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The Phoenix Gate

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Blaise writes...


Here's my ramble (finally)!

When I finished watching this ep the first time I was seriously amazed. So many twists and cool images and risks taken ("killing off main characters, sort of"), this ep just floored me that you guys managed to do this.
But let's backtrack a bit.

Goliath gets struck by lightning, and the clouds turn red. Now, I never for a moment bought that Goliath and the rest had been in Avalon long enough for 40 years to pass in New York (they would have needed to spend the greater part of 2 years in Avalon for that to happen). However, I did not rule out the lightning bolt being some weird "time warp thing" that propelled our heroes 40 years into the future, one made possible only by their absence. And that as a result of this being an "artificially created" future, if you will, the normal rules of time travel did not apply to this particular future. Then you guys killed Bronx....
That was the clincher for me. I didn't really care about the skiff's destruction (heck, I still missed seeing the head sink on this viewing), but as long as the "untouched" characters were around they could all go back and stop this dystopia from occurring. But then you guys killed Bronx, and I KNEW this was an illusion of some kind. I didn't know who was behind it, but I knew not a lick of it was real.

Anyway, back to when I actually did buy it. The new Steel Clan was amazing. Not only did they have Xanatos' face, which was a startling and kind of cool change, but they were also bulkier and seemed much more dangerous. It's interesting how the laser shot that destroys one of them hit its red lens in its chest. Made it seem like that was the only vulnerable spot.

When I saw the "boat" or whatever, I didn't immediately recognize either Matt or Claw. When Matt of course said his name, things started to fall into place (and I found myself thinking how remarkably well reserved he was for a guy in his 70's). But I still didn't recognize Claw. Why? Because I still hadn't seen THE CAGE or KINGDOM at this time. I *thought* he might be that tiger-mutate I saw in METAMORPHOSIS, but where were his wings, and when was he named Claw? Knowing who Claw is now makes the absence of his wings rather chilling, and makes me wonder what happened to them (or if Puck had bothered to think anything up).

The Talon-troops. Again, having missed the mutate-centered eps I had only the vaguest connection with these guys, but they were cool. It's interesting how this "Xanatos" seems to base his troops off the "Goliath" template (after all, the real Xanatos did intend for Talon to be an "anti-Goliath" of sorts, right?). I did notice that they (and later the Thailog Shock Troops) had "brain boxes" (to borrow a term from another animated series). I did not, however, take that to mean that a whole hemisphere of their brain had been taken out. Interesting that it's the right hemisphere--the one that's supposed to deal with creative thought.

Chavez's daughter was an excellent image and a chilling way of engaging the long-time fans.

The Xanatos broadcast. First of all, I was still surprised by the structures built onto the Eryie building (and I also did not know is was called that at this time because, again, of my missing those eps). It really made the whole city look a lot more techno. And then I find out that they act as Holographic projectors. But Xanatos' broadcast always seems so weird to me. Maybe it's just the lack of music, but also the way he says "Rejoice, my people," to folks who have no electricity, rat's on sticks, rags for clothes, and vast amounts of misery. The "Cinderella" bit doesn't fly much with me either. Of course, the sheer hypocrisy of that song-and-dance is probably the point.

I didn't recognize the Labyrinth for what it was until some time later (again, the missed episodes--last time I'll mention it, I promise).
I must admit I was not at all surprised to find that Hudson had died. After all, 40 years against this kind of set-up, when he was already in his 50's back in the present? It was a surprise that he had died so long ago (32 years, was it?) fighting with Xanatos. I believe, Greg, that you mentioned THE PRICE being the inspiration for that particular plot twist. I'll get back to the fight later, but Hudson's taking on Xanatos one-on-one really does elevate his status.
And for the record, I never thought that bronze statue was the real Hudson's remains.

Finally we see what Brooklyn looks like. Him being my favorite character, I was obviously most interested in him. And the armor does look cool. Physically he's...inconsistent. Seriously, when we first see him, he's obviously put on a few inches of height and bulked up some (he stood just a little shorter than Goliath here). However, once we get to Castle Wyvern, he seems to lose all that and looks like his modern day self with the armor on (this is especially noticable in the Great Hall--even though he's crouching down, he still seems smaller and skinnier than he was in Act 2).
But hey, his character is nicely done, and it was kind of fun seeing him punch out Goliath like that.

Broadway's "aging" was probably the most effectively done, at least for me. He of course has his battle scars, not the least of which being his empty eye sockets (which are quite chilling, especially when tears well up in them). His skin also seemed to have changed color, becoming more of a pale green than what I'm used to seeing. But the biggest change was his voice! Seriously, props to Bill Faggerbakke--Broadway sounds so much more somber and, well, mature here. He's lost the...well, I hate to say "duuhh" quality, 'cause that implies stupidity and Broadway's not stupid, but that's the only thing I can think of. It winds up making Broadway sound...exactly how he's supposed to sound, I guess.

When Brooklyn started dropping the names "Talon, Maggie and Coldstone" as well as "Sevarius and the UltraPack" (and hinting at the deaths of the first three) I didn't quite know what to think--I was still getting over Broadway's appearance. I do recall being somewhat affected by the mention of the other mutates (especially Maggie) since their's was the story arc I kept missing. I wondered what their relationship(s) with the gargoyles ended up being.

The Phoenix Gate is brought up in a logical fashion, and then quickly forgotten.

And now Demona shows up. I kind of figured she'd be on the "good guy's" team in this future 'cause that seemed to be the way the story was going, but her and Brooklyn being an item?! That caught me completely out of left field. I guess it's the only way to go since, you know, our Brooklyn hates Demona's guts, but it still struck me. My first reaction was to laugh my @$$ off, it was such a twist.
"Thailog was killed in the Clone Wars." DINGDINGDING! This was when I started thinking something wasn't quite on the level here. but that's when Lex showed up, so I forgot about it.

Lex as a cyborg was a chilling visual, and also rather appropriate for these events. But something differentiates Lex from the other cyborgs we've had on this show: his voice. There's a strange electronic reverb that makes him sound creepy. His reaction to Goliath is rather unique because there's nothing big about it. In fact, Goliath seems secondary in Lex's considerations, and all he does is give a sarcastic "Better late than never" before ignoring him for most of the ep.

Fox? Oh, Xanatos' son! Nice way to play with our expectations there, too. His design was great, love the melding of his parents' qualities. And yes, the rather "anime" styled fight between him and Xanatos is always fun to watch. Jonathan Frakes actually did a pretty good job at giving Alexander's voice a slightly different sound than Xanatos'.
When Xanatos' killed his son...that was a pretty jarring moment. There's even a moment where it looks like something's exploding out of Alexander's eyes just before the screen goes white. It was so intense, and the very act itself so appalling, that when I showed this to my mother years back, she couldn't restrain a shocked "Jesus...." Not a bad job you guys did there.

I always figured Brooklyn was sincere about Xanatos "{nuking] the place." Don't know why.

The sonar collar's a nice touch, as was Lexington's "circuit-board eye."

Then you guys kill Bronx. As soon as that happened, I knew this was all about as real as a $3 bill and decided to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Thailog Shock Troops were a nice touch, and subtly different from the real Thailog, not just in style, but also in the face (probably because of the aforementioned "brain box").

When Lexington got grabbed, I kind of assumed that meant he was dead, too. But then Broadway dies onscreen. He gets a really great moment here, where not only does he see again, but he sees the sun. It's well done, and the looks of anguish on Goliath and Brooklyn's faces are great, as is the music, and I really wish I could say it affected me more than it did. Remember, by this time I determined none of it was really happening to Broadway or anyone else, so all I could appreciate were the technical and artistic aspects of his "death."

Into the digital world. I like the "reenactment" of Hudson and Xanatos' final battle (Xanatos' techno-sword looks pretty cool). I love the idea that although Hudson fell in battle, he still managed to take Xanatos with him.
And the revelation of Xanatos' "immortality" is pretty neat, and led to a great line by Goliath:
"You're not immortal. You're not even Xanatos. The REAL Xanatos, at his worst, would not have done what you have done. You're just an unfeeling machine."
That did leave me wondering, if someone ever did manage to "download their brainwaves and personality profiles" or whatever into a computer, would that program really still be the same person?

Xanatos, has circuit-board eyes. A hint that I didn't quite pick-up on, but something told me it was supposed to be significant.

Then the Xanatos Program kills off Brooklyn (I recall getting a bit annoyed that my favorite character was disposed of so unceremoniously), Angela and Demona (the fact that he wasn't Macbeth didn't really matter to me, 'cause I knew they were fakes). Then Goliath tries to go after him only to be reduced to a talking head. The "Hamlet" reference was a given, but the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" bit was just golden.
My favorite part though, was when Goliath starts to turn the tables. "Xanatos" gets a very worried look on his face even as he says "Whatever you're up to, it won't work." The *instant* he stops speaking the cloud of granite SLAMS into him and this computer program actually gives a cry of pain. And then the winged form that bursts forth is Goliath, in the flesh again. Very cool.

The new betrayal. Lexington as the ultimate villain. This caught me completely by surprise. Not only did I think he was dead, but I never thought one of the long-running "good guys" of the series would turn bad. But this Lexington actually fills the villain role incredibly well--just as good as Thailog or anyone else. I think he's especially chilling when he says (with that weird, electronic voice) "You've LOST, Goliath. Even if you destroy this terminal there are a THOUSAND others all over the city!" Then he does something rather foolish, he tries to do his "Alien" facehugger impression on Goliath, who just throws him into the nearest bank of computers. I got that Goliath killed Lexington here, but it never really affected me that much because A) part of it was self-defense, and B) that wasn't really Lex.

Nice fireball and explosion with the Eyrie building. The hole torn in Goliath's wing looked really painful and made me wince the first time I saw it--Goliath was always real.

Elisa gives a doom and gloom bit, and brings up the Phoenix Gate...for the third time. The first two times seemed perfectly logical, but here it started to seem suspicious. I always thought that the "warning bells" in Goliath's head started to go off when Elisa said "But I'm not [too weak to use it]. Give it to me." The close-up of his eyes there led me to believe that something was starting to pierce through the fog his mind had been surrounded by. But naturally, he's not going to just say no now, so he let's it drop to the ground. I love when "Elisa" reaches for the Gate but has to pull back and ask for it again (geez, how frustrated was Puck right there?). "Elisa" presses her request, but now Goliath KNOWS something's rotten in Denmark, and the whole thing comes crashing down around Puck's feet.

This was it. The final, ultimate twist in an episode chock full of them. And it was also a pleasant surprise to actually see Puck again, since the last time was THE MIRROR *waaaaay* back in the second week of the new season.
We get the idea that, like the Banshee, he wants to stay in the world of mortals (though I did not suspect the reason). We also understand that despite having enough power to create a huge false reality (where an hour or so takes place in just a few seconds in real life), he still must follow certain limitations, and thus can't take the gate unless someone physically puts it in his hands (again, talk about frustration).
Then he gives that whole "Dream or Prophecy" thing which has had just about EVERYONE pulling their hair out at one time or other.

Finally, back to reality. And Goliath decides being the eternal guardian of the Phoenix Gate just is not for him, so he calls up the flaming gate (great animation here, love the lightning ball just before it bursts into flame) and hurls the Gate into it.
Angela and Elisa are completely nonplussed by this turn of events, but Goliath only gives a cryptic response before propelling the skiff into the mists once again (and, as it turns out, for the last time).

I really enjoyed this episode, both because it kept the twists coming, and just because it seemed like a hugely daring thing to do.
I did figure that they would get home in the next episode, and I was glad. I was ready for the World Tour to be over. Glad it went out with a bang, though.

One last thing: I remember people trying to puzzle out "what really happened in those 40 years" even after it was revealed to be an illusion tailor made to just shock and break expectations. Just shows how compelling you guys' little "alternate future" was.

Greg responds...


Of course our plan was to play fair by dropping hints throughout, but to follow every hint with some new shocking revelation so that the viewer's mind (at least the first time through) wouldn't have time to focus on the hint. It's a smoke and mirrors technique of course, but your ramble suggests it was fairly effective.

Response recorded on November 15, 2006