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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-
The World Tour has its critics, me among them, but by using the global journey structure, Gargoyles has been able to let individual and specific stories breathe on their own, such that when the gargoyles and Elisa returned home, there would indeed be a reckoning. “The Reckoning” and “Possession” are two great episodes that really tie the most important and “still up in the air” questions of the season. “Possession” has some minor flaws but overall is a pretty solid episode; it’s “The Reckoning” that is beyond reproach, by far the best episode of Gargoyles’ run. Barring the events of “Hunter’s Moon,” the three-part finale, Demona’s tragic and difficult life story ends here, in the most powerful way possible.
Gargoyles 2×48 – The Reckoning
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“The Reckoning” cheats a little, teaming up Goliath, Brooklyn, and Angela at first, all three of whom has specific agendas against Demona, so of course they all find her first. It’s a fairly quick battle, but interesting to note that Brooklyn attacks first, the one character who hasn’t had the chance yet to work through his anger – and is punished for it. Goliath and Angela take Demona down within her battlesuit, and, in determining where to take Demona’s unconscious body, they figure the best place to send her is to the Labyrinth.
It’s all coming together now. The events after “Kingdom” has created an alliance among the Manhattan clan and the Mutates, and they come to an agreement to stand watch over the captive Demona every night for… I assume, ever. This I found absolutely fascinating. Gargoyles pride themselves – natch, live for – protection, for keeping a watching over the things they love. So with minimal hesitation, they agree to take shifts to watch one solitary figure, in a dark, dank room, all night, for eternity. They make it into a second job, they do this for over three months, and there’s nary a complaint. I can only imagine how tedious that must’ve been, but there’s a resolve to their task that’s undeniable.
Angela takes the first watch. Goliath tries to talk her out of it, but it’s Hudson who stops him. The show continues to establish Hudson’s wisdom in quiet, understated ways, and it’s always a treat. This leads to a one-on-one conversation between Angela and Demona, and it’s fantastic. Koko Animation, which handled expressions fairly well in the past, is pitch perfect here, nailing the expressions and framing needed to convey the pain, anguish, and sadness that Demona is feeling, and VO actress Marina Sirtis is on point with every line read. It’s depressing, to see Demona, for a brief moment, express what might be happiness at seeing her daughter, only to jump right back into her rage when Angela tells her about Katherine and her protection of the eggs. Stark proof right there that humans can be helpful, saving her own daughter, but Demona can’t accept it. She won’t accept it.
All this time, however, Demona has been secretly sending out mechanical bugs to suck the blood out of various Gargoyles’ characters. I was a little reluctant about another sci-fi plot – mainly because the conversation stuff between Demona and the various members of the clan was so, so good – but this led to some unexpected developments; namely, the bugs being sent back to a Nightstone Unlimited, where Dr. Sevarius is using the DNA to construct… something, for a well-paying Thailog! Giant genetic “things” in a vat can only mean clones, and Thailog is raising them to be brutish but loyal. Thailog, voiced by a sassier version of Keith David, is just fantastic, as always, and Thailog is really just having fun as the tensions mount.
After a few months, the shit hits the fan. Thailog crashes into the Labyrinth and frees Demona, and the two reunite in love… per se, since Demona still isn’t aware of Thailog’s attempt at his betrayal way back in “Sanctuary,” so we’re witnessing yet another layer to her tragedy. The two escape, freeing Fang in the process, who was there, captured as well, making lame quips and being a nuisance, but it’s okay, since he’s much better as a side villain than the main antagonist of an episode. Goliath and Derek chase them down to an abandoned theme park – a classic showdown location, so kudos, Gargoyles. Goliath gathers the crew, and it’s about to go down.
It’s Thailog who has the jump on them, though. Unleashing his creepy clones onto the unsuspecting crew, the Manhattan clan and Derek are ambushed by multiple doppelgangers and held captive. Thailog is so great, only he can get away with classic evil monologuing, as he regales everyone his massive clone plan and the necessity to keep them stupid. What I like about this part, though, is Thailog very subtly and very carefully decides to try and kill Angela first, mainly to test Demona’s loyalty. Demona has little left to fight for, and while Thailog makes an ideal Goliath substitute, Angela is her actual daughter. She tried to turn her, but failed. Demona has been driven by hate all these years, but when Angela tells her mother point blank, “I hate you,” there’s a moment, a small moment, where Demona realizes she lost her, and all of this was for naught. Yet even in that moment, she still prevents Thailog from killing her.
Then Thailog reveals his most secretive prize: a clone of Demona mixing her DNA with Elisa’s, as an added “fuck you,” because Thailog, yo. If Demona’s lowest point was Angela’s hatred of her, than this is a figurative “kick ’em while their down” moment. This hybrid, called Delilah, adds an extra brand of creepiness to the proceedings, by being a female that only he can control. Thailog can control the clone gargoyles, yes, but they’re kept stupid, more or less just flesh robots. Delilah is something else, the pure representation of male control, both blindly loyal and a literal-created sex object. Plus, she’s a creation of everything Demona has lived for (herself) and everything she loathed (Elisa and her humanity). When Demona finally fights for something other than herself, it feels wonderfully, powerfully redemptive. “Goliath, save our daughter!” she bellows before freeing them, and the line-read is so perfect I am near tears.
This leads to the most badass battle this show has ever done. Koko gives the A-Team a run for their money, simply by keeping the three fights in clear and distinct contrasts: Demona/Goliath vs. Thailog, the Manhattan clan vs. the clones, and Talon vs. Fang (there’s also a Delilah vs. Angela conflict, but we never see it, and Delilah never stood a chance). It’s an intense fight, not because of the dynamic staging against the backdrop of the slowly destroyed carnival, but also due to the unique contrasts in battle. The Manhattan clan realize that key moments of collaboration are the best ways to take out the single-mindedness of the clone. Talon takes down Fang, mainly because Fang’s a shitty fighter. And Demona is just going all out on her final fight for vengeance, and she and Thailog go at it, even as the fires of the roller coaster burn all around them. Goliath tries to save her, but is force to flee before the burning wood collapses all around them, leaving Demona and Thailog to disappear among the ruins. “Do you wish to perish?” Thailog asks, with a bit of a whimper to his voice. “My vengeance is all you left me,” responds Demona responds, without a hint of irony: vengeance is all Demona ever had.
It ends with a bunch of lost clones needing a purpose, which Derek will provide (along with proper verb usage). It is purpose, though, that led to this tragic moment, that brought Demona down a road of pure hatred, only to have her first “goodness” in a long, long time. Whether she’s dead or not is a moot point; Demona has found redemption, a new beginning, even if that new beginning was but for a few minutes. Angela may have told her he hated her, but maybe Demona saw in that statement, in that moment, a true reflection of herself (signaled by Angela’s glowing red eyes), prompting a change that signaled a need to fight for something beyond avenging gargoyles. Demona, you lived a tough life, and while you never found peace, you’ve at least found a purpose.
[She’s probably not dead. She’s still cursed and connected to Macbeth. Still, the episode plays it so, so well.]
Gargoyles 2×49 – Possession
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“Possession” is a solid episode too, although it gets a little cluttered in the middle. It kind of feels like it’s reveling in its cleverness, but it’s not letting the audience feel clever along with them. It also doesn’t help that it involves Coldstone’s internal brain demons, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of the show, since those brain demons feel woefully underdeveloped. Two of them are in love. One of them is evil. The ultimate goal is clear.
Gargoyles never quite had a handle on the cyberspace elements, but that was just a general interpretation of cyberspace that existed in the 90s, and the show did the best it could with that interpretation, creating an interesting dynamic battling inside Coldstone’s head. It’s a fight for Coldstone’s soul essentially, which is one of the many secondary themes of the show – struggles for some sense of control and/or independence. Coldstone left the Manhattan clan to try and win his internal battle, but Xanatos seems to have other ideas, after his robot gargoyles subdue him in the midst of the Himalayas and drag the cyborg gargoyle back home.
I like that Xanatos is still naturally a sleezeball. Even with his intentions noble and pure, he never actually tells Coldstone he’s helping him, nor asks for his consent. He just fucking does it, or at least tries to, until it’s clear that science alone won’t purge Coldstone of his conflicting personalities. He then just leaves Coldstone’s head all separated from his body, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Gargoyles’s message is clear. People don’t change, even if their goals do.
It’s all a little disappointing. The second that Oberon told Puck that he could only use magic when training Xanatos’ son, it’s clear that Puck/Owen would be using a training session with Alexander as a means to do some trickster magic. Of course, the episode does a good job of understanding that a training session with Puck would still be confusing and full of tricks and misdirections. I guess magical beings don’t change much either, and what follows is a mindfuck of body transferences and high-level pretense.
Recapping the plot in detail would be a bit out of hand here, due to the sheer amount of body-swaps that take place. The gist is that Puck and Alexander first pretend to be Goliath and Hudson, and they use magic to draw out Coldstone’s three personalities into Angela, Broadway, and Brooklyn. The fun part is that the writers, who always viewed Gargoyles as a heightened take on Shakespeare, takes the allegory up to eleven, with the three of them talking in amazingly delicious hyper-Shakespeare-esqu dialogue. The three voice actors of Jeff Bennett, Bill Fagerbakke, and Brigitte Bako just have fun with their ham-chewing lines, with Brooklyn playing the plotting, cantankerous villain, and Angela/Broadway as the tragic lovers. If anything, just watching the three of them do Shakespeare in the Park is just loads of fun.
Not to say there isn’t a worthy amount of tragedy here. The episode is definitely committed to its characters, so there’s a real concern on whether these souls will willingly stay trapped in the stolen bodies. Even the wholesome duo of Coldstone/his lover discuss this, in their desperation to physically feel each other again (and the sexual tension is not lost on this episode), which creates some scary overtones. Cooler heads do prevail, particularly once Puck-as-Coldstone introduce Coldsteel and Coldfire as potential conduits. The demon in Brooklyn sees Coldsteel in action and wants a piece of that, which Puck grants, and the figures inside Broadway and Angela acknowledge their fate, to which Alexander-as-Lexington (don’t ask) grants by sending them into Coldstone and Coldfire respectively. Everyone is back to normal, Xanatos gets his noble wish granted, and Alexander gets his first lesson, courtesy of Puck’s Rube Goldberg Method of Teaching.
It’s a solid episode, if a bit messy when the head games really begin, but it’s all done on purpose, a confusing episode meant to make all sense in the end. Still, while the character misunderstanding is fine, a bit of plot/pacing clarity would’ve worked in the episode’s favor. It’s no matter, though: the last four episodes have been fantastic overall, and with the season finale of Hunter’s Moon next, we’re looking at a fantastic endgame to an amazing show.
“The Reckoning” A/”Possession” B+
Road Rovers’s lofty premise failed to commit to anything of substance to sustain into a cohesive whole. The question is, why?
I have seen a lot of cartoons by this point. I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the strange, the weird, the bizarre, the outlandish. I’ve seen action cartoons, wacky cartoons, subversive cartoons, serious cartoons, and surreal cartoons. I’ve geared myself to engage in every type of animation out there, whether for kids or adults, cracking my knuckles and prepping my fingers to explore what happens within the animated frame and how those events could affect viewers, and how over time those effects may be viewed in a modern context, or within any context at all.
Then there’s Road Rovers, a show that seems so stifled that it’s almost impossible to engage in. Almost.
Road Rovers is a curio. I kind of feel like Homer Simpson when he described what a Muppet is – that is, if you were to ask me what Road Rovers is about, I would respond: “Well, it’s not quite an action show and it’s not quite a funny show, but man… so, to answer your question, I don’t know.” Honestly. I’m not exactly clear on what the Road Rovers was aiming for. For a show spearheaded by Tom Ruegger and Paul Rudd, the geniuses behind Tiny Toons, Animaniacs and Freakazoid – three shows with enough narrative oddness to compete with the Bible – Road Rovers may be the oddest of them all, because it seems reluctant to commit to its oddness. Or anything at all, really.
Road Rovers takes its cues from the Power Rangers, and other super sentai shows that were popular (and still are, to a certain extent), in which five or six plucky characters are chosen to be a super-powered fighting force battling evil where ever it may be. Instead of humans, though, the show opts for dogs, which allows it to dip its toe into the early 90s badass, macho talking animal action-cartoon template as well. Road Rovers is clearly building off these two concepts and attempts to, more or less, undercut those ideas and ridiculousness of them.
Yet Road Rovers doesn’t exactly build into anything on its own. It doesn’t really even undercut the super sentai show or the talking animal action cartoon either. The show kinda plays into those elements with this weird, lackadaisical malaise, lightly elbowing and jabbing at all these elements – the action, the comedy, the story, the commentary, the metacommentary – without strongly committing to any of it, or even to the very premise of the show itself.
A lot of that probably sounded like gobbledygook. Let’s look at the pilot, “Let’s Hit the Road.”
The first five minutes are played completely straight. It’s a bit slow (which isn’t necessarily a problem, but there’s a sense that it’s padding for time), and considering it involves a scientist being blown up, there’s a sense that viewers should be taking things seriously. Then the dogs are summoned. It’s a silly scene, but it’s portrayed with a quiet wonderment, and for a while it’s unclear whether it’s supposed to be funny or awe-inspiring. The first “joke” involves Shaggy, who’s whimpering in fear of his summons. We’re treated to Hunter, who saves his doomed doggy pal before he’s called upon, which gives us a direct indication that he’ll be the leader. Then they’re all transformed into their anthropomorphic, metal-suited selves, and present themselves before their “master”.
A few quips aside, everything is portrayed as direct and sincerely as possible. But that can’t be right, right? The machine that transformed them is called “the transdogmafier,” and it’s a phrase that is spoken by an actual person, and it’s not supposed to elicit chuckles? Then when the master tells the dogs to greet each other, it’s done via an off-camera gag with the Rovers’ tails in the air, indicating that their sniffing each others’ butts. The master sighs and laments he should’ve used cats. It’s a cute, easy gag, but I’m not sure how to take it considering we’re nine minutes into the show. It’s a gag that pushes it into the ridiculous realm, but the show doesn’t feel ridiculous enough to pull it off.
That’s just it. It’s hard to gauge how to respond to the show. In the middle of various action and dramatic scenes, characters will sort of shoot out these really casual comedy bits that seem tonally off. I get the sense that the creators were aiming for a “casual action cartoon,” something where the characters amicably shoot the shit with each other while things blow up around them, a thing that happens quite often with the Rovers themselves. It’s an admirable attempt, but the result rarely creates a solid comedy, and it drastically lowers the action/dramatic stakes. It creates a show that feels perfunctory at best, and ill-thought out at worse.
“Let’s Hit the Road” is actually part one of a three part series (along with “Dawn of the Groomer” and “Reigning Cats and Dogs” [I think – the episodes weren’t aired in any order that made sense]) that gets into the nitty-gritty of the master, Professor Shepherd, the villain General Parvo, and The Groomer (Parvo’s assistant and potential lover), and the origins of this transdogmafier. That is, there is a mythology. The show is dedicated to that mythology, but it’s inherently silly, and the show knows it is, but it’s an attitude that doesn’t adequately show up on screen. Plus, it’s a mythology that doesn’t hold up to even mild scrutiny, particularly when they start bringing in Egyptian spells and time-travel. It’s needlessly complicated, which again, would be fine if the show had fun with it. But it treats everything with this weird heavy weight, making it more off-putting then it needs to be.
Yet as mentioned before, the show feels like the joke is in placing its characters in tense situations, creating like a “hangout” show in the midst of an action show. Unfortunately the characters don’t have strong enough personalities to stand out individually, let along make a compelling exchange. Hunter is just a really positive guy. There’s nothing much going on with him other than his optimistic response to everything, but it’s always level-headed, not heavily exaggerated like a Spongebob or a Wander. Colleen is fine but kinda fits the “bad ass female” role, regulated mostly to quipping with Hunter and Blitz. Blitz is the comic relief, although he doesn’t really work. He freaks out at the sign of danger – but so does Shaggy, which defeats the purpose (Blitz and Colleen have a running gag where Colleen pretends not to know Blitz when he hits on her. This doesn’t work because 1) the sexism is too strong here, 2) Blitz is too stupid to vary the responses to this gag, and 3) Blitz works better as a goofy but functional member of the team.) Exile seems to be the writers’ favorite, with his relatively witty putdowns and depth of character that’s lacking with the others. His running gag – reading simplistic children stories in the middle of missions – work the best, because it’s fits his character AND it’s patently absurd.
Lacking a strong premise and a strong cast, Road Rovers kinda limps by with a non-committal attitude that makes it hard to really get behind. Still, the show has promise. The best episodes work with its undeveloped premise, inserts a simple story, and lets it loose. “Where Rovers Dare” is epitome of this. A scepter has been stolen and the Rovers have to get it back. It’s a simple, straight-forward action episode, not bogged down by too much information. It’s enjoyable to see the Rovers in their element, and their banter doesn’t pull too much away from the plot. (“Where Rovers Dare” also has a smartass allegory in its premise, written by this person on Deviantart and confirmed by Tom Ruegger himself. Problem is, the show isn’t overall an indictment of studio cattiness, so don’t expect to be looking for hidden messages everywhere.)
Once the show tries to be complex, though, it fails. The show is too silly to insert that kind of complexity because it raises too many questions the show is not adept at answering (like its mythology), and the obvious lack of a budget and quality writers makes it hard to look good. “Still a Few Bugs in the System” is just a disaster, introducing a bug-crazed scientist who seems like a caricature out of a wackier cartoon. But the episode is sloppy, with nonsensical storyboards and an even stupider plot. “Gold and Retrievers” has a blind kid who’s a native, but also seems to be a leader of a tribe, but it’s never made clear, and it’s frustrating (the show has an obsession with pyramids but nothing is ever done with it, narratively or thematically). “A Hair of the Dog that Bit You” brings in other talking anthropomorphic dogs, characters we never see again, and it’s a baffling reveal. We’re these dogs made by the transdogmafier too? Why is one sitting on a mountain, Dali Lama-style? The show isn’t wacky enough to get away with these kinds of absurd reveals; it’s unclear whether to insert them into the show’s mythology or place them as a comedic outlier. The other episodes are okay, with “The Dog Who Knew Too Much” containing a clever twist, but again, the show doesn’t engage with either its serious or comic sides, making it hard to support it.
A friend of mine is a fan of the show and spoken with a few of the writers/animators in light of the show’s fallout. They basically were working with less of the resources they had with Animaniacs, and it shows. Hunter’s eyes are different colors for several episodes, and Blitz sometimes will have Hunter’s fur colors. They recycle animation and scenes constantly; a post-Muzzle attack re-uses the same exactly shot and background, despite Muzzle being in two different locations in two different episodes. (An aside: the Muzzle-kills-everyone stuff fails to work because the audience doesn’t even get a sliver of an indication that Muzzle’s attacks are grotesque. Also, if he’s so effective, why not unleash him all the time?) I sympathize with the lack of resources, but the team behind this show is way too talented to let monetary concerns limit them.
“A Day in the Life” seems to be the kind of episode Road Rovers was always going for, which suggests the show needed a gimmick or absurd frame story to situate its characters inside, so that its seriousness and its silliness can breathe in its own way. The title cards indicating the changing timeframes allow certain moments for the characters to hangout and chat, and other moments for them to kick ass. Hunter’s search for his mother is effective, as well as Colleen’s feelings for him are explored, which allows her to actually talk with Blitz in a mature manner. Exile works as a team communicator, and the little comic bits they come up with are, if not funny, enjoyable that deepens the characters instead of forcing dialogue gags to disrupt the momentum (the edited “Russian name bit” is too much – not because it’s offensive, but because it’s really just an Animaniacs gag forced into Road Rovers for no reason).
That bit is Road Rovers in a nutshell. Unable to commit to its drama, action, or comedy, the show tries to do all three but ends up doing neither. The passion is there. You can feel it pushing against the edges of the show. But as the cliche go, Road Rovers’ bark is worse than its bite.