Consequences, or the Lack Thereof: “City of Stone”, Part Three

“This bargain calls for an act of good faith.” — Phoebe

Written by: Michael C. Reaves (Story); Brynne Chandler Reaves & Lydia C. Marano (Teleplay)
Original Air Date: September 20, 1995
Introduces: Luach, Macduff
Timeline placement: 1040; November 10, 1995
TMNT episode I could make a forced comparison to: “Tale of Master Yoshi”, “Secret Origins”, “City at War”

The beats:

The Past:

  • Macbeth and Duncan travel through the mountains with their children Luach and Canmore.  Macbeth saves the lives of both Duncan–who almost falls to his death when the ground gives pay under him–and Not-Yet-Demona’s refugee clan, after both men find the cave where they hide.
  • As the four make their way back home across the foggy mire, they run into a trio of crones, identical save for their hair, who announce that Macbeth will be king of Scotland after Duncan before disappearing.  Macbeth tries to dismiss these claims as ravings of people who don’t know better, but while Duncan appears to agree, it’s clear he doesn’t.
  • At dusk, Duncan, wearing the mask of The Hunter, leads a band of men to Demona’s cave, where they proceed to kill them all.  Only a handful, including Not-Yet-Demona survive, awakening just before the fatal blow are brought down and escaping.    As they fly to safety, Demona laments her old age, and wonders about the three old gargoyle women and how they may be able to help.
  • With news that Duncan has turned against him, Macbeth sets out.  He runs into Not-Yet-Demona, and asks for her clan’s help in exchange for his protection.  As they argue, they are approached by the Weird Sisters, who offer to facilitate their exchange: if ‘Beth and Not-Yet-Demona agree to work together, Macbeth will give up his youth so that Demona can reclaim hers, giving both what they want.  After some quick spellwork that reverses their ages, the sisters disappear, but not before one of them gives Macbeth a gift and some information regarding Duncan’s role in Findlaech’s murder.
  • The Clan Moray / gargoyle alliance proves effective, as Macbeth’s troops manage to defeat Duncan’s.  Duncan himself is killed in battle, and Canmore is banished, sent to live with relatives in England.
  • Macbeth is made king.  As such, he declares the beginning of a new golden age of human/gargoyle unity, makes Not-Yet-Demona–his primary adviser and gives her her name.

The Present:

  • The sun rises, turning the gargoyles to stone and the bespelled humans back to flesh, with no memory of what happened to them.
  • Xanatos and Owen take stock of available information–mostly the terms of the spell, and decide that they’re going to break it by fulfilling its terms: if the spell only lasts until the sky burns, then, by gum, that’s just what they’re going to do.
  • Outside, the people are in a panic over what they perceive to be a mass blackout. Travis Marshall is covering the news.  When a woman who claims to know what happened makes her statement, he acts all dismissive (the ass).  At the 23rd District, the NYPD–including three identical-save-for-their-hair women–is doing as much damage control as they can.
  • Later, in Castle Wyvern, Xanatos and Owen are preparing the various elements of their plan–including the Steel Clan–when Elisa arrives.  Before she can do much more than accuse Xanatos, the sun sets, turning her and Owen to stone.
  • Xanatos explains his plan to the gargoyles: they, the Steel Clan, and himself will fly across the city, outfitted with packs filled with flammable gas.  Once all the gas has been expelled, the Steel Clan robots will be blown up, igniting the gas and setting the sky ablaze.
  • The party leaves for their mission, leaving Bronx to protect Elisa and Owen–good thing too, since not long after they leave, Demona leaves her hiding place, and prepares to remodel Elisa’s face.

—-

Continuity Notes:

  • This episode continues directly from “City of Stone” Part Two.
  • This episode features the moment when Macbeth names Demona, a moment which had been called back to in “Enter Macbeth“.
  • The Steel Clan was last seen in “Reawakening“, where it had been destroyed, as is their wont.

(Content Note: Comparisons to 9/11)

While “City of Stone” is in many ways the Gargoyles story, there’s  a lot about the present-day story I find frustrating, and most of it occurs in this episode.

To recap: thanks to Demona’s spell, 90% of Manhattan’s citizenship was turned to stone from sundown (which comes in rather early, this being November and all) to sun-up.  Until Xanatos stopped the broadcast last episode, the recording of the spell was being transmitted continuously across all TV channels, affecting anyone who saw and heard it.

Now, while it’s not definitively stated, the series implies by omission that the fallout of the spell does not extend much beyond what is seen this episode: things returned to normal, there were no investigations, and the world at large remained ignorant of just what happened that night, outside of the near-universal blackout.

No.  Sorry.  No.  While the fallout depicted in this episode works as a snapshot of a small part of a gigantic fustercluck, it doesn’t work when it’s presented as the totality of a situation. In order for this to be plausible, both the logistics involved and human nature would have to be completely different from anything we’d consider “the norm”.

First, there’s the damage such a thing would cause, which is left almost entirely absent.  Setting aside the immediate harm caused by the spell–crashes of both the car- and plane- type, Demona’s murder spree (which would be seen as disappearances, adding yet another mystery to the pile)–the consequences of having the country’s largest city shut down for a night without explanation–and no guarantee that it won’t happen again–are of the sort that would still be felt long after everything returns to “normal”.

Given all of this, there’s plenty of incentive to figure out what happened, and plenty of reasons why it shouldn’t be terribly hard for a decently motivated investigator to put the pieces together.  Any people wanting to claim that the city’s population was turned to stone would have plenty of evidence to support it.

First, there’s Demona’s broadcast, which, continuity flubs aside, was meant to have been airing for almost an entire day–enough time for news organizations to get wind of it, record it (*1), and most importantly translate it.  While a connection between it and the blackout may not be made immediately, the absence of more plausible theories makes the correlation between both impossible to ignore–particularly once the footage of people actually turning to stone surfaces. And it has to surface, if the world of gargoyles wishes to back up its claim of taking place in a world similar to ours–in fact, I’d say it’s almost impossible for it not to.

While it’s grown exponentially more so in the last decade and a half, it would not have been inaccurate to describe the New York City of 1995 as one awash in recording instruments.  Between security cameras, home videos, television recording, and other forms of capturing visual data, it strains disbelief to claim that the evidence was not enough for investigators to come to the correct conclusions.  Sure, the existence of technology that can subvert every television broadcast in the city suggest that similar technology may exist for recording systems and their own closed systems, but even if that were the case, why would anyone use it in this particular moment?  After all, Xanatos and Demona’s original plan wasn’t meant to leave behind any evidence that required destroying or altering.

Then there’s all the people that fly in–and more importantly, out–of New York each day, and go on to interact with people who are not in a position to have watched the original broadcast.  Say a flight full of people who’ve seen the broadcast leaves JFK at 10:30 in the morning and arrives at Washington D.C. not long after.  At least one of those people will turn to stone in the presence of other people.  Heck, there’s a better than normal chance that at least on person will actually turn to stone while in the actual plane.

Sure, some people will view these disparate pieces of evidence with skepticism, even after the lack of alternate explanations is made clear.  However, the situation is dire enough and the evidence plentiful enough that “everyone just sort of forgot about it” feels like the least likely scenario.

In the end, it’s all moot; as far as we know, the events of “City of Stone” do not lead to greater awareness of the world behind the veil, and Manhattan is established as a place that plays by Sunnydale rules.  But that being the case, it then becomes much harder to believe that something as relatively low key as the events of “Hunter’s Moon” would then be enough to break the masquerade.  After all, it’d already been established that gargoyle-like robots exist, and nobody who wasn’t already in on the secret has even been able to get anything resembling a close-up look; it wouldn’t be terribly hard for interested parties to, if they so wanted, establish some reasonable doubt about just what happened when the 23rd Precinct HQ blew up.
Humanity is weird.

Random Thoughts:

  • Weisman has been on the record that the bauble that the Weird Sisters gave Macbeth was mostly written in so that they could dispose of Duncan in an S&P-acceptable way that didn’t  rely on gravity.  While I’m not particularly wild about the way it is used–the way the scene plays out makes Duncan’s death seem more accidental than anything–mission accomplished; it’s one of the cooler visual effects in the series.
  • There’s a bit of ambiguity regarding Luach’s parentage.  Historically, he was Gilcomgain’s son.  The DVD commentaries claim that Luach is Macbeth’s biospawn, although Weisman’s tone there makes it hard to suss out how serious he is.  Gargwiki states that it’s meant to be ambiguous.
    Personally, I think the the moppet’s curly hair tells the tale.
  • I may have mentioned this before, but I really like the medieval battles, and feel that they’re generally orders of magnitude better staged than the present day ones.

Footnote!:

(*1): Which makes me wonder: does the spell keep its effectiveness in successive recordings?  Would a news show that aired the footage place everyone who watched it under the spell until it was broken again?  I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t, since nobody actually watched the spell live, and it worked fine.

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6 Responses to Consequences, or the Lack Thereof: “City of Stone”, Part Three

  1. I hadn’t really thought about it in such detail before, but you’re completely right. I guess in watching it, I always allowed myself to get caught up in the other stuff going on, with the flashbacks and whatnot. In other episodes, there was sometimes some other magical element to erase evidence of what happened; Puck or Oberon, for example. But not here. Hmm. Too bad, because the rest of the episode is so good; they just didn’t follow through with the background details. Because I always figured, too, that there had to also be quite a large percentage of people that just didn’t watch TV that day, certainly more than just the one woman who comes forward to that reporter in the episode.

    I will say that, on the upside, this episode contains probably my favorite quote in the entire series, which is: “Take care not to *become* what you fight *against*. Vengeance begets nothing but a vicious cycle of further vengeance.” I always really loved that line.

  2. Ian says:

    You’ll be glad to know then, that I plan on dealing with that line and what it means when the review for the next episode is up. : ) Thanks for responding!

  3. Most definitely! Looking forward to it.
    I was glad to see this post; the timing was excellent, since I’ve been severely disappointed with the further postponing of Weisman’s Young Justice on Cartoon Network. It was nice to get a Gargoyles reminder.

  4. Pingback: Revenge!: “City of Stone” Part Four « Monsters of New York

  5. Pingback: These Ten Episodes Will Tell You Everything You Need to Know About “Gargoyles” | Monsters of New York

  6. liebreblanca says:

    I always bother about this chapter the lack of consequences for Demona. She has killed dozens of people and has no punishment, is not detained, or even mentioned again. Hakkon died shortly after committing genocide, but Demona flies freely to try again.

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