Shot Through the Heart (But Who’s to Blame?): “Deadly Force”
4 May 2010 8 Comments
“Sorry! My fault–I was playing with the gun…stupid of me. Hope I didn’t break anything…”–Broadway
Original Air Date: November 18, 1994
Introduces: Tony Dracon, Matt Bluestone, María Chávez, Derek Maza, Peter Maza, Diane Maza, Glasses, Dr. Sato, Cagney
Timeline Placement:November 18, 1994 – November 20, 1994
It’s evening at the docks. Owen and the Xanatos Enterprises Security Force observe as several boxes are unloaded from a freighter and into a truck. Just as one of the security guards invokes karma by reassuring Owen that there was nothing to be worried about, the group is attacked by four gas-mask wearing men armed with gas guns who make off with the truck. As they drive away with their stolen cargo, their leader removes his mask and laughs.
As the sun sets, the Gargoyles wake up inside Castle Wyvern. As soon as he’s mobile again, Broadway hastily heads off into the night. Goliath asks what the rush is, and the remaining two members of the trio explain that he’s probably off to see Showdown, a cowboy movie they’d seen once before and which Broadway in particular had really liked.
Over at the N.Y.P.D.’s 23rd Precinct building, Elisa argues with her superior, Captain María Chávez: they both know a man called Dracon was behind the weapons heist, she argues, and all she needs is a warrant to bring him in. Chávez, unconvinced, explains that Dracon is “bulletproof”–they can’t make a move against him without evidence.
Changing tacks, Elisa asks what was stolen; Chávez answers that the theft involved several “non-projectile weapon prototypes” belonging to Xanatos Enterprises. Elisa asks her to elaborate, just in time for Owen to enter the office and explain that the weapons are laser-like particle beams, and that 322 of them (of various makes and power ranges) were stolen. Peeved, Elisa leaves the office.
At a movie theater on Broadway, Broadway the gargoyle arrives just in time for Showdown to begin.
The scene shifts to Park Manor, where Elisa confronts the leader of the group responsible for the weapons hijacking–Dracon. His four companions make threatening gestures, but Dracon calms them down, and cockily explains that yes, he has an alibi for that time, that no, he’s not the guy she’s looking for, and that even if he was, she’s incapable of stopping him. “Face it, sugar,” he says, as he turns to leave. “You’ve got nothing.”
Back at the movie theater, Broadway enthusiastically watches Showdown‘s Climatic scene–a duel between two gunslingers.
Elisa arrives at her apartment, hangs up her coat and her holster, and greets her cat, Cagney. She glumly tells the feline to be glad to have a home, as New York just got a whole lot meaner.
As Showdown ends, Broadway exits the movie theater. As he acts out scenes with finger guns, he glides towards Elisa’s apartment. Entering through the window, he greets Elisa, who’s preparing dinner (breakfast?) and promises to make the gargoyle some steaks. As he waits for her to finish, Broadway looks around the room, taking a look at a picture of Elisa with her family before he’s distracted by Elisa’s holstered gun. Entranced, the gargoyle retrieves the gun and uses it to reenact scenes from Showdown. As he pivots, he accidentally pulls the trigger.
Broadway apologizes for his carelessness, but Elisa is nowhere to be seen. The gargoyle approaches the kitchen and sees a terrifying sight: Elisa laying on the floor, unconscious, in a puddle of her own blood.
Horrified at what he’s accidentally done, Broadway takes Elisa and carries her to a hospital, and leaves her on a stretcher left outside. He watches as two M.D.’s quickly find her, realize that she has no pulse, and take her inside.
Castle Wyvern. As dawn approaches, the Gargoyles note Broadway’s absence. Owen arrives at the rooftop with dire tidings: Elisa’s been shot, and doctors aren’t sure if she’ll live. He is unable to elaborate because, true to form [RAGE!], sunlight has turned Goliath to stone mid-reaction.
Upstate New York, woods. Dracon and his posse are using their stolen weapons for target practice. One of the posse, and African-American man wearing horn-rimmed glasses, asks if they’ve all heard of Elisa’s accident. Dracon snarks how it’s dangerous to leave a gun lying around, and then laughs at his own joke. Dracon changes the subject announcing that they’ll complete their deal with a buyer they found that night, and asks Glasses if he’s had to sell a lot of the guns. Yes, he says, and they might have to sell more before the deal comes through.
Elisa is operated upon.
As night once again falls, the gargoyles make their way to Owen’s office to demand answers. He tells them what he knows: Elisa is Manhattan General, and she’d been working on getting the stolen weapons off the street before she was shot. As Owen makes his exit, Goliath gives orders: Hudson will stay in the castle, Brooklyn and Lexington will search for the still-M.I.A. Broadway, and he’ll go to see Elisa.
Atop a rooftop, Broadway sobs.
Manhattan General, where Goliath watches Elisa from outside the window. Dr. Sato, the doctor in charge of the operation brings Elisa’s parents and brother inside her room and fills them in on her status: after ten hours of operation, they removed the bullet from the base of her spine; although there was a lot of damage, there’s a chance she’ll pull through. Mr. Maza asks if they should call Elisa’s sister and have her fly in from Arizona, and if there’s anything they can do. Diane, Mrs. Maza, replies that they can pray.
As Dr. Sato leaves, Captain Chávez enters the room, she greets Elisa’s family, whom she’s obviously familiar with. Derek, Elisa’s brother, asks if they know who shot Elisa, and she tells them that the most likely suspect is Tony Dracon. Goliath listens as the policewoman talks about the stolen weapon, Elisa’s confrontation with Dracon, and the scene of the crime at her house. Peter asks if the shooter had left any fingerprints, and she remarks that while that is indeed the case, they’re so heavily smudged that “they don’t even look human” and are unusable.
The visitors leave the room, allowing Goliath a chance to enter. Taking Elisa’s hand, the gargoyle asks her to fight on, and vows that he will find the man who did this to her and make him pay.
Goliath makes his way towards Park Manor, and overhears Dracon discussing the details of the upcoming deal with his lieutenants. Glasses explains that the meet will be at the docks at midnight, and that he’ll meet Dracon there.
A nervous man makes his way across a park when he is accosted by a mugger carrying on of Xanatos’ stolen weapons. An enraged Broadway attacks the mugger, destroying the gun and demanding to know where he got it and who gave it to him. The mugger stammers that he got it from a man called Glasses, who’s selling them at Canal Street, near the docks. Broadway lets the mugger go and heads there.
Back at the hospital, doctors rush to Elisa’s room: she’s flatlined. Using the defibrillators, Dr. Sato and her staff restore her vitals.
Down on the streets, Captain Chávez and an unnamed detective tail Tony’s car. Tony’s driver notices, and is told to lose them, which he does by getting out of the cops’ line of sight, hiding the car in a garage as they pass through, and then heading in the opposite direction. However, they haven’t noticed that they have another follower: Goliath.
At the docks, Glasses is selling one of Xanatos’ particle beams to a customer when he’s attacked by Broadway. Holding him by the head, the Gargoyle asks Glasses who his boss is.
Goliath watches as Dracon and his posse arrive at the warehouse where the stolen goods are stashed. To his surprise, he is joined by Broadway. Believing that the younger gargoyle doesn’t know the situation, Goliath explains how Dracon was responsible for shooting Elisa. Broadway does not correct him.
Inside the warehouse, Tony talks to rambling Glasses via cell phone (or maybe it’s just a cordless–it’s hard to tell in 1994). He tells his men to begin moving the weapons when Goliath and Broadway break in.
Using the stolen particle beams, Dracon’s men attempt to hold the Gargoyles off. However, Goliath has knocked out the warehouse’s lighting, leaving the mobsters at a disadvantage. The two Gargoyles take down the crooks, with the last man standing being Tony Dracon himself, who tries to hold them off atop a catwalk. Using his tail, Goliath disarms Tony and grabs him upside down by the ankle. Before he can have his revenge, however, he’s interrupted by Brooklyn, who explains that it he, not Dracon, who shot Elisa. Upon hearing this, he picks Dracon back up and binds him with metal bars, a task he repeats with all of his men.
A short while later, Goliath and Brooklyn meet the buyer that Dracon had been talking about: Owen. Xanatos’ personal assistant explains that they had to get their weapons back somehow, and thanks the gargoyles for their help in doing just that. He also notes that nearly forty weapons are missing, and have probably already been sold.
In his biggest “fuck you” to Xanatos to date, Goliath takes one of the particle canons and uses it to melt the rest to slag. He then destroys the remaining gun and leaves it with Dracon and the gang, as a gesture to make sure that the police connect the group with the robbery. He then tells Broadway to come with him to see Elisa, a comment that perks up the younger gargoyle, as he hadn’t been sure if she was still alive.
Back at the hospital, Goliath and Broadway watch as the Mazas watch over Elisa, who regains consciousness. Overjoyed, Derek explains that they’ve been told that Dracon has been arrested for grand theft, and that they found him tied up in a warehouse babbling about monsters.
A nurse enters the room, checks up on Elisa, and then asks the Mazas to leave Elisa her space. After all the humans have left, Goliath and Broadway enter the now-empty room and greet Elisa. Broadway explains and apologizes about playing with her gun, and vows never to touch a gun again. Elisa isn’t angry, however: she kindly explains that she was at fault to for having left her gun in an accessible place, and that the best thing they could both do is learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. Goliath pats Elisa in her hair and then leaves along with Brooklyn. As the sun rises we see the two gargoyles standing guard outside the window.
After two uninspired post-pilot episodes, this last episode of the Trio Tryptych reminds us why we were paying attention to the series in the first place. Not only do we get a real shocker–somebody gets SHOT! IN A CARTOON!*BLOOD ON THE FLOOR! PANIC AT THE DISCO!–we get bunches and bunches of supporting cast building, some real development for Elisa and Broadway, and some important set-up for down the road.
It’s been my opinion that although he’s a fun character Tony Dracon stories (which also tend to be heavily N.Y.P.D.-focused) don’t age well. Back when I was first going through the series–2002-2003, if I’m not mistaken–I liked that his episodes displayed a grittier, more realistic (or so I thought) side to the show. Then I watched The Wire, which forever ruined police procedurals for me. However, despite the fact that this is his debut episode (a lot of characters debut on this episode–possibly the most out of any non-pilot episode) and that he plays an important part in the plot, it’s not his episode. It’s Elisa and Broadway’s.
For at least twenty-five years, guns have been a rather troublesome topic when it comes to cartoons. Sure, movies like The Secret of NIHM could still show guns and blood and death, but television shows at the time (or perhaps even earlier–I am not an animation historian) had begun to excercise several practices which for the longest time would render most so-called action cartoons of the time largely toothless (which is why Robotech, despite being an [awesome] Frankenstein creation, is considered revolutionary). Even after Batman: The Animated Series showed that displaying guns would not turn kids into Red Dawn‘s Wolverines (Note to self: watch Red Dawn), most cartoons preferred the time-honored technique of having all the guns be lasers (or an appropriate equivalent depending on the setting), or point-blank not displaying firearms at all, as if this were the U.K. or Japan. While it’s not terribly surprising that Gargoyles managed to show “real guns” (most, if not all, of the ‘toons in the ol’ Disney Afternoon line-up did) having it be the focus of an episode–and one where somebody gets shot, no less*–is something else altogether. The fact that it’s handled sensitively (despite a couple of minor anvils) is a small miracle.
That said, Gargoyles is nothing if not pragmatic. Its creators understand there’s a reason for the “lasers are better than bullets” trope, and why it’s practical if you don’t want your characters to have the aiming skill of your average imperial Stormtrooper. They also realize that while a millionaire like David Xanatos can have a laser rifle if he damn well pleases, having Jimmy Bats carrying a BlasTech when he’s also a meth-head who usually never has more than $5.40 in his pocket tends to look darn unrealistic, particularly when he can just make good with a revolver like regular meth-heads. Hence, in this episode we have the beginnings of an underground market for the latter, using the former’s weapons. It’s a nice compromise and yet another example of how the series turns potential disadvantages into advantages, managing to use a usually-maligned trope, justify it, and use it to further develop its world.
Another thing I really like about this episode is the prominence Elisa’s family gets. Family members in serial fiction are something that usually only get trotted out when the plot absolutely demands it, and the exact makeup of that extended family is usually left vague, in order to be able to create aunts or cousins or brothers as necessary. Here, in the first episode focused on Elisa as something other than the gargoyles’ friend, we get to see her family set in stone, so to speak. In only a couple of minutes we learn that she has parents living in or near New York, a cop father, and two younger siblings: a brother also living in or near New York and a sister in college in Arizona. Strictly speaking, they’re not important to the plot–they can be excised without altering much of the story–but their presence in the episode makes Elisa, and the world of Gargoyles as a whole, a stronger one.
Until this episode, Broadway had been solely characterized as “the one that eats a lot”. Here, we see the first signs of what will eventually become regular facets of his personality. First, he’s the member of The Trio closest to Elisa, and the one most comfortable around her; I don’t see Brooklyn, Lexington–or heck, even Goliath, making an impromptu appearance at her apartment. Second, he’s eventually becomes a movie buff, particularly old movies–here it’s “Showdown”, and next season we’ll find him acting similarly towards noir. We learn that he can be really scary when he wants to be. Finally, there’s his aversion to guns, whose origins are obvious. I do wonder, however, that given the “guns aren’t inherently bad” aspect to the episode’s message, whether we’re meant to take his “I’ll never touch a gun again” stance as a healthy response to the events of this episode. Clearly, he’s exaggerating here, given that we see him destroying guns in future episodes, but does his vow mean, for example, that he’ll never fire a gun even in a situation when it seems necessary?
Finally, Tony Dracon. While I don’t much like his episodes, I do like the character, and I like the idea of Elisa having an archnemesis (of sorts) of her own. Still, he’s one of the more limited characters in the rogues’ gallery. He’s neither a physical or mental match for the Gargoyles, has no way to keep avoiding jail time without seeming weird. Still, I’m glad he eventually gets jailed on a permanent basis, although I’m left wondering if Greg had any future plans for him.
- In the episode, Elisa notes that she, by leaving the gun accessible, is partly at fault for the accident. In his comments on the episode, Greg Weisman agrees, elaborating that her fault is the same as Broadway’s: she did not “respect” the gun or its power.** Given the fact that she lived alone and had little reason to expect that someone would handle it (a point Weisman readily admits, I’m not too sure I agree. While I’m all for responsible gun-keeping, I don’t think it was out of line for Elisa to expect her guests (which at this point and throughout the series seems to be limited to gargoyles) not to touch her stuff.
- This episode also features one of those really weird similarities between Gargoyles and TMNT–the kind that are almost certainly coincidences and are all the more weird for it. In the TMNT episode “H.A.T.E.” we see Michelangelo dropping of a man who has been shot outside a hospital, and being found by a man who, when you take into account the different art styles, looks a lot like an older version of Dr. Sato from this episode (continued after the fake bullet point).
- (not an actual bullet point) Even accounting for the possible role of stereotype (and I’m not sure there’s one as specific as “heavyset, nearsighted East Asian men are all M.D.’s”), the similarity between both the characters and how they’re used is uncanny, particularly since it’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t really merit an actual shout-out. Still, I kind of like the idea of Dr. Sato having a brother or other relative (assuming the TMNT extra is not the good doctor himself) living in Massachusetts.
- In his commentary for this episode, Greg Weisman notes the mild oddity of black and white western apparently doing so well in 1994. I’m wondering why the movie theater seems to be more like a theater theater than an actual theater. I mean, look at that marquee! I don’t hang around Broadway much–it’s usually outside my price range–but I don’t recall seeing movie theaters like that. Can any actual New Yorkers tell me if they actually exist?
- This episode has a lot of scene changes–more than in any other episode. It makes writing recaps the way I do…interesting.
- I like how Matt Bluestone is “introduced” here. He’s there, he’s noticeable, and it makes his actual introduction feel more natural.
- Note that both Dracon and Chávez seem to be rather “hands-on” people, even when their ranks aren’t usually associated with field work. I can buy it in Dracon’s case–he’s young enough so that “doing it for the adrenaline rush” feels like a valid enough reason, but not in Chávez–with her, it just seemed like she’s just there because the creators didn’t feel like creating another detective. While it sorta-but-not-really works here–she’s a friend of Elisa and the family–it crosses the line in “Protection”, the next big Tony Dracon episode.
- Would Tony see jail time for his crimes here? I doubt it. Elisa’s shooting is a dead end, with no witnesses, no evidence, and no way to account for how Elisa made her way to the hospital. Would Owen step up as a witness, even after “recovering” the weapons? Doubtful. The only real evidence against him is his fingerprints over the destroyed guns (assuming there are any intact) and his proximity to them. Given the way the police found the group, I don’t think it’d be hard for a competent lawyer to establish reasonable doubt.
* It’s worth noting, however, that this is not the first time a character is shot on American Animated television. The original Johnny Quest cartoon had at least one person get shot, as did Batman: TAS.
** Shades of Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms, although the power displayed by the “gon” in that book is of a rather different stripe.