Analysis and Review: Gargoyles The Thrill of the Hunt

thrill

Before I begin I feel I should clear something up.  Reviews for episodes of Gargoyles are most likely going to be lengthy and go into great detail for the simple reason that there are a lot of details to pretty much every episode. Not a whole lot is spent on meaningless filler meant to pad out the episode, there’s usually some overarching plot or narrative that will connect one episode to another.  Plus characters who may seem minor now could become major players later on so if you fail to mention them early on you’re left trying bring up all the details later on.  In short, Gargoyles is a show that plays the long game when it comes to storytelling and if you don’t pay attention then you’re likely to miss something important.

 

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“Well that’s a blatant attempt to justify your lengthy writing.”
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“Quiet you.”

 

Anyway, on with the show.

We start things off with Owen escorting Elisa to the castle, and she’s more than a little confused by his and Xanatos’ amicable position.

Elisa: I have to tell you, Mr. Burnett. I’m still surprised at being asked back seeing as how I busted your boss.

Owen: Mr. Xanatos is not the sort to harbor a grudge, Detective Maza. And he wouldn’t dream of denying you the opportunity to see your friends.

And as night falls the gargoyles reawaken and Goliath welcomes her back to their home while the rest scurry off for some TV time.  Goliath is under the impression that because they defeated Xanatos in the last episode the castle now belongs to them.  Unfortunately Elisa has to remind him that the world no longer operates under the “keep what you conquer” rules of property and there’s even worse news…

Elisa: That’s what I wanted to talk you about. You know that Xanatos was only convicted of receiving stolen property.

Goliath: Convicted?

Elisa: He was accused of that specific crime and that’s what he got sent to prison for. But he only got a six month sentence, and we’re lucky it wasn’t suspended. His lawyers will probably get that time cut down. The point is, it’s not safe here for you guys.

Goliath: What are you saying?

Elisa: I’m saying you have to find a new place to sleep during the day, a new home Goliath.

 

 

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“That’s unfair, underhanded and untrue!”
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“The American justice system in a nutshell.”

 

Despite her Elisa’s pleas about how unsafe their current Goliath is adamant about staying and skulks off.  While this is going on, Hudson decides to spend some quality time lounging and watching TV only to find that every channel is playing the same program on every channel,  a show that the Trio identify as “The Pack.”  From the looks of it, it appears to be a brainless action show where the titular Pack fight against “evil ninjas” in deadly obstacle courses. Needless to say the Trio is pretty enthralled, Lexington even calling them warriors much like the Gargoyles are and when when they find out that The Pack will be making a public appearance at Madison Square Garden they’re even more excited.  And you can already see where this going, one of those “you shouldn’t believe everything you see on TV” kind of lessons.

The scene shifts over to a television studio where the show is filmed and we get a proper look into the members which consist tattooed leader Fox (Laura San Giacomo), brother and sister Jackal and Hyena (Matt Frewer and Cree Summer), Australian weapons expert Dingo (played by Disney mainstay Jim Cummings) and strongman Wolf (Clancy Brown).  And it’s revealed that they aren’t just actors but also professional mercenaries, and some of them, Wolf especially, are just itching to kill something again.  That’s when Fox shows off some photos of Goliath that were sent to them anonymously.

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How nice of them to get his good side too.

Hey, wait a second…Clancy Brown playing another bad guy?

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Two villains in a single series? Are you absolutely sure you’re not evil? ” Cuz’ I’ve seen Shawshank Redemption no one plays a character like that without being a little evil.”
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“I told you already!  I’m.  Not.  Evil!”

At Madison Square Garden the Trio are hiding up in the rafters watching the show and I’m reminded of those live shows at places like Disneyland or Universal Studios, in just how cheesy those kind of things are.  But Lexington is completely enraptured, and even sneaks off to meet with them back stage.  While initially shocked at seeing another gargoyle (not to mention the fact that he can talk), Fox quickly spins a tale about hearing rumors of another larger gargoyle and entices Lex into meeting him.

Back at the castle, Lex makes it back right before dawn and breaks the news that he’s made allies with the Pack.  Goliath however is just a little angry that he revealed himself to a group a strangers without his permission.  But before the argument can continue the sun rises and they enter their stone sleep.

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Falling asleep mid-lecture? That’s gotta be new.

The next night the debate picks up right where it was left off, Lex reveals that he at least had the good sense not to tell them that they turn to stone during the day and that he didn’t tell them where they lived.  Instead he takes a softer approach, pleading to Goliath to at least meet with them first.

Lexington: We can’t hide from the whole world up here. There are kindred spirits out there for us, but we’ve got to look for them and we’ve got to give them the chance. Or else, we’ll always be alone.

Goliath actually seems moved by that little speech and finally agrees to meet with them alongside Lexington, and if safe they’ll plan to introduce the whole clan to the Pack.  But safe isn’t exactly the situation they find themselves in, as the moment they reach the studio they’re met with blinding spotlights, grenades and gun fire.

Goliath: It’s a trap!

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“Hey that’s my line!”

The two of them are forced into the obstacle course where the traps there have been given lethal upgrades.  Goliath decide to bypass all of that and just punches his way through the metal walls where they escape to the roofs, the Pack however are still in pursuit.  After a moment of fleeing Goliath and Lexington stop to get their bearings and Lex takes a moment to vent some anger over their situation and his naivety.

Lexington: But why? We’re not their enemies! They’re no more than animals!

Goliath: Worse than that. An animal hunts because it’s hungry. These hunters do it for sport.

Lexington: I’m never trusting anyone again!

But before this kinda childish ultimatum can be explored further the attacks resume in the form of Dingo throwing an explosive boomerang.  And really?  An Aussie attacking with a boomerang?  Seems a bit cliched.  They attempt to flee once again but are sent crashing into an alleyway by a combo of cut power lines and another explosion courtesy of Jackal and Hyena. But before the Pack can kill the defenseless heroes the team are recognized by a pair young fans who run up to badger them with questions.

FoxWonderful.  Our adoring public.

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And now you see why so many celebrities value their privacy.

This momentary distraction allows the two gargoyles a chance to regain their strength and the battle continues after Wolf plays it off as a publicity stunt.  They flee once again to the roofs with the Pack hot on their trails but once they get up there find themselves at a serious disadvantage as the roof is covered with stone gargoyles and grotesques.

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As they search around, Jackal suddenly realizes that his sister’s gone missing.  And then Dingo gets snatched away by Lex causing Jackal to flee, only then he gets ambushed by Goliath.  And all of this reminds me of The Art of War, specifically the passage, “By discovering the enemy’s dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy’s must be divided.”

Now using the same hit-and-run tactics as their enemies, Goliath ambushes Fox and Wolf and they end up crashing through a roof and into a photo shoot.  In desperation Fox takes one of the models hostage which I gotta say is pretty dumb considering they already had to cover their public image just a few minutes ago, to say nothing of the photographer taking photos of the whole thing.  Well Lex gets the drop on Fox and Wolf decides to take Goliath on in hand-to-hand, which obviously doesn’t go well because even if Wolf is strong enough to shoulder tackle a 400 pound gargoyle said gargoyle is strong enough to punch through solid metal.  And so Wolf is taken out like yesterday’s trash.

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Literally in this case.

And with that the battle is ended and Goliath and Lexington vanish leaving Fox and Coyote for the police.  Returning to the castle, Lexington is still beating himself up and Goliath reminds them on the need for being cautious about who they trust, being what they are.  And yep, it’s time for the show to deliver the message about not believing everything you seen on TV.

Lexington: I was so totally wrong!

Goliath: No, Lexington. You were right. We can’t hide from the world, we must live in it. We must search for allies, kindred spirits, and sometimes we must take chances like we did tonight. To do so otherwise is to remain forever alone.

Okay.  Not the message I was expecting.  And a pretty good one at that.

The rest of the clan show up with the news of the Pack’s arrest.  Much to Hudson’s confusion.

Hudson: I thought they were the good guys. Maybe we shouldn’t believe everything we see on television.

Aha!  I knew that lesson was coming! I was just a little off.

The episode then ends with Owen visiting Xanatos in prison.  It turns out that under Xanatos’ orders Owen reprogrammed the castle’s televisions to show nothing but the Pack TV show to entice the gargoyles.  And sent the photos of Goliath to the Pack to entice them into hunting the gargoyles.

Owen: A pity nothing else happened according to plan.

Xanatos: Oh, l wouldn’t say that, Owen. Though they didn’t know it was me, l created the Pack to be far more than just a TV show. l had to see how good they were. And having underestimated Goliath once before, l needed to know what he was capable of as well. All in all, l’d say the test was most informative.

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“All warfare is based on deception.  Who’s to say I can’t manipulate my own pawns as easily my opponents?”

Review and Thoughts:

This is the first character-centric episode of the show focusing on Lexington and the consequences of his naivety.  While he may be the more tech-savvy of the clan, he’s still young and impressionable.  Modern day children usually learn at an early age that what they see on TV isn’t always real, but Lexington as well as the other gargoyles haven’t been in the modern world for very long and are still learning the rules as they go.  I think that’s why it was Hudson, the oldest of the clan, rather than the youngest that delivers the “you shouldn’t believe everything you see on TV” message near the end.

We get our first of what is to be many “Xanatos Gambits” of the series.  Essentially the Xanatos Gambit is plan crafted in such a way that all foreseeable outcomes will benefit the creator in one way or another.  In other words, even if a scheme fails it can still accomplish a secondary purpose or motive that’s unknown to all but the schemer.

Xanatos manipulating the gargoyles in the last few episodes eventually backfired on him which led to his imprisonment, however temporary it may be.  By manipulating the Pack and the gargoyles from the shadows he test the strengths of both sides, determine the usefulness of the pack in any future schemes, and determine whether the gargoyle’s victory over him was a fluke or whether there’s a more tactical mind than he gave them credit for.  And doing it in such a way that neither the gargoyles or the Pack is able to trace it back to him.

As for the Pack themselves, their appearance seems to be a blend of professional wrestlers and Power Rangers.  And while their show within the show comes off as pretty cheesy I’m reminded of another show back back in the 90’s called WMAC Masters.  Which involved martial artists battling each other and ninjas in choreographed fights, as well as delivering Aesops for the kids watching.

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A good reminder that reality is often stranger than fiction.

The cast that makes up the Pack is a motley crew of great character actors.  Laura San Giacomo plays a pretty good no-nonsense leader.  Fun fact: apparently her agent didn’t want her credited for her appearance in the show as they felt it would damage her career being in an animated series.  Never mind the fact that among her other cast members included veteran film and television actors, as well as two cast members from The Next Generation at the height of Star Trek’s popularity.  The rest of the cast is pretty on point, Jim Cummings’ Aussie accent while undoubtedly cliched is consistent.  Matt Frewer’s oily, whispered voice contrasts well with Cree Summer’s more high-pitched cackling tone.  And Clancy Brown sounds distinctly different from his previous character Hakon.

The episode ends with both Fox and Wolf arrested, there’s still three members left unaccounted for.  And after that defeat they may be out for revenge.

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Nah, we’ll probably never see them again.

 

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