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More musings on individual GARGOYLES EPISODES. As usual I welcome reactions and responses posted here based on both your original impressions from when you first saw the episode and later thoughts from repeated or recent viewings.
After the semi-epic "Awakening" multi-parter, Michael Reaves and I consciously set about creating a tryptich to develop each member of the Trio. Lex up first.
In hindsight, we probably didn't do enough Lex episodes. (I think this is Thom Adcox's favorite. He said "Leader of the Pack" at the pro-chat the other day, but the more I think about it, the more I think he was describing "Thrill".) We tried to give each member of the Trio equal coverage, but down the road, Lex might have been cheated a bit. But not here.
I love the fact that Lex is RIGHT. Sure, he's wrong about the Pack, but he was so right about taking chances on people. And I love that as stubborn as Goliath is, he's capable of admitting his mistakes, giving Lex full credit for, uh, rightness. Practically quoting back to Lex everything Lex had said to him.
You may notice that starting with this episode and running through the end of the first season, the writer's got their credit at the beginning with the title of the episode. This was a function of the Disney Afternoon. Michael Reaves rightly objected to the "gang credits" at the end of the two hour block. It had never been an issue before, because annually each new series, i.e. the one with original episodes, had always aired last with its credits immediately following. But in Gargoyles' first season, we aired on Fridays at 4pm, a half-hour before the last show. That meant that the writers' credits didn't appear until a half hour after the show ended. Gary Krisel agreed to make an exception and display writer's credits at the head of the episode for that one season. I wish I had fought to make that rule permanent. I didn't. Mea culpa.
I think Thrill is important right off because it established a few things which today we take for granted, but which I think were, at the time, fairly unusual for a cartoon series.
--Xanatos was still in prison. He hadn't just "somehow" gotten sprung between the end of Episode 5 and the beginning of 6.
--The Gargoyles won the Awakening war. And the castle still wasn't theirs to keep. At every turn, Michael and I just tried to make things play in a slow, steady logical progression. I wasn't trying to change the world in every episode. Not because I'm against world changing, but because each new situation was fascinating to explore. But we wouldn't let the world stand still either.
Early on, you can still see signs that to the creators, the audience AND the other characters, the Gargoyles themselves were still a wonderfully alien species. (And I don't mean that literally. Geez.) We tried to maintain the perspective of creatures out of their time. Goliath is stubborn, even dense and condescending toward Elisa, when she tries to convince him to leave the castle. But I think from his POV, his responses were perfectly natural. Xanatos was banished. The castle was theirs. The concept of ownership was sketchy for the Gargoyles at best, but if they did understand it, they understood it in the "Possession = Ownership" sense. The notion that Xanatos could still "own" the castle after an embarrassing defeat was completely ALIEN to Goliath.
Likewise, look at Fox's actions at the end of the episode. Can you imagine Fox in any later episode crudely taking a hostage? It seems like she checked her brain at the door. But it works for me because at that time, she (and we) didn't truly know what an angry gargoyle was capable of. Maybe Goliath would dismember her. Our boys got so borderline cuddly as the series progressed that I had to remind everyone just how dangerous they could be in HUNTER'S MOON. But Hunter's Moon wouldn't have worked back in Season One. Because in Season One, no one would have been shocked by Goliath's desire for Demonaesque vengeance. Maintaining that edge was always very important.
But if Fox wasn't acting her brightest here, I think Wolf was. That scene with Susie and Billy, where he pretends the Gargoyles were monsters sent by the evil ninjas, is about as smart a move as we ever see Wolf make. When you think about it, it's pretty darn clever. For him anyway. In later episodes, I think I got too big a kick out of making him dumb. I could justify it after UPGRADE. But if I got back, I think I'd give him a bit more of a mental edge.
And speaking of Wolf and Fox, how about that Pack? Their first appearance. The thing I was most struck by in viewing it here is how great they were cast. Clancy Brown, Laura San Giacomo, Matt Frewer, Cree Summer and Jim Cummings. Man, what a great ensemble. Hats off to casting and voice director Jamie Thomason. Time and again, he assembled great, great people for us.
There are a lot of little touches that make me smile. Jim Cummings "narration" during the appearance at Madison Square Gardens is priceless. We were consciously trying to do a professional wrestling meets (the hated) Power Rangers thing, and it amuses me to no end. There's that very anime shot of the Pack standing absolutely still (a held cell) while spotlights pass over them. It's very cool.
I even like that we got the notion of the Daily Tattler into the episode. That was something I wanted to expand on more. The Gargoyles never made any real attempt to keep themselves very hidden. Oh sure, they weren't holding New Olympian style press conferences, but they didn't sweat it if they were spotted. But we figured that the more of an urban myth they became, the less the majority of the population would believe in them. And once stories about Gargoyles started regularly appearing in the Tattler, people would be sure the whole thing was faked. I'm not sure we mentioned the Tattler again until Hunter's Moon, which is too bad. Though it does show how consciously Michael and I were echoing first season concerns and contrasts in that final mini-series.
Fox and Lex. Their relationship is established in that one moment when she strokes him under his chin. Even I didn't know that down the road they'd become flat-out allies thanks to Alex. Hell, back then I didn't know Alex was on the way. Didn't even know that Fox and David were an item. The characters were just beginning to teach me who they were and what they wanted.
Action-wise this thing is taut. The Pack just keeps coming and coming. The Gargs never have a chance to catch their breath. And, then, suddenly, they do. And the tables turn fiercely. And the Point of View, as well. We are ALWAYS on the side of the hunted. When it's Goliath and Lex, we get very little of the Pack. Just snatches of them attacking. The gargs struggling to stay alive. But up on that roof, we abruptly switch POV. Suddenly, we're following the Pack. Even, dare I say, sympathising with them. Not that we want them to win. But we begin to identify with them as they battle these strange creatures. I love that.
It's hard to believe, but when Frank Paur and I first saw the animation on this episode we were crushed. I look at it now and think its gorgeous. But we were so spoiled by the Awakening animation, we thought this was a debacle. Later we'd get some truly mediocre animation and learn to appreciate the good stuff more. But back then... we were idiots.
Those tv lines were my idea. I love television. I mean I really, really love it. And I hate when people attack it. I think on a percentile basis, there's more good work being done in television than any other medium. Doesn't mean there isn't a lot of crap being done. But that's true in everything. But still it's fun to poke fun. To bite the hand that's feeding you every once in awhile. One of the trio says: "The Pack is just like us. They fight evil. And they do it on television." (I just saw the episode half an hour ago, and I can't be sure who said it. That's pathetic.) Of course, whoever said that didn't mean to say that the Gargoyles were also on television. That was an afterthought. But it's a bit of an in-joke for us and our audience, because the Gargoyles are just like the Pack. I just like to think they had a better show.
But my favorite is Hudson's line: "Maybe we shouldn't believe everything we see on the television..." A lesson we all should live by.
And finally, "Thrill" contained the first of what would soon be a Gargoyles Trademark. The Xanatos Tag. Our favorite manipulator snatching partial victory from seemingly overwhelming defeat. Again, something vaguely revolutionary for a cartoon. You gotta love the guy.