When Scrooge and Dewey make a gritty Darkwing Duck movie, Launchpad teams up with the original Darkwing to stop it.
A clip of Darkwing Duck turns out to be shown by actor Jim Starling himself, who is the "celebrity guest" at a furniture store opening. Of the small crowd, only three are actually interested in Starling's presence: Dewey, Launchpad, and another duck who turns out to be the president of the Darkwing Duck fan club. Starling proves to be rude and inconsiderate, dissatisfied with this unglamorous "gig", and Launchpad is plagued by a recurring habit of fainting in the presence of the actor who played his childhood idol Darkwing Duck. Dewey and Starling are surprised when, after Dewey posts a photo to social media, he discovers that a new Darkwing Duck movie known as Darkwing: First Darkness is being made.
Launchpad and Dewey drive an excited Starling, who assumes that he is to star in the film, to the film studio, which proves to belong to Scrooge. The film, directed by one Alistair Boorswan, dismays Dewey and Launchpad when it proves to be a gritty psychological film. Starling is more concerned with the fact that he is not reprising his old role; instead, the president of his fan club from earlier is the new Darkwing. Scrooge forces Boorwswan to cooperate with Dewey to finish the film, while Starling is thrown off the movie lot after assaulting his replacement. Determined-for one reason or another-to see the film changed, Launchpad teams up with Starling-the latter donning his old Darkwing costume-to break onto the movie lot.
Starling finds himself hounded by lot security while Launchpad, somewhat hesitantly, attempts to trap the new Darkwing actor in his trailer. After a brief struggle, Launchpad comes to realize that the new Darkwing is just as much a fan of the old series as he himself was. Moreover, the new Darkwing was inspired to rise above bullying by the old series, and actually wants to work with Starling to make a better movie that honors the spirit of the true Darkwing Duck. Launchpad decides that they should find Starling and convince him to help out. However, the only Darkwing Starling wants to see on screen is himself, and he soon knocks out his replacement and shoves him into a shed with several knocked out guards.
On the set of the film's finale, Boorswan is horrified to see the changes Dewey has made, including dancers, a piano, and a man juggling chainsaws. Posing as the new Darkwing actor, Starling infiltrates the set and confronts the film's version of Megavolt. He quickly goes mad and begins destroying the set, and attempts to stop him fall on deaf ears. Surprisingly, the new Darkwing then appears in full costume to confront his predecessor. After sending Launchpad to turn on the set's sprinklers to stop a fire caused by Starling, the new Darkwing endures a number of grueling obstacles as he tries to stop the maddened actor.
Starling eventually gains the upper hand, but Launchpad intervenes, attempting to halt the conflict with a rousing speech. However, he is unaware of a large electrical set piece about to fall on him, which the two Darkwings rush to save him from. Starling ends up shoving both Launchpad and the new Darkwing out of the way, only to be caught beneath the falling object which then explodes. Boorswan, thrilled by the action, is devastated to learn that the footage of the final fight has been written over by a music video of Dewey's, and Scrooge pulls the plug on the Darkwing film.
With Starling gone and the film cancelled, the new Darkwing is at a loss of what to do now. Launchpad then suggests that, like Gizmoduck, he could become a real-life superhero, and tells him he already has his first fan. The new Darkwing then signs the poster Launchpad had wanted Starling to autograph, revealing his name for the first time: Drake Mallard. Unbeknownst to the new friends, Starling survives and regards Drake as an imposter trying to steal his spotlight. With maddened eyes and his costume now colored black, red, orange, and yellow, he is eager to give the world all the "grim and gritty" they want.
This marks the third time the theme song sequence was shortened; it also marks the first time that the DuckTales title was a different color (being purple instead of the usual gold).
The episode has the same title of the Darkwing Duck four-issue comic book of the same name, which was in turn a reference to the 1984 Batman graphic novel, “The Dark Knight Returns” written by Frank Miller.
The plot of the episode shares some elements with the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Beware the Grey Ghost", in which the titular character was a television star who ended up inspiring Batman to become a real crimefighter, and later donned his costume in order to help Batman solve an actual crime.
When Jim Starling is at the furniture store, he is sitting in a recliner chair, a reference to how the character of Darkwing Duck-in the 1991 series-used a recliner to enter his secret lair from his suburban home.
Tad the security guard's ignorance of the in-universe Darkwing Duck series is a play on the fact that his voice is provided by Tad Stones, who actually created the character of Darkwing Duck.
There are several references to the original Darkwing Duck theme song throughout this episode:
As Launchpad attempts to reason with Starling and stop him and Mallard from fighting, he recites lyrics from the original Darkwing Duck theme song.
Duey’s dance sequence is set to the original series’ music (without lyrics).
When the piano keys fall out of Drake’s mouth, they play part of the Darkwing Duck theme.
Starling's transformation into Negaduck is foreshadowed by his insane behavior and his wielding a chainsaw against Drake Mallard.
The concept for the original Darkwing Duck reboot film could also be foreshadowing Starling's transformation, as Alistar Boorswan stated, "Are we not the heroes and the villains of our own story?". This is possibly foreshadowing Jim Starling starting off as a hero (albeit in a TV show) and ending up as a villain.
The dance that Dewey does, that got recorded over the Starling/Mallard fight, is the dance that Goofy and Max do with Powerline during the I 2 I sequence in A Goofy Movie.
There are also several references to the Dark Knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan:
The design of Commissioner Haggard is similar to Gary Oldman's portrayal of Commissioner Gordon.
The design for Megavolt resembles Bane from the third and final movie in the series, The Dark Knight Rises.
According to the sign, prior to booking Jim Starling, the furniture store opening was supposed to be attended by Johnny from Ottoman Empire.