Disney’s Gargoyles is one of the seminal works of serialized American animation. While ostensibly a cult classic, having never reached the mainstream popularity of contemporaries like the beloved ’90s X-Men cartoon and Batman: The Animated Series, it nonetheless left a mark on a generation with its intricate, sprawling mythology, complex characters, and smart writing. Running for two seasons and a total of 65 episodes (No, we’re not counting The Goliath Chronicles, thank you), the series dealt with timely themes while stoking a love of noir, various world mythologies, and Shakespeare in the hearts of millions of kids who might have otherwise never given them the time of day.
While for years you had to either have a serious VHS collection of episodes taped off TV or catch the reruns on The Disney Channel, the full 65-episode run of Gargoyles is availble in three DVD sets as well as a variety of online resources, and will be available to stream on Disney+ once it’s up and running on Nov. 12. As a die-hard fan myself, I would recommend mainlining the entire series, but if you’re pressed for time or not the most patient viewer (parts of the “world tour” can tire even the most devoted fans), here’s a handy guide to the episodes of Gargoyles you absolutely must not miss. So whether you’re settling in for a nice rewatch or experiencing the magic for the first time, here we go!
SEASON ONE. JUST… SEASON ONE.
A bit of a cheat, true, but honestly there isn’t a weak episode in the bunch, and each of the 13 episodes lays the foundation for story elements that will either heavily recur or prove enormously significant in Season Two.
The five-part opener, “Awakening,” introduces us to our heroes, the premise, and the series’ two most prominent villains. The next three episodes, “The Thrill of the Hunt,” “Temptation,” and “Deadly Force,” each spotlight one of the teenage gargoyles, already developing their characters and showing their adjustment to the late 20th Century. One episode even covered the topic of gun violence (in a surprisingly bipartisan way; it was more about responsible gun ownership than full bans) so unflinchingly that it was held off the rerun schedule for over a year.
From there, we meet one of the series’ most prominent anti-heroes in “Enter Macbeth,” as well as the reason for the gargoyles’ relocation to the police station clock tower. Next up comes the return of a major villain in “The Edge.” In “Long Way to Morning,” we finally get the backstory on how Hudson got that scar and Goliath took over as leader of the Wyvern Clan. We’re also introduced to the Archmage, who… let’s just say will prove to be quite significant later on.
“Her Brother’s Keeper” is probably the weakest of the bunch, but it’s still a solid character study that explore’s Elisa’s family and shows that even with the best intentions in mind, she’s not perfect and still has a lot to work on in her own relationships. “Reawakening” bookends the series by reuniting Xanatos and Demona to raise the Frankenstein-esque Coldstone (because of whom my first few trips to Coldstone Creamery in the early aughts were fraught with giggles) via a combination of science and sorcery. The episode calls back to the massacre at Castle Wyvern and sees the gargoyles redefining their protectorate, claiming the island of Manhattan as their new “castle.”
Season 2 Episode 1: Leader of the Pack
The Season Two premiere sees newcomer Coyote springing the The Pack from jail, all except for Fox, who insists on remaining behind to serve her time. Of course, in true Gargoyles fashion, the whole thing is a ruse by Xanatos to test out his new robot designs and make Fox look good to get her an early parole. Which works. It underlines what a masterfully written and refreshingly competent villain Xanatos is, puts Fox back into play, and reveals that the two have been romantically involved this whole time!
Season 2 Episode 2: Metamorphosis
Elisa’s brother, Derek, last seen taking a job as Xanatos’ personal pilot and bodyguard, is transformed into a winged catlike creature by the mad scientist Anton Sevarius, voiced by the one and only Tim Curry. Notable for introducing Sevarius and the mutates, including Kath Soucie as Maggie the Cat, as well as its downer ending, this episode is a must see.
Season 2 Episode 3: Legion
Coldstone’s repair protocols final kick in after months of snoozing at the bottom of the river. The three gargoyle souls inside of Coldstone, a pair of lovers and the jealous third party eager to tear them apart, vie for control of the one body, which makes for a series of deceptions and betrayals that would make Shakespeare proud. Also, it turns out that even in the form of a computer virus, Xanatos is an extraordinary asshole.
Interesting note, though never named as such in the dialogue, the script and cast list refer to these the ghostly trio of gargoyles inside of Coldstone as Othello, Desdemona, and Iago.
Season 2 Episode 5: The Mirror
Just straight up fun from beginning to end, “The Mirror” introduces the Third Race, the Children of Oberon. Demona uses Titania’s mirror to summon the trickster Puck, who has so much fun at her expense, even when bound and enslaved, that I can’t even handle it. This episode has twists, turns, humor for days, and some of the most quotable lines in the series. It also permanently alters Demona by giving her exactly what she wants—the gift of not becoming stone during the day—but in the last possible way she could want it.
Season 2 Episode 7: Eye of the Beholder
Xanatos pops the question to Fox, offering the Eye of Odin as an engagement present, which has some… unforeseen consequences. This episode pulls a double whammy by revealing the Eye of Odin’s true power and showing us that, while it may be a dark and twisted version of what we might consider a perfect pairing, Xanatos and Fox truly do love each other… as much two people such as themselves are capable of that emotion. The episode falls on Halloween, giving the gargoyles a perfect opportunity to walk amongst the people freely and Elisa a chance to dress up, allowing for a fun little Beauty and the Beast reference when she dances with Goliath in the street.
Season 2 Episode 8: Vows
Xanatos and Fox get married—I guess when you’re a billionaire, putting a wedding together only takes a week or two—and because Xanatos is the most perverse motherfucker on the planet, he asks Goliath to be his best man. Demona, it turns out, is Fox’s maid of honor, and she and Goliath look back on their own exchange of vows a thousand years ago, the closet thing to a wedding that exists in gargoyle culture. As soon as the ceremony is concluded, Xanatos, Fox, Goliath, Demona, and Xanatos’ father, Petros, are swept away on a little excursion through time by way of the Phoenix Gate, another crucially important artifact in the overall arc of the season.
We learn a bit about time travel’s role in how Xanatos made his fortune, get to see Goliath and Demona at a happier time in their lives, and most importantly learn the rules of time travel in this story: history is immutable, and any changes you make you’ve always made. The only thing you can change via time travel is your perspective.
Season 2 Episodes 9-12: City of Stone
In this four-parter, Demona uses the airwaves to cast a spell over all of Manhattan, rendering anyone who sees and hears it stone throughout the night. She then goes on a gleeful, murderous rampage, shattering humans. The efforts to break the spell makes up the framing device for the real story here, the tale of how Demona survived the massacre at Castle Wyvern and how her fate became entwined with Macbeth’s.
It’s a tale of heartbreak and tragedy that gives us a keen insight into how hurt and damaged a person Demona is and how she became the villain she is today, all while driving home that much of the tragedy that befell her was of her own making, rooted in her inability to take responsibility for her mistakes. It also recontextualizes Macbeth’s obsession with killing Demona: the spell that has bound their fate and made them immortal states that they can only die by one killing the other. So, basically Macbeth is trying to murder Demona because after a thousand years of living, all he wants is to die. That is some dark, powerful shit. How Gargoyles got stuff like this under Disney’s radar time and time again is truly amazing.
Season 2 Episode 13: High Noon
Macbeth and Demona work together for… some reason… to swipe Coldstone and wake him up for their own purposes. And with “Iago” in control of the body, it spells nothing but trouble. Of course it’s all a ruse to distract the Gargoyles from the real plan, the tying up of some loose ends on the part of the Weird Sisters, the trio of fey sorceresses who have been manipulating Demona and Macbeth for centuries. In the episode’s final moments, Phoebe, Luna, and Selene mention they’re gearing up for something big on the horizon. Something very big.
A fun episode featuring some of the series’ best animation (Demona’s transformation immediately comes to mind), it also foreshadows some of the biggest twists to come.
Season 2 Episode 17: Double Jeopardy
Dr. Sevarius is back, and this time he’s getting his clone on! Or rather, Goliath’s clone, who goes by the name of Thailog. Though he initially seems to be the victim in all this, Thailog turns out to be playing all three of his “fathers”—Goliath, Sevarius, and Xanatos—in order to secure a small fortune of his own. Thailog turns out to be a chip off the old block. He has no intention of being Xanatos’ stooge, Sevarius’ guinea pig, or bound by Goliath’s morals. Thailong proves to be as strong as Goliath, as ethically bereft as Sevarius, and even smarter than Xanatos. And now that he’s out there with millions at his disposal, everyone’s got a big new problem lurking in the shadows.
Season 2 Episode 18: Upgrade
A new and improved Coyote offers the Pack various means to enhance themselves. Wolf becomes a feral, mutated version of himself, Dingo opts for some high tech body armor, and Jackal and Hyena cybernetically enhance their everything for some true body horror fun. While all this is going on, Brooklyn, Lexington, and Broadway vie for the honor of being named Goliath’s new second-in-command, a position that’s been open ever since Demona went rogue.
Season 2 Episodes 21-23: Avalon
Several stoylines come to a head in this three-parter, which finds Goliath, Elisa, and Bronx learning what became of the gargoyle eggs still in the rookery after the massacre at Castle Wyvern. It also reveals what role did the Weird Sisters, the Archmage, the Magus, Princess Katharine, and wee little Tom play in all this, and how did it lead everone to the legendary Isle of Avalon, long ago abandoned by Oberon and his children and now the home of the eggs, now in their late adolescence. Among them are Gabriel, the biological child of Othello and Desdemona, as well as Angela, the biological child of Goliath and Demona! However, Avalon has one last trick to play. It sends Goliath, Elisa, Bronx, and Angela not to where they wish to go, but where they need to be, kicking of the world tour, most of which we’ll skip.
Season 2 Episode 24: Shadows of the Past
The mists of Avalon (I’ve been dying to use that phrase in a sentence) bring the skiff not just to Scotland, but to the cliffs where Castle Wyvern once stood, bringing Goliath into a confrontation with the ghosts of Hakon and the Captain of the Guard so that an old score can finally be settled. In a cave, amidst the ruins of a Lost Race that surely would have been further expanded upon had the series continued, this thousand-year-old vendetta finally has a chance to be resolved, and for one of the parties in question, possibly even forgiven.
Season 2 Episode 28: Sanctuary
The skiff lands in Paris, where Demona in her human form has seduced Macbeth in a plot to acquire his wealth. She turns out to be working with Thailog, who is of course double-crossing her, because… Thailog. In what proves to be a surprisingly emotional episode, Angela realizes who her biological mother is, and Macbeth, despite his heartbreak, finally finds the will to start over and let go of his desire to end his own life by way of killing Demona. This episode is also considered by the creator of the series to mark Goliath and Demona’s “divorce.”
Season 2 Episode 29: M.I.A.
The world tour comes to London, where Goliath and company encounter two English Gargoyles, Leo and Una, whose appearances differ greatly from their Scottish cousins. They find Goliath responsible for the disappearance of their friend, Griff, during World War II, even though Goliath was in stone hibernation at the time. After a romp through time with the Phoenix Gate, Goliath meets Griff (whose voice and clothing kind of scream kink queen) and realizes that while he can’t change the past, there may be another way to bring Griff home.
Season 2 Episode 34: Mark of the Panther
When they show up in Nigeria, Goliath and company run into Elisa’s mother, Diane.
The soundtrack for this episode is truly amazing, and the style of animation used in the folklore sequence is inspired. Anansi—another of Oberon’s children—is a deliciously sinister presence in the episode, but the real gem here is the spotlight on Goliath’s refusal to give up on the gargoyle notion of parentage, in which all children are daughters and sons of the entire clan equally, and accept Angela as his daughter in the traditional human sense she was raised with. Elisa had her own issues with her mother, very relatable adult issues that are surprisingly well depicted here on a kids’ show. It takes a heart-to-heart or two for all parties to realize they’re being a little inflexible, and that all relationships require compromise. Oh, and there’s some shit about poachers or something, but I’m personally more interested in the people turning into panthers thing.
Season 2 Episode 42: Ill Met By Moonlight
The skiff finally returns to Avalon just in time for the return of Oberon and Titania, who demand that Princess Katharine, Tom, and the gargoyles all evacuate their home immediately. However, the current occupants have nowhere else to go, so Goliath and the others must, with some sly help from Titania, find a solution that everyone can live with. Of course, things are never that simple, and Oberon reveals something called “The Gathering” is about to commence.
Season 2 Episode 43: Future Tense
The world tour finally ends as Goliath, Elisa, Bronx, and Angela finally return to Manhattan, but it’s not the Manhattan they know. The find themselves forty years in the future, in a post-apocalyptic hellscape where Xanatos has taken over Manhattan and seceded to create his own nation-state, Hudson is dead, and the trio have grown up to be angry and damaged in one way or another. Brooklyn wants Goliath to give him the Phoenix Gate so they can travel back in time to prevent it all, but with what Goliath knows about the immutability of the timeline, he refuses. Of course, it turns out someone else is really screwing with everyone. This post-apocalyptic hell was an illusion, but was it all a dream… or a prophecy?
Season 2 Episodes 44-45: The Gathering
Xanatos and Fox become parents with the birth of little Alexander, and his three surviving grandparents gather to meet him. It turns out, though that one of them was Queen Titania of Avalon in disguise during her divorce from Oberon, and while Fox seems incapable of realizing her own magical heritage, Alexander is full of potential. With the Gathering at hand, Oberon is calling all of his children home to Avalon, and Titania makes the case that Alexander should be raised there so his magical abilities can be nurtured. Naturally, Fox and Xanatos are not having this. With the world tourists finally home and reunited with their clan, it takes the combined efforts of the gargoyles and Xanatos to step up to Oberon and protect little Alexander.
And what role does Xanatos’ faithful assistant, Owen Burnett, play in all this? If you haven’t seen the episode, I guarantee you’ll never guess.
Season 2 Episode 48: The Reckoning
Thailog and Demona return, this time creating a whole clan of gargoyle clones from the DNA of the Manhattan clan, all with Los Angeles-themed names. Among them is Delilah, a hybrid of Demona and Elisa. Angela tries to understand her mother, but when confronted with Demona’s actions rejects her. And Thailog finally shows his true colors, proving once and for all that he is loyal to no one but himself, not even Demona.
Season 2 Episode 49: Possession
When a combination of sorcery and subterfuge transfer two of Coldstone’s personalities, Othello and Desdemona, into Broadway and Angela, things get complicated. Despite this transfer having been made without anyone’s consent, Othello wonders if maybe he and his beloved have suffered enough and deserve to have flesh and blood bodies once again. And then, of course, there’s always Iago, looking to make trouble inside Coldstone’s shell.
Factor in two new robotic gargoyle husks, Coldfire and Coldsteel, and this ends up being one of the most bizarre, complex, and morally grey episodes not just of Gargoyles but of any series designed for such a young audience.
Season 2 Episodes 50-52: Hunter’s Moon
Everything comes full circle in this three-parter finale to Season Two. Elisa gets a new partner, Demona is revealed to be very much alive and using the money she yoinked from Thailog to run her own tech corporation as a front for her evil schemes, and if that wasn’t enough, the Hunter is back. That’s right, the line of gargoyle-hating vigilantes who have been hunting Demona for a thousand years is alive and well, the torch now being carried by a trio of siblings hell bent on taking her down. And it’s almost tempting to support them, considering Demona’s latest scheme is to use medical science and magic to release a plague that will wipe out the entire human population of Earth. And if that’s not enough, the clock tower is destroyed, rendering the gargoyles homeless. And just as Goliath finally readies himself to make a move on Elisa, she’s getting cozy with her new partner. And wait… is Xanatos actually on their side for real this time?
The creative team pulled out all the stops to deliver an amazing finale that easily set up future stories but totally works as closure to most of the storylines we’ve been following from the beginning. What a way to bow out!
Two honorable mentions go to “The Price” and “Grief,” two episodes that are fairly unimportant to the story, but pack a lot of emotional punch and deliver valuable insights into the characters while delivering some truly sumptuous animation!
And then… then there’s The Goliath Chronicles, the much maligned (and rightfully so) third season. According to Greg Weisman, the creator of Gargoyles, only the first and last episode of this season are canon. The rest, with the exception of a Bronx-centric episode involving an Amish kid, are pretty much duds, and it’s all for the best that Weisman released a run of comic books that overwrite The Goliath Chronicles as the canon continuation of the show. Check them out if you can. They’re good. And if you use this list for a first time runthrough of the show and enjoyed what you saw, go back and watch the episodes you skipped. Some are better than others, but I doubt any will leave you bored.