Not Exactly Walter Cronkite, Are They?: “The Thrill of the Hunt”
7 April 2010 2 Comments
“We can’t hide from the whole world up here. There are kindred spirits for us, but we’ve got to look for them, and we’ve got to give them a chance.” — Lexington
Original air date: November 4, 1994
Introduces: Wolf, Fox, Hyena, Jackal, Dingo
Timeline placement: November 3, 1994 – November 6, 1994
Owen leads Elisa to the Castle Wyvern roof. She expresses surprise at being let inside, to which Owen explains that Xanatos is not the type to hold a grudge. Once left alone, the detective makes her way to the sleeping gargoyles and watches them wake.
After the other gargoyles head their separate ways, leaving Elisa and Goliath alone, the two friends discuss the gargoyles’ future. Goliath believes that with Xanatos arrested, they are now free to live as they will inside the castle; Elisa, more in tune with how the world works, tries to explain that since the castle legally belongs to Xanatos, and since his jail sentence will only last six months at the most (he was convicted on the charge of receiving stolen property, a charge he pleaded guilty to) they will eventually have to leave. Goliath remains unconvinced.
Inside the castle, Hudson (later joined by the trio) are trying to watch TV when they realize that no matter what the channel, the only show available seems to be the same episode of “The Pack”, a show starring five warriors who constantly battle a group of “evil ninjas”. Hudson is dismayed by this development (while he likes the show, it’s not what he wanted to see); the trio–particularly Lexington, who seems quite taken with the show’s concept–is less so. They all hear a promotion announcing that the Pack will be making a live appearance on Madison Square Garden.
The scene changes to “Pack Media Studios”, where the different members of The Pack–Wolf, Fox, Hyena, Jackal, and Dingo–are exercising. Wolf, who is apparently the leader, is complaining about the lack of “action” their gig as the Pack provides, a sentiment shared by Dingo, who notes that he wouldn’t “last a week in a Central American war.” Their discussion is interrupted by Fox–the brains of the outfit–who shows them a picture of an interesting new target: gargoyles.
Sometime later, in Madison Square Garden, the trio watches The Pack’s stage show from the rafters. After the show, Brooklyn and Lexington leave, leaving Lexington behind. The smitten gargoyle decides to reveal himself to the performers/apparent mercenaries, who, after some initial (feigned?) surprise quickly take the initiative and ask him to introduce Goliath to them.
After what he considers a successful first meeting with the Pack, Lexington returns to the castle to inform Goliath of their new allies. While Goliath is not entirely pleased that the younger gargoyle has revealed their existence to an unknown quantity, Lexington retorts that taking such risks is necessary if the Gargoyles don’t wish to be alone. Goliath agrees to meet with the pack; if the encounter is a success, he will arrange introductions for the rest of the clan.
Goliath and Lexington glide to Pack Media Studios, where they are more or less immediately attacked (Lexington is incensed). The two gargoyles are led into “The Gauntlet”, a series of death traps based on props from the TV show, which they escape in quick order, taking the fight outside.
Still possessing the element of surprise, The Pack eventually manages to get the better of the Gargoyles, knocking them both unconscious. Before they can go in for the kill, however, they are interrupted by a couple of children and their parents, who believe that this is all part of a show. The actors, following Wolf’s lead, play along until the interlopers leave, but it’s too late–the Gargoyles have regained consciousness and have made their escape, high-tailing it to a rooftop.
The Pack follows the gargoyles and receives an unpleasant surprise: the rooftop they’re in is filled to the brim with actual stone gargoyles. With the battlefield now on their side, the ‘goyles defeat Dingo, Jackal, and Hyena with ease. As they set to deal with Fox and Wolf, the roof gives way, dropping the four remaining fighters to the floor below, which is the site of a photo shoot. Fox takes one of the models hostage (and is photographed doing so) and leads her outside, with Wolf and the gargoyles following. Once outside, Fox releases the hostage, only to be taken down by Lexington.
Now alone, Wolf attempts to take on Goliath mano a mano, and actually relishes the opportunity. He seemingly manages to get a few good licks in, but in the end he proves to be no match for the gargoyle.
Their new enemies defeated, Goliath and Lexington return to the castle, where they’re informed that Wolf and Fox have been arrested. As sunrise approaches, Lexington reprimands himself for believing the Pack, and vows never to trust anyone again. Goliath tells his that this is misguided, regardless of the results of that night’s misadventure, the gargolyle’s initial instincts were right–if the clan is to live instead of just survive, it will eventually need to find kindred spirits it can trust.
Over at county jail, Owen informs Xanatos that, although the different elements of their plan–sending the info on Gargoyles to The Pack; rigging the TV to make sure the gargoyles learned of their Madison Square Garden appearance–were successful, The Pack failed to kill their quarry. This setback does not seem to faze Xanatos, however, as the exercise has given him data on both The Pack and the Gargoyles–data which he fully intends to use.
I’ve never really liked the Pack (okay, maybe once, when I first saw “Upgrade”). Individually, they can be interesting (to differing degrees–Fox has always been a better character than Wolf); as a collective, I don’t think they work–at least, not for this show.
Simply put, The Pack are super-hero villains.
While Gargoyles adopts many of the tropes of the super-hero story, it, like TMNT , arguably exists in that gray area between it and straight urban fantasies–the same place works like Buffy inhabit. As such, most of its villains try to avoid the standard super-villain tropes–code-names, costumes, motive decay, using their abilities for crime when more legal (or simply less illegal) work would net them more money, and the like. The Pack, atypically, display almost every one of these tropes through their appearances, and in a ‘verse where most characters have clearly defined (yet ever-evolving) motivations, goals, and philosophies, they stand out as being strangely static and flat. This wouldn’t be a problem if they were one-shot villains, but since they aren’t, their continued presence is jarring, in a way that the show itself seemed to eventually notice, as it eventually “upgrades” (in lieu of actual development) and then splits the team, which works much better.
However, that won’t happen yet. Here, they’re just a pseudo-Power Rangers group with horrible costumes and little in the way of individual characterization. Only two members stand out here: Wolf, the action-starved leader, and Fox, designated team fan-service provider and the one who apparently decides what the team will be doing. And that’s it. They have no great plan or skills–they’re just thugs. Marvy.
The need to give Lexington some character development is understandable; however, the themes of this episode seem misguided. For one, the pilot had already dealt the issue of trust quite thoroughly, making this episode smell of retread. Worse still, the whole “TV heroes aren’t” plot unfortunately makes Lexington seem like an idiot. Yes, he’s new to the human world–and as the episode explains, desperate to find kindred spirits (I’ll get to this in a moment)–even so, after being betrayed three times in quick succession–by their closest human ally, their second-in-command, and their would-be benefactor–one would think he’d react with more skepticism, particularly when one conversation with Elisa would have dissuaded him from the notion that The Pack were anything but actors.
Lexington mentions finding kindred spirits, and the episode indicates that for him, this means people who fight evil in an honorable manner–a.k.a. super-heroes. It’s interesting to note, however that at this point, this isn’t what the gargoyles do. As of this episode, their stated goal consists of protecting the castle, a goal which doesn’t exactly coincide with the heroic altruism he’s looking for. So why this fixation with heroes? Something that occurs to me is that, after the aforementioned series of betrayals, Lex just felt a need for simple righteousness. Unfortunately, this particular point isn’t quite touched upon again–the Gargoyles do eventually meet the sought-for kindred spirits, and Lex’s anger at the Pack’s (more perceived than actual) betrayal remains a consistent aspect of his personality, but that particular yearning isn’t really mentioned again.
Maybe he’s just a really big Power Rangers fan.
Unsurprisingly, the most interesting part of the episode–even when his screen time clocks in at less than a minute–is Xanatos. Here we learn that yes, his arrest last episode took, that he apparently plans to serve out his prison sentence, and that he’s not bitter about his defeat. A super-hero villain he is not. I’m not entirely sure why he felt the need to camouflage his super-secret mercenary team under the guise of television stars, but then again, I’m not a super-genius capable of creating his own fortune via time travel.
Elisa’s role this episode is merely to inform Goliath that, although his battle with Xanatos may have ended in a victory, the millionaire still holds all the cards, as well as a bill of sale for Castle Wyvern. This, like Xanatos himself, is one of those things that make Gargoyles feel more sophisticated than its contemporaries, and I’m left wondering if any other cartoon would have tried it. Given that there was no other cartoon (that I know of) in which a plot like this would even be possible, I have no clue.
This episode introduces a recurring bit that just bugs the hell out of me: having a conflict between the Gargoyles be interrupted by sunrise. It’s the sort of thing I find mildly amusing once, and like the bit where two mooks are goaded into flying into each other, it’s used whenever the writers think they can get away with it. Don’t.
Another nice bit of sofistication: as the gargoyles comment at the end, only Fox and Wolf are actually arrested. It’s something that makes total sense when you think about it, but probably wouldn’t have occured in most other cartoons, which would probably had the entire group being arrested despite the lack of crime.
This issue features the first appearance of Sarah Browne and her brood–they’re the ones who inadvertently stopped The Pack from killing the ‘goyles. Sarah won’t appear again until “Hunter’s Moon, part 1” (the season 2 finale), and won’t speak again until the premiere of season 3, “The Journey”, where she expresses sincere fear of the Gargoyles. In a nice bit of symetry, when next we see her two kids, Billy and Susan Greene (cute), they’ll be dressed up as Hyena and Jackal.