This season was quite the ride. Now I love me some “Spider-man,” but this is the season where things start moving from good to great.
The season starts off with both Peter Parker and Spider-man on the hunt for the missing Mary Jane, who has been sucked into a cult. In a cunning (and realistic move), this cult leader thrives on lonely folks who have lost someone and uses that pain to keep them under control.
Here begins “Sins of the Fathers” arc, the first of 14 episodes all about dear old dad and how he messed up and/or helped his kids during their formative years.
We open with stories of Mary Jane and her deadbeat dad, and we start branching out from there: we are treated to a tale of The Kingpin and his loser father that morphs
into a tale of Kingpin and his son, which leads to another loss for
our titular villain.
We get to see the home life of Robbie Robertson (seriously? You couldn’t think of another name???), who is a bit oblivious to his son, but comes around in time to save the kid from a life of petty crime. We even check in with Alistair Smythe as he discovers the truth about his father’s demise (and what he plans to do about it).
We even get to check in with some old frenemies, Eddie Brock and his pal Venom…and we get to meet Venom’s new buddy Carnage, probably one of the scariest villains on the
series. Maybe serial killers aren’t the most obvious tactic for a kiddie show, but this one works as a more cartoony Joker-type.
And of course, we get the emergence of the best costumed villain in the Spidey-verse: the Green Goblin (Kingpin of course being the best regular-guy villain). Norman
Osborne finally cracks under the pressure and a new, pissed off being
is born, one intent on murdering all of Norman Osborne’s persecutors.
Spidey finds him out and saves the day, but he lets Osborne go after
the Green Goblin decides to go dormant.
Naturally, that would all be pretty compelling stuff, but what pushes this mini-arc to the next level is Harry Osborne, Mary Jane’s new boyfriend and Peter Parker’s best
friend. He grew up in a cold and lonely house, and when he loses his
father, and then his fiancee, he, not unlike his father, goes a bit
crazy. Sure, it’s the theme of the season, but it’s the best one in
the bunch; Norman made his son the man he is and taught him all the
wrong ways to live his life. Tough break Harry; it won’t get better.
But with all this talk about fathers, we are neglecting the mother of the season: Madame Web. Spidey gets his first taste of this enigmatic and arrogant woman who insists on
helping him with riddles and innuendo. Like all parents, she watches
out for her charge and helps him when needed, but only by giving him
the tools he needs, not by giving him the answers. For a superhero
who is alone in the world, it’s frustrating to have *help* so close,
but she’s always right and she’s always remote.
For better or worse, this season has somewhat plunged Spidey into the fantasy realm. I remember when I was younger not quite getting the *need* for Madame Web and I still feel
that way now…but considering all the things Spidey is going
through, it’s probably good to have some omnipotent being on his side
Because Spidey is still very much alone out there; sure, he occasionally gets some help from DareDevil, Ironman and Dr. Strange and any other comic book star, but most of
the time, it’s just going to be him, alone in this big city, trying to stop the bad guys from hurting anyone.
Probably the most conspicuous absence from this season, a season all about the “Sins of the Fathers,” is Peter’s father. Where has he been for his son’s life? And why just
a short little tease about his parents during Peter’s trial for treason? Sure, we get another flashback of his Uncle Ben, but we’re left hanging, and while I’m pretty sure we get an answer down the road, right now, it feels like a serious missed opportunity here.
But those are small quibbles. This season really plunged into some emotional depths of the source material. Peter Parker and Spider-man finally get everything worked
out, and then boom, Mary Jane *dies* because of one act of mercy
Spidey committed to help his best friend. It’s a sobering lesson,
sometimes bad things happen to good people who do the *right* thing,
and I’ve never forgotten it. And I doubt I’m the only one.
I’ll be back soon with Season 4, and not to mention the X-Men writeups are coming too.
One thing I’ve really come to appreciate about this show is how women are portrayed. Sure, Spidey fights crime in a boys world, but the women who do come into the picture are pretty positive. From Felicia’s take charge attitude, to
Mary Jane calling her boyfriends on their bullshit, to Det. Terry
Lee busting heads, they are small parts but all of them send a good
message to little girls watching. And when you compare them to other
woman comic characters…they don’t have a lot of competition in the
The kids who show up this season, Maria and Robert, are also pretty good examples of little kids. Maria is a little girl with big heart and a love of Spider-man who
convinces him, with her smarts and her bravery, to stay in the
super-hero game. Robert is a kid with a lot of talent for science,
but who temporarily believes that crime will lead to a better life.
Two pretty believable characters and/or situations for a kiddie
Robert’s episode is an interesting one. While watching it, I was afraid it was coming to be some painfully earnest examination of life in the ghetto. Thankfully, we were spared that, and I will admit that I was surprised when Robert is punished for his crime, albeit lightly. He broke into a place, sure, but he didn’t steal anything, and he’s been a pretty good kid up until then. Most likely, at least in kiddie show world, he’ll learn his lesson and never turn to crime again, but it was a realistic turn for this show.
But I do hope we never see that Jamaican cab driver again. Sometimes a cliche is a really, really bad cliche.
“The Spot” probably ended up being the weakest episode, but because the *villain* proved to be both funny and likeable, I’m giving it a pass. Just this once.
And no doubt, “Enter the Green Goblin” was the highlight of the season, if not the show. I didn’t really remember the Green Goblin being that awesome, especially
after how much I disliked the first Tobey Maguire “Spider-man”
movie, but somehow, this kiddie cartoon made the character
malevolent and unforgettable.