Not a Cassandra Clare Book: “City of Stone”, Part One
27 May 2012 3 Comments
Written by: Michael C. Reaves (Story); Brynne Chandler Reaves & Lydia C. Marano (Teleplay)
Original Air Date: September 15, 1995
Introduces: The Weird Sisters Phoebe, Luna, and Selene; Findlaech, Gilcomgain/The Hunter; Duncan; Gruoch; Bodhe; Terrorists
Timeline placement: September 30 – October 1, 994; 1020; November 9, 1995
TMNT episode I could make a forced comparison to: “Tale of Master Yoshi”, “Secret Origins”
- Not long after the Wyvern massacre, NotYetDemona breaks into a barn to steal some fruit and veg. A young boy called Gilcomgain attempts to stop the intruder, and gets his face slashed for his troubles.
- Roughly two and a half decades after the massacre, NotYetDemona now lives in hiding with other gargoyles, organizing raids to steal food. One night, after one such raid, NotYetDemona’s refugee clan is approached by a trio of identical-looking (save for the hair) female gargoyles who bring tidings about The Hunter, a human who has apparently made a name for himself as a gargoyle-killer: apparently, The Hunter plans to assassinate a human living at Castle Moray, and, if NotYetDemona were to ally himself with these humans, they would be sure to defeat their common enemy. Our not-a-hero scoffs at this suggestion.
- Inside Castle Moray, we meet four new characters: Findlaech, High Stewart of Moray; Macbeth, his teenage son; Bodhe, Findlaech’s friend and advisor, and Gruoch, the latter’s daughter. Macbeth and Gruoch are attracted to one another, a fact that goes unnoticed by no one. As both teenagers play chess, the adults discuss Macbeth’s cousin, who is slated to become king and whose ability to rule fairly they are not confident about.
- Left alone inside the chamber, Macbeth is attacked by an armed man sporting a black mask with three red scars emblazoned upon it–The Hunter. Although Macbeth and Gruoch eventually arrive and attempt to offer assistance, Findlaech is eventually slain, and only NotYetDemona’s arrival prevents the same thing to his son. Demona saves Macbeth, in the process letting The Hunter escape.
- Inside Edinburgh Castle, The Hunter–a now adult Gilcomgain, who sports a trio of scars matching those on his mask–meets up with Prince Duncan. It turns out that the Prince had ordered the assassination attempt in order to assure his rise to the throne. As a reward for a job well done, Duncan grants his Hunter the stewardship of Moray. Three handmaidens, identical-looking save for their hair, enter the chamber and serve drinks.
- The gargoyles stop a hostage situation inside a Manhattan bank. Three of the hostages, a group of identical-looking (save for their different-colored hair) girls, remind Goliath that every life is precious before literally disappearing. Other hostages confirm that there apparently never were any girls.
- Demona rendezvous at Pack Media Studios with Xanatos and Owen, where they will go ahead with their latest plot: they will break into every broadcast transmission, and, using a spell Demona stole from the Grimorum Arcanorum, they will magically steal one minute of life from anyone watching TV. This, Demona claims, is how she’s been able to survive for a thousand years.
- Xanatos exits the scene, leaving Owen as the broadcast’s producer and warning him to either watch or listen to Demona’s spell, but not both. As Demona chants the spell, Xanatos’ aide notices that the Latin the gargoyle is chanting does not correspond to what the spell is supposed to do and attempts to stop her, to no avail.
- Elisa watches Demona’s broadcast on her TV and races towards the clock tower to warn the clan.
- In streets of Manhattan, three-identical looking (save for the hair) sisters–young adults–remark on Demona’s broadcast, noting that “it begins again” and that they have waited 975 years for this moment, and that they can afford to wait a little more.
- Elsewhere, a male figure watches the broadcast. He puts on a mask bearing the three scars of The Hunter.
- With night approaching, Xanatos and Fox make their way to Pack Media Studios on helicopter. Fox remarks on Demona’s broadcast.
- Now conscious, mobile and free, Owen calls Xanatos to warn them of a new threat: Demona’s spell was not what she said it was. As he explains, the sun sets, and, as it does, Owen turns into stone.
- So does Fox, which is very bad, as she was piloting the copter.
- The gargoyles awaken, and find a stone likeness of Elisa Maza on their lair entrance.
- A significant part of the episode flashes back to the Wyvern Massacre from episodes one and two, as seen from Demona’s point of view.
- The past relationship between Demona and Macbeth had previously been hinted at in “Enter Macbeth.”
- Macbeth had last been seen in “Lighthouse at the Sea of Time.” Demona’s last appearance was in “The Mirror“.
- Demona and Xanatos have a history as collaborators, as seen in “Awakening”, Part Five and “Reawakening“.
- This episode features cameos by two of the gargoyles whose bodies had been used to create Coldstone, as seen in “Reawakening” and “Legion.”
Gargoyles, like Batman: TAS, is in some ways a harder sell now than it was when it originally aired. A lot of the things that made it stand out back then–complex characters, ongoing storylines, a willingness to kill off characters–have been replicated and improved upon by other shows, to the point where this one can feel less noteworthy than it would have felt a decade ago. Episodes like this, however, show that the show still brings a lot to the table.
The arc’s A-Plot is ostensibly Demona’s plan to turn the population of New York into stone statues, and the gargoyles’ attempts to stop her. It’s real point, however, is to show just how Demona got to be where she is, via a flashback in which most our established cast is absent. This is done over the course of four episodes–the show’s first multi-parter since the pilot. All of which makes it pretty darn ambitious, in a way that hasn’t quite been replicated yet.
Like I’ve said earlier, “Vows” was my first Gargoyles episode; “City of Stone” was my second, and it solidified my interest in the show, and a large part of that was because it seemed so mysterious. Not only did we have the weird sisters showing up everywhere with portents of what was to come, there was also the mystery of the modern-day Hunter, whose resolution wasn’t obvious to me, not having seen any episodes with Macbeth in them (although the “previously ons” should have probably clued me in). Plus, we have Xanatos at his opportunistic best. What’s not to love?
Well…there’s actually a some stuff in here that I don’t, in fact, love–but that’s a subject best left for the arc review.
As for stuff about this particular twenty-two minutes…
- While I often feel that 65% of the series deserved better animation than what it actually got, this is especially true about this episode. While the animation isn’t horrible–although there’s some rather ghastly errors about–about half a minute of the episode’s footage is recycled from the pilot, and the seams between it and the new, markedly inferior material, are impossible not to notice.
- As time goes on, I’ve grown less sure what to think of the show’s initial scene. I feel there’s a disconnect between what they intended to show and what they actually showed in the sense that they apparently meant to show terrorists–and Weisman has indicated that they are, and that their motives would be explained in subsequent appearances–and what we actually appeared to have gotten were bank robbers who took hostages when things went south. Of course, the connotations of the word “terrorist” have changed a bit since 1995, but still, something feels off about the way Goliath uses the term here, when the guys seen here don’t do anything all that different from what The Pack will do in “Upgrade”. Overall, I feel that this is a scene where we could have used a little bit more showing.
- For such an expansive series, it’s weird saying seeing examples of an Economy Cast, especially since this is a trope that Weisman himself will seek to avoid in his subsequent series. Not only do we see Bluestone both acting as a hostage negotiator and apparently fielding phone calls, we have Fox once again serving as Xanatos’ pilot. The latter, frankly, bugs me, because my conception of the Xanatos marriage–which admittedly, may be at odds with canon–is one where both parties actually lead distinct and separate professional lives, so stuff like this makes me feel like the writing is positioning Fox as Xanatos’ subordinate instead of his equal.