Even though this show is called Gargoyles, we’ve got a wealth of human characters on the roster that, in a lot of ways, flesh out this world better than our main clan. Elisa Maza and David Xanatos are near polar opposites, but they’ve both forcibly intertwined themselves in the this strange new world, albeit for very different reasons. The existence of the gargoyles is going to make an impact on them both (and vice versa), and though this episode doesn’t go terribly far with that concept, it still delivers one of the strongest, most straightforward episodes of the season.
The animation is cleary about a kajillion times better right from the get-go. I harped a whole heckuva lot last week about how important animation is in an action cartoon, so I don’t really need to say more. This team admittedly exagerrates some movements a bit too much, and makes the characters’ mouths occasionally stretch like a snake’s jaw when they talk, but for the most part the movement is impeccably fluid, shadows are well-utilized and care is taken in the big moments. So I’ll just leave it at that.
We open with a training session between Xanatos and Owen, scored with that African/Austrailian whistling instrument the show occasionally uses in favor of the loud orchestral…and it’s a nice break from it. Owen wipes the floor with Xanatos (who still puts up a decent fight.) Owen asks, “Would you rather I pretend to lose?” Xanatos retorts, “I’d fire you if you did.”
After he wipes off his sweat and puts on his Rolex, because he’s rich and stuff, Xanatos laments that he’s losing his toughness. Though he doesn’t clearly show it, he’s nervous that he might merely be David Xanatos, not David Fucking Xanatos. This is probably the first time we’ve seen him with a legitimate character flaw (outside of being, like, obsessive and kind of a villain sometimes.) The guy is terrified of weakness, something that fits completely into what we’ve already seen of his oozing-with-confidence persona. He strives to be as close to perfect as he can be, so even the slightest cracks are huge for him. That fear might very well be a weakness all of its own. After all, he has to compensate by showing he’s a badass when he…moves his meeting up an hour. Becuse that’s hardcore…?
Meanwhile, Elisa shows up to the police station with a bulky definitely-not-HD TV, which the redhead cop we briefly saw in “Deadly Force” offers his assistance with carrying.
Elisa finds out from Chief Chavez that she’s getting a partner because of the whole “being a cop is dangerous” thing. More to the point, Elisa’s injury in “Deadly Force” is cited as a reason, but that’s kind of weird because a) it was an accident and b) how did Elisa explain it was an accident without revealing that the shooter was a big gargoyle? It’s a nitpick, but it’s also one that gets bigger the more you think about it.
Either way, her new partner is Matt Bluestone, that smarmy redhead dude from earlier. Elisa, of course, is rightfully frustrated with him, because he’s just so annoying. Like…he’s so polite! And…and…he offered to help her carry a TV!
Okay, it is understandable for Elisa to get a little annoyed, considering the role she’s taken on as a Secret Gargoyle Ambassador of sorts. But beyond that, for someone who’s apparently been independent in career most of the time, getting asigned a partner might be an affront to her ego. It’s like backtracking and giving a kid a babysitter even after they’d been home alone without one.
But at the same time…she’s being kind of a dick. Matt’s even surprisingly understanding about the annoyance he’s causing. “There must be some kind of consipiracy going on to make my life difficult,” Elisa says. Come on, girl. Things can (and will) get a whole lot worse.
However, I’ll go ahead and be apologetic and overly praising of this, because I like it a lot. Elisa is a normal human being, and that’s kind of her entire point in this show thus far—to be the straight man. She’s the human who showcases all the good humanity has to offer, even if she’s not necessarily the smartest/strongest/most flawless character. So, yeah, there are gonna be days when she’s in a crappy mood. Call it whatever you will, but she got up on the wrong side of the bed today, and these minor annoyances are getting on her nerves, especially considering in both her job as a cop and as a protector of the gargoyles, she’s only out to help.
She heads upstairs with the TV, revealing that the that the clock tower the clan is now staying in is actually above the police station. This will obviously be convenient for the story later on, but it’s also one of those cool ideas that works so well in an overarching mythology. Batman’s Batcave is under Wayne Manor; the Clock Tower is over the Police Station. It’s something that, had Gargoyles become more of a mythic superhero universe rather than a cult favorite, might be ingrained in pop culture.
After giving the gift of television, Elisa goes up to the library, where Goliath is doing his typical Goliath-y thing.
I’m kind of unclear on exactly where this library is; it kinda looks like it’s just in the next door building in the establishing shot, but they way they treat its accessibility implies that it’s in the same building (which means this building houses a police station, library, and massive clock tower, which probably isn’t right.) I’m sure the fandom has already answered this completely, but from this episode, it’s a little unclear.
Either way, after a cute exchange, (“What are you reading?” / “Doestevsky.” / “Yeah? Who’s it by?”) Goliath expresses his concerns about Xanatos. “You didn’t lose a castle, you gained a library,” Elisa says. But Goliath refutes this by reinforcing how they’re still “Strangers in a strange land.” The dialogue in this exchange is pure Gargoyles writing at its best; a very poetic, flowery style of speech packed in with literary reference after reference, but with tinges of real world idioms and syntax. Goliath may quote the Bible and mention Doestevsky, but Elisa will crack jokes and talk about karma.
Later, the gargs spot a news story on their new not-six-inch TV: Xanatos is being heralded as a philanthropist for doinating an ugly piece of jewelry called The Eye of Odin to a museum, which Xanatos calls “a great tax write-off.”
Goliath is enraged about this, of course, still seething over the loss of his castle to Xanatos. What he doesn’t see is, after the cameras turn off, the reporter grills Xanatos about his prison record. Xanatos fires back by pretty much throwing a pity party…and it’s awesome.
Meanwhile, a thing is happening.
But we’ll get back to that in a sec. Elisa is busy being annoyed by her new partner, who’s rambling on about the Illuminati, of all things. Elisa seems to have softened up to him a bit and indulges him, but is still quick to retort, “I don’t care about UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, or secret societies,” because “the world’s strange enough as it is.” Yup. No foreshadowing at all in that.
In any case, Matt is slowly being revealed as quite a loveable cook. And this is a pretty cool twist on the Mulder/Scully archetype, where the male believer is completely oblivious to the weirdness, and the skeptic female is the one who’s protecting it. It’s also a fun peek into the alternate universe where Elisa and Matt were partners from the start; had things gone differently, the mystery of the gargoyles could have been a one-episode stint on Bluestone and Maza, a freak-of-the-week procedural Thursdays at 10pm on NBC. It’s a cool example of how well this show transcends multiple genres, even in brief moments.
Back at the museum, a mysteeeeeeeerious shadow (no, not that one) is breaking in.
There’s robot sounds and red eyes, so in true Gargoyles fashion, the thing in shadow is totally obvious. Matt and Elisa spot the thing breaking out and Elisa tries to prevent Matt from shooting it, thinking it’s Goliath. But deduces it can’t be him when she heres the bullets bounce of metal, because last time she checked Goliath isn’t a Terminator.
She brings this news to the clan, already deducing that it must be the Steel Clan. The evidence builds up further when they see the news broadcast footage of the graceful, light ninja-like touch of the thieves.
The identity theft sets Goliath off the edge, and he storms off with the clan to rip Xanatos’s head off. Elisa gives chase, rightfully assuming that another murder on the main character’s head probably wouldn’t get past the censors this time. And she turns into Rapunzel for a hot second, just because.
Matt catches her and barges in, against her wishes. “This is one time I don’t want a partner.” / “Yeah? That’s when you need them the most.” I think I like Matt. Like, a lot.
Goliath confronts Xanatos at the castle. And being David Fucking Xanatos, he’s decked himself in every stereotypical “I’m a muthafuckin’ badass” costume trope possible, outside of a shotgun.
“I’m the best friend you have in this world,” Xanatos coldly responds to Goliath’s accusations. The windy, stormy weather and Xanatos’s clear “there’s more than meets the eye” confidence makes everything incredibly off-kilter, and it’s wonderfully executed. Elisa, meanwhile, is trying to get up to the castle, but Owen isn’t being very forthcoming. Elisa’s attempts to dart past him, but he hilariously brick walls her every time.
Xanatos reveals his plan: to use the Steel Clan get everyone to hate the gargoyles. They’ll have to concede and live in his research facility for protection (and, like, probing and stuff we all assume.) The thing that makes Xanatos so awesome here, even while being a bastard, is the same thing I described back in his first appearance. He is just so ridiculously confident, setting up his ultimatum not as the best choice, but as the only choice. He’s so good at it, you kind of forget that he’s full of shit.
Goliath responds to this just as you’d expect: taking it out on a nearby lamp.
Goliath doesn’t fight him on it or anything, weirdly enough, and just takes off with the clan. It’s a little convenient, but it’s fair that Goliath would feel out of options at this point—after all, Xanatos is very convincing. Elisa sees them fly away and gives chase; Matt’s just like, “Uh…sure, whatever.”
If you hadn’t noticed yet, there hasn’t been much action in the episode.
The Steel Clan comes after them, and a pretty awesome in-flight battle ensues. There’s a lot of creative stuff going on here with the action all taking place in the air, much better than many of the hand-to-hand sequences we’ve had thus far. There is some weirdness, though, like shots of the public witnessing the mayhem from below and automatically deducing that they’re gargoyles…even though all they can see is lasers.
We also hear: “Looks like that urban myth about gargoyles just became urban reality.” Even though they were all clearly in the middle of the street for like an hour last week, but whatever.
The Steel Clan actually wipes the floor with our heroes, but doesn’t take them out completely when they have the chance. They smartly figure out that he wants to follow them to their new home, because “Xanatos doesn’t want to destroy us. He wants to dominate us.” Again, this reinforces the idea that Xanatos isn’t out to be violent or vengeful or anything, he simply has some goals he wants to meet. Those goals just-so-happen to be at the cost of the gargoyles’ freedom; he wants control, because who wouldn’t want control over these cool dudes?
Our heroes decide to use this as a motivation, though—they have to stop the Steel Clan right here, right now, and there’s no turning back. They also identify that the red one is particularly strong.
They take the fight to the Statue of Liberty—and frankly, I’m surprised this is only the first time we’ve had a fight take place there. The garg’s focus on defeating the clan gives them the upper hand as they take them on one-by-one. They take them out with clever techniques, like flying into a wall and then not flying into the wall you thought they were flying into (basic cartoon and action movie fare, essentially.)
What I kind of like about these battles is that they’re oddly slow, being in the air. There’s a certain level of grace that has to be used for this all to work, so slowing things down makes sense. But it also makes things much easier to follow than usual, the opposite of the everythingisfastandexplodingandcamerasareshakingnonstop Michael Bay fare we’re used to nowadays.
Eventually, the red robot is standing alone after his comrades are clearly destroyed. …Well, not clearly enough, I guess, because it still has to used the computer to identify them as “status destroyed” even when they’re IN PIECES. (This makes even less sense when we find out what’s really going on.)
And when I say “what’s really going on,” I mean, that, in addition to being inexplicably strong, this red guy also uses familiar martial arts moves when in hand-to-hand combat with Goliath.
But even in spite of martial arts prowess, red cuts his losses and retreats. Elisa and Matt show up in a helicopter with the TV reporter from earlier for some reason, but they literally don’t do anything.
Well, I guess we do get some exposition out of Elisa after the battle. Mainly that “the public’s been reassured that the gargoyles were robots.” So…destructive terrorist jewel-thief robots won’t case widespread public panic? Oh well, it doesn’t matter, since we get Elisa’s sexy face.
In a nice optimistic beat, even in spite of the circumstances, Goliath feels good that they defeated (most of ) the Steel Clan, which means they can do it again if Xanatos continues with his plan.
We get one last scene with Matt, too, where he tries to convince Chief Chavez that there are gargoyles out there who aren’t robots. I’m kind of with him in the public’s denial…after all, they’re cool with flying indestructible terrorist robots, but NOT another species? He’s now out to prove their existence, giving him a clear goal that’s surely going to lead somewhere. Matt’s only been on the show substantially for this one episode, but he’s already shown his role in the show—the “question everything” guy who also functions as a foil to Elisa—and he has more of a definitive goal than any of the main characters that this point. Because really, everyone else is just meandering until something bad happens, aside from Xanatos.
The biggest challenge about getting through season one is its own wide breadth. The idea of such a large ensemble cast, and that the show dares to flesh out not only the gargoyle clan, but numerous villains and side characters, is depth-defying. It’s only added more to the fray every other episode; Matt Bluestone, who could easily be one-off comic relief/conflict now has a set of motives and a purpose. We’ve barely gotten to know Elisa at this point, so at times this is a little overwhelming. But in spite of that, Matt’s addition is successful. Tom Wilson is a wonderful addition to the voice cast, adding a very conversational, realistic type of speaking style that makes Matt feel like he was pulled out of NYPD Blue. So even though we’ve gotten lots crammed into the show so far, the writers are clearly adept enough to handle it.
But let’s not forget about the ending. In a sorta-kinda shocker, we find out that Xanatos himself was the red robot all along! Even though he didn’t acquire the gargoyles’ home or get them in his lab, he did manage to get his Eye of Odin back, the city owes him a favor for donating it, he tested his “prototype battle exoframe” (???), and the most important thing: he was able to stand up against Golith, the greatest warrior alive. “I’d say I’ve still got the edge.”
While this certainly isn’t the biggest reveal of the show, that there wasn’t a mystery being teased works in its favor. We weren’t spending the half hour trying to deduce the identity of red because no one else was. So when it turned out it was Xanatos the whole time, while shocking isn’t the right word, it’s definitely a pleasant surprise. It also works because it plays into what we established right at the beginning: Xanatos does actually fail, sort of, a little bit. But he manages to get a win of sorts out of that failure. Through retreating, he proved to himself that he could at least stand up to Goliath, which regained the confidence he was losing at the beginning. You could say that’s nothing more than optimism, I guess, but it speaks to Xanatos’s ability to win at everything somehow, even if it’s in an abstract way. It’s kind of ridiculous that the villain of this show never, ever, ever loses. Ever. And that flawlessness in a world full of flawed characters is what makes him such an interesting character.
There’s not a whole lot to this episode, ultimately. In a way, it serves multiple purposes: “A day in the life” for Elisa, the introduction of Matt, Goliath coming to terms with losing the castle, and Xanatos reinforcing that he’s a fucking badass. Elisa’s day doesn’t really lead to anything other than segueing into Matt’s introduction, which is unfortunate. But getting a spotlight on our human supporting characters is a nice change of pace for the show, especially in light of all the “gargoyles learn their way around the modern world” stories we’ve had thus far.
“The Edge” is also a nice foil to “Enter Macbeth”. It’s another simple-structured, action-heavy installment, and is less noteworthy in the grand scheme of things. But unlike “Enter Macbeth”, the action—which is much better animated this time, obviously—is not the centerpiece. The revelation about Macbeth last week, which was meant to be the centerpiece, was haphazardly thrown in with the action, and ultimately had little-to-no actual significance to that story. But “The Edge” uses action for the sake of the character development. It’s a carefully laid out endeavor, with all the pieces there to inform the characters and, in the case of Matt, set up future stories. This is a fairly forgettable episode for sure, but only because it functions as a way to transition to the bigger stories down the line. But it’s necessary, and for time you’re watching it, it’s totally enjoyable.
And also, David Fucking Xanatos.
Next week, however: Ed Fucking Asner.