A Castle is Not a Home: “Enter Macbeth”

I defeated you in your home–you think I wouldn’t be ready for you in my own?”–Macbeth

Written by: Steve Perry
Original Air Date: January 6, 1995
Introduces: Macbeth; Clock Tower Lair
Timeline placement: December 27, 1994 – January 4, 1995

The episode begins, strangely enough, with a montage of people doing everynight things: Broadway is preparing some broth; Hudson is watching TV as Bronx savors a bone; Lexington and Brooklyn play poker; Goliath reads in the library. Finally, we get Xanatos, first in a scene of him laying on his prison bed, and a second one when comments on the quality of prison food inside the commissary. “Just like mom used to make…if mom was a prison cook.”

A day later, Xanatos is discussing with the visiting Owen what to do about the gargoyles once he’s free in a week’s time. While he doesn’t want to kill them—too wasteful—he can’t have them in his home when he returns. Enter a man in a prison guard uniform, who appears to be aware of Xanatos’ conundrum as is willing to take the gargoyles off the millionaire’s hands. His name? Macbeth.

One week later, dusk. Macbeth waits atop Castle Wyvern when he is found by Elisa (who is walking with the aid of crutches thanks to her injury last episode). Elisa tries to drive him away, but Macbeth refuses to budge, introducing himself telling her that she “protects no secrets”, since he knows all about the gargoyles. Both humans watch as the sun goes down and the gargoyles wake up.

Now awake, the gargoyles, cautious if not downright suspicious, ask Elisa who the stranger in their home is. Macbeth answers by asking the gargoyles to leave their home and move into his. The gargoyles flatly refuse, and Broadway asks him to leave. Macbeth refuses, instead attacking the group with a combination of moves and weaponry. Using a gun that shoots electrified nets, he traps Lexington, Bronx, and Brooklyn, and he’s in the process of dealing with Goliath when Owen interrupts complaining that Macbeth’s contract did not give him a license to destroy the castle (the fight has destroyed a segment of a wall and begun a small electrical fire, which isn’t all that bad, considering all that has and will happen to it during the course of the series). Macbeth agrees, and decides to leave, taking Lexington, Brooklyn and Bronx with him in his airship.

In the aftermath of the battle, Elisa once again tries to convince Goliath that remaining in the castle is not an option.  Goliath’s position remains unchanged: they’ve lost everything but the castle, he argues; he’s not willing to give that up as well.  He takes flight to look for his kidnapped clanmates, ordering Broadway and Hudson to remain behind and protect their home.  Once he’s gone, Elisa turns to the remaining gargoyles, which appear to agree with her, although they do not wish to disobey Goliath.  Elisa argues that Goliath had ordered them to protect their home–something the castle no longer is.

In a transitional scene, we see a bit of Macbeth’s castle home, focusing on a stained-glass mural of what appears to be Macbeth standing before a hovering female Gargoyles (could it be…SATAN Demona?). Then we head to the dungeons, where Brooklyn, Lexington and Bronx are trapped in two different cells (Lex and Brook in one, Bronx in the other).  Brooklyn asks Lex who Macbeth and Lex replies that he’d once heard Goliath mention Shakespeare’s play.  Macbeth watches the conversation from his security room.

Back at Castle Wyvern, Broadway and Hudson have decided that they will indeed leave the castle, but not without the Grimorum Arcanorum.  As they and Elisa approach the tome, they’re stopped by Owen, who in a display of supreme badassery drop-kicks Hudson and pulls a gun on Broadway, before it’s swatted away with *thwack* from Elisa’s crutch.  The danger now past, Broadway throws Owen, allowing Hudson a chance to retrieve the tome.  Their objective completed, the three clanmates leave Xanatos’ majordomo behind.

Inside Macbeth’s dungeon, Brooklyn repeatedly taps  their cell’s electrified bars out of sheer boredom.  Lexington, noticing how the lights dim in rhythm with the taps, speculates given the power output that the electrification seems to require, it might be possible to divert electricity from Bronx’s cell by having it flow into their’s, allowing the gargoyle beast a chance to escape.  Their plan works, and he does; the escape, however, does not go unnoticed by Macbeth, who smiles at this development.

As Goliath glides over Manhattan, he notices Bronx causing a ruckus as he runs through a rather busy street.  Goliath lands and asks the gargoyle beast to lead him to the others.

Macbeth watches as  Goliath and Bronx arrive at the castle; by the time the two gargoyles burst through the door, he’s at the hall to greet them personally.  Goliath orders Bronx to free Brooklyn and Lexington, leaving him alone with his enemy.  Macbeth taunts his opponent, saying that if he could defeat the Gargoyle in his home, there’s no way Goliath will defeat him in his.  He turns tail and runs deeper into the castle.  Goliath follows, avoiding and/or destroying the different deathtraps that ‘Beth has installed within it.

Finally, Goliath arrives at a room equipped with a maze of mirrors.  Frustrated, he asks Macbeth why he’s orchestrated such an elaborate scheme in order to capture them. Mac Findlaech  explains that it’s not them specifically he wants: they’re just bait for his true quarry: the clan’s “queen”, Demona.  Goliath asks if ‘Beth knows Demona.  “Know her?!” the human replies.  “I named her!”  A trap door opens beneath Goliath, sending him to a dungeon/torture chamber.

Macbeth, now carrying a torch, joins Goliath continues his explanation: with the Manhattan clan captured–the last of their kind, he notes–Demona will have no choice but to come and rescue them.  Upon hearing this, Goliath begins laughing: Macbeth couldn’t be more wrong, he explains.  “She is our enemy.  She wouldn’t lift a talon to save us.”

Realizing that all his planning has been for naught, a demoralized Macbath drops his torch in a what appears to be an ancient barbecue and begins his retreat.  Goliath isn’t letting him getting away that easy, though, and attacks.  As Macbeth tries to fend off Goliath and escape, both combatant knock over the barbie, which causes its very determined and very flames to expand and spread all over the stone floor–so not only the dungeon filthy, but it’s not up to code either.  Macbeth disappears in the confusion, but Goliath quickly finds his escape route–an iron maiden/secret door.  The chase continues.

In the other dungeon, Bronx frees Lex and Brooklyn by literally ramming his head through the bars and remaining there until electrical system shorts itself out.

As his castle burns in defiance of the laws of God and Man, Macbeth arrives at his weapon display/armory, and picks up a sword to continue the battle; however, it’s all he can do to hold his own against Goliath.  As the gargoyle strips him of all his weaponry and grabs him by his duster collar, Macbeth slides out from his coat and escapes.  Goliath turns to follow, but stops when he sees his now-freed comrades.  The four gargoyles make their escape and watch as Macbeth flies away on his airship and how the villain’s castle collapses.

As the foursome glide back to their own castle, Goliath hears Broadway calling to him from a rooftop below (apparently the one where Goliath met Elisa for their first “date”) and sees that he’s accompanied by Hudson and Elisa.  Pissed, he demands to know why they’re not protecting the castle as he ordered; Elisa, nervous but resolute, explains that they don’t live there anymore.  Broadway and Hudson back her up, saying its suicide to stay, and that their home isn’t a place, its them, the clan.   Still pissed–although his anger is now directed to Xanatos rather than at his clan–Goliath accepts the truth of what they’re saying.  Before accompanying to their new home, however, he has one more thing to do.

Owen, now remembering that he doesn’t have a Roomba or fairy godmother to do his cleaning for him, is sweeping up the pieces of shattered glass from the Grimorum Arcanorum’s broken display when Goliath enters the room with a message for Xanatos.  “We’re leaving.  But we’ll be back.  We’ll be back to claim that which is ours.”  Owen replies that he will deliver the message and continues sweeping.

After taking one last look at not-his castle, Goliath leaves.

Not a tag: Xanatos arrives at the castle and is greeted by Owen, who informs him of the loss of the Grimorum and shows him a video of Macbeth assault.  Xanatos has other things on his mind, however: he’s home.

Some hours earlier, the gargoyles inspect their new home; the inside of a broken-down clock tower.  Although it lacks the creature comforts of the castle, they all agree: this could be home.

—-

Anybody watching this episode for the first time will probably think the same thing…the animation!  IT BURNS!  This is by far the worst-looking episode of the canonical Gargoyles series, which is sad, because the episode is an important one.

I love Macbeth, and animation aside, it’s hard for him to have gotten a better introduction than the one he gets here.  Not only does he manage to surprise Xanatos, he gives Goliath and Co. the biggest beatdown they’ve ever gotten from an unenhanced human.  Plus, he gets some rather good lines, has an awesome design and voice actor.  All he’s missing is the awesome electric gun which will later become his trademark.

Of course, the kicker here is ‘Beth’s implied relationship with Demona.  While the exact nature of the relationship is later elaborated upon in season 2’s “City of Stone” arc, Weisman has stated that they had little idea of what that relationship was when they produced season 1, even as they hinted at it.  While nothing in the latter episodes contradicts this one, some of the scenes here seem a bit weird in retrospect; I’m not entirely sure why ‘Beth think why She who betrayed him and could not (would not?) prevent the death of the remaining Gargoyles in Scotland would save her perceived comrades.  Granted, Macbeth’s actions always had a thin veneer of desperation, but I wonder if the episode would have gone the same way had the writers known the entire history beforehand.

The theme of this episode is, of course, home.  It’s been an important theme in most of the episodes so far, and here it comes to a head, as the Gargoyles finally admit that they have lost theirs.  More than the blood and the character deaths, the way it handles this arc is what I feel most distinguished Gargoyles from its brethren, at least this early on.  The loss of a home, if not quite a universal experience, is one that a lot of people will be familiar with, and handling it in a manner that feels honest presents a challenge for most cartoons, since the topic is neither funny nor action-packed*.  Ninja Turtles, despite a lot of destroyed lairs, limited itself to the odd scene, never devoting more than seconds at a time to the matter.  Gargoyles, more daringly, made it the focus of an arc, and to their credit, their handling of it is pitch perfect.  Goliath’s stubborn refusal to leave, and his frustration when he’s forced to agree that he has no other choice feels startlingly real, as does the rest of the clan’s hesitation and Elisa’s insistence.  The characters all manage to hold different views that feel true and makes sense for each of them, and more so when we eventually learn that protecting the home is something that nears biological imperative for them.  One wonder if Elisa was entirely aware of that last bit; if not, would her opinion on the matter have changed had she known?

In the end, the Gargoyles are driven out of their old home and into the (in my opinion, natch) cooler Clock Tower.  In this aspect of their fight, at least, Xanatos wins, and even when the Gargoyles return at the end of season 2, they’re there as Xanatos guests/tenants.  Is the castle their home then?

Random thoughts:

  • A close inspection of the timeline reveals that by the time this episode ends, the Gargoyles have gone through both their first Christmas in Manhattan and their first New Year’s Eve offscreen, which begets the question of what they did during those holidays.  I can only imagine that Xanatos, ever the gracious host, got them personalized X-mas gifts, while he in turn got nothing from them.
  • One wonders if the animation is to blame for the unrealistic way the fire moves thorough the third act.  The fire starts in a room that seems to be devoid of  flammable material, and yet it quickly spreads all over the castle, and I can’t help but be bugged every time I see it.
  • Ian Pérez’s moments in denseness, part 49: It wasn’t until reviewing this episode for this essay that I realized that when Macbeth refers to Demona as Goliath’s queen, he doesn’t mean it literally, but as part of the chess metaphor he’s currently using (“you’re just the pawn”, etc).  Thinking about it, I can’t decide if ‘Beth is simply using an imperfect metaphor for the way it sounds, or if he’s actually implying that she’s the most powerful gargoyle like the queen is the most powerful piece?
  • There’s a lot of problems with scale in this episode.  Net-guns are a standard Western Animation weapon, but I don’t think they’re supposed to be able to fit in something no larger than your average handgun.
  • Yet more evidence that Owen is awesome.  One wonders if he would have actually shot the Gargoyles, and if so, what Elisa would have done about it.
  • This is the second time we see Goliath reading, which I’ve always thought is a rather cool touch, particularly since that sort of casual reading is very rarely presented in television, despite how important it is.  Also, it’s a much better approach to promoting reading than the pseudo-PSA the writers sneak into this episode about how maybe they should read up on Shakespeare–were I a stupider man, that would just makes me want to become illiterate.
  • One thing that bugs me about Macbeth’s approach inside the castle is that never seems to try to take advantage of Goliath’s disorientation.  He’s already proven that he can be a physical match for Goliath, so why doesn’t he try it.

—-

* Which isn’t to say that the actual loss of the home can’t involve action or violence–the creators of TMNT seemed to take perverse glee in having the Turtles’ various homes destroyed by their enemies, and Gargoyles itself will eventually feature the destruction of the Clock Tower lair by missile; however, dealing with the emotions produced by that loss once the action stops is something else altogether.

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8 Responses to A Castle is Not a Home: “Enter Macbeth”

  1. Ellen says:

    Owen probably DOES have a fairy godmother, somewhere. But I doubt she was available to pick up broken glass just then.

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  3. Padraig says:

    “I’m not entirely sure why ‘Beth think why She who betrayed him and could not (would not?) prevent the death of the remaining Gargoyles in Scotland would save her perceived comrades.”

    Well I’m D & Mac seem to have been good friends before their alliance went completely to Hell. I imagine she probably confided the whole story about Goliath and the Wyvern Massacre (or at least the version that leaves out her own culpability in the disaster). So as far as Mac knows, he’s holding Demona’s One True Love hostage. Little does he know they’ve just been through the mother of all break ups.

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