If the copious amount of action last time was too much for you, here’s a chance for the complete opposite in an episode that functions as Elisa’s big introduction. Seriously, there’s lots of talking and pretty landscapes and only one little explosion that was a total accident. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good, or packed with enough shipper-fuel to drive a truck cross-country.
We actually start of right in the thick of things—Elisa is in the middle of grilling Owen for answers, who gives some excuse about generators blowing up.
Elisa doesn’t take his crap, quickly citing how she heard automatic weapons being fired. We’re not even a minute into the episode and already she’s winning us over with her intelligence and straightforwardness. We also get a cute little smile from Owen after she gets the upper hand, a rarity for him.
Xanatos pops in, and even in his swoon-worthy presence she doesn’t choke—she grills him even harder than Owen. Xanatos, in turn, is surprisingly upfront; he acknowledges that the generator thing was solely for the press, and in reality he was totally attacked by an invading force. When she calls him out on how dumb that is since he’s just a company, Xanatos asserts that his company is bigger than some countries.
This whole exchange is well-handled, because we’ve got two characters who are very smart in completely different ways (Business vs. streetwise, Knowing how to mess with people vs. knowing how people really work.) Instead of playing some game of chess, they’re totally straight to each other because they know playing the game either way will be fruitless, since the other person is too smart for it. I don’t know if Jonathan Frakes and Salli Richardson were in the same room when they recorded, but it feels like they were considering how well they play off one another.
Meanwhile, the trio finds the kitchen. You know, filled with food (you BETCHA Hungry Blue gets a fat joke in there) and also lots of loud things. So shenanigans ensue.
It isn’t a totally inconsequential scene (I TOLD YOU GUYS!) because Xanatos goes to check it out and sends Elisa away. Though not before she sees a stone gargoyle standing and notes that she saw it move. Even though a) he isn’t moving and b) he totally isn’t stone, but whatever. After Owen puts her on the elevator, Elisa, being a quick-thinker, has the crazy daring and clever idea of pushing a button to another floor.
Elisa explores the castle a bit, throwing out quips to herself about heating bills and Dracula, like she’s some crazy person (and also so the scene isn’t as boring.)
She makes her way back to the roof, where the gargoyle Dog shows up, being all growl-y and intimidating. Then Goliath shows up and crushes her gun, being even more intimidating.
So intimidating, in fact, that Elisa falls off the edge of the castle to her death, giving Goliath yet another horrific tragedy on his conscious.
Just kidding, obviously. Goliath catches her in his big romantic Superman moment. He also flies RIGHT over people, but I guess we can ignore that.
When they land, Elisa gives him a look of “Oooooo…?” and he gives her the spiel about being a gargoyle and all that. What’s really funny here is that Goliath is just kinda fed up with humans always needing saving, so while he’s certainly polite to Elisa, he’s openly annoyed about being in the situation. He doesn’t come off as rude, just exhausted. Keith David has a wonderful delivery when Elisa asks if there’s more of them, with a very distinct inhale followed by “Barely.” It’s not exactly subtle, but we aren’t beaten over the head with angst. Goliath is just really tired and pretty much done with life (which makes his experiences with Elisa in this episode and the next all the more important.) We also get a definitive explanation: that gargoyles can’t fly, but only glide. Because of this, Goliath has to climb up the building with Elisa on his back.
Goliath tells her to “Please, don’t fall off the building this time,” which is just freakin’ hilarious. The other gargoyles show up, acting like excited children as they get in her face and ask question after question. It’s actually really cute, and Red even sniffs her.
There’s some exposition here from both sides, but it’s handled really well; the gargoyle stuff is recapped quickly, while Elisa’s life as a detective is broken down in a way that highlights what the gargoyles are searching for at this point. She’s a good guy who fights bad guys under the justice system, but the justice system is run by humans, who the gargoyles don’t think they can trust. So how can they, as gargoyles, be good or bad when the way good and bad is defined now is by a human justice system? Also, the way Goliath says “De-tec-tive?” is glorious.
Since Goliath saved her life, Elisa agrees to teach them about the city in return. Goliath randomly yells that she has to go now, but it’s really unclear as to why—whether he senses Xanatos coming or if the sun coming up soon—and it’s kind of a weird moment. But regardless, one of the best parts of Elisa here is just how calm and accepting she is of this whole situation.
Actually, let’s backtrack—she totally freaks out at first, as any normal human being would. So she’s not unrealistic, but she’s both intelligent and open-minded enough to realize that “smart, talking creatures who save my life = good.” I’d say it shows how she’s very trusting, but I don’t think that’s it—her insight into the explosions and her straightforwardness with Xanatos showed how well she could read into things and pick up on the details. So she can read the gargoyles well and realizes they’re just people (albeit a different species of people) that need some help. There’s always that portion of people who look at any issue with discrimination and say, “What’s the big deal? We’re all just people.” Elisa is one of them, and I’d argue her attitude makes her one of the best role models on the show.
Elisa and Goliath also have some great banter in the scene (“Why were you sneaking into the castle?”/ “A good detective trusts no one.”/ “That’s one thing we have in common.”) The dialogue in this entire episode is really, really good, in fact. It flows nicely with what’s essentially a non-existent narrative plot, just because it’s so engaging. The animation, facial expressions and subtle movements are great throughout, too; Elisa does an adorable little hair sweep before she says “tomorrow, after dark” that doesn’t have much deeper meaning, but still adds color to her actions. Part one still had the best animation thus far, but this episode has enough nuance in the movement that it makes up for some occasionally spotty designs.
Anyway, Xanatos calls Goliath into his office and reveals it was his disks that were stolen in the last episode, by a place called Cyberbiotics. Xanatos describes the disks to Goliath as being the equivalent of “magic talismans containing numbers of spells.”
Something of note here is that Xanatos makes a good case for why he can’t get the cops involved and such. But there’s a sense that he’s being a little too open and welcoming, thanks to Frakes’s borderline condescending delivery. It doesn’t feel like Xanatos is lying, but it does feel like he’s trying to sweet-talk Goliath. I think Goliath picks up on it, but there’s not much to do since you can’t exactly call someone out on sounding too nice.
Again the dialogue is great here, with Goliath’s surprise over the TV and referring to it as a “living tapestry,” and Xanatos noting that his naiveté is refreshing. Xanatos lays out the three places the disks are being held and their fortifications, basically setting it up like one big videogame. Goliath doesn’t want to put his charges in danger since this real life videogame is different than protecting a castle, but he considers it.
After Goliath leaves, a vague shadow appears and Xanatos says, “Everything’s going according to plan.”
Yeah, cool as an act break as that is…why is the shadow so obvious? It’s really bothersome, since it ruins the surprise by having an awkward half-reveal here. Either full-on reveal her, or keep it secret, considering nothing more happens with it in this episode, anyway.
The next night, the trio goes exploring so they can get into more wacky adventures. Goliath meets with Elisa, and Old Beard shows up to make sure Goliath wasn’t being ambushed, since they’re all paranoid and stuff. There’s more banter here, as Elisa gets chastised for naming everything. The exchange is really funny, actually:
“Must you humans name everything? Nothing’s real to you until you’ve named it, given it limits.”
“It’s not like that it’s just…well…things need names.”
“Does the sky need a name. Does the river?”
“The river’s called the Hudson.”
Since he’s old and just wants the argument to end, he goes with naming himself Hudson, like the lazy gargoyle he is. (RIP Old Beard, you’ll forever be the name in my headcanon.) This is a cool exchange in any case; we don’t really have a reason for naming people other than it just making things easier to identify, but it’s certainly hard to explain. These little bits of culture collisions the gargoyles have, especially involving things that are ingrained in humans thanks to our society, are some of the best parts of this show.
Anyway, Goliath and Elisa start getting all chummy.
Hudson, however, gives them the best glare.
Despite how hilarious the moment is, it’s worth noting that Hudson decides to stay in the castle because he finds the world “too big, too bright, too loud.” We’re definitely getting a grasp of his character by now—he’s the standard “old guy who doesn’t like new things,” sure, but the jaded warrior aspect gives it a tinge of originality. Also, he’s still Ed Asner, so come on.
Elisa and Goliath go flying around on what’s more or less their first date. It’s also an excuse to show off the beautifully painted and sometimes animated Manhattan, which I have to admit is incredibly well-rendered and quite beautiful.
The wording Goliath uses to describe the city (“towers of glass and iron”) is beautiful and precise, showing off a great poetic prowess we haven’t tapped into quite yet. Elisa notes that the biggest worries aren’t from outside, but inside—a big theme in the first season.
Meanwhile, Hudson and Dog discover the American Dream: a Home Entertainment Center. Except the TV has loud, bad-haired, and half-shirted rock music, which shows how old Gargoyles is since there are still music videos being played on TV. This causes Hudson and Dog to topple over and literally run away screaming in another absolutely hysterical moment.
In the city, a couple named Margot and Brendan pull over when their car breaks down. Margot is pretty much established as the most non-ambiguously evil and sadistic villain in the entire series. That’s not just a play on Marina Sirtis voicing her, I mean she’s just a horrible person. It sets up the episode where Brendan snaps and the gargoyles have to stop him before he blows up New York in an ill-gotten attempt to prove to his wife that he isn’t worthless (I’m sure we’ll see it whenever the comics get relaunched.)
Then some hooligans show up being all 90s equal opportunity hooligin-y…
…and Margot LOCKS HER HUSBAND OUT OF THE CAR.
Elisa shows up, being awesome and totally confident, and leads the muggers away from Brendan and his hellspawn wife. The end up in the alley, where they face Goliath. Naturally, their first reaction is “MONSTER!” And then their second reaction is “Trash it!”
Of course, the hooligans get beat up and Brendan and Margot run away. Elisa says that she thinks Goliath is the best thing to happen to the city in a long time, cueing a cute little romantic piano/superhero-y theme that’s quite adorable.
Elsewhere, the trio get totally entranced by a dude on a motorcycle
like what men on motorcycles do to me. Green flies down to check out his bike, and of course the driver gets mildly freaked out by the flying, bald, giant-headed bat thing that’s talking to him.
The driver falls off his bike and runs away (wow, a lot of running away happens in this episode.) Green tries to drive it and…crashes it and blows it up. Damn garg’ drivers.
It’s worth noting that while Red and Blue just find the motorcycle really cool, Green is innately interested in how it works. Coupled with his “dragon” comment in part two, it’s becoming more and more clear that he’s going to have the easiest time adapting to the new world just because of his interest in how it all works. The trouble is when his curiosity is to a fault and he blows stuff up.
Back with Goliath and Elisa, they have a discussion about how ugly the world is—Goliath is still convinced humans aren’t worth saving, which Elisa somehow isn’t offended by. Although, maybe she is, because she sort of indirectly calls him ugly when she compares him to the city, which she says has an “ugly face,” which could be taken as pretty passive-aggressive. But it’s okay, because she also gives a nice little speech on the beauty and good people you can find in the city as well. So her “beauty on the inside” analogy would make sense, if Goliath wasn’t such a fucking stud already.
Then Goliath gets tranqed by the armed guys from the last episode, completely out of nowhere. TO BE CONTINUED.
An episode with no action and that spends most of its time recapping the plot and discussing the show’s themes should not be that good, but this manages to be incredibly engaging. It’s honestly less boring than the big explosive action sequence in the last episode. A big part of it is, like I mentioned, the dialogue. There’s a whole lot of talking this time, but the characters’ voices are all incredibly distinct, and when those distinct voices play off of each other, the banter is really entertaining. Every conversation has some tinge of annoyance, or frustration, or inner turmoil, or manipulation, and even the happy talks are great fun. Elisa talking about being a detective doesn’t sound like it’d be that interesting, but her precision with breaking it down and the gargoyles’ reactions and subsequent comments are very entertaining. Not to mention the talking is balanced out with a ton of humor, and all the jokes land.
The meat of the episode is the character interaction; we got lots of insight into the relationships between Goliath and Elisa, Hudson and Goliath/Elisa, Xanatos and Goliath, and the Trio and the world around them. It’s all immensely engaging, and turns what could have been a snorefest into a fun little romp that helps us learn a whole heckuva lot about everybody. Even the art and animation has improved since part two, meaning this entire episode overall is top-notch, and far exceeds part two in nearly every way. The cliffhanger is a bit out of the blue, but it’s also a big promise that there will be some action to come. But unlike last time, the action will actually matter.