Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review: Ultimate Spider-Man "Attack of the Beetle"

So Aunt May and Agent Coulson went on a date, which was not in the episode description.

See? It clearly said that Aunt Mary was going to date Coulson.
At this point, if you're going to watch this show, you're going to have to simply deal with it being an ensemble piece that just happens to only give token amounts of character development to those unlucky enough to not be in the show's title. Other characters like Nova, Iron Fist, and the other get a single episode every once in a while to remind us that they're supposed to be fully-fleshed out characters instead of walking, talking cardboard cutouts that seem to merely exist to give our designated hero a hard time.

...I thought had a compliment in there somewhere. Let me try again.

Though this ensemble show primarily focuses on Spider-Man, there are a few episodes that take a bit of time to show the other characters in more of a well-rounded manner. This episode, it was Agent Coulson's turn.

I'm all for Agent Coulson dating Aunt May. They have pretty good chemistry, it provides plenty of story opportunities alongside character growth opportunities for Aunt May and Coulson, and it finally gives this show an opportunity to actually do something different. I remember a comment someone left on one of my other USM Recaps that this show is called "Ultimate Spider-Man" because it wants to expand its concepts, not be restricted by them. And this is an amazing opportunity for this show to do just that by shaking up the Peter/Aunt May relationship that we've seen in the comics, two film continuities, and every Spider-Man cartoon so far.

And yet, after apparently seizing this opportunity by ending the episode with May and Coulson continuing their date with dessert, this will never be brought up again. The reset button has been pressed, and May and Coulson apparently decided to go their separate ways offscreen.  I mean, sure, you could argue that May's heart will always belong to Ben, or that Agent Coulson dating the aunt of one of his operatives is a disaster waiting to happen. But I would argue that undoing the events of this episode offscreen with nary an explanation in sight is a slap in the audience's collective.

Here you go, Marvel. Have this for free.

Agent Coulson: "Tell your aunt I said hi."
Peter: "Why can't you tell her yourself? Don't you have a date this week?"
Agent Coulson: "Well, you know. She's a very active person; between her business trips and yoga and my duties as a principal and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., it simply wasn't working out."
Peter: "Oh. You know, if you broke her heart, you'll have me to deal with."
Agent Coulson: "Oh, no, we're still staying in touch."

Agent Coulson holds up a plastic container.

Agent Coulson: "Want a brownie? May sent me a sample of a new recipe she wants to try out before the bake sale next week."

There you go; it's a short exchange that can be slotted into any episode featuring Agent Coulson and Peter to provide a minimum of lip service to the situation. And you could even fit it into the season finale, which ties up loose ends from the preceding season anyway. At the very least, it's better than just hoping we forgot about this episode.

I'd love to go on as I usually do about this episode, talking about the plot, themes, characters, etc. in detail, but it's hard to see the point.

May and Coulson got together, providing new story opportunities and allowing us to delve a bit more into their respective characters. This plot point will never be brought up again.

Not only is Coulson more of a badass than he lets on, but so is Aunt May. Though she feigned ignorance, she clearly knew what she was doing when she activated that jet's exhaust to fry Beetle. This plot point will never be brought up again.

This whole episode will never. Be brought up. Again.

What, did Peter sell his relationship with Mary Jane to Mephisto to keep Aunt May and Coulson from dating? ....Actually, that would make too much sense and is now my headcanon.

But I guess it's only fair to do a token analysis.

Plot
Coulson gets to strut his stuff by helping Peter protect Aunt May while fending off one of the world's best mercenaries. It's an opportunity to really shake up the character dynamics which, like I said, goes nowhere.

Characters
Peter
Peter actually starts learning his lesson that he doesn't have absolute control over other people's social lives. No more metaphors about mixing chocolate and peanut butter. This development will not pan out in later episodes.

Agent Coulson
Crouching Doofus, Hidden Awesome. Honestly, though, this characterization actually kind of sticks in later episodes. You get one point, episode.

Aunt May
She does the unthinkable... she starts dating again! And if Peter overreacted this much to her dating Coulson, imagine how much he'd freak if he knew about what the comics did with her and Doc Ock, or her and J. Jonah Jameson's dad.

All in all, this is a slightly-above average episode that is tainted by the knowledge of its irrelevance like knowing there's a spider in your wine.

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