Let’s get past the excuses and jump into the brass tacks. It’s back, it’s happening, so here we go. Last October, episode six gave us a bunch of colorful characters and silly action, and was far from the best the series had to offer. Now we’re getting back into the meat of the story, in a much better follow-up to the five-part pilot and a nice take on how psychologically dark the show can get. Also, BROOKLYN RIDES A MOTORCYCLE AND IT’S COOLER THAN ANYTHING YOU WILL EVER DO.
The Trio is building a bike (having been there every night for a week.) When they complain about how long it took and how Lex should have been able to just build the thing easily, Lex responds with, “You rode a horse once, could you build one from spare parts?”
Since Brooklyn is “the cool one,” he gets himself decked out in some of the show’s more iconic gear.
It also means he’s a bit of a jerk, so he just kinda rides off and leaves his friends in the dust. We realize a mysteeeeeeeeeeeerious shadow is looming over them.
So I guess a running gag here is that Demona really gets the shaft with shadows.
Anyway, Brooklyn’s like “hell yeah!”, though I have to admit that Jeff Bennett sounds a little too…different here. It’s probably because it’s still early in the show, so he’s still nailing down the 400,000 character he does, but Brooklyn almost sounds like a different character. In any case, unfortunately, he drives so fast that he makes some cops drop their coffee, and making cops spill coffee is basically a felony.
They chase him down into an alley, and Brooklyn spreads his wings to glide away. The cops have a brief exchange: “You want to call that in?” “Call what in?” “That’s it, I’m off sugar.” So…there’s cocaine in those donuts, right? That’s what he’s implying?
Brooklyn eventually finds “Kindred spirits” in some bikers and follows them down the road. They stop, and start speaking in some alien biker tongue, saying things like, “Rightous hog man!” and “That’s some cherry rig, bro!”
Of course, when Brooklyn takes his helmet off, the “bikers are dumb violent monsters” stereotype kicks in, and they literally say, “Hey, it’s a friggin monster, get him!” and dogpile the shit out of him.
It’s a pretty awkward transition, and I’m not too fond of it (not helped by the guy blowing up Brooklyn’s sweet bike with ONE BULLET in true 90s fashion) but it does serve a purpose. They turned on Brooklyn simply because of how he looks, to which Brooklyn responds, “I was just trying to fit in!”
Then the mysteeeeeeeeeerious shadow swoops in, kicks ass, and rescues him. And if you hadn’t guessed from the shadow (which would make you either blind or dead) it’s Demona, who apparently just wants to talk. Though Brooklyn can’t take his mind off of the whole “getting shot with a bazooka” thing.
Demona attempts to be apologetic here, saying “I know I shouldn’t have shot at you. I was crazy with rage and fear,” which is how I explained the state my TV was in after watching a full episode of Two and a Half Men. Demona uses the “saved your life” thing as leverage just to have a moment of his time. More importantly, she reveals she’s dealt with humans for “thousands of years”…you know, not asleep. It was heavily alluded to in the “Awakening” episodes, but she’s full-on admitting it now, and it’s strangely a big revelation that’s just kinda shrugged off. It’s odd, especially considering the opinion formed from her offscreen experiences is really the backbone of the episode.
Meanwhile, Goliath and the others are being nerds and stuff. No one cares.
Demona pushes all of Brooklyn’s buttons, using some truths from his experiences, but with enough negative spin to actually get him to trust her, kind of. After all, Brooklyn didn’t do anything to the bearish and colorful dogpiling bikers–they just attacked him. And even though there’s that whole “Got to get used to us” excuse, Demona figures, “They were used to us a thousand years ago, did that stop them from betraying our kind?” Her whole point is simple: that humans will never trust gargoyles. It’s not untrue, and if “Awakening” proved anything, it’s that humans can be super colossal dicks. Hell, a cynical view of the previous episode is exactly that—if Goliath tried slightly less to be an optimist, he would have come to the same conclusion as Lex. Trusting humans is stupid, and any decent ones are exceptions that prove the rule. Demona even says as much in reference to Elisa. She also says, “I’ve seen horrors that would blast your soul,” which is an absolutely weird choice of wording, but eh.
Demona takes Brooklyn on a tour of the seediest, darkest part of Manhattan. They witness a woman getting robbed, and Demona mentions the futility of human justice, considering he’d be back on the streets in a day. Next is a pair of parents fighting as their child runs away. “They can’t share their own homes without fighting, you think they’d share their home with us?” Next is a murder scene. “They hold each other’s lives completely without worth…do you really think they’d accept us with open arms?”
They’re all exaggerations, to an extent, but they’re totally real examples. And really, she’s providing a fair case. It’s no different from basic political tactics—mention some bad decisions your opponent made, show footage of that one maybe-racist comment they made, and suddenly a whole wealth of people have moved to your side. Some of it might have been out of full context, and it’s leaving out the positive things that candidate has done, but it’s also factual information, and the voters are still ultimately allowed to make whatever decision they want. It’s not necessarily ethical, but it’s not morally wrong in the general sense. If Demona were just providing a persuasive argument, she really wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. She isn’t actively doing anything wrong at all. Her motivations for why she’s making this argument…that’s a different story.
Demona doesn’t think hiding is possible, citing The Pack, and she avoids the question when Brooklyn asks how she knows about them, because that’d be hard to explain I guess. In any case, Demona reveals why she went through this whole thing: she wants Brooklyn to get the Grimorum Acnorum. She’s going to give Goliath a spell of truth so he’ll see her way and understand that humans are evil.
Brooklyn returns, not telling the gargs about his adventure. Elisa returns and reveals Xanatos’s sentence is over in a month, and they need to find a new place to live; Goliath is just like, whatevs. She’s found the perfect place, but Goliath keeps up the last episode’s argument. Brooklyn brings up “how do we know he won’t try again?” but Goliath refuses to leave. They end mid-argument, just like with Lex, and apparently Elisa is, like, surprised to see the sun for some reason.
The next morning they wake up, and the argument doesn’t continue; Brooklyn takes off and steals the Grimorum from downstairs and gives it to Demona. He then goes back and tells Goliath how he found the “Cloisters, a fascinating place like the world we came from.” They fly over, and Goliath says it’s beautiful and he wishes he brought the others
Of course Demona pops out, and Goliath realizes Brooklyn was working with him. There’s another chance for an explanation on Demona’s part here, but she simply tosses away the whole “dead” thing with a throwaway line, “I always survive.” Though admittedly, that line is pretty cool, and Marina Sirtis could make “I like kittens and milk” sound chilling if she wanted to.
A highlight of this part of the episode is Brooklyn’s honest pleas. We haven’t seen much outside of the “He’s the cool one” demeanor yet, so it’s almost jarring to see him be made so vulnerable out of nothing but care for his friend. This isn’t a temptation to the darkside; despite the shadowy undertones about Brooklyn’s newfound distrust of humanity, there’s a lot of hope here, that it can lead to the reunion of their race. This is him trying to convince someone he cares about to see the light, and maybe give their clan a happy ending, even if it’s a little forced and perhaps at the expense of the humans. But Brooklyn’s argument certainly makes sense from his perspective.
Not that any of that matters, though, because Demona casts a the spell on Goliath, enslaving him. “What we tell him will be the only truth he knows,” she says, and while we all saw it coming a mile away, it’s another chilling gut-stab line that Demona’s rapidly becoming known for.
I’d like to think that Demona did honestly think she could keep Brooklyn on her side after this. Like I said earlier, there’s a certain honestly underlying all of her subterfuge this time around. The arguments, while twisted in her favor, are still all valid and believable, swaying her sheep like a corrupted cult leader.
They chase him inside of the church, which is a pretty darn beautiful setpiece.
Whatever the Cloisters are, the church that’s part of them is way more ornate and beautiful than the part Brooklyn was showing off. While I can’t say the animation in this episode is amazing—sometimes the designs are shoddy, the book changes sizes A LOT, and the the camera holds way too long on certain awkward shots—I do love the painted backgrounds. The show has a lot of them, and while having the obviously-painted backgrounds certainly shows its age, but you have to marvel at the attention to detail.
What follows isn’t a fight sequence so much as a stalking horror-movie-esque sequence. We’ve seem some inversions of it before, but now we get to see a more standard villain-stalking-hero display, albeit with the “good guy under a spell” twist. Something particularly interesting about this entire episode is how it portrays Goliath as this unbreakable trump card. We see a huge gap between Goliath’s strength and everyone else’s, and while I wouldn’t argue against him being the group’s best muscle, it seems to be quite overexaggerated here. I mean, Brooklyn is literally running scared, and Demona essentially does the same thing once Brooklyn gets the upper hand by getting Goliath back in his court. Goliath is the main character of this ensemble, obviously, so he’s going to have an advantage, but the way Demona’s plan is portrayed shifts from wanting revenge on him to having tons and tons of extra power with him at her side. While that’s not untrue, Goliath’s brute force is hardly a gamechanger, especially considering the clan only re-appeared recently, long after her plans (whatever they may be) have been underway offscreen for years.
In any case, it’s all too much for Brooklyn, who gets backed into a corner by Demona. He manages to knock the Grimorum knocks it out of her hand with his tail.
Demona is super pissed and manages to wrestle the book away from him, but just like we’ve seen before, tearing pages out of books proves to be one of the most effective tactical maneuvers anyone could ever make. Brooklyn tore the spell page out of the book, which means he controls Goliath, regardless of who holds the book. (Little sidenote: You can hear a very subtle tear sound when Brooklyn pulls away from Demona, which is a cool detail.)
The aforementioned “Demona running for her life” chase ensues, and Demona counters Brooklyn’s gamechanging maneuver by conspiculously ripping out pages from the book mid-air. So much for historical preservation. The confrontation between zombie Goliath and Demona is a romp, with ridiculousness ranging from Demona lifting up a bolder and shattering a tree to hitting Goliath with the book itself. As much as I like when the show goes all out with the lasers and robots and stuff, sometimes seeing two beasts wailing on each other is just as awesome.
Eventually, Demona throws the book off a cliff, making Brooklyn go after it while she escapes.
Of course, the pages Demona not-so-subtly ripped out were any incantations to undo the spell. So Goliath will be ike this forever, which is pretty damn depressing. But Elisa, even in her 30 seconds of screentime, swoops in to save the day because she’s the best ever and so cool and awesome oh my god. And it’s not a cop-out, either; her idea is to use the spell to command him to “act for the rest of your life exactly as you were if you were not under a spell.” And it works!
This is…actually an insanely clever twist right here at the end, and a way to revert to the status quo even though, technically, it’s not. Goliath is and will always be under that spell, even when he isn’t, and the implications of that—the question of how much of his life is really his, and how much of it might be influenced by magic—is really heady. No, the show isn’t addressing it at all, nor will it ever, but it’s a cool idea.
And really, we deserve to write off the scary implications for the sake of a happy ending. Because this episode is extremely dark and cynical at its core. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all. And it still ends on a light, cute note; Brooklyn compliments Elisa: “Any species that has you for a member can’t be all bad,” so he repairs the optimistic ideas that Demona tried to break down. And this pseudo-betrayal could have damaged Goliath and Brooklyn’s relationship irreparably, but Goliath is noble and smart enough to understand how convincing Demona was, so he readily forgives him. And the last shot is this.
So, hey, they’re still together and they’re happy, right? It’s nice, but hidden underneath are a lot of the same things every single episode has touched upon so far: people can really, really suck. They don’t always, but they can. The only thing that makes “Temptation” a little different from the previous six is that it also reinforces that it isn’t just humans—gargoyles are pretty terrible sometimes, too. But there’s something striking about Demona’s “half-truths,” as Goliath calls them. Because she’s not wrong—the world is a mean, unfair and selfish place, and it all just goes in circles. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that we get another scene of Elisa complaining to Goliath about Xanatos being out of prison shortly; it doesn’t matter that they beat the bad guy, because the bad guys always come back. You’ve just got to deal with it.
But what matters are the exceptions to the rule. People suck, but Elisa doesn’t. Hell, she single-handedly saves the day in the end, just because she’s awesome. The darkness will always exist, but as long as you’ve got someone with you to brave the storm, you’ll make it through.
Next week: I swear to god there will be an entry. I swear. I. SWEAR. (“Deadly Force”)