With Gargoyles building up its mythology so much yet failing to do anything significant with it, the show seems caught in a bevy of rising action decisions, constantly climbing the ladder of tension but uncomfortable with making it mean anything. According to Greg Weisman’s tweets, it seems to be his writing style – to always build towards something. At times, though, you have to show us that “something,” or audiences feel like they’re stuck in a holding pattern, that the writers are ostensibly stalling for time and paychecks.
“The Mirror” and “The Silver Falcon” doesn’t give us the kind of relief that one would expect after all the narrative build up – in fact, it even adds more to the possibilities of future conflicts. But what these episodes do is ease up on their overall connection to the broad mythology, using two MacGuffins to essentially create two one-offs that work well enough on their own. They use past enemies – Demona and Dracon – but given they have clear, direct motivations and not nebulous, nefarious ones, these episodes are given the breathing room to tell a full story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. It also adds a much needed sense of humor to the show, a slightly goofy sensibility that even Shakespeare utilized, making “The Mirror” and “The Silver Falcon” two of the best episodes of second season so far.
Demona is a much better villain than Xanatos. She has a specific grudge against Goliath and all of humanity. She’s desperate that borders on crazy, but crafty enough to 1) survive for so long and 2) hatch devious plans herself. There is still a long, painful backstory hidden in Demona’s past, intriguingly touched upon when we get a glimpse of what appears to be her house, which raises all sorts of questions, of the good kind. I’m confident in time we’ll learn all about it. Right now, we’re focused on another one of her magic-based plan, and boy, it’s a doozy.
“The Mirror” starts of kinda sketchy. Demona sneaks into a museum to steal a mirror, but randomly, Elisa and Goliath are there waiting. The episode doesn’t explain why they’re there, nor does it explain why Elisa is wearing glasses and has her hair up. It seems like they were lying in wait, in disguise, but why? It’s not like they had intel on the robbery. Luckily this is a minor flaw, as there’s a pretty awesome chase sequence before Demona flies away. The significant thing is in the ensuing chaos, two robbers sneak in and actually steal the mirror, delivering it later to a mysterious house. Demona, apparently, has been doling out cash in secret to acquire certain services while hiding in her rather lavish home. How’d she get this? I love that this mystery is set up here.
The mirror is magic, and Demona uses it to summon a dark elf named Puck. There are some nifty ideas here – Demona pre-chained the mirror, so upon Puck’s arrival, he’d be immediately trapped. Demona is many things, but she’s no fool. What she is, however, is desperate, and she approaches Puck, an elven personification of the Monkey’s Paw, with a wish to rid Goliath of his human compatriot, Elisa. Well, you know how mischievous beings treat wishes, being all “ironic” with them. Puck turns Elisa into a gargoyle! BOOM! Human Elisa is no more!
What I like about “The Mirror” is that from this point on, the episode has fun with its surreal premise. Puck, as an instrument of chaos, allows the writers to play around with designs and set ups, where future wishes end up turning all of Manhattan’s populous into gargoyles and Goliath’s gang into humans. It’s a real treat, and the combined efforts of Jade and Nakamura Animation Studios adds a visual panache to the whole thing, making the changes both amusing and organic. Everything looks polished, and the variations of the gargoyle designs and colors add to the makeshift world. Even the little gargoyle-kid in the screencap above is perfect.
There are a few minor things that didn’t work. One was the odd attempt to build at a tentative love story between Goliath and gargoyle-Elisa. This fell flat. Even in gargoyle form, Elisa and Goliath are always and forever platonic, and implying that in a different form there could be a “spark” reeks of early 90s fanfiction. I did like the mental games the episode played, where when people transformed, they literally thought they were normal and everyone ELSE had changed. It was a fun bit of disorientation although I don’t think it went anywhere. Also, there’s a fight in what looks like Rockefeller Center where human-Goliath crashes into a shop window where – surprise surprise! – there’s battle armaments. Swords, maces, shields, and axes. It’s all there mostly so Puck can fuck with them and turn the weapons against people. It’s a heck of a sequences despite it making little sense.
But there’s a lot of fun to be had. The gargoyles running from the humans is a great subversion, which is even subverted further when a couple of “brave” gargoyles chase after the humanized-gargoyles for attacking Demona, only to be chased off when the humanized-gargoyles act all tough. Puck has a lot of surreal fun, even changing Bronx into a blue dog, although to his admission, “It should have been a chihuahua.” I like Puck’s trolling and his general devil-may-care attitude, giving a levity to the show that Gargoyles definitely needs. The episode even references its Shakespeare origins here! A wee bit of old-school, classic Comedy does Gargoyles some good, even if catching Puck in a trash can is kinda lame.
The episode ends when Puck agrees to transform everyone back to normal in exchange for his freedom. I was quite surprised when Puck escaped, he took the captured Demona with him – but that was for more trolling (with a side of revenge). When Demona insults him, he gives the female gargoyle a blessing and a curse: she won’t be stone in the daylight; instead, she shall be human. Knowing how much Demona detests the human race, becoming her enemy might quite possibly be a fate worse than death. “The Mirror” is such a fun, exciting episode: things seem to be moving in the show’s favor.
That goes double for “The Silver Falcon,” an episode where the writers kinda say fuck it and posits the Gargoyles world as a film noir. I didn’t expect it to work, but with the emerging badassery of Broadway and some good ol’ crazy Bluestone, “The Silver Falcon” has some wacky fun and couples its twist-heavy storyline in typical noir fashion. I would be okay with some more Elisa/Broadway team-ups, especially if they emphasize the more seedy underbelly of the Gargoyles vision of New York.
A curious Bluestone walks into Dracon’s midst, an image that begins the episode as it cuts to Elisa’s apartment. There’s some really great visual, subtle work here. Elisa locked her gun in a safe now, and she’s causally reluctant to let Broadway follow her on her search for the now-missing Bluestone, since, you know, he once shot her. It’s a concept that overshadows the episode; kudos to the writers for not throwing it into the viewers faces. Broadway is intrigued by the black-and-white detective shows on TV, and he champs at the bit to reenact it. Elisa, wisely, tells the gargoyle to stand down, but Broadway, unwisely, goes against her wishes and follows her to Bluestones apartment, in trenchcoat and hat. The “serious” Gargoyles would have me question how and where Broadway came across such an attire. The “lighter” Gargoyles allow such choices to go unanswered, allowing the audience to simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
Broadway does manage to save Elisa from a mysterious assailant inside Bluestone’s apartment, allowing Elisa to give him a bit more leeway. They indeed team up, following a couple a clues to Cleopatra’s Needle, which is slowly becoming an intriguing place in the Gargoyle universe – it was in the previous episode as well. Elisa, and by proxy the audience, learns from an FBI informant named Hacker about Bluestone’s history – he used to work for the FBI but was booted off due to his obsession with the Illuminati, and his disappearance may have to do with yet another crazy Illuminati goose chase. Hacker hands Elisa a letter written by an old gangster named Mace Malone to a a mysterious “DD”. The mysteries continue to pile up, and for a moment, it does seem like the Illuminati ARE involved, when a couple of thugs arrive to take the detective out.
It’s an brief but awesome fight, with Broadway arriving and showcasing once again how awesome he’s gotten in the second season. The animation continues to be impressive, with the expressions being the definite highlights. The note leads them to an office, where they meet am old man named Benton, who then leads them the Silver Falcon Nightclub. Mysteriously, the gangsters already there were ready for them – an explosion traps them under some rubble, and even worse, Broadway turns into stone.
I’m actually disappointed by the intro. By introducing Bluestone’s capture by Dracon early, we already know that the Illuminati isn’t involved. It would be cool if they added a bit of paranoia to the mix. But we know what Elisa and Bluestone learn at the moment – the Illuminati chase was really a bunch of clues leading to some missing diamonds stolen by Mace and “DD”. The safe reveals no diamonds; simply a note written by Mace trolling his former “DD” friend. Elisa does some quick thinking, leading the gangsters away for the day so Broadway can transform, and lookie here! Broadway is reading. He’s a fast learner too, using the discarded note to track Elisa down.
I really like this scene. Elisa, Bluestone, and Broadway do some pretty great, quick-thinking moves to outwit Dracon and his men, and Broadway gets to emulate the film noir scene he watched earlier. I’d like to think he just tracked Dracon down for miles until he saw an opportunity to do it, which kinda makes him even awesomer. The final twist to all this? Benton arrives, upon which Elisa deduces that he was the actual “DD” – Dominic Dracon. More quick thinking traps Dominic with another red herring, since Mace fools his former partner from the grave once again. (Mace, the original troll?) Anyway, the lighting, shading, and wind effects make the visuals on the “real” silver falcon statute a particular highlight of the episode, and with a rich, fun mystery serving as the backbone to the story, “The Silver Falcon,” makes it a hell of an enjoyable ride.
“The Mirror” and “The Silver Falcon” suggests strongly that by loosening up the show and playing around with the genre, Gargoyles may be better served by stepping away from it’s building mythology and tell more unique, one-off stories. I’m still curious about the ultimate stories that the show want to tell, but the wheel spinning and its self-designated overuse of the Xanatos-Gambit make those conflicts more frustrating. These are the kinds of stories that Gargoyles need to tell. Hopefully they’ll be more.
“The Mirror” B+/”The Silver Falcon” B+