Anyway, flashforward a thousand years and David Xanatos (Jonathan Frakes), billionaire playboy philanthropist has Castle Wyvern disassembled, and rebuilt, brick by brick, at the top of his Manhattan skyscraper just to see what would happen. The spell is broken and Goliath and his surviving clan of gargoyles become the defenders of New York from all threats both human and supernatural.
I went back and forth over just how to approach this review. At first, I was going to do a general review of the whole series before remembering that there were 65 GODDAMN episodes.
And that’s not even counting the third season that never happened and which we shall never speak of again.
I then thought about reviewing one of the story arcs like “The World Tour” or “City of Stone”. But “City of Stone” focuses more on two side characters than the main Gargoyles and also there’s a lot of flashback stuff that would get really confusing and probably be boring to read. And as for “Word Tour”, I had (again) forgotten that Goliath and Eliza were putzing around on that damn boat for nineteen episodes so once again…
So finally, with the deadline approaching like an oncoming walrus on a bobsled I decide to just review one single episode which I think encapsulates the things that I most loved about this show.
Anyway, Xanatos suddenly asks Fox to marry him and she’s stunned. She asks him if he’s serious and he answers “We’re genetically compatible, highly intelligent and have the same goals. It makes perfect sense for us to get married.”
Fox agrees that that’s all true, but asks what about, y’know, love? Xanatos answers that they love each other about as much as too people like them “are capable of that emotion”. You know it’s weird, but Jonathan Frakes is such a charming bastard in this role that he manages to make that sound almost tender. I never really liked Frakes on Stark Trek, but I think that was more to do with the fact that Riker was always written as an insufferably smug asshole. Here, Xanatos is supposed to be an insufferably smug asshole. Also, Frakes has both a wonderfully distinctive voice that’s delightful to listen to and a fantastic deliver. It really makes you wish he’d done more voicework, he missed his calling. Anyway, to “seal the bargain” Xanatos presents Fox with an amulet called the Eye of Odin which is cursed because let’s face it, when did you ever hear of an amulet that wasn’t cursed? She takes the amulet and says “Proposal accepted”.
A few weeks later and it’s October 30st and we see Eliza Maza (Salli Richardson) shopping for Halloween treats. Eliza was kind of like the April O’Neill to the Gargoyles Turtles, if April O’Neill was a badass NYPD detective who saved the turtles at least as often as they saved her. She sees a shopkeeper running screaming out of his shop and runs to investigate where she finds…
The werewolf almost kills Eliza but runs off when more cops arrive. Xanatos and his trusty butler Owen (Jeff Bennett) watch the news report of the werewolf attack and note that this is the fourth attack since, oh, around the start of October when Xanatos gave Fox that amulet which I’m sure is just a coincidence. No need to go assuming causal relationships willy nilly. Fox comes in barefoot and dressed in nothing but a trenchcoat and Xanatos asks where she’s been and she mumbles something about “going out for a walk” and goes to bed. Since it’s fairly obvious that Fox is either the werewolf or has become a Central Park flasher, Xanatos tells Owen that it’s time for “Plan A”.
Meanwhile, it’s Halloween night and the Gargoyles have awoken and now’s probably a good time to to give you the skinny on these guys. So there’s six gargoyles in the Manhattan Clan, Brooklyn, Lexington, Broadway, Bronx, Hudson and Goliath. And if you’re thinking that those names don’t really scream “10th Century Scotland” you’re not wrong. See, Gargoyles don’t normally use names. Goliath was given his name by the humans of Castle Wyvern as he was the one who had the most interaction with humans but the rest of them apparently just went by “Hey, you”. This, incidentally, makes time travel and flashback episodes a real pain for the writers because everyone has to be “Mentor”, “Brother” or “My Love”. The other Gargoyles, when they awoke in New York, picked names based on places or landmarks in the the city. Brooklyn, Lexington and Broadway are the three youngest gargoyles and they tend to be called “The Trio” because they hang around together and often share storylines. Brooklyn (Jeff Bennett) is the tough one, Lexington (Thom Adcox-Hernandez) is the small nerdy one and Broadway (Bill Fagerbakke) is the huskier, not-so-smart one. Then there’s Hudson (Ed Asner), the curmudgeonly old grandpa of the group and Bronx who is….weird. See, Bronx is a gargoyle, but he acts like a dog and the other gargoyles treat him like a pet. Even though he’s a gargoyle.
And of course, Bronx is voiced by Frank Welker. For, as it is written in Genesis 1:25: “And the LORD created the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And Frank Welker did voice them.”
And then there’s Goliath.
Now one of the shows central themes is prejudice and not judging people by appearance. It’s certainly not the only cartoon from the era to tackle that but Gargoyles has it worked into it’s very DNA, starting with the character designs. The show really doesn’t shy away from making the Gargoyles look, well, grotestque (architecture joke!). In fact, when they’re in battle, with their glowing eyes and bestial roars they are flat out terrifying.
Now look at Xanatos. Charming, devilishly handsome white guy with a sarcastic butler and flying suit of power armour. He is very deliberately meant to be an amalgalm of Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. You expect him to be the hero. The series goes out of its way to subvert your expectations by visually coding its villains to look like heroes and its heroes to look like monsters. And this is one of the reasons that Goliath works so well. Goliath is in many ways like Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke. He is unfailingly honourable, courageous, loyal and selfless. He never kills, and holds all life to be precious, even that of his enemies. If you watched the show as a kid you might remember him as some kind of dark anti-hero but he absolutely is not. As a hero Goliath is closer to Superman than Wolverine, noble and pure to a fault. Now if he looked like Xanatos he’d probably be incredibly dull, but it’s the contrast of that character with that design and Keith David’s magnificent, Saturnine growl that makes the character so arresting.
So the gargoyles are psyched because it’s Halloween and this means they can actually walk the streets and people will just assume they are the best cosplayers ever.
Eliza arrives and tells Goliath about her run in with the werewolf. He’s worried about her and says he should have been there to protect her, but she says he can’t protect her all the time, any more than she can guard him during the day when he’s turned to stone. It was around this point in the series that it was becoming clear that Goliath and Eliza weren’t simply friends but were starting to develop feelings for each. It’s pretty heavy subject matter for a kid’s show really. You have two people who are slowly falling in love but both know that there is literally zero chance that they could have anything even remotely like a normal life together. Goliath can’t even live in human society. What are they going to do if they want to have kids? Eliza’s not going to start laying eggs anytime soon. The final episode of the second series did have them admitting their feelings to each other and even sharing a kiss, which was a nice note to end the series on, because, as previously mentioned, there never was a third season.
Meanwhile, at the castle, Fox is standing in front of an open window in the light of the full moon while wearing the Eye of Odin. It’s never really made clear if Fox knows what’s happening or why she simply doesn’t, y’know, take off the damn cursed amulet. Xanatos does ask her to give it to him and she says that she can’t bear to part with it so maybe she and it have a whole “Precious/Sméagol” thing goin’ on. Xanatos insists and Fox freaks out and turns into the Were-Fox. And I have to say, the animation in this scene is absolutely top-flight for a TV budget, even a Disney TV budget.
Xanatos and Owen try to tranquilise the Were Fox but she breaks free and escapes the castle. Owen did manage to shoot her with a tracking device and tells Xanatos that at the rate her metabolism is going, Fox will be dead by morning. Xanatos cavalierly says that if he had known the Eye of Odin had that kind of power he never would have given it away, and tells Owen to move to Plan B. But then he turns away from Owen and we see his expression change.
Elisa tells Goliath that she’s just gotten an anonymous tip as to where to find the Were Fox and the two set out after. Meanwhile, Xanatos is tracking Fox through New York in his flying suit of armour that he made to look exactly like Goliath and then gets in and flies around in and OH MY GOD SO MUCH FREUDIAN STUFF I NEVER GOT WATCHING THIS AS A KID. Xanatos tracks Fox to a slaughterhouse where he finds her demolishing half a cow. She attacks him and almost bites his frickin’ head off, but Fox manages to reassert control fro just a second and flees outside just in time to run into Goliath and Eliza. Goliath and the Were-Fox battle and Goliath knocks it out cold.
Xanatos then shows up and tries to remove the Eye of Odin from Fox but gets blasted with magical energy. The Were Fox wakes up and runs off into the night and Eliza tries to arrest Xanatos but he just blasts off into the sky like a goddamn boss. Eliza tells Goliath that the Were Fox must have been a human that Xanatos experimented on (long story short, he’s got priors) and says they need to round up the rest of the clan and get the amulet off of the Were Fox.
Back at the castle, Xanatos tells Owen that Plan B has failed, but Plan C is now in operation. The Gargoyles will now try and get the Eye of Odin off Fox, doing Xanatos’ job for him. However, Goliath and Eliza emerge from the shadows and tell Xanatos that for once they’re on to his bullshit and they’re not going to be manipulated into helping him and that he’d better have a Plan D. Xanatos tells them that the creature is Fox and that he only gave her the amulet because legend said it bestows “power and insight”. Xanatos is all “How was I supposed to get “will turn you into a werewolf” from that? That’s not on me, right?” and Goliath says that perhaps the amulet is giving Xanatos an “insight” into Fox’s true nature.
Xanatos begs Goliath to help him and he asks why should he? Xanatos replies “Because you know what it’s like to lose someone you love.” This almost works but Eliza tells Goliath that begging for his help is Xanatos’ plan D and that when it fails he;ll just move on to Plans E and F. That’s the thing about Xanatos, lying, telling the truth, doesn’t matter. He’s still using you. Goliath realises that Eliza’s right and tells Xanatos “A noble effort. But another failure. Not a good night for you.” Goliath and Eliza fly off, and get ready to go out for Halloween. And for the first time, Eliza and Goliath are actually able to walk down the street arm in arm like a normal couple.
They dance together in the street while the Trio look on and Lexington wistfully says “They should have Halloween more often.” As they walk, Goliath tells Eliza that he;s having second thoughts about not helping Xanatos. He says that if someone like Xanatos can love, then maybe there’s hope for the world. He says that he’s going to help Xanatos after all and then Xanatos emerges from the shadows where he was waiting the whole time because he knew Goliath would change his mind. That, or he was about to implement Plan E, throwing himself at Goliath’s feet and screaming “Pleasepleasepleasepleaseprettyplease!” Anyway, they track the Were Fox to a rooftop and after a big stonking epic battle they finally succeed in getting the Eye of Odin off her. Fox turns back into her human form and Xanatos’ helicopter arrives to take them back to the castle. Goliath demands that Xanatos give him the Eye of Odin and Xanatos doesn’t even bother arguing. As Xanatos gathers up the woman he loves in his arms he turns to Goliath.
Xanatos: So. Now you know my weakness.
Goliath: Only you would regard love as a weakness.
It’s TV animation from the nineties so it’s a little janky in places, but surprisingly good overall.
Goliath and Eliza are a great team, equal partners who compliment each other’s strengths.
David Xanatos is quite possibly the greatest villain in the history of TV animation and this episode perfectly showcases the character at his best and worst.
Supporting Characters: 14/20
Unfortunately the Trio and other supporting characters get shunted a bit this time around, but whaddya want, they only got twenty four minutes.
Carl Johnson’s epic, melodramatic theme music still holds up.
FINAL SCORE: 71%
NEXT REVIEW: 08 September 2016
Neil Sharpson aka the Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger based in Dublin. The blog updates with a new review every second Thursday. Unshaved Mouse has been shortlisted for the Blog Awards Ireland 2016! Below is the button for voting. It’s a one time dealy and voting ends on August 23rd. Thanks guys!