What Do You Protect?: “Reawakening”

9

It took a little over 3 months for the first season of Gargoyles to air. It’s taken nearly six times as long for this blog to get through it. Pathetic as that may be, I’m cranking out a better workflow to get these pumped out throughout this year without unplanned breaks. The serendipity of it all? It’s now the top of 2014, the 20th anniversary of Gargoyles! Well, technically it will be the 20th anniversary in about 10 months, but you know…semantics, right? Semantics are actually a big deal in the first season finale of the show, so we’re going to break into the meaning of a big gargoyle mantra…by way of a cybernetic zombie, of course.

Right from the get-go, “Reawakening” sports a full-circleness that Gargoyles will come to embrace, with an obvious call back to the title of the pilot. But more than that, we also have flashbacks to (presumably) some in-between scenes during the Viking invasion seen in the pilot. It’s weird to think that in the entire season we’ve only had one other instance of character flashbacks, but it sets the tone that the upcoming events will be much heftier than another villain-of-the-week.

In that flashback, we meet a gargoyle we’ve never seen before, but is apparently close with the leading trifecta.

2

Two Guys, a Girl, and a Scottish Place.

He’s voiced by Michael Dorn, so if you have any semblance of pop culture knowledge, it’s obvious from the sound of his voice that he’s going to be important. A minor beef is that he is a character we’ve never seen up until this episode, despite so many background gargoyle designs already having been seen. It’d be cool to have gotten a sense of continuity if our big new gargoyle was someone there from day one, but hey, hindsight is 20/20.

Anyway, Magus is doing his whole “wah wah wah you suck but please help” routine, which really only serves to prompt Hudson to spout out this episode’s mantra: “A gargoyle can no longer stop protecting the castle than breathing the air.” A mantra which is promptly repeated about a minute later in the present.

4

“YES grampa, you HAVE told your story about Eartha Kitt in the airplane bathroom. Like three times. It’s still gross.”

Luckily, the trio recognizes the cheesy, outdatedness of that mantra, which works in its favor. It’s already clear that the goal of this episode isn’t to hammer in that “gargoyles protect”—we know that already, so why would we care? Instead, it’s going to be about breaking down exactly what that mantra means, bit by bit. Because as it stands, it’s just the ramblings of Grampa. Lex even hilariously points out that they don’t live in a castle anymore. If it’s supposed to be a metaphor, everyone’s still following it literally.

Elisa shows up, and she does some fierce segueing to get Goliath from talking about the weather to talking about his feelings in, like, seven words. (It amounts to “It’s cold out there.” / “The cold doesn’t bother us.” / “Well, something is.”) It’s very smartly written dialogue.

5

Therapize, guuuuuuurl.

Goliath is contemplative as usual, but what brings him out of his shell is when Elisa casually mentions the police motto: to protect and serve. The show’s penchant for having the gargoyles misunderstand and learn about society’s basic concepts resurfaces—something we haven’t seen recently, since they’ve become more acclimated to the world—as Goliath misinterprets the police as Elisa’s “clan.” Though in a way, he’s not wrong. Our coworkers can form a clan, in a sense, but as this entire episode posits, everything depends on how you think about these things. The angle in which Goliath is interested in this case is the police clan’s mantra, which involves protecting and serving the people of their precinct.

Meanwhile at Xanatos’s place, he and Demona are teaming up once more. This time, they’ve got a scheme that’s absurdly simple for the two of them: if magic and science never work separately, then…well…

Their plan is to make an angry zombie Terminator. Seriously. That’s all there is to it. I mean, it’s funny how simple this is for people who previously invented an entire TV phenomenon and fanbase specifically designed to attract the gargoyles to give them a run for their money and indirectly but purposefully result in getting Elisa’s brother in his hands, or made an amazing case for a point of view that gained an ally but only to get a book to cast a spell on Goliath to use him as a bodyguard.

The fact that their path this season has led to narrowing the scope of their schemes is an ingenious way to go. The downside is that, when all is said and done, this plan doesn’t make the proceedings feel very big, at least not as big as you’d expect a finale to be. Then again, this is still an early 90s kids’ show; heavy serialization was barely a thing for children’s media, and blow-out finales for the serialization were only just starting to be a thing.

"Are you sure we shouldn't incorporate my plan to give children candy laced with isotopes that make whatever they touch glow green light which will attract Lexington because that's his favorite color and when he investigates we'll trap him and ransom him for Hudson's sword which we'll use as a lightning rod to generate electricity to bring this guy to life? Just for kicks?"

“Are you sure we shouldn’t incorporate my plan to give children candy laced with isotopes that make whatever they touch glow green light which will attract Lexington because that’s his favorite color and when he investigates we’ll trap him and ransom him for Hudson’s sword which we’ll use as a lightning rod to generate electricity to bring this guy to life? Just for kicks?”

In any case, the effects in the Frankenstein scene are really cool! This is another A+ animation episode, and the use of the lightning and sparkly magical waves of light are gorgeous. And of course, Xanatos does an “It’s alive!” reference, and it’s the hammiest thing you will ever see in your life. I can’t even say if it’s used well or poorly. It doesn’t even matter. Its hamminess just transcends beyond anything the human mind has the capacity to pass judgement on.

A GOD AMONG MEN.

A GOD AMONG MEN.

The gargoyle we saw in the flashback unsurprisingly wakes up, the product of their machinations (literally.) Demona, who he would remember and trust, calls Xanatos her servant.

10

Bitch would a SERVANT look this damn fine?

But more importantly, she says “You are cold stone brought to life,” indirectly naming him after a a delicious creamery (though, it’s worth noting that no one actually identifies him with the name Coldstone in this episode.) Either way, the last thing he remembers is Goliath and Hudson going to find the Vikings, which Demona twists into saying they abandoned the clan and left them to die. And worse, they inexplicably turned him into a…

Gargoyle with a cool helmet...?

Gargoyle with a cool helmet…?

Okay, something I definitely take issue with in this episode is how much the body horror element is just…not there. Or at least, it doesn’t work for me personally. Perhaps that’s my own tastes coming through, I don’t know. And it’s not like Robocop really looked that horrific, but we knew he was disfigured because we saw it violently happen in the context of the movie. The disfigurement underneath the armor here is meant to be inferred—he was built from his smashed body parts glued together—so it’s not really a worthy criticism on my part.

But at the same time, the horror at his disfigurement—especially considering the robotic machinery would be totally alien to him—is painted as his primary motivation for wanting revenge. So buying into his anger is heavily reliant on sympathizing with his predicament. We’re probably supposed to infer that the anger is tied to losing his clan, too, but that’s sort of a problem: we aren’t given much time to be introduced to Coldstone, so we have to rush through his motivations to get him angry enough at Goliath. The solutions is to make his appearance, and the big reveal of it, be representative of all the anger and total disorientation he’s suddenly feeling after being supposedly betrayed by Goliath. Ergo, his appearance is super important. But honestly…he just looks pretty damn cool. Like, here’s a more full view of him later:

Full disclosure: I just had this spare screencap and wanted to break up the text with an image. I think too much into this stupid blog.

Full disclosure: I just had this spare screencap and wanted to break up the text with an image for the sake of aesthetics. I think too much into this stupid blog.

In any case, though Coldstone’s motivation is way too rushed and oversimplified, he’s meant to be more of a talking point and plot device. And we’ll get to that later. (Man, there’s a lot to talk about with this one!)

Elisa and Matt head to a store that was robbed right at the beginning of the episode (a scene that’s pretty funny considering the shopkeeper’s “Really? Again?” reaction.) Matt notes that the guy’s been robbed three times this month, and laments their inability to protect him. Elisa uses a “hi-tech” mic-necklace and earpiece to communicate with Goliath, which ought to simplify some storytelling from here on out.

"I don't see why whispering 'penis' is necessary to test these?"

“I don’t see why whispering ‘penis’ is necessary to test these?”

Goliath questions why the storekeeper doesn’t leave, but Elisa explains that the storekeeper is necessary for the community. Essentially, he has a responsibility to the people around him. This will be on the quiz later, kids.

Elisa and Matt get called to some mayhem, where Coldstone is on a rampage and tearing a building up for, well, no discernible reason. Presumably Xanatos and Demona just…told him to destroy things, but again, we hop right from Coldstone’s awakening to him doing generic bad guy stuff. Time is limited of course, but man, this just jumps from point to point without a breath. “Here’s a cool new gargoyle and WHOA NOW HE’S ANGRY AND THROWING A CAR AT YOU.”

THE FIRE HYDRANT LOOKED AT ME FUNNY

That escalated quickly.

Goliath swoops in to save the day, and calls Coldstone an “abomination.” So, again, the implication is that Coldstone is frightening nightmare fuel, but that’s undercut by the fact that he has a frickin’ laser beam in his arm.

Shit, can I be an abomination, too? That's totally rad.

Shit, can I be an abomination, too? That’s totally rad.

One thing I quite like about this finale, though, is that it swiftly gets all the gargoyles into the fray for the final battle. The trio overhears the battle outside during their movie: “That surround sound sure is great.” / “I don’t remember any explosions in Bambi.” The implication of which is that they not only go to the theater to see Bambi, but they’ve already seen it multiple times. They swoop into battle, and start busting out and chucking hubcaps at the bad guy, a very creative bit of improvisation.

"Bet you're feeling TIRE-d now!" - Why I'm not a successful screenwriter.

“Bet you’re feeling TIRE-d now!” – Why I’m not a successful screenwriter.

Things get interesting when Demona shows up with Xanatos (masked in his Big Red armor) and another Steel Clan bot. They clearly didn’t rehearse their big villain speeches, though; after making another argument for Coldstone to get revenge on Goliath for being a big jerk, Demona and Xanatos immediately disagree on their fundamental goals. Demona wants all the gargoyles dead because she’s squarely focused on revenge, while Xanatos wants them alive for tests and stuff. These are elements already established in episodes prior, which is a nice example of tying a season together through character arcs rather than sprawling plot arcs. Again, it keeps “Reawakening” from feeling like a terribly big finale, but it still feels like a finale nevertheless.

Coldstone doesn’t think it’s worth living like the super cool laser-blasting cyborg warrior that he is, but Demona tells him, “Appearances mean nothing,” suddenly being all subversive. A lesson on body image acceptance isn’t on her agenda, though; her argument now has switched to, “We are the true gargoyles” while Goliath and his ilk have been “corrupted by the humans.” So here, we circle back to the mantra from the beginning, but from a different angle: gargoyles can no more stop defending the castle than breathing the air, but what exactly makes that gargoyle a gargoyle in the first place?

In any case, Goliath tries to convince him that all the death means they should stop, Xanatos isn’t interested in destroying the city because he’s pretty reasonable, and the news vans are showing up, so they decide to meet up to battle elsewhere. Also, this is the second episode in which the city is clearly seeing the gargoyles up close and talking to each other. But the news didn’t catch it all clearly on camera, so I guess it makes sense for them to still be urban legends? The world before smartphones made it much easier to keep a secret.

Today there'd be 38 different angles of this on YouTube, 6 dubstep remixes, and a Fox News report blaming it on Obamacare.

Today there’d be 38 different angles recorded and uploaded, 6 dubstep remixes on YouTube, and a Fox News report blaming it on Obamacare.

This also gets Hudson and Bronx into the fold—every single moment in this episode serves a purpose, which is awesome—as they see the news report. However, Hudson is torn: no one can guard the tower if he leaves. If memory serves, that’d be like not breathing the air.

To scale up the epicness of the climactic battle, the fight breaks out on the Brooklyn Bridge. Goliath and Coldstone confront each other with some generic Judas-y talk (“I don’t want to hurt you!” / “You already have!”) but it’s complemented by decent fight sequences from everyone.

And they passive-aggressively Waltz together.

And they passive-aggressively Waltz together.

A very small, but very cool moment has the trio take down the Red Steel Clan bot, only to find out that it was Xanatos all along. It’s a fairly insignificant reveal for a mystery that wasn’t presented as a big deal, but tying up that loose end is appreciated. Also Broadway gets tangled up in the cables holding up the bridge, and there’s so many things weird and wrong with that entire concept and execution.

How does that happen BY ACCIDENT?!

How does that happen BY ACCIDENT?!

Anyway, we get our dramatic moment when Goliath and Coldstone topple into the water. As Goliath drowns, Hudson’s words reverberate in his head, with particular emphasis on “breathing the air” and “protect.” To be honest, the air bit is eye-rollingly on-the-nose, but that so much thought was put into tying everything in this together so tightly is much appreciated.

25

“OH! It means we SHOULDN’T have to breath air, right?”

Then something interesting happens. Coldstone reaches out and saves Goliath, flying him back up onto the bridge. Coldstone was there when Hudson spoke the words in the flashback, so we know he follows the mantra too. Goliath’s our hero, so any big booming-voice epiphany would normally go to him, but we forget that Coldstone was contemplating that same mantra. It’s going through both of their heads; they’re simply looking at it from different angles. Goliath was working through what a gargoyle has to protect, while Coldstone was hung up on what it means to be that gargoyle in the first place. If a gargoyle has to protect a castle, but all they’re out for now is “mere survival” as he says, then does that even make them gargoyles?

You are the wind beneath my wings.

The wind beneath my wings.

Saving Goliath’s life shows that Coldstone knows the answer deep down, but he and Goliath have been letting semantics and outside influences cloud their judgement. Ultimately, Goliath answers both their questions: “Gargoyles protect. It is our nature, our purpose. To lose that is to be corrupt…empty…lifeless.” Coldstone then asks the million dollar question: “And what do you protect?”

Coldstone questioned what made him a gargoyle, when the simple truth is that the very act of being a protector is what makes him a gargoyle at heart, totally rad cybernetic enhancements or not. Goliath was hung up on the literal interpretation, that they must protect the castle, when the key world is meant to be protect.

Demona is a total buzzkill when it comes to existential epiphanies, though, and shoots Coldstone with her Big Fucking Gun before they can answer the question, knocking him back into the water for good.

Okay, I can see the body horror sorta coming out now.

Okay, I can see the body horror sorta coming out now.

Surprisingly, Xanatos saves the clan from being killed right on the spot since he wants them alive. That is, until Bronx, Hudson and Elisa show up and save them from being kidnapped by Xanatos…who promptly grabs Demona and flies away.

...Hero shot?

…Hero shot?

After searching the water, Goliath emerges with no luck. “He was not a monster, he was family. And now he’s gone,” he says. We again come full circle to “Awakening”, where Goliath just can’t catch a break. On a lighter note, the shadows in this scene are beautifully rendered, so he’s got that going for him which is nice. The gargoyles bug Goliath to answer the question from earlier (which is kind of a dick move since his friend just died, but whatever.) What do they protect?

The easy answer would be that they just protect in general, which is where the episode seemed to be leading, and that the castle part of the mantra doesn’t matter. But Goliath is still an old fashioned guy, and no one can uproot their entire life view that easily. They’re still protecting the castle—it’s the definition of castle that’s changed. Manhattan is their castle, and all the people in it are their charges. Goliath swears his clan will protect all who live there, human and gargoyle alike.

“Are you all right? Is there anything you need?” Elisa asks, which is supremely sweet. But we all know Elisa is awesome. The answer to that question?

“Yes, I need a detective.”

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZINGA!

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZINGA!!!!!!!!

That’s a really great ending in and of itself, but we’re treated with an epilogue of sorts to the closing of this chapter. The robber from the beginning of the episode runs into the store with all the money he stole, begging for the cops to turn him in “Because six monsters just told me to.” As Elisa says, the city feels safer already.

The gargoyles have been reactionary to everything this season, pretty much on the run and without much purpose. It’s been reflected in the show, which meandered throughout its first season without much of a clear goal outside of “survive.” But as it turns out, the show played a trick on us. We weren’t just watching a fantasy-melodrama. We were watching an origin story for an unconventional group of superheroes. In “Reawakening”, that superhero team is officially formed. This clan of gargoyles are now, finally: The Gargoyles, protectors of Manhattan.

Though, would he really keep all his stolen money unspent, in bunches, in a burlap sack? Plotholes, plotholes...

Though, would he really keep all his stolen money unspent, in bunches, in a burlap sack? Plotholes, plotholes…

Wow, right? “Reawakening” was a lot harder to break into, because it’s sort of a paradox in how it wears its depth on the surface. A lot of the interesting bits that I could normally write stupidly long and overly wordy run-on sentences about are not only brought up and debated, but play very heavily into nearly every decision the main characters make. It’s such a precise, tightly-wound story that unraveling it was unusually messy. It also makes the episode feel unfairly underwhelming; lots of things happen without time to process them, and yet the episode still tends to drag sometimes (the fight on the bridge did not hold my attention until its climax, for example.) This episode isn’t plotted like a finale at all, with no real big twists that demand fanfare and an extremely simple plot, moreso than pretty much every episode this season. Coldstone, while representative of the best philosophical material in the episode, isn’t much of a character (even if Dorn is perfect in the role.) As such, it’s not as much fun to watch as it is to write about. Which, in the end, is a massive hindrance on the overall quality. There are lots of other half-hours that are more entertaining.

But damn if this isn’t still an interesting episode. In addition to the existential questions and the superhero formation, this is more or less the first time the heroes have truly beat the odds and won. Or, rather, where the villains have absolutely, definitively lost. There’s an element of tragedy in that Coldstone dies at the end of this episode, but it’s not all for naught (and come on, it’s pretty obvious that he’ll be back.) There’s no grander master plan at play that we know of. Demona and Xanatos teamed up, and they failed. And even with the loss of Coldstone, the good guys aren’t at any more of a loss than they were from the start.

In fact, the purpose they’ve gained supersedes that. It took Goliath about eight episodes to figure out he was allowed to move out of his castle, and that was with lots of pushing. The revelation here is the biggest one we’ve gotten yet, and Goliath put the pieces together on his own. That’s a big damn deal. For the first time, our hero is being proactive, creating his own destiny in a way. And as the leader, he’s in turn opened up that option for the rest of his clan. That’s awesome, and for a show that’s spent its first season being decidedly cynical, it’s an exciting, hopeful note for things to end on (and start this anniversary year on!)

Next time: Leader of the Pack? More like Leader of the Whack, amirite?

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