This episode was the first step in absolutely the right direction, but it does shuffle back a little bit after taking that step.
The plot is the best one so far. It follows up on several established points like S.H.I.E.L.D.'s upgrades to the school, Doc Ock's continued quest to study Spider-Man evolves into an obsession, and Taskmaster's plan to discover Spider-Man's identity is a pretty good one. But seriously, how has no one revoked JJJ's license to broadcast?
Taskmaster, though written well and used well as Spidey's dark mirror, suffered from a misstep though. Here's a question: why did Taskmaster go rogue?
We've established that Nick Fury will blackmail people into joining S.H.I.E.L.D., he goes back on his word, and he's generally uncaring about the privacy of his agents. Couple that with an as-of-yet-vague double-crossing, and is it any wonder Taskmaster went rogue? If this series had any kind of self-awareness regarding Nick Fury's treatment of Spider-Man, this could have been explored much further. But the show seems to be under the impression that Nick Fury is acting like some kind of fatherly mentor who can do no wrong.
Here's a thought: Have Spider-Man go rogue after apprehending Taskmaster.
Why not? He has every reason to, and he could justify it by wanting to get out of Fury's clutches before he ended up as evil and jaded as Taskmaster. It would create friction on all sides, and you could actually make the Sandwich Club seem three-dimensional by having them stand by him as friends and allies, despite his choice to defect. And how much of a twist would it be to see the villain squeak out a bit of a victory?
But alas, status quo is the most important thing until the middle and end of the season for shows like this.
Oh, and I guess that Spider-Man skipping training was a good thing? What was up with that lesson?
I'd say that she learned to trust Spider-Man and his methods a bit more, but ten bucks says she's back to bullying Peter in no time. No character growth.
For the first time, Spider-Man joining S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually important. His future is examined through Taskmaster, though his present is just the same as ever. No character growth.
Doc Ock is taking his first few steps from "mad scientist" into super villain by hiring a mercenary. Character growth!
A goofily-moustachioed villain, but a very competent one. He works very well as a dark mirror of Spider-Man, and Clancy Brown's voice acting is creepy as ever, but as I said, there's wasted opportunity. Not to mention that revenge he vows. Oh, yeah, that wall-crawler's absolutely yours, Taskmaster. See you later for your one appearance in Season 2.
Speaking of seeing you later, next episode, we begin the road to Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
...I may have to put off this episode until next year. See you then!