GARGOYLES 25th Anniversary: The 10 Best Episodes

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Twenty-five years ago yesterday, I caught the last twenty seconds of an episode of a new animated Disney series airing in the early week day morning block on my local Fox affiliate. That series was Gargoyles, and those last few seconds hooked me forever. Sure, it’s ultimately a 90s kids show, but it’s one that holds up spectacularly on repeated, adult-aged viewings—personal experience speaking.
Incorporating almost every genre of fiction from Shakespearean drama to futuristic sci-fi, the series was dark and serious, with complex characters, intricate plot lines, and weighty themes. The show also boasted a stellar voice cast, including quite a number of Star Trek alumni, many from the main cast of The Next Generation. Plus, the science fiction and fantasy concepts featured in the series were just plain cool.
In commemoration of a quarter century of excellence, I’m counting down the ten best Gargoyles episodes, all of which will soon be available to stream on the new Disney+ streaming service, launching November 12.
10. “Vendettas” – S2 E46, 05/01/96
Having been an unintended victim of Gargoyle shenanigans, a hitherto unnamed, non-speaking background character (Jeff Bennett) sets out with a giant bazooka to “cream” Gargoyle leader Goliath (Keith David). A severely underrated, rare comedic episode. (Clancy Brown guest stars.)
9. “The Gathering” – S2 E44-45, 04/29-30/96
Though the episode is the least of the series’ multi-parters, the mind-blowing revelations of “The Gathering” make this two-part outing a must see. (Laura San Giacomo, Kate Mulgrew, and Brent Spiner guest star.)
8. “Future Tense” – S2 E43, 04/27/96
Goliath, best human friend Elisa Maza (Salli Richardson), and Gargoyle dog Bronx (Frank Welker), finally return from the mystical isle of Avalon to find that forty years have past and the villainous Xanatos (Jonathan Frakes) rules over a dystopian New York. But is this future immutable? It’s essentially Gargoyles’ “Days of Future Past,” but with a nifty twist at the end.
7. “Avalon” – S2 E21-23, 11/20-22/95
Though the tale’s three-part length causes it to be more rushed than it should be, not a single other Gargoyles episode can match the sheer audacity of the Medievalic fantasy tale that is “Avalon.” (King Arthur may or may not show up. Just sayin’.) (David Warner guest stars.)
6. “Eye of the Beholder” – S2 E7, 09/13/95
A halloween-themed episode that features the iconic “Beauty and the Beast” moment between Goliath and Elisa, “Eye of Beholder” is perhaps most interesting for showing Machiavellian villain Xanatos’s human “vulnerability”: love.
5. “Long Way to Morning” – S1 E11, 01/20/95
It’s villainous Demona’s (Marina Sirtis) youthful vigor vs. seasoned soldier Hudson’s (Ed Asner) aged wisdom, played out in two time frames—one of which packs in quite a lot of world-building that proves to be very important as the series progresses.
4. “Hunter’s Moon” – S2 E50-52, 05/13-15/96
The series comes to a bittersweet conclusion as many of the show’s best plot points converge for a riveting and heart breaking finale.
3. “Deadly Force” – S1 E8, 11/18/94
Broadway (Bill Fagerbakke), the lovable, over-weight, “teddy bear” Gargoyle, accidentally fires a slug into the abdomen of Elisa, critically wounding the woman. Ignorant that the culprit is one of his own, Goliath sets out to kill the mob boss he believes to be responsible for the deed. And, yes, I promise this is a Disney children’s cartoon!
2. “Awakening” S1 E1-5, 10/24-28/94
The five-part pilot that started it all, “Awakening” establishes the heroes, villains, backstory, frontstory, and everything else it needs, while juggling two disparate time periods, ultimately delivering one of the best blends of modern science fiction and Medieval fantasy to ever grace any medium.
1. “City of Stone” – S2 E9-12, 09/18-21/95
For me, Gargoyles is best when it’s simultaneously playing in both the Dark Ages and 1990s timelines, and the four-part “City of Stone” is the best of that best. Whether it’s the spectacular alt history take on Macbeth (John Rhys Davies), Demona’s emotional character arc, or the fact that a Disney children’s cartoon [SPOILER] unceremoniously wipes out an untold number of New York’s citizenry, this epic installment is a gripping and entertaining thrill ride from top to bottom.

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