We all learned a little about Norway, and a lot about ourselves.
When Santa is too busy, and Krampus a bit too much…
Eye of the Storm
The “previously on” segment takes care to remind us of every previous interaction involving the recently reclaimed Eye of Odin, so it’s little surprise when the episode opens with the little skiff getting moored in icy waters. The tourists are approached by a conspicuously one-eyed man dressed in the wardrobe from an MST3K-level flick who notes that hey, that squishy human is probably going to freeze to death soon. He conjures a coat out of nowhere and, with no other preamble, offers to give it to them in exchange for that potent and absolutely corrupting magical item they’re carrying around. Naturally, our heroes do not immediately trust this offer, and they’re left trying to find another way to keep Elisa warm.
Enter the very nice father and son so unimportant to the plot that I have already forgotten their names (PS, they’re Erik and Gunther respectively, after that most famous Norse vampire and that nice eldritch penguin). They’re kind enough to take Elisa in even though she’s clearly, clearly lying about how she got there. For their troubles, they quickly have a hole in the wall of their little farm cabin, which I’m sure is super comfortably within the budget of a single parent. Look, the episode doesn’t have any use for them beyond color commentary, I may as well come up with something mildly engaging.
Anyway, the hole in their cabin that there’s probably no one around to fix nor the supplies to apply: it’s caused by that one eyed old guy aka you figured out five minutes and fifty four seconds ago that this was Odin. He already tried attacking Goliath and Angela disguised as a bear and that didn’t work out, so now he figures holding Elisa hostage is the next best move. Which backfires somewhat when instead of handing the Eye over, Goliath puts it on and becomes Ultra Mega Super Goliath, who can now stay awake 24/7.
This is the point at which the episode becomes less about facing an external threat – as I said, the humans of the week are beside the point and Odin basically chills until Goliath calls him out for the third act – and more of a character study of Goliath at his worst. To that end, the design of his Odin-form is a crafty thing indeed. It recalls a rather D&D-esque conception of an ogre, buikier and with horns and wings reminiscent of Odin’s design. But the big Viking helmet also contextually look quite like pseudo-Satanic horns, and the pupil-less eyes are more unsettling the longer you look at them. It is a smartly uncanny design, deft at underscoring the thematic arc while looking on-the-surface impressive.
Since the house is no longer safe, the gang trucks up to a mountain cave where Goliath insists he can better protect them. By sealing them in with a giant boulder after faking storms from “Odin” in order to drive them up there. The shift in his behavior from reasonable to worrying is pretty deftly handled – long before Angela figures out that Goliath is faking the storms, alarm bells are raised when he dismisses Elisa’s concerns with a patronizing pat on the head.
Once his charges are safely confined, Goliath calls for a final showdown with Odin. It’s a pretty quick fight in terms of power – since the Eye came out of Odin’s body (yes the name was literal, do have fun imagining the other, squishier designs) it also absorbs his magic, leaving things almost immediately unbalanced. But by this point Goliath has lost all better judgment in favor of pure, testosteriffic posturing, so he doesn’t notice when Odin uses his nature powers to crack the boulder holding the gang captive.
DON’T WORRY, THE CLOSED CAPTIONERS HAVE YOU COVERED
Elisa and Angela (I love seeing them work together directly, it is never not awesome) try to separate Goliath from the Eye and only succeed in being called ungrateful of his beneficent protection. Then Goliath mansplains them into a giant fissure, because what even is the point if they’re not going to tell you how great you are for being so kind. And then, because it’s been a while, Angela saves the day by being the best. Elisa and Bronx make it out of the fissure, y’see, but Angela waves off their help – and instead calls for Goliath to save her. His real protective instincts surface above his need for power and adulation, and that’s enough to get him to tear off the Eye himself.
Odin stops by to pick it up, and there’s a rather Miyazaki-esque conversation about how neither party was really bad but simply approached things badly: Odin acknowledges he hasn’t interfaced with mortals in a long time and probably wasn’t great with the whole Trial By Ancient Combat/Out of Nowhere Bartering thing, and Goliath cops to the “mad with power” business. It’s quite a mature scene, one that more or less salvages the fact that the answer to the entire episode was “just take the coat” in the first two minutes. Odin-as-mythos doesn’t really have much bearing on things (there’s a brief bit of exposition from Gunther and clear influence in the aesthetic, but the actual plot grows out of the specific Gargoyles lore), but that’s more or less a necessity with having it be such a character focused episode. And drawing that from a fairly well-known mythological figure already baked into the backstory was a far smarter choice than trying to bring in something new.
…What? It’s just a nice painting
The New Olympians
AND NOW, A METAPHOR ABOUT PREJUDICE.
I wanted to make sure it was adequately clear in the same intensity to which the episode drives it home, completely with a closing anvil. I can’t be angry, really, since it’s an excellent lesson to be teaching to children and also gave me more than one flashback to To Kill A Mockingbird, but it was occasionally more amusing than affecting.
That said, this is a really strong episode. Clearly aware that they were falling into something of a formula even with the Tour, the writers decided it was time to flip the usual dynamic on its head. Hence, the opportunity to visit a setting where Elisa is the dangerous monster and the gargoyles are welcomed without question.
The chosen locale is the island of New Olympus, home to a pantheon of Greco-Roman creatures who ran from humanity in fear of their lives centuries ago and founded their own society, cloaked from prying eyes. And they have long memories about the cruelty humanity foisted upon them – the chief police officer Taurus is quick to bring up his ancestor the Minotaur, for example. Elisa is put on trial just as soon as she arrives, and while the island’s leader Boreas figures she’s probably not out to murder them, they’re also not going to let her go back and tell the outside world where the island is.
Elisa is technically free to go, but she’s attacked by a mob not more than two blocks away from the trial. And then she gets arrested for causing the fight, even though she didn’t start it. The episode doesn’t really want to engage with profiling et al directly, but scenes like this one manage to have a surprising amount of bite to them for both the limitations of the time and the episode. Elisa tries to bond her way out of trouble by mentioning that hey! Taurus’ dad was a cop who got killed in the line of duty, and Elisa and her dad are both cops. She knows that feel, dude.
But Taurus is not swayed, and his mood is even further soured by the taunting of Proteus, a shapeshifter who did said patricide and also really, really wants off the island. If you heard the word “shapeshifter” and did not immediately guess the contents of the second act, I am mildly disappointed in you.
The other nice part of this episode is getting a chance to see another side of Angela – while Goliath has the experience to hold his cards close to his chest if needed, Angela wears her outrage at Elisa’s treatment on her sleeve in every situation. It is greatly endearing, and echoes what we’ve seen of young Goliath without feeling like a cheap reusage of character beats.
When diplomacy fails to do the trick, Goliath sends Angela to get the skiff ready while he goes to break Elisa out of prison. Mistaken identity ensues, and Goliath ends up in the cell while Proteus-Goliath escapes with Elisa. And the scene between them is a shining light for Elisa, who’s gotten shunted into the damsel role more often than not this arc. Here she obviously puts together who “Goliath” really is the second he tries to BS her about why he’s up and around while the sun’s up, but she doesn’t directly confront him – she plays it cool, immediately tries to warn one of the locals afterward, and when that doesn’t work…..eh, steal his sky jet ski and go fix the problem herself. It’s fantastic, and Elisa gets to show off a full range of playful, desperate, and plan awesome over the back half of the episode.
Presumably Talos was only three days from retirement
Proteus makes a beeline for the island’s security system, guarded by the automaton Talos (lately of Principle fame). And since he is an automaton, we get a return of the “throw horrific violence at the androids” principle, because Proteus PUNCHES THIS DUDE THROUGH THE CHEST AND THROWS HIM OFF THE TOWER, and we never speak of it again. Don’t worry kids, he’s okay! Luckily, he was wearing his parachute!
Meanwhile, Elisa taunts Taurus into chasing her up to the tower, where he can have his big showdown with Proteus. It’s over fairly quickly given the amount of time left, but it’s a fairly satisfying little end to the whole buddy cop thing he and Elisa sort of have going through the episode – he’s shocked and impressed that she didn’t immediately skip town when given the chance, and she…forgives him for being a jerk. Sure. It’s really rather impressive that the script manages to make strong, broad sketches of so many characters in such a short time frame, something they’ve been trying and failing to do in quite a few episodes this arc. It could be that they’re all stock tropes in some way or other, but their interactions with the main cast manage to do the trick of shading them out more than what a stealth-pilot should allow for.
And this is the stealth-piloty-est episode of the whole arc, by the by, complete with our island leader turning to camera and saying that the world will soon have to face THE NEW OLYMPIANS™ (for your consideration). Can’t fault a crew for optimism, I suppose.