Spider-Man has overcome the odds and saved New York from nuclear obliteration, yet his growing list of heroic deeds has not gone unnoticed by the sinister criminal underworld of the city who consider him a grave threat to their operations.
New York: Night. A swarm of robot Spider Seeker robots Spider-Man as he tries to unwind with some therapeutic web slinging. From elsewhere Norman Osborn, Spencer Smythe and his son Alistair Smythe monitor the event from the even in fascination as Spider-Man effortlessly dodges and weaves between the kamikaze camera drones, which explode upon impact. Spider-Man easily takes down the treat although the machines seem capable of tactical manovers beyond simple programming. The blast knocks Spidey into a desolate alleyway where he quickly dispatches the remaining drone. The experience doesn’t seem t have jarred him too badly, shaking of his brush with death as he muses on who could be after him this time. At Oscorp Industries Norman is quick to voice his disappointment at Spencer, who shrugs off the personal insults; the Spider Seekers were a trial run, and now he has proof they can successfully track Spider-Man the next phase of the project can begin. Norman refuses to see how this is positive news after all the money he’s invested in Spencer to capture his quarry until he is introduced to the tech that will be seeing his plans through: The Spider Slayer Black Widow.
The following day J.J. Jameson listens with flagging spirits as Felicia Hardy runs through a list of requirements for the upcoming charity ball hosted by the Hardy Foundation, which the Daily Bugle is paying through the teeth for. Jameson is even less enthralled at the though to loosing a photographer to the evenings’ events, but as Mrs. Hardy could provide the paper with increased advertisement he agrees to dispatch Peter. Outside the office Peter skims through last nights’ photos of the Spider Seekers. He wonders who was controlling them; a trail of thought cut short by his summoning into Jameson’s office, where he is grilled for not taking the assignment seriously enough – His and the Hardy family’s reputations are on the line. Felecia affirms her faith in Peter, leaving the room and leaving Peter slack-jawed. Robbie Robertson is told to follow up on the lead story Eddie Brock is allegedly chasing.
Back at Oscorp Industries the finishing touches are being applied to the Black Widow. Acid, the only thing capable of penetrating the armour, is drizzled onto the hull in order for the maintenance to be conducted – Norman is warned not to get too close as he admires the Spider Slayer, barely able to contain his glee at its near completion. Eddie Brock is also in the laboratory in order to cover the historical event that will see the capture of Spider-Man, eager to settle a vendetta against the hero for ruining his credibility on the Lizard story (see season 1, episode 1 :“Night of the Lizard”). With Brock in the pocket of Spencer and Oscorp the pair can avoid a public relations disaster should the plan fail, with Brock publishing a story which showcases both parties in a positive light. Brock and Osborn take their respective leave; Norman’s declaration that they must trust him when he says the operation will be done by the book failing to convince Alistair of the man’s alleged good intentions. Spencer too doubts Osborn’s true intent but by seeing the project through he’ll finally be able to perfect a special chair for his disabled son that will allow him to atone for the explosion that crippled Alistair at their old lab. Alistair is sceptical that in this case the ends fail to justify the means. His father however is sure Osborn isn’t as bad as he is given credit for.
Across the city Norman enters the spacious office of Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin with the news that the Spider Slayer is ready for dispatch. Fisk is reassured that no one is aware of his involvement in the project to eradicate Spider-Man, who has been a persistent thorn in the man’s side since he first appeared on the scene. If Fisk cannot keep control over one city then his global criminal empire will surely crumble unless the loose cannon that is the wall crawler is permanently removed. Osborn assures him that the Black Widow can neutralise all of Spider-Man’s powers, that Fisk has nothing to worry about. Fisk on the other hand warns him that he has everything to loose should he not come through in the end – Oscorp will be sold to Fisk to pay-off Osborn’s debts. As he makes to leave Osborn voices the thought that either way Fisk wins by either eliminating his threat or gaining control of Oscorp. Fisk replies that such strategic planning is what made him the King Pin.
Spencer puts the finishing touches on the new batch of Spider Seekers. Alistair seems doubtful that the master plan will fail, but his father assures him that if the prototypes could find their target there is no chance of the production models failing. As the fleet of Seekers launches into the city Alistair deliberates if there will be a second chance at this should they fail.
Harry Osborn and Flash Thompson make idle small talk away from the other party guests at Jameson’s house. The topic of Norman’s whereabouts is broached; considering the social elitist nature of the Hardy Foundation charity ball it seems surprising that he would miss such an opportunity. Harry says that he’s tied up with some important deal over at the factory but he doesn’t know the details – his father never gives him the details. Felecia drags Flash away to the dance floor only to notice Peter across the room, the sight of him in a tux seemingly detracting her attention away from Flash. Peter has brought Aunt May as his plus-one and is introducing her around the social elites of the party. Although she is impressed by Peter’s significance this evening, she tells him he doesn’t need to impress her like this – she’d be happy enough watching cable. While Flash finds this highly amusing, Felicia is touched by this and introduces herself as Peter desperately tries to stop May trying to set him up with the mysterious Mary Jane Watson again. Felicia sweeps Peter, unable to believe his luck, away to the dance floor. Jaded, Flash and Harry head outside so Flash can don a Spider-Man costume as part of a plan to ruin Peter’s chance with Felicia. Up high a Spider Seeker detect the costumed Flash and Spencer zeros in on the location. Clearly Eddie is thrilled that Jameson will have a front row seat to the event – all the better to sell his story to the Bugle for whatever his price. The Black Widow begins its voyage towards the party.
Smitten by Peter’s charm and dance skills, Felicia kisses him as his spider-sense triggers. He breaks away as the babbling guests make room for the Spider-Man impersonating Flash. Spider-Flash grabs Peter by the collar, voicing ‘his’ dislike of the pictures Parker is always running of him. Peter’s glib apology apparently isn’t enough but before he can press the matter further the Black Widow crashes through the ceiling in pursuit of Spider-Flash. Peter escorts May to safety while Felicia confronts the Spider Slayer, barely avoiding its attack as the real Spider-Man shows up to divert its attention. As the fight unfolds Jameson laments choosing the cowardly Parker who has yet again fled from danger when he should be capturing the monumental occasion. The Black Widow all but destroys the apartment in its attempts to reach Spider-Man. When the dust settles Norman spies the unconscious Wall Crawler under a pile of rubble. Excavating the helpless figure the Black Widow flies back to the Smythe laboratory with its prize.
Firemen and police see to the wreckage and injured at what remains of Jameson’s home. Hearing Brocks’ voice from down the hall he walks in on May watching a special live bulletin by Brock who declares that he will unmask the unconscious Spider-Man, who lies at his feet. This revelation of events distracts Jameson from paying off the $1M of repairs as he waits with glee for the unmasking; Brocks extreme methods were worth the wanton destruction. The moment arrives as Brock pulls back the mask to reveal Flash Thompson. This doesn’t sit well with Jameson who refuses to believe that Spider-Man is just some teenager. Luckily for him his disbelief is suspended by the appearance of the genuine article on the ceiling, suggesting the perhaps Jameson shouldn’t believe everything he sees on TV. Meanwhile over at Smythe’s lab a squad of armed men burst into the lab and surround Spider-Flash, answering Brocks question that they’re here for the web slinger - Alistair’s assessment to trust Osborn at his word was misguided despite Norman’s feigned surprise at the sanario. A gunman smashes the camera, killing the live feed. Back at the Jameson residence, Jonah certifies that the Spider-Man among them is the real deal, and once again Brock made the Bugle a national laughing stock. Spidey swings away to save Flash.
Arriving at Smythe’s lab Spider-Man easily dispatches the first volley of armed guards, causing one of the more inept goons to declare to the room that they are working for the King Pin and he wants Spider-Man dead. As a gunman prepares to terminate Spider-Flash Spider-Man webs the rifle from his hands – the presence of two Spider-Men throwing the congregation into confusion. So confused are the goons that they charge in to attack with bare fists rather than their weapons, allowing Spidey to make short work of them as on of the more intelligent men activates the Black Widow. He seizes a steel girder as a weapon but it does little to slow the Black Widows’ advance; his concentration stretched now with having to contend with a torrent of laser fire from the henchmen on top of the mechanical menace. Norman takes matters into his own hands as the henchmen fail to take down their target, turning on a Spider Seeker which hurtles towards Spider-Man, who bats it away with the girder – the resulting explosion ignites the chemicals and fire rapidly spreads throughout the laboratory. Impeding the flight of the Smythe’s, Norman forces Spencer to go back to the lab and personally see to it that Spider-Man dies; his son’s prototype chair hangs on his ability to see the deal through. Spencer makes Norman promise to take Alistair to safety while he mans the Spider Slayer from the control screen. The remote control grants the Black Widow increased dexterity and it swipes the steel beam from Spider-Man. Unable to reload web fluid in time, Spidey scales the wall where he discovers the cowardly Flash hold up in a nook above him. The Black Widow flies above him and sprays the wall with oil that causes Spidey to loose his grip and tumble towards the waiting pincers. Fortunately he lands on the blind spot on the machines back. Unable to tell where the real Spider-Man is, Spencer sends the Spider Slayer after Flash which gives Spidey the opportunity to throw several web cartridges into the Widow’s thrusters, yanking the rear legs and sending the hulking machine crashing down into a vat of acid below; destroying it. Flash unmasks and confesses to Spider-Man that he’s always tried to emulate him, and makes Spidey promise to never tell his peers about this hero worship. Spider-Man swings Flash to safety, unaware that Spencer is still in the building. Outside, Alistair watches in horror as the laboratory explodes in a fierce blaze.
Some time later Eddie has been called to the still half-standing home of Jameson who is chewing him out for once again ruining the Bugles’ integrity. Although Jameson agrees that Spider-Man was also responsible for the fiasco he fires Brock on the spot. As the wildly protesting Brock is escorted from the premises, Flash, still in his costume, is being grilled for his stunt by Felicia – ending their fling. Parker fares no better; branded a coward for abandoning her. Aunt May admits she rather enjoyed the evening, which turned out to be far more exciting then she’d anticipated. As she leads Peter away she once again brings up the subject of the blind date with Mary Jane.
Alistair Smythe looks out over the smouldering wreckage of his father’s laboratory, lost in himself. Wilson Fisk appears behind him, asking if there is yet any sign of his father; there is none. Fisk proposes that they become partners; he’ll provide the funding and in return Alistair will build more Spider Slayers in order to exact revenge on the man that caused his fathers’ death: Spider-Man. He wheels Smythe away into the new dawn.
Serving as an introduction to the larger plot thread, this first of a two part story introduces Norman Osborn, Harry, Flash Thompson, Alistair Smythe, Wilson Fisk and the Spider Slayer Project. It also sets up Eddie Brock’s fall from grace that will see him become Venom by the seasons end. The continuity is faithful to both the source material and the previous episodes, which is good to see, and the animation is once again a huge selling point for those still unfamiliar with the series. The story itself is as strong as it is intellegent, and does a desent job of demonstrates how all of the characters are interlinked, even at this early stage.
The main set up for this episode is the pairing of Smythe and the King Pin who act as the main antagonistic puppet masters throughout the five seasons. Although little is seen or heard of Fisk beyond his meeting with Osborn and the final scene with Smythe he is instantly identifiable as being characteristically ruthless and a powerful threat, so well is his character written for. Roscoe Lee Browne adds an iconic performance that gives his instant gruff authority that slides effortlessly into smooth and charming – the perfect combination for such a character, that truly has him steal the show on every appearance. It interesting to think that a the main threat of a child’s Saturday morning kids cartoon should be a merciless crime lord – it seems so adult in concept that it adds a level of sophistication to the proceedings, like the younger audiences are being treated like teenagers. This recurs as a result of Avi Arad’s demand that the programme be a reflection on contemporary American life, resulting in stories concerning terrorism, death, drug addiction, legal rights and many other adult themes as it progressed.
The design of the Black Widow Spider Slayer is amazingly sinister and retrograde basic at the same time – a winning combination, given the bland silver Mk.I-!V from the comics, or the ridiculously over-designed later models (Alien Spider Slayer anyone?). The character designers did another brilliant job in re-imagining old characters for a new medium.
Although at times the dialogue can be clunky, some jokes fall flat, and a willing suspending of disbelief is required in moments of sheer illogical coincidence or stupidity (the henchmen dropping their guns to fight Spider-Man one-on-one), the overall charm of the show and its faithfulness to the source material keeps it as fresh now as it was 16 years ago. Once again, all Spider-fans should be watching this show.
A mature episode that successfully introduces viewers to fragments of the bigger picture, and brings us the first of many show-stealing appearences of the King Pin