No More Than Animals: “The Thrill of the Hunt”

It’s been way too long, hasn’t it? Unfortunately, this blog was a causality of the collision of of the necessities of life and money versus fun. There has to be a bit of a balance between the things you do for profit and the things you do for joy. That’s sort of the theme of this week’s villains: making money is great, but you have to do something for fun, too. Though, I guess there’s a difference between running a blog and hunting down sentient creatures with crazy death traps, in this first episodic standalone adventure.

We open up back at the castle tower, where Owen escorts Elisa up; it seems that despite her busting Xanatos and ruining his “kill everyone” plan, he “doesn’t hold a grudge” and therefore has no desire to deny her seeing the gargoyles.

This is what she likes to see, apparently?

It’s a really cool insight into Xanatos’s mindset—he isn’t being a villain because he’s evil, and he’s not a sore loser either. He was just doing his own thing, it failed, so now he’s going to have to do new things. Actually, we can pull a whole lot from this “you beat me, no big deal” reaction and events later in the episode as proof that Xanatos isn’t actually a villain so much as a very basic antagonist, in the sense that he creates conflict, but not specifically for nefarious reasons (y’know, except for when he is.) He doesn’t hold any malice, his plan just happen to involve the gargoyles getting screwed over, so when he’s defeated he understands that a piece of his plans didn’t work. Elisa watches the clan wake up, and everyone but Goliath is like “oh hey” before flying off, fascinated by the things they see on TV (not, like, the actual world or anything.)

I count myself lucky having a TV in my room, because having to GLIDE OFF OF MY TOWER right after I wake up to watch something might get irritating.

Goliath is happy because the castle is “truly ours” after “defeating” Xanatos. Elisa tries to get through to him that Xanatos was only convicted for receiving stolen property, and therefore only has a six-month sentence in prison. She’s confident the lawyers will manage to cut it down, surprised it wasn’t already suspended. After that, Xanatos will be out, and since he legally owns the castle, it’s not safe for the clan to sleep during the day. Goliath is still trapped in his very old-fashioned mindset, though; slay the dragon, take over the castle. He’s adamant that “defeating” Xanatos, The Bad Guy, means the castle is the prize, and the universe will let them keep it because those are the rules. But it’s 1994 now, the rules are totally different, and Elisa can’t seem to get him to see things realistically. “I think your head stays rock hard even at night,” she says.

SHAKESPEAREAN ANNNNNNNNNNNNNGEEEEEEEEEEER

The rest of the clan huddles around the TV (I still don’t understand why the Trio had to glid away) and a show called The Pack is being broadcast on every single channel, which I’d totally call out for being impossible if it weren’t a plot point.

I should get their genius artistic director to design my logo.

Fox, a redhead, tattooed beauty and leader of The Pack; Wolf, the old, awesomely-bearded muscle; Jackal and Hyena, the agile brother/sister duo with sharp claws and bad haircuts; and Dingo, the…Australian.

The Pack is…like…a reality show? I guess? It’s pretty much just the actors playing themselves, fighting ninjas and showing off their action-y side. It’s literally a televised stunt show every week, which…as dumb as all this seems, if you consider the success of 90s shows where people live in a house and argue, or game shows where kids get slimed, I can imagine something as kitschy as The Pack becoming a 90s fad we’d be nostalgic over and ironic fans of today.

Yeah, we would DEFINITELY have eaten up this shit as kids in the 90s.

There’s going to be a live show at Madison Square Garden, it seems, and Lexington is ecstatic about seeing it because “they’re warriors, like us.” Even six episodes in, the gargoyles still have a lot of growing to do in terms of understanding the complexities of modern life; being a warrior doesn’t automatically make people kindred spirits, and most importantly, not everything you see on TV is true.

Also they have like 6 different logos for some reason.

At Pack Media Studio, the Pack is training and shit, still in their costumes, because real stars spend their downtime in costume, I guess. They also show off their individual talents, which all vary among things like using ropes and punching and using metal Wolverine claws.

You know, real life skills.

This episode isn’t above making fun of itself, though. There’s a funny moment where a ninja shows up, looking like he’s ready to pounce, only to be doofy-looking guy named Harvey that Fox affectionally tells to work on his backflips. It’s cute, though it might have been fun to see more moments like this spread throughout the episode’s entirety as Hollywood satire, instead of the very broad “TV IS BAD SOMETIMES!” moral and generic superheroing we get. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Wolf notes how they took the job for “fame, money and action,” and while the fame and money are great, they aren’t actually getting much action with the only-fighting-fake-ninjas thing. Hyena strangely responds with, “Maybe a new haircut would help.”

LOOK AT YOUR OWN HAIR, LADY. LOOK. AT. YOUR. OWN. HAIR.

Dingo also makes a note about getting flabby, because doing stunt shows on a daily basis and working out on your downtime is a complete sedentary lifestyle. Then Wolf throws shit through the wall, which is productive I guess.

“Who’s gotta hankerin’ fer some dick?!”

Turns out in today’s mail they got sent photos of Goliath fighting the Steel Clan from the last episode.

Totally ‘shopped.

They have no idea where they came from, but they decide to hunt Goliath, because who needs hobbies like knitting when you can hunt magical bat mutants? Either way, before that, they’ve got a personal appearance to make!

There’s a shitton of people in the crowd amped up and hollering like it’s some kind of rock concert. I guess stunt shows would get people that excited?

Imagine if the cast of Jersey Shore was there.

The Trio is also there, watching the action show filled with ROCKIN 90S THEME MUSIC. After the announcer literally—literally—says, “Oh no…it’s the evil ninjas!” people start booing.

HOW DO YOU BOO AT NINJAS?!?!?!

Also, the announcer says, “The black ninjas don’t fight with honor like The Pack does! Teamwork, that’s the key!” Which, I’m pretty sure the whole staple of ninjas popularized in the media is that they TOTALLY fight with honor and all, but whatever. Lex is pretty much fawning over them until the show ends. Meanwhile, Brooklyn randomly yawns and Broadway wants food, and if that surprises you at this point you should probably get your brain checked.

Lex stays behind to try to meet The Pack, creeping backstage and then jumping in front of them and declaring himself “a warrior.” The Pack isn’t totally stupid, and realizes he’s the same species as the thing in the picture they were sent. Then, Fox gets really sensual and tries to…seduce him?…into getting more information on his bigger friend, Goliath.

I like to pretend this is the moment Lex seriously started questioning his sexuality.

Back at the castle, the rest of the clan notes how Lex “always cuts it too close,” despite him never once cutting it close in the show so far.

Lex eventually shows up and informs everyone that he totally outed himself to The Pack, and is taken aback when Goliath is pissed about it. Lex, however, pretty much calls Goliath out on his hypocrisy since Goliath made friends with Elisa so quickly. Goliath says that was “different” (which, of course, translates to “but she was really really hot!” and isn’t a good excuse anyway.) But it doesn’t matter because STONE…well, until the next night, when the argument continues.

As awkward and unnecessary as the “stone mid-argument then continuing next night” thing is, it is a cool idea, and a nice way to show how adapted they are to such a massive biological stipulation. We can rarely reignite our arguments after sleeping on them, but we can also generally choose when we go to bed. They can’t, so they have to be able to pause and restart their discussion out of necessity.

It also allows Goliath think of an argument other than Elisa’s boobs.

Lex is convinced that The Pack “fights evil” like Elisa, not thinking of them as a TV show. The other gargoyles even cite the “evil ninjas” to mean “maybe they need our help,” completely believing there are actually ninjas out there that are evil and want to hurt them. Figured out the moral here, yet? Goliath concedes to meet The Pack, and figures if they seem cool, the whole clan will meet them.

Naïve as he and the clan may be here, Lex isn’t stupid—he even says as such—because he only revealed as much as he needed to (as in not mentioning the turning to stone thing.) He also makes a good argument for not hiding from the world, basically focusing on not wanting to be perpetually alone. Thom Adcox’s acting is very natural here, and exceptionally strong. Even though we know Lex made a dumb decision by outing himself to the painfully obvious villains, it’s understandable why he’d do it, and his naïveté is  excusable given the circumstances.

They head to Pack Media Studios, where it’s dark and empty, clearly not a good sign. A spotlight comes up, followed by a grenade and a bunch of bullets.

“OH GOD THE PACK SHOWED UP NAKED!”

Hyena shows up laughing like a goddamn maniac, and Lex gets super SUPER pissed, going batshit crazy at this sudden betrayal. It’s not as painful to watch as the torture Goliath went through before, but it’s sad to see the little guy be this clearly hurt. Luckily, his rage is EPIC.

Also they don’t have pupils the ENTIRE TIME.

Turns out they’re in what Fox calls The Gauntlet, which normally isn’t lethal, but apparently they put in a whole helluva lot of money to make it deadly, because they can totally do that.

So Goliath just tears through solid steel. Should we ignore this?

Goliath and Lex get out pretty quickly considering how badass The Gauntlet was led up to be, and try to climb to the roof. Lex is still insanely pissed off by all this, assuming The Pack is “no more than animals.” Goliath is a little wiser, though, realizing they do it for sport, not hunger…though that probably drives the knife into Lex even deeper. Lex, sadly, swears to never trust anyone again before a fucking BOOMERANG shows up.

I mean, you’ve got the Australian named Dingo. You almost don’t have a choice but to give him a boomerage.

Then Jackal throws a knife at power lines and ELECTROCUTES THEM.

AKA “Lexington’s Least Favorite Day.”

We get Hyena’s fucking laugh again, followed by the building collapsing on our heroes as The Pack approaches…very…veeeeeeeeeeeeery slowly.

You…you’re not just…just gonna run up and stab them right now? Oh…okay.

What follows is probably the funniest moment in the episode, as a couple of kids (with creepy voices) show up wanting autographs and free tickets. Fox is like, “Uggggggggggggh,” naturally, and it’s pretty clear that these crazy thrill seekers who set out to get fame actually hate having fame (admittedly not unlike plenty of real-life stars.)

“Being rich and famous is just SO HARD you guys, you don’t even know.”

The parents somehow aren’t weirded out by encountering a bunch of costumed stunt stars in a dark alley in the middle of the night, and even when the gargoyles wake up their assumption is that they’re a “filming a movie or something,” just without film crew.

Another theme of this episode is that TV makes everybody really stupid.

Wolf does play it off well, by saying the gargoyles were sent by their nemeses, the Evil Ninjas, which is probably more clever than it needs to be considering this family’s intelligence. Of course, the kids totally fall for it, and help The Pack beat up the Lex and Goliath by throwing stuff at them, in what I have to admit is a painful moment. Lex angrily yells, “STOP IT!” in another great perfromance by Adcox. The kids finally freak out, and the family leaves thinking it’s a publicity stunt, with the mom noting how it looks awfully real.

Really not trying to be a dick here, but can someone explain what the thought process was when drawing those cheeks? Did she just have dental surgery?

The Pack decides to finish them quickly while the street’s deserted (yeah, now you think of that) but Goliath fends them off with a goddamn fire hydrant. Fox gives an inspiring speech to invigorate her comrades to fight back: “Take ‘em doooooooown!”

This generation’s Lord Nelson.

I have to be honest, this isn’t a great introduction to Fox’s character. I won’t go into future stuff with her since we’re looking at these episodes on a week-to-week basis, but needless to say, for a character of massive importance down the line, her first episode makes her out to be absurdly simple and uninteresting. I guess I can’t fault the episode since that wasn’t the point of it, but I can’t say I’m wholly invested in her in this outing, especially not when compared to her more colorful partners in crime.

We get to an awesome “Gargoyles stalk their prey” scene which, while it’s already been done numerous times, is still fun to see the horror movie scenario where we’re rooting for the monsters. It’s made even better by having actual stone gargoyles all over the rooftop of the building, though I seriously doubt any building exists anywhere with that many statues on top. Then again, the building owner could have been following a new trend started by Xanatos’s “castle on the rooftop” idea.

But come on…building regulations, much?

The Gargs start picking them off one-by-one, eventually leaving only Wolf and Fox. After a tussle, they fall inside of the building, where there’s a modeling shoot apparently going on at 3 in the morning. Fox takes a hostage, telling her to “relax, you’ll live through this,” which I’ll admit is a relatively interesting character beat for Fox, despite my aforementioned dislike of her introduction here.

At least she’ll die in an okay-looking one piece?

The photographer takes a bunch of pictures of what’s going on, because why not?. Lex has this crazy ass yell, as he does, and completely knocks the shit out of Fox. Wolf grabs Lex, pissing Goliath off, and finally gets the action he’d been wanting when they fight. Of course, Goliath is like “haha nope!” and knocks him out fairly easily.

Gotta admit, the pull focus here is pretty cool.

After hearing the cops on the way, Goliath and Lex decide to flee and leave The Pack to them. Lex admits he feels like a fool, and Goliath, while acknowledging the need to be cautious, tells him he was right—they do need to search for allies, and have to take chances, because they don’t want to remain forever alone. After hearing the news of The Pack, who were arrested thanks to the pictures of the hostage situation the photographer took, Hudson decides to help out any of the slower folks at home and state the moral of the story outright: they shouldn’t believe everything they see on television.

Meanwhile, Owen visits Xanatos in prison, and they reveal the cable was reprogrammed so the Gargs could only see The Pack. Xanatos sent the photos, and everyone reacted exactly as he predicted. And if that wasn’t enough of a shocker, Xanatos reveals he created The Pack from the get-go, always intending them to be “far more than just a TV show” to see what Goliath is capable of. It was all a test, and it was informative.

I dunno, I still feel like he could be the good guy.

The Xanatos reveal here comes very close to bringing this episode up in points. I’ll admit, it doesn’t quite fit into the show’s timeframe—if he created The Pack as a reaction to the gargoyles, how long have they been around? Could they have really gotten so ingrained in the public consciousness, with stadiums filled with people at their performances, in what I assume is a few short weeks? Despite that, though, the idea is perfect, tying in a standalone episode with what looks to be a larger series arc.

“The Thrill of the Hunt” is certainly not boring, overall. It’s fun, it’s crazy, and if I haven’t mentioned it enough, Thom Adcox knocks it out of the park. The animation works, the action sequences are well-designed, and the plot moves along at a brisk pace. There really isn’t much bad to say about it structurally—it’s just empty and simple. By children’s cartoon standards, I guess it’s fine, but the first five episodes of the show raised the bar so high that standard kids action show fare doesn’t quite cut it.

I’ll admit that the Lex/Goliath is a really interesting dynamic, though.

The moral is clear-cut and obvious, and while the pacing and overall scripting is great, it’s just all so straightforward. Lex learns to not trust people too easily. Goliath realizes they should be cautious, but not too cautious. Everyone learns not to believe everything they see on TV. There’s very little else to it. And for an episode primarily focused on introducing new villains to the universe, the villains’ motivations are mostly uninteresting—mo’ money, mo’ fame, mo’ fun. That’s really all there is to them, at least at this point. It hits the right beats for a typical superhero story, but there’s nothing particularly thought-provoking about it.

But at the very least, it’s a helluva lot of fun. And sometimes, a thrill is all we really care to have.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s