Revenge!: “City of Stone” Part Four

“You fool!  Macbeth did not betray you, Canmore did!  He destroyed your clan!  You are the last of your treacherous kind.” — Gruoch

Written by: Michael C. Reaves (Story); Brynne Chandler Reaves & Lydia C. Marano (Teleplay)
Original Air Date: September 21, 1995
Introduces: N/A
Timeline placement: 1057; August 15, 1057; November 12, 1995
TMNT episode I could make a forced comparison to: “Tale of Master Yoshi”, “Secret Origins”, “City at War”

(Content Note: Revenge, crime and punishment, miscarriages of justice, vigilantism)

The beats:

The Past:

  • Macbeth and Demona are embroiled in a new conflict, this time against a new Hunter backed by British allies and their forces.  While the Hunter has the advantage when it comes to resources, Demona’s gargoyles have been enough to prevent him from building up momentum.
  • Bodhe and Luach meet with Macbeth to hash out strategy.  Bodhe notes that much of the Hunter’s support stems from anti-gargoyles sentiment in Britain, and that if Macbeth were to sever his alliance with Demona, they’d be likely to sever theirs.  Luach is immediately against this idea, but Macbeth does not dismiss it–not a good thing, in retrospect, since Demona has been spying on the council.
  • Demona and her gargoyles desert Macbeth just as Castle Moray is attacked by The Hunter.  Without their defensive linchpin, and with Luach’s reinforcements too far away to do much good,  Macbeth and Gruoch are forced to flee.
  • As they make their escape, Lord and Lady Macbeth are found by The Hunter, who reveals himself to be Canmore, Duncan’s son; and Demona, who reveals that she decided to betray Macbeth before Macbeth could do the same.  As the King of Scotland protests, he is impaled by Canmore, causing both he and Demona to keel over. Canmore then remarks about the sorcery binding King and gargoyle together and about the final fate of Demona’s clan before leaving the scene.
  • Luach and Bohde arrive to find Macbeth’s body.  Bodhe crowns his grandson.
  • As Gruoch, alone, mourns her fallen husband, she is approached by three crones who address Demona, who is now regaining consciousness.    Grouch gives Demona a hefty tongue-lashing, gleefully mentioning how she is now “the last of her kind”.
  • Macbeth regains consciousness, apparently fully healed, as the crones explain how the spell actually works: both Macbeth and Demona will feel each others pain, and neither will die unless one kills the other, which will cause both of them to die.
  • Macbeth has no time to enjoy his new lease on life, as Grouch notes with him believed dead and his son already made king, returning to public life would only make things harder for them all.  Husband and wife decide that he will remain dead, while she will return to their son.  They kiss for the final time.

The Present:

  • With Bronx preventing her from introducing Elisa to her mace, Demona decides to fiddle with Xanatos’ computer instead, reprogramming the Steel Clan’s fuel packs to detonate prematurely. She’s not the only intruder, however: the modern-day Hunter has followed her into the building in order to finish what she’s started.  Demona isn’t worried, however, since she knows who the Hunter is–Macbeth–and knows that he can’t kill her without dying himself.  What she doesn’t know is that Macbeth doesn’t give a damn.
  • After talking with Xanatos and realizing that Bronx’s mutilation of an ancient tapestry last episode was significant, the two frenemies return to the Eyrie Building, where they find M and D mid-fight.   There, Goliath saves Elisa and Owen, while Xanatos attempts to regain access to the computer and finds out that only Demona can.
  • Thanks to Macbeth’s high-powered weaponry, both he and Demona fall into the building’s inner garden. Demona loses consciousness on impact, which gives him a chance to take her and attempt to impale her on a rebar.  Before he can take his revenge, he is stopped by Goliath and the Weird Sisters, who implore him not to go through with it, arguing that killing and revenge solve nothing and instead bring about more misery.  A tired Macbeth acquiesces and allows himself to be taken under the Weird Sisters’ thrall.
  • Using some sort of mind mojo, the Weird Sisters awaken Demona and convince her that she has been more or less directly responsible for all of her misery.  Broken, she reveals the code which will allow the heroes–and Xanatos–to regain control of the computer.  The access code is “alone”.
  • The Weird Sisters disappear with Demona and Macbeth, leaving Goliath and Xanatos to save the day.  Access code in hand, they restore the time to its original setting.
  • With the spell broken, the gargoyles and Xanatos head their separate ways, but not before admitting that they sorta kinda work well together.

—-

Continuity Notes:

Like I said last time, “City of Stone”, despite its premise, is not the sort of arc that heralds large changes to the world at large.  This does not mean that it without consequence, however; while New York would let its two missing nights without remark, the characters we’ve grown used to following all leave their stories subtly changed by it.  Demona and Xanatos’ alliance is broken beyond repair, and the two will never again work together.  Xanatos and Goliath’s, relationship, on the other hand, evolves into one of grudging respect.  Macbeth abandons his vendetta against Demona for the short term (although he’ll briefly attempt to kill Demona in “Sanctuary”) and leaves his fate in the hands of the Weird Sisters.  Only Demona isn’t changed by the experience–of course.

As Phoebe, Luna, and Selene helpfully remark throughout the four-parter, this story is about the cycle of violence and how it can become self-perpetuating if one lets it. It’s not the first time the topic has come up, nor will it be the last, as Goliath, in particular, finds the urge to just kill his opponents rather attractive.

That said, I’m not entirely sure, the series makes its case all that coherently, or if its even means to.  Given what we eventually learn of the Weird Sisters, I feel that one can safely conclude that they don’t actually believe what they’re saying–or at the very least, they’re not saying it all out of a sense of concern for the people involved, but rather, because it’s a way of assuring that their investments make it through the night intact.  Their actions during the flashback segments–where they give various players enough key information for them to act on their revenge-y feelings–belie their words in the present.

That said, let’s take each of their statements individually.

Seline: The cause is everything until one’s own life is threatened. Still, it’s good that you saved her.

Phoebe: If you forget what she’s forgotten, that every life is precious,then you’ll be no different from her.

I wonder: is Phoebe arguing simply that every life is precious, or that every life is equally precious?  Because the first belief, in my view, isn’t necessarily incompatible with the idea that there are times when lives should be ended to spare others.  As to the second interpretation, it carries the whiff of a suggestion that a criminal offenders be given the same standing as their victim, which I don’t especially agree with, as it would declare acts like killing in self-defense to be immoral because the life that has been taken is just as precious as the life the initial attacker would have taken.

On a similar note, an argument made in some circles regarding the DC Universe is that, at some point, super-heroes and law enforcement agents at large share varying levels of  responsibility for the atrocities committed by the villains.  In a universe in which the legal system has proven time and time again that it can not prevent the Joker from continuously escaping prison and killing scores of people every time he does so, then refusing to go outside the system to do so–usually out of respect for the sanctity of his life–becomes morally indefensible or even monstrous.  Under “every life is equally precious”, however, whomever killed him would be considered no different from a person who has killed thousands and terrorized millions, and frankly, I don’t think that makes sense at all.

As we’ve seen throughout this arc, Demona does not respect life: she has decided that humanity as a whole is guilty for the crimes committed, and will kill all of it regardless of personal culpability.  As a gargoyle and an immortal, there is no system set in place to deal with her and make her pay for her crimes.  Why would killing her be bad, in the abstract?

Yes, [Demona] must be stopped.  But remember your own words Goliath: every life is precious.  Take care not to become what you fight against.  Vengeance begets nothing but a vicious cycle of further vengeance.

This is where the argument stops being coherent.  Why are “all life is precious”  and “revenge” being conflated?  Granted, they’re not completely unrelated, but the concepts are far from being interchangeable.  There are lots of types of revenge that don’t involve killing–living well, revenge fucking… Are they all equally immoral?

As for vengeance begetting nothing but a more vengeance, it’s a conclusion that I feel is not supported by the evidence as seen in the flashback.  Vengeance may have turned Canmore into an enemy (although one can easily argue that Macbeth wouldn’t have lost his kingdom if he’d slain Duncan’s son way back when he’d first taken Scotland), but it also allowed Demona and Macbeth to become allies, saving both their lives.

Goliath: No!  Killing her won’t solve anything.  Death never does.

Weird Sister: He’s right, Macbeth.

Goliath doesn’t know it yet, but in a few months, he will take the Eye of Odin away from the Archmage, which will result in the sorcerer’s  death.  Given the power differential between the characters, such a course of action would have likely been the only way the Archmage would have been stopped.

Granted, it’s rather clear that, unlike here, that was a case of killing in self defense.  However, Goliath isn’t making that distinction.  He treats death as an absolute.  I’m sure he’ll feel really silly about these comments then.

Luna: Duncan was afraid that your father would make you king.  Did your father’s death stop you from becoming king?

Yes, actually: after Findlaech’s death, there was no chance that Macbeth could become king by succession.  Macbeth eventually became king anyway after winning a civil war–which came about partly due to the Sisters’ involvement–but that’s not quite the same thing.  This is, if anything, an argument for fatalism.

Selene: You wanted revenge for your father.  Did Gilcomgaine’s death settle that score?

I’m unsure whether Selene is referring to an emotional settling or a material satisfaction, and in either care, I think the evidence leans towards “yes”.  Emotionally, there is no evidence to suggest that Macbeth did not derive satisfaction from playing a part in the death of his father’s murderer.  Materially speaking, claiming that Gilcomgain’s death furthered the cycle of revenge requires an incredibly liberal interpretation of the facts.  Duncan did not hold any animus against Macbeth for his role in his agent’s demise–in fact, just the opposite.  It wasn’t until the weird sisters themselves  intervened that Duncan turned against Macbeth.

Phoebe: Did your own death save your son Luach from Canmore?

This is relevant…how?

Goliath: Death is never the answer.  Life is.

Goliath has a tendency to think in absolutes, and this is one of the better examples, and one that comes pre-stocked with a nice array of unfortunate implications.  Does Goliath’s belief that death is not the answer mean that he is against suicide?  Against abortion?  Against voluntary euthanasia?  Because I know that I were  ever to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s–and given my family history, that’s quite possible–you can bet that I’ll be wishing for death right quick, and will kick the ass of anyone who tells me that living as time strips away everything I am is preferable to dying.

Selene: But who betrayed your clan?

Demona, the Captain, and Hakon.  No argument there.

Luna: And who caused this pain?

I’ll leave that question to the philosophers.

Selene: Who betrayed the castle to the vikings?

Again, no argument here.

Phoebe: Who created The Hunter?

Objection!  This is like arguing that Batman is responsible for all the costumed criminals that overtake Gotham after his debut.  The Hunter was conceived by Constantine, whom Demona had never met; after he dies, Gilcomgain takes on the visage and gives it a name.  Sure, it’s true that Constantine was inspired by the scars Demona left Gilcomgain, but so what?  This does not make Demona responsible for everything Gilcomgain does afterwards, nor does it absolve him of responsibility for  his decisions.

Weird Sister: Who betrayed Macbeth to Canmore?

Demona, who has nobody else to blame but herself here.

Goliath: Your thirst for vengeance has only created more sorrow.

As I’ve said before, this is patently untrue, as Gruoch and Macbeth would testify, given that said thirst is what allowed them to live happily for several decades instead of dying at the hands of Gilcomgain. Goliath is speaking out of his ass here.

So in the end, I think it’s clear that the Weird Sisters are not saying anything they actually believe.  This is fine: like I said, they’re working towards a particular end game that requires keeping both Macbeth and Demona alive, so laying a philosophical groundwork that prevents them from killing one another makes perfect sense.  What makes less sense is that the show itself–using Goliath as an authorial proxy–appears to agree with them.  And while something like that would be more or less acceptable on a less smart show, it feels considerably less so on a work that prides itself on the moral complexities of its characters.

Now, I can see perfectly well why Goliath would adopt a “no killing” stance for his clan.  As someone who even while outside the law still works on its behalf, it makes sense to adopt limits similar to those governing actual law enforcement officers.  If policemen in theory can only use the minimum necessary force to apprehend suspects, I have no problem with them drawing their own line in a similar place.  In their particular context and time, it works.

However, just because a particular code makes sense when dealing with average criminals in the United States in the 20th century doesn’t mean it always makes sense.  In a place like medieval Europe, where the law was often what an unelected ruler said it was, saying that death is never an answer, in effect, advocating that those in power should be allowed to do whatever they wish without consequence.  Even if revenge via assassination isn’t an ideal alternative, the status quo is equally abhorrent.  Goliath, to a degree, knows this.  So why is he arguing for one size fits all morality?

In this particular case, I find it hard to object to Macbeth’s attempts to kill her.   After all:

a) He is a wronged party.

b) The System as it exists cannot deal with her. Even the gargoyles are hard-pressed to do much more than letting her go whenever they stop her plans.

c) She is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

d) She remains a clear and present danger as long as she remains free.

Sure, allowing him to kill Demona so at this particular moment would have meant the deaths of the gargoyles still in the sky (avoidable, but for the fact that  Xanatos’ neglected to outfit them with comm equipment), which is why it made sense for Goliath to stop him, but the scene isn’t played as one where Goliath is being pragmatic (otherwise, he could have just tackled Macbeth);  it’s played as Goliath suddenly being really invested in Macbeth’s moral well-being, something he’s never really done before with people who aren’t his ex.  Not only is he wrong when he says revenge wouldn’t solve anything–it’d certainly solve Macbeth’s particular problem rightquick–it feels as if the creators were saying “this is the way things are” without arguing why that should be the case.  And it doesn’t help that it’s Goliath has an established pattern of finding revenge a rather attractive option, even if he never actually gets to the point of indulging in it.  It would be one thing if he actually acknowledged this tendency; instead he’s simply all “revenge is bad, yo”, which makes him sound a tad hypocritical. Glass houses, stones, etc.

It won’t be the last time a character will be so conveniently concerned: in Bad Guys #4, Dingo will attempt to stop Yama from skewering the mutate Fang, who had just attempted to turn the people celebrating New Year’s in Time Square into mutates.  While Dingo is in fact trying to become a good person (more specifically, he’s trying to refashion himself into a super-hero), it still feels rather out of character that he–who has been a mercenary and is much less idealistic than Goliath or the gargoyles– would think the same way they do, both regarding Revenge! and his certainty that Yama (who’s been raised under different cultural norms, and whom Dingo has hardly been chummy with in the two months since they’ve met, as far as we’ve seen) will be morally compromised by slaying someone whom he sees as evil; in the end, it feels like a false note.

To bring in the other show for a minute, I feel this particular sense of morality is one of the more substantive differences between the gargoyles and the TMNT, and one of the main reasons why I don’t believe they’d be natural allies, should they meet.  While both groups would agree about the immorality of killing or seriously maiming street  punks for kicks, the gargoyles would have never even attempted what the turtles pulled off in “Return to New York”–heck, there’s a better than normal chance that, if they actually shared the same universe, they would have tried to stop them, even though the turtles–who, like the gargoyles, are kept outside of the system–have no other recourse when it comes to redressing the Shredder’s transgressions.

So who’s right?  I wouldn’t know.  Killing people like the Shredder or Xanatos isn’t an act that’s likely to be free of consequence–and season 2 of TMNT deals quite a bit with the fallout of the turtles’ actions–and prevents the “dead” from having an opportunity to repent, but not doing anything means the bad guys get to do whatever they wish without consequence.    It’s a thorny issue with no easy answers, which is why I find Gargoyles reductionism so disappointing.


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10 Responses to Revenge!: “City of Stone” Part Four

  1. “It wasn’t until the weird sisters themselves intervened that Duncan turned against Macbeth.”
    I see what you mean, but…I think that Duncan always planned to at least be ahead of Macbeth, and to have a back-up plan in place; when he says to Canmore as a baby, “there will always be a hunter, my son, and there will always be the hunted,” whether he actually intended to *kill* Macbeth from the start (probably not) is a different matter entirely, but I think that Duncan certainly had no love of him and probably wanted to be prepared.

    “Phoebe: Did your own death save your son Luach from Canmore?” – “This is relevant…how?”
    I always thought that this reference was the Sisters indicating that Canmore killed Luach, to show that the chain of killing and death and pain extended to his own son, for whom he had gone to such lengths to protect and keep safe, but to no avail.

    “Who created The Hunter?”
    I agree with most of your points, but I am still left wondering what would have happened if Demona had NOT scarred Gilcomgain. And I think that’s really the whole point of them bringing it up, pointing it out at all. Ultimately, it was her passionate hatred for humans that led her to scar him in the first place; she could have just shoved him out of the way and – he wasn’t a real threat to her – but instead she acted more viciously and something about scarring his face makes it very personal. And that, ultimately, sets the sequence of events in motion. Without it, how passionately would Gilcomgain have hunted Demona, specifically? His motivation would have been *significantly* different in helping Duncan and becoming the Hunter. Again, it all winds back into a circle.

    There is another version of this flashback at another point in the series (the specific one escapes me atm), in which Demona had not aged as she does in this multi-parter, and I find that disturbing; it’s a serious note of inconsistency in the show, considering that, by all accounts, she SHOULD have been old, based on the chronological order of events; yet they did a different version. I’ve always wondered, why? Would that not have been more expensive, to re-animate something they already did differently? Seems like there must have been a reason, right?

    As far as the “vengeance begets nothing…” line, I like it, especially in this context because I think Goliath, as you point out, swings from one extreme to another sometimes without even realizing it. As we see on many other occasions in his show, Goliath gets tempted by revenge in big, abrupt spurts. I wonder if reacting to something passionately like that is simply a gargoyle trait, in the end. On the other hand, I think the potency of this scene, and this line, regardless of how the Weird Sisters intend them, is that Goliath is clearly intent on stopping Demona, but, again, as we see, later in the series, his animosity towards her and her actions build up over time, then explode when Demona lashes out in one of her extreme ways, and I think his anger kind of takes over him, but, unlike her, he usually manages to get control of himself and go back to his preachy ways pretty quickly. But I think he struggles with that, what to do about Demona. This quote kind of sums that back-and-forth battle he goes through, I think, and how he has to follow his instincts to stop the monster, doing the monstrous acts, but not become one himself.

    Whether it’s significant or not, the moment when Demona reveals the access code is one of the best in the entire series, as far as I’m concerned. Just from a strictly fan-based, audience-member perspective, watching her realize, accept, confess and take responsibility for her actions – albeit momentarily – while simultaneously revealing the tragedy of what she has become is, in my opinion, *really* powerful. I think because of the way *that* part of this/these episode(s) were executed, was what distracted me and so many others from the more logistical stuff. It’s a very big distraction and it delivers; I don’t think it just is there for show. Demona is, I think, a truly tragic character in every sense of the word. Watching her admit to what she’s done, and catching a glimpse of the agony she feels inside, all before she snaps out of her trance and goes back to her normal self, I always got that she can never really, consciously acknowledge it. How would she live with all of that? It’s not an excuse for her behavior, but I certainly understood her a lot better after these episodes, particularly Part IV, and why she is the way she is. I had always been irritated, personally, by the irrationality with which she had acted, up to this point, so having this change of perspective was big for me. I realized that it was, in no way, done because of laziness, or caviler writing.

    Additionally, I always thought that Goliath’s comment (“you’ve learned nothing”) was true of him, too, because of all the reasons you’ve pointed out, but also because some of this stuff about Demona’s past HAD to be news to him, and yet it doesn’t change his reaction to her reverting back to her old ways. Most people have difficulty admitting when they’ve been wrong in a political argument; he just expected her to cop to it, all this horror she’s been inflicting? That’s like asking a heroin addict to just stop using after one intervention. Well, okay, maybe after one or two. But still!

    I dunno, does any of that make any sense?

  2. I just remembered; it’s in one of the “Hunter’s Moon” episodes that we see Demona scar Gilcomgain.

  3. Ian says:

    I’m breaking this up into several responses, and taking on them a bit at a time, since we both seem to have a lot to say on the subject—a good thing, in my book : ) And yes, you’re totally making sense.

    I agree with most of your points, but I am still left wondering what would have happened if Demona had NOT scarred Gilcomgain. And I think that’s really the whole point of them bringing it up, pointing it out at all. Ultimately, it was her passionate hatred for humans that led her to scar him in the first place; she could have just shoved him out of the way and – he wasn’t a real threat to her – but instead she acted more viciously and something about scarring his face makes it very personal. And that, ultimately, sets the sequence of events in motion. Without it, how passionately would Gilcomgain have hunted Demona, specifically? His motivation would have been *significantly* different in helping Duncan and becoming the Hunter. Again, it all winds back into a circle.

    There is another version of this flashback at another point in the series (the specific one escapes me atm), in which Demona had not aged as she does in this multi-parter, and I find that disturbing; it’s a serious note of inconsistency in the show, considering that, by all accounts, she SHOULD have been old, based on the chronological order of events; yet they did a different version. I’ve always wondered, why? Would that not have been more expensive, to re-animate something they already did differently? Seems like there must have been a reason, right?

    I went back and look at the two scenes, and it seems to me that they both use the same “defined cheekbones” character model. In any case, according to the timeline, “Hunter’s Moon” would have been correct in showing Young Demona, as the scene is supposed to take place not long after the massacre, if not on the same day. Demona looks older in the “City of Stone” version because the artists mistakenly used the wrong model for the character, which is why she begins looking older as soon as they switch from reused “Awakening” footage to episode-specific material.

    And it’s that very fact that both events are so close together that makes me feel more sympathy for Demona than I might otherwise feel, if say, it had occurred years after the massacre. While there was undoubtedly some actual hatred behind her attack—heck, she quips–I feel there was a bit of desperation and even honest-to-gosh fear behind it as well. Looking at both scenes, the original emphasizes the hatred, while the second one emphasizes the fear.

    In any case, I understand why the connection was made; I just think it glosses over too many things to be terribly useful to anyone who wasn’t simply looking to guilt-trip Demona. To me, saying Demona created the Hunter is a bit like saying that Osama Bin Laden and 9/11 caused the second U.S. / Iraq War; one would likely not have happened without the other, sure but stating the connection in such a manner ignores the various multiple events and agents that made the war possible, and takes responsibility away from the direct agents—the Bush Administration.

    Similarly, while it’s hard to claim that Gillecomgain would have turned out exactly the same if he hadn’t been scarred by Demona, I find it equally hard to believe that Gil’s willingness to blame an entire race for an individual or his homicidal tendencies all stem from it. Different people would have dealt with it differently; it’s only due to narrative convenience that she happened to do it to one of those who would turn it into a lifelong vendetta.

    That said, here’s my theory: I think that a Gil who wasn’t scarred would still feel hatred for gargoyles (it’s not as if that was an unpopular stance back then) and would have still grown up to serve Duncan as an enforcer. The only main differences, I feel, would be the lack of a secret identity and his specific hate-on for NotYet!Demona–enough to make Demona’s post-massacre life substantially different, but not enough to say that he would be a substantially different person.

    On another note, thinking about the scene some more, I’m wondering if Demona would even realize what the sisters meant by the “who created The Hunter” question, under normal, not mind-whammied, circumstances. The comment makes sense for the viewers, who have just been treated to a more-or-less objective recap of Demona’s past and have the benefit of being able to see the patterns in the web, but we already know that Demona has little recollection of the actual event.

  4. Yes! Much to say; finding a good “Gargoyles” discussion is difficult, so when I find one, I cling onto it for dear life.

    You’re definitely right in that Demona probably wouldn’t have realized what the sisters meant by the “who created The Hunter” question; as I recall, in “Hunter’s Moon” Demona also explains who “the Hunters” are, to Goliath, Brooklyn and Lexington, and comments, “they have hunted me…why, I have no idea.” I mean, she never answers any of their questions directly at all, in City of Stone. She just jumps from one excuse to the other.

    Also, too, going out on a bit of a limb here, ultimately, the whole point of the – well, essentially the interrogation here, at the end of the episode, is to guilt-trip Demona into revealing the code, and the Sisters, who have been manipulating the circumstances are probably aware that some of these things are going to trip live wires in her head, whether they’re true or not. A bit of a loophole in all this is that the don’t approach her by saying “YOU did these things.” They just ask the question. Leading questions, obviously, but it still presents it in such a way, that Demona’s reaction combined with what they are insinuating, is sort of self-fullfilling. That makes it sound way more complicated than what I’m getting at, but I mean to say that it’s Demona’s reaction and how she clearly *feels* about the questions that make them, relatively speaking, true or false. And her reaction, as I said before, with the two tears, just blew me away. I never expected the show to go in that direction.

    Especially when she comes out of the reverie and goes, “no, no, you tricked me! None of this was MY fault!” Again, so beautifully tragic in that she can’t accept the truth.

    Demona is a fascinating character to me in that, sometimes, she’s portrayed in the flat, two-dimensional extremes, and other times, her character is deep and complex. I wonder, sometimes, how much of her personality BEFORE Awakening – the quick temper and so on – comes from a place of fear, which hardened, very quickly, into rock-hard anger, in the sense that, even with the rest of the clan, she felt that they, as a group, were alone. Probably nothing new here to speculate on, but it just kind of hit me that the “the access code is…’alone’,” may have been something she has felt her entire life, and the continued existence she now lives, combined with all the guilt packed on, makes the whole thing that much sadder.

  5. Ian says:

    Yay, I figured out how to eliminate thread mode on comments! I was afraid things would get pretty complicated if we’d gone on long enough.

    It wasn’t until the weird sisters themselves intervened that Duncan turned against Macbeth.”
    I see what you mean, but…I think that Duncan always planned to at least be ahead of Macbeth, and to have a back-up plan in place; when he says to Canmore as a baby, “there will always be a hunter, my son, and there will always be the hunted,” whether he actually intended to *kill* Macbeth from the start (probably not) is a different matter entirely, but I think that Duncan certainly had no love of him and probably wanted to be prepared.

    Oh, I agree completely, and feel that the text would very much back you up regarding this. That said, given that Duncan had seemed content with letting Macbeth live undisturbed for several years after he’d become High Steward of Moray, and the quick way he moved against him after hearing the sisters’ prophecy, I don’t think it is at all inconceivable to believe that they would have remained uneasy allies, but for Phoebe, Luna and Selene.

    Phoebe: Did your own death save your son Luach from Canmore?” – “This is relevant…how?”
    I always thought that this reference was the Sisters indicating that Canmore killed Luach, to show that the chain of killing and death and pain extended to his own son, for whom he had gone to such lengths to protect and keep safe, but to no avail.”

    My issue with it is that they speak of it as if the alternative were ever a possibility, which I don’t feel it was. <em>Of course</em> Canmore wasn’t going to stop with just Macbeth—he wants to retake Scotland, which means eliminating the king. What’s more, as an argument about the larger cycle of revenge, the argument doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you realize that the cycle apparently ends with Luach’s death, and may have likewise ended if Macbeth had actually killed Canmore, or had at least kept him under captivity. .

    As far as the “vengeance begets nothing…” line, I like it, especially in this context because I think Goliath, as you point out, swings from one extreme to another sometimes without even realizing it. As we see on many other occasions in his show, Goliath gets tempted by revenge in big, abrupt spurts. I wonder if reacting to something passionately like that is simply a gargoyle trait, in the end. On the other hand, I think the potency of this scene, and this line, regardless of how the Weird Sisters intend them, is that Goliath is clearly intent on stopping Demona, but, again, as we see, later in the series, his animosity towards her and her actions build up over time, then explode when Demona lashes out in one of her extreme ways, and I think his anger kind of takes over him, but, unlike her, he usually manages to get control of himself and go back to his preachy ways pretty quickly. But I think he struggles with that, what to do about Demona. This quote kind of sums that back-and-forth battle he goes through, I think, and how he has to follow his instincts to stop the monster, doing the monstrous acts, but not become one himself.

    I agree, actually. I don’t have a problem with Goliath saying things like these, or not being self aware when it comes to what he says vs. what he does; I think blind spots of that sort make him more interesting than he might otherwise be . My problem is more that I feel the show itself is obscuring the fact that such a disparity exists. It’s the difference between Edward (from <em>Twilight</em>)being a controlling stalker and the book acting as if he weren’t. One is characterization and perfectly acceptable; I may not like the character, but I can potentially understand why that is the case and why it serves the story, and such an element does not necessarily reflect on my opinion of the author. The latter, however, does reflect on my opinion of both the work and the author.

    Additionally, I always thought that Goliath’s comment (“you’ve learned nothing”) was true of him, too, because of all the reasons you’ve pointed out, but also because some of this stuff about Demona’s past HAD to be news to him, and yet it doesn’t change his reaction to her reverting back to her old ways. Most people have difficulty admitting when they’ve been wrong in a political argument; he just expected her to cop to it, all this horror she’s been inflicting? That’s like asking a heroin addict to just stop using after one intervention. Well, okay, maybe after one or two. But still!

    Now you’ve made me notice that we never quite see what Goliath makes of the infodump; I always understood that he doesn’t know everything the audience does, but it’s never occurred to me to think of just what he’s thinking. I wonder if he’s internally going “what the eff are they all talking about? I’m totally lost.” ; ) Also, unsurprisingly, I agree with you again.

    As for general emotional reaction to the story and where it takes Demona’s arc, I have to admit it did not have as significant an impact on me as it did on you, possibly because “City of Stone” was in many ways my first Gargoyles story (it actually was “Vows”, although I might have seen first part of “Stone” immediately afterwards) and I was too busy trying to figure out what was what to really get invested in the character-development aspect of it. Still, I’m really glad to have gotten your take on it, so thank you.

  6. “My problem is more that I feel the show itself is obscuring the fact that such a disparity exists.”
    > Point taken. I wonder how much of these elements came directly from Disney, though? I don’t know if you’ve been watching Cartoon Network’s Young Justice or not, but I see some of the same themes in that show, but with a little more complexity, not so much in the stark, land-of-absolutes way that Gargoyles uses. So I’m curious as to whether nor not Weisman and the rest of the creative team had a little more moral ambiguity on Goliath’s part (and probably Demona’s, as well) but the supervisors for Disney required them to edit it, and this was the residual effect. It’s still there, but never directly addressed because it probably went over the heads of the seven year olds in the audience.

    “You’ve made me notice that we never quite see what Goliath makes of the infodump…I wonder if he’s internally going ‘what the eff are they all talking about? I’m totally lost’.”
    >Exactly. That was one of the peeves I’ve always had with this episode, and the show at large. I can’t see how they’d have gotten that reaction into this episode in the moment, since the goal is to get through to Demona and Macbeth, and, strictly speaking, Goliath would have been focused and probably ignored any side confusion he might have had among the dreamy dialogue sequence. BUT it never comes up again. Ever. He never comments on any of what he hears here and I don’t believe that’s authentic to his character; not even a little bit. This is the guy that went scouting all over New York City with Elisa, alone, not a week after waking up in a whole new time and place, not to mention he was reading Dostoyevsky back in season one for the fun of it. Maybe that’s not really the best example of his curiosity, but he doesn’t like to be kept in the dark. Although, he’s fairly hard headed, so if his mind was already made up about Demona’s character, then perhaps, yeah, he’d let it go. But as we saw in Vows and throughout the rest of the series, he can’t quite let her go, even though he knows she’s too far gone and won’t ever be the same person he thought she once was. So WHY would he just blatantly ignore all this other information about her past? Especially when it – no pun intended – humanizes her, and explains a LOT more of why she is the way she is. I kept waiting for it to come up in subsequent episodes and it never did. That never sat well with me.

    “I have to admit it did not have as significant an impact on me as it did on you…I was too busy trying to figure out what was what to really get invested in the character-development aspect of it. Still, I’m really glad to have gotten your take on it, so thank you.”
    > On that note, yeah, I think having spent the entire first season and a good chunk of the second with Demona acting as more the over-the-top, we-must-destroy-humanity-at-all-costs, essentially cliche “bad guy,” at least next to the likes of the more obscure Xanatos, to have this uprooting of who she was and what she went through *after* the massacre at Castle Wyvern, was quite a surprise. Curious how, in this particular case, context makes a big difference.

  7. Ian says:

    Point taken. I wonder how much of these elements came directly from Disney, though? I don’t know if you’ve been watching Cartoon Network’s Young Justice or not, but I see some of the same themes in that show, but with a little more complexity, not so much in the stark, land-of-absolutes way that Gargoyles uses. So I’m curious as to whether nor not Weisman and the rest of the creative team had a little more moral ambiguity on Goliath’s part (and probably Demona’s, as well) but the supervisors for Disney required them to edit it, and this was the residual effect. It’s still there, but never directly addressed because it probably went over the heads of the seven year olds in the audience.

    Maybe, but tend to think it’s more likely that if the shows are different in that regard it’s less because of network interference and more because Weisman has grown as a storyteller since Gargoyles. For some reason, I don’t see a network that would allow the an extended status quo change like the World Tour having much of a problem with stuff that wasn’t directly related to S&P concerns. Then again, one can say The Goliath Chronicles is a sign that there was a problem, so I dunno.

    Exactly. That was one of the peeves I’ve always had with this episode, and the show at large. I can’t see how they’d have gotten that reaction into this episode in the moment, since the goal is to get through to Demona and Macbeth, and, strictly speaking, Goliath would have been focused and probably ignored any side confusion he might have had among the dreamy dialogue sequence. BUT it never comes up again. Ever. […] That never sat well with me.

    I think this is one of those cases where both the text and the structure of the story work against it. Given how corrupted the historical record is implied to be–gargoyles are apparently completely absent, even in cases when they turned out to be instrumental in driving events–and the logistical limits being a gargoyle entails, I don’t think it’s out of line to assume that Goliath wouldn’t be able to find information on Demona’s, should he search for it. And given how episodes are structured to be fairly self-contained–in the sense that every scene is connected to the plot of that particular episode–I’m not sure that a scene of Goliath trying to do the research would fit anywhere in the episodes we got. Does this mean that something like this didn’t happen off-screen? I have no idea. Something to ask Greg.

    In any case, I feel that Goliath’s opinions and feelings towards Demona wouldn’t change much, even if he knew the full story. For all that her story is unique, love, betrayal, loneliness and genocide are all part of the Manhattan’s clan story as well. Empathy will only come, I think, when he himself fails to live up to his ideals.

    Demona is a fascinating character to me in that, sometimes, she’s portrayed in the flat, two-dimensional extremes, and other times, her character is deep and complex. I wonder, sometimes, how much of her personality BEFORE Awakening – the quick temper and so on – comes from a place of fear, which hardened, very quickly, into rock-hard anger, in the sense that, even with the rest of the clan, she felt that they, as a group, were alone. Probably nothing new here to speculate on, but it just kind of hit me that the “the access code is…’alone’,” may have been something she has felt her entire life, and the continued existence she now lives, combined with all the guilt packed on, makes the whole thing that much sadder.

    I haven’t done much thinking about pre-“Awakening” / pre-“Vows” Demona, although I don’t think theories about her being governed by fear would be off-base. And when you think about it, she wouldn’t be wrong to be fearful. Even if Demona hadn’t played the role she did, it was pretty clear in retrospect that history was moving in a direction that did not favor the gargoyles, and that the alliances they’d established wouldn’t protect them forever. We know that Demona knew the score, but what if nobody else did? What if she was the only member of the clan who knew to take it seriously? That would be enough to isolate anyone, I feel.

  8. “Both the text and the structure of the story work against it … Goliath wouldn’t be able to find information on Demona’s, should he search for it. And given how episodes are structured to be fairly self-contained…I’m not sure that a scene of Goliath trying to do the research would fit anywhere in the episodes we got.”

    LOL I didn’t really picture him doing “research” exactly. Mostly I meant that they never reference that night ever again, even off-handedly, the way that they do with other events. Part of what I always liked about this show was that the episodes *were* fairly intertwined in that the episodes did bleed over and onto each other fairly often, and they would reference things that happened previously on a number of occasions. So it just seemed strange to me that he never even made an off-handed comment, not even when Demona hatched her next scheme, or the one after that, and so on. Much like the consequences of the spell at large, the whole episode just…goes away, never to be mentioned again, in any capacity.

    “In any case, I feel that Goliath’s opinions and feelings towards Demona wouldn’t change much, even if he knew the full story.”

    Agreed. But I thought it might have been something he may have tried to say to, for example, Brooklyn, since his hatred for Demona is stronger than anyone else’s. And I think that would have been an interesting conversation. Would it have fit in the show? Maybe not. But I would sure have liked to have seen them discuss it.

    “Even if Demona hadn’t played the role she did, it was pretty clear in retrospect that history was moving in a direction that did not favor the gargoyles, and that the alliances they’d established wouldn’t protect them forever…”

    This begs the question, I wonder what would have happened, if Demona had NOT made the deal she did. It was always my impression that the arrangement came together because of her; but is that true? Based on what you said, I’m suddenly unsure. If the deal WAS because of her, and the Vikings had been defeated, then Princess Katherine probably never would have gotten over her bigotry of gargoyles, and nor would the Magus. Obviously there would have been no series with that twist of fate, but still, it’s a curious brainteaser.

  9. Ian says:

    To clarify, when I say things are self-contained I mean stuff like the fact that you’ll never see Lexington work on reviving the Coldstone husk unless it’s an episode where Coldstone is actually relevant, even though we’re led to understand that he’s been working on it all this time. Compare it to say, Jason Todd’s “introduction” in Young Justice.

    Speaking of Coldstone…I was watching “High Noon” to prepare myself for my post on the episode, and I notice Lexington asserting how Demona and Macbeth “would never work together”, and while he’s correct, the way the comment was made struck me as really weird.

    I mean, what have we seen Lexington learn about either character onscreen? Nothing, actually–in “Enter Macbeth” Beth only directly explains his motivations to Goliath, and speaks mostly in generalities, hinting but not saying anything definitive about why he wants Demona. Then, in “City of Stone”, Lex is entirely absent from the final battle between Demona and Macbeth. Sure, Goliath could very well have told the rest of the clan everything he’s learned about the two, but it’s not like his level of knowledge is all that much more complete than the Trio’s. Plus, if the clan and Xanatos eventually managed to work together, why is it so inconceivable that Demona and Beth can choose to do the same?

    Now, I don’t really mind that the characters occasionally draw conclusions from incomplete evidence, and I like that the show doesn’t always feel the need to point out that this is what is happening (assuming the writers have noticed the disparity), but it feels like the sort of line that would work better if the clan actually knew the character’s history, and like you say, there’s no indication that they ever do.

    —-

    Now that you mention it, a conversation between Goliath and Brooklyn regarding Demona would have been fascinating, and I sorta kinda want a time machine to go convince 1995 Weisman to include it.

    —-
    It’s hard to make any solid assumptions regarding who came up with what regarding NotYet!Demona and The Captain’s conspiracy. Part of me wants to say that it’s mostly the Captain’s plan, because when one comes down to it, Demona doesn’t need to be in on it in order for it to take place. On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing the Captain seeking out Demona as a co-conspirator instead of Goliath, except maybe if her discontent were widely known and notable enough that he’d be sure she wouldn’t immediately report any would-be betrayers. “Awakening” is supremely unhelpful here, although given how it requires obfuscation in order to keep the betrayers a suprise, that’s not particularly surprising.

  10. Pingback: Things Come Together: “High Noon” « Monsters of New York

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