A territorial war for the city between Kingpin and the Hobgoblin, initiated by Norman Osborn, has been prevented, with Kingpin squarely back in place as the head of New York’s crime syndicate and Norman reunited with formerly kidnapped son Harry Osborn. Unable to live with the guilt of causing Aunt May to be hospitalised in the crossfire, Peter Parker, the amazing Spider-Man has moved back in to help her recovery.
At the airport a man is being chased down by S.H.I.E.L.D agents under direct instructions from Nick Fury himself. The man is able to slip out of the main terminal and perfectly imitates a pilot using a contraption on his belt. He escapes the airfield by hijacking a helicopter and heading for cover in the city but SHIELD are still on him, forcing him to take evasive manoeuvres that damage his tail rotor and send him colliding into an abandoned building. Spider-Man rescues him from the burning wreckage and doubles back to save a trapped civilian. The mysterious man comes to and works his way aggressively through the crowd as they cheer on Spidey –he sees the man flee the helicopter explodes, forcing him to save the crowd while the man disappears into the alleys. Here the stranger is revealed as the Chameleon, who smiles menacingly as he watches Spider-Man with interest before transforming again and slipping away.
The Daily Bugle offices are bursting to overflow as Peter tries to track down J. Jonah Jameson, finally capturing some alone time in the elevator where he asks to be the photographer at the upcoming peace treaty signing being held in New York. Jameson feels Peter’s style and portfolio is too low class for such a prestigious event but eventually Peter wins him over as the pair head for Jameson’s tailor. Chameleon approaches the Bugle, morphing into Jameson. Across town the limo pulls up in a deserted alleyway, locking Jameson and Peter inside as it transforms into a jet and transports them to the SHIELD Helicarrier. Peter is placed in confinement but is able to gain access to a vent shaft that eventually leads him to Fury’s office, and also Jameson. Fury reveals that he is on a manhunt for the Chameleon for diplomatic assassination, attacks on military instillations and inciting civil unrest across Europe – sources have now located him in New York where he has been contracted by terrorist to disrupt the peace treaty event, potentially resulting in war. Jameson is holding a party to make the event and chances are that’s where the Chameleon will strike next, so in order to lure him out of hiding Jameson is brought on board as a stooge to report in any suspicious people in his employment. Peter returns to his cell, and the pair are released.
Disguised as Jameson, Chameleon rifles through the company personal files and adding their photos to his library of disguises. He asks for copies of the security layout of the party and treaty signing, quickly morphing into Robbie Robertson as the real Jameson and Peter return to the office. Peter’s spider-sense goes off, alerting him to danger all too late as Chameleon has already left with the security files. Jameson activates his SHIELD beeper and hidden agents respond immediately – capturing the real Robbie by mistake. Spider-Man intervenes, pulling the agents away. Fury is watching this all remotely and sends in his top agent to deal with the rapidly escalating situation. She quickly realises that Robbie isn’t wearing the image capturing belt device and the agents move on as Chameleon transforms again to mask his trail. Chameleon is caught up by Spider-Man and uses a gas capsule to make his escape with the files. He imitates Peter as he slips from the building, and when MJ appears and stops him as the guards draw in he kisses her to remain hidden – she believes this is his acceptance to a play she’ll be understudying for that night – then runs outside.
Later that evening at the party Chameleon breaches the security from above, attracting the attention of SHIELD and Spider-Man, who confronts him once more. Chameleon uses a gas grenade to slip away, stumbling into SHIELD agents around the corner. Thinking fast he transforms into Spider-Man, then under cover of another gas grenade becomes the female SHIELD agent as he slips away. As the smoke clears Spidey comes head on with the agents, who open fire on him – he binds them in webbing and decides that to fight Chameleon, he’s going to have to play him at his own game. Fury gives the command to his chief agent to get upstairs and clear out the VIPs. Elsewhere, Chameleon has shut off the gas mains in order to imitate the maintenance man, thus allowing him access to the locked-down areas.
MJ has acquired the lead part in that nights’ play. As she looks around she sees Peter’s empty chair which spurs on her embittered performance.
Chameleon infiltrates the party disguised as the maintenance worker just as the SHIELD agents escort away the VIPs – Jameson among them. Fury greets them on the roof, though only Spider-Man realises that the patch is on the wrong eye. He jumps the Chameleon yet all this achieves is SHIELD opening fire on him for attacking whom they believe to be Fury. It’s only when Spider-Man is able to draw their attention to the patch that they realise what is going on, too late however as their slow reaction time allows Chameleon to board a SHIELD helicopter. The helicopter is shot down, crashing into the river in a ball of flame. While SHIELD investigate the area to ensure Chameleon didn’t bail-out at the last second, Spider-Man taunts Jameson that if it weren’t for him inadvertently printing Fury’s photo the wrong way round then the Chameleon would have succeeded, and so he should keep up with the shoddy journalism.
Next day the peace talks have gone off without a hitch. Peter slips in and joins Jameson, preparing to take a picture of the delegates, when suddenly the camera is webbed out of his hands just as a plasma beam fires from the lens. Spider-Man reveals Peter as the Chameleon, shattering his belt device which electrocutes the assassin and renders him unconscious. SHIELD takes Chameleon into custody, with Fury personally thanking Spider-Man for his efforts. Later at May’s house MJ calls by to berate Peter for missing her play and kissing her. Realising what the Chameleon has done, Peter gives chase while spouting out awkward explanations.
The original Spider-Man villain, the Chameleon, makes his appearance as a mercenary assassin hired to prevent a major peace treaty being signed in New York. S.H.I.E.L.D are on his trail but it takes the additional efforts of Spidey and Jameson to interrupt his goals and return him into the custody of Nick Fury.
Aside from introducing Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D and the Chameleon into the lexicon of the series rich catalogue of characters, this is a fairly unremarkable episode. The plot is slow and by the numbers, and the whole episode has little excitement outside of the dry espionage plot. There is no final showdown or villainous monologues, with most of the encounters between Spider-Man and Chameleon resulting in little more than very brief tussles before Chameleon can morph and slip away into the crowd. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be an issue, as his character is one of stealth not force, but with the television re-design Chameleon has gone from psychotically troubled weakling to a muscular, well-armed soldier for hire. As such he should be more suited to the occasional fight scene that his comic counterpart. Not that a major fight is essential for every episode, but when the character is clearly capable of defending himself, rather than running even when he isn’t attempting to allude SHIELD agents, it seems unfair to bill him as this world-class killer, armed to the teeth with all sorts of weaponry if he isn’t going to live up to the reputation/use the equipment. This is a minor grip yet it dictates so much of the episode as a ‘case of mistaken identity’ affair when it could have thrown in some good action just as easily without compromising the plot.
The story in essence is certainly interesting; Nick Fury bringing SHIELD to New York to prevent a shape-changing assassin from disrupting a peace summit that’d lead to global war, but it unfortunately falls flat in its execution. Maybe it’s the problem of the entire episode relying on repeating the same ‘it’s not him/I’m me’ formula so often it becomes tiresome; maybe it’s because the series’ trademark humour is noticeably lacking throughout; maybe it’s because although the villain is creepy in his muteness (and frankly wonderful new designed image) but at the cost of requiring the dull supporting cast to have more lines, sacrificing the evil monologues that have been a highlight of the prior 12 episodes – especially with this coming right after the Hobgoblin arc. Whatever it or the several contributing reasons are, this is an unfortunate let down to a season that was driven by action, brilliantly egotistical antagonists, and funny one-liners. At least this leads into the upcoming ‘Insidious Six’ of Series 2, which established Chameleon as a major player in the rogues gallery and gives him more flexibility.
As a series finale - and this is an exceptionally good series -, Day of the Chameleon is a slow, out of place and ultimately lacking affair that lets itself down in its rush to introduce a character based in espionage in such an action packed collection of episodes, despite the character never looking better.