A great week for Elisa and callbacks.
Remember Dracon, that gangster schmuck who stole a bunch of Xanatos’ laser weapons? Yeah, he’s still terrible. The specifics of why he is, in this instant, terrible are rather close to real life: he’s doing the mob song and dance of extorting local businesses in exchange for supposed protection. But more surprising than that is the news that supposedly some Lady Cop is muscling in on his turf. And since there is only one lady in blue to speak of around these parts, that leads us to…
Elisa, who’s been missing for the past couple days. And when she does come in, she heads straight into playing Dirty Harry with the perp they snatched from Dracon’s gang. Things are so high-stress at the station that they even forget to close the door to the interrogation room, meaning we and the perp hear Elisa being accused of getting in on the protection racket and subsequently being suspended.
Let us not pretend to believe that Elisa has actually become corrupt, but instead appreciate how well she pulls off the illusion. There’s an element of her crooked cop act that seems to tap into Elisa’s past ruthless streak in a very believable way, with an extra layer of sleaze coated on top that gives the game away for audience members but not for characters in-universe. Serious props to Salli Richardson for getting to stretch her range here – I guess after giving Keith David the chance to play his own evil twin it was only fair.
Speaking of Goliath, he and Broadway have walked into this whole situation at the most inopportune moment, insisting on trying to save Elisa from herself and her newfound position as the subject of Dracon’s interest. This ends up working in her favor in the end, with her abrasive rant creating an air of authority in the eyes of Dracon’s onlooking mooks, but poor Goliath is just confused. Not Broadway, though. Our genre-savvy child obviously saw The Sting as part of his film repertoire.
Once Elisa is in Dracon’s good books everyone else sets about making plans as well: Matt’s undercover at a grocery store, demanding to speak to “the man in charge” before agreeing to the bribe money; the Chief is undercover at a dry cleaning shop that’s refusing to pony up; and Goliath and Broadway throw their lot in with Elisa, in a scene where the characters are working collectively on about four different levels of awareness. Elisa is undercover, Dracon is apparently a moron, Goliath’s going along with the scheme just so he can make sure Elisa’s safe (aww), and Broadway is pleased as punch to have the opportunity to throw out every mobster movie soundbite he’s ever heard.
They roll out to the two “suspicious” shops, and the stakes rise quite quickly – particularly with the dry cleaning shop, where the order of operations has upgraded from “leave a bomb” to “gas the supposed owners to make sure they will still be inside when the bomb goes off.” Fortunately Broadway arrives soon after, so there’s not a long time to ponder how very dark the implications are there. At the grocery store, both Elisa and Matt are there to turn the tables on Dracon. The undercurrent of trust and synchronized teamwork between them this episode is a great touch of character continuity, even if they do end up in a firefight and leave Goliath to ultimately scare some more white into Dracon’s hair.
With the bad guys dispatched our heroes meet back up on the clock tower to lay out the whole undercover cop thing and, more importantly, to give Elisa and Goliath a chance to capitalize a bit on the especially strong vein of subtext they struck this episode. Their vow to protect one another, in a context that’s not just physical but ethical and emotional as well, is very sweet. And while on the one hand they’re not technically “together” yet, their mutual and semi-acknowledged attraction means that they can move through interesting dilemmas like partners rather than constantly falling back on a cheap will-they-or-won’t-they plot. Also there’s something about a jalapeno. I don’t wanna talk about it.
Cheer up, Maggie! He’s grown out of being a Nice Guy and everything
As long as we’re remembering things involving Elisa, let’s bring Derek back too! It would seem he and the other mutates have popped up again in the vicinity of Xanatos’ castle (presumably before now they’ve been…on vacation in the Poconos learning to fly better or something, and then their plot senses set to tingling). Goliath has seen them about for a while, but what actually sets the episode off is Derek peeking in on a Maza family dinner and getting spotted by Elisa’s sister. Of course, once Elisa finds out about the mutates she demands that they pay a visit.
Derek…has not been taking things well. While Elisa has, through Matt and the clan’s help, gotten a better hold on her temper, Derek has gotten exponentially worse. His eyes are glowing and feral for the length of their brief encounter, and even Maggie (clearly acting as the team’s only voice of reason) can barely keep him from leaping back into violence. And as you’d expect, Elisa’s quite substantiated claim that Sevarius is still alive and well (and thus able to create a cure) falls on deaf ears.
Okay, not entirely on deaf ears, or so it seems. See, somebody is on hand to swoop Sevarius right out of the GenUTech parking lot, right under the nose of John Travolta moonlighting as a security guard and mere seconds before Elisa arrives to investigate. Thus do we cut to Sevarius, held prisoner and forced to start working on that cure.
Before we go on, a side note about Derek, who’s on the warpath now that he knows Sevarius is still alive. All well and understandable, but made a lot more frustrating by the fact that he’s beginning to jump through some truly stunning logical hoops in order to go on blaming Goliath for all of this.
There’s a certain line of logic to his actions: he’s got his sister’s laser focus once he’s decided someone has wronged him, and it makes sense that because Xanatos has been such a support he’d be reluctant to turn blame on his last safe haven. But Elisa’s fixation on Xanatos was mostly confined to individual moments of extreme stress and was shaken off once she had some time to think. Derek has multiple confrontations with multiple people (including Maggie) trying to persuade him to think about another perspective, and he never so much as stops to consider them. Derek doesn’t have to be wooed back by a cornered Xanatos once the Sevarius thing comes to light – he just swallows the first incredibly weak excuse (and we’ve seen Xanatos come up with some good ones, making this look even flimsier) that gets thrown at him. It makes him a difficult character to put up with this episode (and fortunately, only for this episode).
By contrast, Maggie really comes into her own here. While she was operating on pure flight response last time around (in case you forgot, this episode spends a lot of time on flashbacks), here she’s not just “the emotionally grounded token lady” on the team (yes, it is frequent enough to be a trope) but genuinely insightful, and there’s a sense that part of why she goes along with things is a fear that her more unstable fellow mutates would overpower her if she refused.
She reluctantly leads the others back to the clock tower after letting it slip that she’d been there, and a fight breaks out between the mutates and the trio. It proves a good opportunity not just to showcase how far the Lex, Brooklyn, and Broadway have come as fighters but how much more comfortable they are in their own skin. Brooklyn’s “I’m not a man, I’m a gargoyle” should be cheesy, but with his past emotional turmoil is ends up being a small but very effective signpost of how much he’s growing into himself and his future leadership responsibilities. He’s more eloquent all over, in fact, realizing that no explanation is going to show Maggie the truth and opting to release her and the other mutates in the hopes that Xanatos will eventually show his true colors.
Oh, and that winged figure who kidnapped Sevarius? Totally Goliath. Which is well intentioned on his part, but winds up playing right into Xanatos’ story that the gargoyles were the ones who helped Sevarius fake his death. Xanatos is wearing his best “in case you forgot I’m still a villain” face this week, by the way.
Derek tracks Sevarius and Goliath to the original abandoned lab and winds up in an echo of that original fight just as Sevarius (again) claims to have invented a cure. Goliath is overpowered, and things are looking bleak for the mad doctor – Derek’s now less interested in a cure than in seeing Sevarius pay for his crimes. And unfortunately, that proves to be Xanatos’ cue to step in. Yes, you thought this whole doubt thing would go on a for a few more episodes, huh? But the line is thankfully drawn here, with poor Derek looking shattered as Xanatos declares Sevarius the more valuable asset. But at least he leaves them the vial of finished “cure.” Which may or may not be poison.
The last few minutes of this episode blossom into one of the show’s emotional heights. Maggie is prepared to drink the vial, willing to risk death rather than remain as monster, until Derek tells her he couldn’t go on without her support. And while Goliath is happy to welcome them into his clan Derek declines, saying that he has already found his own family. Not just the new members, but old ones as well – Elisa finally takes the plunge and tells the rest of her family what’s happened to Derek. And they pause only a moment before welcoming not only him but the other mutates in with open arms. The mixing of birth and found families is hugely important to the show, and just laying out the beats doesn’t quite convey how sweetly those last few minutes play, warm but not saccharine. And we close out on the door of the titular cage, a nice understated metaphor for the mutates’ emotional torment (hid that metaphor right cleverly behind the literal image of Sevarius being caged, didn’t they). Well played, animators.
Next week, we take a stopover in one of my all-time series favorites.