If you thought things were going to crap last time, prepare for even more of the emotional roller coaster that is Goliath’s Life Sucks: The TV Series. This time around we’re getting a bit more of a transition episode, moving us farther away from our backstory and into the actual series plot. We’re also basically getting two episodes in one, not to mention a whole lot of action. Like…a whole lot. With lasers. And a ponytail.
We start off with the opening credits at the start of the episode this time (what a concept!) and a recap that lasts about as long as my previous entry (something tells me we’ll be getting these a lot.) The last scene from the first episode is repeated right from the top here, but more from Old Beard’s perspective (i.e. we don’t have to fully hear and see Goliath’s piercing scream twice in one episode.) Also, the animation is…less good.
As Old Beard looks through the rubble, the trio in the rookery also emerge, and upon seeing the cut bows and distinct lack of people, they determine a) there was a betrayal and b) the humans were taken prisoner. We, however, get a clear picture of how much of a step down the animation and designs are.
It’s not terrible, I guess, but there’s significantly less detail and almost no clever use of shadow compared to what we got with part one. You’ll also notice during the action scenes that the fluidity of the animation is really uneven and doesn’t quite jibe with the designs. It’s a necessary evil to change up the animation teams for cost purposes, I know, and you get used to it as the episode goes along. But if you were watching this as a movie or marathoning it, it would be really jarring.
Meanwhile, Tom is doing the typical superhero universe kid schtick by saying “Don’t worry, the gargoyles will save us!” like they’re Captain America or something. His mom’s just like “Nope they’re all dead” like the dream crusher she is.
Hakon and the Captain are figuring out what to do with Catherine and Magus (the only choices are really “ransom” or “killkillkill.”)
Note that the Captain is just kind of going along with it, totally cool being Hakon’s partner in crime. It’s a weird turnaround from his loyalty to the gargoyles last time, not to mention the look of extreme horror he had when we last saw him, and it’s not something I’m happy with. It’s sad that a character who was so tragic in the first episode has just kind of shrugged and said “Welp, guess I’m a villain now.” We also learn that Hakon can’t read and starts burning random pages out of the spellbook, which seems inconsequential, but an interesting moment nevertheless.
The gargoyles storm the camp with really scary howls (if I heard that sound coming from my window at night I’d pee my pants for sure.) Hakon calls out the Captain on originally saying the gargoyles wouldn’t follow them, and the Captain’s explanation is that they only followed this time because their clan was slaughtered. Which…actually makes more sense than I gave it credit for last time, now that I think about it. Although I still call partial BS on the original statement because I feel like the gargoyles would come after imprisoned humans. Grrr…stop messing with my mind, Captain!
Catherine realizes that the gargoyles are on their way, and actually shows some emotion—or at the very least, acknowledges that her castle’s free security force is really awesome. Either way, it’s a step up for actually recognizing that the gargoyles are, in one way or another, important and worth keeping around. Hakon goes to stab her or something because he’s dumb, leading to an awkward confrontation where Catherine is picked up and grabbed, and then somehow knocks Hakon down (like with her child-bearing hips or something?) and then fucking bolts, all while still tied up. Hakon and the Captain chase after her, and Magus is like “wow, I feel completely emasculated now” and starts cutting his rope on a rock.
The gargoyles, sans Goliath, beat the ever-living-crap out of the army and frees the prisoners.
The gargoyles win, everyone is happy, and Tom is all “Thanks for saving us, Captain America Gargoyles!” However, Magus shows up and is pissed, assuming Catherine was killed while trying to escape, because he really must not have faith in her mad running skills. He blames the gargoyles for Catherine’s maybe possibly death (since they would have otherwise been ransomed and survived) and starts casting a spell.
As much as I’d like to rag on the Magus for being a total moron here, I do buy that he’s uber-stressed and not thinking straight. He was clearly high-strung in his initial appearance—the kind of guy you can’t spring up “hey want to go to the movies?” without a day’s notice because he needs time to prepare for an outing. He’s in no way prepared for hostage situations or his entire castle getting imprisoned. And of course, there’s his crazy prejudice against gargoyles. He needed someone to blame after all the bad guys were gone, and he’s been looking for a reason to do away with the gargoyles (you know this was the spell he was looking for when he sinsterly flipped through his book last time.) So this moment clicked for him in the worst way.
Meanwhile, Goliath follows Catherine and discovers that the Captain was the betrayer, resulting in a SUPER PISSED Goliath. By the way, as good as Keith David has already been, his performance here is outstanding. This episode is relentless when it comes to completely destroying every part of Goliath, and it shows here when he discovers the one human he completely trusted killed his entire goddman clan. That’s a really big deal, and David pulls it off.
The Captain tries to “reason” with Goliath, basically giving the infuriating “I’m sorry you’re mad” response. Like, he actually tries to say it was Goliath’s fault for not taking the entire gargoyle clan with him, or something. Which a) wouldn’t have made sense and b) BRO, HIS ENTIRE CLAN JUST DIED LIKE TWO HOURS AGO. The Captain just looks really stupid here. I do think he’s feeling remorse deep down, but that remorse isn’t very well-represented. Especially when Hakon is all “Nah brah, it was all him” causing a fight to break out between the two. I mean, the siege was all the Captain’s idea. He didn’t physically shatter the gargoyles, but he played a really huge hand in their destruction, so the fact that he gets offended by Hakon’s accusations makes the Captain look really disgusting.
But then, maybe this is the Captain’s way of covering up his guilt. His friends are either dead or his enemies, and this “new friend” he was forced to turn to doesn’t have his back. So, like the Magus, he’s totally in over his head and just flips out, resulting in Hakon and the Captain tussling and toppling off the edge of a cliff to their Disney deaths. It’s not nearly as epic as we’d like, but that works in its favor, because it gives us one of Goliath’s best lines in the series: “I’ve been denied everything…EVEN MY REVEEEEEEEENGE!”
Catherine does show remorse for real this time, not to mention partial deafness for standing next to Goliath during that wail. It’s a quick moment before Tom butts in with—surprise!—more bad news for Goliath. Turns out, his friends are now stone at night. Like I said, this episode is relentless.
Goliath gives the first delivery of “What sorcery is this?” which is one of my favorite recurring Gargoyles lines for some reason. Although in this case, it actually is sorcery, and it sucks. Magus explains that the gargoyles are stuck in stone forever, only awakening “until the castle rises above the clouds.” Of course, there’s a big “duh-doy!” moment when Magus sees Catherine alive.
His explanation is that he was “mad with grief,” which is a piss poor explanation if I ever heard one. In any case, he literally falls to his knees with remorse as Goliath absolutely freaks the fuck out (and with good reason) and realizes “Now I am truly alone.” Have I mentioned that this episode is relentless? Magus can’t even help him, because the page Hakon ripped out and burned earlier just-so-happened to be the one with the counter-spell on it. (Word of warning for newbies of the show: nothing is inconsequential. NO-THING.)
The stone gargoyles get put on the castle, and Magus and Catherine continue to apologize profusely. There’s definitely a sense that they have a lot of redeeming to do, and Magus especially is very clearly torn up about the situation. It’s really great that the two douchebags from episode one have become the sole allies over the span of an episode and a half, while our big human hero character already turned to villainy and died. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for humanity (which profoundly affects Goliath’s view of us) but also forces us to reconsider everything we’re going to see. Who are the bad guys and good guys? At what point can we even consider characters good or bad? We’re not even a full two episodes in, and already our status quo and overall perceptions of the world have been completely shattered and overturned. It’s really great stuff.
Catherine says the former residents of the castle will flee to her uncle’s kingdom, while Goliath asks them to look after the eggs in the rookery. Surprisingly, Goliath also asks Magus to cast the spell again. And thus Goliath is forever cast in stone with his brethren, sleeping in a now-abandoned castle. It’s a tragic, but strangely poetic end to the epic tale of how the gargoyles were destroyed.
BUT SUDDENLY 1,000 YEARS LATER…
It feels like we spent way more time in the past than we actually did, because we’ve still got half an episode to go (I’ll explain why I think that is in a bit.) Anyway, we see a stylish dude rocking a ponytail enter the decrepit Castle Wyvern. Also, he’s voiced by goddamn Jonathan Frakes.
And he just fucking runs to the top. I mean he’s going sprint speed. This guy is really weirdly excited, but at least he’s excited IN STYLE.
He’s David Xanatos, and he is fully intent on buying and moving this castle. His ridiculously stoic and monotone assistant, Owen, tells him it’s insane, it’s haunted, yadda yadda—but actually, nothing he says matters since you won’t remember it after Xanatos utters, “Pay a man enough, and he’ll walk barefoot into Hell.”
First of all: Yes, I know plenty of people have pointed out how cool it is that he says “Hell” in a Disney cartoon, even if they only got away with it because it’s the name Hell and not the swear. And that’s cool and all, but what it really means? Xanatos doesn’t give a shit. If he wants to say “Hell” in a Disney cartoon, to hell with the censors. He always gets what he wants. I don’t know if the writers did that on purpose, but I like that reasoning—Xanatos’s lack of giving a shit and ability to get what he wants because he’s David Xanatos transcends the higher-ups. I mean seriously, what a way to introduce a character.
Anyway, we get a cool montage of construction workers and bulldozers deconstructing the castle with EPIC SWELLING MUSIC. Welcome to this show.
We discover that the castle has actually been plopped on top of a tower in Manhattan that is literally above the clouds.
Xanatos is up there with the gargoyle statues, wind flowing in his majestic ponytail and telling them “Don’t disappoint me.” HOW ARE YOU SO COOL? After some really intense build-up with lightning and rain and swirling clouds…well…there’s Goliath.
The initial effect of Goliath bursting out this time is really anticlimactic, as the stone just bursts off before he even moves. Considering he’s been asleep for 1,000 years, you’d think there’d be a little more fireworks with the breaking of the spell. It’s really disappointing, actually. That said, the circling shot of all the other gargoyles waking up is nicely done, and another bit of solid directing in this episode. (Also it’s totally GIF-worthy for the Tumblr people—get on that, internet.)
Despite expecting this, Xanatos is oddly surprised here. I’m pretty sure this is one of only two or three times in the entire show where he’s legitimately surprised by something and actually shows that expression. It’s crazy rare.
Xanatos is also really happy about this, as are the other gargoyles (even though their last memory would be of their clan being slaughtered, but I guess a refreshing sleep puts me in a good mood too.)
They realize they aren’t in Scotland anymore, and Xanatos explains it’s been 1,000 years, and he learned all about them from the Magus’s book. We also quickly learn that the eggs are “gone,” though without elaborating.
The gargoyles, not being totally dumb, ask Xanatos why he’d move a fucking castle to his tower. His answer: he was fascinated by the story and wanted to see if it was true. Okay weirdo. And now he wants to be their friend. Again…weirdo. I wonder how many random books and tales Xanatos has read and thought “this is an interesting story, let’s see if it’s true?” If anyone read the Bible and actually set out to prove if God exists, I bet David Xanatos would and could do it. Because he’s David Xanatos.
Here’s is the thing about Xanatos. I talked about how cool Elisa appeared to be in her introduction, but Xanatos is a totally different kind of cool. Elisa is someone you’d want to hang out with so maybe one day you can borrow her super-cool car. You get excited when Elisa likes your Facebook status because she has good taste. Xanatos, however, is the guy you said you’d never want to be but you secretly do. He’s got confidence spewing out of every orifice, and as a result he can play crabwalk dodgeball and still look completely suave. He’s just so damn sure of himself that even when he makes mistakes, they look like your mistakes because Xanatos couldn’t possibly make mistakes. It makes him hard to pin down when we first meet him—we feel like we shouldn’t like him because he’s so arrogant, but he’s so aware of his arrogance and okay with it that we do like him, because we admire that self-respect and contentment. It’s the same struggle our heroes are going to go through, and it’s very cool that it reflects what the audience is feeling.
A helicopter lands on the roof, prompting Xanatos to check it out and tell the gargoyles to “stay here.” Bet you can guess what they don’t do.
A bunch of armed dudes are on the roof and just…start…pointing guns. I mean, okay. Old Beard pretty much gives the absolute easiest excuse for an action sequence in the history of television: “They’re attacking the castle, that’s all we need to know!”
I will say that beyond an excuse, it’s a cool peek into the gargoyles’ mentality. Goliath touched on protecting the castle in the last episode, but this time we see that this is engrained in their brains, pretty much like instinct. We don’t contemplate why we need to blink, we just do it. The gargoyles are like that with being territorial, it’s just unusual to see because it’s coupled with our level of intelligence. We also get a few remarks about the castle being all they have left—so not only is this instinctive, it’s also a physical representation of their last attachment to the world. Literally everyone and everything they ever knew is gone as far as they know, except for this one castle. Of course they’ll protect it no matter what.
There’s a ridiculously long fight sequence from here pretty much until the end of the episode, complete with good quips (“”We’re battling sorcerers!”) and bad ones (“Are you a Viking?”). Here are a few highlights:
As ridiculous as it gets with the giant laser, this plays into the flashing red lights and crazy amount of debris we saw in first episode’s teaser—and we get to see it again with its much better animation. We also get the “street pizza” line again, because we definitely needed it.
The bad guys steal a package from inside and leave (though not before throwing a rock or something at Xanatos’ gun which inexplicably makes him drop it, like, into a parallel universe or something, since it just disappears.)
We get a cool character beat as the gargoyles see the helicopter—Old Beard immediately assumes it’s a dragon “without a doubt,” while Green recognizes it’s a machine of some sort. Old Beard is very old-fashioned, and more inclined to fully believe what he knows because he’s lived so long believing it. Green, on the other hand, has a keen eye and open-mind—yeah, a dragon would make sense, but there’s no reason to assume that’s still true 1,000 years later, and he can notice the details that show it’s something completely different. These are fairly basic character traits, but still new insights into their personalities we didn’t get in part one that will certainly play into their later character arcs.
Xanatos, after explaining away the random battle by saying he’s “very rich” and has enemies, thanks the gargoyles, only to have Goliath immediately compare him to the Captain. Gargoyles straight-up says he’ll never trust humans again, which is way extreme, but completely justified. Xanatos is still pretty sure he can win their trust, though, because Xanatos gets what he wants. Since the castle is still their home and they have nowhere else to go, the gargoyles decide to stay, despite its altitude.
Back on the street, Elisa decides to find out what’s going on. To be continued.
The first half of this episode is just dandy. Quite a lot happens, there’s tons of tragedy, and even more emotion as Goliath is stripped down to his very core. It’s so awful that it’s actually cathartic when he’s “permanently” turned to stone. While it isn’t as insanely complex as episode one, it still succeeds with bringing out great characterizations for Goliath, Magus and Catherine. Probably the reason I thought most of this episode took place in the past was because so much interesting stuff happened in that time period.
The second half? Not so much. Compared to episode one, which balanced out whole freaking lot of stuff, the back half of this episode feels like a lot padding. It started off strong when Xanatos arrived, feeling like it would be a nice break after the emotional torture we’d been getting, only to break out in a crazy action sequence for the sake of showing off the action. I mean, Gargoyles has plenty of action sequences to be sure, but this one didn’t really mean anything (at least not right now.) It’s cool to see the gargoyles react to all the new technology, I’ll give it that. But there’s still lots of time to get those reactions, and even after halfway through the battle they seemed to run out of clever ways to be surprised at the technology. It of course didn’t help that we had no idea what the bad guys were up to—yeah, that’s totally on purpose and will be explored next time, but it just means what we’re watching at the present is that much emptier.
That said, Xanatos’ introduction is very fun with its ambiguity, and injects a level of mystery we didn’t previously have. And, while the cliffhanger isn’t as emotionally resonant as part one’s, it reassures us that the super-cool cop chick with the sweet car will be prominent next time, and who doesn’t want that?