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 tvtrope.com 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