In the eighth episode of the first season of Gargoyles, I cannot believe this episode is real. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Gargoyles.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of gun violence, blood.
In another context, “Deadly Force” would have been nothing more than an afterschool special. Look, I grew up in the 80s and 90s; that kind of educational entertainment was everywhere. It seemed like every animated show or family sitcom had a special episode about something topical and serious. Most of the time, though, I was able to recognize how heavy-handed these narratives were, even as a kid. We know when we’re being lectured to!
I was surprised, then, that “Deadly Force” could have felt like this. Instead, this is brutal look at gun violence and the proliferation of life-ending weaponry. For the record, this is told in twenty minutes ON AN ANIMATED SHOW FOR KIDS. (I promise, just like I did with Steven Universe, I’ll get over this sentiment.) This is significant because the episode still does make a necessary point through realism rather than a trite scenario. That’s why Hudson makes a statement about reality and fiction at the beginning of the episode. It’s foreshadowing for Broadway, whose obsession with the newest western film playing in theaters leads him to cause a nightmare.
Of course, Broadway didn’t intend to. He became enamored with gunslingers, and when he went to visit Elisa, her gun just seemed to be an extension of that. It was a toy, something that entertained him, something that got rid of bad guys. Until Broadway accidentally fires it, he never really conceives it as a device that hurts people. How can he? His only exposure to weapons haven’t ever gotten him hurt. He’s been shot at, but does that actually give him an idea what guns do?
No, his lesson comes when he shoots Elisa with her own gun in her own kitchen, right when she’s in the middle of a massive weapons trafficking case. WHICH, FOR THE RECORD, IS ALSO NOT SOMETHING I’VE SEEN ON A SHOW LIKE THIS BEFORE. Batman: The Animated Series is pretty close, but it’s so serious here. The same goes for the depiction of Elisa’s near death. We see the pool of blood that collects under her; we see her surgery; when we finally meet the Maza family, the doctor relates the horrific path that the bullet took through Elisa’s body. (ALSO: OH MY GOD ELISA IS AFRO-LATINX, ISN’T SHE.) At no point is the audience left to wonder what the effects of gun violence are. WE SEE THEM. The physical, the emotional, the psychological… it’s all addressed.
For example, that’s why Elisa’s family are an important part of the story. Since Elisa is unconscious until the final scene, we needed a way to see how gun violence tears people apart. But you could also argue that Broadway’s reaction is a part of this, too. After realizing the power of a gun, he turns immediately against them, tracking down those who use them in order to stop it. What he’s done horrified him, and he can’t fathom anyone else suffering like Elisa has.
The inclusion of Dracon and the arms shipment, however, confused me at first. It seemed like a sloppy addition, but it wasn’t until Goliath decided to track down Dracon that I realized why this was such a powerful part of the whole episode. Dracon is still guilty at the end of this, and Broadway knew that. But he couldn’t bear to watch the man get punished for something he did. However, this episode’s morality still holds Dracon and his men in low regard. They still trafficked in weapons! Thus, that’s why Goliath destroys Xanatos’s supply. It’s immoral for it to exist in this world, AND THIS IS THE POLITICAL POSITION THAT A CHILDREN’S SHOW TOOK IN THE MID 90s. Oh my god, OF COURSE I WAS GOING TO LOVE THIS.
And that’s ultimately the reason this doesn’t feel like an afterschool special. “Deadly Force” pulled no punches at all, and that’s far more effective than some sort of metaphor or a far weaker story.
HOW IS THIS SHOW REAL
The video for “Deadly Force” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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