The Consulting Analyst – Double Jeopardy/Upgrade

robohead

The intro is here.

Oh, humanity’s hubris to create so on and so forth.

vanna thailog
N
o no, you’re referencing the wrong game show!

Double Jeopardy

Here

And the powers that be said, “doesn’t Keith David have the perfect voice to plan an evil twin?” and lo, here we stand.

We begin with a flashback to the beginning of the series, back when Elisa was still convincing Goliath to leave the castle. He’s attacked by a “rogue” robo-gargoyle and Owen, ever the helper, is there to swab it out and make sure it doesn’t get infected. On a magical creature who heals all his wounds during the day. I’m certain you can all gather where this is going.

Back in the present, Elisa is on her way to a supposedly endangered power plant with Lex and Broadway as backup. They’re attacked from above, but the raging storm makes it almost impossible to see the assailant who almost drives Elisa off a cliff. All they can hear is a laugh that sounds suspiciously like Goliath.

While they worry over that, with Goliath and Brooklyn conveniently far away enough that they need to camp away from the clock tower, Xanatos finds himself preyed upon by an unknown assailant; or rather, some mooks on the unknown assailant’s payroll are lifting the very….uh, I’m sure mysteriously Goliath-esque for the children watching…statue from atop one of the towers. It’s not actually an unknown assailant – we see Dr. Sevarius Curry handing out a big ol wad of cash just prior to this – but the fact that he’s actually pulled one over on Xanatos goes a long way to upping his threat level without even needing him on screen (also interesting, the fact that Owen is his version of very upset at the thought of Xanatos keeping him out of the loop, implying that they’ve pretty fully transitioned from boss/lackey to more or less equal partners). And while he keeps within his usual Chill No Prob vocal range, it’s clear that this is a particularly bad nerve to have struck.

Goliath returns then next night and confirms, with Brooklyn’s corroboration so we don’t have to go through that storyline, that he was nowhere near the coast the night before. When revisiting the scene of the Crime That Wasn’t turns up a GenUTech bracelet, Broadway and Lex go hunting for clues at a local lab. There they turn up information on the cloning project started from those cells Owen took, which became a fully grown gargoyle with a conveniently scientific inverted color scheme. While they’re doing that, Elisa and Goliath go looking for clues and wind up at a supposedly abandoned oil rig, where Xanatos and Sevarius are in a bit of a tussle.

best kidnapper
Tim Curry: He’s just happy to be here

And what an interesting little conflict it is, too. Xanatos is seething mad, having shown up with the ransom money Sevarius called to demand earlier that evening and dressed himself to the nines in his most vengeful power armor. But Sevarius is acting strange, past average quantities of Curry Creep and into downright childish glee at getting to play through clichéd exchanges of unmarked bills in briefcases. In fact, he seems to have no idea why Xanatos is mad at him, though he does an admirable job of hamming up what he seems to think is a fabricated confrontation.

Lo and behold, what Goliath and Elisa stumble upon inside the rig is Thailog, who comes from the Alucard school of naming conventions. He gets the jump on the pair while Xanatos puts the pieces together outside –  but not before being shocked and appalled at Sevarius suggesting that Fox or Owen would’ve been behind the betrayal. Sorry, it’s charming the way he protects the very few things he cares about, which is actually a little bit relevant here. Remember way back when Xanatos and Sevarius had that loaded sounding conversation about “are you SURE you don’t have a live specimen I can use” and Xanatos really firmly put his foot down? It would seem he really thought of Thailog as a…eh, protégé? There’s a lot of son subtext too from Sevarius and Elisa, in case you weren’t sure that a theoretical child of Xanatos and Goliath’s would be a terrible idea.

Anyway, just as the pieces click into place Thailog swoops in with a really nasty piece of electrocution and chains up all four of his visiting guests. Xanatos is disappointed that his gargoyle son didn’t just ask him for the money, but Thailog is determined to be a self-made villain. He also doesn’t think much of Goliath’s protective philosophy, mixed with a heady dollop of Demona’s superiority complex toward humans. Best of all worlds, gang! His only downfall is that as a villain, he inherited the genetic need to leave his victims to a timed doomsday device without making sure they died.

Sure enough, there are enough holes in Thailog’s plan to allow the gang (led by Elisa’s excellent cuff-escaping skills) to escape and make it off the soon-to-explode oil rig. All except for Goliath, who refuses to go without trying to give his clone son one more stern talking to. That  goes about as well as you’d expect it to – Thailog makes a big deal of recovering his ransom briefcase and gets separated from Goliath (who barely makes it off the rig himself) in an explosion. And he is totally dead, for reals.

More interesting (because apparently Xanatos is the traditional Consulting Analyst “character of dubious morality in need of microanalysis”) is the small scene between the humans on the boat when they believe Goliath has been killed as well: Xanatos offers a sincere gesture at Elisa’s grief, and she accepts it rather than turning her anger and hurt onto him as she might’ve done in the past; and then when Goliath shows up alive and she shakes him off, he’s got a small, genuine smile on his face. He then immediately puts foot in mouth by brushing Thailog off as a mere copy, giving Goliath the opportunity to wax poetic about the value of individual life and how they all failed their would-be executioner. But it’s progress! The post-“City of Stone” relationship between team Xanatos and team Gargoyle is made of a lot of small, uncertainly tender moments like this, and I love them.

It’s not over til the stinger sings, though, so we return to Xanatos and Owen taking a lovely bout of afternoon tea on the roof of the castle….and only now does Xanatos realize that perhaps his son would be aware of the advantages of the whole “faking your death” thing. The results of his hubris actually manage to sink in for once, helped along by the glorious deadpan commentary that Owen’s been spouting increasingly since his upgrade from bland faced subordinate. “I’ve created a monster” is an awfully tired line, but Jonathan Frakes delivers it with a great weight of combined exhaustion and “oh shit” that kind of saves it. Juuuuust in time for the actual ending to come on the heels of a cornball insert of Thailog laughing maniacally.

Thailog is a barometer of sorts both for who Goliath could’ve been, had he taken in Demona’s mentality, and for how much Xanatos is changing by becoming a family man. Much ado about the importance and healing power of interpersonal bonds and having loved ones to protect. But really, personally I’m here to hear Keith David have a clearly fantastic time hamming it up with eeeeevil.

robosquad
We really need to work to stop cyberbullying

Upgrade

Here

Not one, but two episodes about the fallout of Xanatos attempting to make copies of himself! The Pack is back after their last guest appearance as the unwitting architects of Fox’s early release from prison, and it seems that they’ve downgraded from that whole “thrill of the hunt” thing to just robbing banks. They’re also still using the same bag of tricks, leaving them solidly outmatched when the gargoyles show up for heroic thwarting duty. It’s a surprisingly brutal fight, too, with a lot of visible punch landing and prop violence. It’s not a bad thing – the fact that they get solidly beaten, only escaping by landing a cheap and debilitating blow on Goliath, is what sets up their motivation for the rest of the episode – but it’s just surprising S&P wasn’t all over it. There’s not even white impact frames!

The effect of the fight is twofold: Hudson tells Goliath that he needs to pick a second in command in case he’s ever killed in combat, and the Pack get a visit from the scary floating head formerly known as Coyote. No seriously, this thing is terrifying. The designers clear had a field day with the design, which allows for normal (if slightly more expressive than usual for Xanatos) expressions on the human side of the face that bleed over into the naked skeletal horror on the other – a sly grin that becomes long, parted teeth or a glimpse of tongue on the robotic side that goes all the way down to the root. It’s so great.

He’s also a generous robostrosity, because he’s offering to upgrade (drink!) the Pack to shiny new robotech at no charge. Sadly, the real Xanatos wasn’t able to offer this agreement in person. He and Fox are busy playing a not at all metaphorical game of chess.

The action picks up a month later, with the garchildren three deep in the middle of a competition to see who can out-Batman the others. Goliath’s been really hurming and sultry voicing hawing about the decision, allowing things to escalate to the point that Lex, Brooklyn, and Broadway rush out into the city as soon as the sun goes down…meaning they completely miss Elisa’s emergency news that the Pack has shown back up. That leaves Elisa, Hudson, Goliath, and Bronx to go check the danger out on their own. Not a lot of gargoyle cell phones, y’see.

So it’s through them that we get our first glimpse of the newly upgraded (drink!) Pack. And hoooooo boy. I think S&P just took a vacation this day, bless their hearts. There’s a full gamut of changes on display: Dingo, the closest to grounded of the gang now that Fox has skipped out for greener pastures, is wearing an exosuit; Jackal and Hyena have gone for full cybernetic upgrades, and Wolf opted for the full gene splicing shebang.

mechathing
GenuTech: Lifelong Nightmares Included Free of Charge

Dingo spends a lot of time griping about how the others have changed and sold out their humanity and so on like you do, but it’s not hard to side with that by the book argument in this case. Wolf’s none too shocking, since we’ve already had the more gut wrenching version of the hybrid transformations with Maggie and Derek. But we the cyberbiotics thing is relatively new, and the animation is all over the Cronenberg (there’s got to be another body horror auteur I can throw at this, but Carpenter only made the one particularly grotesque and you know what, drink) angle. Particularly with Hyena – Jackal gets limbs ripped off left and right (there has to be some kind of animation room pact that if you do a robot episode you see how far you can push the intensity of a fight, because wow), but meanwhile Hyena does things like bend her humanoid fingers back at an uncanny angle to shoot hand lasers, or lengthens her limbs on cables that look like tendons in order to become a skittering spider monster that really does look like The Thing. It’s…you know what, I’m completely in love with it. Well done, crew.

With the element of surprise firmly dropped on them, the initial investigation ends with Elisa and co. captured, and the Pack planning to smash them to pieces come dawn (while also planning to let Bronx out, follow him home, and kill the others. Did I mention the brutal stakes?). This is when we switch tracks back to the other plot, with the youngins coming home only to find the clock tower empty. And, look. It’s fairly obviously signposted from the beginning of the series that Brooklyn is The Traditional Hero of the young generation, given his damsel obsession, mild brooding tendencies, and the fact that he doesn’t really have a concretely formed place in the team (Broadway is sort of the poet/dreamer, and Lex runs techsposition). And we’ll find out that this was pretty obvious to Goliath, too.

But the script, to its credit doesn’t rest on this semi-foregone conclusion. Brooklyn ends up taking charge in a very natural way, carefully taking in information from the news that the other two initially miss and taking the cautious, mindful approach in surprising the Pack in ways that feel true to the character while also leading the episode where it needs to go (even better is that Goliath doesn’t see these things, making it seem like we’re glimpsing a strong, ongoing strain of ability rather than a fluke born of dire situation). And while Brooklyn is the point, there’s also a sense that with that guiding hand both Lex and Broadway are excellent contributors to the team dynamic. It’s just solid character work all around.

Most of the back half of the episode is the tiny gargoyle gang coming together to take out the Pack, showcasing all that grand body horror and teamwork and also Coyote’s head flying around and being unnerving until Goliath crushes it between his bare hands. I think it’s the high pitched shriek that really sells it. Robots! Despite any humanoid appearance, they’re not like you.

So we come to a close with Goliath admitting that Brooklyn has been his choice for a while, but he was afraid of causing friction between the kids by admitting it. Which is a nice way of recentering a story implicitly based on exceptionalism back in the family/team dynamic that is so important to the show as a whole.

ah romance
Is this one of those “last hurrah before nothing fits anymore” things?
But with murder?

And Fox and Xanatos finish their chess game, with Fox declaring a happy checkmate as the gargoyles win the day. She’s wearing her Pack outfit, even though that was Xanatos’ team. I…assume it’s a couples thing? This framing device is the show’s way of reasserting the idea that Fox is Xanatos’ equal. And while she doesn’t always get much to do (certainly not as much as her husband), it’s nice to have these whole plots dedicated to the idea rather than just throwaway lipservice on the subject. Also, they’re adorable. Have I mentioned they’re adorable? Cuddling, playing games with other people’s lives, cute couple stuff like that.

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3 comments on “The Consulting Analyst – Double Jeopardy/Upgrade

  1. At this point you’re past what I’ve been able to see. But i have the means to catch when I have time.

    Are you going to do Season 3, because I’ve heard it itched the ongoing storlyines and is pretty much considered discontinuity.

    On an unrelated note, do you have any thoughts on The Force Awakens? I’ve been Blogging about it a lot for weeks now.

    http://jaredmithrandirolorin.blogspot.com/search/label/Star%20Wars

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