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-