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Another ramble as I review the entire series. Comments welcome.
"Deadly Force". I have to admit. I never liked the title. It always sounded too generic to me. Michael Reaves pointed out how appropriate it was, but "Temptation" had already given me a taste for one word titles. I came to prefer those, unless I was given a damn good reason not to.
The third episode of our trio tryptich. Broadway. Broadway and Goliath. Broadway, Elisa and Goliath. But this episode represents so much more.
If you were watching the series in '94 during it's original run, and you didn't already think, "Hey, this is different." Then by the end of Act One of "Deadly Force" you knew. I don't know if there's ever been a cartoon like "Deadly Force". A mainstream media production. We had had up to that point a few fairly shocking cliffhangers, a few fairly shocking events, but what equals Broadway pulling that trigger, the suddenly "empty" kitchen and Elisa lying in a pool of her own blood as we fade to black and cut to a commercial?
Where do I start? With pride, I guess. I am extremely proud of this one.
Guns. My personal stance on gun control isn't an issue. Not in this episode. This is about something that I think every even vaguely intelligent person can agree on. Guns aren't toys. Guns aren't "cool", no matter how they're depicted in the media. Guns demand respect. Elisa is at fault. Broadway's massively at fault. Because neither held enough respect for the weapon. (Now one might argue that Elisa lived -- nominally -- alone. It didn't occur to her that she needed to be more careful with her weapon. But it should have. She's a cop. She should know better.) As I write this, as I watched the episode tonight, my head is of course filled with thoughts of the six year old boy who yesterday took his uncle's gun to school and shot a six year old girl, killing her. And I don't want to sound arrogant. But I am angry. And I feel like this episode could really help people. That parents should HAVE to watch this with their kids. Required viewing. And the fact that Toon Disney won't even air it...! I'm furious. Simply furious.
Guns are the least of it. We wanted to send a message about repercussions. Real world repercussions. I wanted our series to be ABOUT repercussions. Demona and the Captain betray Wyvern. There are repercussions. You can't fix things. You can't go back and change it. That's why time travel in the Gargoyles' Universe has such STRICT laws. Without those laws, you remove the dramatic law of repercussions. The real world law that actions have repercussions. This episode was our ode to repercussions. The guns were just our means to an end.
Still, guns would be our medium and the episode is laced with them. With gun imagery. With gun language (e.g. Chavez referring to Dracon's alibi: "He's bulletproof.", etc.). I don't think the episode is too pedantic. I hope it's honest. Probably the most dishonest thing in the story was that Elisa DIDN'T die. Forgive me for that. But I couldn't let her go just then. Still, I think we gave our audience a bigger scare in this one then in most of the other episodes combined. Maybe she would die. There's a sense of scary (again real world) vulnerability in this. And we tried to make her injuries and suffering as realistic as possible. We weren't doing E.R. (or St. Elsewhere, since E.R. didn't exist back then), but we did try to make the medical stuff play true.
All this makes me proud. Proud of what's on the screen.
But there's a whole other side to the making of this show that makes me proud. For what isn't visible on screen. For teamwork. This is a story that seemed to need to be told. Most of the springboards for the 66 chapters came from me, but this one was waiting for us. My bosses Gary Krisel and Bruce Cranston were behind the story from the start. Michael Reaves wrote an amazing script, and my God the thing is beautifully made. No one balked. Not our S&P executive. Not our bosses. No one. Think about how amazing that is? We had one of our young heroes pick up a very REAL gun and shoot our female lead in her own kitchen. That's pretty intense.
And fairly rewarding. Even our publicity department saw the value in this one. They got advance copies and sent them out. We had (always had) phenomenally good reviews. But this episode brought us praise from the kind of parents groups that most action cartoon shows usually fear. People got it. They got it. Dr. Madeline Levine wrote a book called "Viewing Violence". It's a fairly sobering study of the effect of modern media on impressionable minds. Disabused me of a few notions, I'll tell you. But she praises GARGOYLES, specifically this episode, in her book. People got it. But not TOON DISNEY people, I guess. They show a huge lack of respect for everyone who worked on that show. Everyone who did or might benefit from it.
(Re: The pool of blood. When it first came back from Japan, the pool of blood was much larger. We pulled it back by calling a retake. This wasn't cowardice on anyone's part. This was us trying to get our message across. We didn't want kids goofing on the pool of blood. Interested in the pool for the pool's sake, so to speak. We wanted enough blood there to make it real. To scare everyone. But we didn't want the pool to be distracting. And also we didn't want to imply that Elisa had already bled out.)
Broadway - First and foremost, this was still designed to showcase Broadway. All our nobler aspirations wouldn't matter if you walked out of this episode still thinking of the big guy as an eating machine and nothing else. So let's start by praising Bill Faggerbakke and voice director Jamie Thomason. Bill's performance is wonderfully poignant without falling into bathos.
And man, who is the scariest gargoyle when angered? Goliath? Demona? How about a vote for old Broadway? Guilt and anger tear him apart, and no one's safe. He PALMS Glasses for God's sake. He's young but maturing fast. I only had vague notions of Angela at this time. And I sure didn't know they were destined for each other. But I can see it here. The child who's done something so bad he's afraid to go home, ultimately taking responsibility for actions too horrible for most of us to face. Amazing strength of character.
Elisa - A secondary purpose (tertiary?) was to demonstrate that Elisa was a real human being, with real connections. A real life. She has a boss (introducing Maria Chavez), an apartment (introducing the loft), a cat (introducing Cagney). And she wasn't born a twenty-something police detective. She has a family. A father (introducing Sgt. Peter Maza), a mother (introducing Diane Maza), a brother (introducing Derek Maza) and a sister who's away at college (we even get a photo peak at Beth Maza). This wasn't some cypher who existed only to facilitate things for the Gargoyles. This was a woman whose life extended beyond their reach. A woman who now lived in TWO worlds. With two sets of hospital visitors.
Elisa's ethnic/racial make-up parallels actress Salli Richardson's, who has both African American and Native American ancestry. This is where serendipidy played a roll. We'd later get stories out of her multi-racial background. And it paralleled the inter-species romance we were preparing to build slowly. Sometimes, everything just goes your way.
Goliath - He says he'll find the man who shot Elisa and "Make him Pay". We didn't have to say "kill" there. Again, because this early in the series, we could all easily believe that Goliath could kill. And in fact, when Broadway tells Goliath that he "can't" kill Dracon, Goliath's response is: "You think not?" All the gargoyles had an edge of danger. We may have lost some of that along the way. It's natural. You get to know characters, you stop feeling tense around them. But here, both Goliath and Broadway go a little berserk. And we don't know how they'll act.
And Goliath already loves Elisa. It's so clear to me. The way he touches her hair. The way he reacts to her being shot. He loves her. He doesn't know it yet. But it is SO there. That moment when Goliath tells Broadway that they should go see Elisa, and Broadway is thrilled because he thinks that means that Elisa survived. And then Goliath stops. Because he realizes he isn't sure if Elisa is still alive. It slays me.
And meanwhile, Goliath is adapting fairly fast to the modern world. He clearly got his head around the idea that Xanatos was put away for possessing "stolen property", so he leaves the busted gun in Dracon's lap to make sure Dracon goes away too. He says as much. Not bad for a medieval gargoyle.
And this whole episode is a character-fest. Besides the above mentioned Family Maza, etc. We bring back Bruno, head of Xanatos' security. This was intentional. Establishing that the commandos from episode 2 were just Xanatos' security team being given an unusual assignment.
There's Dracon (pre-stripe) with Glasses and even Pal Joey. Rocky Caroll really brought Glasses to life. I like him. And Dracon, well, I just love his old-fashioned "noive". Calling Elisa "Honey" and "Sugar". Sending Glasses off to sell guns right in front of her. He's pretty fun in this episode.
Owen is incredibly cool. You can really see the Mr. Smithers influence in this one. Times ten. He fights, he negotiates. He manipulates. He's a phenomenal proxy for Xanatos. A true trickster with a low burning flame.
We also introduced Doctor Sato. I always planned on using him more. We just never found the story. Too bad. I liked him a lot.
And we cameo Matt. Originally, Chavez's driver was going to be Morgan. But we had already started work on "The Edge". We knew Matt was coming. So we decided to preview him here. Just a nice little touch for anyone paying attention.
I'd love to know a little bit more about the movie "Showdown", a black and white western that was premiering in 1994. A score by Ennio Morricone (channeled through Carl Johnson -- a guy who doesn't get enough praise for the stunning work he did on the show). And the movie seemed to be a hit. Go figure.
And what about that movie theater. The balcony is closed. But they're storing bags of pre-popped popcorn. How old was that stuff?
Finally, Owen is very specific about the 37 missing weapons. Early on, I tried to keep count. To allow Broadway to eventually account for every one of those guns. But that was one detail that got away from me.