Archive for category Childhood Revisited


I came into Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers fully ready to be disappointed by it. I knew that there was no way that the cutesy show of high-pitched rodents saving puppies, children, and other helpless animals could possibly hold up in any way. Heck, it wasn’t may favorite show as a child, so if it was lukewarm then, I figured I’d hate it now. I could see the leading line now: “Rescue Rangers signaled the cracks in the Disney Afternoon’s impenetrable armor.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong. In a complete and unexpected twist, not only did I deeply enjoy Rescue Rangers, it actually became my favorite show of the entire lineup. Let me be clear: it’s not the best show of the afternoon block – Ducktales has much more exciting and fun adventures; Darkwing Duck is funnier, more subversive, and more stylistic with the format; TaleSpin has richer characters and distinct relationships. Rescue Rangers, on the other hand, feels inventive. It feels clever, ambitious, and confident. It has this indomitable free-spirit couched in a wildly creative world of rodents and animals living their own lives among a bunch of humans. It doesn’t take itself seriously, only when it needs to. In a word: it’s fun.

Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers

Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers – (1989)

Director: Alan Zaslove, John Kimball, John Zamboni
Starring: Tress MacNeill, Corey Burton, Peter Cullen, Jim Cummings
Screenplay(s) by: Julia Luwald, Tad Stones, Dev Ross

Here’s the thing you should think about: when it comes to the idea of rodents living beneath humans, nine times out of ten, there’s a hidden message. Most of the time they’re about humanity’s wanton destruction of the environment – The Secret of NIMH, Ferngully, The Rescuers Down Under – or they’re about contrasting humanity’s cruel treatment of each other and the world at large, as compared to life underfoot – The Rescuers, Capitol Critters – or maybe they’re allegorical – Watership Down, An American Tail, Animal Farm. The exception might be the fantastic The Great Mouse Detective, but that’s in a league all its own. In fact, Rescue Rangers is more analogous to that film than it is to The Rescuers films that it is based on; it is the completely tonal opposite of Capitol Critters. While that show portrayed its mice and roaches as refugees and scavengers desperate to stay alive, Rescue Rangers showcases its pint-sized cast as normal critters comfortably attuned to the humans overhead. Humans are more like natural phenomenon – forces you have to deal with and handle, forces that can be dangers but also can be extremely helpful and exciting to behold. Getting around by car in Capitol Critters is a dangerous venture; in Rescue Rangers, sliding down a drainpipe and launching yourself onto the bumper of a speeding car is Tuesday.

That kind of commitment and normalization of its pip-squeak world is what makes Rescue Rangers so much fun. It reminds me a lot of Phineas and Ferb, a world that also spritely normalizes miniscule characters (the kids) and their outlandish worldview. No one really comments on the kids purchases or their incredible abilities, nor the sight of a hat-wearing platypus or the alarming number of mad scientists in the Tri-State Area. Likewise, no one bothers to comment on the sheer number rodents and small animals wearing clothes, or their surprising efficiency at building planes or go-carts, or the ease in which a superhero dog can be a huge TV star, or a crazed scientist wearing a bumblebee outfit is fighting five tiny rodents on a live stage using bees. Things just happen. The humans and animals live with it. The audience just enjoys it.

And even the most exciting stuff needs a great core cast, and incredibly, they deliver. Individually, Chip, Dale, Gadget, Monetery Jack, and Zipper would probably be annoying, but together, they’re fairly efficient and create an interesting dynamic.  Chip is a solid leader, if impatient and somewhat dismissive. It’s a flaw that works, especially when certain episodes reflect Chip’s flippant responses to other characters as being genuinely hurtful. Then there’s Dale, the goofball, comic relief character that probably rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I was okay with him though. There are some moments where he takes things too far, but for the most part, Rescue Rangers showcases Dale’s wackiness as inherently important to the crew. His outsider “silly” status often positions him outside of trouble, often by luck, leaving him the only person to save the day. A goofy show uses Dale’s unpredictability to add to the circumstances instead of forcing inane comedy relief to every scene. This is particular notable in “Chocolate Chips,” one of the strongest episodes of the series. Dale’s wacky passion for chocolate leaves him the only one not hypnotized by a cloud of malicious mosquitoes, and there’s a genuinely tense sense where Dale is running for his life as the bugs give chase.

Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2×25 – Chocolate Chips

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Gadget is a lot of fun. A brilliant, absent-minded inventor based on the character of Jordan in the 1985 film Real Genius, Gadget functions like an endearing robot, thinking and speaking intelligently but putting very little emotion behind her decisions. It’s interesting to see her bounce between her genius and her awkward insecurities, which is addressed often, like in the “To the Rescue” five-parter and, specifically, “The Case of the Cola Cult,” another classically brilliant episode that gives Gadget a badass moment. Monetery Jack, the muscle, regales the cast with his broad, outlandish tales that may or may not be true, but also able to back it up with brute force. He’s addicted to cheese, at some points treated like a comical take on alcohol addiction. He’s brash and self-sufficient, to the point that he’ll dismiss the team and strike off on his own. He always comes back though, understandably needing the team as much as they need him. “Love is a Many Splintered Thing” is his signature (and fantastic) episode, delving into a past love life with tragic consequences. And then there’s Zipper, the tiny fly whose fast and nimble, able to help out the team in a pinch. He even gets his own standout episode, “Zipper Comes Home.”

You may have noticed I mentioned a lot about various episodes being “brilliant”. Because they are. What’s remarkable about Rescue Rangers is that a majority of the episodes are written so well. They’re tense, intriguing, mysterious, and fun, but from a narrative perspective, their tight, focused, and crafted well enough to gradually raise the stakes throughout all 22 minutes. Not every episode is a winner, though – some of the earlier episodes, like “Out to Launch” and “Bearing Up Baby” hue more towards a classic Disney-short sensibility, where the Rescue Rangers randomly find themselves in a crazy scenario and work their way out of it (“Bearing Up Baby” even brings back Humphrey the Bear, a classic Disney character.) These episodes are merely okay, especially since a lot of the show mines comedy from the old school tension between Chip and Dale from the 60s.

The truly great episodes are that follow a formula, a formula specifically built for the show: 1) introduce a weird event, 2) introduce a team conflict, 3) slowly explain the weird event while tying the team conflict, 4) show how the team cleverly solves the mystery and saves the day. Points 3) and 4) are the key to why Rescue Rangers works. Sure, as an adult, it’s easy to predict the stories and the twists (“When You Fish Upon a Star” might keep people baffled until the end though), but how they’re told is remarkably well done. The show wisely doesn’t spend too much time on building mysteries though; after they’re exposed, Rescue Rangers shows how the team actually saves the day, with smart (if albeit silly) use of various small objects and talismans and charms and whatever’s on hand, which is wonderfully endearing, especially when they use their fully capabilities to beat the most clever villains, both great and small.

Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2×01 – To The Rescue – Part 1

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The “To the Rescue” five-parter is not only an excellent series, but an abject lesson in character introduction. The story of a mastermind villain that manipulates a retiring cop in order to enact a hilariously ridiculous plan that actually works, “To The Rescue” shows each character coming to life – Chip matures into his leadership role and Dale shows his silliness as an asset. Gadget establishes herself as separate from her late father as an inventor. Monetery Jack and Zipper finds his place with the team after losing their home. Fat Cat is a ambitious, flashy mob villain and Professor Nimnul is an eccentric mad scientist. “To the Rescue” is notable because it brings out the characters flaws and creates dramatic tension with it, which is something increasingly rare in kids’ cartoons (oddly enough, Kung Fu Panda seems to an exception, for better or for worse). It also just an enjoyable hour and a half of TV.

The show, overall, is both charming and exciting, with beautiful animation from the unstoppable TMS for a majority of the episodes. The character designs are lovely, to the point that… well, let’s just say that crushing on cartoon characters is quite alright. I was somewhat surprised by the amount of sexual tension on the show, both intentional (Gadget is quite often portrayed in, um, “form-fitting” outfits, complete with accompanying jazz chords) and intentional (I’m not saying that shipping Chip and Dale is a thing, but it could be). There’s also a fair share of 90s violence and language, with quite a number of instances of “Shut up!” and “Stupid!” being tossed around. Hell, when Chip and Dale meet Monetery for the first time, they get into an all-out brawl with each other, which is hilarious but definitely evocative of an era long gone.

The creativity behind Rescue Rangers is what gives the show an edge that makes it stand out. It’s a delight to look at the miniature world underneath our feet and see how these animals re-purpose various things for their daily use. The Ranger-Mobile, for example, is a skateboard with a hairdryer attached to it with a bottlecap as a wheel. Chip and Dale use a record player as a treadmill. Surround sound is a pair of headphones above the couch. Being able to make and utilize paper airplanes for semi-long distance travel is must. A lightbulb doubles as a fortune teller’s crystal ball. Part of the appeal is pointing out the various little things that everyone uses for themselves. Sponges are mattresses? I love it.

That kind of creativity sneaks into the writing, which, well, could probably annoy some people, but it really requires a particularly keen ear, since a lot of gags are more of the guise of passing puns and references. These puns and references are not THE joke, but canny watchers might spot them and laugh/groan. At one point, Monetery Jack mentions helping a talking barnacle “out of a scrape.” A villainous mother-and-son, who are kidnapping birds out of the sky to make meat pies, are known as The Sweeneys; the son’s name is Todd. They also have two cats named Jack and Nichols, who – you guessed it – sound like Jack Nicholson. One character calls Chip “Alvin,” and follows it up with, “all you chipmunks look the same.”  A more obscure allusion lies in a story Monetery tells when he once went off with a bunch of flying squirrels to Frostbite Falls to hunt for mooseberries. Gags like this are peppered into the show, particularly for older viewers, but they aren’t driven into the ground, making their discoveries all the more wonderful. (My favorite, random gag comes in “Pound of the Baskervilles,” where Chip discovers a blood-stained manuscript during an unrelated investigation, which is completely ignored. It’s an out-of-left-field, bleak non-sequiter that made me laugh more than it should have.)

Rescue Rangers builds so much good will with it’s energy and spirit. It creates a nice balance between the human and animal characters, deriving characters and conflicts from both, and letting the team work to their strengths and weaknesses to deal with them. The world-building, in its own insular way, is just fun to watch, with various one-off characters adding to the kind of adventures that take place underfoot, like Sparky the lab mouse (who sounds like Christopher Lloyd), Rat Capone the rat gangster, and fan-favorite Foxglove, the bat lover for proper Dale shipping. Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, and TaleSpin work in their own individual ways, but Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers works because it has a vision, a formula, and a creativity that’s unmatched. As cliche as is sounds, Rescue Rangers is proof that great things comes in small packages.



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Gargoyles – “Eye of the Beholder/Vows”

Gargoyles "Eye of the Beholder"

Fox: “But what about love?”

Xanatos: “I think we love each other. As much as two people such as ourselves are capable of that emotion.”

Gargoyles, I think, is turning the corner. After developing so many ideas and setting so many tables, the show finally begins to push into a forward momentum. Things start to happen. Characters slowly open up, pasts are reveals, stories start to chug along.”Eye of the Beholder” was a much stronger episode than “Vows,” but I think “Vows” was hindered by a time travel conceit that didn’t do the already-complex show any favors (nor did the sub-par animation from Sae Rom). Overall, especially after last week’s promising two episodes, it looks like Gargoyles is becoming the show everyone keeps swearing by.

Remember “The Edge?” I had wrote about how Xanatos spends a lot of time and effort on maintaining control, or more accurately, the illusion of control, to those around him and, in particular, to himself. “Eye of the Beholder” slowly and carefully breaks down Xanatos’ image of self-perseverance, finally opening up the man and giving the character a much needed sense of vulnerability and, dare I say it, helplessness. It’s also the show’s signature Halloween episode, which was quite honestly an awesome coincidence.

Xanatos decides to up and marry Fox. His reasons include compatibility and long-term goal similarities. But when it comes to “love,” well… his wonderfully robotic response is both funny and revealing. To Xanatos, love is simply a function, a function that connects two people along with other simplistic intangibles that can lead to further perfunctory successes. Or, that is what he wants to believe. Fox sees the statement as Xanatos opening up, and in some ways, that’s the truth. She accepts the wedding proposal, and as a gift to his bride to be, Xanatos offers her the Eye of Odin to wear.

Elisa, a month later, tracks a commotion at a nearby grocery, only to find a hairy beast raiding the food stocks. She’s attacked by ostensibly a werewolf – I say “ostensibly” because it’s not a technically a werewolf. The rules are somewhat unclear: all we know is that this beast is drawn out of Fox via the Eye of Odin’s special powers. Xanatos and Owen watch the news footage of the beast’s rampage, only to see Fox returning home after a long night out. Xanatos can put two and two together, and kudos to the show to allow the audience to figure it out without hemming and hawing, or Swat Kats levels of exposition.

Still, I was somewhat surprised, only because of the female-human-to-male-werewolf transformation. Although, in the realm of magic, why should it matter? The answer is that it shouldn’t, and Gargoyles continues its subtle but pointed subversion of gender dynamics. Sexual dynamics is another thing, as this episode continues to play at a Goliath/Elisa romance, which just cheapens their relationship as lost souls in a city of madness, especially after a poignant scene of Elisa growing upset, relating Fox’s transformation to her brother’s. THAT is how the show should handle Elisa’s grief over Derek’s change – moments of panic and pain, not melodramatic haystack weeping.

The real thrust of the episode is the breaking down of the Xanatos Gambit, and, more thematically, Xanatos himself. When Fox returns home, Xanatos mentions that it’s time to start Plan A. This is about control, where Xanatos walks in casually and asks for the Eye of Odin back. He’s testing how much power he has over Fox and/or the Eye, but come to find out, it’s very little, as Fox transforms, wallops the man, and makes its escape. They manage to track the beast, but even though Xanatos plays it like it’s nothing – “Well, spilled milk. Let’s move on to Plan B.” – he turns away from Owen and, for the first time in the show’s history, expresses doubt and… sadness? There’s something wrong here, and for the first time, Xanatos is showing it.

Xanatos in his robot gargoyle suit has become a symbol. It is the cold, metal exoskeleton of man visually desperately exerting his power, used distinctively to mask his vulnerability (this becomes clearer in the “Vows”). If he can’t manipulate control, he’ll use force. But this fails to work as well, as the beast overpowers him and comes quite close to killing him, but the Fox inside recognizes Xanatos and runs. A damaged Xanatos returns to his castle and begins to discuss plans with Owen about Plan C – manipulate Goliath and his clan to “saving” Fox by getting the Eye of Odin, but Goliath is on to his tricks, refusing to even go near the beast. For the first time, Xanatos finds himself with no plan, no saving grace, no final trick up his sleeve.

Except honesty. He admits that the Eye gives the wearer power and insight, and that he just wasn’t expecting transformation. Goliath deduces the beast is a manifestation of Fox’s true character (I don’t buy this. Fox is a villain but she always had her head on straight – the fact that her true nature is a carnal. insatiable monster doesn’t quite work). Either way, a vulnerable Xanatos pleads to Goliath to help save her life – and he and Elisa refuse. Even when reaching out to Goliath, his penchant for manipulation kicks in as he relates losing his love to Goliath losing his. I love this. I never quite thought of Xanatos being so caught up in his lies and deceits that it became habitual, but it works, especially when he tracks Goliath later with a homing device. “Old habits die hard.”

Goliath does eventually come around, not because he’s concerned about Fox but because he’s concerned about the safety of the city. So he and Xanatos team up to take the beast. (The excuse he gives that leaves his clan out of the beast’s pursuit is a narrative necessity at best, cause it doesn’t make logical sense.) Take careful note that Xanatos is still walking around in his robot suit – he, in his desperate and legitimate insecurity. The two manage to finally snag the Eye, changing the creature back into Fox. A deal is struck: Goliath gets the Eye and Elisa returns Fox to Xanatos. It’s a deal he can’t pass up, because Xanatos actually loves her, a startling contrast to that opening quote. Which leads to the best exchange not only in the show’s history, but in perhaps all of TV:

Xanatos: “So now you know my weakness.”

Goliath: “Only you would regard love as a weakness.”

First, a little “dirt of the shoulder” love for Goliath’s badass comeback. Second, the face Xanatos makes after that line is striking, where anger, sadness, depression, frustration, acceptance, deference, and concession come together. He walks off with his bride-to-be. Owen says he looks heroic, but Xanatos crushes that sense of vulnerability: “A momentary lapse, I assure you.” He tells Fox it was all a bad dream, and it’s all over now. He will be damned if he’s shown up like that ever again.

“Vows” start off like a decent episode, but it gets way too caught up in its time travel concept to really be worth something. It moves a bit too fast for anything to land and has a lack of focus, but there are a lot of good ideas in the periphery. Time travel really works when 1) it’s goofy and campy enough to be fun and nothing more, like Doctor Who, or 2) so wildly, well-thought out that it’s more horror than sci-fi, like Primer. “Vows” is neither. It’s cute, it’s somewhat informative, but too packed and messy to really land an impact. To grasp the full meaning of the episode, I have to explain all the events first.

“Vows” is about Xanatos regaining the upper hand. The events of “Eye of the Beholder” leaves the man a (slightly) shattered version of himself, so he goes out of his way to show everyone he truly is in control. He confronts Goliath at the very beginning of the episode to invite the lead gargoyle to his wedding to be his best man, dropping the fact that Demona will be there as well. Goliath wavers on the decision, and while it seems we were all but past any chance of Goliath re-establishing a romantic relationship with Demona, it seems that he was not. He still has visions and dreams of their past love, remembering when they exchanged halves of a charm known as the Phoenix Gate amidst the wedding between Prince Malcolm and Princess Elena. Deep down, he thinks he could rekindle that love.

Xanatos, meanwhile, invites his father to his wedding (and again, note how Xanatos is still wearing the robot suit, still compensating from “Eye.”) Xanatos’ father is AWESOME. He smacks down his son’s luck into money, then, when everyone gets MAGICALLY zapped into the past, he doesn’t give two shits. Xanatos’ father follows along in the immense implausibility of returning to the past, and the slick manner in which Xanatos indirect made his fortune (giving a coin to the Illuminati to give to him in the future to start his fortune and a note telling him to do this), with the indifference of an emo teenager. Even after all the craziness, his father STILL is all, “Whatever, all you care about is money,” which makes me want this guy to have his own show. The Xanatos’ Dad Show, starring Xanatos’ dad, seeing magic and sorcery and giant robots and gargoyles, and simply wanting to know how the fuck to get to Denny’s. Incredible.

I digress. Goliath goes to the wedding, shows Demona his half of the Phoenix Gate, and she combines it with hers and sends everyone into the past. All the above happens, including a strange attempt by Goliath to talk past Demona into keeping her heart pure and loving so that maybe, in the future, she wouldn’t be so angry at humanity and they would once again be in love (it doesn’t work). Honestly, it’s a strange episode, a little more complex then I think the writers intended, but it’s revealing in some major ways: one, Xanatos is part of the Illuminati, which adds some deliciousness to Matt Bluestone’s conspiracies. Two, the Archmage from “Long Way to Morning” actually was a member of castle before his betrayal (I assume its the effort to get the Phoenix Gate, although it’s not made explicit). Three, this Archamge is after the ultimate power, which lies in the possession of the Phoenix Gate, the Grimorum, and the Eye of Odin. How this develops has yet to be seen.

Overall, though, this episode was intriguing and ambitious, but it didn’t quite work for me. I love what it tried to do, but adding a little bit thought to it kinda makes the whole thing fall apart. And I know time travel is a fool’s “thinking man” game, but the idea that the note Xanatos sends himself in the future, which presumably mentions inviting Goliath to the wedding and assuming everything between him and Demona would work out like that is a huge stretch. What if Goliath didn’t come? Well, the episode implies that it doesn’t matter, since the rules of time travel implied that Goliath would come, that the events happened because they’ve already happened. “Time travel’s funny that way.” This gets into a whole fate/destiny thing, and while Gargoyles plays around with fate and destiny a lot, the broad, universal theoretical approach may not be in the show’s strong suit.

But hey! Xanatos’ dad! More of him, please.

“Eye of the Beholder” A-/”Vows” B


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Gargoyles – “Legion/A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time”

Gargoyles Lighthouse screenshot

Remember when the realm of “virtual reality” was, like, a thing? When movies like The Lawnmower Man and shows like Cartoon Network’s 1996 reboot of Johnny Quest tried to make the virtual world into a serious location fraught with danger? It always seemed like a concept writers heard about in passing and immediately ascribed a sense of confusion and mental anguish into their narratives, when in real reality, virtual reality was always a crap shoot.

Well, Gargoyles presents its own interpretation of virtual reality in “Legion,” which actually wouldn’t be that bad of an episode if it didn’t work so hard in retconning Coldstone. Well… I can’t say they distinctly retconned Coldstone; more likely they were aiming to add extra material to Coldstone’s past to build at his mental state in the present. But it just felt like retconning. I don’t think “Legion” put in the narrative work to make his virus-addled state of mind palpable. There was already a great deal of tension between Goliath and Coldstone. Did they really need to add a (hilariously) past, misguided love triangle?

“Legion” begins a undetermined amount of time after “Reawakening.” Coldstone lies motionless at the bottom of the sea, when his emergency programming boots up, auto-repairing his body. Using some quick scene flashes within the repairing circuitry, we see what appears to be part flashback, part dream of Coldstone trusting Goliath, Coldstone seeing Goliath with an unnamed female gargoyle, and a third male gargoyle instigating a surge of jealousy into Coldstone’s heart. It’s a strange, confusing set of shots, ending with Coldstone rebooting, speaking with a distinctly robotic Xanatos voice, and rocketing out of the water.

I honestly love shows with confusing and strange beginnings, because it’s always fun to see how the episode parses out these elements, slowly unraveling them and clarifying them into something coherent. (This is going to sound weird, but Rescue Rangers did this to remarkable effect.) So while I was thrown off by the opening, I trusted the writers to really work at building at it into something truly revealing. I… I’m not sure they did. I want to say they did. I truly, truly do. But what we see on the screen isn’t exactly what I think they were trying to accomplish.

Computerized Coldstone breaks into a guarded facility and it looks like he steals some data. Instead, he’s electrocuted and “awakens” from his mind control and returns to his former self, only to see he’s being shot at by some guards. Naturally he defends himself. Meanwhile, Elisa and Bluestone rig up a specialized robot called RECAP, the show’s “in” into virtual reality. At this point it’s just a typical recon robot, with weapons, but Coldstone makes short work of it. Coldstone escapes, but the gargoyles follow (who originally followed Elisa to the scene). Goliath and Lex re-introduce them to a seemingly sane Coldstone and they bring him back to the tower.

The episode is about trust. Which is a little strange, honestly, since a few episodes in the first season were about trust, notably the “Awakenings” saga, and you would think Goliath would be a bit reserved about instantaneously trusting a figure that once tried to kill him. Is it naivete at work, or is it something deeper, a desperate desire to rebuild the clan he lost? “Legion,” unfortunately, doesn’t delve into this question. Instead, Coldstone surges a bit, acts confused and hostile, and seeing himself in a reflection as if for the first time, bolts out of the clock tower. Goliath and Hudson give chase, which leads them to Ellis Island.

This is where things start to get dicey. It seems like Coldstone was struggling between four mental states: 1) the pure, cold, robotic Xanatos state; 2) the amnesiac, how-did-I-get-here state; 3) the friendly, trusting gargoyle-brother state; 4) the angry, vindictive jealous state. The conflict on Ellis Island, however, reduces it to two states, 3) and 4), and after a bit of fighting, Coldstone collapses on the ground, desperate for help. Luckily, the REACP is damaged but not broken, and Lex uses it to allow Goliath into Coldstone’s state of mind. Cue VR scene.

There’s some nifty animation work here, with wide arching shots and a bit of surreal zooming to give things a properly unrealistic edge. Goliath stands on a grid by a bridge to a fake castle, and underneath it all is a whirlpool of yellow swirls and tentacles. A hologram of Xanatos appears (like ALWAYS) and breaks it down: Coldstone, a creation of “science and sorcery,” was supposed to ultimately be Xanatos’ pawn, but when it was shocked earlier, it uploaded a computer virus that is eating at his mind (hence the whirlpool and tentacles). He also mentions that Coldstone was not made from one stone gargoyle but three – Coldstone himself and the two male/female gargoyles from the opening. Like I said, it’s not quite retconning, but it just feels like it. When Coldstone woke up in “Reawakening,” he didn’t quite seem like a Xanatos weapon, and now saying he is kinda seems like the glass cage villainy is going way too far now. Plus, the whole thing about Coldstone being made from a “legion” of gargoyles, hence the title… I’m just not seeing why this decision was made. It just over complicates thing, right?

Regardless, Goliath recognized the female gargoyle, and the male gargoyle instigates Coldstone to attacking Goliath. But the female gargoyle extolls Goliath’s loyalty, uses the word trust, and boom, Coldstone saves the Manhattan clan leader from certain doom. Then there’s a whole thing where the third gargoyle is exposed as a former traitor of the clan in 994 AD, then his digital body merges with Xanatos’, he gets all big, and is still defeated by the group. The biggest problem is we don’t know who these two extraneous gargoyles are, and their history with the clan is really just forced hearsay. I’m not even sure if they’re real or if just figments of Coldstone’s mind. I mean, Goliath recognizes the female clan member, but it rings awkward and hollow. Still, Goliath manages to escape the VR while Coldstone and said female lover work to free his mind from the virus. Goliath wakes up in the real world, and he and his clan escape before the police track down the RECAP.

The best part is Bluestone’s growing paranoia on seeing the creatures. It’s small and subtle, but he gets so worked up on finally track down the VR machine, only to see a rat. I get the sense we’re going to see psycho-Bluestone in a few episodes, and it will be glorious. But this episode was anything but. It’s sad moment to see the clan watch helplessly as Coldstone’s lifeless body just sits there, as he flies off with his lover in his mind. But since we don’t know who she is, it rings hollow, a scene that says “BE SAD.” I do hope we get more on who she is, and for that matter, who this gargoyle was that wanted to usurp Goliath. Until then though, all we can do is dream. (I should mention that the RECAP was returned to Xanatos because he built it, because of course he did, and they were able to extract the virus that hindered Coldstone, because of course it’s useful. I’m sorry, but this Xanatos-thing is getting ridiculous.)

“A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time” seems more like an abject lesson in the importance of reading, a typically mandated “teach kids lessons” episode that happens to bring back Macbeth and even develop him a little (in the most haphazardly way possible). While we are definitely leagues away from the animation problems that Wang provided, the core writing still seems to be reaching a lot and has yet to establish a firm core or direction. We’re still in the realm of table-setting, but dinner has yet to be served.

We follow two archeologists, who discover Merlin’s scrolls. The talk of the town is that they may be magic spells, which gets Lex quite excited, reading up on all the material he can. Broadway shrugs it off, mainly because he doesn’t care about reading, because he can’t read. Which makes sense, given the time period he’s from. Hudson, in particular, plays the entire thing off, which to the show’s credit is a nifty way to throw us off the trail of Hudson’s own illiteracy. In any case, Elisa and Bluestone are assigned the task of escorting the scrolls back to New York via boat, although it’s a little weird that they’re taking a boat instead of a plane. Clearly that’s a nitpick. What I DO like about this is how causally characters discuss Merlin as if he was a real person. I mean, if you’re going to do a show with gargoyles and magic books, you might as well play to your strengths and allow the entire Arthurian legend come alive.

Things go wrong when two harrier jets arrive, shooting up the boat and causing mass chaos. The jets land on the boat, and two gun-toting thugs jump out, and kudos to Gargoyles for making one male and one female. Gargoyles allowing its henchmen to be guys and gals is actually really refreshing, and it’s odd more shows don’t do this. The two snatch the scrolls and right before they leave, the gargoyles swoop in and start tearing those jets up. It’s unclear why the gargoyles were nearby in the first place. The only one who had any interest in the scrolls was Lex, and I can see Brooklyn and Goliath coming along, but Broadway and Hudson being there is a bit baffling. The fight sequence is somewhat confusing, but that’s on purpose, since things go wrong: Hudson grabs a scroll but is knocked cold into the water, Broadway sneaks on a jet as it escapes, and Elisa and the remaining gargoyles suffer a humiliating defeat.

I love how Broadway has been stepping it up in the second season, becoming the second best fighter of the clan. After the jet lands, he snatches the scroll, takes out the pilots, and escapes the facility — only to run into Macbeth. Sunwoo does the animation here, so there’s no visual Wang disasters, but Macbeth continues to be cipher. A slightly more developed cipher here, but still, a cipher.  After capturing Broadway, he regales a bit about Merlin and the ancient times, which to Broadway and the audience, seems like he’s reminiscing. Macbeth shuts down that idea quickly, claiming he read about it, but Broadway is suspicious. There’s definitely something there. This isn’t quite the gargoyle-assassin from “Enter Macbeth,” so I’m not sure if this is development or retconning. (Which makes Macbeth releasing the gargoyles at the end even more confusing.)

Goliath, Lex, and Brooklyn hassle Owen and Xanatos’ castle because they think he’s behind it, but he’s not, which is some kind of meta-commentary on the show’s over-reliance on using Xanatos as a master villain? The big thing in this episode is watching Hudson be saved by a blind man, an author named Jeffrey Robbins, who lost his artistic touch, but lets the elder gargoyle rest in his home. It’s a touching moment, if bland, mostly to build to Hudson’s shame towards his illiteracy. They bond over being war veterans, kinda, but that never goes anywhere, instead focusing on the idea of being willing to learn to read at any age. It’s a good lesson, sure, but come on — this is after-school special stuff.

Macbeth manages to get the scrolls, Hudson chases him down, there’s a nice action sequence where the gargoyles take out some giant laser guns, and then there’s the final showdown with Macbeth. As implied above, Macbeth doesn’t put up a fight, because the scrolls weren’t spells at all. They were his diary, musings of the day. Which is one of those bleak, “all of this for nothing” type concepts that are really hard to make work (see: the ending to Kung Fu Panda). Macbeth has some kind of connection to Merlin, and I’m sure we’ll come to it soon, but how many moving pieces are we going to go through before we really hit some forward momentum? The upcoming four-part “City of Stone” saga looks promising, but we got a while before we get there.

“A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time” ends with an inspired Robbins voicing his new story idea into a voice recorder, a very pro-book screed that Hudson, from afar, takes to heart. I’m glad he (and by proxy, Broadway) are eager to learn how to read, two figures willing to learn after so much time has past. This is a very nice sentiment, but with so little done in terms of story or character, the episode comes off more preachy then probably intended. I know this show can get epic, but right now, it’s not.

“Legion” B-/”A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time” B-


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