the episode of Darkwing Duck. Villain origin episodes always had a special place in my heart because they're usually the better written parts of any animated show, partly because the writers had 22 minutes to give a coherent explanation as to how and why a villain became the way he is and why he's such a menace to society, all while having enough action scenes to entertain the viewers who care not for plot and character development. Usually the writers, to flesh out their villains and make them not look like a jerkhole with nothing better to do, give an almost heartbreaking sordid tale of rejection and revenge.
In this episode's case, it's the villain origin episode of Bushroot, my personal favorite villain on the show. I liked Bushroot because he wasn't really evil, just misunderstood. All he wanted was a significant other or a friend (or to kill Darkwing in the watered-down portrayal of him in the Fearsome Five eps), someone that would make him feel less like an insane piece of vegetable matter that hid in plant nurseries and talked to giant vampire potatoes for kicks. His voice can be a little too whiny at times, but I imagine if you were transformed into something that spits in the face of nature, you'd cry and moan about it a lot too.
It's a tale of unrequited love, rejection from society, and giant floating hamburgers. It's a tale of power of the love, and the power of scientists that should really know better. You'll see a mutant try to impress the woman of his dreams, and then you'll see that same mutant get mowed into oblivion by a runaway lawnmower.
And with that, I bring you...
Beauty and the Beet
|Keep an eye out for the upcoming Broadway musicial with music composed by Alan Menken|
Availability: On DVD.
The episode opens with Darkwing Duck telling us, the viewers, that this is in fact the City of Saint Canard. He then leads us to the Darkwing Files, where he keeps the most important stories of Saint Canard. I've seen nearly the entire series and I've only seen the Darkwing Files used once. (I'm sure some diehard DWD fan might end up correcting me down the road of course) I have to wonder if the writers were going to use the Darkwing Files framing device more often in the show but just never got around to it, if they were trying to make this episode special by having these little Darkwing wraparounds, or if the episode ended up a little bit shorter than they expected it to be so they had to add some Darkwing Padding.
While comic shenanigans ensue with the safe, one such shenanigan appearing later in the syndicated theme song sequence, Darkwing is busy hyping up the story as not just any story, but a story that stands out among thousands of stories in a field all by itself. It's the kind of story opening that immediately makes the kiddies want to pay attention, because when the Darkwing Duck hypes something up, you'd better believe it's amazing.
Cue the screen dissolve and magic sound effect, and we have Saint Canard University on a normal Spring day. At least, that's what Darkwing Duck says, but in reality the university is completely vacant. I'm currently still in college, and in Spring, even on the weekends, there were a ton of people on campus on account Spring time usually meant finals. Do ducks just not have term papers the way humans do?
|My money's on the "padding", personally.|
|"The 3DS is going to change gaming, kids! Run out and buy one!"|
|I heard they have a great Engineering program.|
|Pictured: Lonely, misunderstood dogged nice guy villain to be and his two future victims.|
|"Why can't anyone label anything in this lab?"|
And then we see Rhoda in Reggie's point of view and that's where it gets disturbing. An actual halo develops around Rhoda as she looms over Dr. Bushroot like some sort of pagan god, instantly transforming what could've been a cute little office crush into Reggie worshiping the ground she walks on.
|Saint Rhoda Dendron not recognized by the Catholic Church.|
|Angry fist, colleagues that don't understand him, plant-related last name...|
Maybe some people were just destined to be villains.
|Next they're going to figure out the meaning behind Cow Tools.|
|Okay, seriously, what's going on?|
|"You can try selling those Chia plants you created!"|
Now, I imagine Bushroot's not going to do anything stupid in his anger. I'm sure he's just going to go home, maybe look in the Wanted Ads, take a job in a department store on the side while something bigger comes up...
|Or he can decide to go to the plant nursery in the middle of the storm and do something profoundly stupid.|
|Oh yeah, there's no way this could go wrong.|
Which begs the question. Does Bushroot have a history of doing this whenever someone questions his research?
Dean: I think your experiment that tomato juice can be used as a form of gasoline has faulty evidence and takes up too much of the university's funding.
Bushroot: To hell with you all, I'm going to inject tomato juice into my arm! TO THE PLANT NURSERY!
|Rat Fink's long lost cousin.|
|So, did he have all this machinery just lying around or did he build it all in a |
spur-of-a-moment "I'll show them all!" inspired session right in the nursery?
Inquiring minds need to know.
|"Riff-raff, street rat. I don't buy that. |
If only they'd look closer..."
|A common reaction to when you inject strange substances into your arm, amiright?|
Anyways, you can probably predict what happens next. Sunlight activates mutations, slowly turning his body green. First he shrugs it off as a side effect but as he walks off, he starts to turn into the plant duck mutant Darkwing Duck fans know and love. Obviously they're not going to go all American Werewolf in London with the transformation sequence (because, let's face it, we children did not need Disney-grade Nightmare Fuel so early in the morning on a Saturday) but it's still unsettling to see someone so utterly chipper about how his experiment is a success that he just plain not notices the flower growing out of his head. Of course, while he's running to the research department to show off his project, he looks like this.
|Pictured: The world's most oblivious scientist.|
Hey Reginald, where did your clothes go!? His mutation didn't really change his size much so he obviously didn't shred it off. He just enters the room and his clothes are magically gone. I like to think that Bushroot was just so excited about his successful experiment that he started spontaneously stripping in the middle of the University's hallways, leaving a pile of clothes in his wake. Either that or his plant body absorbed the clothing, but that's just gross.
Needless to say, his coworkers didn't really take this well.
|And then Rhoda drops the hydrochloric acid right on her feet.|
|At least he was helpful enough to glue mirrors to his eyelids.|
But anyways, back to the episode. With the story needing somewhere else to go besides Bushroot whining about how much he hates himself, a dog walks up to the lonely stalker with a crush vegetable and sniffs his butt. Seriously, Disney?
|Good ol' kid-friendly Disney...|
|Always check for bees before sitting on inexplicable chair-shaped flowers.|
|Pictured: More SCIENCE!!!|
|The face of a cold-blooded killer.|
|Aww, but they were about to appear in several page-a-day calendars...|
I just want to take the time to point out that in the first eight minutes, they were actually really careful not to make any plant puns so that the audience would instead focus on what happens to Bushroot. After he mutates and Darkwing Duck shows up, though, suddenly all bets are off. Nearly every other piece of dialogue involves working in plants and gardening tools. Just to give you a head's up.
Anyways, we cut to Darkwing and Launchpad as they just plain don't care that they're standing next to two dead corpses, even cracking jokes at the deceased ones' expense. Enter Rhoda Dendron and her saxophones, and she's equally uncaring to the bodies of her former coworkers hideously on display in front of her like a bunch of plant-related war trophies. I guess Dr. Gary and Dr. Larson weren't very popular in that school.
|Meh. Premeditated homicide. Moving on...|
Cut to Dean Tightbill's office. Darkwing wisely figured that since Bushroot had slain his two coworkers, obviously Bushroot's going to go after the Dean next. As Darkwing explains the situation rather bluntly, the Dean just kind of sits there, looking like he's slowly realizing just how many plants are on the University and how soon every single one of them will be coming to life, thirsty for his blood, and how little protection a caped duck and a ditzy pilot can offer against a revenge-filled shrub monstrosity with telepathy. The Dean slowly goes from slightly irritated to an "oh god I'm gonna die" state of mind.
Darkwing and Launchpad board up the doors and windows, but that does little good as a tree bulldozes its way through a wall, grabs the Dean, and then disposes of Darkwing without so much as breaking a sweat. Good going, DW. While outside, Tightbill mentions that he's a vegetarian, not realizing that this means he could be a viable weapon for fighting off the Bushroot menace. Bushroot can't try to kill you if you're chewing his arms off, Tightbill. Can't beat him? Eat him!
|I don't care if Bushroot has telepathy, how was that tree able to detach itself |
from over 50 years of complex underground root systems?
"Why'd you have to do that for, huh? I didn't do anything to you! You're just like all the others! Always ruining things for me!"
"Heeeey, you play too rough!"
"THAT oughta teach you!"
"Oooh, someone's always standing between me and what I want!"
Watching some intelligent researcher, one who probably has a PH.D in botany and took a good ten years in a medical school to get his doctorate, start griping like a teenager going through puberty to a masked vigilante is both weird to watch and kind of funny all at once. Especially when he was so verbose earlier.
|"No one understands me, you guys! I'm just going through a tough time!"|
One commercial break later, and then Darkwing gives us his episodic terror that flaps in the night speech. In this episode's case, he uses "the termite that devours your floorboards". I guess that's kind of related to plants, in the same way that insulting a leather jacket would theoretically anger cattle.
|"This will really piss him off, Launchpad!"|
|And of course Bushroot never ever uses this power again in the rest of the series.|
|"There I was, giving my sermon to the Pope, when suddenly, Bushroot |
summoned his elite force of ninja death plants from space!"
|Her eyes are a little bit higher, Darkwing.|
|Great security, guys! It's not like two people died or anything!|
One Darkwing wraparound later, and we cut to the single most security deprived plant nursery ever. Where are the employees? Is that plant nursery just sitting there unattended so that Bushroot can set up a base of operations in all of his episodes? Did none of the gardeners care that some unexplained machinery was set up in their greenhouse? Either he's using the same plant nursery all the time and none of the policemen, detectives, or even Darkwing Duck ever think to watch the place more closely or Saint Canard has a bunch of plant nurseries on similar-looking hills with the exact same building blueprints just so they can use the same shots.
|The Darkwing Duck drinking game: Take a shot whenever this building appears in the show.|
|The tree on the far right is just so humiliated he has to do something like this.|
|Chicks dig the pantsless look.|
|"Sorry sir, I'm gonna need some ID."|
|I don't think she wants to sing "Somewhere That's Green", Bushroot.|
Cut to nightfall, and...when did it turn night? Was it night when Darkwing and Launchpad were indoors fighting with Spike? How far away is the plant nursery? Why didn't the police intervene a green weirdo carting off some screaming maiden? Anyhow, one reused shot later (that plant nursery gets a ton of mileage in this show, I swear) and we find out that Bushroot's idea of a good date is strapping the woman of his dreams to a table while she struggles and screams for help. He even says its the happiest day of his life. Disney writers; they know how to cater to every possible fetish.
|"Best Saturday night EVER!"|
|With these hungry eyes,|
One look at you and I can't disguise
I've got hungry eyes
I feel the magic between you and I!
|I have a question, Dr. Bushroot. Why didn't you show the big impressive machine to the Dean? It probably would've saved your job, just sayin'.|
|"And who are these, Rhoda? Are you hiding something from me?"|
|The terror that massacres in the night.|
|Those arms just scream "DnD nerd".|
|I bet he wouldn't have done this if Bushroot was a normal duck.|
Mutants are people too, Darkwing!
While being chased, Bushroot performs the most profoundly stupid thing he's done in this episode; he knocks Darkwing Duck off the riding lawnmower, making it so now the lawnmower is out of control and without a driver. It's such a profoundly stupid thing because he does it twice. First with pollen and the second time, it's by using a vine to lasso him off. Sure, he puts a walking sunflower into the lawnmower into the seat the second time, but it still ends up the same way. The riding lawnmower lands on him, and what happens next is so gruesome that Darkwing actually reacts in horror to the aftermath and takes off his hat for a moment of silence.
|Ah, the days Disney can imply someone died horribly off-screen and get away with it.|
But wait, it's that establishing shot of the plant nursery again. You know what that means? That means we have a cliffhanger "Or Is It?" ending! Cue the kind of ridiculous-looking plant growing from the remains of the previous Bushroot!
|They may offer you fortune and fame,|
Love and money and instant acclaim
But whatever they offer you,
Don't feed the plants!
And so ends Bushroot's origin episode. By the way, Dr. Rhoda Dendron, despite being a key player in this character's lore, doesn't even get a mention in the series ever again. Oh well, at least the ending credits theme is really catchy.
The Moral of this Cartoon
Villains with deformities are not real people, so lethal force is not only allowed, but encouraged.
Aka, the part of the blog where I explain that the vast majority of that analysis was all made in good fun.
This episode is one of Darkwing Duck's best episodes for a couple reasons. Bushroot is just a fun character to watch. In a way, you kind of end up rooting for Dr. Bushroot because, despite his whininess, he is quite a likeable character and the audience wants to see the poor nerd succeed in some way. But at the same time, his actions show that he's not an entirely stable person. You can kind of tell that now that he has the power to retaliate, he's going to take advantage of it. It's like he has a very strong sense of personal justice. To him, he's just trying to fix what's wrong with his life. Except for the most obvious thing wrong with him because then he'd be a powerless loser again.
Pacing is good and the episode never feels slow, the dialogue is good, and it's a nice episode overall.
Bottom line: Like most Darkwing Duck episodes, this is worth a watch. In fact, I would even go ahead and say this is probably in the Top 10 Darkwing Duck episodes every Darkwing Duck fan NEEDS to see.
Now, what Darkwing Duck episodes weren't worth a watch? I think I've cover one such episode soon.