Archive for category Childhood Revisited
Mad Jack the Pirate shows that even the funniest cartoons need to have more going for it to be something memorable.
I decided to check out Mad Jack the Pirate after finishing up Eek! The Cat. Bill Kopp, who co-created Eek, conceived of Mad Jack after working for Disney with The Schnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show and part of Toonsylvania. His work on Eek was strong enough to warrant following, and while I’ve heard mixed things on Schnookums and Meat and Toonsylvania, I’ve heard nothing about this one-season show about a pirate’s constant failure to find treasure. I’m also fascinated by under-the-radar cartoons, so getting a whiff of one from Kopp’s mind made me crazy curious about it.
There are a lot of brilliance to Eek! The Cat, with appealingly goofy characters and an absurd world that mixes nutso humans with even mosre nutso talking animals, all couched in various permutations of satire, farce, and parodies. As insane as the world is, it is at least grounded in elements that the writers and animators could build off of, utilizing witty dialogue and well-timed visuals. “Paws” for example had a lot of fun with its characters within a Jaws parody, but also played stupid-fun with the kiddie-pool locale re-imagined as a deadly, endless ocean. Everything came together with confidence; even its weaker episodes were committed to its narrative and characters.
Mad Jack the Pirate is… less so. There’s either a budget issue or a general creative malaise to this show. With networks slowly moving away from Saturday morning animated content, it may quite possibly be both. There are a lot of potential ideas here, and there a quite a number of genuinely funny moments, but there’s a sense that the show doesn’t want to explore anything past its most basic of premises. It’s a show that can be extremely funny, but it’s also extremely unsustainable.
There are three reasons for this. The main problem is the lack of commitment to the world that’s been created. I don’t necessarily mean the internal, in-show world per se; there’s just this really odd, half-assed approach to everything that occurs on the screen. It’s often funny at times but it’s not “correct.” Eek! The Cat’s Metropolis was an absurd but vibrant world where characters could be anything and encounter anything. I can’t even remember the name of the “world” that Mad Jack explores, which is a just a bunch of islands, and the occasional random location, like Megamouth Studios. It’s not that anything here is bad, since these locations are built mainly to put Mad Jack and his partner Snuk through the ringer, but they’re perfunctory, and only a few of them feel worthwhile.
Maybe it’s less the locations and more the lack of dynamic characters. The second main problem? The cast is boring and non-existent. Mad Jack desperately needs a diverse, comedic crew – a cast of semi-regulars to bounce off, characters that can produce multiple viewpoints to this world around them. It seems like the pilot episode, “The Terrifying Sea Witch Incident,” is leading to that – a talking, arrogant chicken ranting about his “mascot” role in the show; three random crew members with potential to be unique and interesting; the arrogant “hero” prince Flash Dashing, who talks like William Shatner taking the role of the “hero-antagonist” to Mad Jack’s “villain-protagonist.” Even the crow in the crow’s nest, while an obvious dumb joke, has potential as a character:
But looks what happens – the chicken is presumably eaten and the crew just runs off (the show ends with an elaborate tag where the chicken rants about not being killed, which tries to come off as a smart-ass putdown on executive meddling, but really comes off as the writers forgetting about him in the first place). Flash Dashing is only used in one other episode and the crow is recycled in a later episode again without any other lines. When all is said and done, the show is solely a Mad Jack and Snuk affair, and it’s a dynamic that really goes nowhere. It’s cute, sure, but with Mad Jack constantly shitting on, abusing, and otherwise exploiting Snuk, it’s a one-sided affair that doesn’t lead to anything palpable.
As the examples suggest, the show also engages in a darker, more vicious tone; there are a lot more explicit descriptions of murder, violence, and sex than one might expect from a cartoon. Mad Jack, in fact, is not a pirate with a heart of gold (not at first), but a criminal through-and-through, who cheats, lies, and steals with little to no shame. This creates a lot of comic moments – there’s a lot of hilarity in putting criminals in lead roles, only to watch them fail miserably and constantly – but without some kind of redeeming factor, it’s particularly hard to stand behind him. In fact, in “The Strange Case of Angus Dagnabbit,” Mad Jack straight-up kills the guy he’s trying to rob. It’s a startling event, and the show kind of glosses over it when the murdered Dagnabbit comes back to haunt Mad Jack, but there’s a difference between redemption and revenge; both can be funny, but the latter leads to dwindling audience support, while the former shows the character’s willingness to change, which is more dramatically interesting. “Darkness” in and of itself is neither a hit for or strike against the show, but Mad Jack’s lack of progress as a character is another example of the show’s lack of dynamics.
The third and final issue against the show is the lackluster staging and art direction. It’s something more people wouldn’t recognize in a cartoon until you watch it and find yourself… bored by something, but struggling to say what exactly. Mad Jack the Pirate has the appearance of a visually interesting cartoon, with its vibrant colors and potentially interesting locales, but the actual direction is bland, with most scenes animated straight on full shots, with characters walking left-to-right or right-to-left. There’s very few dynamic zooms or close-ups, creative montages or audacious dream sequences, or even simple visual cues like running toward or away from the cameras. Eek! the Cat had a lot of unique views, so it’s disappointing to see Mad Jack, rich with potential, fall so short in the animation department.
Combining all three issues – lack of world exploration, character dynamics, and directorial diversity – leads to a show brimming with potential but constantly falling short. The “pirate world” premise with wacky/absurdist trappings feels undercooked and random, and while there are funny moments, it never feels committed. I laughed quite a bit at “Lights, Camera – Snuk,” where Mad Jack, in a desperate attempt to show a film producer how real pirates live, constantly gets hurt after every showcase, and ends with him eaten by a dinosaur. Every set piece ends with him eaten by a dinosaur, which is part of the “hard-to-pull-off” gags of repetition, but it works up to a point; beyond that gag, there’s no “uniqueness” to the approach, narratively or visually. It’s less “how many funny ways to be eaten by a dinosaur” and more “we don’t know how else to do this bit”. There’s no real satire to the movie-studio parody either, so there’s nothing else going on here except the one gag, which dies as soon as the episode is over.
That “funny but bland” aesthetic continues throughout the show. “Happy Birthday to Who” is just Mad Jack getting abused at a carnival (after a bit about Mad Jack wanting to go to a brothel, which is part of the show’s dark edge without doing anything with it). “The Horror of Draclia” is a flat tale that pits Jack and Snuk up against a lazy Dracula parody (which also forgets about about a separate monster in the woods that essentially kills a guy). The show does kind of picks up around episode thirteen (which, as I’ve mentioned before, is usually when cartoons are retooled for the better) in “The Case of the Crabs,” which pits Jack and Snuk up against a civilization of hostile underwater sea creatures. Part of the uptick is they introduce a new character, Chuck the Imitation Crab, who’s easy-going characterization brings a fun dynamic to Snuk’s push-over vibe and Mad Jack’s cruelty. It helps, too, that Jack’s cruelty has been toned down a bit here, with the pirate opting to actually help Chuck escape as well. It also helps that this underworld of Crustacia has vibrancy and energy that the show’s other locales lacked.
Later episodes have a bit more going for it, but they never feel complete. Flash Dashing, Dagnabbit, and Chuck all return in other episodes, who are all fun characters, but because they’re never really part of the main cast, they feel perfunctory and underused. I also think the vague, overarching plot of Mad Jack needing to pay off a vicious debtor Sharkface Willie to his ship the Sea Chicken is a sound idea; some kind of constant threat would give the show a more grounded edge. Yet we don’t see Willie until “Mad Jack and the Beanstalk,” a bit that’s tossed aside as a Godfather parody and nothing else. Broad “parodies with nothing else” become the show’s bane; “Uncle Mortimer” could’ve been an exciting pot-shot at Hanna-Barbara cartoons (the plot is about delivering a dog named Scabby Doo to the Isle of Hanna Barbarians after all), but it’s stuck with a predictable Scooby-Doo, “guy-in-monster-costume” story. The fact that they don’t even have fun with HB’s limited animation bit goes to the show’s uninteresting visual style. I wonder if that’s the issue though; the lack of a B-story, or a B-anything, to give the show some kind of narrative or visual heft. The few times it does have them, like in “The Case of the Crabs” and in “Jack the Dragon Slayer,” where a dragon and a princess humorously connect at a platonic-then-romantic level while Jack figures out how to slay the dragon the the behest of the princess’s father, the show improves immensely and starts to utilize the full extent of the show’s premise.
Unfortunately the show rarely feels like it wants to. I’ve learned via Wikipedia that Mad Jack the Pirate is more-or-less a parody of Blackadder, stealing lines and dialogue wholesale from the British show. This is nothing new, really; TaleSpin cribbed from Tales of the Gold Monkey, and Bonkers is a clear rip-off of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Yet Mad Jack the Pirate feels like that’s the only thing it’s really interested in, because only rarely does it seem as engaged in its cartoon world as it does in copying Rowan Atkinson’s infamous program. Had Mad Jack the Pirate put more effort in building a dynamic cast, a developed world, a creative direction, or some kind of narrative rhythm, it could’ve been special, a one-season wonder with a more adult bent. As it is, though, it’s a show with a lot of mature comic standing, but lacking anything else to stand on.
Project GeeKeR was one of the coolest comic books ever that made the mistake of being a cartoon.
Can we truly separate the art from the artist? Or, more accurately, can we separate the art from the artist and live with ourselves?
Social critics, I think, have pushed that excuse heavily into the public to justify watching, critiquing, and enjoying certain works by controversial creators like Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and (if the court of public opinion wins out) Bryan Singer. We might as well add Skyler Page to the list, as the show Clarence, while not particularly great, works on enough charm and innocence to skirt by as an easy-going show, despite the abhorrent behavior of its creator. I suppose this puts me into that category of social critics, particularly as I struggle through the output of Doug TenNapel.
TenNapel is by far one of the most entertaining content creators out there. He created Earthworm Jim, a smartly hilarious and surprisingly tough video game, and, along with animation writing vet Doug Langdale, turned it into one of the most funniest cartoons very created (I should write about it, but needless to say, it’s great, particularly with its fantastic cast of voice actors). He also created the well-known game The Neverhood and penned an episode of AdventureTime. He has a quirky approach to his output that easy to get into, and despite the weird and eccentric nature of his content, it’s clear that there’s a fun sensibility to it all. He’s also an outspoken conservative and homophobe.
It’s honestly a very tough idea to balance, a tough idea to accept – that one of the most creative minds out there can have such narrow, bigoted views (for a look into his mindset, check out the comments of this post, where he mixes it up with the commentary). It’s hard to rally for his creative endeavors while knowing he’s actively working to oppress a group of people. (Sad to say, Butch Hartman seems to be in the same boat). As mentioned above, we try to believe that there is a line between art and artist: that we, in our own way, are taking the art away from the artist and all that he or she represents, for when the art is released, it is no longer the creator’s content, but the public’s. But it is tainted, because those most influenced by the art were to seek out the creator and find that vitriol present, particularly if they were targets of that vitriol… I’m sorry, I’m not sure how to end that statement.
So it’s with this black mark that I tackle Project GeeKeR, one of the more stranger and unique cartoons to ever exist. I like to think of these projects primarily as Doug Langdale’s, as he was the story editor and main writer of the team (and likewise with the Earthworm Jim TV show). And even with its Blade Runner-inspired setting, its Poochie-fied character of a backward-cap-sporting T-Rex with a laser blaster, and its comic relief star as a goofy, random cartoon character come to life, Langdale infuses it all with a strict narrative focus and a knowing, self-aware sensibility. Project GeeKeR has its tropes and cliched characters, but carefully undercuts them all with pinpoint precision; it’s the most original comic book story ever brought to television. And being on television is exactly what hurt it the most.
Project GeeKeR asks, “What does it mean to be human?” It’s a question that has thematically dotted the landscape of both film and television, yet Project GeeKeR is poised to be the first kids show to bring that question to the forefront. It’s interesting to note that neither Lady Macbeth (a female punk with a cybernetic arm), Noah (a surprisingly calm T-Rex with a baseball cap), and Geeker himself are what you could fully call human – Lady Macbeth is the closest, of course, but her quick anger and difficult personality tends to keep her at arms length (pun, and symbolism, intended). The most human character in the show, Mr. Moloch (the villain), is purposely cold, calculating, and robotic – the most stereotypical of stereotypical villains. I will get into more about these characters, and how the show quite brilliantly handles them, but we need to keep in mind the question of what defines humanity. Is it looking human? Acting human? Being human? Understanding the full range of human emotions?
Project GeeKerR seeks to explore this question via Geeker himself. Geeker is both a fascinating piece of work, both as a character and as a construct. A genetic construction financed by Mr. Moloch himself, GKR (which stands for Geno-Kinetic Research) is a completely amorphous, pure being of limitless mass and energy. He literally can do anything and become anything – GKR is, quiet frankly, a god. Yet Lady Macbeth stole him by accident, prior to his final programming, and upon realizing Moloch’s true intentions, is forced to keep GKR out of his hands. But GKR (referred to as Geeker) is less concerned about being caught and more concerned about understanding what it takes to be a human.
What’s fascinating is how the show examines the various angles Geeker takes to be a real human. His initial thought is that he just needs to grow a fifth finger, which he just can’t do, which in its own way acts as a physical/mental representation to Geeker’s ultimate pursuit. Over the course of the show, he tries to connect with others at an emotional level, and even at a romantic level. He keeps a diary. He tries to establish a sense of independence. He desperately tries to win the attention and affection of others. But he’s always off – and not just because he’s a being of pure chaos. Geeker lacks a brain, but he can learn, and he has a heart; the strongest episodes showcase how, even in the midst of the insanity that is his existence, he can indirectly be a figure of hope – if not to the dystopian world around him, particularly to the two charges dedicated to protecting him.
The pilot establishes all of this, albeit in a generalized way. It grabs your attention with the plot itself, where Geeker is set to explode unless he returns to his creator to disarm him. There’s a lot of great stuff here, particularly with the action sequences, but also the little character moments that subtly but concretely reinforce the theme. Lady Macbeth exudes a tough-girl attitude, but it’s fairly clear that she’s a softy inside, yearning for some kind of genuine connection. Demanding people call her Lady Macbeth instead of Becky is her way to keep herself stoic and powerful, and she snaps and lashes out to maintain this facade (“If I wanted your opinion, I’d beat it out of you!” she yells to Noah at one point.) It’s telling, though, that she can’t quite find herself to drop Geeker, the experiment she stole to ostensibly sell. Geeker is an object that becomes a person to her, a “friend,” in that his inherent goodness and innocence touches her, seeing a beauty in humanity in Geeker that perhaps the world around her has never revealed to her.
The pilot delves lightly into other characters too, which are expanded on in unique ways through the show. The most “human” character, the character who tends to be the most level-headed and empathetic, is the dinosaur. Noah is a cool, strong character, completely opposite his vicious nature, prone to relaxing on his hammock and reading, which is as human as it gets. Episodes later on will push against this sense of humanity, when we see humans aggressively oppressing dinosaurs (“Geekasaurus”), and when a microscopic device causes Noah to revert back to his dinosaur roots (“Noble Savage”). Yet Noah continues to stand by her side, even as their trust weakens. Lady Macbeth sees Geeker as a figure of hope to be protected; she sees Noah as a partner and a brother-in-arms, two figures of sadness in a world they can never hope to belong in.
That’s because Mr. Moloch and Doctor Maston make it nigh impossible. Moloch is introduced in cliched fashion, speaking a cold, distant voice, seated in a massive chair, and ranting about global takeovers. Interesting, though, that’s no one is really scared of him; in fact, most people see his ultra-stoic attitude as confusing at best and ridiculous as worse. The show smartly calls out the cliche without diminishing his his threatening nature, mostly through Dr. Maston. A brilliant scientist and the creator of GKR, Maston sees his self-worth in his intelligence and the recognition of it, even going so far as be willing to die for it when Geeker is about to explode. It’s a surprising character moment, but the show smartly undercuts that as well, with a lot of Maston’s sly, self-aware comments, particularly towards Moloch’s more stereotypical behavior.
All of these characters exist in a huge world brimming with potential, with interesting creatures and surging with ideas. But… it’s a kids cartoon. It’s limited, not only because of ratings, but because of its 22 minutes, and its tendency to focus on stupidity for stupidity’s sake (mostly due to the lazier writers). The pilot had a shot of a man shivering and clutching himself while on the streets of this dystopia; clearly, he was on some kind of “medication”. Project GeeKeR can’t explicitly explore that though, for obvious reasons. Nor is it immune to cartoon writers’ most lazier habits. “Smell of the Wild” is hurt because the “broken Geeker” idea just isn’t strong enough for a full episode, where the titular character emits a terrible scent that he can’t control; the broad idea is copied in “Geekasaurus” when Geeker is stuck as a dinosaur. That episode is also hurt when it implies dinosaurs are being treated like second-class citizens by humans, but it can’t get into the utter tragedy of it all, and given that we rarely see normal dinosaurs beyond that episode, the true dinosaur situation is unclear at best, another issue that would’ve been explored deeper in comic form.
Yet even with its flaws and limitations, Project GeeKeR still manages to keep the question of the nature of humanity at the forefront. Whether it’s the abhorrent treatment of dinosaur citizens, or the trapped Larry in “In Space, No One Can Hear You Sneeze” – an antagonist forced by Moloch to find Geeker, but discovers a sense of freedom and friendship through the friendly creation – the show is interested in exploring the full nature of such a question. Is humanity defined by freedom, which Larry seeks? Is it acceptance – like in “GeeKMan,” where Geeker tries to win the admiration of the city by being a superhero (and subsequently failing)? Or is it love – like in “Thing Called Love,” where Geeker falls for a strange Siren-like creature, completely counter to the notion that Becky believes, that something like Geeker can’t possibly understand love? Maybe it’s raw intelligence, like what Maston believes, or perhaps its independence, as addressed in “Independence Daze”?
Maybe it’s all of these things, or none of them. Maybe the nature of “humanity” is as nebulous as the full extent of Geeker’s powers. Humanity is what we make it. The last episode, “Future Shock,” suggests that nature of humanity is in hope. Future-Moloch (who, need I remind you, is the most “human”) has captured Geeker and become a god; upon seeing that, and his future, senile-self, Noah becomes depressed and gives up on his team. He sees the future as unchangeable, but Geeker absorbs some of the ranting elder dino’s words, using them to save the day, inspiring Noah to escape his depression. Perhaps its about fate, about knowing that humanity has free will and is in charge of its own destiny. Project GeeKeR wanted to explore all that, in a fun, subversive way, but was hindered by its medium and its network. It was cancelled despite being a hit.
Project GeeKeR was a smart, entertaining show held back by forces being its control. Maybe that’s what humanity is all about: pushing back against the limits and restraints of society, striving to be something better. It’s something that the show really could do on the comic pages; as it stands, Project GeeKeR is promising as hell, but just lacking in the things it needed to be truly human.
And thus ends the second season of Gargoyles (canonically the series finale), and it ends on a fantastically written, wonderfully paced, beautifully animated three-parter. “Hunter’s Moon” is really working on all cylinders, an episode that calls back to the series premiere “Awakening,” and engages firmly into one of the many dangling threads of the series – the Hunter. The episode tells such a strong story, a tale practically removed from the entire run of the show thus far, about Goliath and his grief, anger, and fear parlaying him into the monster of vengeance he was way back in 994 AD. There are a few missed opportunities, odd moments, and awkward characters beats that hold it back, though; while it’s no “The Reckoning,” which felt like the “true” narrative series finale, “Hunter’s Moon” is more of a thematic season finale. [I'll be jumping around explaining this episode and its themes, instead of a straight-forward recap.]
Gargoyles 2×50 – Hunter’s Moon – Part 1
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Part of made “The Reckoning” so strong was how it seamlessly pulled in so many disparaging characters and plot threads into one, tight cohesive whole, with Demona briefly coming to terms with her rage and thirst for revenge, essentially dying for someone beyond herself – her daughter. It was a brief but notable change, but it was a powerful one. So it’s a little bit of a disappointment to see Demona revert to her old ways, with little of the empathy towards Angela she portrayed back then (it’s there, in spurts, but very little of it comes out). Apparently the gargoyle has been biding her time, gathering some items to make a deadly chemical enhanced by magic to kill every human on the planet. This plot is meaty but definitely feels tacked on, especially how anti-climactic and tossed-aside the ending to it is.
That’s not the story here. The story is about the Manhattan clan coming to blows with three new Hunters, well-armed and battle-tested. A lot of the episode, at least the first part, is based on wondering who they are. I’m reminded of the Batman animated movie Mystery of the Batwoman, a not-great film that introduce three women to confuse audiences, only – SURPRISE [and SPOILER] – that the Batwoman was all three working together. Here, they introduce a news reporter gathering data from Xanatos’ castle, a woman working for Dominique Destine, and a new cop named Jason Conover, partnered with Elisa. Not at all a surprise, these three are revealed to be the Hunters, all siblings with varying degrees on how to approach the gargoyles extermination problem.
The news reporter doesn’t do much during most of the running time other than express doubt in the blind thirst for the gargoyles’ blood, and get the public on their side after they destroy the police building – which, by the way, is a crazy ballsy move. I do like that Xanatos sees right through his ploy, and I also love that Xanatos does nothing in this episode until the very end. Xanatos is shrewd and rich. He could have easily assisted the gargoyles, whether via resources or gathering information, but he does nothing but observe. Even with a few brief shots, Xanatos continues to be both fascinating and frustrating. His change of heart does nothing to change his character; I’m actually kind of shocked he gave the gargoyles an exit at the end of third part, taking them home to their rightful place at the relocated Castle Wyvern. With no real purpose to drive Xanatos, he rightfully (at least character-wise) stays out of the picture.
This episode gives a clearer sense of Demona’s/Destine’s relationship to Nightstone Unlimited. She and Thailog created it back in “Sanctuary,” but in “The Reckoning,” it seems like Thailog called all the shots. Now we see the human Demona run things, and it’s quite awesome, although there’s an interesting question on how these two titans had no idea what the other was doing within their company. After all, Thailog managed to plot Demona and Macbeth against each other quite easily, and he also managed to create Delilah without Demona’s knowledge. Likewise, Demona was creating a virus that could wipe out the world, and Thailog seemed clueless to its existence. As mentioned, it seems like a tacked on plotline, but I can buy it mainly because both Thailog and Demona are so insanely full of themselves, so much so that their left hands would have no idea what the right ones were doing.
What I can’t buy, however, is Elisa going bedroom eyes at the first sight of Jason. Elisa’s romantic pursuits just never worked for me on this show; Elisa’s just too great of a character, too strong of a character, to go speechless at a pair of baby blue eyes. I could perhaps see a romance budding during the pretty great car chase in the first part: despite completely breaking police procedure by shooting at an explosive canister and causing thousands of dollars in damage (Elisa flipped out at Matt Bluestone for less), the “Bonnie and Clyde” flirting works a bit better mainly because she and Jason are working at the same level. I can see them connecting over losses and their desperation in finding a connection that can never be. Still, after everything Elisa has been through, particularly with Goliath, I just feel like the whole forced pairing came off as such, ultimately to shock Elisa in the end when she realized he was a Hunter. The romantic stuff just never flew for me. Even though she finally kisses Goliath in the end, it just comes off as the writers not knowing how else to finalize her story except with love.
Gargoyles 2×51 – Hunter’s Moon – Part 2
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Perhaps, though, it’s a love more in Goliath’s favor than it is in Elisa’s, since the entire story is build essentially around the idea of Goliath losing her romantically as well as almost losing his daughter fatalistically. This, along with the relentless pursuit of the Hunters, triggers Goliath to revert to his old, original ways, the ways of monsters being hell-bent on revenge. In terms of finding a purpose, the central theme to Gargoyles, vengeance is a strong one, a value that gargoyles (and the characters within the show’s massive narrative) can easily attach oneself to. It’s not about vengeance in terms of a misguided belief that this will bring back the destroyed clock tower, or Elisa’s (misinterpreted) life. It’s about ending the battle, about finalization. So much of the dialogue here centers around lines like “this ends now,” but what everyone fails to realize was that vengeance-based endings are never concrete. Hunters thrive. Gargoyles thrive. Justice thrives. Humanity thrives.
In the series’ most fascinating moment, this desire for revenge even temporarily connects Goliath and Demona, when they both find themselves captured on the Hunters’ airship. Demona still is committed to her plan of global genocide, but watching her and Goliath terrifyingly bond over their desire to finish off the Hunters is tense and palpable. Even Lexington and Brooklyn are rightly concerned. I don’t think Demona was inherently utilizing that moment to get Goliath back on her side – they both know it’s too late for that – but I think it was an example of the ideas and feelings that once did unite the two so many years ago (coupled with the belief that he lost Elisa romantically). In a parallel universe, Goliath and Demona are indeed the perfect pair, and their inherent need to stop the hunters and escape is strong enough to bring them together, even if their motives are (not entirely) different. Purposes can bond even the most diehard of enemies, and can certainly blind them to the real issues. “Enemy of my enemy” applies here, but so does “Be wary of the enemies you make, for you will become them.”
The nature of revenge driving people apply to the Hunters as well, the three murderous siblings after the gargoyles. Similar to Demona, there’s a tragedy to their pursuit, particular when the most reluctant of the three accidentally shoots and almost kills his brother. So wildly misguided, making the kinds of “blame the victim” theories that leaves him (and the randomness of shit happening) inculpable of his responsibility, the one person who could truly end the cycle is pushed further to continue it. Likewise, the one most driven by revenge, Jason, is the one who finally understands the chaotic nature of how such an insane pursuit can ruin so many lives – almost killing Elisa (twice!), leaving him paralyzed from the waist-down, etc. We should also note, again, that the Hunters, particularly the sister, who seems the most neutral in this (she’s too is driven by revenge but in a somewhat more logical manner), ends up blowing up a police station. The episode doesn’t quite note how utterly serious this is, but there’s definitely a sense of how cold her straight-forward manner is, even if it leads her to figuring out Demona’s plan first.
Gargoyles 2×52 – Hunter’s Moon – Part 3
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The series is definitely most concerned with the destructive nature of revenge, and the thin line between it and justice. That’s where the greatness lies – various discussions between letting feelings go and constantly pursuing the enemy, and how things just get worse and worse. It’s obvious that the finale is more concerned with that than Demona’s plot, which indeed ends in such a throwaway fashion. Why Demona would tell the gargoyles that the small gargoyle statue is what will protect them is beyond me; I mean, Goliath just destroys it and then it’s over. The whole thing could’ve been removed and the finale might’ve been stronger for it. I’m also a bit concerned the show seemed to completely drop the Macbeth/Demona connection? Macbeth’s final outing in “Pendragon” was fairly weak, and somehow not having him here gives the impression that the show kind of forgot about it? I’m not saying it’s necessary – “Hunter’s Moon” is strong enough to push past it – but as a finale, if feels like an important aspect to not at least kinda comment on it.
Overall, though, “Hunter’s Moon” feels like it’s own thematic capper, which involved the series’ best animation by far. The A-Team brings perfection to last two episodes, which beautifully choreographed aerial battles and brilliant close-ups of characters’ expressions, where even a straight-forward piece of exposition by Demona can look and feel scary. As the for the first part, the animation company Animal Ya provided the visuals, and it doesn’t seem like they did any other episode (although if they did please correct me), but as for their first and only foray, they did a great job, mimicking the A-Team fairly well and improving upon the work of companies like Koko and Jade – particularly in complex scenes like Demona’s transformations and the fight sequences between Demona and the Manhattan clan. All three parts are television animation set pieces at their prime; my personal favorite tic by far are the unique and various takes on Elisa’s hair, whether wet, disheveled, or blowing in the wind. Is those details that make this episode shine, even if it’s not narratively the show’s best work.
Regardless, “Hunter’s Moon” is a perfect set of episodes to end the series, a small, tight TV-movie to give Goliath (and to a lesser extent, Elisa) a moment to reach their lowest, most vulnerable moments, only to learn, shine, and connect again. And while I’m not a fan of the romantic angle, I can’t deny that it worked. Gargoyles final five episodes are fantastic, and minor quibbles aside, the show ended as strongly and as smartly as it began.
I have decided to indeed tackle “The Goliath Chronicles.” I know they are not canon, but I don’t like the idea of massively dismissing a work because it’s handled by a different team (see, Community, season four). I want to give it a chance, to at least see if there’s some sort of merit or “E for Effort” value in the third season. Does the new team completely screw things up, or is it really more of a different approach to everything? It’ll be a few months before I get to it, though. Thanks for sticking with me through all this!
Hunter’s Moon A-