The Hunchback of Nowhere: My Favorite Courage the Cowardly Dog Episode
Courage the Cowardly Dog is my favorite TV show of all time. I grew up loving horror films, so for me, the show was my cup of tea. I love the show even now as an adult. It’s the perfect blend of comedy and horror, or so otherwise called “black comedy”. It’s perfect in every way and I think it deserves to be titled one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
My favorite episode is The Hunchback of Nowhere. It’s been my favorite ever since I was a kid. I think it’s a brilliant episode in every way. I’m going to go over the plot and themes of the episode so if you haven’t seen it then I’d recommend watching it first.
It’s a rainy night in Nowhere. A small and heavily deformed Hunchback travels through town looking for shelter, but he's repeatedly rejected by some bigoted residents, including Eustace. The Hunchback’s appearance scares off everyone, despite his politeness. It’s very sad to watch the poor Hunchback get screamed at and ridiculed just for asking for a place to stay. Based on the first 30 seconds of the episode, we understand the Hunchback. He has nothing, not even shelter. It’s tragic.
Like I said, even Eustace denies the Hunchback shelter. He screams in fear and slams the door in his face. Courage, who witnessed it, shows empathy for the Hunchback and even says “We could’ve put him in the attic at least.” What I love about this is usually Courage is frightened of anyone who comes to the farmhouse, but not in this instance. Courage has a big heart and it shows based on that small moment.
Eustace, being the asshole he is, orders Courage to go to the barn to get his raincoat. Courage listens and heads out in the rain. Once inside the barn, he hears bells. Courage is intrigued and travels up to the 2nd floor to find the Hunchback. He’s sitting there alone and playing a beautiful melody with bells. His face showcases a look of sadness. Courage joins him and eventually picks up a bell and plays along. The Hunchback smiles. It’s such a touching moment. It might be my favorite moment of the episode. The Hunchback finally has someone he can interact with. I feel like it’s something he’s always wanted.
After that touching moment, the Hunchback showcases his acrobatic skills. Courage is afraid but the Hunchback encourages Courage to try. They land and have a laugh when Courage rings one of the bells. Their fun soon ends when Eustace yells for Courage. Courage hides the Hunchback and retrieves the raincoat for Eustace. Eustace then scares Courage, laughs at him, then leaves. The Hunchback witnessed the whole thing and is disgusted. He even tells Courage “He treats you so badly, one shouldn’t act unkindly to others.” Which is a beautiful line because it summarizes the theme of this episode. I’ll get into that soon but the fact that the Hunchback has that mentality, despite everyone he encounters showing him nothing but unkindness, is quite remarkable. It just showcases his big heart.
Quick side note: This is the only episode where Eustace calls Courage by his name. I’ve seen every episode and this is the only one where he calls him Courage.
The Hunchback cheers Courage up by joking around with hand shadows. The animation and creativity of the show really shines in this part. The shadows are ridiculous images that their hands couldn’t possibly create but that’s one reason why I love the show so much. It’s creativity is unmatched.
The next day, Courage enters the kitchen to see Muriel cooking breakfast. She was worried since he was in the barn all night. The Hunchback walks in but is hesitant. Muriel, being the kind soul she is, welcomes the Hunchback with no reaction to his appearance. The Hunchback is happy to be welcomed. She offers him breakfast and just when they are about to eat. Eustace walks in and screams. The two are afraid. Eustace yells at the Hunchback to get out. Muriel tells Eustace he is Courage’s friend and Eustace says back “That makes it worse.” I’m not going to lie, that’s a funny line. It’s mean as hell but it’s funny. Eustace being an asshole has some brilliant moments of comedy. Anyway, this is a tough scene because Eustace begins tormenting the Hunchback with insults. The Hunchback looks defeated. Suddenly, Courage is under the table and hands the Hunchback a note with an insult towards Eustace. The Hunchback reads the note and insults him. Eustace is pissed and fires back. The Hunchback receives another note and insults him again. This repeats one more time until Eustace gets up and raises his fist. Muriel intervenes and tells Eustace to eat in the henhouse. Eustace leaves.
The big climatic scene happens next. Eustace is inside and wants dinner but Muriel is outside in the rain watching Courage and the Hunchback perform a bell music show on top of the barn. Eustace is pissed and confronts the Hunchback. He tells him to leave once more and scares Courage to the point of him almost falling off the roof. The Hunchback has had enough. He’s been belittled and tormented for long enough. He truly stands up to Eustace for being an asshole to him and Courage. Eustace is afraid and backs up close to the edge. I love the moment where the Hunchback tells Eustace “Do you really wanna see ugly?” Then puts on an all white Eustace mask, as lightning strikes, and says “Stupid dog.” Telling Eustace that physical appearance isn’t what makes someone ugly, but that being unkind is. It’s the only episode where someone gives Eustace a true taste of his own medicine. I love seeing the Hunchback standup for Courage and himself. It’s a powerful moment. Eustace falls off the roof and that’s the end of the scene.
The last scene is bittersweet. It’s a clear night with a large full moon. The Hunchback states it’s time for him to leave. Courage is sad but pulls out a bell and rings it. The Hunchback then pulls out a ginormous bell and shakes the earth. They share one last laugh together. Muriel joins them. The Hunchback tells them “Thank you for your kindness. I hope I find more people like you out there.” He laughs. Courage waves goodbye to his friend. The Hunchback walks down the road toward the moon. The episode is over.
It’s amazing that an 11 minute cartoon episode has so much depth and emotion. I remember watching this as a kid and being amazed. Even now as an adult, I’m impressed and the nostalgia kicks in full throttle. It brings me back and I love that about this episode. This episode makes me feel all kinds of emotions.
This episode was directed by John R Dilworth, the creator of the series, and written by Irvin S. Bauer. Everyone involved with the making of this episode deserves all the credit. From the direction, animation, music, voice acting, and writing. It all comes together perfectly.
The writing in this episode, and in the show in general, is really impressive. For a children's cartoon, this episode throws in themes that are important for children to understand. The main theme is showing kindness to others, because you never know what they are going through, and to stand up for yourself. The Hunchback experienced nothing but ridicule his whole life due to his appearance but kept his kind heart and soul all that time. The dialogue says it all. The compassion from Courage gave the Hunchback that much needed love he deserved. This episode perfectly showcases the true importance of being kind. It affected me when I was younger and I’m sure it did to other children as well. Eustace’s ugliness comes from his treatment of others. He’s the main villain of the episode but he’s not some disgusting monster. He’s a human being who treats others like shit. He gets what he deserves. I love the message of this episode. It’s just phenomenal.
Like the other episodes, the animation is very well done. The character design of the Hunchback is unique. Sure he doesn’t look pleasant but the style of the show gives it a fascinating twist. I love how it’s raining 99% of this episode. The rain adds to the atmosphere. It’s just perfect.
One of the most important aspects when it comes to film or TV shows is music. Music can make or break it, and in this case, Courage has some of the best music I’ve ever heard. It amazes me how a children’s cartoon can have such a fantastic score. Andy Ezrin and Jody Gray deserve all the credit. They were the composers on the show, and not just for the theme song. The Hunchback of Nowhere has my favorite score of the show. The depressing violins add so much to this episode. It really adds depth to the already emotional episode. Like I said, the bells scene has a beautifully sad melody. The music playing when they are performing acrobatics is memorable. This entire episode has such perfect music. I love it.
I cannot recommend this episode or the show enough. It’s not just that scary cartoon we watched as kids. It has important messages for children while also being really entertaining. This episode will always mean a lot to me and it will always be my favorite episode of television ever.