So after those 4,000 words screaming about how “The Mirror” CHANGES EVERYTHING, albeit drunkenly, we reach an episode that’s distinctly not this new changed Gargoyles that “The Mirror” promised. There’s no magic here, and in fact it’s about the most grounded story we’re ever going to get from this show. It’s a bottle episode, of sorts—well, not really, since it uses a whole bunch of new settings—but in the sense that it uses an extremely minimal cast and tight standalone story. It’s safe. It wraps up and doesn’t rely on much of what we’ve seen before. But you know what? No one said filler had to be bad, especially when that filler is a whole-plot homage to noir. And as this episode points out, no episode of Gargoyles is unimportant.
I barely remembered a single beat from “The Silver Falcon” before this rewatch. I knew the shot of Elisa on a falcon on a tower, because that’s the image used on the DVD menu. I remembered it was film noir. I remembered it had something to do with Matt (though I honestly got it confused with the revelations in…”Revelations.”) The most likely reason for this is that I probably only ever saw it once; I didn’t get into the show until around 10 years ago, and I saw the bulk of season 2’s first half for the first time on DVD. Being that this episode didn’t have audio commentary or wasn’t an instant favorite of mine like certain others, I doubt I ever would have popped it in and watched it. I hesitate to say it’s “forgettable” because of the connotation there, but it’s also not one that feels particularly memorable. Or it doesn’t try to be.
That’s a little sad, because watching this episode with near-fresh eyes was immensely enjoyable. Greg mentions in the DVD intro that this was a way for the new story editor to start out small, and it looks even smaller when compared to the grandioseness that was “The Mirror.” But it’s insanely well-done and entertaining, even with the usual logical slip-ups.
What makes “The Silver Falcon” work best from the get-go is its mise-en-scene. The entire episode looks beautiful.
I almost wish we didn’t get Broadway watching a classic detective noir film, just because the look of the episode is so good that it doesn’t need the comparison. But there are surely viewers who don’t know who Humphrey Bogart is, so it’s probably necessary.
Broadway is hanging out at Elisa’s house to watch it since Lex and Brooklyn have dibs on the castle’s VCR (HAHA VCR). There are some nice callbacks to their friendship established in “Deadly Force”, particularly that Elisa specifically keeps her gun in a lockbox in a drawer. She gets a call from Chief Chavez, who tells her that Matt’s disappeared and hasn’t checked in in 48 hours. Elisa isn’t worried since Matt’s an obsessive loon about conspiracy theories, but she’s off to do her duty. Broadway, high off of the noir film’s mantra about having a partner, wants to join her.
Elisa shuts him down, insisting she work alone. This ties in nicely with her no-partner mentality from back in “The Edge”, which she notably did not get over in that episode and has simply put up with Matt since he was assigned. It’s more pronounced when she finds a masked man rummaging through Matt’s apartment…and Broadway shows up and kind of screws everything up.
Broadway’s in a trenchcoat and fedora, obviously trying to imitate the noir detectives from the TV. Though, one has to wonder exactly where and how Broadway could get a trenchcoat and fedora that big, but eh. The more important thing to wonder is HOW DOES NO ONE IN THE APARTMENT COMPLEX HEAR THIS RUCKUS. Even with all the screaming and throwing and Broadway tearing through the elevator shaft, not a single soul erupts into the hallway asking what the fuck is going on. Elisa is pissed and wants to get out of the hallway, but nothing scrapes on how she’s going to explain it on her police report or how everyone in the complex must be dead.
Elisa finds a note from Matt’s calendar in the pocket of the perp that’s about a meeting at Cleopatra’s eye, in handwriting that is “definitely Matt’s.”
Broadway checks his computer, but as soon as he turns it on it EXPLODES. Not that it will wake anyone in this fucking apartment complex.
Elisa is pissed, of course, even though she herself could have very easily made that mistake. She understandably sends him away, but Broadway smartly refutes that “Matt was no amateur and he worked alone, and look at where it got him!” The point of this episode begins to unveil itself.
Elisa meets Matt’s contact at Cleopatra’s Needle, a new location that is seldom seen in shows that take place in Manhattan. This entire episode has some inspired setting choices, but this is definitely the best just from its sheer originality—and place in real life.
Matt’s contact is Hacker, his former partner in the FBI. Apparently Matt was ousted from the FBI because he was too obsessive, which is news to Elisa. What a great bit of character information! Matt has thus far been mostly comic relief with his looniness, but there’s a large sum of tragedy underlying it, it seems. His leads on the Illuminati ended hs career, and now they’ve gotten him kidnapped. Luckily, Hacker provides Elisa with the next clue: a 70 year old letter.
Suddenly, the story is a bit grander. More than that, it feels distinctly noir; names like Mace Malone and a mysterious “DD,” and a letter that goons desperately want to bury. Broadway chases off the goons, and Elisa makes her way to the address on the letter.
Elisa makes it over to the address, where a CPA has made the room his office. Broadway keeps a watchful eye on the next skyscraper over, which contains its own clue…
The subtle clues in this episode are wonderful, and probably work best because the mystery itself isn’t terribly complex. There’s a seemingly-throwaway line of the CPA calling DD “a sharp-looking young feller” that works wonders on second viewing. Nothing here is totally genius, but it doesn’t have to be, because the episode is about spinning a classic detective yarn. The tropes are all there, and they’re being played straight. And there’s nothing wrong with that so long as it’s engaging, which it is.
Elisa figures out that what was formerly the Silver Falcon night club is the one mentioned in the letter, and heads over, Broadway in tow.
After breaking in, it seems that Tony Dracon and his men are behind this, digging under the building with Matt held hostage and completely blindfolded for no good reason outside of plot convenience. What does Dracon have to do with Matt’s investigation into the Illuminati? Who knows, but what really matters is that he’s got stupid skunk hair now.
It turns out they were waiting for Elisa and Broadway to show up, set a trap that caves the two in where they’re standing. Broadway tries to hold up the debris, but turns to stone before he can dig them out.
First thing: that Broadway turns to stone without actually being in the sun, proving that the turn is totally biological and not reliant on the sun itself, is super cool. But even cooler is the exquisitely clever effect before it, where the glowing light from his eyes is the only light provided in the scene, and repeatedly flashes on and off as he blinks. It’s not necessary to the episode, but it’s such an imaginative element to play with that I can’t help but be a little giddy.
The whole point of burying Elisa was to both kill Elisa and get rid of the letter, the last piece of evidence (I guess?) Matt smartly points out that they don’t know if she actually had the letter, so they pull her out to make sure they get it. Some brief exposition reveals that DD is Dominic Dracon, Tony Dracon’s grandfather, and he and Mace Malone performed a jewel heist. Malone dipped out before giving Dracon his cut, though, and the Dracon family has been searching for it ever since. Matt, meanwhile, admits that he jumped to the wrong conclusions about Dracon or Malone’s connections to the Illuminati, and laments not bringing Elisa in on it. Of course the “partners are good” lesson here is obvious, but it’s also nice to Elisa and Matt on good terms like they are in spite of the sticky situation.
All Dracon finds in the dig is a note from Mace, saying, “Right idea, wrong falcon.” Elisa wises up to what’s going on, and promises to take Dracon to the real jewels, so long as he lets she and Matt go after. Also, they have to wait until nightfall…which means Elisa and Matt are kept captive for the next 12 hours, which is pretty horrible to think about.
That night, Broadway awakens and cleans his face.
He also reads the crumbled up note from Mace Malone with some struggle, calling back to him learning to read. Meanwhile, Matt discovers his apartment—and thus his home and all his possessions—blew up in a fiery blaze. His reaction, as expected, is literally “d’oh!”
Elisa takes them to the Not Chrysler Building, which is parallel to Mace Malone’s old office. What’s on the Not Chrysler Building? Silver falcon decor, which doesn’t look so silver anymore thanks to 70 years of soot. It’s pretty obvious where this is going.
She grabs the bag with the jewels, and then…well…it’s best put by Glasses: “That wacko dame took a dive!”
Have I mentioned that the dialogue in this episode is spot-on? Gargoyles dialogue tends to be typically flowery, but the noir material lets it also feel very old fashioned. There are lots of rhymes and alliteration, lots of archaic idioms, lots of clunky, wordy sentences that are sing-songy enough that they’re still pleasant to the ears. It’s pretty great.
As you may have guessed, she jumped because she knew Broadway was there, the man for her all along.
Broadway takes out the helicopter’s hydrolics, and in the chaos Matt gets his pseudo-badass moment.
Dracon gets off the plane and starts running like a maniac, half looking for the wacko dame’s bloody smooshed corpse, and half running from whatever took out the helicopter, probably. Broadway shows up and takes him out rather humiliatingly, quoting the movie: “When someone messes with your partner, you’re supposed to do siomething about it. Case closed.” And just flicks the shit out of him.
And rips off his tattered rags and…throws them in the garbage?
Elisa, meanwhile, SCALED THE ENTIRE BUILDING WHAT THE FUCK GIRL. At the top, the CPA from earlier reappears, revealing himself to have been Dominic Dracon all along!
Elisa had already figured it out, in true detective fashion, since he was the only one who knew she was going to the night club, which was booby trapped. This twist isn’t exactly riveting, but you know what? I didn’t predict it, and I’ve seen the episode at least once before. The clues are all there, it all checks out, and Darren McGavin of Kolchak fame fits the mold superbly as Dominic. Everything here, with Elisa standing her ground atop a tall building, wind bellowing and shadows aplenty, is just so good. It’s not particularly tense, since Dominic doesn’t pose much of a threat, and in fact as soon as Elisa throws the bag on the falcon it’s surprising he doesn’t immediately fall to a Disney death. Nothing mindblowing is happening here, but its tone fits the film style it’s paying homage to so well.
In the end, the bag of gems turns out to be yet another trick by Mace, as its filled with marbles and a note telling Dominic that “crime doesn’t pay.”
Dominic doesn’t fall to his death, surprisingly, in perhaps the one subversion of film noir tropes this episode does (aside from featuring a gargoyle, I guess.) Instead, all the bad guys are arrested, and the episode ends with Matt having appreciation for Elisa and Elisa having appreciation for Broadway. “We pulled it off…partner.”
We’ve seen the show go very cynical and very bright and soft, and “The Silver Falcon” sits comfortably in the middle of the two. It’s got lots of people being selfish and awful, and technically the stakes are higher than the last couple of weeks’, but nothing is being said about humanity as a whole. It’s a crime story. It gets solved. There’s not much else to it. It’s not perfect—the ridiculousness of no one in the apartment waking up is still hilariously stupid, and exactly why the Dracons were only just now deciding to act on the 70-year suspicion isn’t clear, (that letter was addressed to DD…did he not find that letter until now somehow?)
But that aside, the mystery itself is quite fun in a simple way, and is helped by all the subtle clues sprinkled throughout. The very simplistic lesson of “don’t take your partner for granted” is well-handled too, considering Elisa and Broadway and Elisa and Matt both have unique buddy-cop relationships within the show. The episode also has very good interior continuity, with Broadway’s trenchcoat steadily disintegrating over the course of the episode, or all of Elisa’s zipping and unzipping of her jacket throughout. And the extensive use of new and original settings makes this episode feel distinctly different. It’s all in the details for this week, and that’s what makes it entertaining in spite of this episode seemingly having nothing to do with anything.
That’s something “The Silver Falcon” highlights, actually. Gargoyles doesn’t have a singular plot arc, it has a whole bunch of sprawling character arcs that produce episodic plots. Most shows aren’t able to handle that, and end up either collapsing under the weight or generating a giant story or mission to gain some focus. Gargoyles, at least during this stage, is like what Lost tried to be had it not become bogged down by the mysteries of the Island. There is nothing central to Gargoyles, which is why you can have a season start off with such disparate, unlinked plots and still feel like a cohesive series. We’ve gone from comic book superheroes to nihilistic body horror to a 90s virtual reality Shakespeare homage to a morality tale about literacy to magical cartoon farce to a film noir detective homage. What in the ever living fuck is this show?
If I may break my already-oft-broken rule of “acting like I’ve never seen future episodes,” that’s what’s so striking about this episode. This is, for all intents and purposes, a standalone in every sense of the world. But tiny elements all come into play later, or at the very least build on events of the past. The subtle character developments, continuing relationships like Elisa and Broadway, Broadway’s reading, insight into Matt’s history, or the Illuminati references, they’re all things that carry over in the upcoming episodes, and that make this a cohesive TV show even when there isn’t a plot that ties it together. “The Silver Falcon”, and ultimately the episodes that will succeed it, show the prowess Gargoyles has for mixing its episodic storytelling with long-form stories. That’s what allows it to excel at throwing out these random ideas with a low rate of failure. Here’s looking at you, Gargoyles. You’re on a roll.
Next time: Baby, I’m howling for you.