Movie’s over, but traumatizing the youngest cast member has apparently begun in earnest.
Start your “Demon’s incidental murder count” now, folks
Starting with aaaaaaall the people under that debris below
Awakening (Part 5)
We start, after a recap segment to rival late-game Hannibal in length (because I guess they figured now would be the time everyone finally shook off their early 90s cartoon reluctance), with the daring escape of our gargoyle trio. They manage with minimal flailing, and I get to have a moment of weird nostalgia for the days in animation when an interactive piece of background was visibly lighter in color than the walls around it.
We cut next to them finding the control room with the floppy disk of power, which was chilling in a power console and somehow did not get fried in retrieval. This is because Lexington is the tech whisperer, and his adorable bug eyes should not be questioned.
Meanwhile, over at the base Hudson and Bronx were taking on…hey, remember how the goal of splitting up was to hit all three bases at the same time, so that nobody got wise and tightened their defenses? That super did not happen, because our elder statesman is taking the scenic route. Which, on the one hand this scene gets points for showing that Hudson has the benefit of ages of strategic training – he plays with the guards’ expectations to get them to open the door, then turns the tables – but on the other hand the clever solution to retrieving his disk is “use physical violence, thus becoming another inevitable statistic in the future robot uprising.” Gets the job done, I suppose.
And that Lethal Weapon reference was probably only minimally played out in 1994.
Goliath and Demona, despite starting first, are the last to get their disk (and Demona knows exactly where it is and how to work the consoles, so that’s one hole in the “just woke up” cover story). And then, because fuck extras, she wrecks the guidance systems and sends the whole ship into the bay. There is a reassuring shot of the crew leaping out of the burning wreckage into the water, and I’m certain none of them were pulled under and drowned by debris or caught in the explosions. Totally fine. Listen to the mouse.
And because this is the end of a five parter, we’ve got to make sure all our character alignments are set. Xanatos is the chessmaster, which I spoiled for any of you watching along for the first time – sorry about that, but honestly the staging and music cues were pretty well making my case for me; Demona continues to be Magneto, not just interested in vengeance on specific oppressors but the human race as a whole; and Elisa is the True Good, basically, who we as audience will always be able to trust. Or, Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil, Lawful Good. Aight? Aight.
While Gargoyle Dad is off having a chat on one of NYC’s many unlocked rooftops, the kids are getting chased out of the castle by horrifying mech gargoyles. Which – so Xanatos needed the data disks to start these things up. Were they…analyzing gargoyle behavior in a combat scenario, and that’s why he had to orchestrate getting them stolen as a loyalty test before initiating the backup option? It’s not quite clear. Blah blah, technobabble in the proud Star Trek tradition. The real star of this scene is how much icy inhumanity they manage to thread through Xanatos’ character in one scene: it’s not just that he turns on them, or that he keeps that same affable tone 90% of the time, but the cutting of his praise for the mechs against imagery of the attempted murder of what are at best teenagers, which until they proved non-useful (not even them, just Goliath) he was actively trying to schmooze. I like Xanatos a lot, and he’s one of animation’s most well rounded villains, but he’s also downright monstrous in the early going (also arguably the mid going. The going generally).
Speaking of monstrous deeds, Demona! Yes, it seems she orchestrated the whole deal vis a vis the gargoyles-leaving-humans-being-murdernated thing, but somehow didn’t know her lover well enough to suspect he wouldn’t go for it. And as Goliath points out, with no plan there would’ve been no mass slaughter. Um. I really don’t think “whoops” is a proper term for planning a slaughter and accidentally causing a genocide, but here we are.
I have also thoroughly spoiled the reveal of “Demona,” but I like the moment regardless (perhaps that’s mostly with later context). I also suspect the heavy romantic tension between Goliath and Elisa in this first run, which never really goes away but definitely takes a backseat for most of the series, was mainly to facilitate the moment of Goliath choosing to rescue Elisa rather than Demona (spoilers: who is fine but also not fine, ya dig). And Xanatos is only saved by the IF YOU KILL YOU WILL BECOME LIKE THEM argument, which….yeah okay, this is a series heavily dealing in legends and fairytales, I rescind any eye rolling in the name of thematic appropriateness. Xanatos even gets arrested! A development which will definitely stick, what with it involving explaining the existence of mystical stone beings and all. They seem to be assuming it’ll stick, since “get out of dodge before the murder fleshmeat (sorry, lot of Hannibal mourning of late) returns” doesn’t seem to occur to anyone.
But that’s our intro cinematic! Pretty solid on the whole, though I’m not certain it could be said to work as a standalone film. I mean, there is definitely a strong through narrative, the basic character desires are all worked through even if there are a few deliberately dangling threads…I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Maybe the fact that this is ultimately a small scale story, a dip into a well of potential even before any other mystical elements are introduced. I feel piqued, not satisfied, if you will.
Fortunately we needn’t imagine this as a standalone because there’s more to come. Today, even!
Photographic renderings provided by the finest MS Paint artists
The Thrill of the Hunt
We’ve quo-ed all our statuses, and now it’s time to break them. So Xanatos is in legal limbo somewhere, but Owen is holding the fort down and playing nanny to Elisa and team gargoyle’s playdates. He claims to have no issue with this, and that is probably mostly true, but the amount of side-eye he’s giving Elisa as they step out of the elevator is tremendous (his prompt wellokaybye moment as soon as the sun sets is a close second. Yes I do intend to do this all series long).
And bless her, Elisa has come visiting with the very news we were all just contemplating – Xanatos only got charged on a minor sentence, he’s going to be out any day now, and it’s probably not safe to stick around his house when you’re defenseless all day. But Goliath is the nesting type and is having none of it, because he desperately wants to be a Byronic hero and “makes stupid decisions” is near the top of that list.
Everyone with wings not named Goliath has discovered the wonders of television – that’ll be a recurring thing with Hudson, but for now it’s relevant as a means of introducing 80s-tastic action heroes The Pack, who’re somewhere between MMA fighters and sentai fighters as far as media coverage goes (which is to say, fake stunts but actual skills). Also they’re on every channel this particular evening in order to promote their RARE LIVE APPEARANCE at Madison Square Garden.
That’s a ways off yet, since first we have to meet these antagonists. It would seem that our five action stars are former mercs for hire, and they’re all bored of doing stunt work. What a coincidence then, that someone has sent them an unmarked envelope filled with snapshots of gargoyles (I like to imagine Owen hand-sealing them, in gloves of course, because Xanatos likes a personal touch when recruiting). My, but the air is thick with the smell of unlikely happenstance. And you may have noticed that, aside from a chestplate that must chafe something horrific and combat-inconvenient hair length, Fox seems to be the only restrained human of the group. Our evil Ripley, if you will.
When this inexplicable and totally unsound evolutionary quirk turns back off
we are going to have so many words, young man
The tiny trio sneak their way into the live show, and Lexington takes the plunge afterward and tries to go autograph scumming. Because of course it’s the tiny naïve one who has to go, the better for Fox and co. to talk him into introducing them to Goliath. You can see the hero worship dancing in his eyes, that poor precious child.
Goliath is not pleased that Lex has been talking to strangers, but after a quick bout of ugh dad I know what I’m doing okay? he agrees to a preliminary meeting. Alone. Goliath is very accommodating of other people’s plots that way. Goliath and Lexington wind up trap in Chekov’s overly designed set piece, with extra death traps, and are forced to fight their way out while The Littlest Gargoyle learns a dreadful lesson about heroes and also trusting other people ever again.
The chase bleeds out from the warehouse across the city, where we have what I believe is our second instance of Unnoticed Noticeable Destruction (since they actually accounted for this in the pilot). Live wires, roofs exploding. If this carries on I’m going to have to start keeping a tally (it is also our second attempt this recap of “let’s no-bones-about-it try to murder the tiny leathery child”). For the moment, let’s concentrate on the small and lovely choreography throughout the scene wherein Goliath is always aware of and attempting to physically shield Lexington. Gargoyle Dad is aces.
The chase climaxes on a gargoyle covered rooftop and – okay, stop. I’ve got questions. Why is there all this medieval masonry on what appears to be a less-than-upscale building? Did Xanatos have to pitch some kind of citywide beautification project involving gargoyles in order to mask his castle excavating plan? And second, how is it that this highly trained team of killers can’t tell stone gargoyles from flesh ones at several hundred yards? Why can our gargoyles make themselves look like stone during the night this one time, a skill that never comes up again? Is it that obscenely dark out? Did they just really, really want to do a nod to the finally fight in Blade Runner? And if so, why is the weather so temperate?
As usual, the bigger picture of the script manages to come full circle. The Pack is taken down because they don’t trust one another while Goliath and Lexington work as a team. 180 from the TV promo and argument respectively. I do love a good circular theme.
Info for later: Fox got caught on camera holding a model hostage while fighting Goliath, so the Pack all got arrested. No one is surprised to learn Xanatos had the photos sent. You may be slightly more surprised that he was also the one who put the Pack’s TV show together in the first place. Nobody plays a long con like this guy.