Gargoyles: Season 2 Volume 1

Gargoyles_DVD_2The cover of the DVD release of Gargoyles Season 2 dubs it as Volume 1 of the second season.  At first glance, that may seem like a greedy way to release a show to DVD, but that is not the case.  A common practice of children’s animated television was to order 65 episodes as early in the life of the series as possible to make the programming eligible for syndication where more money could be made off of it.  I say “was” because I’m not sure if that is still the case with numerous cable outlets now providing a lot of the entertainment these days.  Gargoyles was not originally broadcast on cable though, which is why season 2 is 52 episodes long, which following the 13 episode first season, gets the series to 65 total episodes.  Sometimes networks are so confident the show will be a hit they go right from the pilot to a 65 episode order.  This was the case for the still popular Batman:  The Animated Series which featured a pretty bankable star in Batman, but Gargoyles was an all new intellectual property so Disney opted to go for a trial run with the first 13 episodes before going all in.

The process of large season orders seems like a win for fans of the show.  After all, a 52 episode season would theoretically allow for a new episode every week for an entire year, though this wasn’t the case for Gargoyles since it was an afternoon program.  It does usually mean shorter wait times between new episodes, but things can get a little erratic since the season will usually begin airing while a lot of episodes are still in production.  There’s also the other downside to a large season such as this which is these episodes need to get produced quickly, and more people are needed for production and story-writing.  The first season of Gargoyles was a tight, neat collection of episodes with high-quality animation for television.  Season 2 sometimes has the feel of “too many cooks in the kitchen” and episodes become more stand-alone in nature.  The animation is still among the best when Gargoyles is compared with its contemporaries, but there are some drop-offs and it’s apparent that the show had multiple teams for animation.  Some episodes feature sharp lines and tight animation while others are more rounded and toon-like with characters often making over-exaggerated gestures (those familiar with X-Men likely have an idea of what I’m talking about).  Which one looks best is a matter of taste though (I prefer the harder look for this program) at least, with the overall animation quality usually pretty strong from episode to episode.

There are some pretty interesting plot twists to find in season two.

There are some pretty interesting plot twists to find in season two.

Inconsistent animation is expected when a show requires a large amount of episodes be produced, but my main concern for Gargoyles was how the writers would respond when tasked with filling so many hours.  The first season largely operated in a serial format with each episode tied to one overall plot.  Some felt more stand-alone than others, but all plots were referenced at one point or another and the overall quality of the story-telling was quite good.  I knew season 2 would have to feature more stand-alone episodes, but thankfully very few feel like throw-away or filler episodes.  Many of these one-shots still contain plot devices that have repercussions on the episodes to follow, such is the case with the conclusion of the episode “The Mirror” when Demona gains a new power.  Many others choose to introduce new villains or allies that will pop up in later episodes, as is the case with the characters Doctor Sevarius and Jeffrey Robbins.  In short, the structure of the show remains rewarding for longtime fans.  This does come at the cost of making the show a little harder to jump into at any point for newcomers, but since it’s no longer on television, this is really no longer a concern.

There are many stand-alone episodes, but there’s also no shortage of multi-part arcs.  The first half of season two contains the four part “City of Stone” and the three part “Avalon.”  Both are heavily reliant on flashbacks as it seems one goal for season 2 was to flesh out the villains even further, specifically Demona and MacBeth.  We learn about their history together and how Demona has survived the centuries and remained largely the same in appearance.  In season one, we the viewers were basically left to assume that gargoyles are extremely long-lived given that Demona was not affected by the Masgus’ spell like the others, but we learn in season 2 that is not the case.  There are lots of other recurring characters in season 2 such as The Pack, Tony Dracon, Derek Maza, Coldstone, and of course Xanatos.  Xanatos is still primarily an adversary of the Manhattan Clan, but he’s also an unlikely ally in several episodes.  One could even suggest that the writers go to this well a bit too often, but such is the case when 52 episodes have to be written in a short amount of time.  Still, I like the role Xanatos plays on this show of the equal opportunist who has his own agenda that isn’t always clear.  By the end of the first half of the season viewers, and even Goliath to some degree, have mostly caught on to Xanatos and the game he plays making me wonder what role he’ll play going forward (as I honestly can’t recall from my days of watching this as a kid).  Xanatos is also paired this time around with Fox, of The Pack, as his love interest which is a rather interesting dynamic.

Now where have I seen that dress before?

Now where have I seen that dress before?

Another part of the plot the writers seemed eager to explore in season 2 was the relationship between Elisa and Goliath.  Elisa was Goliath’s main confident, along with Hudson, by season one’s end and he (as well as the other gargoyles) clearly feel a strong sense of protection with her.  In season 2 it’s becoming more obvious that they have a stronger bond than just friends.  Sometimes the show is pretty obvious about it, but for the most part they let it go unstated and attempt to keep things subtle.  It has a nice progression throughout.  Disney fans will also particularly enjoy a scene from the episode “Eye of the Beholder.”

Gargoyles was never a series afraid to introduce characters, and many new villains are brought into the fold in season 2.  New allies, as well.  A pet peeve of mine with X-Men was always how the writers would tease a new character joining the X-Men but would never go through with it.  Towards the end of season 2, the writers chose to add a new member to the clan.  To better introduce this character, the writers shrink the cast down to just Goliath, Elisa, Bronx, and the new-comer for the unofficially titles World Tour episodes.  These episodes spill over into the second part, and series creator Greg Weisman actually bumps up one episode from the second half, “Kingdom,” to serve as the final episode in this collection.  This final episode takes place in New York and we get to see what the rest of the clan is up to with Goliath missing.  This is probably something Weisman regretted not doing originally, as when these aired we went 10 episodes without seeing the other characters which seems much too long.  The World Tour will continue well into the second half though I do not suspect any other episodes were re-arranged as no one affiliated with the show had any say in the release of volume 2, that I know of.

The relationship between Demona and MacBeth is fully revealed in season two.

The relationship between Demona and MacBeth is fully revealed in season two.

Gargoyles:  Season 2 Volume One largely carries over the quality of the first season and only enhances the show’s reputation as one of the better animated programs from the 1990’s.  Season One is probably superior when judged on quality, but the second DVD release for the series obviously boasts more content.  The release itself is also much nicer and includes some bonus features in comparison with the bare-bones season one release.  Unfortunately, season two did not meet the sales expectations of Disney and volume two was never commercially released until just recently.  Volume two is even more sparse than the first season release, and is currently only available to members of Disney’s Movie Club.  I’m not a member of that club, but did find out Buena Vista has an ebay account that basically specializes in selling these exclusives and was able to get one from there.  I don’t know if they restock or not, but that is definitely the best bet for those who want a copy as the secondary market is a little inflated right now.

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