Tony Dracon is Still Preferable to Republicans: “Protection”

“You blackmail the innocent and call it protection!  I should drop you right now, down into the gutter where you belong.” — Goliath

Written by: Gary Sperling
Original Air Date: November 13, 1995
Introduces: N/A
Timeline placement: December 18, 1995  – December 19
TMNT episode I could make a forced comparison to: N/A

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The Beats:

  • Tony Dracon and his gang are escalating their extortion efforts, and making those who won’t pay “protection money” suffer.  Among their victims are Art and Lois,  owners and operators of a Manhattan restaurant which bears their name, and which is blown up by a suitcase bomb.
  • All is not well for Dracon, as a new player–a female cop, according to Glasses–is moving in on gang territory and demanding protection money from people already being extorted by him.
  • After watching news of the explosion at Art and Lois’, Goliath grows curious about the concept of protection rackets.  After getting an explanation from Broadway, he becomes incensed at the idea that people would do this, and that the police apparently can’t stop it.  Broadway notes that it’s been a few days since they’ve last seen Elisa.
  • At the 23rd District HQ, Matt Bluestone brings in Pal Joey in for questioning on the restaurant explosion.  Joey is suggesting that perhaps it was the new Lady Cop Extortionist behind it when Elisa enters the room, acting all sketchy and demanding some alone time with the mobster, which she is given.  Elisa tells Joey in no uncertain terms that she’s going after Dracon’s territory.
  • Elisa’s conversation is interrupted by Captain Chávez, who informs her about claims that the detective has been demanding money from storeowners.  Elisa denies it, to no avail: Chávez suspends her subordinate, pending the resolution of an investigation.  This turn of events is overheard by Joey.
  • News of Elisa’s entry into the extortion business reach Dracon, who decides to send his people after her.  Glasses and Joey pick up Elisa at Dave’s Ball and Stick, but before they can talk about any particulars, the mobsters are attacked by Goliath and Broadway, who, worried about her well-being, have been following their friend.
  • Goliath and Broadway, while having no trouble dealing with Dracon’s men, find opposition from an unexpected source: Elisa herself, who chews her friends out for following her and orders them to stop beating on Glasses and co and to leave her alone.    The bemused gargoyles comply, letting her and the mobsters drive away.
  • After being filled in on Elisa’s apparent relationship with the gargoyles, Dracon invites the detective for an audience.  Dracon asks why Elisa has decided to embrace corruption, and Elisa explains that the lucrative nature of his work and the futility of her own–the NYPD has proven incapable of placing Dracon behind bars, despite him going out and kidnapping both her and Matt–has convinced her that she was working for the wrong side.
  • At Mr. Jaffe’s general store, Glasses makes the standard “nice store; it be a shame if something happened to it” pitch.  Matt, undercover as a cashier, rejects the offer, saying that given the other people making the pitch, they can’t pay without an assurance from Dracon  himself.  At a Laundromat, a couple of apparent immigrants reject a similar pitch from Joey.  After he leaves, the “immigrants” stand revealed as Captain Chávez and Morgan in disguise.
  • At Dracon’s, the criminal and the cop are enjoying dinner, whose highlight is a jar of jalapeño peppers.  Dracon broaches the subject of the gargoyles, suggesting that Elisa should convince them to join their life of crime.  Elisa tries to dissuade Tony, noting that they’re unpredictable and too alien to be much help when Goliath and Broadway burst in and contradict her, saying that they would indeed like to join.
  • After some questioning assuages his skepticism, Tony decides to integrate the gargoyles into his network.  After Glasses and Joey inform Dracon of the various snags in their attempts to collect money, Tony orders them to split up: he and Maza will tackle Jaffe’s general store, while Joey, Goliath, and Broadway will handle the dry cleaners.
  • As Goliath and Broadway glide towards the cleaner’s, Goliath decides that he’d prefer to go follow Elisa to make sure she’s safe.
  • At the cleaners, Joey knocks out Chávez and Morgan and places a suitcase bomb set to blow up in three minutes.  Before he can leave the scene, Broadway attacks, and, after defeating both Joey and his backup, he manages to dispose of the bomb safely.
  • At the general store, Matt-in-disguise manages to string Tony long enough to incriminate himself.  Before he and Elisa can arrest him, however, Dracon takes Elisa’s gun away from her and summons his back-up.  Unfortunately for him, Elisa has backup too, in the form of Goliath, who handily provides enough of a distraction to allow the good guys to overpower Dracon’s goons.
  • The Dracon syndicate now defeated, Elisa and Goliath share a moment at the Clock Tower, as they vow to protect one another from being placed in a position where actually turning evil would be a possibility.

Continuity and Mythology Notes:

  • Tony Dracon and his gang last appeared in “The Silver Falcon“.  Elisa’s reference to the time Dracon kidnapped two cops is a callback to the events of that episode.
  • Mr. Jaffe first appeared in “Reawakening“, where it was revealed that he and Matt go back some time.
  • Broadway’s knowledge of organized crime comes from being a film buff as seen in, again, “The Silver Falcon”.

Tony Dracon episodes don’t age well.  While initially some of my favorites, feeling oh-so-mature in their willingness to tackle the New York underworld and to serve as a kid-friendly version of the police procedural genre, the fact remains that after something like The Wire and real life, episodes like this start feeling like watered-down beer, as increased knowledge of law enforcement leads me to ask questions that the episode can’t answer, giving it a heightened air of implausibility.  A species that is stone by day and warriors by night I have no problem with, but a sting operation like the one seen here, one in which the police captain is directly involved?  Nope.

Not only that, this episode  may  be the one most negatively impacted by the way the season is structured, alongside “The Cage”.  While selling Elisa as possibly  corrupt would have always been an uphill, and most likely  impossible, battle, having to do so in the space of one episode turns an interesting premise–think season 2 Young Justice, in which Kaldur and Artemis’ attempts to infiltrate The Light form a major part of the arc –into something that could have been much more.

And yet, given the past few months, I’m much more willing to look kindly upon this episode than I would have been in the past.  Given the state of the U.S. government, in which lawmakers–as in more than one–are willing and able to go “nice economy you have here; shame if something were to happen to it” without having to face any direct consequences, it’s heartening to see an episode in which the good guys are actually capable of recognizing extortion for what it is and more than capable of stopping it, and in which the government plays a vital part of the process.  Implausible in execution?  To a degree.  Still, the best science fiction is often the type which presents the world as it should be, and a world in which the police does its job without oppressing those its meant to protect is a world I want to live in.

In other notes, this episode presents yet another evolutionary step in the relationship between Goliath and Elisa, as a scenario that at one time might have tested their trust in one another is handled with very little thought.  One could argue that Elisa would have been well served in telling the gargoyles her plans beforehand–and although the matter is broached, the episode never quite explains why she doesn’t–but the fact that they can be in sync even when she doesn’t is a testament to their deepening relationship.

As for Dracon, this is the last time we’ll see him as the main threat: while we’ll see him again in “Turf”, he’ll be behind bars and no longer directly in charge of his crime syndicate.  This  is largely for the best; like The Pack before the upgrade, he never really represented a serious physical threat to the clan–even when reduced to Goliath, Broadway, and Elisa.  And it’s not a bad tenure: he showed, up, he did his thing, and was memorable enough.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

Random Thoughts:

  • I may be wrong, but I think Gargoyles was the first western cartoon to use the Pool Halls as the go-to when they need a scene in set in a pub-like atmosphere but can’t explicitly use a pub (although there’s nothing to suggest Gargoyles couldn’t–indeed, we see one in “Deadly Force”.  It’s one of those things, like staple guns, which feel like a Greg Weisman specific thing–we’ll see another one in Spectacular Spider-Man.
  • One of the small disappointments that come with characters always wearing the same thing is that it sometimes becomes hard to get a sense of their personal style.  I sometimes wonder if the “Bad Cop” outfit Elisa wears here is something she only wore because she felt it fit the role, or if it was something that was already in her wardrobe.  How relatively modest it is, I could definitively see it as something she wore regularly in the past.
  • This episode introduces “Jalapeña” as the Manhattan Clan’s pseudo-curse of choice.  While I like it quite a bit, the way it’s introduced is incredibly clumsy, to the point where it almost goes back around to be come brilliant.  “Pay attention to this jar of Jalapeños,” the episode says “it has no thematic or plot reference whatsoever, but people are going to start acting like it’s the goddamn Maltese Falcon.”
  • (Note: I have never seen the Maltese Falcon, and have no idea how much influence the titular object actually has on the plot, or whether it even appears.)
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One Response to Tony Dracon is Still Preferable to Republicans: “Protection”

  1. Pingback: Unwound: The Cage | Monsters of New York

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