This Hidden ‘Paw Patrol’ Christmas Special Is Sneakily Genius
There are countless retellings of A Christmas Carol, and in almost all cases, the entirety of Scrooge’s soul is utterly rehabilitated. This kind of personal transformation is a powerful message, but for families, inviting an utterly wicked person to your holiday festivities is both generous and, in real life, a little risky. For example, you’d never invite a supposedly reformed version of Sauron to Christmas dinner, nor would anyone in their right mind offer a seat at their Life Day festival for Emperor Palpatine. Add to the list of irredeemable Super-Scrooges that politician in a top hat, Mayor Humdinger. Yes, the Bond villain of Nickelodeon’s Paw Patrol may have one of the weirdest, most subversively genius Christmas Carol adaptations of all time.
In the Season 7 episode of Paw Patrol, “Pups Save a Bah Humdinger,” (streaming on Paramount+) the Dickensian redemption of Foggy Bottom’s resident despot is briefly in play. Like all Paw Patrol capers, most of Mayor Humdinger’s plan involves taking advantage of some kind of technicality. Like Count Olaf — or Scrooge — Humdinger’s villainy resides in something he hopes to achieve that is technically legal, even if he does a lot of overtly illegal things to get there. The latest film, The Mighty Movie, has the good sense to depict Mayor Humdinger in prison ala’ Lex Luthor. But in the series, he tends never to be arrested, partly because the actual police force of both Adventure Bay and Foggy Bottom are nonexistent, which of course, justifies the existence of the vigilante unit of sentient canines, led by the emancipated teen known cryptically, and Sting-like, as “Ryder.”
The point is, on some level, Paw Patrol is always forgiving Mayor Humdinger because he’s rarely locked up. So even without “Pups Save a Bah Humdinger,” the core narrative of the series treats Mayor Humdinger as somebody who is “naughty” domestic insurgent, but perhaps not naughty enough to actually have any of the incitements stick. This makes “Pups Save a Bah Humdinger,” perhaps one of the most realistic contemporary depictions of a Scrooge-like tale ever. And that’s because, even though the episode ends with Mayor Humdinger doing something good, he has not really changed.
In fact, despite the reference to “Bah Humbug” and Scrooge in the title, the majority of the plot does not mirror A Christmas Carol at all. Instead, it’s business as usual for Humdinger: He’s stolen a map that Santa uses, and he’s trying to funnel presents away from Adventure Bay and toward Foggy Bottom. Sadly, Marshall doesn’t dress up as the Ghost of Christmas Past and accidentally lights himself on fire. Instead, one of Mayor Humdinger’s schemes fails, and he’s betrayed by the Kitten Catastrophe crew, leading to him, briefly, being stranded.
This incident, we’re told, makes Mayor Humdinger realize that he’s been too selfish. And yet, his epiphany doesn’t really seem permanent. It can’t. He’s the source of all evil in Paw Patrol, and as such, we know that whatever good deed he does here — including giving a girl a present she really wanted — is temporary. Children sense this too. Mayor Humdinger only behaves better in “Pups Save a Bah Humdinger” because he has no other choice. His (brief) change of heart is motivated by self-preservation, not morality. He’s not a good person. Not all Scrooges can truly change. This is a realistic message.
Oddly enough, this notion does pay homage to the classic Dickens story. Did Scrooge change because he felt like he was a bad person? Or did he fear his own mortality and funereal in which everyone was happy he had passed? The situational ethics of A Christmas Carol are accidentally rendered more complex by Paw Patrol, simply because we buy that Scrooge (or the Grinch) has changed, but we don’t buy that Mayor Humdinger has at all. It’s a classic trick that bad people employ to get what they want, do something nice to convince you that they’re good. And so, perhaps by accident, Paw Patrol taught kids a great lesson here: You can forgive someone in your heart if you want. But when it comes to real-life villains, never forget.