It too me longer to finish the thirteen episodes of season 3 than the 53 episodes of season2. It’s not that the final season is bad but rather the show had all its momentum removed.
Season 2 ended with all of the main story arcs completed. The Gargoyles were back in their castle. Xanatos was now their ally in truth rather than as a deception. The truth about everything that happened in Scotland and why had all been revealed as the side effect of the magical people of Avalon. Finally the people of New York knew that the Gargoyles existed.
Season 3 starts from that last premise and positions the show closer to influential X-Men animated series that was an approximate contemporary to the Gargoyles. Throughout, Gargoyles overlapped with the superhero genre and the contemporary storylines characterised them as crime fighters. In season 3 public knowledge of the Gargoyles present them as heroically defending a public who hate and fear them.
The anti-Gargoyle bigotry is personified by a new (sort of) character John Castaway, who leads an anti-Gargoyle vigilante group called the Quarrymen. Dressed in high tech armour but wearing hood-like masks, the Quarrymen become the default bad guys for season 3.
According to fan sites, Castaway is meant to actually be one of the Hunters from season 2 (ancestral opponents of MacBeth dedicated to destroying Gargoyles – it’s a long story). If that was the intent of the show, I missed it. Perhaps it was going to be a big reveal. Castaway’s motives seem more cynical and opportunistic but this maybe just that he is under written.
Indeed, the whole Quarryman storyline doesn’t really go anywhere. I’d say aspects of it are unbelievable, as it requires a violent group of bigots to establish a terrorist army without anybody in authority caring very much but then again maybe that was more prescient than we realised.
The final episode resolves matters with a final battle between the Quarrymen and the Gargoyles over a runaway train. The final rescue of the train and its occupants by the Gargoyles results in them being hailed as public heroes.
In between, episodes are more of the stand alone individual stories focusing on one character. Hudson has to reconcile his own pride against his physical needs when he discovers he is going blind. Brooklyn adopts some runaway teenagers. Broadway goes to Hollywood. Bronx helps an Amish boy who secretly likes comic books…and so on. They are no worse and at times better than some of the stand alone episodes of the previous seasons.
What the season lacks is that over-arching epic sense of the first season. Reverting back to a more standard cartoon about crime fighting characters undermined the distinctiveness of the show. With Xanatos now on their side, the show also lacked any interesting antagonist. Even the ambiguous MacBeth takes a back seat, appearing only in the first episode of season 3 as an interviewee on a TV show where he defends the Gargoyles.
I’m glad that I watched the whole set. There is a lot to learn from a show that was both ambitious and flawed. There is both finesse and clumsiness to the show which makes the parts and ideas and influences more obvious and observable. There is no mystery as to why it was so beloved and if somebody gets the money together to do a remake (hopefully with tighter scripts) I’d be keen to watch it.