A Piece of Lawn Sculpture: “Awakening, Part Four”

The neverending series opener continues with another two-fold episode focusing on and contrasting the two women in Goliath’s life, old and new. Though there’s a whole lot of set-up for next week’s grand premiere finale (what?), we still have some thrilling action sequences to keep things interesting.

We open up with the main guard’s gun being way bigger than before for absolutely no reason, but whatever.

You know. Why not right?

From  the get-go, Elisa technically saves Goliath by absolutely kicking ass. Goliath does pick her up and run away, and he gets a big superhero moment by heroically gliding away from a blonde chick firing way more incessantly than necessary, but it’s Elisa who had to do the dirty work to free him up so he could do it.

I don’t even know if this is a real fighting move but DAMN.

Bottom line, they work together really well. The action in this scene makes it pretty evident that the animation of part one is back in full-force here, with fantastic fluidity and shadow and very beautiful designs.

Er…most of the time.

Meanwhile, the Trio is busy exploring the city and probably exploding more motorcycles, but complain that their wings are tired. Red gets the idea to hail a taxi, which doesn’t work since they’re fucking monsters, so they walk.

God they’re worse than DEER.

Back with Goliath and Elisa, they hide out under a bridge. Elisa finds a radio transmitter on Goliath, with a photo of a beetle that might be a company’s logo. Elisa sees an angry rabid stray dog nearby, but uses her dog whispering abilities to make the dog super friendly, teaching kids everywhere that putting your hand out to a starving wild animal will only make it love you. She puts the tracker on the dog to hopefully distract the people chasing them.

The more you know!

Hudson, meanwhile, is now watching TV and enjoying it, flipping through lots of random Disney references like The Lion King, and Dog gets annoyed at actual dogs on the TV for some reason. The only thing important about this scene is that Hudson says the sun is coming up soon and he’s worried.

I have a theory that the dog on the commercial is the same stray we saw on the street, whose life tragically spiraled into heavy drug use and loose women after achieving fame, until he burned all his connections and ended up homeless and penniless on the street.

The previous scene with the Trio does apparently turn out to be inconsequential, because they show up to the castle without delay anyway. They are, however, worried and wondering where Goliath is. That’s why you invest in cell phones, guys.

I’M BEAUTIFUL!

As it’s getting closer to sunrise, Goliath and Elisa make it to another part of the woods, when Elisa spots the armed guys walking down the path. Goliath “explains” the whole turning to stone thing in the most half-assed way possible, which is sitting down and actually doing it. In response, Elisa starts yelling in the face of a lifeless statue.

Reasonable plan.

Since that’s obviously fruitless, she jumps out and leads the armed guys away from Goliath. They say they’ll track Goliath with the transmitter later…which begs the question of why they hadn’t been doing that now, but eh. Elisa runs like hell, passing a creepy Alice in Wonderland statue, probably symbolizing how she “fell down the rabbit hole” and such. Which is cool, but after JJ Abrams’s adoration of Alice references these days, I think the TV world is sort of burnt out on that symbolism.

THE ISLAND IS SYDNEY BRISTOW’S PURGATORY IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE

Elisa hides under a table that completely shouldn’t hide her at all but somehow she isn’t seen.

“Nope I’m not gonna look below eye level ’cause there’s no way people would visibly crouch under a table!”

She still gets the upperhand by tripping up the dude from underneath, and steals his gun (which, if you look closely, apparently only fires tranqs.)

Tranqs propelled by gunpowder and mini-explosions, but it was the 90s I guess.

Elisa hides out in a cabin-y thing that’s of course filled with gasoline which the bad guys of course shoot up and cause an explosion. Did I mention that gun she stole already ran out of ammo? This really isn’t Elisa’s day. But luckily, she gets a big action hero moment.

JOHN MCCLANE’S GOT NOTHIN’ ON YOU (said completely unironically this time)

Elisa hides in the water, and shockingly, these armed guys aren’t total dunces, because they check for a body in the explosion instead of assuming she died. Which, sad as it is to say, is a lot smarter than most mooks on TV shows are. Elisa swims away like goddamn Aquaman, but can’t get any farther than the docks where the armed guys are standing.

LOOK AT THAT GREEN-ASS WATER

This is a very pulse-pounding moment as the bad guys are walking right on top of her, with their shadow looming over Elisa’s face. She manages to pull the exact same move she did on the other guy by tripping up one of the guards and running off in the mayhem. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Also running. Lots of running. Lots and lots and lots and lots of running.

Elisa makes it to a waterfall. I don’t know much about Manhattan geography, but is Central Park (or whatever this is) really this huge with waterfalls? I mean, I’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt here since I’ve only been to Manhattan once, but this seems kinda crazy. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, though.

Anyway, Elisa pulls another cool-ass move by hanging her jacket on a tree to distract the guard, before LEAPING ON AND WRESTLING HIM UNTIL HE PASSES OUT.

Like a goddamn tigress.

The last episode was an introduction to Elisa as a character, but this time it’s an introduction to her being a BADASS. What’s really great about Elisa’s action sequence is that, unlike the quip-heavy laser/taser/gargoyle battle in part two, this action sequence is very real, suspenseful and intimate. Elisa is our lone cowboy, out-of-breath and low on sleep, armed only with her wits against an entire force of armed fighters, and with no certain way out. She’s even been missing her gun (either the guards disarmed her or it hasn’t been replaced since Goliath crushed it—it isn’t clear, but either explanation is acceptable.)

Bullet-tranq gunner like a pro.

I know I’ve rambled on about how great Elisa is in these past two episodes, but it’s not out of previous admiration for the character; these two episodes just do a really, really good job at making her extremely likeable and interesting. Admittedly, she’s not as complex as other characters we’ve met and will meet, but that’s part of her appeal—she’s open, and what you see is what you get, but both what you see and get is awesome. We got a nice peek into her thought process last time, but now we get to see her in action and what she’s capable of in the worst of situations. It’s incredibly easy to root for her since we already know she’s a decent person, and it makes the stakes all the higher now because we desperately want her to win even with everything stacked against her.

You know like BEING COVERED IN GASOLINE.

She returns to the stone Goliath, where she notes that this was “’Lot to go through for a piece of lawn sculpture,” followed by a funny little scene with a runner confused that he never noticed a statue on that path. With the coast clear for now, Elisa hangs around and sleeps with Goliath.

WAIT NO NOT LIKE THAT, LIKE THIS.

That night, Goliath awakens and is surprised to see that Elisa stayed around to protect him from what Elisa calls “comic book rejects.” It’s a nice moment—they shake hands and establish that they’re even now.

And then he crushed her hand off.

While there’s no big “aha!” moment for Goliath to start trusting humans, it is a step for him to move closer to trusting them again. Elisa has proved herself, but it’s going to take much more to show that it’s not a fluke. They agree to see each other later that night, and part ways.

“Hellll yeah Imma get some pussaaaaaaaay.”

Goliath returns to the castle and informs his clan that they have enemies, while Xanatos and Owen ominously watch the exchange via video feed because they are definitely good guys.

Pure angels.

During the exchange, Hudson let’s it slip that he’s now named Hudson, and Blue’s…intimidated?

Like for real, what is that reaction?

They get over the shock and instead get excited at the prospects of naming. They use what they learned about the city locations last time and name themselves—Red chooses Brooklyn, Blue chooses Broadway, Green chooses Lexington, and I’m relieved to finally not list them as their colors four episodes in. Lexington asks, “Do…you like it?” after he names himself and it’s so cute and you want to pinch his cheeks. Brooklyn names the dog Bronx, who just walks away not giving a shit. Lex apparently doesn’t understand body language because he assumes Bronx likes it.

Exactly how I show appreciation. Walking away.

The exact reason they’re each named these names seems kind of random (Brooklyn is cool? Broadway is theatrical? I don’t know.) But it’s honestly not something I’ve looked into further, because it doesn’t really matter; we’ve already got a clear picture of these characters’ personalities, so its not like we need Broadway to be named “Gluttono” or something to clarify it. It’s also another testament to the originality of the show, that naming the major characters is a plot point so late in the game. It’s also goes to show just how quickly our leads are adapting to their new world and actually liking it, just as Goliath is easing back into trusting humans.

Owen shows up and summons Goliath to Xanatos. In a huge twist, Xanatos introduces Goliath to…DEMONA.

Totally no symbolism in this screencap.

I know this was ruined by the crappy shadow in the last episode, but enough time has passed that maybe you kinda sorta forgot. And seriously, his brief moment is insane. There’s a very off-putting zolly shot on Demona for one, which is rare enough to see in film and even rarer to see in animation. And then FUCKING THIS.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Let’s talk about this. I’ve been trying to sort through my feelings on whether I like how obvious the “Demona isn’t a good guy” hints are here. This show likes to go back and forth between being relatively subtle and overtly in-your-face (as much as I have a soft-spot the loud, epic instrumental score behind every episode, it is not nor will it ever be even remotely subtle) but it rarely shies away from being complex and smart with whatever way it chooses. So, this dark moment is really shocking for first-time watchers, and creates a sense of intrigue and suspense because we now know for sure that something big is about to go down. But the downside is that we’re immediately disconnected from Goliath’s journey—he doesn’t see the shadowy zoom on her eyes or hear the ominous music.

WHO FARTED?!

There isn’t really anything to make him suspicious, so while this moment is really good for the shock factor, we’re robbed from going on this journey with Goliath. However, I’m a little conflicted because of how this scene continues. Because, put simply, Goliath and Demona have a ton of chemistry. I mean, even Xanatos seems to be getting off from watching them stroke each other’s hair.

Yes…yeeees…keep stroking…

Keith David puts on a winning performance, and Marina Sirtis’s voice is noticeably high and very sweet. These guys are just so happy, and you want them to be happy together. In this sense, the “eeeevil!” glare before works, because now we as an audience really don’t want something to be up with Demona so Goliath can get some happiness, even though every fiber of our being is telling us that she’s obviously bad news, somehow.

Demona explains that back in 994 she left the castle to find Goliath before the sun rose. By the time she got back, the Magus had already turned the others to stone, so she did the same thing Goliath did and asked him to turn her to stone, too. Xanatos says he found her a year ago and added her to his private collection, and decided to take her to the top of the tower after Goliath and his friends woke up. Demona also says, “all the days I dreamed of this moment,” before the rest of the clan learns of the news.

I want to make fun of the hair stroking thing, but that’s such a cool element of gargoyle culture.

Note that this story has a lot of holes. Why was Demona gone so long before returning to the castle in 994? Wouldn’t this be written in the Magus’s book? How did Xanatos separately acquire Demona for his private collection a year earlier? How was Demona waiting for this moment “all the days” if she’s been stone, too? These are questions that could be explained, sure, but no one bothers to ask them because the gargoyles have no interest in looking a gift horse in the mouth. Goliath’s only interest is, “With you alive, I can start to live again as well.” The mixed emotions of the clan being happy and Demona being ominous are very off-putting and tense, but I’m not entirely sure it justifies the obvious “DEMONA’S EVIL OR SOMETHING!” moments.

Mostly because there’s ANOTHER EVIL EYE CLOSE-UP MOMENT.

Anyway, barring that discussion, Demona convinces Goliath to help Xanatos retrieve the disks stolen back in part two, if nothing else out of gratitude for reuniting them. Xanatos recaps the three video game levels the disks are being held in by Cyberbiotics.

GUYS LOOK AT LEX’S FACE.

Goliath and Demona take the air fortress, while the Trio takes the tower, resulting in them saying “cool,” which they explain indicates a positive response. Goliath is just like, “…Okay.” Hudson is sent to the underground base with Bronx, which he isn’t happy about.

NO REALLY, WHO FARTED?!

Goliath’s excuse is that Bronx “needs the exercise” which…uh…okay, sure. Also, Xanatos is all evil again.

Standard Xanatos screencap for every page about him on the internet.

We get another exchange between Goliath and Demona being lovey-dubby and talking about dreams coming true and shit that makes us single folks want to strangle ourselves. But again, it’s a very nice scene coupled with an air of ominous because of all these evil eyes and music. Hell, we even see Xanatos watching them evilly as they fly off.

When will my reflection show…
Who I am inside?

So, this weird mix certainly adds an effect of suspense we wouldn’t otherwise have. But the reason all this obvious evil bothers me spawns from the scenes following Goliath and Demona’s arrival to the big Cyberbiotics airfortress. Their entrance is really cool—it’s all very quiet and without dialogue as Demona and Goliath get caught in the air currents and have trouble getting up there, and the animation is spot on. Well, except for Goliath at one point stopping midair, changing his course and flying (not gliding) in the opposite direction the air currents that should be carrying him.

GLIDING DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT

Anyway, when they get into the airship, Demona makes some brief quips about guards “throwing away their lives” to protect their disks, meaning it’s a-ok to kill them. Goliath is noticeably weirded out by this—and it’s exactly what makes the previous hints about Demona’s evilness bother me so much. Before, her evil glares and creepy music were only things the audience saw or felt. Goliath is finally picking up on these hints because they’re actually tangible in the Gargoyles world, and not Gargoyles the TV show that we’re watching.

“Dear god…SHE farted?!”

But since we’ve spent the last 10 minutes getting moment after moment of ominousness from Demona, Goliath seems kind of slow for not picking up on it (even though there’s no way he really could have.) This very subtle moment right here could have been an amazing first hint at something being wrong with Demona, and we’d be right along with Goliath in thinking, “hold up…what?” So if you didn’t catch the holes in her story before, this would be the first clear indication to the audience that “YES YOU SHOULD BE WARY.” And it’d be even stronger, because we’re in the heat of battle, which makes it all the more scary when we consider she could be a traitor or a clone or robot or psycho or whatever. But instead, we’ve been readied to expect it before Goliath does, and it cheapens the moment. It made the earlier scenes slightly more interesting because they were a little more ominous, but I don’t know how much it was worth it.

Anyway, Goliath continues to think Demona’s behavior is risky. The sequence with the big-nosed guard freaking out in the smoke is very creepy as Demona and Goliath both stalk the guy like monsters (one reason why this show is awesome.)

Just poke him in the eye with your nose, bro.

Demona decides to drop the now-unconscious guy off the ship to his death, prompting Goliath to stop her, saying, “To kill in the heat of battle is one thing, but not like this.”

“I’m not the one who farted–it was HIM!”

Wow. This kids’ show openly justified killing in certain circumstances. And you think your kids shows are edgy, 2012? In any case, the growing tension between Goliath and Demona is very, very good.

Meanwhile, the Trio in the tower are, of course, totally excited about all the “magic in this century” (aka 90s technology.) There’s a fairly humorous sequence where they don’t understand why the elevator here is different from the elevator at the castle (because the car is on another floor.) They decide to use the rope to slide down, because gargoyles don’t get rope burn I guess.

I was a beast at this in gym class.

…And then the doors open up to a shitton of guns pointed at them.

Oops.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Oh.

Uh…yeah, this episode just kind of stops when it runs out of time. The cliffhangers at the end of parts two and three aren’t exactly pulse-pounding, but they do function well as partial closure and a launching point into the next episode. It definitely wouldn’t be a problem viewing this in its movie form, but as an individual episode, it doesn’t work so well. That doesn’t hurt the episode’s content at all, it’s just not a very good ending place.

One thing I want to make clear is that, while I was pretty negative this time around, this is still a really strong, enjoyable episode. The problem is that, by nature of what it is, there wasn’t too much substance to talk about outside of the Demona reveal, which is unfortunately flawed. But that doesn’t muck up the entire episode, or the theme.

Like part two, we got two plotlines for each half of the episode, one of which is mostly an action sequence. But this time the two plots complement each other really well thematically—comparing the two women in Goliath’s life. Elisa is a stranger, and of a race Goliath can’t bring himself to trust. But she still manages to prove her loyalty without asking for a reward, simply because it’s the right thing to do, and she knows Goliath is a good guy.

Just wanted a reason to use this cool screencap. Carry on.

On the other hand, Goliath’s old and supposedly “true” love of his own race, Demona, progressively shows more and more that she’s reckless, doesn’t share the same ideals as Goliath, and isn’t being completely truthful. It’s not a perfect parallel, but it works—one is risking her life for Goliath, while the other is quite frankly closer to putting his life in danger. It’s confusing for Goliath now and is leading to a very conflicted climax in the opening five-parter’s conclusion, and will likely be conflicting and emotionally confusing for us, too.

Or at least it would be if we didn’t already get so many damn shots of Demona being eeeeevil.

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2 thoughts on “A Piece of Lawn Sculpture: “Awakening, Part Four”

  1. It’s very late right now, so I might be a bit garbled or…I don’t know. Not-so-intelligent-sounding. But MAN! I just finished reading through three of these blog posts, and I’m thoroughly addicted! I love your insight to each episode, and your witty quips, and basically everything~
    I used to watch Gargoyles back when I was a derpy pre-teen, and thought little more of the show other than, essentially, “FUCK YEAH, GARGOYLES!”
    I never did get over my enthusiasm for the show, but I really only ever looked at it through the eyes of kid-me.
    Now that I’m in my late 20’s and internet nostalgia is in style, I finally take a step back to look at Gargoyles in a different light. Which, honestly, I may not have ever done if it weren’t for this blog. 🙂 It’s really kind of amazing to have these memories and impressions of the show from my days of naive youth, and then take all that and compare it to NOW, with all the things you’re pointing out, and all the very “adult” themes that Gargoyles really deals with. I always knew the show was a lot darker than your average kid’s cartoon, but I think I’m really understanding just how complex and FLIPPING AWESOME it really is. (And also on exactly how many different levels)
    Basically what I’m trying to say is; While I’ve always loved this show, you’ve put it in a totally new light for me. If at all possible I adore Gargoyles even more steadfastly then ever, and I really, really look forward to reading your future articles.
    Thanks for writing great things, (really, I love your style!) and thanks for bringing me back to my roots.

    • Wow! Thanks a bunch! That was exactly why I wanted to make this blog–to get more people to revisit the show and realize just how well done it was and inspire some further thoughts on it. I’m so glad it’s working for you, and thanks again for the kind words!

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