This week, Spider-Man and the team go toe-to-toe with a silent high-tech wonder-bug and Peter is forced to actually care about the well-being of J. Jonah Jameson.
Guys, J. Jonah Jameson is pretty mad. And this time, it’s not about Spider-Man. Well, it kind of is about Spider-Man, but it’s also about a new “insect menace” stalking New York, someone called ‘The Beetle’, who seems to have a pretty high tech suit and flight capabilities. Meanwhile, our teenaged superheroes are trying to bring down the Trapster for the umpteenth time. “Prepare for some lame glue jokes.” Peter warns. But the team actually uses their individual skills to come together and defeat him handily- something Nick Fury seems to be noticing. “You’re really coming together as a team.” Nick Fury is so impressed that he assigns the team to their first SHIELD-sanctioned operation, something the team is pretty pleased about. They’re assigned with gathering intel on the Beetle, who will be trying to stay away from the Daily Bugle’s bug-focused hatred. And before Peter can get too excited that the Bugle will finally get off of his own radar, Fury says their other assignment is to protect Jameson. The Beetle is tough enough to steal SHIELD technolog and let loose some of their most wanted villains (including MODOK!) and will do anything to keep his cover. To make matters worse, Jameson is basically asking to get assassinated, yelling about how he will not be strong-armed or coerced into hiding.
The team isn’t too keen about Jameson, especially since he seems to adamant to have protection, but really wants to take down the Beetle. “Any one of us could take down this loser.” Ava says. They then go on to say how each of them could destroy the Beetle, who looks completely different in each of their respective power fantasies. But Peter still doesn’t like the sound of the mission, mostly because it involves protecting the guy who hates him more than anything. He gets a call on his phone. It’s from MJ (who has been missing from this show for AGES), and she’s about to get her internship interview with Jameson himself, today of all days. “Tell her to change it!” Sam yells. “Ask her to change it.” Danny says. But Peter knows that once MJ decides she wants to do something, not much will change her mind.
Peter sneaks in and tries to dissuade MJ from going to her meeting, at first trying to charm her out of it by asking to get lunch. “First of all, you never have any money.” she says, then explaining that if Jameson isn’t afraid of the Beetle, then neither is she. She can see herself running the Daily Bugle someday, that’s how fair her dream extends. Danny and Luke try to keep her out of the building, but she grills them about how it would look if two costumed vigilantes tried to keep a civilian from lawfully entering a public building. So they pretty much just step aside. After she and Peter enter, a tiny little robotic beetle flies by and gasses them, knocking them out. Next, Nova tries to keep her out of the elevator, but she tricks him into escorting her out before running back in. “Good luck, Parker. She’s unstoppable.” The Beetle electrocutes Nova and leaves him in the hallway. As the elevator ascends, it suddenly plummets down the shaft and is about to crash when it halts and resumes normal operation. “Oops. Wrong button.” Ava says, revealing that she was responsible. She gets sight of the Beetle and tries to chase him through the hallway, but he takes her down with some sort of energy gun. MJ is hellbent on getting to this interview, so much so that she’s willing to drag Peter up 30 flights of stairs to do it. They arrive at the office and none of the team is responding, so Peter can only assume that the Beetle is on his way up, having gotten past everyone. He shoves MJ in Jameson’s office. She confidently introduces herself for her interview. Peter gets into costume and webs the door shut.
Peter goes through the options of how Beetle might attack- the window, the air ducts, the roof. He thinks he’s prepared for everything, when the elevator door dings open and thousands of little beetles fly out and attack. “You know, it’s been suggested we’re in cahoots. You think so?” The fight ensues, while Mary Jane successfully continues her interview with Jameson. Peter tries to get the Beetle out of the building and away from Jameson and MJ, but the Beetle knocks him right back in, prepared to destroy Jameson’s office. Luckily, the team’s up and running and here to save the day and Nova knocks Beetle through the floor.
The team goes at the Beetle with limited success, because the Beetle’s suit is highly advanced with lasers and missles and projectiles, but their definitely giving him a run for his money. When it seems that they might be out of options, Peter remembers the maneuver they ran on the Trapster at the beginning of the episode, and they manage to trap the Beetle using a roll of printing paper. When they think they’ve got him trapped for good, Beetle busts out and escapes, about to destroy Jameson’s office. Peter stops him before he can fire a missile and MJ is saved. However, Jameson wasn’t even in the building and MJ had been talking to a video monitor the entire time.
Of course, Jameson thinks that Spider-Man was teaming up with the Beetle, but MJ unplugs the monitor before Jameson can say too much. She thanks him for saving her. “We’re still on the clock.” Ava chastises. They leave with the Beetle and Peter re-emerges uncostumed to make sure she doesn’t catch on. He apologizes to her about the interview, but she says she’s already re-applied for the summer internship. She wants to reorganize the place from the ground-up and become editor-in-chief. Overhead, the J. Jonah Jameson power-hour continues on the DBN screen as he rants against Spider-Man. However, in celebration of their victory, Nick Fury disables the screen and congratulates the team for their hard work.
I’m constantly amazed over how much this show has relaxed since it’s debut back in spring. What used to be a pretty feeble gag-laden program has merged into something a little more sophisticated while still remaining true to it’s original format. Of course, I still wish that the show would take characterization a little more seriously and that the plot would be a little tighter. The thing about this universe is that it has a lot of STUFF- Midtown High, the SHIELD angle, the Super-Team, Oscorp, The Daily Bugle, etc- so the idea that the show remains slightly episodic, aside from the few returns from Norman Osborn and the like, kind of makes any attempt to build a rich, complicated universe is a little impossible. Still, the jokes have gotten much better, some even outright funny, and any time an episode heavily features the team, I’m happy, because watching them work off of each other is actually more fun than watching a solo Spidey outing.
The only other problem I really had was the Beetle- who was he and why should I care? He might as well have been some sort of android for how he was written- only talking once (even though that led to a pretty good joke.) This show can pull off cool villains, as evidenced by the Doctor Octopus and Venom episodes, and a guy who can apparently break into SHIELD and release supervillains should be all kinds of interesting. But I liked the focus on MJ, who has been missing for AGES and also on the Daily Bugle, and giving JK Simmons something to do other than yell about Spider-Man for less than a minute. Always a good thing.