Gargoyles Re-review: Episode 1.02: “Awakening: Part Two”

“Pay a man enough, and he’ll walk barefoot into hell.” — David Xanatos

Story by Eric Luke and Michael Reaves
Teleplay by Michael Reaves
Original air date: October 24, 1994

Synopsis: After returning to the castle and finding most of his fellow gargoyles destroyed, Goliath rallies the survivors in order to attack the vikings. At discovering their approach, Hakon and the traitorous captain take off with Princess Katharine, with Goliath in pursuit.

After he catches up the hostage-takers and their hostage, it doesn’t take long for Hakon to betray his partner, with both falling down a cliff. Katharine is saved, but that’s not enough for Goliath, who feels that he has been denied his revenge. Things go from bad to worse, however, when he and the princess realize that the Magus, fearing the princess dead, had cast a spell on the remaining gargoyles, turning them to stone “until the castle rose above the clouds”.

Now truly desperate, Goliath requests two favors from the Magus and Katharine: first, that they would take care of the now orphaned gargoyle eggs, and that the Magus would cast his stone sleep spell on Goliath.

One millenium later, multi-millionaire David Xanatos has bought Castle Wyvern, and has had it transported in its entirety to the top of his skyscraper, the Eyrie Building. The conditions of the spell fulfilled–the castle has literally risen above the clouds–the gargoyles return to life. Shell-shocked from awakening in a world so different from their own, the gargoyles are given no time to adapt, as a helicopter carrying a squadron of five armed goons attacks the castle-atop-a-skyscraper.

Despite facing strange weapons, the gargoyles manage to hold their own against the attackers; nevertheless, the invaders manage to succeed in their mission of retrieving the macguffin. Meanwhile, hundreds of floors below, Detective Elisa Maza decides to investigate.


Random thoughts:

Like with most of season 1, I first saw this episode after I’d bought the DVD set, and after already having seen most of season 2; obviously, I was spoiled as all hell for these episodes. While they hold up, regardless–the pilot is infinitively rewatchable–I would have liked to have the opportunity to experience Xanatos’ (and eventually, Demona’s) betrayal for myself.

So yes: this is the episode that introduces Xanatos, my personal pick as Gargoyles greatest contribution to the western animation scene. Demona is an excellent villain, but “tortured, flawed extremist” had been an established character type in anime for years, and had made its introduction in these shores thanks to Batman: TAS*. Xanatos, on the other hand, was something altogether new, and has something that has yet to really be replicated–although maybe it’s just nostalgia speaking.

Still, as of this episodes, he is none of those things; he’s just the millionaire with benign intentions and the ability to utter a word that isn’t usually heard in Western cartoons aimed at children…or is he? I’d honestly like to know if anybody managed to fall for his act when this originally aired, and definitively would like to know if I would have. I would have been nine then, so yeah, probably. Or maybe not.

One thing I noticed while rewatching this today is that generally, the medieval times fights seem work considerably better than the modern day ones. While the restrictions governing what could and couldn’t be done are the same for both, they become more obvious once you realize that in anything resembling the real world, Xanatos mooks should have creamed the gargoyles.

Granted, there’s a very good reason why they didn’t. Even so, we have here guns which cannot seem to hit any of their targets, grenades that don’t burn, and mercenaries that seem incompetent at acting like they’re competent even when they aren’t supposed to be. With the 994 scenes, at least you can pretend that people are actually getting killed, even if you never see it happening.

You know, it’d have been pretty embarassing if one of the gargoyles had been doing something vulgar like picking their nose or belching when they were turned to stone. Fortunately, they managed to get stuck in pretty kick-ass poses (which–and I appreciate the detail–are different from their eventual standard stone sleep poses).

This episode also establishes something that will become a sort of trend for Goliath: he’s quite vengative, even if he never really gets to act on it. Both the story and Gargoyles-daddy Greg Weisman have established that while gargoyles would kill when necessary, this practice ceased in the more lawful 20th century, when people could no longer kill people in duels for honor. However, it also presents a missed opportunity. Why not have Goliath drive the point home and actually kill Hakon and the captain, and then juxtapose the scene with his eventual decision not to do the same (not-really-spoiler-alert!) to Xanatos, and the effect that Elisa and his 20th century mindset has already had on him? The answer is obvious: no way was a killer going to star in a Disney cartoon. Even so, it’s an interesting instance of what Might Have Been, and one I’d like to see explored.

On a different note, I’d like to note a detail I loved upon rewatch. After we see and hear Hakon rip a page of the Grimorum Arcanorum and burn it in the fire before him, we hear, but not see him rip another. Even when the focus is no longer on the book, we eventually hear that second page getting burned, and then–this is the part I loved–we hear a third page burn. I love the sound design guys.

Retcon alert (?): Weisman has suggested that Xanatos will initially receive the Grimorum Arcanorum sometime between 1975-1980. However, when he first awakens the gargoyles, Xanatos explains to Goliath and co. that he had “recently” come into possession of the Grimorum. A contradiction? Apparently. A lie on Xanatos’ part? Possibly. But why?

In any case, this remains an excellent episode, even 15 years later.


8 Responses to Gargoyles Re-review: Episode 1.02: “Awakening: Part Two”

  1. Ellen says:

    Sure, the goons aren’t skilled at pretending to be competent, but the gargoyles didn’t know that normal grenades blow things into smithereens, nor how accurate particle-beam guns are supposed to be. They were the only people who had to be fooled, and they were totally confused, so it worked.

    I do wonder how Xanatos explained to the goons why they were ordered to use stun grenades and never shoot to kill without telling them what exactly was going to be fighting them — they seem genuinely surprised/confused by the gargoyles.

  2. Ian Perez Zayas says:

    True, true. Plus, there’s the fact that it’s not just the Gargoyles who need to be fooled–it’s the viewers as well.

    As for your second comment, I’m not too sure that their surprise necessarily means that they weren’t informed. Just like no amount of training will quite be able to replicate an actual battlefield, I imagine that the experience of seeing an actual gargoyle for the first time isn’t something that really translates to a briefing. Still, now that you mention it, I’m not sure which of the two scenarios I like more.

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