Animation is a weird animal. In live action, a poor script can be saved by wonderful performances and set design, and a strong script can still work even with weak actors or low-budget sets. In animation, everything from the writing process to the music to the performances can be absolutely perfect, but if the animators—who are often overseas and might barely have correspondence with the showrunners—don’t put in a good enough effort, it will bring it all crashing down. This episode isn’t like that. This one’s just pretty bad all around.
The episode opens with an establishing shot of every character’s personality, I guess functioning as a refesher/reintroduction for any new viewers. Broadway is cooking and eating, and Hudson is watching Disney Afternoon Donald Duck with Bronx. Hudson gets a pretty mean beardstroke in, though it’s already apparent through the weird facial reactions that something is off about all this.
Brooklyn and Lex are playing cards, and there’s also a super long pan to and close-up of the Grimorum, because we have to re-estabilish everything not covered in the “previously on,” I guess.
Goliath is reading, and wow are these designs bad.
It’s hard to tell exactly what’s wrong with the art and animation yet, since there isn’t much movement, but it’s clear that the designs aren’t jibing well. But we’ll get to that in a second.
In prison, Xanatos is near his release.
There’s a cute little line where he says to himself regarding the prison food, “Just like mom used to make…if mom was a prison cook.” It seems like we’re going to get a little montage of Xanatos’s life in prison, but…we don’t. Instead, Owen visits, asking what’s to be done about the gargoyles. Xanatos says he has no interest in destroying them, because it’d be “such a waste.” He still can’t have them there when he returns, though, because that’d be totally awkward. Xanatos’s flimsy excuse for not killing them, while convenient, does play on what we already know about him; again, he’s not holding a vendetta against them, and he surely finds them very interesting creatures with potential. They’re just annoying and in the way right now. And while the animation and designs continue to be shoddy, I do like some little ticks the characters have, like the way Xanatos taps his fingers together when he’s thinking.
A bearded officer butts in on the conversation, and tells them he’s familiar with gargoyles. And he offers to take them off his hands. An his name is Macbeth. Hmmmm.
Oh, and also he’s voiced by John Rhys-Davies in a Scottish accent, and it is absolutely glorious. It’s actually quite different from Rhys-Davies’s usual performances, in that it’s very subdued and restrained (around this time he would have been cast as the alternatively loud, boisterous Englishman Professor Arturo in Sliders.)
Elisa—on crutches after being shot, a really nice bit of continuity—shows up at the castle at sunset, only to find this Macbeth fella already there. To her surprise (which she says she hates) he knows what’s about to happen. So she let’s him chill there, because whatevs.
I have to admit, I like Macbeth’s battle-duds. I mean, it’s a total 90s supervillain outfit, but in a fun way that I can appreciate. It’s sleek, but has touches of armor, and a black trenchcoat looks cool on just about anybody.
As it does in this show, it instantaneously turns to night.
But then, this an example of why the editing bothers me here, because it’s just incompetent. We’re seeing all the gargoyles as they’re cracking, like ya do, and our last one is Hudson.
He bursts out, but suddenly…
That ain’t Hudson. And I mean yeah, we’re not stupid. The shot just changed to a different character. From the same angle. During the same action. In the same way. It’s a silly, amateur oversight, and even though we might not actually gets confused, it’ll take you out of the episode in a heartbeat.
Anyway, Macbeth offers them to leave the castle and be guests of his home, and does it pretty nicely, I might add.
Goliath politely and respectfully declines the offer. There’s obviously some tension here, since the clan doesn’t know Macbeth and he’s kind of a creeper, but it’s all civil. Until he threatens them with guns, completely out of nowhere, and a big brawl suddenly breaks out. Because…action show?
And this is pretty much the rest of the episode. They start fighting out of the blue and it’s gonna keep on happening. I guess I can’t fault Macbeth’s strategy; he gave them a chance, they didn’t take it, so he just goes all-in. And they’re fighting blind, since he barely gave them a second to learn about him. And he’s a crazy good fighter it seems, throwing Broadway and Hudson off the roof, then tearing the clan apart with some smoke bombs, and then he immediately starts capturing them. They put up a fight—even including Elisa on crutches!—but they’re just no match for him.
Owen, who’s been watching this fight break out on camera, shows up and stops Macbeth from causing too much damage to the castle, saying “Xanatos asked you to fumigate his castle, not destroy it.” Macbeth agrees, and decides to cut his losses and take off. I’d say he “ran away,” but the movement he makes up the stairs does NOT qualify as running.
He takes off in his Batplane (no, seriously, that’s pretty much what it is) with Brooklyn, Lexington and Bronx in tow. Goliath gives chase, but fails miserably, apparently due to a deformity he spontaneously started suffering from.
And with this action sequence, it becomes clear that our visuals are way, waaaaaaaay screwed up. If you’re a TV viewer, one thing you have to learn to tolerate is budget restrictions. Having a live action show redress the same cheap soundstage over and over again to save money is a decent alternative to not having the show at all. Likewise, cartoons have to cycle through different animation teams in order to make deadlines (drawing cartoons is hard.) While I admittedly don’t have extensive knowledge on how the business and exchange works, it’s common sense to assume that some studios won’t charge as much as others, and those studios may not deliver the highest quality work. That, coupled with deadlines preventing mistakes from being fixed or smoothed out, means we’ll occasionally see one episode with gorgeous, flawless art and fluid animation followed by one that barely looks like the same show. It’s a necessary evil that we just have to tolerate.
But, damn, it’s got to look like the animators at least tried. Here? Sometimes it just…doesn’t. And part of that might have something to do with the directing/storyboarding, which is borderline nonsensical at points. Like afterwards, when Elisa is giving Goliath the 600 billionth “DUH YOU AREN’T SAFE HERE” speeches, the majority of the shots are of their backs, or are awkwardly and unnecessarily close to the camera.
I like that they’re trying something different by having Elisa and Goliath walk into the camera, past it, and then shift around so they’re walking away from it. But being “different” doesn’t mean it works; all it does is distract from the conversation and cloud what should be a tense, pivotal argument. It’s supposed to be such a big deal that Elisa basically says “shove it” and does her own thing, which means getting Hudson and Broadway to move anyway.
“Goliath is our leader. I cannot go against his wishes,” Hudson says, totally agreeing that Goliath is being a moron but afraid to do anything about it out of loyalty. Elisa convinces him that this isn’t their home anymore, teaching kids everywhere the “If mom says no, ask dad instead” lesson.
Meanwhile, we get a glimpse of Macbeth’s sweet pad, and as much as I might deride the animation, the music is pretty cool. Macbeth has an appropriate bagpipe-laced theme, a sinister sounding off-key tune that does a much better job conveying who the character is than his giant stair-leaps. Also, there’s an interesting stain glass window in his home:
So that’s weird. The captive gargoyles are in a cage in his house, discussing how Macbeth’s name “sounds familiar,” and Lex remembers that it’s the name of a play by “some new writer named Shakespeare.” It’s cute and expected that they’d make a tongue-and-cheek reference like that. Though, the “new” joke is weird, considering they were 500 years ahead of Willy in their time, unless Goliath calls every writer born in the 1000 years after their curse “new,” which is kind of funny. Either way, this episode doesn’t do much with the Shakespeare part of it outside of that reference, but that a kids’ show is directly referencing the Bard at all is very cool. But, of course, there’s no way it’ll ever have the balls to go beyond name checks, right?
Back at the castle, Elisa, Hudson and Broadway want to get the hell out of dodge while Goliath is searching for the others, because, as Broadway puts it, they’re “Sitting dorks here.” Before they vacate, though, they want to make sure something as powerful as the Grimorum isn’t in Xanatos’s hands, which is a clever bit of thinking for sure. Owen doesn’t want that to happen, so he checks into badass mode (i.e. he takes off his glasses) and tries to fight them off. Two gargoyles can’t take him when he has a gun, so Elisa has to save their asses by THROWING HER CRUTCH AT HIM.
Except the way it’s all animated, it all moves slowly and nothing is thrown/lands/falls in any way that follows the laws of physics. This could be a cool sequence, but it’s so choppy and ugly.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn follows the Bart Simpson vs. Cupcake rule of touching things.
Lexington, being the genius he is, decides the best way to break out is to electrocute both he and Brooklyn to near death, diverting power from Bronx’s cage so he can bust out.
I mean, it works I guess, and Bronx gets out. Though, not before we hear a repeat of the exact same “Go for help Bronx”/”Now, Bronx, hurry!” sound byte one right after another, which is really cheap and shoddy. Also, Macbeth is angry about the escape after watching it on camera, but DOESN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT AT ALL.
Bronx ends up running through Manhattan causing all kinds of mayhem and probably killing a lot of people.
Goliath spots him and lands…in the middle of the street. Where everyone is around. The entire city is looking at the gargoyles right now. They can’t just be an urban legend, because now they’re on street cameras and probably news cameras (who were following the trail of destruction) and tourists’ cameras. This should be a big frakking deal. But…nope.
Goliath follows Bronx to Macbeth’s place, and they face off. Bringing up the supposed theme of the episode, I guess, Macbeth notes that he defeated the gargoyles in their home, so they have no chance in his. Aaaaaaand then he prances off.
A bunch of ridiculous ensues, and it’s all silly and at times remarkably dumb. And don’t get me wrong: dumb, silly action is not a bad thing. The best episode of the show so far went all-out with stupid lasers and rocket launchers and robots and explosions. But the difference here is that it all feels like a cartoon. The sound effects when Goliath is busting on metal sound like they came out of the Donald Duck cartoon we saw earlier. Any almost-badass moments are so weirdly drawn that it looks like a 3-year-old’s interpretation of what “badass” would mean.
I know I’m being super harsh on this right now, but after the first half of the episode bombarded us with a bunch of random action, and now we’re getting even more random action that’s even more nonsensical, it becomes grating. Why the hell is Macbeth’s house a giant, boobytrapped castle? Maybe that’s part of the mystery that we’re supposed to ponder—clearly there’s more to this guy, since we know absolutely nothing about him. But it certainly doesn’t come off like that; instead, it feels like the show doesn’t know what it’s doing, and is covering it up with the “Macbeth’s an enigma!” excuse, which doesn’t fly.
And then they end up in a room full of funhouse mirrors that Macbeth just happens to have, because of course he does.
Now, finally, at the episode’s climax (I guess…this structure and pacing of the whole plot is really super weird) we get some genuine, definitive intrigue about Macbeth. He doesn’t care about Xanatos’s money; he only asked for it because there’d be suspicion if he offered for free. That, of course, begs the question of why he asked at all when he could have just made his way to the castle himself without getting Xanatos’s permission, since he obviously had figured out Xanatos had them since he came to Xanatos in the first pla—oh, nevermind.
Anyway, the thing that’s meant to stick out is that Macbeth isn’t trying to take out these gargoyles. He’s using them as pawns, capturing them and getting them riled up so he can attract their queen—Demona! And the big wham line of the episode: “Know her? I named her!”
Now, two super positive things about this episode: 1) It’s centered on Demona, but she doesn’t make a single appearance. This automatically makes her story way bigger than it was before. And 2) Goliath’s maniacal laugh upon realizing how fucking stupid Macbeth’s plan was. This sequence is the best part of the episode, even amongst the totally nonsensical mirrors.
But then it gets pretty lame again.
Macbeth also has a medieval dungeon in his basement, just…because. And, look, the brawl is almost-cool. Almost. It comes so close. But it’s not, it just a bunch of weird designs wailing on each other. Which is sad, because there should be more intrigue about Macbeth’s ability to take on gargoyles hand-to-hand. The dude is using nothing more than his fists and a sword at this point, but he’s still equal match for Goliath. The same Goliath who, if you remember, did this. But, ugh, it’s just so hard to take it seriously by this point.
We do get Goliath chasing Macbeth on all fours, which is always welcome, but ohmygodwhyisthisepisodestillon.
Meanwhile, Bronx just fucking bursts into the cage to rescue Lex and Brooklyn. No diverting electricity or anything. Just runs into it and rips it apart. Which begs the question of WHY COULDN’T HE DO THAT BEFORE?!
Goliath and Macbeth’s fight continues, and the fire that they accidentally started somehow has engulfed the entire castle—CASTLE—in the span of about 3 minutes, it seems.
Goliath gets the upper hand for a moment and has an unarmed Macbeth in his grasp, but then Macbeth enacts his winning strategy: taking his clothes off.
So he runs off, but he loses his badass black trenchcoat and…oh…his entire home and all his posessions that clearly cost billions of dollars and were collected over hundreds of years. And the guys are just like, “Welp. Who wants a beer?”
Buuuuuut the episode isn’t over yet. When they try to go home, they find Elisa, Hudson and Broadway at another building now, having totally abandoned the castle. Goliath is really fucking pissed, of course.
Broadway fires back, though, telling him it’s suicide to stay there. Hudson gets a nice line in, too: “It’s just a place of stone and wood. Home is more than that, Goliath. Home is the six of us, wherever we can be together and safe. That’s our home.” I guess that ties in thematically to Macbeth’s home getting burned down? No, it honestly doesn’t. But whatever.
Goliath acquiesces, but doesn’t quite agree. He flies back to the castle one last time to leave a message for Xanatos: They’re leaving, but they’ll be back to claim that which is their’s.
Xanatos returns to his home the next morning, and Owen informs him that both the gargoyles and the Grimorum are gone. However, to appease his master, he plays him a portable VHS player (I guess), showing Macbeth in action, which piques his interest. Doesn’t really matter though, because he’s happy to be home, which the episode keeps trying to hammer in is the theme.
The gargoyles’ new home is a clock tower. It’s a fixer-upper (though really, is it any less stone-y and dirty than the castle?) but they ought to be happy. So hey, that’s cool.
I had more trouble than usual recalling the plot of this episode before I rewatched it. I realize now that it’s because there isn’t much of a plot at all. The damn thing just throws in some easy set-up for 22 minutes of straight action sequences. And that’d fine, normally. The show has built up it’s own silly little world full of wacky robotic machinery and whatnot, and this episode has every right to run with it. And honestly? A mondo brawl between Goliath and a frightfully-competent Macbeth is really cool. And after the down-to-earth realism of “Deadly Force”, it’d be nice to have a breather.
Or it would be, if it looked cool. Action is meant to be visually captivating, because it’s action. As it stands, this is a very action-heavy episode that would require strong animation for that action to work. It doesn’t. Had this animation team done an episode like “Awakening, Part Three”, which was pretty much all dialogue, it would have fared much better. But the visuals were the most important part here, and so even when potentially cool things like a mace-weilding Goliath should be awesome, they’re just kind of ridiculous.
Now, the advantage “Enter Macbeth” has is that it moves the overarching plot along. Demona’s longevity and treachery is the only major mystery we have on our hands at this point, and we’re getting another wrench thrown into it before we’ve gotten a single answer. Macbeth is clearly going to be major player, rather than the supposed one-off villains we’ve had thus far. The gargoyles moving into the clock tower is also a resolution to a thread that had been strung along, too. And Xanatos is out of prison. It’s the first time we’ve seen definitive forward momentum for a serialized plot, rather than references and callbacks in otherwise standalone plots. That’s exciting, and a positive foretelling of things to come.
But…that’s it. And while those things are pretty big and sound like a lot, they’re mostly afterthoughts in the episode. The clock tower and Xanatos’s return happen at the tail end (and have been addressed countless times before this episode anyway), and the revelation about Macbeth is blunted by all the stupidity. It’s like trying to stab someone with a sharp knife wrapped in layers and layers of bubble wrap.
Our show is buried deep in there. I appreciate what “Enter Macbeth” tries to do, I love John Rhys-Davies, and I’m optimistic about what’s to come afterwards. But, damn, this was just…such a burden to watch.
Next time: David Fucking Xanatos.