Review: "Danny Phantom" Season 2, Part 2: Episodes So Nice, You Buy Them Twice
Following the release of the first part of season two of Nickelodeon’s Danny Phantom comes the Shout! Factory release of the second half. Not only is the breaking up of season two unnecessary, it’s pointless and maddening. Sure, a complete set would be a lot heavier than the typical, cheaper two-disc release, but owning both parts separately feels like a rip-off. Danny Phantom Season 2 Part 2 contains the episodes “Memory Blank”, “The Ultimate Enemy”, “The Fright Before Christmas”, “Secret Weapons”, “Flirting With Disaster”, “Micro-Management”, “Beauty Marked”, “King Tuck”, “Masters of All Time”, “Reality Trip”, “Double Cross My Heart”, and “Kindred Spirits”. It’s a better selection than the first part of the season, but hey look, “The Fright Before Christmas”, “Micro Management”, “Masters Of All Time”, and “Beauty Marked” are so great you can get them in both part one and part two. There wasn’t a better way to do this?
As for the episodes themselves, there is a clear improvement in quality from the first season. The idea behind Danny Phantom, that a teenager in high school gets crazy ghost powers, creates a hero persona for himself, and fights super-powered enemies while trying (and failing miserably) to keep that separate from his civilian life, is a fun escapist fantasy idea in the Spider-Man vein. On top of that, there’s a healthy dose of comedy injected into every adventure. While not as wacky as Butch Hartman’s other show, The Fairly OddParents, it’s still too gag-heavy to stand among straight-up action cartoons either. I’ll give the show points for giving Danny a variety of powers that he constantly uses in new and creative ways, but most of the fight scenes fall short of real pulse-pounding action. Danny Phantom clearly does comedy better than action, so don’t watch this show expecting Avatar: The Last Airbender. Danny Phantom does know its audience and has settled into its identity by season two, and it’s certainly not apologetic about it. While the slapstick does carry on with the ghost battles in season two, there is an added element of switching up the formula a little bit. Many of these episodes do get experimental, and although the status quo does get set back every time, there’s still the question of “What if?”
Although Danny Phantom doesn’t get a full-on re-brand this season, it does get a literal one. In “Memory Blank”, we see Danny Phantom’s full origin story (expanding on the lyrical recap in the theme song), and history becomes altered. While it does get changed back by the end of the episode, there is one slight tweak. Sam slaps a random “DP” logo on his chest when Danny Fenton first becomes Danny Phantom, which not only gives him the logo now, but it makes it so that he’s always worn the logo, even going so far as to add it to the intro. Hey, as far as this show goes with lasting changes, it’s something.
So the show isn’t big on changing things permanently, but at least it does explore possibilities. The “Memory Blank” history change is only the tip of the iceberg. “Masters of All Time” shows what would happen if Danny’s mom ended up with his enemy Vlad rather than his father. It’s a fun episode that manages the plot and humor well. “Reality Trip” exposes Danny’s secret to the world and shows how his parents and classmates react to the revelation. One of the better episodes of the set, it creates an intense chase around the country with a powerful enemy and danger at every turn. “Ultimate Enemy”, however, may be the best episode in this release, and it also offers a glimpse at a possible reality. This one shows a dark future where Danny loses his friends and family and turns evil, wreaking havoc on Amity Park. It’s about as dark and serious as Danny Phantom gets, so while it avoids outright showing some of the more horrifying details, Dark Danny and his nightmarish future provides enough of a fright. Sometimes with this show you forget that ghosts are supposed to be scary, but then in cases like this, you’re reminded of the chilling potential.
While all those episodes do reset anything that can majorly impact the status quo, there are a few moments that manage to have staying power in the grand scheme of things. While Danny’s sister Jazz has known about his ghost activities since the previous season, we get to see her finally reveal to Danny what she knows, and she becomes a trusted ally. Danny’s complicated relationship with his ghost-hunting classmate Valerie is given a good spotlight in “Flirting With Disaster”, where they grow closer romantically.
“The Fright Before Christmas” is loads of fun. When Danny angers a Ghost Writer, he writes Danny into a Christmas story to teach him a lesson. Will Arnett guest-stars as the Ghost Writer, and the whole episode rhymes in “Night Before Christmas” style. It’s clever, funny, and full of holiday-related cheer.
There’s nothing terribly special about the remainder of the episodes. They’re fairly skippable, and only really good for true Danny Phantom fans who gotta watch ‘em all. Still, the good outweighs the bad on this set, and despite the repeats from the first half of the season, it does end strongly with “Kindred Spirits”, which introduces an important new character, thus making it a must-own to complete the second season.