You may know Retta from her role as “Donna” on Parks & Rec. I first knew her as Retta from her Comedy Central Presents” special in 1994. She is hilarious. If you only know her from Parks & Rec, please look up her stand-up, she’s brilliant. If you watch it you will also discover that she has an amazing singing voice which is no fluke; she’s a classically trained opera singer, which works out wonderfully for this episode of DuckTales, “The Lost Harp of Mervana.” I would have gone with “From Here to Mervana” but that’s just me.
In this episode the whole gang are on their way to the lost city of Mervana courtesy of Isabella Finch’s lost (now found) journal. Scrooge and Huey are extra geeked for this adventure because one, they’re going on an official Isabella Finch adventure and two, treasure! They’re looking for the lost harp of Mervana but don’t know anything about it. We discover some important character traits right away such as Della HATES fish. When the rest of the family sees their first mer-men out of the (yellow submarine) window, they’re struck by the magic and beauty of these mythical creatures. When Della sees them she locks on missiles, a totally chill and not psychotic reaction. Webbie is in her usual state of barely contained euphoria (if you’ve ever been around 11 year olds you’ll know that this isn’t far from the truth) at the idea of meeting actual real mer-people. Mrs Beakley is there which is a rarity. Dewey is… Dewey. He’s just happy to be anywhere, and that’s what I love about him. Louie is also being Louie which means he is extremely suspicious and wary of everything around him, and he should be!
This episode paints him out to be overly cynical but when you look back at the series, he is completely justified in thinking everyone wants to kill them because on the average day SOMETHING IS TRYING TO KILL THEM. While Huey, Dewey, Della and Scrooge charge headlong into danger regularly, Louie takes notes and sees patterns. He correctly states that on average they are menaced, attacked, and/or put up for sacrifice on every adventure they go on. There’s another level to Louie’s cynicism in that he’s also a con man and a liar. And liars, con men and thieves are always on the lookout for lies, cons, and thieves. Webbie is his polar opposite. This season has shown what becomes of the kids when their core beliefs are challenged. We see what happens to Huey without structure, Dewey without attention, and now Webbie without optimism. But that comes later.
Mervana turns out to be an underwater hippie haven where truth is celebrated above all else. The fam are greeted by Alatheia and Vero (both if their names mean “truth”) who are probably high. What do mer-people smoke to get high? Seaweed.
I’ll understand if you close out this window now.
Scrooge, being a first-wave Capitalist hates everything and everyone there. You have to think if Scrooge was real he would be grinding the poor under his boots (spats?) like any other billionaire, but I prefer to believe that he’d be one of those ethical capitalists we hear about in fiction. Donald is there as well in his usual chaperone role, and he achieves nirvana relatively easily. Louie, certain that he’s right in his suspicion, drags Webbie down a long, dark hallway clearly marked DO NOT ENTER. Louie has to be right about this, the same way any of us needs to be right about a core tenet of our beliefs. Even though he does have a good reason, Louie is overwhelmingly negative but Webbies presence balances it out. Eventually with the help of Mrs Beakley they reach the top of a tower where the harp happens to be. It’s not just a harp though, it’s half harp, half, woman, half fish. The math adds up, don’t @ me. Retta voices the harp which to their surprise can only tell the truth, and magically knows when others are “fibbing, fibbing, fibbing!” When I heard these sing-song words it struck a chord way way back in the dusty part of my barin library; I’d heard that song before. A quick google search reminded me that this was the second appearance of a singing harp that only told the truth.
Season 1, episode 4 of the original Ducktales series “Raiders of the Lost Harp” is great and memorable for many reasons, mainly a golden harp shaped like a woman that sang operatically and always told when people were “fibbing, fibbing, fibbing!” It’s touches like these that make me enjoy this particular cartoon reboot so much. It is new and original but also keeps the spirit and references from the original. The harp sings loudly that Mrs Beakly has been lying to Webbie about most everything for her entire life. Beakley tries to explain that she’s been trying to protect Webbie from the harsh truths of the world but she’s not having it. Disillusioned and stripped of her optimism, Webbie turns into a pool of despair and angst, much like Dewey did when deprived of attention and approval. Louie and Webbie have a quick heart to heart where he realizes that damn if that’s what he sounds like he’s a turd in the swimming pool. The episode ends with a big lesson about balance which is a little heavy-handed but also something we all need to seek more of. Balance.
I give this episode 4 lucky dimes out of five. So, 40 cents.
JWC lines of the show: “What’s it like being all of my life goals at once!”
JWC trivia: In the 80’s series Scrooge and the boys took the golden harp from the city of Troy. They couldn’t take the harp in this episode because it was big and heavy. Well not too heavy for Mrs Beakly (seriously why is she freakishly strong?) I understand she’s a BBW but damn.
Coolest details: Scrooge’s face the entire time they’re in Mervana. Della’s dry-heaves at the mention of “fish.” The harp is in a tower… above ground. So the fam goes to the bottom of the sea to find something that was above ground the whole time.