When I try to explain my feelings, my words usually come out clumsily. So I apologize if I prove incapable of properly capturing everything I long to say. I’m going to talk about fictional characters as though they were real and their feelings mattered in the real world. That’s the power of good stories. They have an impact on the real world. At least they make me feel powerful emotions that are quite real.
A Show Called Miraculous
About a year ago, my wife introduced me to a TV show called Miraculous: The Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. I marveled at its first three seasons. Even though I didn’t understand the story very well for a long time as I became acquainted with it, I still enjoyed its creativity and sense of fun.
It’s about two young teenagers (both of them are about 14 years old) named Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste. Marinette is a superhero named Ladybug, and Adrien is a superhero named Cat Noir. But neither of them knows the other’s identity. Marinette secretly loves Adrien, and Adrien secretly loves Ladybug. This love square and mistaken identity leads to all sorts of misunderstandings as the two characters try to navigate their feelings and fight a new supervillain each episode.
The show’s fourth season has been slowly premiering new episodes this year in many languages. The 100th episode recently appeared with much fanfare in another language. I watched it with English subtitles. It promised to be the big reveal viewers have been clamoring for. Ladybug and Cat Noir would finally reveal their secret identities to each other. Then they could reconcile and obtain much-needed catharsis for their wounded hearts.
“Ephemeral” is the name of the 100th episode. The word ephemeral means something that is short-lived. And boy is that an apt title. Any joy this episode promised or offered was indeed short-lived. It broke my heart to watch a mere 20 minutes of a TV episode. I’d like to explain why it broke my heart.
Reminiscent of Smallville’s 100th Episode
Many years ago, I loved the TV show Smallville. I watched the first three seasons with glee because Superman has always been my favorite superhero. By the fifth season, it was getting a little stale, though. Friendships had been forged and broken. Heroes and villains had become better defined. Secrets and lies had been kept hidden.
Episode 100 of Smallville is called “Reckoning” because it promised to finally break through the stagnation and force some major changes in the story and characters. The heart of the show had been Clark Kent’s love for Lana Lang, and her angst about returning his feelings. “Reckoning” started perfectly by having Clark reveal his secret to Lana and propose to her. After some trepidation, she accepts, and the two couldn’t be happier.
But then disaster strikes. Lana dies in a car accident that Clark wasn’t able to prevent, despite all his powers. His solution is to ask his Kryptonian father Jor-El to turn back time so he can save Lana’s life. So he goes back to just before he revealed his secret to Lana. She promptly breaks up with him, but at least she doesn’t die. Instead, Clark’s Earth father Jonathan Kent dies.
The episode is a real downer. I think it would have been better for Lana to die loving Clark and knowing the depth of his love for her. Instead, she had to hobble on for two more seasons. And we the audience knew that she and Clark would never be together. Sure, they came close a few times, but that episode made it clear that the show wasn’t interested in having them end up where we wanted them to.
My heart hurt after that episode, but it wasn’t as devastating as “Ephemeral.” The same things happen in both shows’ 100th episode, more or less. No one dies in “Ephemeral,” but my hope died of a quick end to my pain.
They Won’t Be Together Anytime Soon
I could be totally wrong about this, but I have a feeling that Marinette and Adrien won’t be allowed to get together anytime soon after “Ephemeral.” There have been other episodes that flirted with the idea of the two characters learning each other’s secret identities. Those involved dream sequences, erased memories, and alternate timelines.
This episode makes it clear that the very premise of the show hinges on a lack of change. Once Adrien learns Ladybug’s true identity or Ladybug learns Cat Noir’s true identity, everything falls apart fast. Stagnation is essential to the show’s continued existence. There’s no happy ending forthcoming because the two young heroes aren’t mature enough to achieve their goals.
Each time they get together, disaster strikes, or they lose their memory. The point is that after 100 episodes, Adrien and Marinette are no closer to falling in love than they were in episode 1. This can’t continue forever. Something’s gotta give. But I don’t think anything will change.
Adrien Seems to Have No Free Will, Like Ella Enchanted
I didn’t like how everyone played Adrien for a fool in this episode. He’s a good kid, and it hurt to watch people take advantage of his goodness. At the start of the episode, Ladybug hatches a plan to discover Cat Noir’s secret identity without him knowing it. She asks a fellow superhero named Viperion to use his superpower to go back in time five minutes after he hears Cat Noir tell Ladybug his civilian name. That makes his heartfelt revelation come across as cheap and stolen. It’s not the meaningful reveal I’ve always wanted.
When Cat Noir tells her he’s Adrien Agreste, she laughs at first, but then is stunned into silence when she realizes he’s serious. It takes her a few days to process the fact that she’s in love with the boy she’s been pushing away for so long in his alter ego. Thankfully, she comes to terms with it, and summons the courage to reveal her own secret identity to Adrien one night. He recovers quickly from the shock and warmly embraces her.
Adrien comes across as a passive participant in this episode. Especially when his father commands him to do things. This episode seems to imply that Mr. Agreste can force his son to do anything, even against his will. While I’m more mature than I have been when it comes to dealing with unfairness, I still struggle to come to terms with a character lacking free will.
Ella Enchanted is a fun book I tried and failed to finish reading. The reason I failed is because it hurt so much to see such a good girl suffering under the whims of everyone around her. It especially hurt to see evil people using her for their own purposes and amusement. She has to obey any command she receives. Until she finally learns to break the enchantment at the end of the book. But it’s a painful journey to that happy ending.
I fear that Adrien is under the power of his father, and he can’t break it by himself. He needs Marinette’s help. But those two are stuck. She gets tongue-tied and can’t have a rational conversation with him because she’s so starstruck and in love with him. And he just sees her as a friend, and he doesn’t see the clear signs of her love for him that everyone else does. She’s dumb and he’s blind. It’s a horrible way to have a loving relationship.
So Much Wasted Time
This episode helped me to realize that the TV show hasn’t put in the time to make the characters truly fall in love. It’s wasted so much time on trivial matters for most of this season when this was a great chance to finally focus on what is most important to viewers. I don’t care about side characters receiving superpowers. That might be building toward the season finale, but it’s not getting to the heart of the show.
If the show wanted to do a big reveal, it would have worked hard to bring Marinette and Adrien closer in all their combinations. And no, a single episode here and there of the two interacting in different identities is not enough. They need to have real, heartfelt interactions like in “Oblivio” without the memory wipe at the end. They need to grow together, see different sides of each other’s personalities, and overcome their personality flaws. Only then will they be ready to face the truth and be happy.
But we’ve barely gotten a hint of that in season 4. The two leads hardly interact, it seems. The show mostly saves those interactions for the endings, and they’re not as deep as they could be.
I know, it’s a kids show. I’m asking too much of it. This is why I said at the start that I would most likely be clumsy in my attempt to share my feelings. It doesn’t seem like a TV show called Miraculous: The Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir should affect me so much. And yet it does.
Not Waiting Around for a Happy Ending
I yearn for a happy ending, but I can’t keep suffering as I wait for something to make the suffering worthwhile. After enjoying the show immensely for the past year, I’ve decided to cut myself off from it for the foreseeable future. I’ll neither watch new episodes nor listen to fan theories. Miraculous is effectively dead to me.
I know I said that the Ladybug and Cat Noir: Awakenings movie was one of just two movies I was looking forward to seeing in theaters. But I’ll have to skip that, too. If 100 episodes can’t offer me something of value, how can 100 minutes in a single film do better? It won’t. Or I don’t think it will.
I’m sorry to leave this article on such a downer ending, just like my favorite shows did to me. Maybe this show’s fifth season will be better and actually take the time to build the characters’ relationship to the point that they are capable of being happy together. If so, I’ll be happy to return. But for now, I’ll bug out.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Perhaps the show worries if they bring the two protagonists together then viewers will lose interest because what they’ve been rooting for is done and what else is there?
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You’re probably right. The show has built up the reveal so much that that’s really all it has going for it now. When the two leads share their secret identities with each other, all the tension will be wiped away and they will be free to be happy together. But I guess that’s not interesting enough to keep the show going.
I would love to see them finally get along better and work together in clever ways to defeat the main villain. But maybe I’m in the minority of the show’s fans.
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The real story of love comes not because two people eventually see eye to eye and decide they want to be together, but when they decide that now that they are together they truly are better than they were when they were solo. That’s where story-telling gets hard because for the most part humans want fast, easy answers. And story-tellers often feel they have to please to that end. But, real stories have great action and adventure even after goals have been reached, they find goals that never existed in the story line up to that point, but become visible only after reaching that moment. Real story-telling requires a much more eternal view of all the great possibilities.
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Well said. These storytellers seem to have only one idea for how their show can work. If they did offer a satisfying conclusion to that particular story, I’m sure they could come up with lots of other great ones.
I think the free will part about Adrien… it’s sort of hinted this episode a lot that he might be a sentimonster owing to the weird events in the Felix episode and heavy emphasis on the Vanily rings in both episodes.
Also frankly? After seeing the tweets of the writer Astruc, I couldn’t care less about Adrien, and the general love square. Fanon has so much better to offer than the show, actually.
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You’re absolutely right. Fans know what they want, and they’re quite good at delivering it even if the show makers don’t want to provide it.
I’ve heard that theory about Adrien. It is interesting that he’s allergic to pigeon feathers. But I hope they wouldn’t actually go through with that and make him a sentimonster. That would really ruin the show, in my opinion.
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I feel like they seem to be heading there anyways… Especially after the episode Gabriel Agreste, what he says to Felix is odd.
And yeah, fanonically it’s a great concept! But canonically, it’s totally gonna be used as sympathy points for Adrien.
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