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Recap / DuckTales (2017) S2E16 "The Duck Knight Returns!"

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When Scrooge's movie studio makes a gritty Darkwing Duck movie, Launchpad teams up with the original Darkwing to stop it.

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In the city of St. Canard, a mysterious hooded miscreant is preparing to blow up the St. O'Malley's kitten orphanage, only to be confronted by Darkwing Duck. Despite being singed by stepping on three landmines in a row, Darkwing manages to subdue the villain but is shocked to see who he is once his hood is removed: Darkwing himself!

What we have just witnessed is the final scene of Darkwing Duck before its untimely cancellation, shown off by Darkwing's actor Jim Starling at the grand opening of a new couch store. Unsurprisingly, among the small crowd of onlookers are Launchpad and Dewey, the former of which is eager to be in the presence of the star of his favorite show. Unfortunately, most of the crowd does not share Launchpad's enthusiasm and disperse once the ribbon is cut even when Starling offers to sign autographs. As the disgruntled actor heads off to the signing table, Launchpad and Dewey are joined by a pink-shirted stranger who is nervous about meeting his childhood hero. Launchpad attempts to calm his fellow Darkwing fan's nerves by saying he's been to several autograph signings featuring Jim Starling, only to faint on the guy once Starling says it is his turn to get an autograph.

Bitter about being reduced to making guest appearances at furniture outlets since his show's cancellation, Jim pays no attention to the questions the stranger attempts to ask him before getting his Darkwing poster signed. His spirits lift when he sees Dewey approach the signing table, thinking there are still kids around who love his show, but deflates when Dewey presents him the still-unconscious Launchpad, which Jim recognizes as "The Fainter" from previous meet and greets he's appeared at. As Dewey begins to post a photo of Launchpad and Starling online, he notices something strange: Darkwing Duck is trending hot on social media! Upon further investigation, Dewey finds the reason for this: Darkwing Duck is being made into a movie! Jim is overjoyed to learn his star-making role made a big enough impression on someone to decide to make a feature film based on the show and triumphantly announces the return of Darkwing Duck atop Launchpad's back, which wakes him up and makes Starling fall onto the stranger before Launchpad faints once again on both ducks.

Soon enough, Launchpad gives Dewey and Jim a lift to the studio where the movie is being made, though it's a slow ride over since Launchpad can't help but faint every time he sees Jim in the rear-view mirror. Despite his eagerness about going to a movie studio for the first time, Dewey finds it puzzling that nobody bothered to send a car for Jim sooner or even tell him the movie is in production. Launchpad reassures him that the movie couldn't be made without him, as Jim is Darkwing Duck, and faints once again as Starling agrees with him and they literally crash into their destination. Dewey's concern over the consequences of the crash turns to shock once he sees the name of the studio itself: McDuck Studios!

In the studio's conference room, Scrooge meets with the Darkwing movie's director Alistair Boorswan over more funds the latter needs to film the picture's finale. Scrooge, who has not seen a movie since the Thirties and is more accustomed to his studio making office-safety videos than major motion pictures, is reluctant to comply since Boorswan is already over budget and demands to be consulted on all further decisions if Boorswan wants more money, suggesting that the film should be in color and that the villain should have a mustache to twirl. The meeting is interrupted when Dewey barges into the conference room with Launchpad in tow and angrily confronts his great-uncle about his discovery.
Dewey: You have a movie studio that could fulfill a starry-eyed boy's cinematic dreams?! Why didn't you tell me?!
Scrooge: To avoid this exact conversation?
Dewey: Okay, yeah, I can see that.

Jim enters the room announcing his character's catchphrase and expresses his eagerness to begin working with Boorswan, who has no idea who he is. Launchpad's own excitement over the movie and slew of questions over how similar it will be to the show prompts Boorswan to show them the movie's trailer. Launchpad is on pins and needles to see his childhood hero on the big screen, but this changes once he sees the trailer paints Darkwing as a grim and gritty Anti-Hero that "battles darkness with more darkness." The trailer is met with mixed reviews. Launchpad does not approve of Darkwing being portrayed as anything other than a noble-hearted hero who fights for what is right and gets confused when Boorswan claims that everyone is both the hero and the villain of their own story. Jim doesn't mind at all and is even intrigued by the new direction that Alistair is taking with his iconic role, saying he likes that it shows off his "dark, smoldering side". Like Launchpad, Dewey is not impressed by the trailer and complains about it not giving a clear indication of the villain's plot or who the villain is, making Scrooge think it's due to the lack of a sinister mustache. Dewey insists that an action film needs things that will appeal to an action-loving audience (i.e. ninjas, aliens, a streetwise sidekick that skateboards and talks in catchphrases), prompting Scrooge to place his blue-clad nephew in charge to make sure the film appeals to its target demographic, despite Alistair's protests. Pulling Alistair aside, Jim tells him not to listen to Scrooge and Dewey's criticisms and asks when they can begin filming, only for Boorswan to inform him that not only is the film close to completion, but that somebody else has already been hired to play Darkwing in the movie: the pink-shirted fan from the couch store opening! Though the fan is quick to express his admiration for his character's original actor, Jim reacts as well as you'd expect from learning he's been replaced for his iconic role: by jumping the fan in a rage and pummeling him.

Once Jim is thrown out of the studio for the attack, he and Launchpad are quick to vent their grievances about the film: Launchpad complains that it does not capture the spirit of the Darkwing Duck he knew and loved growing up while Jim is more incensed with the fact that a Darkwing Duck film is being made that doesn't have him reprising his role from the show. After saying he wishes there was a way for them to show everyone how great the original Darkwing is, Jim is inspired to do just that and dons his Darkwing Duck costume before recruiting Launchpad to help him, making the former faint in delight.

Jim shares his plan with Launchpad: they will infiltrate the studio, and while Launchpad locks the actor playing Darkwing inside his trailer, Jim will replace him in the finale so that everyone will see he is the better option for playing Darkwing and get him his stardom back. Launchpad points out the unethical parts of Jim's plan, but is convinced to do his part by his hero. While Jim deals with security, Launchpad gets into a brief scuffle with the actor that is ended by the latter's concern for his Darkwing Duck memorabilia. The two then bond over a mutual love for the show before the actor reveals how Darkwing inspired him since childhood to always keep getting up and that he's fully aware that the movie's not perfect, but he still wants to make it the best it can be. Recognizing the actor as a true Darkwing fan, Launchpad declares they will talk to Boorswan in order to make Darkwing the hero they know him to be. As Jim knocks out the security guards chasing him and stashes them in a supply closet, the actor apologizes for not having Starling get involved in the film sooner and attempts to extend an olive branch over the situation by offering Jim a say in what happens with the movie. But Jim is less than receptive and stuffs the actor in the closet as well... proclaiming with a crazed look in his eyes that it's showtime.

Meanwhile, production of the movie's final act is veering faster into oblivion as Dewey brings in dancers and chainsaw jugglers, much to the bafflement of Boorswan. Posing as the actor, Jim takes his place at the star's chair, ready to be catapulted back to fame...and is dismayed to learn Boorswan expects Darkwing to surrender to Megavolt. Jim immediately goes off-script and whomps the Megavolt actor, which makes an electrical iron rod fall and make a fire break out on the set. Boorswan demands to cut, only to be on the receiving end of Jim's wrath. Just when Launchpad leaps in front of Boorswan to shield him from harm, the scene is interrupted by a newcomer introducing himself with a phrase all too familiar.
"I am the terror that flaps in the night. I am the overstuffed burrito that spills onto the lap of crime. I...am...DARKWING DUCK!"

There on the rafters appearing out of smoke is the actor now wearing a newer Darkwing Duck outfit, much to the fury of Jim. The Darkwing actor drops down and teams up with Launchpad to stop Jim, while Scrooge orders everyone else to evacuate the studio. The actor powers through Jim's slapstick-y attempts to take him out as Launchpad works to activate the rain machine to douse the flames. The actors brawl and as Jim threatens the Darkwing actor with a chainsaw, Launchpad stops the feud and goes into a monologue about the heroic nature of Darkwing Duck, not realizing the remaining electrical antenna is about to explode right next to him, despite Jim and the actor's attempts to warn him. Jim comments on Launchpad's blathering, and the actor points out it's because Launchpad is Jim's biggest fan. It's enough to get Jim to drop the chainsaw and push Launchpad and the actor from the impending explosion, at the apparent cost of his own life...

After the fire's put out, Boorswan, Dewey and Scrooge take stock. Boorswan loved the fight between the two Darkwings and thinks they can salvage the finale by using the fight in it, but the hope comes to a grinding halt when it turns out Dewey filmed over the footage with random dancing. Deciding enough money has been wasted on this project, Scrooge officially drops out on the production, proclaiming there will never be a Darkwing Duck movie. The Darkwing actor is saddened, not knowing what to do since his hero both tried to kill him and has presumably perished, and his acting career is over before it could really start. Launchpad cheers the actor up by saying he could be Darkwing Duck for real and be a legit crime fighter. The actor is open to the idea and Launchpad encourages him further by declaring himself to be the actor's fan and presenting his Darkwing Duck poster for an autograph. The actor happily signs his name.
Launchpad: "Drake Mallard." Never heard of ya.

As the two new friends depart, they fail to notice a piece of torn purple cloth in the debris that is slowly dripping purple dye that flows into a sewer grate. In the sewers beneath the studio, we are shown the all-too-alive Jim Starling shrouded in shadows...or at least what is left of him, as the trauma from the explosion has left him completely unhinged as he seethes in fury that he had been set up for humiliation by Mallard as the purple dye in his costume washes away thanks to exposure to the rain machine.
Jim: It was all a setup. That hack put my fan in danger to steal the glory and humiliate me! They want "grim and gritty", huh? Happy to play the part...

And as he steps into the light, we are shown what has become of Jim after the explosion: eyes swirling with madness, sharp teeth revealed in a menacing grin, and his costume now sporting very familiar colors of black, red, and yellow as he gives out a disturbingly evil cackle.

Jim Starling was never Darkwing Duck...he's Negaduck.

[Cue happy credits music]

Tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Launchpad, Dewey, and Scrooge are the only series regulars in this episode.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: The 1991 Darkwing Duck was kind of self-centered, egotistical Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Here, the negative traits are assigned to Jim Starling, with the official 2019 version of Drake Mallard (who would later become a "real version" of Darkwing Duck in this series) being more of a big kid and a Nice Guy. Though he still retains at least some of OG Darkwing's ego, declaring that he looks great in a cape and that he's better than Gizmoduck.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In-universe. The Darkwing of Launchpad's favorite Show Within a Show was a noble "champion of right", whereas the Darkwing of the movie reboot Darkwing: First Darkness is made out to be (in the eyes of Launchpad and Dewey) a terrifying character who "fights darkness with more darkness".
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  • Amusing Injuries: During the "Darkwing vs. Darkwing" fight, Drake gets blasted with explosives, has a piano dropped on his head, and gets zapped repeatedly with electricity. However, he refuses to stay down.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Launchpad repeatedly apologizes as he attacks the actor in the trailer.
  • Art Shift: Drake Mallard's flashback is told in the art style of the original Darkwing Duck cartoon through comic panels.
  • Ascended Fanboy: The actor set to portray Darkwing Duck in the film (Drake Mallard) is as huge a fan of the original series as Launchpad.
  • Attention Whore: Jim Starling is desperate to reclaim his fame by becoming part of the movie, even threatening the movie staff to keep them from leaving while the set is on fire.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Invoked. The movie was supposed to end with Megavolt defeating Darkwing.
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  • Bait-and-Switch: After bonding over his Darkwing Duck collection (particularly his old lunchbox), the actor begins to tell Launchpad about how he was an outcast as a kid. Then one day, he saw the show on TV and was inspired by the character's heroism and determination. Launchpad assumes that the actor went on to obtain his lunchbox, impressed the other kids with it, and stopped getting beat up. The actor then corrects him saying he actually got beat up worse for liking the show but he was able to use the show's teachings to fight back and keep moving forward.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Invoked by Jim Starling in his rant in the sewers after becoming Negaduck:
    Jim: They want "grim and gritty", huh? Happy to play the part... (Evil Laugh)
  • Big Damn Heroes: Jim Starling takes hold of a ray-gun and goes on a zapping rampage, threatening to destroy the movie studio and everyone else with it. Just when he's about to blast Launchpad who has shielded Alistair Boorswan with himself, he gets intervened by Drake Mallard in a very familiar guise.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Drake Mallard gains new purpose, deciding to become the superhero Darkwing Duck thanks to Launchpad's prompting. However, he's lost his big break in the film industry, and his and Launchpad's hero, Jim Starling, has fallen into insanity and become Negaduck.
  • Broken Pedestal: Downplayed. Jim Starling becomes this to both Launchpad and Drake when they realize how much of a jerk he's become, but both of them thought they can get through to him (and they did, albeit briefly) and are saddened when they thought he didn't make it in the explosion. That said, they still acknowledge what an inspiration he was, and Launchpad convinces Drake to take up the Darkwing Duck mantle in Jim's honor.
  • Call-Back: In "Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System!", it was shown that Jim insisted on keeping the cameras rolling no matter what happened, even when he got injured doing his stunts. When Jim starts wrecking the set, and Boorswan says 'Cut', Jim gets furious enough to try killing him right there.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Played for Laughs. Dewey is furious when he finds out Scrooge owns a movie studio that could fulfill his cinematic dreams and demands to know why he didn't say anything about it, but he soon finds himself unable to argue with his great-uncle's explanation, which is simply "to avoid this exact conversation."
  • Canon Character All Along:
    • The new actor who plays Darkwing Duck in the movie is in fact this show's version of Drake Mallard, who decides to become a hero for real.
    • The original actor from the show, Jim Starling, suffers an accident which twists his mind and alters his clothing, turning him into this show's version of Negaduck.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Drake Mallard is voiced by Chris Diamantopoulos, who voices Mickey Mouse in the current series of shorts.
    • A security guard who has never heard of Darkwing Duck is voiced by Tad Stones, the creator of Darkwing Duck.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Dewey sets a hanging piano for the movie's climax, which would include a musical number. During their battle, Jim makes it fall over Drake. It barely slows him down.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The only Darkwing Duck fan besides Dewey and Launchpad that came to Jim Starling's signing turns out to be Darkwing's actor in the movie.
  • Cliffhanger: The episode ends on a big cliffhanger as Jim is revealed to still be alive, and insanity causes him to become Negaduck.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Both Darkwings take cheap shots while fighting the other. Drake kicks Jim in the shins, while Jim pokes Drake in the eyes.
  • Comic Books Are Real: After decades of Darkwing Duck just being a Show Within a Show, Drake Mallard decides to become Darkwing Duck for real.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Dewey said he couldn't tell who the bad guy was from the trailer, Scrooge concluded it was because of the lack of a mustache.
  • Continuity Nod: The fact that Johnny from Ottoman Empire cancelled his appearance is probably tied to the behind-the-scenes drama on the Ottoman Empire show.
  • Create Your Own Villain:
    • Starling's turn to Negaduck can be attributed to Boorswan neither involving him in the reboot in any capacity, nor even properly informing him of said reboot. Jim only learned of the film by accident.
    • Seemingly averted in Drake's case, however. When he meets Starling at the event, he says that he has an important question for him. However, Starling cuts him off. Given that when they meet again, Drake asks him for advice about taking on the role of Darkwing, it's entirely likely that, if Starling didn't cut him off, Drake would have told him right then and there. Also, Drake later offers to get Jim Starling in the film because Jim inspired him and should inspire other kids in turn.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Darkwing Duck creator Tad Stones voices the studio guard, as mentioned under Casting Gag.
    • Michael Peraza, legendary Disney Imagineer and character designer on both DW and the original DuckTales, drew and signed the comic art that forms Drake's flashback.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Launchpad convincing Drake to become the real-life Darkwing. Cemented with one word, even.
    Launchpad: It's one thing to play a hero, and it's another thing to actually be a hero. Do it for Jim.
    Drake: (looks hopeful for a moment, then sulks) I don't know... this whole thing sounds like it could get-
    Launchpad: (smirking) Dangerous?
    (Drake looks up with a look of resolve, putting on Darkwing's hat)
  • Darker and Edgier: In-Universe, Alistair Boorswan's original direction for the reboot movie was to make Darkwing more grim and gritty. Jim Starling's Sanity Slippage has him decide to 'give the people what they want' and do this as well. As Negaduck.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Enforced. Scrooge insists that the villain in the movie have a mustache to twirl, complaining that he couldn't tell who the villain was in the trailer without one. He clearly gets his wish, as the movie version of Megavolt sports one (though Scrooge still thinks it's too small). He also can’t tell Drake Mallard's Darkwing Duck from Jim Starling's Darkwing Duck in the climax because of the lack of this trope with him.
  • Decomposite Character: Jim and Drake split the difference between the original Darkwing. Jim gets all the ego, ham, and arrogance, while Drake gets the heroic nature, compassion, and occasional slapstick injuries.
  • Defictionalization: In-universe. After the Darkwing Duck movie is cancelled, Drake Mallard decides to become a real-life superhero modeled after the protagonist of the Show Within a Show.
  • The Determinator:
    • Drake learned from the Darkwing Duck show to constantly get back up and keep going, no matter how many times he's knocked down. It shows during his fight with Starling, as Drake keeps powering through everything Starling throws at him. At one point in the fight, he gets repeatedly electrified, and you can see there's a crack in his skull in the X-Ray Sparks.
      Drake/Darkwing: Keep... getting... up!
    • Jim Starling shows the negative version of this, as nothing, no outright refusal nor heartfelt pleas from his biggest fans, will prevent him from taking what he believes to be his rightful place as Darkwing Duck in the film.
  • Downer Ending: Invoked. One of Dewey's changes for the movie is a climatic showdown between Darkwing Duck and Megavolt, but Boorswan decides that it will end with Megavolt defeating Darkwing.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: In the aftermath of the explosion, Starling's only takeaway from Launchpad's passionate speech about heroes was Drake's assertion that Launchpad was Starling's biggest fan. Jim's now fractured mind ends up twisting this into the belief that Drake put his fan in danger just to humiliate him.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Jim feels this way over how little appreciation he gets from the fans of his show who don't bother to stick around to get an autograph at the opening of the new sofa store, and becomes offended that nobody considered informing him about a feature film adaptation of Darkwing Duck or invited him to reprise his role.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: While the episode puts Scrooge in the role of a clueless executive producer who knows nothing about movies (with Scrooge himself admitting he hasn't seen a movie since the 30's), he nonetheless makes a few very valid criticisms of the Darkwing Duck movie. Namely, pointing out that with Dewey finding the film's trailer to be completely incomprehensible, Boorswan has completely missed what should be his target demographic (children).
  • Enforced Method Acting: In-universe. Many of the props used in the Darkwing Duck movie are actually functioning and can cause actual damage, including Megavolt's ray gun, a box of explosives, and a dropping piano. All of these would be lethal if the lead actor wasn't Made of Iron.
  • Evil Laugh: Jim Starling pulls two of these off; first after knocking out Mallard and locking him in a supply closet, and the second at the end of the episode following his Descent Into Madness that resulted in him becoming Negaduck.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The movie trailer features this heavily. It tries to go for a Grey-and-Gray Morality vibe ("There are no heroes or villains—only darkness"). Yet, throughout the trailer, Darkwing comes across as a borderline Villain Protagonist, fighting darkness with more darkness and terrifying civilians.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe, Scrooge (as the producer) and Dewey both put pressure on the director to change the movie... only Scrooge insists on the villain having a mustache he can twirl, while Dewey comes up with plenty of disjointed ideas that fit neither the plot nor the tone of what the director intended for the film. Justified in that Scrooge never set foot in a cinema since the 1930s and Dewey is a kid.
  • Fainting: Launchpad keeps fainting in the first scenes of the episode due to being star-struck from meeting Jim Starling. He has done this numerous times that Jim recognizes him as "the fainter".
  • Fake–Real Turn: At the end of the episode, Drake decides to become a real-life version of Darkwing.
  • Fish out of Water: Due to not having seen a movie since the 1930s, Scrooge has no clue about the modern film industry, believing color films are a trend and expecting the villain to have a mustache to twirl.
  • Foil: Jim Starling is egotistical and stuck in the role of Darkwing, who would harm others to keep playing the part. Drake Mallard is a Nice Guy who took the role in a bad movie to inspire other kids and selflessly offers to film with Jim and risk his big break because it's the right thing to do.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Regarding Jim Starling's transformation into Negaduck:
      • The Cold Open for this episode shows the final minute or so of what would end up being Darkwing Duck's final episode, with Darkwing finding himself face to face with another Darkwing, which happens at the end of the episode with a "TO BE CONCLUDED...!" tag that, unfortunately, would not be followed up upon. This also suggests the fictional version of the show was intended to, but ultimately didn't have a Negaduck, who instead becomes real.
      • At the meet-and-greet at Siesta Rick's, the balloons are colored red and yellow just like Negaduck's outfit.
      • After watching the trailer for the movie, Launchpad says Darkwing Duck would never set the city on fire (intentionally). In the climax, Jim Starling sets the movie set on fire.
      • Starling actually likes the trailer for the Darker and Edgier movie.
      • Launchpad points out that Jim's plan to take over the movie by breaking into the studio and kidnapping the actor playing Darkwing isn't very heroic, a clue about Jim's true nature.
      • Attentive ears may notice that Starling's bout of Laughing Mad after locking Mallard in a closet sounds chillingly similar to Negaduck's trademark Evil Laugh. His voice also changes to sounding like Negaduck's during the climactic battle before his full transformation. His mad eyes during the same sequence are also similar to how Negaduck's would sometimes look in the original show, especially when contemplating something particularly evil.
      • The ultimate piece of evidence comes when Jim Starling suddenly brandishes a chainsaw against Drake Mallard in their fight. In the original Darkwing Duck series, chainsaws were Negaduck's weapon of choice.
    • Regarding the movie actor being Drake Mallard:
      • Combined with Mythology Gag, Jim's replacement wears a pink shirt, which was part of Drake Mallard's civilian outfit in Darkwing's show; a hint of the actor's name.
      • Another hint at Drake's identity is his beak, which has the lower chin so characteristic of the original Darkwing Duck.
      • While Jim only needs a quick, well placed hit to defeat each guard, he needed several hard head shots to knock Drake out, showing that Drake's Made of Iron, which becomes much more noticeable in the climactic battle.
      • A subtle one: Launchpad ends up forming a friendship with Drake and has better cooperation with him than Jim.
      • Another subtle one: during the fight in the trailer Launchpad knocks the actor down, causing him to fall into the bathroom only to emerge with his head covered in toilet paper. What looks like a simple piece of slapstick is actually a callback to the original series, where at the end of the pilot Drake Mallard uses that same array of bandages on his head together with a few choice words to clue Gosalyn in that the man who wants to adopt her is actually Darkwing Duck.
    • In the cold opening of the in-universe series finale, Darkwing Duck goes to confront a masked villain (who is revealed to be himself), and triggers trap after trap suffering amusing slapstick injuries but presses on. In the episode's climax, when Drake Mallard goes to confront Jim Starling, he suffers injury after injury and keeps pressing on. This foreshadows Drake Mallard being this continuity's Darkwing Duck, and Jim Starling becoming the villainous Negaduck.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • If you pause right at the end of the Darkwing Duck episodes, where Darkwing unmasks his evil doubleganger, you'll notice that it looks like a very bad split screen edit, much like the ones an old TV show would use when the actor would be playing two characters on screen at the same time.
    • At the furniture opening, the sign advertising Jim Starling's appearance had "Johnny from Ottoman Empire" scratched out.
    • Dewey's hashtags include "#Celebrity? #IWasntAliveInThe90s and #TimeToJumpOnRecliners"
    • Other top trending hashtags are, in order: Horrible Opinions, Gizmoduck Theories, Viral Video: Kid Crashes!, Fashion: Beak Polish, and National Pants Day.
    • The various movie posters on the wall inside the studio.
    • One of the pillows in the trailer has the motto "Keep Calm, Stay Dangerous" stitched into it.
    • In the trailer, you can actually spot Drake's name written down before the Canon Character All Along reveal at the end.
  • Freudian Excuse: Drake says he got beat up and picked on a lot as a kid, but watching Darkwing repeatedly get back up after getting knocked down inspired him. He still got bullied, but he started fighting back.
  • Genius Ditz: Scrooge notes that Launchpad's big speech at the climax may be the most eloquent the man has ever been. Dewey points out this is the one topic Launchpad knows a lot about.
  • Given Name Reveal: For most of the episode, Jim Starling's replacement for the Darkwing movie goes unnamed. It's only when he signs Launchpad's poster that he's revealed to be Drake Mallard, the name of Darkwing's alter-ego from the original animated series.
  • Hands Go Down: A verbal variation.
    Dewey: An epic showdown between Darkwing Duck and the villainous villain Megavolt!
    Scrooge: Question!
    Dewey: (Annoyed) Who has a mustache.
    Scrooge: Question rescinded.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Jim seemingly pulls off a Heroic Sacrifice to save Launchpad, after finally realizing the error of his ways. While he survives, unfortunately the explosion that he causes ended up frying his brain and closed the door on any potential face turn.
  • Heel Realization:
    • Launchpad gets one when he realizes that he's attacking a fellow Darkwing fan and not a "replacement". When Jim tackles Drake and starts a fire, Launchpad in heroic fashion turns on the emergency sprinklers.
    • Jim seems to finally reconsider his actions upon Drake telling him that he's Launchpad's hero. It doesn't last, as after saving Launchpad's life, his brain is now fried from electricity as a result of an electrical iron rod blowing up in his face. In this new Joker-esque state of mind, he deluded himself into rationalizing that everything that went wrong wasn't his fault, and that Drake put everyone in danger so that he could humiliate Jim.
  • Heroic BSoD: By the end of the episode, Drake is crushed that he had to fight his hero, who tried to kill him, and seemed to have died. Also, his film career ends before it begins. Launchpad encourages him to find a new path by becoming Darkwing for real.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jim saves Launchpad from the exploding electrical iron rod, seemingly at the cost of his life when Launchpad's speech makes him have a change of heart... until the end where it becomes clear that Jim is still alive, but had in fact just sacrificed all traces of sanity he had left.
  • Hidden Depths: Launchpad's eloquent speech about what being a hero means.
  • Hope Spot:
    • When Jim sneaks onto the set, Drake encounters him. He apologizes for Boorswan being, well, a boor, and says that Jim should star in the movie so that together they can inspire a new generation of kids. Jim considers it for a moment, and it seems the plot will resolve. Then he beats up Drake and locks him in a closet.
    • After his Heel Realization, Jim rescues Launchpad from the exploding electrical iron rod seemingly at the cost of his own life. It is revealed that he survived... and has become completely corrupted by the explosion, turning into Negaduck.
  • Idiot Ball: Scrooge, who often boasts of being "smarter than the smarties" firmly grabs it in this episode when he decides to meddle in Boorswan's movie despite not seeing a film since the 1930s and possessing no understanding of current movie trends that would enable him to make meaningful critiques and suggestions.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Played for drama, and more like completely forgotten epiphany. Sadly, saving Launchpad is the last heroic thing Jim does — next time we see him, he's completely lost his mind as a result of the exploding electrical iron rod, convinced that Drake did that for a stunt and fully transformed into Negaduck in his insanity.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Dewey squees over footage of him dancing... which is recorded over the exciting, dramatic and tragic fight between the two Darkwings. It's the straw that finally gets Scrooge to cancel the entire production.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Jim Starling's violent tendencies only increase with his insanity, until he becomes Negaduck.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Tad, the security guard, looks like his voice actor, the original Darkwing Duck creator Tad Stones... if he was an anthropomorphic bird.
  • It's All About Me: Launchpad is upset that the Darkwing Duck film does away with the hopeful, inspiring message that made him fall in love with the show in the first place and feels it's not true to the character. Meanwhile, Jim Starling doesn't care about any of the changes the Darkwing Duck movie made other than the fact it's going to be a Darkwing Duck movie without him in the lead role. He was even pleased to see the dark and edgier tone because he thought it'd be a chance to show off his "dark, smoldering side".
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Jim Starling. Especially apparent when Drake Mallard gives a heartfelt speech explaining how much he inspired him growing up, and offers to work with him to make the movie better, and offers his hand. Jim looks taken aback and hesitantly takes his hand... only to reveal he has no intention of sharing the spotlight and lock him up in a closet, slamming the door on his face several times. (This only foreshadows his true nature.)
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: In true Darkwing fashion, Drake and Launchpad step up when it matters most.
  • Lightning Gun: A functional one was designed for the movie. Jim uses it repeatedly, first to destroy the set and then to attack Drake.
  • Manchild: Launchpad and Drake playing with Darkwing toys. They also Squee! over getting to do actual superheroics.
  • Mirror Match: The episode's climax is a fight between the old Darkwing and the new Darkwing. Scrooge is unable to tell them apart, and so he doesn't jump in to help.
    Dewey: Uncle Scrooge, stop the bad guy!
    Scrooge: Which is the bad guy?! If only one had a blasted mustache!
  • Morality Pet: Launchpad is a minor one for Jim Starling. Drake reminds Jim that he is Launchpad's hero and idol.
  • Mundane Utility: Turns out Scrooge owns a fully functioning film studio capable of producing effects-heavy blockbuster films... and he only uses it to produce low-budget office safety videos. He only agreed to back Boorswan's film due to the latter's assurance it would provide much higher profits.
  • Mustache Twirling Villain: Scrooge's standard for cinematic antagonists.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: During Launchpad's passionate speech about who Darkwing Duck really is, Jim Starling lowers his chainsaw, looks at his reflection in it, and tears up with shame. (Sadly, it doesn't stick.)
  • My Little Panzer: The vintage Darkwing Duck Action Hat was discontinued due to blinding children. Sure enough, Launchpad fires the disk straight into his eye.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The McDuck Studios logo has Scrooge drawn like in his older incarnations. Furthermore, it mimics the current Walt Disney Animation Studios logo with Mickey Mouse.
    • The episode has the same title as a Darkwing Duck four-issue comic book, which in turn is a Shout-Out to the 1986 four-issue Batman mini-series, The Dark Knight Returns.
      • Drake takes on the mantle of Darkwing Duck after Jim seemingly perished in the explosion, much like how an alternate Darkwing in the Boom!Studios Comics run took the mantle of Quiverwing Quack after his Gosalyn died during a mission.
    • Several in regards to the new guy the studio hires to play Darkwing, AKA Drake Mallard.
      • His past as a bullied kid who was inspired by Darkwing (in the original his future self, but here Jim Starling) to fight back and eventually become a hero, is a play on Drake's original backstory from "Paraducks".
      • He dresses with a pink shirt, as he usually did in the previous show.
      • His part in the climax involves him getting repeatedly blown up and set on fire, but refusing to give up every time, a play on the classic "singed, but triumphant" moment from "Dirty Money."
    • The bully in Drake's flashback looks like Tank Muddlefoot from the original Darkwing Duck show.
    • The image of the Liquidator on Drake's lunchbox bears his original look from the cartoon, as opposed to the Top-Heavy Guy design he had in "Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System!".
    • Both Darkwings dislike Gizmoduck, for no apparent reason.
    • The "Adventures" graphic on the Darkwing Duck Adventures comic series is lifted directly from the Disney Adventures magazine, which featured Darkwing on its January 1992 and August 1994 covers.
    • Part of Launchpad's speech quotes the Darkwing Duck theme song.
    "A daring duck of mystery, a champion of right! Who is that cunning mind behind the shadowy disguise?"
    • Jim's transformation into Negaduck was complete after getting caught in the event of an electrical iron rod (from the film's climactic fight with Megavolt) exploding, similarly to how Negaduck I was created through Megavolt's tron splitter.
    • Jim referring to Launchpad as his sidekick is a nod to the original Launchpad's role as Darkwing's sidekick.
      • Similarly, Darkwing (Drake) notes that him and Launchpad working together feels right. They even follow a similar strategy to how Darkwing Duck and Launchpad (and/or Gosalyn) often did things in the original series: Darkwing would directly engage the villain while entrusting Launchpad with disabling whatever weapon or device the villain was using.
    • Jim refers to Darkwing as "Dead-meat Duck", just like the villains in the original show.
    • Drake's Darkwing Duck action figure that shoots its hat off. Although it didn't shoot all the way off like a projectile, the real Darkwing Duck action figure's feature was making his hat shoot up off his head on a stick.
    • In the original, DW's Catch Phrase for his bursts of heroism/competence originally came from his response to Launchpad in "Darkly Dawns The Duck" saying "I don't know, DW, that sounds dangerous!" Here, Drake says nearly the same thing to Launchpad, with Launchpad merely saying the last word with emphasis to inspire Drake to take action.
  • Never Found the Body: The crew is unable to find Jim's body after he saved Launchpad. That's because Jim has escaped into the sewers.
  • Never My Fault: With his brain fried, Jim deludes himself into believing that Drake intended to put Launchpad in danger so he could reap the glory and upstage him, even though Jim went mad with his hunger for recognition, destroyed the set and ruined the movie... the electrical iron rod only made his madness worse.
  • Never Say "Die":
    • Played for Laughs when Launchpad suggests he and Drake work together with Jim to fix the movie. Drake is unsure, claiming Mr. Starling "kind of...wants to make [him] not alive anymore."
    • Averted in the climax of Drake and Jim's battle, when Jim revs up a chainsaw and growls, "Show's over, Dead-meat Duck."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Alistair Boorswan is a mash-up of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder, directors of Batman's most recent screen appearances. He is British like Nolan (and has the same hair style as him), while his overly verbose descriptions of the lines being blurred between good and evil fit Snyder's public profile. In either case, both directors are embodiments of the Grim Dark aesthetic in blockbuster cinema.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions:
    • In the final episode of the In-Universe Darkwing Duck show, Darkwing gets blown up three times by stepping on landmines left behind the villain, but only gets slightly charred.
    • One of Jim's attacks against Drake is blowing up the crate of fireworks the latter is standing on. In spite of everyone expecting the worst, it just leaves Drake with an Ash Face.
  • Not So Different: When Launchpad tries to trap the actor in his trailer, he discovers the actor is just as big a Darkwing Duck fan as he is. The two eventually stop fighting and begin playing with the toys and collectibles he keeps in the trailer. Once the actor explains how he wants to make the reboot work so kids will be inspired just they were, Launchpad decides he should be given a chance to play the part and Jim can just give advice instead.
  • Off-Model: The two guards have their colors swapped in the scene where Launchpad hides from them by posing in front of a poster.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Upon seeing Launchpad at his signing, Jim moans "The fainter's back".
  • Piano Drop: One of Jim's attacks against Drake. It doesn't slow Drake down for long.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Invoked by Jim Starling. When Launchpad hesitates to lock Drake Mallard in his trailer so Jim can sneak on set in his place as it doesn't sound very heroic, Jim argues that Darkwing Duck always fights for what's right, right? And he's Darkwing Duck, therefore everything he does it right, right? Then get in there! Drake calls Launchpad out on it during their confrontation in the trailer:
    Drake: You're gonna hold me hostage?! Yeah, real heroic.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: In the span of a single episode, Jim Starling went from the actor who played the heroic Darkwing Duck to genuine villain Negaduck.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: As noted under Why Won't You Die?, Jim Starling gets increasingly frustrated with Darkwing Duck's inexorable advance, punctuating each word with a blast of the electric gun that Darkwing tanks and powers through head-on.
  • Punny Name: Boorswan's last name is pronounced identically to bourgeois which among many things can refer to stuffy, pretentious, fad-chasing tendencies. It also sounds a lot like John Boorman, the director of Excalibur. The first syllable, at least, also rhymes with Moore, as in Alan Moore, whose works Watchmen and The Killing Joke are often attributed with helping usher in The Dark Age of Comic Books.
  • Rebuilt Pedestal: In a sense. Drake and Launchpad are disappointed to learn that Jim Starling was not the hero they thought he was, but take solace in the fact that he still inspired them as kids and the character he played, Darkwing Duck, still embodied ideals worth emulating.
  • The Reveal: In "Friendship Hates Magic!", it was said that Darkwing Duck's show ended in a twisted and unresolved cliffhanger, but we don't even get a description of what that twist was. The Cold Open for this episode shows the twist in its full glory, revealing that Darkwing's last villain was apparently an evil duplicate and the episode itself was supposed to kick off an Evil Twin arc before the show was cancelled. note 
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Alistair Boorswan to Dewey after the latter's Executive Meddling.
    Alistair: What have you done to my psychological masterpiece?!
    Dewey: (matter-of-fact) I added chainsaw jugglers. You're welcome.
  • Rock Bottom: Jim's career has fallen to the point where he's doing personal appearances at the opening of a furniture store, and no one even considered asking him for even a token cameo for the movie based on his character.
  • Running Gag: Scrooge insisting that the movie villain must have a mustache.
  • Sanity Slippage: Jim Starling's attempt to become relevant again in the Darkwing Duck movie drives him to become more desperate and unhinged until he fully transforms into Negaduck.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Drake to his credit tries this when he sees a furious Jim Starling crashing the movie set. He apologizes for Boorswan excluding his hero from the movie and offers for Jim to film the movie with him so that together they can inspire kids. Jim considers it for a moment and then locks Drake in a closet.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Scrooge calls quits on the movie's production after seeing that the fight footage got recorded over with a video of Dewey dancing.
    Scrooge: Well, this was a disaster. I'm shutting this down. There will never be a Darkwing Duck movie.
  • Sequel Hook: The episode ends with Jim having become Negaduck and plotting revenge against Darkwing and the others.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The movie is ultimately cancelled when Boorswan's hopeful usage of the battle between the two Darkwings ends up being recorded over with a dance Dewey was doing.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There are tons to Batman; which makes sense since Darkwing is a homage to the pulp heroes that inspired the Caped Crusader.
      • The episode is an Inversion of the famous episode of Batman: The Animated Series, "Beware of the Gray Ghost" guest starring Adam West as an actor famous for playing a pulp hero now stuck in a Jim Starling-like situation, but ends up having an arc the complete opposite of Jim's.
      • Jim Starling becomes one to classic villain Basil Karlo, the original Clayface: an actor that lost his mind when the studio tried to remake his classic role without him, and turned villain in revenging himself.
      • The design for the reboot movie incarnation of Megavolt is one to Bane from the The Dark Knight Trilogy, whereas the police officer appearing in the trailer (identified in the credits as Commissioner Haggard) looks like Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon from the same film trilogy. The movie poster is also a pastiche of the poster for Batman Begins.
      • The movie's planed ending of Darkwing losing to Megavolt could be a nod to the Bittersweet Ending to The Dark Knight.
      • The Darkwing Duck trailer alludes to several superhero movies, including lighting a match to reveal flaming initials and a pearl necklace falling and shattering (in pretty much every Batman origin story, ever).
    • The dance Dewey does that recorded over the fight footage is the perfect cast.
    • In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, one of the buildings in the Show Within a Show at the beginning is labeled "Saint O'Malley's Kitten Orphanage".
    • Crossing over with Actor Allusion, at one point Jim Starling gives a distinct Stooge eye-poke to his replacement actor. The replacement's voice actor, Chris Diamantopoulos, played Moe Howard in the 2012 The Three Stooges big budget reboot.
    • The basic plot is similar to Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon, with a movie studios making a Darker and Edgier remake of a goofy TV series, with the Kindhearted Simpleton being a big fan of both the character and the original performer, who has been disrespected by the studios, forgotten by most fans, and has developed some noticeable mental issues. Extra points for both heroes being bird-based. However, unlike Jim, who only got worse, the guy playing the original Blue Falcon managed to show himself a true hero in the end, impressing the director and the new performer to the point he got a good role in the movie's sequel.
    • Scrooge says he hasn't seen a movie since 1938. That year there was a film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, featuring the original inspiration for Scrooge McDuck.
    • Doubling as an Actor Allusion: in one scene, Scrooge McDuck wears 3D glasses on top of his other glasses, similarly to the Tenth Doctor.
  • Single-Issue Wonk: Played for Laughs. Scrooge spends most of the episode hung up on the idea that the villain needs a mustache to twirl.
  • Special Edition Title: The usual DuckTales logo is colored purple to indicate this episode is Darkwing Duck-themed.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The very grim trailer for Boorswan's masterpiece has a fleeing citizen refer to him as "The Darkwing", parodying how some more serious works insist on calling Batman "The Batman" or "The Bat".
  • Superior Successor: Drake Mallard ends up being this to Jim Sterling, which further fuels the latters resentment to being replaced.
  • Start of Darkness: For Jim Starling, as he descends into madness and turns into Negaduck.
  • Stock Scream: Both the Wilhem and Howie Long variants show up in the trailer for the film.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • The trailer for the Darkwing Duck movie is nothing but shots of Darkwing terrorizing people and use of the word "Darkness" repeated over and over again. It's so poorly edited and confusing Dewey has no idea what was going on and Launchpad is horrified this is trying to pass itself off as Darkwing Duck.
    • The final in-universe Darkwing Duck episode is still a low-budget affair, since the split screen effect used to introduce Darkwing's double is so poorly done it cuts off part of the Evil Twin's hat.
  • Super Hero Origin: This episode essentially serves as the origin story of how this continuity's Drake Mallard became Darkwing Duck.
  • Swans A-Swimming: Subverted with Alistair Boorswan, who is a Prima Donna Director aiming for a dark and grim atmosphere for his film, which contrasts with the light and peaceful reputation of swans. Qualifies as a case of Shown Their Work, as real swans are nothing like how media portrays them.
  • Take That!:
    • The reboot movie plot is obviously a jab at how a lot of film adaptations of nostalgic, fan-favorite franchises try to be too dark for the fans' taste, while also jabbing in turn at attempts to literally let fan demographics and executives interfere and overwrite the director's vision. The end result is no movie.
      • The last line in the initial trailer ("This film not suitable for children") in particular can be seen as one for how Man of Steel was criticized for being overly dark and violent (such as the infamous neck snap) despite Superman traditionally being viewed as a family friendly property.
    • Launchpad's reaction to the reboot not being a carbon copy of what came before is very similar to some people's reactions when the ''DuckTales'' reboot was announced, with some fans saying that since it wasn't the original, it was automatically horrible.
      Launchpad: Ah, cool! A big-budget reboot of a thing I loved as a kid! Those are always great!
      • Really, one could say this whole episode is a big Take That! to fan backlash as a whole.
  • Taking the Bullet: When Starling points the ray gun at Alistair, Launchpad throws himself in-between to protect the director. However, the other Darkwing Duck interrupts before the gun is fired.
  • Tautological Templar: When Launchpad shows apprehension at breaking into the studio and locking up an innocent actor, Jim excuses it by saying that Darkwing fights for right, and that he is Darkwing. This is enough to get Launchpad to drop the argument, and he tries to assure himself that he and Jim are "the good guys" after breaking into the trailer, but it's clear he's still not fully convinced.
  • Tempting Fate: When the two guards are looking for Jim, they wonder out loud how hard can it be to find someone dressed like he is. Cue Dewey walking by along with several dancers, all of them dressed like Darkwing, thus allowing Jim to briefly blend in with the crowd and catch the guards off guard.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Drake tells Jim Starling "your heart is in my lunchbox" before realizing how awkward that sounded. And earlier than that he mentions he's a huge fan of Starling and "Wants to keep (Starling) in a jar in his room." He then realizes how that sounds.
  • That Man Is Dead: Implied through the actions of Jim Starling. He had already crossed the line of a hero that Darkwing Duck was supposed to be, and it seems that he is just Negaduck now.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: With his mind completely corrupted by the explosion, Jim Starling declares that if a grim and gritty Darkwing Duck is what audiences want, then a grim and gritty Darkwing Duck—implicitly Negaduck— is what he'll happily give them.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Launchpad's reaction to the trailer of the Darkwing reboot movie is an In-Universe example. He particularly takes offense at how instead of being a bright and inspiring hero (à la the Adam West Batman), the reboot Darkwing is a dark and terrifying figure who frightens even innocent civilians (à la the Frank Miller Batman).
  • Throw It In!: invoked Boorswan actually loved the idea of Darkwing Duck getting into a climatic battle against himself and decided to use the camera footage of Jim and Drake's fight in the actual film. Unfortunately, Dewey taped over it.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: In-universe. Drake admits to having a low opinion of the movie and that it isn't the kind of project a fan like himself would want, but he's trying to make it as good as he can in order to honor his hero.
  • Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup: What we see of Boorswan's vision for a Darkwing Duck movie already seems pretentious and incomprehensible. Scrooge and Dewey's last minute re-shoots just make it worse, and Starling muscling his way into production results in the movie being scrapped entirely.
  • Touché: When Dewey demands to know why Scrooge didn't tell him about owning a movie studio that could fulfill his dreams, Scrooge answers, "To avoid this exact conversation." Dewey immediately concedes Scrooge's point.
  • Values Dissonance: In-universe, Scrooge hasn't seen a single movie since 1938, therefore he remains hung up on the idea that the villain needs a big old mustache to twirl, much like all the major cinema villains did in Films of the 1930s.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Jim loses control and becomes outright homicidal when he is told that they have to cut the scene he is in, deciding he is willing to die with everyone on the roof to finish it.
  • Victory by Endurance: Drake manages to indirectly destroy the electric gun by resisting multiple attacks until it overheats and explodes.
  • Warts and All: While Jim Starling ultimately ends up becoming a Broken Pedestal for Launchpad and Drake, they still admire the 'ideal' of Darkwing Duck that had inspired their childhoods.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Launchpad, in his speech, calls Darkwing "A daring duck of mystery, a champion of right, who is that cunning mind behind that shadowy disguise".
  • Wham Episode: Darkwing Duck is now a real-life superhero played by Drake Mallard and Negaduck aka Jim Starling is born.
  • Wham Line: Just when Launchpad shields Boorswan from Jim, the scene is interrupted by newcomer making a phrase all too familiar.
    "I am the terror that flaps in the night. I am the overstuffed burrito that spills onto the lap of crime. I...am...Darkwing Duck!"
  • Wham Shot:
    • At the end, the now-real Darkwing Duck signs Launchpad's poster revealing his name: Drake Mallard.
    • The ending scenes are this combined with another Wham Line. We see a trail of purple leading to the sewers beneath the movie studio; Jim Starling has escaped there... with his mind now fried and warped, and his primarily-purple costume is becoming a very familiar combination of red, black and yellow.
      Jim: They want "grim and gritty", huh? Happy to play the part... (Evil Laugh)
  • Whole Plot Reference:
    • The plot bears many resemblances to the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Beware the Gray Ghost": it features a washed-up actor of a campy superhero series who ends up inspiring a real hero, though it takes a much darker turn than Batman does. It also has other resemblances to the original origin of Clayface from the comics, in which an actor is upset about not being involved in a film remake and tries sabotaging it while dressed as his old character.
    • It's a bit subtle, but the episode has a number of allusions to the The Flash story "The Return of Barry Allen". In that story, it's revealed that Flash's arch-enemy Zoom, the Reverse Flash, was originally a huge fan of the Flash. Negaduck - whose color scheme is a Shout-Out to the Reverse Flash - is shown in this episode to turn evil because he was replaced by a fan. The comic book plot also dealt with replacements and heroic legacies.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Despite the obvious pain, Drake continues advancing through Jim's attacks, much to the latter's frustration and anger.
    Jim: Why! Won't! You! Stay! DOWN?!

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