Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gargoyles: " Awakening, Part One"

Welcome to the inaugural outing of my new project - recapping my way through my absolute favorite animated show (possibly the best of all time) - Gargoyles! I adored this show as a kid and I am so looking forward to revisiting it as an adult. So, without further ado, let's jump into the first part of the epic five-part series opener:

We start in medias res, in 1994 nighttime Manhattan. A seemingly unnatural storm is raging about the top of a skyscraper, complete with ominously red lightning. Large stone boulders come plummeting down to the street, causing much panic. Police cars come screeching to the scene. Out of the sweet red one emerges Detective Elisa Maza, 23th Precinct:

After confirming with the poor cop attempting crowd control that no one has a clue what's going on, she is nearly flattened by more falling boulders. But what's this? In one of the rocks there are claw marks. Elisa is puzzled. Yet more boulders fall, this time busting open a fire hydrant. (Is any scene of city chaos complete without a busted fire hydrant?) As the water rains down on her, Elisa wonders aloud, "What could be strong enough to leave claw marks in solid stone?"

Here's your answer, Detective!

Scotland, 994 A.D. A castle is under attack by Vikings. Catapults, archers on battlements, smoke and fire, the whole nine yards. It seems to be going badly for the defenders. We get a quick shot of stone gargoyles on a tower, then we're with a musclebound gentleman encouraging his men to stand fast. "Aye, an' catch boulders with our teeth while we're aboot it," one says, causing me to snicker. Muscles is less amused and threatens the archer and his buddy back to their posts. "In a few minutes the sun will be down and then we'll see some fun," he adds. This isn't much comfort to MacArcher and his pal, though, as they are promptly smashed (to death?) by a boulder. Too bad, dude, but at least you get to say "I told you so!" Possibly from the afterlife.

Outside the castle, the head Viking is also dealing with attitude from an underling. Erik the Yellow is not wild about the idea of attacking a castle full of gargoyles so close to nightfall. "This is crazy," he says. "And Hakon knows it!" Ah, but not as crazy as expressing that opinion with Hakon standing right behind you. Furthermore, he doesn't believe the gargoyles are even real and doesn't care if they are. "Attack!" he bellows. They do and it's not Helm's Deep, but it still looks quite impressive, especially the shots of Hakon and others scaling the castle walls while the sun sinks ever lower in the sky. Hakon reaches the top of the tower where a particularly large gargoyle sits just as the sun sets.

I'm guessing Hakon's wishing he'd sent Erik the Yellow to scale this part of the castle.

I'm a little confused. I remember the gargoyles always roaring as they woke up. Not that this one's not scary enough without that as he easily holds Hakon up by one wrist and says in a very mild tone of voice, "You are trespassing." Keith David, you guys. That voice is amazing and he hasn't even gotten loud yet!

The Vikings are understandably unnerved by the now awakened gargoyles. Hakon draws his sword with his free hand and swings it toward the gargoyle, who catches it barehanded. Um, holy shit. Credit where it's due, though, Hakon keeps his head. Observing the small trickle of blood (from catching a goddamn sword, mind you) he urges his men to fight on against the gargoyles. "They are not invincible!"

No, but still tough. Hakon manages to pull the gargoyle off the tower (which, really?). He drops Hakon, who manages to save himself by grabbing a convenient rope. (Connected to what? Is it his grappling line?) The battle is on and the gargoyles seem to be pretty much kicking ass.

On yet another castle tower, three more gargoyles watch for a moment before joining in.

[Okay, sidebar: I know it's kind of awkward not to refer to characters by name, even when I and anybody else who might read this know what those names are. I thought about just using those names anyway, because it would be a lot easier, but since, in the gargoyles' case, actually being named is part of the story, I decided not to use their names until the show did. Except for joke names I might come up with to amuse myself. So that's what's going on there. Also, the word name now looks really weird to me]

[Sidebar the second: Holy crap, we're only five minutes into this puppy. I might need to condense a little before I end up writing a term paper here.]

So. Battle. Highlights include: Little Green gargoyle teasing Big Blue gargoyle, Muscles calling the big guy by name - Goliath! - while demonstrating friendship and telling him the Vikings were following a band of refugees, Goliath saving an older one-eyed gargoyle, Big Blue knocking out a Viking with a drumstick in the middle of chowing down on it, a little refugee boy noticing Big Blue, a dog-like gargoyle knocking Hakon into a shadowy part of the castle, where he finds:

Yeah. Again, I'll give Hakon credit, he doesn't wet himself, even when Goliath joins the party. Goliath identifies the above scary female as his second-in-command (unspoken but obvious, also his special lady friend) and tosses Hakon off the castle into a hay wagon and tells him to get gone. "This isn't over, monster!" he yells, before turning tail and running. "I'll be back!" No one is impressed. Maybe if he'd put a little Schwarzenegger into it.

Anyway, the battle is won. Yay! As Scary Lady gargoyle bandages his hand (which he used to grab a sword like a boss), Goliath reaffirms his friendship with Muscles. "We owe you our lives," obviouses Muscles. "As we owe you ours," returns Goliath. "Every day."

(Even not seeing this show in years, I remember enough to wince. Oh, man.)

Castle Dining Hall. A celebratory feast is in full swing, including Scottish-sounding music, dogs running around, a snotty-looking lady, a wizard-type eyeing his goblet weirdly (assessing the quality of the either workmanship or the whiskey?), and a couple of randoms talking shit about Muscles and the gargoyles. You know, those responsible for saving everyone's collective asses. Lovely. Though they are kind enough to give me Muscles' name, or rather his title - Captain of the Guard. The snotty lady, who is a princess and ruler of the castle, thanks Captain Muscles for his defense of the castle. When he rightly credits Goliath and the gargoyles, she is less than gracious. In fact, she's a straight-up bitch. "Don't mention that monster's name in my presence," she hisses. But oh, snap! Guess who's overheard?

Captain Muscles tries to smooth things over, as he's the one who invited Goliath and his second, but Princess BitchyBoots throws a snit fit and her wizard pal is even more of a dick. "These are unnatural creatures. No good can come from associating with them." No good except for the castle not being sacked and looted, the residents murdered or enslaved, and Princess SnotFace serving as Hakon's bedwarmer. But don't let little things like logic get in your way, pal. Might I ask exactly what this jerk was doing while the castle was under siege?

Anyway, Goliath has more class in his pinky claw than these two idiots have combined, so he bows to the princess and he and his girlfriend take their leave, though not before hearing more insults. Princess Stinkweed then smacks down Captain Muscles, ordering him to give his reports to the Magus (ooh, a name!) instead of her. The Magus, for his part, looks insufferably smug. And punchable.

In a corridor, Captain Muscles tries to apologize, but Goliath waves it off. His lover is not nearly so sanguine, and even knowing what I know, I'm with her, a little bit. So is Captain Muscles. "She's right, Goliath. You deserve better than this."

But Goliath is wiser than us. He clasps her hand. "It is the nature of humankind to fear what they do not understand. Their ways are not our ways." Oh, Keith David. I could listen to you speak the wisdom of the ages in that velvet voice all day long. Goliath's lady is charmed as well. She sighs ruefully. "Sometimes your patience astounds me, my love." Captain Muscles, for his part, is silent and pensive.

Meanwhile, in his magical hidey-hole (There is a candle-holder made out of a human skull! What the hell?) the Magus is acting super sketchy, flipping through his grimoire intently.

In the morning, while the gargoyles sleep in stone above, a hooded figure leaves the castle on horseback. He goes to Viking camp to speak to Hakon. "You seek the fall of Castle Wyvern," Hooded Figure murmurs Scottishly (Hey! Now the castle has a name!) "Perhaps a bargain can be made." Hakon grins.

Okay, I admit it. The first time I watched, when I was a kid, I totally fell for the misdirection here. Well played, show!

Castle Wyvern, night. As Goliath unwraps his now fully-healed hand, his second and Captain Muscles urge him to take all the gargoyles out to engage the Vikings and make sure they don't return. Goliath is unwilling to leave the castle unprotected. He will go out alone. "That's too dangerous for you," the second disagrees, a bit too quickly. "Take me with you, at least." Goliath refuses to let her come, but does promise not to go alone and tries to reassure her. "Remember, you and I are one, now and forever." I sigh and shake my head.

In the refugee camp, which I guess is right outside the castle, Big Blue is scarfing down a few weeks' worth of provisions, which I'm sure the refugees really appreciate. Little Green and Lean Red are playing keep-away with the doggy gargoyle and a ham. From above, the second-in-command watches their antics almost...maternally? That isn't a word I really associate with her character. Also watching is that little blonde boy from earlier, who runs over to introduce himself. The following conversation easier to transcribe than describe:
Blonde Boy: I'm Tom. What's your name?
Little Green: Except for Goliath, we don't have names.
Tom: How do you tell each other apart?
Little Green: We look different.
Lean Red: *nods*
Tom: But what do you call each other?
Lean Red: *shrug* Friend.
Sadly, this sweetness is broken up by Tom's mother, who comes running up hollering about monsters. She responds to Lean Red's assurance that they wouldn't hurt her son by throwing a stick at his head. Damn, lady. Goliath's girlfriend swoops down, furious, and the Green and Red decide to throw a scare into the idiot human. I don't blame them, really, but more refugees armed with sticks show up and just as it looks like things might escalate, Goliath and the one-eyed gargoyle from earlier show up. Goliath isn't pleased. "You three! Down to the rookery until I return. I'll deal with you then." Man, that seems a little unfair to poor Big Blue, who wasn't doing anything but stuffing his face, but [SPOILER] it's just as well. As the trio slinks off to think about what they've done, Goliath orders them to take the dog gargoyle with them. His second defends them, blaming the humans. Goliath knows, but he can't condone gargoyle-human fighting. He flies off with One-Eye on his mission with a promise to make it up to them.

Some undetermined distance from the castle, they discover Viking tracks leading into some woods. One-Eye is puzzled though, the tracks are awful light for horses carrying men in armor.

He and Goliath go charging into the woods on all fours. That looks so odd to me, I don't remember them doing that when I watched before. Not Goliath, at least. I wonder if I'm remembering wrong or if they stopped having Goliath do that. I'll have to watch for it.

Rookery, which I guess is underneath Castle Wyvern? Or in a cave nearby? It's hard to tell. There's some strange lighting going on here. It's not that it's badly animated at all, and I get that there has to be some light somewhere instead of having it pitch dark like a place like this would probably actually be, the moss glowing? Are the gargoyle eggs? They look like they are. It's weird, is all I'm saying.

Anyway. The guys are sulky, except for Big Blue, who sniffs some moss and then eats it. Sigh. I sure am glad I know this guy gets better character development later on, because so far he's just one joke told over and over. And not a particularly funny joke at that.

Castle Wyvern Armory, a mysterious figure does something mysterious with bowstrings. Mysteriously.

Woods. Just as One-Eye is telling Goliath that it's near sunrise, the big guy spots the Viking troop. Except no, it's just a few Vikings leading a bunch of horses. Decoy! Goliath and One-Eye grasp the implications immediately and go hell-for-leather back to the castle, but too late! The sun comes up and the two of them are stuck as stone on cliffs far from home.

Which is even now under attack! Defending archers take aim but their bowstrings all snap. Someone raises the castle gates, letting the Vikings waltz right on in. Castle Wyvern is in Ye Olde Deep Shit. Princess Obvious goes shrieking down some stairs to Captain Muscles that they're under attack. Um, he knows, honey. Grabbing her arm, he sneers into her terrified face, "It is worse than that, your highness." Both the princess and my younger self Get It.

Castle Wyvern is taken. Its people are marched out. I spy Tom and his mother. (So, were the refugees inside the castle, then? Like in the courtyard? Argh, why am I wondering about things that don't matter?). Now the Princess and the Magus, who is given a rough shove. I amuse myself with the thought that the shover is my friend Erik the Yellow. Up above, Hakon is wondering why Captain Muscles would betray his own kind. "They are not my kind," he spits, which the audience understands even if Hakon doesn't. No matter, he walks around to the nearest gargoyle and raises his scary-looking mace. Captain Muscles stops him, appalled. Hakon is appalled in turn. It's almost sunset, and he'd rather not get his ass handed to him again. I am appalled at how stupid Captain Muscles is not to have foreseen this development. Hakon is not hearing any arguments about how the gargoyles won't follow the Vikings once they're far enough away. He knocks Captain Muscles up against the wall. "Care to discuss the matter further?" he smirks, mace in the air. "No." Traitorous, stupid, and cowardly? Oh, Cap. Has any character's stock fallen so far so fast? Anyway, Hakon begins smashing the gargoyles to bits. We only see it in shadows across Captain Muscles' stricken face and it is horrifying.

I take a break to go cuddle my dogs.

Back now. Deep breaths. Night has fallen Goliath and One-Eye return to a ransacked Castle Wyvern, empty and in flames. It's a grim sight, but worse is to come. On the various tower...stands (parapets? I'm sorry, I'm not an expert in the architecture of fictional ancient Scottish castles) lie piles of smashed rock. Goliath alights on one and runs his hands gently through the rubble. "Angel of the night..." he gasps in an agonized whisper before roaring into the dark in grief and rage. And:

Um. Downer.

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