This One’s for the Fan-Artists and ‘shippers: “The Mirror”
17 April 2011 10 Comments
Note: This might be a tad optimistic of me, but since I’m working under the assumption that there are at least a few readers who haven’t actually seen Gargoyles, I’d much appreciate it if commenters would keep that big honking spoiler under your hats. You know the one. Thank you!
“You serve the human, now you can serve me.” –Demona
Written by: Lydia C. Marano
Original Air Date: September 11, 1995
Timeline placement: September 27-September 28, 1995
Inside one of New York’s many museums, a security guard is giving final instuctions to his partner before she begins her shift. Once this bit of business is done, we see the female security guard—Elisa, rocking some glasses and with her hair in a bun—head into a hall, which includes a large mirror as its central display. Elisa checks herself out in the mirror until she’s interrupted by a commotion elseswhere in the building, which includes some familiar gargoyle shrieks. As she leaves to check it out, we see Demona run into the hall, where she makes her way towards the mirror. Before she can have her way with it however, Elisa returns, along with Goliath backing her play.
Outnumbered, Demona makes her escape; Elisa and Goliath follow, leaving the mirror unprotected and giving a pair of professional-looking thieves the opportunity to enter the room and steal the artifact without distractions. Meanwhile, Elisa and Goliath let Demona get away—she’s failed, they believe, and there’s really nothing they could do with her if they’d actually caught her.
Later that night, in a rather well-off part of the city, the two thieves, after using the password “Oberon sent me”, gain access to Demona’s brownstone, where they leave the mirror behind. Soon after, we see that Demona has wrapped iron chains around the mirror. After explaining to no one in particular that her losing streak ends tonight, she uses a copper (I think) ring, a silver bell, a feather, and some Latin to cast a spell. Abraka-fucking-dabra, a man (or at least a humanoid—he’s got rather large elfin ears) appears, trapped in the iron chains and looking none too happy about it.
Over at the gargoyles’ lair, Elisa explains that despite their efforts, the mirror ended up being stolen. She asks goliath what this means, which gives the gargoyles an opportunity to exposit on The Children of Oberon. Short story shorter:
They’re considered The Third Race alongside humans and gargoyles.
They’re shapeshifters made out of pure magick.
They’re known by different names by several different cultures.
Shakespeare wrote about them in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Their artifacts pack heavy magickal punch.
It’s suprising that Elisa doesn’t already know about all this.
Elisa’s a bit skeptical, but she follows along.
At Demona’s, the possibly-a-Child-of-Oberon, identified here as Puck, tries to free himself from his chains, which Demona explains are there to prevent him from turning on her. They banter a bit. Demona flounts his dominance over him.
Clocktower, where the trio commiserates on how cool it’d be to be a shapeshifter, and the benefits it’d bring, such as the ability to go out in the open, meet new people, even find love. Hudson, being the old, wise one, admonishes them to be careful what they wish for.
[Deity of choice] dammit, this recap’s going to be a pain. A lot of the dialogue on the Puck/Demona scenes is vitally important to the episode, which means a lot of quoting. Onward, I suppose.
At Demona’s, our favorite genocidal gargoyle, after pondering wishing for the ability to remain flesh by day and for Puck to “get rid of” all the humans (the latter which is dismissed by Puck as being beyond his ability), settles, after some prodding by the faerie, on having him “rid me of that human: Elisa Maza”. Puck, who despite his initial protests appears to be having fun, complies: turning towards the mirror (which show Elisa standing alongside Goliath), he performs the following incantation:
Thy sight Demona doth offend
so I will hasten to amend
begone Elisa, human-born
be no more as you were formed!
Now, that doesn’t sound like a killing spell, does it? Uh-oh…
Inside the clock tower, Elisa is suddenly sent aloft by Puck’s magicks, and a blinding flash fills the room. Once that’s gone, Elisa is left…well, like this…
After she regains her bearings, Elisa looks at the bewildered gargoyles and becomes ecstatic. “Goliath, this is wonderful!” she says. “You’ve been changed into a gargoyle!”
At Demona’s, Puck confirms that indeed, the human, Elisa Maza, is no more. Demona, thinking big, decides to have Puck do the same for everyone in the city. Puck gives a token protest, saying that Demona doesn’t know what she’s asking, and that he doesn’t have the power to do that from indoors.
Clocktower, where Goliath tries to explain to Elisa that the clan hasn’t been turned into gargoyles, she has. Elisa is skeptical, saying that she’s always been a gargoyle. Goliath asks her to remember the circumstances under which they’d met, and asks why she’d needed rescuing if she’d always had wings. Elisa, now growing unsure, replies “I can’t glide with these…can I?” Goliath answers in the affirmative, and then takes her to the skies with him.
Titania’s Mirror appears atop one of the Twin Towers. From it exit Puck and Demona. Puck informs that it’ll take him some time for him to gather the strength to do what Demona wants.
Goliath and Elisa glide, arm in arm. Goliath compliments Elisa, saying that when she was human, he’d never realized how beautiful she was, and then does the gargoyle version of a blush when Elisa calls him on the comment’s obvious implication.
As the couple glides near street level, Elisa becomes aghast t what she sees. The two gargoyles land atop a roof (followed soon after by the rest of the clan), and Elisa, aghast, notes that—oh noes!–everyone in Manhattan has been turned into a human. Before Goliath can explain, however, the gargoyles notice an unnatural flash of light emanating from afar.
At the source of the light, Puck casts his second spell:
All humans on this concrete isle
Demona finds your presence vile
so do you now as I command
and be not woman, child nor man!
Puck’s incantation reflects from the mirror and is transmitted across Manhattan in the form of a flash of light. The gargoyles, suspecting Demona, decide to investigate, leaving the still-shaky-on-her-wings Elisa behind.
At the tower, Demona and a now-unconscious Puck are attacked by the gargoyles. Outnumbered, Demona picks up Puck and throws the mirror over the rooftop edge to buy herself time to escape—fortunately, Hudson manages to rescue it unharmed. Demona, for her part, glides down to street level and becomes horrified at what she sees.
The clan follows Demona into the New York subway but fail to find her: surrounded at all sides by gargoyles (a situation The Trio finds is not without appeal) she manages to escape, unseen, inside a train. Once safely hidden, Demona, livid, demands that a conscious-but-still-tired Puck change the gargoyles to humans. Puck, as he must, complies.
The clan, once again reunite with Elisa, discuss what their next step will be, now that they have the mirror and know that Demona has taken up with Puck. Goliath takes off and tries to convince a still-skittish Elisa to do the same, tempting the drama Gods by saying that he’ll always be there to catch her and that gliding is easy…which is just when Puck’s spell hits the clan, turning them all into humans.
Goliath falls. Elisa, getting over her fears, dives down and rescues him. She returns to the the rooftop, where Goliath expresses confusion at his fall, when he notices that Elisa “[has] changed back to normal!”
Now it’s the clan’s turn to be out of sorts. Elisa explains that it’s they who have changed to human, a claim which is met with skepticism: the clan has always been human, they claim; they’ve never needed wings to glide before. However, it’s not long before they realize that Elisa is correct: the clan is meant to be gargoyles, and the gargoyles are all meant to be human.
Demona, for her part, doesn’t take long to figure out that again, things have and have not turned out as she wished. As she prepares to carve Puck a new face in retribution, the faerie distracts her once again by noting that by turning Goliath human, he’s made him much easier to eliminate, a prospect that makes Demona quite happy.
Mirror in hand, the human contingent of the Manhattan clan walks down the city streets, terrifying the gargoyle population in the process. Goliath explains their new tactic: with their mobility now hindered, their only hope is to keep the battle near street level, where Demona’s wings will be less useful. Once they find a suitable location, they uncover the mirror (it had been covered earlier to prevent it to be used as a conduit for more spells), and immediately, Puck and an armed Demona spring from it.
FIGHT! The clan, arming themselves with the merchandise from a conveniently-nearby weapons store, take on Demona and Puck. Puck, not one for hand to hand, uses magick to enchant the environment, turning weapons into giant attack sunflowers, the ground into wet tar, and Bronx into a dog. However even with this and the timely assistance of a group of gargoyles who misguidedly turn to assist Demona, the Oberon’s child is defeated. Meanwhile, despite Demona’s initial advantage in her fight with Goliath, the tide turns against her with the arrival of Elisa, whose gargoyle strength is now a match for that of Goliath’s ex, and eventually she is defeated as well.
Atop the Twin Towers, some time later. With Demona chained, Goliath tells Puck that if he reverts everyone back to the way they were before Demona had summoned the faerie, they would set him free. Puck, with nary a protest or willful attempt to misinterpret Goliath’s request, complies, turning the humans-turned-gargoyles back into humans and, before Elisa and Goliath have a chance to get it on, he turns the gargoyles-turned-human back into gargoyles. This completed, Goliath breaks the trickster’s bonds, and Puck, free at last, teleports himself, Demona, and the mirror back to Demona’s brownstone.
There, satisfied at the events of the night, Puck thanks a tired and impatient Demona for the entertainment. Demona will have none of it, however, and asks Puck to leave. Chagrined at being snubbed, Puck complies, but not without a parting gift. Recalling Demona’s earlier desire not to stone during the day, he casts one final spell:
Fearsome creature who would stay
unchanged by the light of day
remain you thus thorough the night
and be thou flesh by dawn’s fair light.
A somewhat melancholy air hangs around the clock tower as the gargoyles prepare for dawn.
Goliath begins to tell Elisa something.
Goliath: Elisa, I…
Elisa: Yeah, I know: you’re as relieved as I am that things are back to normal.
Goliath: That’s not what I was going to say… [Turns to stone.]
Elisa: (resigned) I know. But that’s the way it is.
Demona’s brownstone, where Demona basks in the warmth the newly-risen sun, gaining a measure of satisfaction despite that night’s disaster. And then she sees…
Cue big no, mirror breakage. The end.
- This is Demona’s first appearance since she teamed up with Xanatos to create Coldstone in “Reawakening“.
The theme this episode, as Hudson helpfully reminds us, is “be careful what you wish for”. The bigger a wish is, the bigger the chance that getting the wish granted will bring about a host of unintended consequences. It’s the basis of literal genie stories from time immemorial, and it drives the plot here. Demona wishes for the power to eliminate humanity, but has no idea what to do with it once she gets it, and ends up wasting it. Elisa and Goliath (unconsciously, at this point) wish they could shag the other, but the one opportunity they get to do so is instead spent saving each other and the city. The trio wishes for the opportunity to walk around without fear of persecution or being considered monsters, and end up getting considered monsters just the same. Xanatos, had he been in this episode, would have gotten immortality and immediately turned to complain that he nothing to do. 😛
So far thourought the series, we’ve been getting several character spotlight episodes, including ones focusing on each individual gargoyle, Elisa, and even Xanatos. Given that, it’s a bit shocking in retrospect that it’s taken this long for Demona to get one.
Until this point, what we’ve learned of Demona has been limited in scope: we’ve seen her game face, but never what she’s like in private. Here we begin to see some tantalizing tidbids of that, as well as some hints as to what her life has been like in the last thousand years. And one of the things we learn is that, for all her disdain towards humans, she’s become rather more like them. She’s learned to use money. She’s bought one, maybe more, swanky estates, which she presumably pays taxes on. She decorates, which means she’s developed a sense of style, something we have yet to see from any of the other gargoyles.
We also come to learn one of her key flaws: she’s impulsive, and doesn’t take the time to think things through. She goes through the trouble of obtaining Puck, and then isn’t sure what to wish for, and basically never catches on to the fact that she’s being manipulated for the start. This eventually becomes something of a quality of her’s: she’ll often leave her guard down if she thinks she’s gotten what she wants. All of which would make her harmless if she weren’t so dangerous.
She’s also jealous. Sensing that there’s more to Goliath and Elisa than friendship before even they do, she’s added “–especially Elisa Maza” to her overall “exterminate humanity” wish list. What’s particularly interesting is that she reaches this conclusion despite very little interaction with her–less than fifteen minutes, taken collectively, which either makes her very perceptive, very, very jealous, or both. I do wonder, though, what Demona would have done if she knew or suspected that some other gargoyle had been vying for Goliath’s romantic attention during their Wyvern days. The words “Melrose Place” spring to mind.
In any case, Demona is more or less right: while the relationship between Elisa and Goliath has been strictly platonic so far, this episode officially breaks the champagne bottle launches their ‘ship, as both discover that they’re mutually interested in being more than friends*. I’m not usually a big fan of how relationships are written in cartoons (given the various ways in which sexuality is constrained or simply nonexistent, most relationships seem unrealistically chaste, which in addition to Western TV’s general reluctance to portray functional or happy relationships, makes for a whole mess of unappealing**), but this one, I feel, works incredibly well. They have a lot in common. They like each other. They communicate well. And here, unlike a lot of cases, the “will they or won’t they” element and the chasteness makes perfect sense. I also feel that the pacing of the relationship was handled extraordinarily well–Elisa and Goliath’s sudden realization that they’re hot for each other doesn’t feel sudden or unnatural, nor does it go for the other extreme and feel overdue. By this point they’ve known each other for a while, and have a good idea of who the other is. Now, only the big “they’re different species issues” remains.
On another note…
One of the bigger differences between Gargoyles and TMNT‘ is their approach to humor. While TMNT could be very serious at times–both shows are comparable in that respect–it also worked very hard to be funny in any way it could, be it via pop culture references, one-liners, oddball characters, slapstick, or comedic violence. It can accurately be described as an action comedy, with the “comedy” part gaining more or less prominence depending on the season. Some of it worked, some didn’t. Gargoyles, on the other hand, is all action: there was the occasional comedy, but it forms a much smaller slice of the series pie. Unlike the latter series, there are only a handful of purely comedic episodes, and these usually take the form of comedies of error with plots that look like something Shakespeare would have plotted, if Shakespeare had written about gargoyles and cyborgs. Thus, it’s no coincidences that most of these episodes revolve around Puck. He’s very much the Mr. Mxyzptlk of the series: immensely powerful–easily the most powerful being the gargoyles have faced so far–but thankfully more interested in amusing himself than in causing lasting damage. Which makes it all the more ironic that he’s involved in what is one of the grimmest episodes in the series.
- Demona’s motivations and the reasoning behind them have never really been logically consistent, and this episode provides another example why: despite her “gargoyles are inherently better than humans” stance, she immediately acknowledges that the humans-turned-gargoyles would be no better than they were before.
- The human versions of the gargoyles are loosely based on the voice actors who played them. And by loosely, I mean that human Goliath gets relatively darker skin. I know it wouldn’t have made sense to have actually have been black–not many people of African descent in 10th century Scotland, as far as I know–but I kinda really really wish they’d gone that way anyway, not just because Keith David is one fine-looking human, but because I feel it would have introduced another level of subversiveness to the show***.
- That said, if the TMNT are somehow turned humans, how do you think they would all look?
- When Elisa checks herself out on the mirror, her reflection doesn’t move with her. It doesn’t really come up again–it’s just a hint that the mirror is actually magickal, but it’s a detail I’ve always liked.
* Or at least, that’s the way I interpret it–Weisman has been on the record about his belief that Elisa had already developed vaguely romantic feelings towards Goliath and had come to terms with them. Needless to say, I prefer my version. 😛
**That said, I find what’s been shown of the Broadway/Angela relationship mostly unpalatable. I’ve never claimed to be very consistent.
*** And yes, I’m aware it could have easily gone sour as well, since doing so would have carried the unfortunate implication that black people can only star in animated series if they’re made not black.