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CHILDHOOD REVISITED – Gargoyles “The Edge/Long Way to Morning”

Gargoyles "The Edge" screenshot

I want to say two things. First, I am DEEPLY sorry for the mistaken spellings of several of the characters’ names. I immediately went back and fixed them all. I’m not sure how I made that mistake – I think I subconsciously combined “Elisa” and “Maza” to create “Eliza,” and I couldn’t begin to tell you how I misheard “Dracon” for “Deacon” – but there is ultimately no excuse. I promise to pay extra attention to that in the future. Second, even though my grades and tone of reviews may not reflect it, I want to emphasis that I enjoy Gargoyles quite a bit. It’s an exciting, deep show, and the action is almost always a thrill – even if Wang’s animation was less than stellar in “Enter Macbeth.” While I personally wish Xanatos had a clearer motivation, I’m fairly okay with him as a figure who seems to delight over multiple characters battling over each other. Beyond that though, critiques are critiques, and I will call them out when I see them. And so it goes with “The Edge/Long Way”.

It’s a good thing I brought up my concerns about Xanatos, too, since “The Edge” pretty much goes out of its way to explain him. And while I’m not one hundred percent on the full explanation of the man’s psyche, I think the effort behind it works well enough for me to buy it. “The Edge” asks, “Who is Xanatos, and what is his place in this growing complex situation with the gargoyles? With the Pack, Demona, and Macbeth coming in, kicking ass, and taking names, what role does a spoiled, rich human have in all of this?” The answer may surprise you.

Or maybe it doesn’t. “The Edge” begins with a minor, seemingly innocuous scene where Owen bests Xanatos in a martial arts sparring match. Xanatos mentions that Owen has been practicing, and the scene ends with a phone call. It’s a bit of misdirection, one that presents a calm “set up” scene, a typical day in Xanatos’ life upon his return home from prison. It’s particularly clever since it’s followed by “normal” scenes of the various gargoyles just getting by in their new home in the clock tower, which happens to be on top of a building that is on top of the police station. This… is kind of a stretch, but I’ll allow it.

Here is the most important thing you need to know to understand Xanatos: his outer shell is confidence perfected. Xanatos rarely, if ever, exudes surprise, anger, failure, confusion, or self-doubt. ESPECIALLY self-doubt. His pride and reputation is paramount; the man has turned projecting control into an artform. Control, and the pursuit of control, is not only Xanatos’ MO – it is his reason for existing. He must be in control, and, barring that, everyone has to think he is in control. That is made clear in a minor moment, where Xanatos takes offense at a seemingly innocent question about his donation of the Eye of Oden to the museum. Is he offended? Or is he faking it? Xanatos makes it unclear, but the point is that he wanted the journalist and the crowd to perceive that reaction.

Perception is key; he who controls the public controls the world. It’s most likely why Goliath reacts with pure rage, seeing that smug-as-fuck Xanatos on the screen act holier than thou, and the reporter brown-nosing him on TV, knowing full well what the man has done. Goliath has lost so much – his wife, his clan, his era, and his castle – and the culprit of the latter is just sitting there, on TV, after a half-assed prison sentence, and he’s cracking wise about tax write-offs? The gargoyle STORMS out of the room, and it seems like Goliath is about to unleash his anger on Xanatos once and for all. I kind of wish the scene itself made that clearer, since the episode never explains where Goliath goes in that rage – it’s misdirection without actually misdirecting the audience anywhere – but I certainly understand where his anger is coming from.

Meanwhile, two things happen. After the shooting, Elisa gets a partner, a Matt Bluestone, who waxes publicly about the Illuminati, so, yeah, he’s THAT guy. Second, a winged “thing” breaks into the museum and steals the Eye of Oden. This creates a mess, distorting the already distorted view the public has of the gargoyles (however limited), and triggers a surge of paranoia in the already rant-crazed Bluestone, who shoots at the creature but fails to bring him down. Of course, we know that the creature was a robot – we’ve seen them before, and it looks like they’re back, stronger than ever. Or are they?

Goliath and the clan confronts Xanatos, who used the robots to turn the public against them. His offer is sadly horrific: join him so they can be safe, in return for a few invasive experiments. I’m not sure why Goliath doesn’t just kill him here, consequences be damned, especially since the offer is so outlandish. (I can’t let that one go, so that’s gonna effect the grade. Yeah, don’t tell me “cause it’s Disney,” since the writers could have came up with a number of reasons where Goliath failed to kill him then and there.) But he flies away with his clan, only to get in an intense fight with three robots, including the one who broke into the museum. A vicious fight breaks out, and in the midst of the fight, Goliath says perhaps the most important line in the episode: “Xanatos does not want to destroy us. He wants to dominate us.”

Dominate, in this case, is the ultimate form of control – every aspect of the gargoyles lives is under his exploitative jurisdiction. It’s Xanatos in a nutshell, which is why, instead of killing the clan, his robots wait, expecting the clan to lead them back to their new home. Smartly, the gargoyles lure them to the Statue of Liberty for another pretty epic fight scene, and props to Broadway here as he is the one who actually figures out how to take out the new-and-improved silver robots (food be damned, Broadway knows how to throw down). When the gargoyles surround the remaining red robot, he turns tail and flies away. The gargoyles win this one, but they know they have a much tougher battle ahead of them.

More so than they think: the episodes big reveal is that Xanatos was inside and controlling the red robot the entire time. Owen says, “It would appear that your plan to learn the gargoyles’ hiding place as gone awry, sir.” Xanatos’ reply? “Not really. I have the Eye of Oden back in my private collection and the city owes me a favor for donating it, I successfully tested this prototype battle exoframe, and the most important thing… I was a little worried that I might be getting soft. But I was able to stand up against Goliath, the greatest warrior alive. I’d say I still got the edge.” There’s a lot to crib from this sentiment: 1) the city owes you shit, since you just donated it; 2) it wasn’t a successful test; 3) you really didn’t stand up to Goliath. But Xanatos truly, truly believes that there was a ton of great things from this mission, despite Owen’s direct concern being a complete failure, and yet here’s Xanatos, still confident and cool as ever. Is he right to draw such distinct positivity from the results of the fight? Or is he projecting fake positivity to his assistant in order to maintain his facade of control? Or worse: is he telling himself all this in order to justify and define his sense of control to himself? No matter what, Xanatos always must believe he has “the edge,” which in some ways makes him the most dangerous player in this game.

(Bluestone also makes a plea to find out definitively who these creatures are. This doesn’t bode well.)

Not to say Demona doesn’t have her own prowess in this game. “Long Way to Morning” focuses on Hudson, who has quietly held his own thus far but hasn’t been given a proper introduction. While I kinda wish Demona had more going for her in this episode than “shoot and kill all the things,” I am aware we will be getting more of her history in the coming episodes. Still, it’s disappointing, especially after the events of “Temptation,” that she’s just seems to be on a blind, murderous rampage. But this isn’t about her today. It’s about redefining Hudson.

Hudson is a brave warrior, but in the gargoyles’ timeline, he’s old. The question remains, then, of his role not only within the clan but within the context of the show. What drives him? The answer seems to be that grey area between loyalty and guilt. “Long Way” begins uncomfortably random, when Demona just SHOWS up in Elisa’s apartment and shoots the police officer with a poison dart, demanding that Goliath confront her in exchange for the cure, before flying away. In a stroke of luck, the dart hit Elisa’s badge, saving her life. Oh, good. I’m not sure why Gargoyles struggles with their openings and set ups. This goes doubly so when, in a flashback to 984 AD, prior to the events in “Awakenings,” we see a young Katherine is laid to bed by her father, who frightens her to sleep with horror stories about gargoyles coming to get her… only to turn and greet a younger Hudson with respect and admiration. What… is this? Like, I get that the scene is supposed to explain Katherine’s earlier distrust of the gargoyles, but why in the hell would the king espouse the gargoyles’ assistance while also espousing their aversion on his own people? What kind of mix message is this? Hudson even says, “You shouldn’t frighten the girl with threats of gargoyles, my liege. We would never harm a child.” His reply? “Oh, you are too sensitive.” WHAT? Hey, Prince Malcolm, you’re a sociopath. I don’t blame this Archmage dude for trying to kill you.

“Long Way” uses this flashback – the Archmage’s attack on the prince and Hudson’s guilt about his failure to protect him – as a frame story to Goliath and Hudson’s pursuit of Demona and her plan, which, of course was a trap. The episode becomes a cat-and-mouse chase through the city, as Hudson struggles to carry an injured Goliath as Demona chases them with one of Xanatos’ laser blasters. It’s a frequently tense and exciting series of sequences, although this wasn’t animated with Disney’s usual group of studios. The good thing is that it wasn’t Wang, either, so while it isn’t animated in top-notch form, it’s still fairly decent-looking.

One of the things that I have neglecting is emphasizing the Shakespearean aspects of the show. I’m not as well-versed in Shakespeare’s works to get all the references and allegories (in case you’re curious, I’ve read Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Julius Caeser). But I completely understand the approach, with its grand gestures and poetic dialogue and “epic” aesthetics, in which I use the word “epic” in its classical, literary definition. I can’t say it justifies some of the show’s flaws – awkward writing is awkward writing is awkward writing – but it does help to keep that in mind, especially when thinking about certain characters behaviors and actions. During the flashback scenes, where Hudson (who is the leader of the clan and this is awesome) recruits Demona and Goliath to go after the Archmage for the Grimorum to cure the prince, Demona speaks to her husband about usurping Hudson, who is indeed getting older and slower. Yep, that pure Lady Macbethian antics right there, always working an angle. Of course, in the present, the angle is pretty much “kill them before sunrise”.

Hudson holds onto his own though, lugging Goliath through old stages and sewers and graveyards, staying by his side despite Goliath’s protests for his former leader to leave him be. During which, flashbacks regal how the gargoyles went after the Archmage and retrieved the Grimorum, only for Hudson to be scarred by the fight in his eye. Hudson’s guilt is not only due to a deep belief in his failure to protect Prince Malcolm, it was a the slow realization that he, as a leader, could not cut it. He gave up his position to make Goliath the leader, but deep down inside Hudson must have questioned whether he was even relevant any more. So his stubborn loyalty was both out of necessity to save Goliath’s life, but also to prove to himself he was still needed. In awesome fashion, Hudson battles Demona just long enough to day break; by the subsequent nightfall, the stone healing restores Goliath and the two beat back Demona. Not only are they alive, they have an (admittedly small) advantage: Demona thinks Elisa’s dead. In this world, any advantage is promising.

“The Edge” and “Long Way to Morning” works to really set up answers to questions and work to get into the heads of both Xanatos and Hudson, both necessary to keep the show and its character motivated and invested. While not necessarily perfect episodes, they both assuage my fears and concerns of these characters, Xanatos in particular, while maintain the high-level of badass fighting that Gargoyles continues to excel at. The show is moving in the right direction, and I’m excited to see more.

“The Edge” B/”Long Way to Morning” B+



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CHILDHOOD REVISITED – Gargoyles “Deadly Force/Enter Macbeth”

Gargoyles screenshot

Full disclosure: I do not like the “Countries of the World” song, sung by Yakko Warner, AKA Rob Paulson, from Animaniacs. It’s not that the song itself is bad; in fact, it’s a brilliant piece of rhyming and melodic composition. But let’s not fool ourselves: it’s animated educational pabulum, and let’s not also forget that in the 90s, there were no shortage of inane educational pabulum. It was everywhere – Saturday mornings, after school, during school, in our books, in our films – and I hated it. Any musical qualities “Countries of the World” had was ruined by the fact that it was not-so-subtly teaching kids the names of the countries of the world in “cool” fashion. Even as I hear it today, as much as I grown to appreciate it, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. (Also, why doesn’t anyone talk about Wakko’s “50 State Capitols” song?)

So I came into “Deadly Force” apprehensively, since this was the episode where Broadway plays with Elisa’s gun and accidentally shoots her, which seemed like yet another piece of educational pabulum (word of the day?), subconsciously teaching kids the dangers of playing with guns. This episode, in fact, was the one that turned me off to the series when I was a wee lad. Watching it now, it’s not so bad, and somewhat effective at times, but Gargoyles secondary flaw is starting to rear its head – it’s not so great at introducing new characters, especially when it comes to “Enter Macbeth,” arguably the worst episode so far.

“Deadly Force” focuses on Broadway, who thus far has been portrayed as a capable if doofy character – happy-go-lucky, naive, and easy-going. He hasn’t really been given much development beyond his love for food, which essentially makes him the comic relief. So in comic relief fashion, Broadway heads out to see a western film, something he’s been doing every night. “Movies, television, video games,” Hudson says. “It’s hard to tell what’s real anymore.” Which goes doubly-true for the gargoyles themselves, still fascinated by this brand new world. (Oh, and Hudson, if you thought things were confusing then…)

Meanwhile, some mobster named Dracon orchestrated a robbery of Xanatos’ laser weaponry, and the police can’t pin it on him due to lack of evidence. Dracon arrives in this episode out of nowhere, and remains wholly uninteresting, pretty much being a more douchebag version of Xanatos. If we had some kind of sense of Xanatos’ enemies, or his competition, or relationship between him and Dracon, this would have been stronger. Instead, like so many characters, he shows up and we’re immediately supposed to hate him, as evidenced by the scene where he tells Eliza off.

This creates a roundabout scenario that leads to the inevitable accidental shooting. Broadway shows up to Elisa’s place after the film, finds Elisa’s gun, and in a self-deluded mini-game of cops-and-robbers, discharges the weapon and hits the detective. Fortunately, this wasn’t as heavy-handed as I was led to believe, mostly focusing on the fallout of the event than heavy speechifying. Broadway drops Elisa off at the hospital, flies away, and whimpers in utter guilt. Goliath learns of the shooting from Owen (a relationship that is growing more and more confusing) and when he visits her, he sees Elisa’s family and Elisa’s chief there, who relays the confrontation between Elisa and Dracon from earlier (which is a HUGE breach of police protocol, but whatever). So Goliath thinks Dracon shot her. Also, Broadway attacks an armed assailant who has one of the stolen laser guns, who directs Broadway in Dracon’s direction as well. The entire situation has a dark “comedy of errors” feel to it, and I’m reminded of the ridiculous stuff in Homeland’s “State of Independence,” where Brody, who’s in a clear position of political power, has to do a menially dangerous task for the enemy for no real reason – both “Deadly Force” and “State of Independence” are filled with random events where everything goes wrong, but at least “Deadly Force” has gargoyles ripping through steel walls.

This all leads to a fairly great fight between Goliath/Broadway and Dracon/his men, upon which Goliath comes very close to killing Dracon. But Broadway stops him and admits that he himself shot Elisa, which would have been a truly powerful moment if we got a more clear sense of Broadway’s guilt and how it was effecting him. The happenstance of the events that lead to the climactic fight does little to get into Broadway’s state of mind, unlike “The Thrill of the Hunt” and “Temptation” did for Lex and Brooklyn. He feels guilty, he gets angry, then he confesses, and it’s over. There are some truly nice moments – seeing Elisa’s family, the touching moment where Broadway admits it to Elisa herself – and some intriguing ones – Owen attempts to buy back the guns from Dracon, but Goliath blows them up, thus furthering the rift between himself and Xanatos – but it’s unfortunate that nothing significant occurs. I guess we could say Broadway, in one distinct moment, stopped his fucking around and grew up, but I wished we got more of a real distinct character moment from him.

That disappointment, however, is nothing compared to “Enter Macbeth,” a stunningly awful episode for pretty much the entire twenty-two minutes. First off, Disney switched animation studios, going from an assortment of places to the singular Wang. Wang is COMPLETELY out of its league here. While it took Wang a while to get a good handle on Ducktales when they took over (and even at their best, they couldn’t come close to TMS’s output at their mediocre), “Enter Macbeth” looks like shit. Characters constantly change sizes and shapes, perspectives are all out of whack, people manage to cross larges distances with only a few steps – this episode looks rushed as hell. It feels rushed, too, which is weird, since this is a fairly significant episode – Xanatos is released, the gargoyles moves out, a new villain with ties to Demona moves in – but writer Steve Perry in his first episode just can not balance all of this.

Owen discusses with Xanatos about the fate of the gargoyles – what to do with them now that Xanatos is about to be released from prison. All of a sudden, in walks a “new player” (as Xanatos refers to him) named Macbeth, who offers to take care of the gargoyles. It’s strange – Xanatos doesn’t want to kill the gargoyles, since they could be manipulated to his advantage, plus he has his trump card with Demona. So why Xanatos agrees to Macbeth’s offer instead of doing the deed himself is confusing. Xanatos seems to be more concerned with making things as convoluted as possible, to throw random forces into the ring and see which ones can be used, tossed aside, or expendable, like he did with the Pack and Demona. Xanatos’ lack of a clear goal makes it hard to latch onto him as a villain, let alone a human being. He’s more like a instrument of chaos – The Joker, but with ideals and class.

So Macbeth arrives at the tower and just starts kicking ass. He captures Lex, Brooklyn, and Bronx, then escapes. It’s just all perfunctory, and Wang’s poorly staged action scenes don’t help. Goliath goes after him, while Elisa convinces Hudson and Broadway to move out, since it’s clearly too dangerous to stay on Xanatos’ home turf. There’s the pointless scene where they fight Owen for Magus’ magic book, which I think was there to show that Owen can handle himself, but he still gets his ass kicked, so it’s really for naught. Meanwhile, Lex and Brooklyn helps Bronx escape (I utterly love how Lex grasps technology so readily), Goliath sees Bronx tearing ass down the city streets, and then follows him back to Macbeth’s hideout. We enter into yet another funhouse of dangers, and yet again, Goliath says “screw this” by breaking through a brick wall. Goliath and Macbeth battle within a burning room (despite it being mostly stone), upon which Macbeth mentions his real prey – Demona. Yet with no context as to why he’s really after her, this reveal, too, is just perfunctory. Goliath beats him, sort of, and Macbeth escapes again, and the gargoyles head back to the castle, only to be diverted towards their new home – a clock tower, which I’m pretty sure New York doesn’t have. They convince Goliath to stay, albeit too easily, considering how adamant he was to stay at the castle. But here we are, yet it wasn’t exactly the most fun way to get there.

“Deadly Force” was a flawed but interesting episode, adding a bit of minor growth to Broadway’s character and hindering Elisa’s assistance. “Enter Macbeth” was fairly crappy episode all around, both in in writing and animation, aside from some minor developments. I’m hoping that Disney and the crew learn quickly that Wang is over its head and drops them soon. Not to begrudge the studio, but they just can’t handle this. And here’s hoping Steve Perry gets a better handle of the material on his next outing.

GRADE: “Deadly Force” B-/”Enter Macbeth” C-


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CHILDHOOD REVISTED – Gargoyles “The Thrill of the Hunt/Temptation”

Gargoyles screenshot

The Gargoyles clan is stuck in a brand new world with absolutely no idea what’s out there. After the incredibly entertaining “Awakening” movie, Gargoyles slows down a bit to set up its characters and situations, slowly developing plot points that most certainly will be dealt with in the future. Unfortunately, these two episodes aren’t exactly the best way to handle putting these pieces into place. While “Temptation” is a much stronger episode than “The Thrill of the Hunt,” they both were a bit more contrived than they should have been. Like “Awakening,” Gargoyles has trouble with its “plans behind the plans”. While its best to ignore how these complex plans could have possibly been set up, it’s hard not to at least give a little thought to them and realize that they don’t really make a lot of sense.

“The Thrill of the Hunt” and “Temptation” are focused on the Gargoyles trying to find people they can relate to, people that can understand their plight – “kindred spirits,” as they refer to it. Using Brooklyn and Lexington as the source for these types of searches is a great decision, since they (along with Broadway) are the ones bold enough to explore the city on their own. Hudson is content with TV watching. Goliath has Elisa to guide her. And let’s not be coy – Lex, Brooklyn, and Broadway are the closest that kids probably can relate to, since their exploration of a world they don’t quite understand definitely reflects any young child’s life of growing up in a world they have yet to fully understand themselves. But it’s also fun to watch them get acquainted so easily to what they see around them, and, at the same time, not understand exactly what they’re getting acquainted with.

In “The Thrill of the Hunt,” for example, Lexington, Broadway, and Brooklyn (for now on, I’m going to refer to them as the G3) fly to Madison Square Garden to watch the live appearance of the actors from the show “The Pack,” which looks kinda like a GI Joe knock-off – five rough-and-tumble rogues fighting robots and junk. “The Thrill” has an odd beginning, where Hudson tries to change the channel when the show is on, but can’t, since it looks like its on every channel (this, remarkably, is important). The G3 is impressed by the show since it bills its characters as outsiders and warriors, and Lex in particular makes the bold move to introduce himself to the team, in an attempt to find said kindred spirits, since they are unaware of the artifice of TV.

Here’s where things kinda fall apart. In the interim, we see the Pack backstage, and we discover that they are actual warriors, albeit of the sadistic kind. They love their fame, fortune, and admiration, but they want blood as well. This is somewhat hard to swallow – the actors of a TV show actually want to kill people? Part of the problem is that we don’t know their history or how they even got to the point of being actors, and how no one seems to notice or care. So someone sends them pictures of the gargoyles, and they get a bit frothy at the mouth, desiring to hunt and kill them. So when Lex approaches them, they play along with the kindred spirits BS and talk him to meeting Goliath.

Lex convinces Goliath to come and meet them as well (a bit of pre-emptive great writing when Lex mentions that, of course, he didn’t tell them about their stone transformations or living quarters, so good on the Gargoyles crew to avoid that piece of contrivance), but it falls into other pieces of contrivances – for instance, when the Pack traps Lex and Goliath on the set of their show, it’s revealed that its a giant, real deathtrap, with spikes and crushing walls and everything.  I feel like this meant to be a longer set piece, but at some point, the writers kinda realized how stupid it was – Goliath simply rips through the steel walls of the set and they escape. The Pack follows, and we’re onto a much better “cat-and-mouse” chase through the city.

Goliath and Lex are, at first, unable to handle the Pack, mainly because they don’t know their enemy or their surroundings. Plus, Lex in particular, is so enraged from the betrayal that he acts reckless, and Goliath has to rein him in. So they spend a bit of time running and getting blown up, and it’s a lot of fun until this really terrible part where these two kids and their parents see the fight, and they think its a movie, and then the two kids throw trash at the gargoyles and – well, it’s a very cringeworthy moment, but it does give Lex and Goliath the chance to escape and regroup. I wish that it was anything ELSE but those kids, but it is what it is, and it’s great that, right after, Lex and Goliath pick off the Pack one by one atop a building with stone gargoyles. In a location that best represents their natural element, the gargoyles are just not to be fucked with. With the Pack dispatched, they return home, and Lex apologizes, but Goliath admits that he was right – in this confusing world, they really do need to find something, someone, to relate to. They can’t stay up in the castle forever – Eliza reminds Goliath that Xanatos will be back. Goliath thinks he can take him again, but I do think deep down it is a concern for the gargoyle leader. Speaking of which, in the last two minutes, we see Xanatos and Owen discuss the MASTER PLAN behind all this – Xanatos created the Pack, trained them, send the photos, and locked the TV so that was the only show that would air. This is ridiculous. Any number of things could have gone wrong with this plan, and it approaches the “master criminal locked in glass prison has every single thing planned out” contrivance. I don’t know what the endgame is with this, but I hope they kinda brush this under the rug and move on.

“Temptation” is much more straight-forward, but it doesn’t start off too well. Or, rather, the setup for the main plot is just as contrived as “The Thrill.” The actual beginning is fine. The G3 are building their own motorcycle, and as silly as it seems, I like that Lexington develops a sense of technology and mechanics quickly. Although it’s not explicitly stated, a bit of time has passed – months, probably, implied by Elisa’s discussion with Goliath over Xanatos’ inevitable return – and it’s a subtle way of discovering that the gargoyles are particularly skilled at adaptation. With the motorcycle built, Brooklyn, ever the culture-lover, dons a helmet, sunglasses, and leather jacket (which he fits by folding his wings, and it looks really goddamn cool), and goes out joy-riding. He outruns the police and finds a motorcycle gang, and they at first find common ground over Brooklyn’s bike. But once Brooklyn takes off his helmet and reveals himself as a gargoyle, the gang immediately attacks him.

This is both great AND terrible. Lexington has his passion for technology. Broadway has his food. What does Brooklyn have? He loves dabbling into culture and its offerings, but with no one to share it with, it’s hollow and meaningless. In that way, I can see why Brooklyn was so quick to reveal himself. The brief bond over the motorcycle could have been stronger than the weirdness of his species, and Brooklyn mistakenly thought it was the case. What is terrible about this, though, is what so many writers do when a similar situation pops up in their TV shows – upon the reveal, the humans immediate resort to attacking. Every time I see this, I groan. There’s something suspect about this reaction. I would understand if they stood in surprise and confusion, and certainly if they ran away, but the leader shouting, “Get him!” and the gang members all just doing that… well, it’s really just inexplicable and stupid, but, again, it’s definitely a victim to writers’ contrivance, all set up really to reveal Demona and her rescue of him. Does this have a name? Whatever it is, it needs to stop. (Also, and I may be reading way too much into this, but there’s a weird antagonism towards “young people” in this scene, especially if you look at their clothing, which is, eww. See, in the mid-90s, New York was really starting to clean itself up, but Gargoyles still seems to have mistaken that the city was still stuck in its 80s-like culture of danger, fear, and anger, which is fine for the show, but sometimes too much is too much.)

That parenthetical digression does lead to a strong couple of scenes where Demona, sensing Brooklyn’s moment of weakness, manipulates him by showing the worse side of humanity. Flying through the city, she shows him a robbery, a domestic dispute, and a murder. It’s bold, and props to Disney to allow that kind of visual depth to the moments, since it really works on Brooklyn. He’s really a lost kid, and Demona is the worse kind of mother, especially when you know how lost she must have been over the years without her clan. She both knows what she’s doing to Brooklyn AND is one hundred percent convinced of her outlook. It’s really great stuff, and it makes her one of the most compelling villains in recent history, up there along Mr. Freeze. She tells Brooklyn to get her Magus’ magic book, the Grimorum Arcanorum, and to lure Goliath to a certain place to “show him the truth,” and he does both.

Well, it turns out that “showing him the truth” really meant “cast a spell on Goliath to control his every move,” much to Brooklyn’s horror. Demona knows her former lover well – there was no way she was going to convince him to turn on humanity, so she opted to turn him into a husk. There’s no maniacal laughter here, no “YOU FOOLS! DID YOU REALLY EXPECT BLAH BLAH BLAH” cliched speeches. Demona truly believed this was the only way; at some point in her long, torturous life, she had embraced the monster that she must have been called all throughout history. Brooklyn doesn’t buy it, and there’s a pretty great action sequence between her, him, and Goliath. Brooklyn snags the pages from the Grimorum with that control spell and gets Goliath to turn on Demona. She escapes, but not after ripping a couple of suspect pages out from the book, while Brooklyn guides Goliath home and, with a bit of magic manipulation from Eliza, turns Goliath back to normal.

So the Gargoyles are 0-2 on the search for kindred spirits, not to mention the return of Xanatos and the specter of Demona gliding in the background (along with whatever the hell is going on with the Pack). Things aren’t going too well for the group, and things are looking to go from bad to worse. Any victory the group can get is a good one, but we’re definitely on the precipice of some dangerous territory. Hopefully we’re also past the arguably unnecessary contrivances that were needed to set up the direction of the show, and we can really get to the fallout of winged beasts in New York and the very, very dangerous people who know about them.

GRADE: “The Thrill of The Hunt” B-/”Temptation” B


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