Gargoyles: Awakening Part 1- Episode Review Continued. If you missed part 1, go check it out!
Remember, sections marked 20/20 moments are meta-comments. Don’t read ’em if you don’t want spoilers.
Back to the show:
Big Purple and his second in command just crashed the victory party at the castle. It’s their victory, but the humans didn’t invite them. In other Disney productions, this would lead to curses on babies and the destruction of spinning wheels.
The princess looks freaked when the gargoyles stride in. Cap has invited them. She says she is displeased that they allowed “beasts into the dining hall.” Ouch. The gargoyles rank lower than the dogs that eat the scraps from the dining-hall tables.
Magus, her adviser, is pissed off too. He’s white haired but young, verging on anime bishounen territory. He’s voiced by Jeff Bennett, Demigod of Voice Acting. Pretty much everybody is voiced by Jeff Bennett. In every show. Ever. He calls the gargoyles “unnatural.” Now I’m really curious about them!
The lead gargs halt before Princess Racist. Goliath spreads his wings – then capes them over his shoulders and bows.
Captain congratulates Goliath and cites the Biblical David and Goliath as the name’s source.
Princess and Magus send them packing. Apparently the gargoyles are outside gargoyles, not to be allowed in the great hall, even after they saved everyone’s butts. Princess relegates Cap to reporting to Magus rather than her.
The Captain is apologetic – to Goliath. Goliath is accepting. This gives us a picture of Goliath’s character. He may look like a beast, but he’s more civilized and has more humanity than the humans. His second in command is less accepting (“Have you no pride!”), even after Goliath’s “humans fear what they don’t understand” explanation.
Magus has his nose in a spell book.
The gargoyles are stone.
A rider is heading out to make a deal with Hakon. Is it Magus? It doesn’t have his build, but it could always be a servant or minion.
That night, the Captain is trying to get Goliath to take the gargoyles from the castle. They can hunt down the Vikings…far, far away. The second in command garg supports him.
Goliath says he can scare the invaders away “without any help.” He sounds darkly pleased at the idea. Is it just me, or could he make a great villain if pushed over that thin Hero line?
20/20 moment: You get a little Thailog vibe here. He’s looking forward to the thrill of power that comes with scaring humans. Yet, two seconds later he comes down on the Trio for doing the same thing. Then again, different situations…
He asks his second, also his lover, to stay and protect the castle. Even when he is gone, he says that “we are one, now and forever.”
Both the second and Cap look downcast at this turn of events. We’re sensing a disturbance in the Force…
Meanwhile, the three gargs we met earlier, Squirrel Boy, Beaky, and Patrick, are having an exchange of cultural traditions with a blond kid named Tom. He asks their names. They don’t have any. What do they call each other? Friend. Awwww. Let’s all join hands and sing Kumbaya and buy the world a Coke. So in general conversation, what do they call a gargoyle who isn’t present? If Beaky and Patrick are talking about Squirrel Boy, do they say, “I talked to Friend today”? Which friend would that be? Odds are they’ll say something like, “little bald green one.” It’s a good attempt at differentiating gargoyles from humans, though. It’s a way of showing us that garg ways are not human ways.
Cultural sharing breaks down when Tom’s mom drags him off and calls the gargs “monsters.” The trio responds with the time-honored, highly effective technique used by all successful protesters to prove their innocence: they act exactly like their stereotype.
Goliath discovers them and the dog thing terrorizing the refugees, with the second in command looking on.
Goliath sends the teens to the rookery despite his girl friend’s support of their actions. The rookery is where they gargs keep their eggs. They look like giant, spotted Easter eggs. So…are the gargoyles reptilian? No, they’ve got hair. I’m guessing they’re like platypuses. Some even have beaks.
20/20 moment: The choice of the writers to save the trio via the rookery is genius. We get to see how gargoyles reproduce, their kinship to reptiles, and the future of the clan. This seed grows into a Douglas fir later! The writers add more weight to it in the next ep by having the clan ask Xanatos about the rookery. We think it’s destroyed since Xanatos says it wasn’t there.
Leaving his lover, who is the clan’s strongest warrior besides Goliath (ooh, foreshadowing), to guard the castle, Goliath flies off with the old, brown, bearded garg. Graybeard is a better tracker than the young punks.
Back at the castle, someone with a long mustache is sabotaging the bow strings. Hmmm…
Soon Goliath and the old mentor realize they’re following decoys. The main force has moved to attack the castle! For such a great tracker, Graybeard missed the fact that an army of Vikings with siege weapons would leave a giant trail. Instead, the trail is from about four ten that he admits are light for carrying armored men.
One thing this series does well is animate horses. They are darn hard to get right, as Greg Weisman points out.
Goliath and Old Guy try to reach the castle, but the sun rises. They turn to stone as the sun strikes them. That is one heck of a weakness. Explain how this species has survived so long!
Actually, they aren’t surviving very well. The Vikings attacked, the sabotaged bow strings snapped, an insider opened the portcullis, and now the invaders are destroying the sitting gargs. It’s sledgehammer time!
Turns out the Captain, not Magus, made a deal with Hakon, betraying the castle to him if the Viking leaves the gargoyles in peace. Hakon will leave them in pieces instead as he double crosses Cap right back, wiping out the gargoyle clan. While Hakon destroys the gargoyles, Captain looks on in horror.
This is a nice reversal. It’s showing the series isn’t taking you down obvious paths.
I wish they told us more here about why the Captain of the Guard was so willing to give up the castle and side with the gargoyles. Yes, he saw them be taken for granted and treated poorly, but that’s not enough to make a person turn on an entire community. Did he believe he’d be the new lord, with only gargoyles around? He doesn’t seem the type. His change of heart is semi explained: He’s shared a kinship with the gargoyles, considering them his “kind.” It’s not just due to his looks, either. I think he feels misunderstood, and as such he sympathizes with fellow outcasts. The gargoyles are also great warriors, as is he. So there’s the bond between fighters.
Villain/antagonist freeze frame: Hakon: He’s pragmatic. He has no further use of the Captain, so he tosses him aside. The gargoyles pose a major threat once the sun sets. Unlike almost all villains and…100% of American animated series villains, he doesn’t dangle them over an acid bath or shark tank. Hakon just plain kills them.
Wow. Slow down there, everybody. This is not your little sister’s cartoon. This is verging on anime.
We met some of these gargoyles, or at least saw them, while they were flesh and blood. Now we’re watching them get put through a wood chipper. Do they feel pain in stone form? Disney, are you aware you just showed us a slaughter? This would never clear today’s sissy standards and policies.
The writers don’t treat the destruction lightly, either. They show the horror on Captain’s face as Hakon destroys one. The clan’s annihilation will directly be Goliath’s motivation for episodes to come. It will indirectly influence him for the whole series. The writers understood that we young viewers could handle it. We understood these gargoyles were dying. Yes, it wasn’t like watching blood and gore, but in a way it was worse. These creatures were totally powerless. They had zero chance.
Goliath returns to find the castle in flaming ruins. Piles of stone chunks are all that remain of his friends and family. Imagine if you came home to find all your people torn apart. The passion in his voice and face when he scoops up a handful of what appears to be the remains of his lover is heartbreaking.
To be continued…
The worst words ever when you have to wait a whole week for the next episode.
What an amazing pilot episode! Awakening does everything a first episode or first chapter should do: hook the audience, introduce the protagonists and antagonists, establish a compelling need for the protagonists, and throw a barrel of monkeys into the gears of normalcy. There is no reason a sane person would want to stop watching at this point.
Next, on Gargoyles:
Gargoyles attacking the Vikings, “You turned them to stone forever?”, red and black chopper, David Xanatos watching Goliath’s awakening, combat troops attacking the castle, another chopper, and Elisa Maza saying, “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” Will she ever!
The opening rolls but without Goliath’s trademark narration. Here’s where the nostalgia really kicks in! There’s the Dark Ages gargoyles. There’s Xanatos and his wicked-cool chopper on the way to the Eyrie Building. There’s views from the castle in the clouds. There’s Elisa Maza falling off a disintegrating castle tower. There’s Goliath exploding from his stone skin. All the while we’re treated to the stirring strains of Gargoyles’s theme.
Also, next episode we meet Xanatos and Owen!
Read part 1 of the episode review for Awakening Part 2. Go now!
Thoughts on the second half of ep 1? Share them in the comments!