Let's continue our journey through the darker side of animation with The Disney Channel.
Looking for dark episodes on Disney Channel can be a bit like looking for Boogeyman in your closet.
Most of the time, the worst you're gonna find is Dust Bunnies and embarassing pajama shorts.
But occasionally, Disney can take on some pretty heavy themes.
Rather than focusing on outright violence, they may focus on more abstract concepts like...
The twisting of the mind.
Heroes may become brainwashed, or, worse yet, they may willingly decide to become evil.
Darkwarrior Duck: Looks like it's the chair for you, my ex-compadre!
Strider: So let's check out the "Top 6 Darkest Disney Channel Episodes"!
And just a heads up, there may be some spoilers for the episodes we're going to talk about.
Anyway.... Onto the countdown!
"Phineas and Ferb" - "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted" [Season 1, Episode 45]
Well, this is certainly the darkest "Phineas and Ferb" episode, but it's at the start of the list because --
Although the concept is brutal, the tone is kept pretty upbeat.
Despite the fact we're watching Phineas and Ferb losing all of their creativity and individuality.
The military boot camp process of reshaping people, de-individualizing them...
And molding into them an unwavering devotion to their military commanders can be an...
Unnamed sergeant: Our goal at this school is to *crush* the dangerous elements inside you...
(Slightly hissing) And replace them with structure...
(Demanding tone) Order...
(Venomous growth in tone) Discipline & *conformity*!!!!
Strider: And that is much of the process we see happening to Phineas and Ferb here.
They even throw a good "Clockwork Orange" reference in for good measure.
Look it up, you'll never think of Beethoven the same again.
Baljeet: The book was so much better.
Strider: Of course, even when we're watching Phineas and Ferb get their minds warped --
through heavy military regime, and losing everything that made them who they are...
They *somehow* manage to keep a light-hearted tone!
And to top it off, Phineas and Ferb have their minds restored by Candace at the end --
And they go back to their old, creative selves.
But then it turns out the entire sequence was merely a dream!
Thoroughly destroying all attemtps at executing any high stakes or conceptual darkness that was originally there!
But hey, introducing kids to the concept of military brainwashing is still a very brave step for Disney.
And although it's a dark concept, it's still just as high quality as any other "Phineas and Ferb" episode.
With plenty of good jokes to offset the darkness.
And for number 5...
"Toffee" - "Star vs. The Forces of Evil" [Season 3, Episode 7]
Well, this is a bit more like it.
Despite his candy flavoured name...
Toffee is actualy an ancient immortal lizard monster with no sense of remorse or empathy.
Treating creature's lives more like busniess transactions.
And much of this episode is about when he seemingly killed Star right in front of Moon and Marco.
Toffee isolates Star in an empty world of blackness...
Trapping her in the void for all eternity...
As Toffee's body is reanimated bone by bone!
With Star seemingly dead, Moon vainly attempts to kill the vile lizard that murdered her child.
Marco even strikes a clean hole through Toffee's heart...
Only for his flesh to regenerate.
Toffee is seemingly invincible.
We see Star fiercely fighting against the waves until she loses her breath...
Leaving Star to drown within an empty void of nothingness.
We get to see a lot of grief here, and how Moon and Marco handle Star's death.
Seeing Star's mother *desperately* trying to piece the ashes of the wand back together...
In a futile attempt to bring her daughter back to life is a particularly rough moment.
But touching, I really did empathize with Moon's grief.
But then, for some reason, Star wakes up to Glossaryck making soup...
Star: Oh, knock it off!
Glossaryck: Less salt? More salt?
(Star spits audibly and voices disgust)
Glossaryck: More salt.
Strider: I-I guess he saved her from drowning?
And then, for some reason, Star dips her hand down in the boiling soup and makes a new wand from it.
We're given a happy end as Star tranforms into...
An ascended Mewman form, and demolishes Toffee off with a death ray.
Though, his mutilated corpse still have a few key words to say.
Toffee: (Chuckles) You think you've won?
Only I know how this all turns out!
Strider: Before being crushed by Ludo.
All's well that ends in a bloody black pool of bile I suppose...
And for number 4...
"Darkwing Duck" - "Time and Punishment" [Season 1, Episode 50]
There are few more shaking, powerful moments in a cartoon for me --
Than when the hero willingly decides to become the villain.
Not even through mind manipulation, they just decide "Well, maybe being decent isn't all it's cracked up to be."
And that's just what we see happen to Darkwing Duck here.
After his daughter Gosalyn disappears forward in time, he loses all of his sanity...
And goes on to create a dictatorship where *every* criminal is given the death penalty.
Lunchpad: He said I was too soft on crime.
Huh. Just because I thought we should arrest crooks *before* giving them the electric chair!
Strider: One of the interesting themes about this one --
Is about the love between a father and a daughter.
In this case it's Darkwing and Gosalyn.
And the question: Could Darkwing ever become insane enough to ever hurt, or even kill his daughter?
Darkwarrior: Protecting St. Canard is a tough job!
The old Darkwing Duck couldn't hack it!
That's where *Darkwarrior* Duck came to town!
Strider: After Gosalyn is thrown forward in time to this twisted dystopian future...
She *desperately* attempts to escape back in time.
But soon, she's held at gun point by her father...
Now *Darkwarrior* Duck!
Darkwarrior Duck: I should have recognized you as a bad egg from the start!
You never cleaned your room, never helped with the dishes, never did well in school!
Strider: Darkwarrior's plan is to go back in time and completely restructure world history with his iron glove.
But just as he's about to murder his own daughter, he manages to restrain himself.
Darkwarrior: But I... I... just *can't* do it!
And is, thank Jeebus, promptly knocked out by Launchpad.
So Gosalyn and the villains get to escape, well, the hero of the show!
What's powerful to me about this is that Darkwing Duck lost the one thing that mattered more to him than --
*Anything* in the word!
His daughter, Gosalyn.
And in his grief, he stopped seeing value in everything else in the world.
Gosalyn: Dad, you're obsessing!
Strider: I really found this episode beautiful, "Time and Punishment" covers some dark, unpleasant concepts --
But treats the subject seriously.
It's also a pleasant reminder that there are some parts of who we are that no grief, disillusionment, or hatred --
Can ever change.
Darkwing: You are grounded for a month!
Gosalyn: No problem, dad! That kind of justice I can handle!
Darkwing: Now don't argue with me I-(realizes that she's complying)
And the third *darkest* Disney Channel episode is...
"Weirdmageddon" - "Gravity Falls" [Series finale]
Bill: You've tricked me for the last time!
Strider: Well, Disney gave us the *weird* version of the apocalypse!
(Bill Cipher laughs psychotically)
Strider: In the 3 part finale of "Gravity Falls" ...
Bill Cipher unleashes his full scale apocalypse on the town, and reality itself.
Bill: I could really use a *CASTLE* of some kind!
And how about some bubbles of pure madness!?
After he traps Mabel in a bubble manifestation of her personal utopia...
We see Bill completely warp the fabric of reality!
Time, society, people, animals, and just every status quo law in existence...
In fact, even the cartoon intro is not safe from Bill's influence!
We're suddenly confronted with a more distorted, and apocalyptic intro where everything's slightly off.
And kinda creepy.
Throughout the episodes, we see Cipher's deranged dystopia in all its detail.
From interdimensional demons running rampant, to a giant throne of the paralyzed bodies of Cipher's victims...
Frankly, Cipher's Weirdmageddon truly earns its namesake, if nothing else.
And Bill Cipher himself always functions as an erratic time bomb!
One minute he's laughing and sounding like he ready for a pleasant afternoon tea...
The next he's turning everything the characters love into stone!
Creating dimensions of insanity and annihilating the world!
The darkness of this trilogy is balanced well.
Bill: Everyone has a weakness, tough guy!
Strider: Never lingering for too long... as Mabel and Dipper generally remain safe throughout.
And we're constantly reassured with jokes and some heartwarming character moments.
But we're still cutting back to the unfiltered chaos from within the town.
And there's a real sense of terror with the townspeople are transformed, paralyzed, or mutilated!
While Dipper, Mabel, and Stan do manage to outsmart this dimensional horror in the end...
"Weirdmageddon" was the *darkest* moment of "Gravity Falls," and many fans of the show remember it vividly...
And the second darkest Disney Channel episode is...
"Star vs. The Forces of Evil" - "St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses" [ Season 1, Episode 19]
Whose idea was it to make a title *that* long anyway?
It feels like I wasted half the review just announcing the title!
Anyway, the Reform School for Princesses has always stood out in the "Star vs." universe.
For being a surprisingly somber, militaristic style correctional center!
Aimed at removing any free thought and individuality!
Commercial voice: That free-thinking 1 in 1,000,000 *brat* ...
Will become a one of a million, emotionless rubber stamp that your bloodline can count on!
It basically took on the form I'd expect from a *Concentration Camp* of forceful reconditioning!
Prison walls, dreary dark rooms, and continual messaging being forced into the minds of its inmates!
Lines of inmates repeating mindless mantras, as all signs of creativity & individuality are sucked out of them!
Inmates: Keep your pinkies at 90 degrees, more tea please.
Keep your pinkies at...
Star: This is worse than my worst nightmare...
So, Star and Marco take it upon themselves to overthrow this oppressive regime!
It's a great commentary of the *forced* gender roles placed on each person in society...
And how subtly they can begin to affect us, without even knowing it.
While it takes Marco a little while to pick up on the revolting manipulation going on here...
It's very clear to Star from the start.
Star: Don't you see what's going on here?
(Star sighs frustrated)
Strider: But soon, Marco's the one to start a riot among the princesses.
Marco: Come on! (Beginning chant) It's not criminal to be an individual!
Princesses: (Beginning chant) It's not criminal to be an individual!
Strider: Even exploring gender roles a little himself.
Marco: Are they gonna let me keep the dress?
Strider: "Wayward Princesses" is a dark, but magnificent episode!
And encourages people to fight back, and overthrow these "proper" traditions!
Star: Okay Marco, I conquered my biggest fear and grew as a person! Yadda-yadda-yadda!
Let's get out of here and never come back!
Strider: And before we get to number one, just a couple of quick Honourable Mentions.
For those who don't know...
The Honorable Mentions either didn't quite make it, or were suggested by fans a lot.
And I try my best to justify each one, and why they didn't make it on the list.
"Wander Over Yonder" - "Black Cube" [Season 2, Episode 10]
I dunno, this one was recommended a lot, and I admit it has some dark elements.
I mean, this cube has a horrible life, and it turns from being evil to good...
But ultimately is hated at every turn because it's a soul-sucking cube...
But the song that plays at the sad moment and Wander just...
Coming in throughout the episode kinda sucks all the darkness out.
And the rudeness of the townsfolk just, well, made me more angry than sad.
Over-all, I didn't really consider it a dark episode.
"Ducktales" 2017 - "The Other Bin of Scrooge McDuck" [Season 1, Episode 19]
I will take *almost* any excuse to talk about this amazing series.
But even this episode is just another escapade with Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby.
The ending is the only kinda dark part, as we see Magica possess Webby...
And even completely overtake the body and mind of Lena.
"Star vs. The Forces of Evil" - "Skooled" [Season 3, Episode 33]
A lot of "Skooled" is about the oppressive past of Meteora --
The principal of the aforementioned Wayward Princesses School.
Raised by a robot named St. Olga...
Meteora was *brainwashed* from childhood to despise her monster side, and leanred to be.. uh.. "proper."
This episode speaks a lot about generational trauma.
"Gravity Falls" - "Northwest Mansion Mystery" [Season 2, Episode 10]
In this episode, the Northwest Mansion family is haunted by a ghost...
Seeking justice for having been double crossed by the Northwest family --
And repeatedly shunned for centuries on end.
The episode functions as a solid ghost story, and a very well-handled redemption arc.
It also has a really good anti-elitism message.
We also get a picture of Pacifica's cold home life --
And watch her overcome her elitist upbringing --
And become the person she's always wanted to be!
"Wander Over Yonder" - "Heebie Jeebies" [Season 2, Episode 35]
Another case where the concept of the episode is especially dark...
But the upbeat Disney tone and execution waters it down considerably.
And I'm certainly not saying that's a bad thing, but for this list --
It relegates an otherwise enjoyable episode to an honorable mention.
Anyway, onto number 1...
And the Numer One, *darkest* Disney Channel episode is...
"Gargoyles" - "Deadly Force" [Season 1, Episode 8]
And here we have one of the few Disney Channel episode to ever get outright *banned* --
Since it tried to address gun violence to children --
In a very respectful way, in my opinion!
But I guess over-protective parents might've complained too much.
No, no, let's let them learn about gun violence from "Call of Duty!"
That'll be better!
I used to catch up on "Gargoyles" on Disney Channel pretty rarely..
But if I were to define it, it kind of reminds me of a more Disney version of "Batman: The Animated Series."
Our Gargoyle friend Broadway decides to visit his friend Elisa --
After catching a popular action movie at a nearby theater!
As Elisa's in the kitchen making them a nice dinner...
Broadway spots Elisa's gun hanging on its hilt in the coat rack.
He carelessly starts aiming the gun at carless points in the room...
Broadway: (Imitating movie) Let's go, Pilgrim! And don't forget the horse!
Strider: The scene starts rapidly taking a turn for the worse, as he starts fiddling with the trigger...
And accidentally fires the gun.
(Gunshot and expression of genuine surprise)
The whole scene happens in barely 10 seconds...
Yet that deafening sound of gunfire, and the ensuing silence is enough to sink the heart...
But then seeing Elisa, the seemingly indestructible cop...
Shot, & lying lifeless on the ground in a small pool of blood...
Is about as confronting, and unpleasantly realistic as I've ever seen Disney Channel get!
Broadway frantically drops Elisa off at the hospital...
But the paramedics can't get a pulse...
We're given small tidbits of information of where the bullet struck her, to how long the surgery was.
As Elisa is one of the main characters...
It's surprisingly shocking to spend much of the episode uncertain of whether she's dead or not --
But the hands of one of the heroes.
What I think is interesting here is we're given a realistic depiction --
Of the extensive, disasterous damage one bullet can do to a person.
It's not like Elisa was just shot through the shoulder...
Doctor: The bullet hit high on her chest, ricocheted off the collar bone...
Knicked the heart muscle, and passed through the right lung.
Surviving 10 hours of surgery to get the bullet out of being lodged in her spine...
Anyway, eventually after extensive surgery, Elisa does start to show signs of movement.
But she's completely drained and weakened --
Much like a real gunshot victim probably would be in this situation when recovering.
Honestly, I'm disappointed, but not surprised this episode was banned.
This episode doesn't speak down to kids on a *very* serious issue.
It doesn't sugar-coat very real gun violence.
Kids should be allowed to know that if a gun is fired, the results can be catastrophic.
You might think this sounds silly...
But I think the kind of impact this episode could have on a child could've inadvertantly saved a life!
The dangers of guns are very, very real!
And kids should be aware of that!
Because they're the ones that have to grow up to face that gun violence.
The entire episode was written, and animated *very* meticulously...
So that it could follow the real life scenario of a gunshot victim.
The creators of this show knew they had to be brave to send an important message...
And it was *SPINELESS* of Disney to pull it!
And I'm very disappointed in them!
But either way, at least you and I know about it now. And I consider it *very* realistically dark!
But also important, detailed,and respectful.
I consider it the *darkest* Disney Channel episode.
What I appreciate about all these episodes is I knew at the end of the day...
Disney would handle all these subjects seriously, and with respect.
But they'd also make the message digestable to kids.
They balance the humor in, they balance the characters, in...
And I personally think there are few subjects we *can't* discuss with one another.
But it's also a matter of how we say it!
And having compassion and empathy behind what we do say.
And if you think I missed a particularly *dark* Disney Channel episode --
Feel free to mention it in the comments below.
And as always, thanks for walking! And I'll see you next time!
Subtitled by Jadrek Myers. Commissioned by Phantom Strider himself. Take good self-care, and stay safe.