Sorry about the wait, readers! Today’s episode is the worst possible opportunity to say “I told you so.”
I mean, look on the bright side. This is so much more
economical than those designer fursuits
Okay, I have to level with y’all – for some reason I remembered this particular plot development as happening a good chunk further into season two, certainly not straight off the bat. “No no,” thought I, “they didn’t put that absolute punch of maniacal dickery right after introducing the Fox/Xanatos romance, did they?”
Wrong. Soooooooo wrooooooong. Or as I suppose the writers might have thought it, “dear audience, please do not forget that Xanatos is Hannibal-caliber Worst at Helping.”
It starts off well, with Tim Curry talking to a young woman in a dark alley and convincing her to follow him. She asks what she’d have to do and holy shit that is not even punch pulling Tim Curry face what the hell. I mean, the actual answer is SCIENCE, but given that it is technically selling one’s body the implications of this scene seem pretty happy traipsing all over that horrible harelipped face.
How much restraint was involved in not stroking that beard
Derek seems pretty happy working for Xanatos – shiny new jet, private airfield, apparently an excuse to never call or see his family. But to her credit, Elisa is doing her level best to support him as long as it seems like he’s happy and safe. It’s so idyllic they might as well be washing a car before a thunderstorm.
Back at the now practically obligatory awakening scene…I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand you have the motto “every episode is someone’s first,” so including this moment introduces that concept for new viewers and fills a couple seconds if the episode is short. Also, the “rubble falling on pedestrians” angle is amusing. But on the other hand, the stone by day thing hasn’t really been super important since the opening five parter (and won’t really be again until “The Mirror,”), so it’s repetition for loyal viewers and not strictly necessary in the moment for newcomers. It’s also COMPLETELY DAMN POINTLESS, since we move immediately from that to a small, animal-like creature escaping from a secure facility….
And then move right along to seeing her cross paths with Brooklyn and Broadway. Given the distinctive accent, I’m sure you’ve guessed that this is our girl from the opening. Despite Brooklyn’s burgeoning hero complex she’s recaptured, in a scene that suffers a bit from the tightness and limitations of the staging – there’s a great deal of talk about running in the climactic moment while everyone kinda…stands there and the capture happens. Brooklyn is determined to save her, but a tranq dart to the arm keeps them from following.
Elsewhere, David Xanatos would like you to know he is shocked, just shocked, that his weird mad scientist has been charging for mercenaries on the expense report. I can’t decide if Owen’s annoyance during this scene is because it happened, and they’re implying he’s got some code of ethics here, or if he’s just annoyed Tim Curry didn’t go through some better coding while he was writing the report (a beautiful mental image if ever there was one). And then Derek insists on coming along to check out the facility, basically sealing his fate for the remainder of the series.
The ensuing scene is a solid deal sealer for what makes Xanatos so damn fascinating as a character: trying to figure out at any given moment where his actual emotions lie, how many contingencies he’s planned for, and what’s just an act for said contingencies. We know, in this moment, he was “aware of” Tim Curry (okay, Dr. Sevarius)’s reputation when he hired him. So finding out that the directive “create an organic equivalent to the gargoyles” wound up as “experiment on human beings” must’ve been a known possibility to him. Was he really angry that humans were suffering, while also considering it an acceptable outcome to work forward from? Is his anger just an act for Derek’s sake?
I suspect it’s a little of both. There’s part of Xanatos that would prefer to do things the bloodless way, but it’s not anchored by any deeply felt commitment to the morals theoretically attached. It would just be…more pleasant that way. Take when he’s threatening Sevarius here – the goal is to get the antidote (and probably retain Derek’s trust). So if he goes to prison, that’s truly a fine outcome, as it’s a known quantity and he’s proven he can still act through Owen and now Fox (and any hits to his reputation can be spun as “horror at what he allowed to happen in the name of SCIENCE”). If Sevarius caves, as indeed he will, Xanatos will still have the antidote and a bargaining chip in future, plus an employee who trusts him and is observable with the whole experiment thing. All situations point to win – that’s the Xanatos way.
Sevarius actually does set to work on a cure, and even manages to complete it…right as the gargoyles break into the facility to rescue a very unwilling Maggie, and also barge in just as Derek is about to receive the antidote. The ensuing struggle smashes the vial, because of course it does, and launches Sevarius into his tank of electric eels where he is electrocuted to death in full view of the camera (well, “to death,” always prudent to be wary when we only have Xanatos’ word for something). Like the Joker’s edited demise in Return of the Joker, this is incredibly horrifying but totally okay because no actual skin penetration is involved. Derek swears vengeance on the gargoyles and it’s hard not to sympathize with him, since Brooklyn’s laser-focused RESCUE THE GIRL THOUGH mentality lead to storming in and making things a whole lot worse for an equally innocent victim. The gargoyles and Xanatos are a complete set of sorts here – one has sincere compassion, the other has complete context, and they both do a whole lot of damage.
Maggie’s too horrified when she wakes up to appreciate being rescued, and this does actually serve as a clever echo of her introduction vis a vis the transient population. She insists she’s not “like them” (i.e. a monster) in both contexts, and given that we have infinitely more compassion for our protagonists it works retroactively as an incisive little jab against her early disdain for homelessness.
On the one hand, family sadness; on the other, ELECTRICITY POWERS
She runs straight back to Xanatos once daylight comes, and the next night there’s a climactic battle on the castle parapets. Of course Elisa is there, and she’s quick both to discover “Talon’s” identity and to swear her own vengeance on Xanatos…but not before Derek accidentally hurts her, driving him into a state of anguish. Our parties part, Elisa and Brooklyn despairing at who they couldn’t save.
As for Xanatos, the last scene here pretty well undoes all of the speculation from a few paragraphs back, doesn’t it? He and Sevarius worked together to stage the latter’s death and “accidentally” transform Derek while also convincing Derek to stay loyal if he ever wants an antidote. So we’ve come back around to so very evil. But I’ve kept the prior debate up there for a reason – it’s easy to assume Xanatos is just the worst in any given situation, but what makes his plans so versatile are their layers. And as he and Fox become closer and he reveals more vulnerabilities, it’s prudent to wonder about those emotions, too. And also, eeeeeeeevil.
I will not make a Tumblr joke, I will not make a Tumblr joke…
Welcome back to Coldstone! The Weisman intro talks about Coldstone as a Frankenstein-type character, so there’s our answer for how he was created – despite resembling a particular character, he’s in fact assembled from many different gargoyles.
In keeping with last episode’s “dead but not really” theme, this one opens with Coldstone’s tech rebooting itself (naturally, this would not be complete without a fantastically 90s “reconstruction from the tech’s POV” shot). And part of that reawakening is Coldstone having an Othello-style dream sequence, where he imagines his unnamed lover abandoning him for Goliath and his own Iago nudging him toward revenge. Coldstone’s programming leads him to a robotics facility across town, and here’s the interesting thing – he acts purely on directive until he’s able to download the weapons directory from the computer mainframe, at which point the “real” Coldstone, or at least his primary identity, wakes up. This interplay is fascinating (and it’s definitely not the last we’ll see of our Iago and Desdemona, worry not), since it’s unclear whether the dreams are “real” to Coldstone, initiated by the computer to give him an unconscious drive toward violence, or just to keep him busy while the AI completes its task.
Introducing the Scuttle Buddy! TM, best companion in any D&D adventure
Whatever the case, the cops arrive in the middle of his escape. Matt (and Lex, back at the clock tower) are totally geeking out over a VR probe called RECAP (heh) who can allow them to investigate dangerous scenarios without risk of harm. Given that this was two decades ago, it’s amazing that Matt looks almost exactly as dignified as a modern tech geek trying an Oculus on.
It works about as well as expected, but the upside is that Lex and Goliath are able to intercept Coldstone after his escape and welcome it back home. Y’all, Goliath’s sincere look of joy is heartbreaking. Lex is as uncertain about this as the rest of us, but Goliath’s new leaf includes laying out the welcome mat regardless of antagonistic pasts, so home they go.
It quickly becomes clear that Coldstone isn’t one person but a system of them – our Desdemona surfaces in time to flee at the horror of her new body, and Iago comes out just in time to launch an attack on the pursuing Hudson and Goliath. Why? Well, fortunately Lex contacts Elisa for some exposition, and we find that Coldstone’s data-mining attempt ended up giving him a potent virus – hence the scrambling of his identity.
The RECAP tool proves a pretty handy solution for this. Lex snags the input cable and headset and hooks it up to Coldstone, allowing him to project Goliath inside the program to help (I don’t think that’s how that works somehow, but we’re going to roll with it because extremely cool narrative setup). They’ve got a ticking clock on them as well, since Matt is following the RECAP’s implanted homing device in order to get his favorite toy back. On the one hand, so many plots would be solved if Elisa would sit Matt down for a nice chat. On the other, it’s hard to blame her given how hard a time he seems to have keeping his mouth shut.
Goliath wakes in Coldstone’s mind to find the art department having a field day. The unrestricted reality of the electronic mindscape leaves a lot of room for some striking visuals, including the blinding orange hellpit created by the encroaching virus. BUT NOT SO FAST! Xanatos is here as well, or at least the AI is taking his form, in order to play DM. And the ensuing fight does not go well. While Goliath is able to talk Coldstone out of his jealousy-driven idiocy (not so much a fan that Desdemona doesn’t tell him that if he can’t trust her their relationship isn’t worth garbage, seriously, but ah well), the three good identities aren’t able to keep Iago from fusing with the AI and gaining the upper hand. Surprising no one (even if it was always my least favorite interpretation of the Shaksperean text in question), Iago was setting Coldstone up to try and take Desdemona for his own.
Back in the real world, Brooklyn, Broadway and Hudson are stalling the incoming cops (and SWAT team!), and are apparently doing so without being seen. I’ll chalk this up to the weather, or poor communication? Something. Either that or plot powers at work. The important thing here is watching Elisa play dumb, or your weekly reminder of why she’s grand.
That is the face of a trolling master
Back in the mindscape, Desdemona refuses that oh so tempting offer of brain fusion (which…also frees Goliath and Coldstone somehow? Eh, roll with it), and the AI fusion is drawn down into the virus vortex. The two remaining alters urge Goliath to escape, assuring him that whether or not they defeat the virus the important thing is that they’re together. And on that purposefully vague note we return to the real world, and a narrow escape from the cops. Goliath brings Coldstone’s prone body back to the tower, where they’ll keep watch over it until the owner wakes.
Oh, and RECAP was originally supplied by Xanatos, and it downloaded the information on that virus for him. Because he’s a very thorough DM.
The first season of this show is no slouch – it’s solidly plotted animation that respects its audience’s intelligence – but I trust you can already see that it’s the second season that makes it so enticing. The amount of well done homage, creative execution, and depth of character is positively irresistible. And…well, just wait until next week.