Reading is Good: “A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time”
15 March 2011 4 Comments
Hudson: Magic book.
Robbins: Aren’t they all?
Original Air date: September 3, 1995
Introduces: Banquo, Fleance, Robbins, Macbeth’s awesome gun, Macbeth’s stupid cannons,
Timeline Placement: September 7, 1995 (First Scene); Sept. 23-Sept 24, 1995
At an unspecified location (somewhere in Britain, apparently, given the context), two archaeologists are exploring a cave when they hear a strange sound. They follow it into what appears to a living area, complete with man-made wall and several artifacts, including a harp that plays itself—the source of the sound. Duane, one of the archeologists, ignores this, however, heading straight towards a small chest; after reading the inscription written into it (“The seeker of knowledge need fear nothing here; the destroyer, everything.”) she opens the container, causing light/wind to emanate from it. The apparition congeals to form the visage of a bearded man before quickly returning to the chest. Duane opens the chest again, revealing its contents: the Scrolls of Merlyn.
Manhattan. Clocktower. Lexington is reading aloud from a scientific journal, informing the rest of the clan (including Elisa) about the Scrolls of Merlyn’s imminent arrival to Manhattan. Brooklyn, who is himself reading a magazine, asks about Merlyn, and Goliath gives him the broad strokes: white wizard, 5th century, yadda yadda yadda. He entreats Brooklyn to check the library downstairs if he’s interested in more information, a comment that causes Broadway to derisively comment that there’s no use in trying to read the books when one could get the same information on video. It’s revealed that he can’t read, and is somewhat proud of the fact. Brooklyn asks Hudson for a comment on the discussion, which the old gargoyle dismisses: Celebrity Hockey is playing on TV.
Elisa turns to leave—she and Matt have been assigned to protect the scrolls as they make their way into Manhattan. She mentions rumors that the scrolls contain magic. Dun-dun-DUN…
Later, Elisa and Matt meet up with Duane aboard the H.M.S. Churchill, which is carrying the scrolls to shore. The trip isn’t peaceful for long, though, as soon enough a pair of Harrier jets (notable due to their ability for vertical takeoffs and landings, as Lexington later notes) attack the ship. Lucklily, the gargoyles quickly arrive at the scene.
The harriers land on the ships deck. Their two pilots, Banquo and Fleance, armed with guns that appear to shoot electricity, shoot their way into the bridge, where they overpower Elisa and Matt and steal the two canister containing the scrolls. They return to their planes and are beginning their takeoff when they are attacked by the Gargoyles.
As the plane piloted by Banquo rises, Hudson breaks its windshield and attempts to grab the scroll–the remaining Gargoyles, meanwhile, deal with Fleance’s plane. Hudson manages to grab the canister when Banquo activates a defense mechanism which shocks the old gargoyle, causing him to fall into the river, scrolls in hand.
Banquo and Fleance make their retreat, leaving the gargoyles in the dust—almost. Broadway is still hanging on to the underside of Fleance’s jet. The gargoyles, assuming that Hudson must be doing the same with the remaining jet, leave the scene.
Later, after the Churchill has docked, Morgan takes Duane’s statement about the theft. Meanwhile, Elisa makes her way deeper into the port, where she meets up with Goliath. Elisa’s pissed—Xanatos made her look like an amateur, and she’s got no proof linking him to the crime. Goliath promises that they’ll handle it.
Meanwhile, in another part of New York (don’t know where—my NY geography knowledge is sketchy at best) an exhausted Hudson washes up at a beach, then falls unconscious.
Elsewhere, the two harrier jets land inside a hangar inside a castle. Banquo notes that he lost his canister. Fleance opines that one out of two isn’t all that bad, until she realizes that a hole has been made in her plane and that her canister is gone as well. Unseen, Broadway, the ‘goyle responsible, hides in the shadows.
Inside Castle Wyvern, Owen Burnett is working at a computer terminal when he’s approached by Goliath, Brooklyn and Lexington, who demand to know where Hudson and Broadway are. Owen declines an answer, so the gargoyles decide to search the castle for them.
Hangar of Harrier Jets and Mercenaries. Broadway decides to make his escape and makes himself known. He manages to make his exit, only to find himself with Macbeth and his bagpipes, who quickly takes down the gargoyle and retrieves the canister. He can’t celebrate yet, though; the scroll contained within turns out to be the second of the two, making safely reading it an improbable proposition. Macbeth asks his subordinates where the first scroll.
The first scroll (and Hudson) are still at the beach, where they’re found by Gilly the seeing-eye dog and her owner, a blind man who, believing the gargoyle to have just been mugged, asks Hudson—who is just regaining consciousness—whether he needs a doctor. Hudson declines, saying he’d prefer a place to stay until dawn. The man, who identifies himself as Jeffrey Robbins, invites the gargoyle into his nearby house, and supports Hudson as they walk their way there.
Macbeth’s airship has taken off in search of the first scroll, with Banquo and Fleance as its pilots and with Macbeth and a captive Broadway as its passengers. Banquo expresses skepticism at their chances of finding the scroll, given that he’d caused Hudson to sink into the ocean; Macbeth replies that if that’s the case, the two hired thugs will join it.
Casa de Robbins. Inside a reading room, Hudson asks Jeffrey about a Purple Heart framed and placed atop a table. Jeffrey explains the he got it in Vietnam, where he got injured due to shrapnel. Noting Hudson’s unfamiliarity with the war, he notes his surprise—he’d gotten the feeling that Hudson, like him, had been an old soldier.
Changing the subject, Hudson asks Robbins what he does now. The man explains that he’s a novelist—or used to be, until his creative well ran dry. He hands Hudson one of his works, first in braille and then in print, which causes Hudson to remark that to him there’s no difference between the two. Jeffrey intuits the truth: Hudson can’t read.
Inside Macbeth’s airship—which has now begun searching the shore, in case Hudson or the scroll have washed up there—Broadway derisively asks what’s so important about the scrolls and the man who wrote them—he’s “just another stupid magician” in the gargoyle’s eyes. Macbeth corrects him, explaining that Merlyn was
A singular spectacle…bearded old man who took a ragged boy and with magic and wisdom turned him into the greatest king this world will ever see. A king who ruled with justice and compassion…took the torn remnants of warring tribes and knit them into a country of beauty and civilization…with Merlyn always by his side, until it fell. Merlyn’s magic was stronger than anything, except the human heart.
Broadways is entranced by this description, which he believes comes from a man who experienced these events first hand. Macbeth again corrects him—he’s not that old, the man says, before turning back to his scanning equipment, which has located the stone gargoyles which adorn Robbin’s garden.
Castle Wyvern. After a fruitless search, the gargoyles return to Owen and again demand information on their missing comrades. Xanatos’ Aide-de-campe informs them that while Xanatos’ Harrier jets are all in the shop, Macbeth may be the man they’re looking for.
ロﾂビンスの家は。 Hudson protests that he’s too old to learn to read, an objection Robbin’s dismisses—he learned to read Braille when he was nearly forty, and when the time came, he’d learn a new way to read. Hudson admits that he’s ashamed of his illiteracy, which he has never told his clan about. Robbins offers to teach him, adding that there’s no shame in being illiterate, only in staying that way.
Dawn approaches, so Hudson makes an excuse to leave, and places himself next to the gargoyle statues in the garden, canister in hand. The gargoyle then turns to stone in the daylight (the canister remains intact), leaving behind a confused Robbins. Someone who isn’t confused is Macbeth, whose ship hovers above.
Macbeth lands and begins inspecting the gargoyle statues. He’s not unnoticed, however, as Gilly announces his presence to Robbins. ‘beth introduces himself as “Lennox Macduff”, and claims that he’s a worried friend of Hudson’s. Robbins tells him the truth as he perceived it—that Hudson had just left—and so Macbeth turns to leave. But not without first spotting the canister and retrieving it.
Dusk. Hudson explodes from his stone shell, and his presence is almost immediately noticed by Gilly. The gargoyle greets a pleased-to-see-him Robbins, and apologizes for the fact that he can’t stay long. He asks after the canister. Robbin replies that he hasn’t seen it, but that his so-called friend Lennox Macduff may have taken it. Problem is, Hudson doesn’t know a Lennox Macduff.
Robbins, for his part, isn’t very surprised to hear this: he tells Hudson he’d recognized the names from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which made him think that it wasn’t the man’s real name. At hearing Macbeth, Hudson puts 2 and 2 together and turns to leave, until he realizes that he doesn’t have a clue where to start looking. Robbins, ever helpful, turns to the least dramatic option possible: the phonebook. Bingo.
Macbeth’s castle. Atop the parapets, Banquo and Fleance are waiting for trouble while Macbeth makes necessary preparations in order to open the Scrolls. Broadway is chained to a wall, to be used as a guinea pig for Merlyn’s spells. Goliath, Brooklyn and Lexington arrive at the outskirts of the castle and are joined by Hudson who informs them that no, he was not with Broadway and hasn’t seen him since the robbery.
The gargoyles take to the skies and begin their assault. Macbeth, who has broken the seal on the first scroll, asks his hired muscle to take care of the intruders, so the two mercenaries take to a couple of surface-to-air laser cannons which, while cool looking, turn out to be a marvel of total engineering FAIL, as nobody thought of putting in a mechanism to prevent it from firing into the castle itself. In the end, thanks to gargoyles’ maneuvering, Banquo and Fleance manage nothing except to hinder their employee and wreck his place until they’re defeated. Despite these hindrances, Macbeth manages to open the scrolls, and begins reading…
…only to find that the scrolls contain no spells; they’re “merely” Merlyn’s diary. Disappointed, Macbeth doesn’t even care when Goliath attacks him and recovers the scrolls. Macbeth dares the gargoyle to burn the scrolls if he wants, but before he does just that, he is stopped by Broadway, who tells Goliath that the scrolls do contain magic, far to precious to destroy: the written word.
Macbeth, with no desire or reason to fight the gargoyles, frees Broadway and asks them to leave, which they do.
As they return to the clock tower, Goliath tells Broadway that if they like, he can read the scrolls to him before returning them to Elisa. Hudson pipes in to say that that won’t be necessary: they’ll read them themselves, when they learn how.
Chez Robbins. Robbins puts down the newspaper he has just finished reading and tells Gilly that he’s been inspired: thanks to all the news about the Scrolls of Merlyn, he’s got a new book in mind. He picks up his tape recording and begins talking: “The Sword and the Staff: A Book of Merlyn…”
- This is Macbeth’s second appearance. The first was in the season 1 episode “Enter Macbeth“.
- Celebrity Hockey will appear once again in the third issue of the Gargoyles comic book spin-off Gargoyles: Bad Guys. Because nothing in this series ever appears only once.
- The electric guns sported by Macbeth and his goons will become Macbeth’s trademark weapon, appearing in every subsequent appearance of the character. Macbeth’s stupid surface-to-air laser cannons will reappear in “The Price”.
- Likewise, Banquo and Fleance will continue to be Macbeth’s go-to pair whenever muscle is needed. They will later join the anti-gargoyle group The Quarrymen.
- Jeffrey Robbins also become a recurring character. His next appearance will be in the episode “City of Stone pt. 2”.
- The library Goliath mentions was briefly seen in the season 1 episode “The Edge“.
Macbeth is back, in a story that seems more notable for what it sets up than for what actually occurs during it. The whole Scrolls of Merlyn bit seems to be the purest example of a Macguffin in the series, never really brought up again (although both Merlyn and Arthur will be) and only used to set up some character development.
The first character to get developed is Broadway, who by the end of the episode seems to be the series regular most changed from the way we first saw him. It’s also the story I’m least fond of, since his about-face seems to be too complete too quickly. Yhen again, the character seems prone to those–see his similar (albeit more justified) about-face regarding guns in “Deadly Force”. I do wonder, however, it the story might have felt better if his illiteracy had been a factor in earlier episodes. One also wonders why he’s the only one of the trio not to know how to read, particularly since it raises some questions about how gargoyles are educated in the first place. Did Brooklyn and Lexington learn of their own volition? Were they taught by someone? Given that Hudson, his biological father, hadn’t learned to read either, is this a sign that biological ancestry is more important to the gargoyles than they’ll admit?
A better story is Hudson’s, since it seems more restrained and more honest. The “monstrous-looking person bonds with the blind” is an old and familiar trope–TMNT will make use of it during its first season, in an adaptation of an older comic book story–but there’s plenty more going on here than that: in the end, it’s a story of two men bonding over their similarities, and finding common ground in a world that seems to be passing it by. Speaking of coincidences, it’s interesting that the last TMNT episode I reviewed featured the blossoming of a similar friendship–although Robbin and Hudson’s will be the more lasting of the two. Here, Robbins comes across as one of the more perceptive and intuitive characters in the series, which makes for nice chemistry with the more taciturn Hudson.
On the other hand, Macbeth, our third focus character this episode, doesn’t change much over the course of the episode; instead, we learn a few small but important bits about him. First, he given an official alias and address, henchmen with appropriately Shakespearean names or aliases (if the former, one wonders how exactly he went about it–did he put an ad in the paper specifically requesting mercenaries named after characters from the play? If so, ), and a consistent weapon of choice (lightning gun!), all of which give him a more consistent, solid character. Second we begin seeing that, although his current role in the series is that of antagonist, he, like Xanatos, has no particular animus against the gargoyles. He’s more willing to do nasty stuff to them and is generally less affable, so their philosophies aren’t quite the same, but the point remains that his status as “enemy”, like Xanatos’, won’t last.
This is also the episode in which we first see inklings of the Arthurian legend in the Gargoyles-verse, which, along with Shakespeare will form the backbone for much of the series’ mythology. Eventually we get King Arthur himself, plus Excalibur, Peredur/maybe Percival, the Lady of the Lake, Avalon, etc, ect. I’ve actually just started taking a university course on The Arthurian Legend, so this aspect of the series has suddenly become rather more interesting to me. Here, however, we only get hints–Merlyn apparently exists, and is capable of some nifty magic. Aside from that, we don’t know much–for all of the grandeur Macbeth implied, there really isn’t the evidence to back it up…yet.
- Macbeth’s laser cannons are the stupidest things ever. They just…gah. Who the heck designs weapons with so obvious a flaw?