So where were we?
Last we left the Gargoyles clan, the group – Goliath, Lexington, Broadway, Hudson, Brooklyn, and Bronx – found their purpose, dedicating themselves to protecting New York. It is a noble gesture, but it’s certainly easier said then done. Xanatos is still Lex Luthoring around the city, and various figures are scratching at the peripheral: Demona, Coldstone, Bluestone, Macbeth, and the Pack. As season 2 begins, where do we go from here?
Right back to the Pack. “Leader of the Pack” definitely comes off as an season two introductory episode, heavy on the action and light on the significant developments, at least until the final ten minutes (well, the last two minutes; the ten minute reveal isn’t that big of a deal). Gargoyles has a fantastic voice cast, and it’s really awesome to hear the Pack again quipping and sniping at each other while in prison. Of course, this doesn’t last long, as another metallic creation, calling itself “Coyote” clambers up the side of the prison and uses a sonic wave-like attack to disorient the guards to orchestrate a Pack jailbreak. He manages to get all the Pack members out (Wolf, Dingo, Jackal, Hyena), except for Fox, who uncharacteristically stays behind to finish her sentence. The crew rough-and-tumble their way towards their escape, right into a modern version of the Millennium Falcon. (I mean, come on – that HAS to be the artistic influence, right? RIGHT?)
So, this Coyote first has to assert dominance, kicking Wolf’s ass a bit, but then revealing himself as Xanatos underneath his golden mask. This almost gets his ass kicked by Jackal and Hyena (since the events of “Her Brother’s Keeper”), but Xanatos wins their favor quickly by providing weapons and expounding upon their true enemies: the Gargoyles. Those bastards. The common enemy; the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so to speak, and we all know that Xanatos is a master of manipulation.
When the Gargoyles learn about the Pack’s escape, Lexington is furious. The Gargoyles, it has be established, put a lot of stake on revenge, and Lexington’s rage matches Brooklyn’s towards Demona’s, and he wants to pretty much track them down and kill them. And since Brooklyn completely understands that sentiment, he tries to talk Lex out of it – but he’s ain’t having it. Elisa explains that the police is covering the Pack’s original studio, but Lex rushes off (with Brooklyn and Bronx in tow) to keep vigilance anyway. Meanwhile, Goliath, Hudson, and Broadway go straight to the (financial) source of the Pack – Xanatos.
Now, here, Gargoyles begins that “dancing around” thing that most cartoons do, and Gargoyles often does to get plot points settled. When Goliath and his team arrive at Xanatos’ castle, they meet Owen (seriously, can we start a “fuck you, Owen” meme?), who gives them the usual BS runaround:”Oh, Xanatos isn’t here, the Pack is heading for the studio, blah blah blah.” Meanwhile, as Lex and team stake out the studio, and Brooklyn tries desperately to talk Lex out of his revenge-centric sensibility, ALL the cops in front of the studio just leave. It’s a pretty big stretch, but you kind of have to grin and bear it, since Lex, Brooklyn, and Bronx fly in right as the faux-Millennium Falcon arrives, armed Pack-members in tow. They and Coyote quickly dispatch and capture the gargoyles, no part in doubt to Lex’s unhinged over-zealousness. When the remaining gargoyles arrive, they receive a public phone call from Owen (FUUUUUUUUUUCK OWEN SO HARD), who monologues that the Pack, along with their friends, are on some kind of oil tanker out in the bay.
I have no plausible idea why, narratively, they’d meet on an oil tanker. It’s kinda silly actually; even as I watched it, I kinda rolled my eyes thinking “Because EXPLOSIONS!” So I hoped that there’d be another reason, and to be fair, they kind of imply that the hull of the tanker is thick enough to hold the gargoyles at bay. But other than the upcoming “big” reveal, explosions and fires were the only answer. Goliath, Hudson, and Broadway arrive and it just results in a straight-forward, all-out brawl between them and the Pack, and it’s a fun, exciting piece of animation, but storyboarded piece-meal. Like, Goliath goes after Coyote for no specific reason other than for him to rip off the golden mask to reveal Xanatos. Broadway rescues the others, and it’s just an all out beat-down, given just enough BOOM once some errant laser blasts some oil tanks. Massive fires burn throughout the ship, creating a very-well-done red shading to the whole scene, giving a visual kick to the reveal that Xanatos was only a life-sized robot. This only really allows the writers and animators to go all out on the Coyote-bot, ripping his head off and blasting a hole in the center of his body. The Pack escape, and when Lex has a clear shot at their escape ship, he rightly opts to save Brooklyn from certain-death instead. There’s a weird, slow reaction to all the gargoyles as the ship erupts and explodes in flames, really to build a wee bit of false tension of whether they’ll escape in time. I mean, OF COURSE they do.
In the end, Lex learned to focus on his priorities, revenge be damned, and the Pack is still out there. But the BIG reveal is Fox, who, due to her cooperation during the breakout, is granted early parole. She heads to the waiting limo, and immediately makes out with the lover-boy inside: Xanatos. He and Fox are a couple, and he and Fox alone know who and what the Pack is and their true purpose. They discuss the Xanatos-bot and what it means for the future, which amounts to “more robots” mostly, and while the reveal was surprising, it doesn’t really mean much narrative wise. Lex learned a lesson, and there are some broad reveals, but there really isn’t much to hang your hat on, thematically. “Leader of the Pack” was generally an action/exploding boat! episode, and it delivered, but I’m still waiting for the HOOK, the thing that propels Gargoyles from good to GREAT.
I think “Metamorphasis” might be it.
Granted, I’m not sure yet, for there’s a heck of a lot of episodes to work through in season two. But “Metamorphosis” hit upon a dramatic note between Elisa and her brother Derek, if that note disappointingly go down the “Xanatos knows everything” hole. Honestly, it isn’t Gargoyles’ fault. There was a time that “glass caged villainy” – a term I’m coining to describe villains and bad guys who know EVERY SINGLE development that could possibly happen – wasn’t overdone and frustratingly cliche. But even binge watching, it’s rather boring to see YET ANOTHER THING Xanatos is completely knowledgeable of and ready for.
We begin in an alley, when a mysterious man offers to help a woman off the streets of poverty, you know, in that weird, creepy way that’s never good. We cut to an airfield, where we catch Elisa and Derek still uneasy with each other as their familial and occupational differences clash. I like this uneasy conflict. It gives everything a nice, shady grey area, and while we know Elisa’s right, it makes sense that Derek would trust Xanatos, since the multimillionaire has been so straight-forward. The scene ends in a hug, but there’s an uncomfortable heft to it left unspoken.
Chaos erupts at a company called Gen-U-Tech when some monster escapes. As the beast roams the streets, Brooklyn and Broadway come across her, who looks kinda like a gargoyle. They swoop down and Brooklyn, being the guy often searching for some kind of group or person to connect to, indirectly crushes on this female gargoyle, and offers to help her as she fights him off in utter fear. While I don’t necessarily swallow the idea of Brooklyn developing feelings so fast for someone he just met, I do understand that he seems to be the most emotional and empathetic of the group. I’ll accept it at this point, but I won’t buy into it at 100%.
The female gargoyle is captured though, and while Broadway and Brooklyn escape, the latter laments for her rescue, the former wisely being more skeptical. I should point out that Broadway doesn’t seem to be the fat, eat-everything gargoyle from season one, which is a wonderful godsend. As they discuss they’re next move, we focus on Xanatos and Derek and newcomer Dr. Sevarius, the latter explaining his true purpose: using genes to create gargoyles from wild cats and bats. Also, a few human test subjects to speed up the process. This infuriates Xanatos, demanding an end to all this. Sevarius refuses, a scuffle breaks out, and Derek is “accidentally” injected with the gargoyle mutagen. I used the quotes there for a reason.
Derek begins to change, and Xanatos forces Sevarius to make a cure. Meanwhile the gargoyles track down that female gargoyle and rip into Gen-U-Tech to save her, and the fight results in one destroyed cure. They snag the female gargoyle but Derek, now a brown cat/bat hybrid, rages at the gargoyles for ruining his last hope of changing back to a human. And we’re entering Shakespearean territory again, where spurned heroes declare unilateral vengeance on singular beings instead of the wild complicated situation and the random fate that befall them. I get where Derek is coming from, but still, he fact that he has no ill-will against Xanatos – you know, the guy who bankrolled this whole thing – is a wee bit troubling. Sevarius is killed in the fight, and Xanatos take hold of the mutated gargoyles back to his castle.
These mutated gargoyles grow accustomed to their new bodies, flying around and ultimately accepting their fate. Good thing, as the gargoyles swoop in and we get a nice, if somewhat bland and short aerial fight. Elisa arrives and talks the brown cat/bat hybrid down (who refers to himself as “Talon” now, because…?), at least for a bit, until he says a certain phrase that triggers a bit of familiarity. “Derek?” Elisa questions, and the beast is too embarrassed to respond, shocking Elisa by accident (because they can shoot electricity, duh!) and wailing in melodramatic fashion before flying off (and the others just follow, because plot). It’s a rich, scenery-chewing moment. The gargoyles don’t follow because Brooklyn, essentially, gives up on them and his passion to find a soulmate. It’s tough to watch, but again, I don’t think it’s particularly well-earned since Brooklyn falls in love with this scared, transformed gal simply on first glance.
Of course, we’re back to BIG REVEAL moment: Sevarius is alive, and Xanatos was aware of all this. There is no cure apparently and we watch him, Owen, and Sevarius survey their creations on camera. Nice to see some mutated creatures out and about. More players in the game, so to speak. They may not be under Xanatos’ control for now, but we all know how manipulative he can be. Again, the glass cage villainy is really starting to wear thin, but it’s still a nifty twist nonetheless. We end on an awkward moment, in more ways than one, where the gargoyles look on Elisa as she cries her heart out on a pile of straw over what happened to Derek. I… I wish this was done differently. It makes Elisa look pathetic instead of sorrowful. A quiet bout of sobbing at her apartment would have worked better, I think. But at least we know she cares.
Gargoyles begins its second season with novel ideas and clever reveals, but it still seems predicated on these reveals instead of the characters pushing up against numerous odds. Sevarius’ introduction is a lot better than last season’s tendency to toss in new characters seemingly out of nowhere. I’m waiting for the characters to reach a truth, something profound that its Shakespearean influences often nailed with ease, something that last season’s finale nailed perfectly. I’m looking forward to the next two episodes, because I know things can get really good. The pieces are in place. Time to start moving them around.
“Leader of the Pack” B-/”Metamorphosis” B