Tonight, on a Very Special Episode of Gargoyles…
Since last we left our heroes, Lexington has graduated from “tech whisperer” to “tiny fusion of Lucius Fox and Q,” and within a few months of being unfrozen in a new century was able to build a functional batmobile-cycle for Brooklyn out of spare parts. What I’m saying is Tony “a box of scraps in a cave” Stark had better get in line. He’s the anti-Phillip Fry.
I think I’ve wrung myself dry of references now.
But all is not well on this night of joyriding! Brooklyn pulls some truly Blues-worthy stunts outrunning a patrol car, and has a run in with a mostly friendly biker gang whose number unfortunately includes the bearer of an extremely agro pornstache. Like Lex last episode, B’s attempts to make nice with the locals ends in a sidewalk beatdown – though this one has the distinction of being so intense it atomizes his shredded leather jacket between frames (notably this is not an animator oversight – there’s some nice shredding animation on Brooklyn’s shadow, and you can see some erstwhile leather floating through the breeze in the next reverse shot. It’s a nice touch).
Okay, back to the plot, where handguns in this universe have the power to explode motorcycles in one shot. Perhaps Lex could only get hold of an action movie gasoline tank. But a….mysterious (seriously it’s hard to pull these surprises off when you only have one major female gargoyle, and for that matter when all your characters have very distinctive silhouettes – though that’s a mark of excellent design in general) gargoyle comes to Brooklyn’s aide and helps him escape. Demona, it seems, has come to make amends for her actions in that very long pilot. Hands up if you believe her. And keep them up, I’ve got some waterfront property in Ohio I’ve been meaning to unload.
Demona’s come to pitch her “mutants gargoyles will always be oppressed by humans because they are the woooooooorst” speech, which…honestly, the narrative is kind of on her side right now. Besides Elisa, the reactions have thus far been pretty stab first understanding never. Brooklyn seems to know this too, as his face is painted with the depths of misery when he takes her hand. While it’s fairly obvious what the “right” decision is as far as the overall narrative arc, these moments do a good job in laying some groundwork of how oppression might rightly make someone young and idealistic bitter, and how Demona might’ve come to be as she is – all in small moments like these.
The Ghost of Human Horrors present tour includes robbery, domestic violence, and murder. Which, kudos, people can be pretty awful. But what ends up setting Demona apart is her insistence that there is no use in trying to better the world, and that walling oneself off is the only viable option. And she sends Brooklyn back to Goliath to play her messenger. By which I mean, “don’t actually tell him the legitimate discussion of moral greys we’ve had here, just steal this magic book for me that I scout’s honor am only going to use to Show Him the Truth.”
Back at the castle, Elisa is still trying to convince Goliath that no seriously, Xanatos is coming home and maybe you shouldn’t be here when that happens. Goliath continues to be OH YOU about it, while the sun continues its already strong tradition of hitting the pause button on any meaningful inter-gargoyle discussions (the fact that Elisa points this out is reason 839645 why she’s great). I’m halfway convinced that moments like these are just to give background artists a chance to paint some really nice sunset lighting, but y’know. Looks nice, underappreciated artist position.
Apparently the sun is now also the reset button, because nobody brings this up the next night and Brooklyn is free to circumvent Xanatos’ non-gargoyle-proofed locks and take the grimorum to Demona. Guess how well this goes. Go on, guess (in other news, it looks for all the world like they’re talking in the roof garden at Skyhold).
Yeah, so actually it was a mind control spell, and Brooklyn brought Goliath right to her. Whoopsie doodle (you know, some day I should talk about the implications of the lack of gender parity in the early going, so we essentially have the Good Woman/Bad Woman contrast with Demona and Elisa…not today, though).
There’s a big tussle over the book in the Cloisters, during which all I can think is “ohhhhh, all that ruination of carefully preserved history.” Brooklyn gets hold of the specific spell controlling Goliath, but Demona escapes with a few pages torn from the book as a setup for future episodes. And as usual, it seems a good time to pause and try to parse Demona’s actions here. With her, perhaps even more than Xanatos, there’s always a degree of uncertainty as to how much she earnestly intends her peaceful propositions. There’s no doubt she’s happy to default to violence and direct imposition of her will when the plan goes wrong…but does she truly believe that controlling Goliath is as good as convincing him of her views? That eventually doing so would lead to an almost natural imposition of what she believes to be the right thing? Certainly I believe she would’ve been genuinely happy to have Brooklyn on her side if he’d come willingly. But then, that’s the problem, and what makes Demona a villain. She’s reasonable only until challenged, and the extremity of her hatred doesn’t allow for discussion let along existing alongside shades of grey. If there’s still any good in her, it’s buried real deep.
The last few minutes of this episode is quietly eerie stuff, with Brooklyn resignedly addressing the bespelled Goliath and taking him home He truly seems to think this is just how it is – and what a heavy psychological burden, for someone so very young. The slack expression on Goliath’s face throughout is a nice touch of consistency, even if the glow animation on his eyes doesn’t always quite make a 1:1 move with the rest of his body (I love that the animation’s means of making Goliath and Demona look fierce or haggard is by making them look middle ages, by the by). And Elisa comes to the rescue with a very 20th century spell loophole. Already a proud tradition here, that is, if not without some interesting potential implications for the idly pedantic – does Goliath gain a form of his free will back in “acting like he would not under a spell?” Is it colored by the spell-holder (Elisa)’s conception of what he’s like in any way? I mean, we’re meant to take this as the end of things, but it’s still interesting to ponder.
Ocelot finally made it into his own Spaghetti Western
Today we’re checking in on Owen, which seems a mighty good plan given that he seems to have some kind of horrendous vanishing chin growth (he and Demona get some really interesting off-model poses, I’ll tell ya). Xanatos’ right hand is checking up on a shipment of some kind, and the dock crew is assuring him nothing was wrong. An incorrect worry.
Fools, Owen does not have incorrect hunches. HE IS – the most competent assistant this side of Sebastian Michaelis. Except better. Yes, I would put money on that. And lo and behold, the shipment gets stolen right from under their noses.
Back at Chez Gargoyle, this is Broadway’s episode! We find out he’s enamored with the latest western (we get to see a few minutes of it later, complete with a credits sequence I’m legitimately concerned requires a seizure warning) – which is how you know this is a fantasy, because the most prominent westerns I remember in the 90s were Dead Man, an arguable deconstruction of the genre and also a black and white art film, and Wild Wild West, which…well, it had a giant spider in it. But before we even get into it, Hudson is kind enough to state our Issue of the Day for us: “sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.” Which was quite the prescient issue back in the 90s, or at least a lot of parent groups thought it was. And as much as I’m about to make fun of this episode, I applaud the writers for including it. Kids are smarter then most shows give them credit for, especially 90s shows, but it is true that one can become divorced from consequence when watching media. Taking a minute to say “we are showing violence and violence has real consequences” rather than blowing up a building and dubbing in some extra dialogue that EVERYTHING IS FINE NO WORRIES shows a lot more respect for the young audience’s critical thinking skills. Kids’ shows don’t need to eschew all darkness or violence, and not every show needs to be About Something. But there’s likewise a power in speaking to viewers who are still shaping their ideas about the world, and it’s a shame that this show was so rare among its contemporaries in respecting that.
On a separate cop drama, Elisa is trying to convince the chief (another lady, yay!) that local criminal leader Dracon was behind the theft of we’re-not-calling-them-laser-weapons (you may recall I mentioned this back during the pilot recaps). They even techno-babble them for us! We SEE lasers, but actually the shooty bit is invisible. So while they may sound like laser guns, please know that they are way more scientific than that. More importantly, this is the first time we’ve gotten to see Elisa at work rather than being a tour guide, complete with rather noir-eque shot through the blinds and an 80s “gets the job done” detective bit.
struts like Schmaston, and extorts like Schmaston
Dracon, as we find out from his own smug 90s gangster era mouth (that not-quite-impression was pretty ubiquitous, and I am kicking myself for not quite being able to place it), is above the law despite being very obviously shady. He taunts Elisa with the lasers he’s totally unprovably selling out on the streets outside the reach of the law, with some extra patronizing sexism for flavor. Frustrated, there’s nothing Elisa can do but head home to her adorable cat Cagney (one presumes there was a Lacey at one point?), and brood over what this means for the future of crime in the city. Though brood feels like the wrong word. Elisa doesn’t brood, she worries about things that are pragmatic and immediately relevant to the narrative.
Broadway comes to visit, which gives us a brief glimpse of a photo of Elisa’s family (at least one of whom we’ll be seeing again outside this episode – and while I’m shouting representation things out, look how easy it can be to have a POC as a protagonist if you make the effort!) as well as the rather eyebrow-raising statement that Elisa the NYC detective apparently makes enough to have a lot of steaks just lying around (…am I just poor?). All of this being prelude to things going bad – which is to say, Broadway getting ahold of Elisa’s gun and accidentally shooting her. There’s blood and everything, and holy shit never move someone who’s been shot you could make the damage so much worse. Particularly what looks like it could be a spinal injury. At least he flies her straight to a hospital and not back to the castle (the cutting’s a little wonky, making it look almost as though Elisa’s apartment just happens to be over an ER? Eh, we’ll take the Coincidental Stretcher as it is).
Broadway is too horrified at what he’s done to go home, so it’s Owen who breaks the news to Goliath. And I swear he waits until the exact moment of sunrise on purpose. Gotta drum up some amusement while the boss isn’t home, I suppose. That, or he has a nigh Deadpoolian sense of narrative timing. And you all thought I was kidding when I said I’d take an unreasonable amount of time to keep an eye on my favorite side character.
They are not fucking around with that “guns are dangerous” thing, either. The writing’s left itself in a unique position from most Very Special Gun episodes (bless your heart, I’m looking at you Static Shock) – Elisa’s gun, as wielded by her careful and experienced hand, has been shown on screen to get her out of more than one deadly scrape. So none of this feels out of left field so much as leveling things out. Guns can have a purpose for cops, but there’s no sugar coating the horrifying damage they can cause to bodies and lives (Elisa’s doc describing the damage the bullet did is some unflinching stuff).
There’s a lot of guessing going on about who shot Elisa, and Goliath swears vengeance on the assumed culprit – Dracon. At least Broadway isn’t there to overhear him, or we’d be at Max Miscommunication Guilt Points. It winds up being a race to the gun sale, with Broadway, Goliath, and the cops all following different trails to the same warehouse. Broadway in particular has developed a Batman-esque aversion to guns thanks to his experience, flying into a rage whenever he sees one. And of course the big reveal comes as Goliath is dangling Dracon over a catwalk and his splattery doom. Goliath settles for tying the gangsters up right next to a sufficient amount of incriminating evidence before destroying the rest of the laser guns…the ones that didn’t already make it out onto the streets, that is. Oh, and Owen was the buyer trying to get Xanatos’ guns back. Strangely, this did not stop Goliath from blowing them up.
The denouement between Broadway and Elisa is a bit more on the nose than the rest of the episode, but it’s brief and sincere enough that it feels a bit like a welcome release from Broadway’s guilt and distress. And the small visual beat of having specifically Goliath and Broadway perched outside her window makes a lovely final image.