Holy crap, this episode is good. The bad guys, the good guys, but especially the bad guys. Also robots and explosions and lasers and rocket launchers and collapsing castles. And lots of crying and yelling and face-touching. No, really. It’s great.
Before we start, it seems I made a minor booboo from the beginning—I was trying to only name specific characters after they’ve been named, because I thought it would be clever/important to emphasize how long it is before characters are named. But somehow, I hallucinated that Demona’s name was given in episode one and have been calling her that this entire time. In reality, we haven’t actually heard her name once, and in fact the reveal of her name is kind of a big deal. Granted, every reader here probably knows her name already, but still. I’m going to pretend we don’t know it for right now (she’ll be Lady Gargoyle/Lady Garg/Lady G) because it’s just that worth it.
We open up with the Trio scampering off from bullets that are sometimes animated like lasers, throwing out a “Sorry, wrong floor” quip and climbing onto the next level. They then proceed to burst through the floor into the room underneath, which is a pretty cool move.
They grab the disk from the computer in that room after scaring the bejesus out of the scientists. Broadway then proceeds to…
rip an entire server out of the ground…
and…throw it out of a window.
Meanwhile, there’s a dude with a cool captain hat at the underground base, and after hearing reports of monsters breaking into their other locations, they begin increasing security. This is minor, but I really love the echo that’s going on in this underground chamber. It’s great attention to detail for a scene that’s relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
Meanwhile, Hudson and Bronx are sneaking through the tunnels. Some guards ambush Hudson after spotting him on the video cameras, and they blind him with a light.
Hudson immediately surrenders, wagering that gargoyles aren’t bulletproof—again, a nice detail for the scene. However, Bronx bursts in and starts thrashing them, allowing Hudson time to go to the computer, which he’s completely confused by.
Luckily, Hudson has learned an important American technique: hit shit!
A fun little chase sequence follows, with Hudson remarking how he’s “too old for this [shit]” and does his John McClane moves until he escapes on a subway. They catch the air current and fly away, with Hudson telling Bronx, “You need to be losing some weight, and that’s a fact!” So now fat jokes for the dog is a thing? Why did that start being a thing?
Back on the airship, Goliath and Lady Gargoyle burst into the main room and grab the disk without even trying. Instead of leaving with a clean win, Lady G decides to rip out a wire and electrocute a…thing.
It’s apparently bad, because it sets it on fire and fills the room with smoke, meaning the guards are suffocating, struggling to put out the fire and fly the ship. So you know, not a great time to be playing Galaga on your shift. Goliath, not being a dick, doesn’t want to leave the people to burn, but Lady G pulls him off, and then the entire fucking airship BLOWS UP AND LANDS IN THE RIVER.
And yeah, we see people jumping off into the water. We see some people jumping into the water. But there is no way everyone survived considering how many people were on the ship. No freaking way. And, though it’s been hammered over our heads that we should expect our resident female gargoyle to be up to something, it’s still shocking to see her commit something so heinous. It doesn’t feel like it, since it’s a big futuristic airship full of faceless people and we don’t see anyone literally burning to a crisp, and that’s why it gets past the Disney censors just fine. But she committed an act of terrorism. She only did it to show that she’s the Big Man, and she can and will kill everyone, all just to scare Cyberbiotics (or really, humanity in general) and show that she’s got the power.
There was no other ulterior motive; the mooks on the ship weren’t even a threat. It’s a really powerful way to truly get us to understand the gravity of what’s going on, without making it gratuitous or too intimate (like if we actually saw her murder someone with her bare hands.)
It’s even more apparent when we see Elisa coincidentally witness the explosion from afar (though I assume it’s hard to miss.) She’s in complete horror of what she’s just seen.
But even worse, it was the gargoyles she trusted that had a hand in it, which only adds to the brilliant tension here. As much as we see stuff explode in movies, if you witness mass destruction first-hand, it’s terrifying. This is a big damn deal and a major turning point.
The clan returns the disks to Xanatos, and he’s like “Cool,” and leaves without much fanfare.
Goliath tells Lady Garg that he’s going to visit his “friend” Elisa (I’ll get to that in a minute) and Lady G goes off on him for it. You could infer that maybe she’s jealous of him meeting with another woman, but honestly, I don’t think she’s even considering that at this point. She’s obsessed with humanity sucking, and that’s her reason for being pissed; I doubt she even considers Elisa as a threat to their relationship. Hell, Lady G doesn’t really seem to give a shit about her relationship with Goliath right now since he doesn’t agree on the “KILL ALL HUMANS!” mentality.
“I cannot make war upon an entire wooooorld,” Goliath says, with a maybe-slightly-kinda over-the-top delivery from Keith David, but it’s still Goliath-y so it works. He even brings up how “Xanatos proves there are good humans”…the poor naïve big guy. Even more interesting is how Lady G still totally writes him off, wanting to have “blood for blood” and wipe out all the descendents of humans. Disproportionate retribution, much? Goliath harshly tells her straight up that she’s become hard and unforgiving and she isn’t how he remembers her. Contrast this to almost directly after, where he, again, compassionately refers to Elisa as his friend. This is a small moment, but it’s a brilliant time to establish Goliath’s rebuilding trust, just as he openly tears down his lover because he’s losing trust in her. Goliath goes through a whole helluva lot of development in this opening five-parter, doesn’t he?
Xanatos is watching all this, again, and notes that Goliath is too hard to control now, and it’s a pity.
Goliath meets with a Elisa, who reveals a) She’s heard of the Cyberbiotics thefts; b) The logo on the tracer she found in part three belongs to a robotics firm owned by Xanatos Enterprises; and c) She double-checked and found out the disks were Cyberbiotics’s property, not Xanatos’s.
It’s really unlikely that Elisa got all this policework done in the span of what had to be, like, an hour (she could have spent the day researching the logo, but the thefts just happened.) But despite that, this is some massive plot momentum we’re getting here. Xanatos is the bad guy, and he’s been totally playing the Gargoyles all along. We’ve suspected it, with all the dark shadows and ominous music, but it’s proven now. There’s a great tension that builds throughout this episode as the villains become more and more exposed, and we know it’s going to lead to a big climax. And boy, does it. But we’ll get to that in a second.
Elisa does this really great face-hold thing to convince Goliath to trust her, even though he’s been betrayed by humans again.
There’s already a really nice connection between these two, but even that doesn’t cut into the palpable tension. And then we dissolve to…
Back with Xanatos, he talks all evil-y about the gargoyles outliving their usefulness and how he’ll wait until they sleep at dawn to kill ‘em all, which would be a crappy way to end all this. Luckily, Lady G shows up to keep the plot moving, telling him not to because he needs to test the “replacements.” Now the two bad guys are working together, and they’re totally a potential ‘ship! I MEAN LOOK:
We cut to the Trio (remember how they exist?) basically explaining their characters in one (slightly edited) panoramic screencap.
Oh, but don’t worry, fucking ROBOTS show up.
Suddenly we’re all wondering what the hell we’re watching, because this show went from magical medieval fantasy to gritty urban action-fantasy to ROBOTS.
It’s definitely a way to prime new viewers for the “WE CAN DO ANYTHING” approach the show takes. The only thing crazier than this would be finding out the Loch Ness Monster exists or something.
The robots trash the Trio, probably because the robots are fucking robots. Xanatos even says it: “Steel instead of stone, don’t sleep during the day, they can fly instead of glide, and, best of all, they’re 100 percent obedient.”
Goliath has another Superman moment and makes the Trio look terrible by blowing up the robot REALLY FAST.
Hudson and Bronx run out asking what all the noise is about. Which…a little late, guys. It’s cool though, because Bronx grabs a robot, drags it out of the air by its tail, and then Hudson shows up and slices through the robot’s face with his sword. (Also he has the exact same Keith David yell from episode 1, but eh.)
Elisa overhears the commotion (she’s got a radar for “shit blowing up,” apparently) and runs in past the guard yelling, “Police business!”
Goliath flies two robots into another, causing them to explode super-easily in true 90s fashion. The bad guys have to dodge the debris, and Xanatos reveals that his robots are called the “Steel Clan,” which is too damn cool. With one robot left, the bad guys…leave. Broadway and Lex wake up just in time to get out of the way, while Goliath and Brooklyn chuck a piece of the castle on the last robot, crushing it. There’s a quip about how “And they say the middle ages were barbaric!” and then Brooklyn says “Dude,” to Goliath’s utter confusion.
But during the comic relief, Lady Garg struts in, calls them all fools, and has a BIG FUCKING ROCKET LAUNCHER.
And it’s an utterly fantastic act break. Seriously, this episode basically packs in all the revelations, twists, and plot collision we expect typical season finales to have—except this “season” has only been a five-episode opener. It’s built on everything we’ve seen so far, turned it on its head, and now we’re seeing the results of where everything was headed, even with only five episodes under our belts. There’s just been so much packed into these opening episodes, and this climax is really really good.
Goliath, of course, is slightly weirded out by his girlfriend FIRING FUCKING ROCKETS AT HIM, while Xanatos staves off the rest of the clan with his laser to let them “play off their little drama.” She calls Goliath a fool once again, this time twisting the knife by adding, “but then you always were, weren’t you?”
But here’s where it stings. She reveals she made a bargain with the Captain in 994—they were going to make sure the gargoyles were out of the castle and let the Vikings in so they could sack it. If Goliath had been “smarter” and taken his whole clan away, they’d have the castle all to themselves after the humans were kidnapped by the Vikings. But the way she stayed alive is “Because I didn’t trust [the Captain]…I don’t trust anyone!” When Goliath asks why, she says “You can ask me that? After how they treated us, they had to pay. All humanity had to pay for what they did to our kind!” Goliath tells her none of this would have happened if it weren’t for her, but she just shrugs it off.
I’ve broken down the dialogue in this episode way more than normal, I know. But it’s impeccable. Lady G here is seriously off the deep end, it’s obvious. But she wasn’t totally in the wrong before; she was treated badly, and she and the Captain were only working in the gargoyles’ best interests. It’s just that those interests were selfish and revenge-ridden, thanks to their egos. But while the Captain got off fairly easy and just kind of went with the whole villain thing, Lady G lost everything, and did not accept that she did anything wrong. She’s blaming it all not only on the Captain, but also Goliath. She’s blaming it on the guy who had no idea what was going on! And it’s every bit of it. The Captain might have tried to brush off his guilt on Goliath to make himself look better, but she wholeheartedly believes it was Goliath’s fault. She blames herself for absolutely nothing. It’s a wonderful explanation for her turn to villainy—just an evolution from stubbornness to pure hatred to total insanity, all based on her inability to admit fault. And frankly, it’s heartbreaking. She dug her own grave, but blames the shovel.
Goliath notes he’s aware that there’s good and evil in everyone—which, small of a moment as that is, it’s a really big development for him. This is exactly what the entire five-parter has been leading up to. Your race doesn’t determine your morality. You don’t have to trust everyone, but you don’t have to trust no one. Goliath’s seen every shade of both human and gargoyle, and all of them are shades of gray.
Lady G continues talking about how “Humanity is a poison that must be purged from this planet” (foreshadowing?) and that she wants to create a new world for her kind. Goliath starts crying and completely rejects her, and hot damn is all this emotional.
This scene is phenomenal in every way. The reaction shots, the line delivery, and even the music shifts back and forth from sweet, romantic music to dark and creepy throughout the exchange.
Goliath’s rejection leads Lady G to declare, “If you are not my ally, then you are my enemy.” And then she tells Goliath that the humans gave her a name too—Demona. And suddenly there are chills.
Then Elisa shows up and TACKLES Demona, continuing to be a goddamn tigress.
The rocket fires into the air and causes a part of the castle to collapse, and both Elisa and Demona fall off the building.
Goliath grabs Elisa just in time, but Demona falls…slowly…to her maybe-possibly death. And then we this moment from Goliath…
Unlike his scream of anger and turmoil in part one, this is him being broken. He can’t even let out a proper roar of rage. He just shakes and nearly falls to his knees. At least, until he grabs Xanatos, and tells him, “She wanted me to destroy humanity…I think I’ll start with you!”
And then, Xanatos taunts him! Like, seriously guys, this is completely, utterly, insanely intense. Elisa stops Goliath and convinces him to not be the same as Demona (I guess she overheard Demona announce her name…?) Hudson arrives and supports her, and thanks to who seem to be the two people Goliath trusts and respects the most in the world now, Goliath finally drops Xanatos.
I guess Elisa reported the thefts to her comrades and left out the medieval monsters/rocket launchers/lasers/robots part, because Xanatos gets arrested. Elisa and Goliath discuss not knowing if Demona survived or not, but they’ll definitely know soon if she did. Also, Bronx returns Brooklyn his cool-guy sunglasses, which break, and Brooklyn decides to be a hipster instead.
Oh, and there’s our last Broadway fat joke for these opening episodes. However, he jokes that he ate Chinese food, but for some reason an hour later was hungry again. Which…is actually plenty funny, so I’m okay with it.
Elisa says she hopes Goliath has more friends, but she will always be his. She tells him she’ll be back same time tomorrow, and that maybe they’ll catch a Giants game, which Goliath takes completely literally and is forced to sleep with this face:
Elisa remarks, “I wonder if this city’s ready for you guys?” which probably refers to the rocket launchers and lasers and robots. And finally, we end an episode without a “To be continued”!
I’d say this is right up there with part one as the best of this five-parter. However, I was unimpressed with the animation and designs overall (though there were certainly some strengths, like Demona’s confrontation with Goliath.) But despite that, both episodes have a steady (but not boring) pace, establish numerous beats for multiple characters, have extremely beautifully-written dialogue and memorable lines, and mix action with drama and gut-punching emotion. With this episode, there are a handful some tiny logic slip-ups, but they’re all pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
The thing that pushes it over part one storywise, though, is the fact that we already know the characters at this point. No one’s being introduced, but there is certainly some massive character development for Goliath and Demona, defining moments for Xanatos, and an evolution of the relationships between Goliath, Demona and Elisa.
Even though we don’t have Demona’s whole story yet, we understand her enough to realize just how tragic her story is. She’s her own victim because of a classic Shakespearean tragic flaw, right up there with Hamlet, Othello, Lear, etc. She actually is her own worst enemy, and it turns her into the most dangerous villain of the series. In contrast, Goliath learns from all of this, realizing how wrong he is to judge and fully trust any race so completely. Nothing is black and white, and it took him five episodes and 1000 years to come to that conclusion.
For me, character development tends to be much more interesting than character introductions, no matter how well the latter is done. So ignoring the animation, in terms of plot, character, pacing and acting I’d say this episode is the best of the five-parter. Part three was extremely solid, but this episode encapsulates everything great about the show: mixing insanely unrealistic sci-fi/fantasy action with strong, emotional characterization and realistic character development. The villains are interesting, the heroes are likeable and consistent, and the plot is unpredictable but still clicks.
Not too shabby for the conclusion to such a long pilot. Now we finally get to see how well the show fares in its regular episodic structure. (Spoiler: it works fine.)