July 5, 2015

Cybersix, episode 8 "Gone with the Wings"

Cybersix and Data 7 are on a rooftop, pounding their way through Fixed Ideas when, to everyone's surprise, a flock of large, gargoyle-style creatures (later identified as goblins) swoop down from the sky, attacking Cybersix with blasts of targeted sonic shrieks. All she can do is evade until the rising sun is revealed, chasing the goblins off in fright. They swoop down into a subway terminal, terrifying pedestrians and bursting through a train before they disappear down the tunnels, all of which quickly hits the local news. Watching the report, both José and Von Reichter gloat.

Also watching the news is Julian who decides it would be fun to see if he can find the monsters on his own. Skipping along subway tracks, a sudden train causes him to leap into a room, which just so happens to be where the goblins are roosted with a nest of fresh eggs in the corner. The goblins surround the boy and he cries out, which is heard in the subway lair of Data 7. He arrives, but the boy is trapped under rubble and the goblins are too much for the cat, so Julian tells him to find Cybersix.

Adrian is relaxing in a diner with Lucas when he sees Data 7 on a rooftop. Excusing himself, she dons her Cybersix costume and follows Data 7's lead. The goblins followed the cat, though, and attack Cybersix en masse. With the nest cleared, Data 7 returns to rescue the boy while Cybersix keeps fighting until the goblins are again chased away by the sunrise.

She meets up with Julian and Data 7 and everyone pools their knowledge. Cybersix comes up with a plan for the night, but shoots Julian down when he wants to take part, sending Data 7 to watch over the boy.

That night, Cybersix takes to the rooftops, luring out the goblins. Data 7 heads to the underground nest only to find Julian beat him there and is gathering up the eggs. The goblins return to their lair, only to be quickly followed by Cybersix, who stole a train. She lures the creatures on board while Julian and Data 7 also pile the eggs into a car. The boy and cat then leap away as Cybersix kicks the train into gear, barreling it down the tracks - right past a stunned José - to an outlet where all of the goblins and eggs are trapped in direct sunlight. They explode.

José runs off in defeat as our heroes watch yet another sunrise.


I briefly contemplated cutting and pasting one of my previous reviews here to see if Noel or any of our intrepid readers noticed, because quite frankly, I'm starting to think that's what the writers of Cybersix were doing with their scripts at this point. Monster of the week? Check. Julian trapped/captured? Check. Lucas marginalized? Check. Actually, I don't mind that last one so much.

Once again, the "plot" is inconsequential and dumb, serving as nothing more than a rickety framework for all the monster hullabaloo. A forgivable sin if said hullabaloo wasn't so dull and uninspired. In the monster hierarchy, gargoyles clearly top killer birds (see; Episode 6: "Blue Birds of Horror"), but you might not know that watching this episode. First of all, for a show whose chief saving graces are its wonderful animation and unique designs, the gargoyles here are pretty lame. They're not scary or interesting in the slightest. In fact, they look (and act) like they just stumbled in from an episode of Goober and the Ghost Chasers. And what review can be complete without one or both of us grousing about José. He's just... enough. Enough already. José is beyond played out. Here at least he and his tyrannical tyke shenanigans aren't as front and center as they have been in previous episodes. Still, we desperately need a break from his shtick. Desperately.

But surprisingly not everything here is bad. Cybersix shows some early flashes of badassery in her dealings with José's Frankenthugs. It's almost - dare I say it - Batman-like. I get that quips and fisticuffs really aren't her thing, but it's nice to see her open up a can of whoop-ass and spray those guys down. I also need to give props for the way in which she dispatches the gargoyles. Sure her detective work is a little shoddy, as it's made crystal clear early on how you defeat them and yet she doesn't catch on until late in the third act. I must say that luring them into an l-train and then sending them out into the sunlight to their rather gruesome demise is extremely effective, but I wish that it had been earned with a better set up. At this point, I'll take what little nuggets of joy I can get.

So, another week, another mediocre episode. All explorations of Cybersix's backstory have been abandoned, there's been no appreciable attempt at world building, and the romance between her and Lucas seems stuck in limbo. Kind of like this series. All of its early promise has now been squandered in service to a tired formula of silly plans and generic monster mayhem.


First of all, that title. No. Just, no. It's not a jokey episode, that does nothing to sell the action or threat. There's no call for that bad of a pun. I've been told by a reliable source than I'm awful when it comes to puns, so if I'm the one groaning, then you know it's some pretty bad wordplay.

Secondly, dammit, it's still a José plot. They actually built my hopes up at first, what with even the Fixed Ideas pausing and taking in the sight of the goblins, completely confused about what was going on. I wouldn't have minded José in that capacity, having his plans derailed as this other threat literally swooped in. That would have been a great little shakeup. But no, it's just another Von Reichter plan, and the first we see of José is him gloating about it at his chair. The same as he always does. Promising to make his father happy, same as he always does. Going through comical shenanigans, same as he always does. I do love the shot at the end of him waiting at the subway only to lock eyes with Cybersix as the train whips by, but at this point in the series, the constant repetition of José is just not funny anymore. Hell, Von Reichter even specifically calls out that José isn't a part of this plan and the boy's job is to just wait and do nothing, SO WHY IS HE EVEN HERE, let alone as a featured character throughout the episode?

Honestly, I'm pretty firmly on the fence with this episode. Keiko Oyamada is back for her second turn as episode director. Her last entry, "Data 7 and Julian", is still the high point of the series for me, and holy crap does she knock it out of the park in terms of the action. The rolling, roiling fights with the packs of goblins are amazing, and while I don't entirely love their design (mostly the "feather" mane), they're animated with an eerie blend of human and inhuman qualities, like any good monster should be. The sudden blasts of their sonic attack is great, the scene of them leering over the trapped Julian is terrifying, and I even love the cold moments of them just swooping in and out of their tunnels. Cybersix and Data 7 are also wonderfully animated, especially that great reaction shot of Data 7 when he returns to the lair only to find Julian beat him there. It's such a great "WTF!?" face for a cat.

Sadly, the script is a mess. This is also the second turn for Terry Klassen, the Von Reichter voice actor who also wrote "Blue Birds of Horror", though it's worth pointing out that one also had a story credit for Koji Takeuchi, which this one lacks. I can see some moments of similarities, like a lot of focus being put on the animalistic nature of a winged threat, setting up an elaborately simple trap, and a nice view outside the main cast as we see everyday citizens fall victim to events, which gave that earlier episode a nice scope and helped populate Meridiana. Here, they're especially not as successful with that angle. I don't know if it's because Oyamada didn't click as well with the concept or if it was someone else on staff, but when we get those moments like the people on the train stunned as the goblins burst in, or the conductor having a bad day, or the multiple appearances of the reporter, or the young lovers out for an evening who are almost squashed by a billboard, there's such a bland simplicity to their character designs that none of them really have any lingering impact, and they almost feel like an afterthought instead of featured stars of their own little moments like they were in "Blue Birds of Horror".

The plot is also just very poorly constructed. We never find out a point for Von Reichter's own people being surprised to learn of the goblins, with no reveal or explanation within those ranks. There's no real motive for what the goblins are there to do beyond somehow conquering the city through their breeding. There's a string of bizarre structuring where Julian stumbles across their lair randomly, doesn't notice massive creatures hanging literally in front of his face in a fully lit room until he bumps into them, then when he's trapped, Data 7 goes for help, then goes off with Cybersix for a different action scene, then returns on his own to save the boy, then Cybersix decides to go find the boy herself right in the middle of her action, but by then her friends are already gone. The script feels very sloppily organized, like they were rushing some sequences together in a story they hadn't fully figured out. And as for the easy solution of burning the goblins in the sunlight, not only is it a very simplistic and obvious route, but we see them spend more than that stretch of time in the sun several times throughout the episode. Yeah, they shriek and turn away, but it takes them quite a while to get back to the entrance to their lair, all while the sun is sitting there fully above the horizon. That bit where Cybersix steps aside and they're hit with the sunlight is especially bullshit because it's already fully up and no, there's no way they wouldn't have failed to notice it until a single person moved out of the way.

Also, Julian doesn't feel like he plays much of a necessary part in things. Data 7 has been established as living in those tunnels so he could have easily found the threat on his own and played his role without the kid. Julian's also kind of an idiot in that his entire inciting motive this episode is "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to find some monsters?" About the eggs, instead of lining them up alongside the tracks to pick up with the train, why not just put them ON the tracks to run over? Lucas is kinda here just to be here, and you have to wonder why he and Adrian are always hanging out when they never seem to actually talk about anything. His part is especially a sharp writing contrast to his heavy involvement in "Blue Birds of Horror".

And yet, it is still a beautifully animated and exciting episode. The opening sequence is crackling and sharp. The monsters are great, the battles intense and beautifully choreographed. The explosion of the train car is impressive. Even the little moment of the Fixed Idea becoming entranced by the sunset as he's pouring a glass of milk is nice.

It's a real mixed bag of an episode, equal parts amazing and admirable, and frustrating and confusing, and that frustration is heightened by the series overall continuing to feel misfocussed and lacking in a point or direction for it to start heading toward. I'm really hoping this show as a whole doesn't turn out to just be a great setup they otherwise didn't have a clue what to do with.

Extra thoughts:
  • Still not sure if that abandoned boat from both this episode and the last is the hideaway nest of Julian or Data 7. We do also see Data 7 in his subway lair, but they're both starting to spend so much time on that boat they might as well strike up a roomie deal.
  • It's daytime when Julian goes into the subway. In the time it takes him to come across the nest, tell Data 7 to go for help, Data 7 to find Adrian, Adrian to change into Cybersix, and Cybersix to fight off goblins while Data 7 rescues Julian, the sun is already rising the next morning. That's... quite a wide wiggle of time passage, again from the writer who did the very carefully and thoughtfully labelled passing of days in "Blue Birds of Horror"?
  • As with stuff like the vigilante action or the clay monster coming from this batch of TMS animators working on Batman: The Animated Series, you'd think this episode came about due to them doing a ton of work on Gargoyles, but TMS apparently only did fill in work on that show for just a single episode. Maybe that left an impression or they felt bummed they didn't get to do even more of that series.

If you'd like to watch along with us, the entirety of Cybersix is available on DVD, thanks to Discotek Media.

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