A/N: To just get this out of the way: No, this is not a review of "Phantom Planet" No, this is not a massive squeefest with exclamations of "zOMG that was the best thing eva!" (hence why this didn't come out right after the episode aired ). This is a purely "philosophical" and deeper look at the episode and what all the events and interactions mean in regard to the rest of their lives and how I think it really does tie everything up better than we ever could have imagined.
Contains spoilers for "Phantom Planet" as well as most of season three! (duh) If you have yet to watch the episode, then do not read this! I don't want to be the one responsible for ruining it for you with my drawlings. If you wish to see the episode, I have a link to it in my profile, as well as links that should take you to most of the season three episodes.
Also, I don't claim to have the answers. I don't by any means believe that I'm 'channeling Butch Hartman' or any such nonsense. These are purely my beliefs so take them as you will. I just want to get you thinking. That is what this series is about after all.
And yes, I know I promised the second chapter would be about Vlad, but I had to interrupt with this one, so Vlad with be next chapter XD
To Infinity and Beyond
I must first begin by dispelling any thoughts that this is simply a review of the series finale "Phantom Planet". This essay is indeed a theorized analysis of "Phantom Planet", both as an episode and in context with the series as a whole. Using the mass of information gained from the powerful season finale, my goal is to tie up the series as a whole, showing what ambiguity was cleared up in regards to characters or events and what this episode shows about the future of the Danny Phantom characters that the episodes never got the chance to explore with further seasons.
There are of course many topics that can be discussed from the infinite knowledge gained from this episode, but I've selected some of the more prevalent ones, both in the episode and in the minds of the fans of the show. The first topic I would like to discuss is the topic of Valerie and the lack of attention paid to the revelation of Danny's secret to her.
So, there was no big climactic confrontation like we were all hoping for. There was no "zOMG you're Phantom!" on Valerie's part and there was no real moment of revelation between the two friends turned enemies, but in the end, it wasn't really necessary. The episode gave us everything we needed to figure out how the reaction would occur.
It was all laid bare in "D-Stabilized". By the end, Valerie and Phantom had a begrudging relationship, Valerie being able to see the softer and gentler side of Phantom in his relationship with Dani. This already calmed her harsh attitude towards him so that, when "Phantom Planet" came out, there wasn't much left for a major confrontation. In the episode, Valerie was in the station at the North Pole which meant that Phantom most likely requested her to be there because he was clearly running the show. The fact that she agreed clearly showed that she and Phantom were already on agreeable terms and were in a sort of unofficial truce.
This alliance between the two of them took all the electricity out of the previously charged DannyxValerie revelation that we had long since been looking forward to. We wanted the "You're Phantom? But I hate you!" reaction as she tried to get over that, which wasn't going to happen due to the events in the previous episode. So, in essence, her reaction to the revelation was going to be just like that of his parents.
Was it a little disappointing? Yes. But did it round out that particular arch of the story well? Yes. We know how Valerie and Danny feel about each other and we can theorize about their reactions to each other based on the clues left in the two final episodes. You just have to read between the lines.
Maddie and Jack Revelation
Speaking of final revelations, I personally was beyond relieved that Jack and Maddie found out in the end, as I'm sure most watchers were. It was, of course, surprising that he revealed it to so many people, but I think "Reality Trip" made him a bit softer and more accepting towards the idea.
But the real gleaming point of this revelation was the way in which it was done. The fact that Maddie's motherly instinct kicked in after they saw the Fenton Jet go down really showed as she immediately wondered where Danny was in the heat of the impact. She just knew something wasn't right with her only son. Another gleaming moment to attest to Maddie's incredibly strong maternal instinct is how Maddie figured it out herself. All Jazz had to say was that she needed to tell her something about Danny and she realized that Danny was Phantom.
Coming from an admitted revelation-aholic, I particularly loved that, especially since I've always been of the mindset that Maddie would figure out Danny's secret on her own just because she's so smart and generally observant. I really think that if she put enough clues together she would figure it out, which in this episode she did. It showed that Maddie isn't as clueless as the rest of the series tended to portray her and that she had been slowly putting the pieces together all along, she just needed the final jumpstart before the pieces all just clicked together and she knew.
As for Jack and Maddie's reaction and further relationship after this revelation, "Phantom Planet" did a good job setting that up as well, playing off the previously explained reactions from "Reality Trip." Jack and Maddie are obviously accepting of Danny's half-ghost condition, which we all knew was going to happen. Jack and Maddie aren't the kind to hold prejudices like that against their son, especially not after Phantom just helped save the planet. They were even okay with Vlad being a ghost (though more on that later). So as for future interactions with Danny, they would be accepting and supportive, even wanting his help, as Danny inferred when he told Sam his Dad wanted him to help catch ghosts with him in "Phantom Planet". Thus, another important loose end tied up for the end of the show. His parents finally know and are okay with it.
So yes, while the entire "Masters' Blasters stop disasters!" was unendingly annoying (and dare I say it, a little boring) there is a clear reason why they did it. They allowed for one of the looming loose ends that occasionally perks up to be resolved: Danny's yearning to be normal.
He's always wanted it, ever since the accident. He admits it in "Mystery Meat" and even goes to extremes in "Identity Crisis" to have normal time with his friends. So I have to say I really liked the touch of adding this emotional dilemma into the last episode and having him deal with it once and for all, to have him be presented with normalcy only to want to be a ghost again. The scene in the portal where he cries "Goin' ghost!" in the portal in desperation because he wants his ghost powers back was just so emotionally powerful. It completely resolved a loose end that I hadn't even registered when I was thinking about what needed to happen in this episode to fully round out the series. Danny started out cursing the accident that prevented him from being normal, just wanting an invention to change him back ("Mystery Meat") but in the end he finally gets it and he doesn't want it. He realizes that Phantom is part of who he is and he can't change that, no matter what, and he finally accepts it in the final episode, the insecurity thread coming full circle.
I don't want to say that we all knew this was going to happen, but it was like RonXHermione in Harry Potter. We all knew it, the hints were obvious along the way, people just hoped for HarryXHermione. But it's final now and it's DxS. Would Butch honestly leave Sam's love unrequited? Especially when Danny generally felt the same way? Especially after all the build up in the previous episodes (especially Frightmare)? After building it up for so long and with so much drama and hints, he couldn't just leave it unsatisfied. Danny had his fair share of dating. He had his fling with Paulina ("Lucky in Love") and had it with Valerie ("Flirting with Disaster") and they just didn't work out, so he had Sam in the end.
And then there was all the drama afterwards where Sam thought he died and then their tender moment at the end that showed how their relationship was going to progress. I think these rare moments were excellent ones to show, especially the one at the end. That one in particular showed what their relationship was going to be like without taking too much time to show it, how it isn't just lovey-dovey holding hands and kissing constantly. They still smile and joke around and are still just the same Danny and Sam, they just hold hands, kiss, and go out on dates.
But the real question remains: is there enough proof in the series that this is going to last? As of right now, I can't find any definite proof, and maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. Maybe that's Butch's way of appeasing the other shippers. Sure it's Sam and Danny now, but a lot can happen in the ten or so years before they can get married and have a family. They can outlast the years and still be going strong, or they can have their high school sweetheart flings and then move on to someone else. Really, it's whatever the viewer wants which was, in my opinion, Butch's intention.
Throughout the series Tucker has been notorious for being the short man out. He only has two episodes that center on him and even then those episodes don't say much about his character. "What You Wish" centers around his jealousy, turning him into the bad guy, and in "King Tuck" he, once again, features as the bad guy. But finally in "Phantom Planet" he gets some lovin', to be slightly colloquial. Not only does he get to design the device that destroys the "disastroid" with his genius plan and schematics, but he also becomes Mayor at the end! Now granted, the Mayor part is a little far-fetched and while it is a reasonable way to honor him for his plan to save the world, it's still a little out there.
But still, regardless of whether he was mayor or not, can you imagine all the prestige and renown he would receive by conceiving that plan? He got to work with world leaders and the top mechanics to create that machine. Imagine the prestige that will give him. He will have contracts to work for companies and even the option of starting his own company even before he's out of high school. He honestly wouldn't even need to go to college he has so many prospects. In short, he made out good in this episode and thus in the series as well. It was good to see him get a spotlight in all this. Just like Sam and Danny's dreams in "Frightmare", it looks like Tucker's (minus Danny being the janitor) is about to come true as well.
Amity and the World
So, here's where my theories might receive the most contention. I don't think he revealed his secret to the entire world. That just…that doesn't seem like Danny, especially not after "Reality Trip". He was so bombarded by fans and media and people that he would never ask for it again. Even in "Forever Phantom" he was being constantly chased as Phantom and he was hard pressed to keep away from them, only escaping by reverting to his human form. If he let his secret out, he wouldn't even have that escape anymore. And especially now, after "Phantom Planet", now it would be even worse now that he's the "World Savior." He could barely handle it as the ghost hero Phantom, let alone the ghost that saved the world from the apocalyptic asteroid. He wouldn't risk doing that again, especially when he went through the trouble of using the Reality Gauntlet to set it all right again in "Reality Trip". After all, he did that for a reason, and knowing the way Butch and the Danny Phantom writers work, it wasn't just a plot hook to keep his identity secret in season three.
Yes, he did reveal it to a group of people at the Pole, but that was in the same way that Spider-man revealed himself to a group on the train. It was a select group of people, most likely containing world leaders, the mechanics and technicians that had worked on the device, and choice people from Amity that Phantom would have selected himself. All these people could easily keep a secret, especially if they were sworn to it by Phantom himself who has clearly demonstrated his power level and that he is not someone to be trifled with. Besides, at the end of "Phantom Planet" when now Mayor Tucker was revealing the Danny Phantom statue in the square, the Tuck-bot dressed as Danny was standing as just one of the crowd. If the entire town knew he was Phantom would they let him just stand there without bombarding him or thrusting him up on stage to make an acceptance speech? And while sure some can argue and say that they could realize it was a robot I just have to say that if Jack and Maddie couldn't tell (a completely idiotic point if I do say so myself) the town certainly wouldn't be able to. They may be clueless, but to say that the town can recognize it's not him better than his own parents? That's a tad over-the-top.
Now, having said that, do I think that people in Amity not privy to the secret haven't finally put two and two together and figured out that Fenton is Phantom? No, some of them know. Phantom was doing so much work with Tucker and Sam on the building and planning of the device, and while it's common knowledge that Tucker and Sam hang with Phantom, that would just bring it out into main view and people would start to wonder more and more where Danny Fenton is. Would the people of Amity ever say anything? After Danny's display of power and out of respect for the hero that saved the world, most likely not. But do they all have this underlying feeling that Fenton is Phantom? Most assuredly.
Skulker and the Ghosts
I have to say that seeing all the ghosts help out to save the world was a brilliant way to get in all the ghosts viewers wanted to see into the final episode. There are so many villainous (and friendly) ghosts and we all wanted them to have some part in the finale but there would just be no way to have them all in it, hour episode or no. So, what better way to do it then giving them all plenty of opportunities for cameos if you look hard enough? What a wonderful way to give them all their parting glories.
The fact that Skulker was the ringleader really shows a lot about how much power he really has when he's not working as Vlad's slave. Clearly there's a reason he picked Skulker and not another ghost. Makes you start to think that Skulker's not as incompetent as Danny generally believes him to be… Incompetent when up next to the all powerful Phantom? Most likely. But against other ghosts? He's the Ghost Zone's Greatest Hunter for a reason, and this episode just demonstrated it further.
But now, let's get to the real discussion topic when it comes to ghosts in the finale: Dan. I know that most viewers, like myself, wanted Dan in the finale, wanted him so badly. But…we can't have everything right? And honestly, this finale worked better than anything that could have had Dan in it, just because it rounded everything out so nicely and dealt with so many important topics.
But was he completely forgotten? Was he maybe in the end, helping out with device? Now I know it's not in his nature. I know Dan would never help a living soul. But he does help himself, and if the meteor hits not only does the Ghost Zone go, but the world does too. The world gets destroyed, and he wasn't the one that did it. Would he stand to let some stupid rock fulfill his dream? No way. So feasibly, he could be there, under Clockwork's leash of course, who we know was there. I think it's feasible and plus, with his magnitude of power, they'd want him to help. Even with Clockwork, easily the most powerful ghost in the Ghost Zone, helping Danny was still struggling to keep the intangibility going towards the end. They would have needed Dan's help and power.
But even if he does help, does that really answer the question of Dan? There are so many loose ends still present. What happens to him after he helps them? Does he ever break free? Is he ever redeemed? These answers, while not clarified in the episode, can be theorized using knowledge of the characters as established through the series. Knowing Clockwork as we do, would he honestly let Dan out just to let him out? Survey says, that's a no. He used Danny to help put Dan into the thermos in the first place (among other reasons) in "The Ultimate Enemy". Would he actually let him out and let terror reign again, especially when he's his responsibility? No. Dan's stuck in that thermos and he's not getting out. The only time he could possibly be let out is if Clockwork knows that Danny has enough power to completely destroy him, but until then (if it happens at all) Dan will remain in that thermos as long as time, and Clockwork, exists.
So, being the scientist I am (and a geneticist on top of that) I have to give a brief bit on what the science showcased in this episode truly means in regards to scientifically explaining Danny's ghost powers. I have to start off by saying first that I always hated the theory that just because his DNA is covered in ectoplasm that gives him ghost powers. That's so irrational. Coating your DNA won't do anything; take it from someone who studies it. It's the actual coding that affects the DNA and has the real effect on it. Now, do I think that the DNA being coated in ectoplasm leads to certain, say, mutations in the gene inside it that lead to the propensity and ability to express and use ghost powers? Why yes, that's exactly what I think.
Having said that, that means that Danny has the ability and knowledge to use ghost powers coded into his genetic sequence, and he will always have that, as will any offspring he has, but that's for another analysis. So, when he goes into the portal he may strip the ectoplasm from his genes, which is the fuel needed to use the ghost powers, but he doesn't necessarily lose the ability to use them. His ghost powers are like a car; it needs ectoplasm (gas) to run, but even without the fuel it still has the ability to run, it just needs to be filled up again. This is why after he's used up so much energy or lost too much ectoplasm through injuries he reverts to his human form, because he doesn't have enough fuel to keep the ghost powers running. So, this means that when Danny gets blasted by all the ghosts in the Ghost Zone, that's how he got his powers back. He got enough ectoplasm that it coated and activated the genes again and he was restored with all his powers once more.
That doesn't at all mean that if someone is blasted by a strong enough ecto-blast that they will receive ghost powers. That's not what this segment demonstrated. It was the high powered electrical current of the portal that gave Danny his ghost powers and that is, canonically, the only thing that can give ghost powers. That's why Danny needed to return to the portal to regain his ghost powers in "Memory Blank". If it was a high powered enough ecto-blast that would mutate the genes then many people in the series would have ghost powers. I'm sure that in the "Ultimate Enemy" timeline Valerie was subjected to a six-way ecto-blast by Dan and yet she never demonstrated any ghost powers forming. It was simply a way to regain the ectoplasm, not to mutate the gene to be able to use it. A non-ghost powered individual getting caught in that blast would be paralleled to putting gas in a car with no engine. It may have the fuel, but it can't go anywhere. The engine, the original mutated genetic coding to use the ghost powers, is needed to carry out any action.
Jack Fenton has generally been portrayed, both on the show and in the world of fanfiction, as a bumbling, clumsy, stereotypical absent-minded genius. He's brilliant, but completely unobservant and is simply on the show to provide comic relief. And while he may be used for the comic relief at times and while unobservant he may be, he is no fool. Jack is a smart, intelligent, and emotive character, fully rounded just like the rest of the characters on the show. True he may generally play the comedian, but that doesn't mean he can't be serious when he needs to be.
"Phantom Planet" provides an excellent and powerful example of Jack's propensity for being serious in what is easily the most emotionally powerful scene of the series. I am of course referring to the now infamous scene between Jack and Vlad on the rocket. Jack displays such a vast range of emotions through this scene that it is clear that he really is more than just the comic relief he was perceived to be through the rest of the show. He expresses such emotional depth when dealing with Vlad's revelation, clearly portraying the shock at hearing it was his fault and his insistence that it was, indeed, an accident as well as the betrayal and anger when Vlad revealed his ulterior motive in regards to his wife.
"Phantom Planet" gave Jack the chance to shine and to prove, once and for all for all the fans, that he is not a bumbling fool but an intelligent, emotive character that simply chooses to have fun in life instead of being forever serious. But that doesn't mean he can't be serious when he chooses, because he can, and very well too. After all, he was the one that made this the most powerful scene in the series.
And here we come to it, the real hot topic of interest in "Phantom Planet". Why oh why did Vlad blow it? What drew him to revealing his secret like he did, knowing that if he happened to mess up, his secret would be revealed both as a ghost and a villain and thus he would never be able to return back to earth? What led him to this act of extreme desperation? Why didn't he consider the other options?
It all starts with the beginning of the episode which provides a look back into the rest of the series. It brings back the Infi-Map as well as the witty, charged banter between Danny and Vlad. It reminds us of all the other times that Danny and Vlad have bickered and fought, except this time…this time it's different. This time Vlad doesn't even get a shot in. Danny just makes quick work of him and takes the map. It is clear that Danny is beginning to surpass Vlad and he can't handle it anymore. So he gets desperate and serious, knowing that Danny can foil any plot he devises to make his dreams come true. Any plot save one.
Vlad had it planned from the beginning. He would create the Masters' Blasters to discredit Phantom and shun him into hiding, taking him hopefully out of the picture. Now can I give Vlad credit for causing Danny to rid himself of his powers? No. And he admits that as well in his confrontation with Danny. But he had hoped that his efforts would remove him from the stage and give him a chance to enact the next stage of his plan: discrediting the Fenton's idea. He knew it would work and he couldn't have that. Otherwise the world wouldn't need him as a last resort to save it and agree to his greedy demands. Will I go as far as saying that Vlad sent the asteroid to Earth in the first place to begin his plan? Again, no. Vlad has no intention of destroying the world and would never jeopardize everything, and if he indeed was desperate enough to do it he would have analyzed the rock by then or practiced turning it intangible just to make sure he could do it before risking everything and everyone, including Maddie. But like the clever businessman that he is, he improvised and devised the rest of his plan.
Could he have done something else? Could he have pulled another elaborate act with a double and revealed that he was working with Plasmius the entire time and that he would use his accomplice to save the world? That would of course have been the safer route. But we are forgetting that Vlad was desperate and may not have been thinking straight because for some reason he deemed revealing himself the best course of action and so he did.
So then, what happens to Vlad after he messes up? Does he float in space forever until he fades away into nothing? No. That's not Vlad's character. He'd return. He loves having his fingers in too many people's plates to float out in space forever. And as half-human, he wouldn't be able to either. He'd have his limits. My belief is that he would return, but far from the Midwest where he was associated, maybe somewhere secluded like Maine or Alaska and under a different name and cleverly disguised. He wouldn't be the same Vlad but he could at least be on Earth, though he would have to be particularly careful. One wrong move and he could end up in great trouble with world leaders. Still, I think Vlad would risk it. It's a better alternative to life in seclusion in space and he's confident enough in his own abilities to stay hidden.
Before I start this segment I'd like to point out that I'm well aware "Reality Trip" wasn't involved in "Phantom Planet". But the two episodes play off each other more than most may realize. I have mentioned the connections briefly throughout this analysis, but I'd just like to finish with stating them specifically and clearly.
It is in my belief that "Reality Trip" and "Phantom Planet" are to be taken in tandem with each other. Both compliment the other in regards to character development and information. "Reality Trip" sets up the hypothetical and "Phantom Planet" reveals the actual. But to Danny and his friends who remember their experiences in "Reality Trip" as well as the audience, it isn't just hypothetical. The events in "Reality Trip" shape their actions in "Phantom Planet" and it's quite obvious to see upon closer inspection.
For example, "Reality Trip" shows the reactions of the entire world to the revelation of Danny's secret. It takes time to go into the Fenton parents' reactions and even the Mansons and the Foleys and Paulina and Dash. This is all necessary later when it happens for real in "Phantom Planet" at the end except now they don't have to take the time to show it and can spend it on fleshing out the plot instead, because the moments have already been shown. The same goes for the world's reaction to the secret. Danny remembers what it was like and thus keeps it in mind when finally revealing his secret later, knowing to only reveal it to those he trusts and not the whole world if he ever wants to keep life the way it is.
Looking back, this could explain why "Reality Trip" was generally considered such a disappointment to us all, because it wasn't really finished. The resolution was still coming in "Phantom Planet". "Reality Trip" was to prepare us, but "Phantom Planet" was where it all happens and is resolved. The ending of "Reality Trip" wasn't a simple "fix-all" ending like we all believed, but a lead in to show Danny's reaction to the entire world knowing. It gave us the knowledge to know that he wouldn't reveal his secret to the world when "Phantom Planet" was released, again freeing the writers from making the plot more convoluted and saving it from the rushed feeling that so many of the episodes of the third season suffered from.
It is my personal opinion that Butch and the DP writers planned it as such, to take care of business early to free themselves from the pains of doing it all at the end. It saved the episode no doubt, because none of us wanted it to turn into another "Urban Jungle" or "Frightmare" where they tried to squeeze too much stuff into too small of a time slot. They did it all before, hoping that the fans that truly cared about the future of the show continue to look back on the shows and finally realize all the links. They're all there through all the episodes. Each one provides a little piece of information essential to fully understanding the ending. I touched on only a few but they're all out there. It's like watching Sixth Sense or one of the Oceans movies a second time after seeing the end. You realize things, see things you didn't notice before, and suddenly everything makes so much more sense. Butch Hartman and the Danny Phantom writers did that for us, we just need to take the time to find the clues. Not that we don't have the time, now that the season is over.
So whenever you watch an episode, keep that in mind. This analysis has barely scratched the surface when it comes to the hidden clues to the future of Amity. Now could I be looking into this all far too deep? That is entirely possible. I'm known to do that. Could I be looking in the complete wrong direction? It's possible too. I don't presume to say that all my theories are right. For every example I put in here I'm sure there is another somewhere else that someone can twist to fit their own theory. I'm not here at all to say what is right or set in stone, I'm simply placing down my opinions after looking into the topic. If they're what Butch Hartman had planned, good, but if they're not, it doesn't matter. My goal is to just get people thinking, to show them that it really isn't over and there's more to do with the episodes than just reminisce on old times. There are more clues to uncover and more theories to be made.
Now I don't want to be cheesy and say something like "Phantom Planet isn't really an end, it's a beginning." No, it is the end. It's the series finale and unless Nickelodeon comes to its senses and agrees to another season, it will likely remain as thus. But while Butch did leave the ending open for more seasons, he did end it and did indeed tie up all the plots. Some were blatantly resolved, some take some digging, but "Phantom Planet" did end the series and left us with enough keys to figure out the fate of our heroes and really, that's what a series finale is all about.
Danny Phantom episodes ("Phantom Planet", "D-Stabilized", "Frightmare", "Reality Trip", "King Tuck", "Flirting with Disaster", "Memory Blank", "Lucky in Love", "What You Wish", "Mystery Meat"): copyright Butch Hartman and Nickelodeon
A/N: So, here's hoping you all enjoyed it, or at least found it amusing, or hilarious as the case may be. If you all think I'm totally crazy and mental that's fine too. This is just what happens when you work in a dark room for five hours a day processing x-ray films and have nothing else to really think about.
But if you don't agree with me, I please just beseech you to keep your thoughts to yourself. I don't mind a good healthy debate and if you have your own theories I'd be glad to hear them! But I did do a lot of thinking about these points and I frankly won't appreciate it to hear that my opinions are wrong. I already stated I don't think they're right and I'm not trying to be controversial by any means. This is what I think and the evidence I've collected. So if you think it's all wrong, don't just message me to tell me. This is my opinion only and thus, to me, it isn't wrong. Now if you have actual fact to back up another theory then by all means present it. I'm always willing to change a theory for a more factually based and stable one, but it does no good just to hear that it's wrong…
Thank you all! Hugs to everyone!
Coming Next (for real this time)
Vlad Masters: The Man Behind the Cheese
What caused Vlad to become the man he is? Is he really evil? What urges him to follow through with his actions? And how is he different from Danny, both in personality and in power? An in-depth look into the man that is and was Vlad Masters.