How, Through the Years, Are You Still Unchanged? “Avalon” Part Two
28 June 2014 7 Comments
“At dawn, you all will die. Get used to it.” — The Archmage
Written by: Lydia C. Marano
Original Air Date: November 21, 1995
Introduces: Angela, Gabriel, Boudicca
Timeline placement: Present Day; 984; September 28, 995; 1020; December 27, 1995; Present Day -6 hours; Present Day.
TMNT episode I could make a forced comparison to: “The Real World” Part Two
[Content Note: White Supremacy, Transracial Adoption, Cultural Imperialism]
- Tom introduces Goliath, Elisa, and Bronx to the three “eggs” which form the greeting party at Avalon shore–Angela, whose resemblance to Demona Elisa later notes; Gabriel, whose resemblance to Othello nobody notes, because nobody cares about Gabriel; and the gargoyle beast Boudicca, who isn’t actually introduced. Their helloes are cut short by the Archmage, who has either turned himself into sand or has simply sandbended it into his image.
- Despite the Archmage’s shape-shifting prowess, the gargoyles and humans manage to hold their own against the sorcerer. Still, he’s the one who ends the battle, announcing before leaving that regardless of the gargoyles’ efforts, they will all die at dawn.
- Goliath and Elisa and Bronx are taken to Oberon’s palace, where the members of the Avalon clan make their home. As they are led through the structure, they take note of the many wounded gargoyles. Angela and Gabriel explain that the clan had little in the way of combat training, and thus were completely unprepared for the Archmage’s assault. The building’s main hall has been turned into an emergency room, with Princess Katherine and the Magus as caretakers.
- Despite her tiredness, Katherine rushes to hug Tom, and is very affectionate with him; unseen by the others, the Magus looks very sad at this. Katherine is made even more happy at seeing Goliath, a feeling that is very much mutual. Goliath thanks Katherine for going above and beyond the call of duty in taking care of the eggs, while Katherine is super-grateful that he’s returned for them in their time of need.
- The three Avalonian humans explain the situation to the newcomers: a day ago, the Archmage showed up with Demona, Macbeth and the Weird Sisters, and began an assault on the palace, and gave its tenants one day to get their affairs in order before he’d return to kill them all. Unlike the sorcerer Goliath and the Magus knew, this Archmage sports the Eye of Odin and the Phoenix Gate, and gives the appearance of both being in two places at once and of–somehow–possessing the Grimorum Arcanorum.
- Elsewhere on the island, two Archmages magically keep watch over Goliath. One of the Archmages teleports away, in accordance to the plan, and appears in…
- Scotland, 984: where he’s just in time to rescue his younger self from his fate, as seen in “Long Way to Morning”, and takes him to…
- November 28, 995: On the waters surrounding Avalon, the older Archmage offers his younger self a way to get everything he’s ever wanted, and tells him what he’ll need in order to obtain it. The two wizards then watch from a distance as Princess Katherine, the Magus, and Tom force their way into Oberon’s island. After the three caretakers of the eggs exit the scene, the older Archmage returns the Weird Sisters to their default form. He offers to form an alliance, one that will allow the sisters to get revenge for their humiliation. He asks them to meet him in…
- Scotland, 1020: The older Archmage instructs the Weird Sisters to keep watch over Demona and Macbeth, and to bend whatever rules necessary in order to manipulate the two to their purposes. He also instructs them to keep an eye on the Eye of Odin, the Phoenix Gate, and the Grimorum Arcanorum, so that they can retrieve it when the time is right. They set a rendezvous for…
- November 27, 1995: Back at the door to Avalon, the Archmages once again meet with the Weird Sisters, who now hold the three magical artifacts. The objects are given to the Archmage’s younger self, and are enough to evolve him from a Magikarp to a Gyarados. Now possessing the same knowledge as his future self, the two Archmages are finally in sync and ready for the next phase of their plan.
- Six hours ago: At Oberon’s palace, the Archmages and their forces attack in the manner later described by Tom, Princess Katherine, and the Archmage.
- One minute ago: Elsewhere in Avalon, two Archmages magically keep watch over Goliath. and their forces relax before the final showdown. The younger Archmage leaves, using the Phoenix Gate to travel back to 984 and rescue his past self.
- Now: At Oberon’s palace, Goliath and company weight their various options, eventually deciding that their best chance is to stage a sneak attack on the Archmage’s base of operations, in the hopes of being able to take the Eye of Odin and/or Phoenix Gate away from him. Goliath selects Angela and Gabriel to join him in the op, while the rest stay behind to defend the palace. As they leave, Elisa asks the other humans about Avalon’s other resident, whom the Magus had mentioned earlier: the Sleeping King.
Continuity and Mythology Notes:
- The Archmage’s apparent death was shown in “Long Way to Morning“.
- The Archmage refers to Demona as a former apprentice who betrayed her, a reference to the events shown in the episode “Vows“. That episode also shows the Archmage’s first attempt at obtaining the Phoenix Gate, and his ambition to also obtain the Eye of Odin.
- This episode explains the reason behind the Weird Sisters’ manipulation of Macbeth and Demona’s lives, and subsequent control over their bodies and minds, as chronicled in “City of Stone” and “High Noon“.
- Macbeth and Demona stole the Eye of Odin, the Grimorum Arcanorum, and the Phoenix Gate in “High Noon”.
Tip of the hat to Jillian Aversa, whose work provided the post’s title.
Gosh, what a fun story.
Last episode explained how Princess Katherine and her posse managed to be alive and well in 1995. This episode does the same for the Archmage, explaining how the nobody we saw fall into a Disney Chasm of Death became the Sandman. Whereas last episode relied on flashbacks, this one does something far more interesting, as we follow the Archmage essentially recreate himself via ontological paradox. While it’s not the first time Gargoyles has used time travel for this sort of story, it’s never quite as fun as it is here, as we see the older Archmage act all superior to people who mere hours ago would have been his peers and/or his superiors.
The Archmage’s plan is incredibly clever, and it’s made no less so by the fact that it’s technically not a plan the Archmage came up with himself. And while it succeeds marvelously in turning him into a badass–the leveled-up Archmage is arguably the most powerful character seen in the series so far–it is nowhere near as effective when it comes to helping him achieve his other aims.
So why doesn’t it work? Part of it is narrative necessity, of course–Goliath and the gargoyles can’t be killed and still be the stars of the story–but part of it is due to the very nature of the plan, which doesn’t allow for second thoughts or fine-tuning, and what’s more, went from conception to execution in the space of minutes.
While the various pieces of the Archmage’s plan come together across centuries, the execution from his perspective, is shown more or less in real time. The Archmage is rescued by himself, gets his upgrades a few minutes later, and attacks the palace all in less than an hour. While we can’t account for his movements between his attack at the palace and the attack at the beach, it’s plausible to believe that the two sorcerers made their way from point A to point B by means of another leap. Seven hours, at most, separate the Archmage who clumsily attacks Goliath with a stalagmite, and the Archmage who berates him, a fact obscured by the latter but rather vital.
What’s more, the Gargoyles rules of time travel means that large parts of the plan are unalterable, which, to somebody who hasn’t thought things through, may end up making the whole plan seen unalterable. It creates a disincentive to think about how, say, Macbeth and Demona don’t really add a lot after they’ve retrieved the items of power, or that it’s usually a capital idea to learn the actual extent and limitations of one’s new powers before putting them in the service of one’s campaign, or that really, letting Goliath live through the beach battle is a tactical mistake.
So the Archmage’s plan has flaws–and yet it is not these flaws that doom it.
* * * *
The other significant part of this episode consists of our introduction to the Avalon Clan, including the reintroduction of Katherine and the Magus, and more importantly, Angela who, as hinted at by the amount of focus she gets compared to her fellow gargoyles, will become a series regular–a very good idea. They new gargoyles don’t whole lot of focus here, with the most interesting thing occurring right right at the very beginning, where Angela makes remarks indicating that having a name is the most natural thing in the world for her, a line that hints at the complexities of the Avalon Clan’s situation.
When Goliath entrusted Princess Katherine with the eggs, he did so out of desperation, with little thought given to what it would all mean. He could more or less assume, given the princess’ contrition, that she would do her best to raise them, but he appeared to have no deeper concerns about what sort of foster parent she’d be. They were the best available choice at the moment, and so they would have to be enough.
And so, Katherine and the Magus were left to their own devices, raising children belonging to a race that they had until very recently seen with barely disguised contempt. Given the lack of resources available–no actual gargoyles adults to interact with, and a dearth of trustworthy literary sources (unless there’s gargoyle writers that we don’t know about)–that they managed to apparently raise them into a happy, healthy, and thriving community (at least until it came up with a nasty case of Archmage) would seem to be like nothing short of a miracle. Goliath, at least, appears to have no complaints–and even if he’d had them, he, as the person who relinquished his parental rights, is in no position to voice them with any authority.
Transracial or interracial adoption, particularly that of children belonging to a historically oppressed group by a white parents, is one of those things that is sometimes viewed with skepticism by members of those historically oppressed groups, and justifiably so. There’s a long history of white families “saving” children from their “lesser” cultures in ways that were explicitly colonialist and racist, and meant denying their children an opportunity chance to have any sort of healthy connection to their racial heritages, turning adoption into a tool of white supremacy. Even when one’s intentions are good–and plenty of people who adopt children of different races do it with the best of intentions–transracial adoption is not something to be taken lightly, as doing it in a culturally sensitive manner requires an ability for self-reflection and a willingness to continuously examine one’s biases and privileges, things that are very hard to find in a society that often tells white people that such things are unnecessary.
While the particular circumstances of the Avalon clan are very particular, it is still, as presented on screen, an almost perfect display of cultural erasure. There are only a handful of things the show has told us about Scottish Gargoyles at this point–they don’t adopt names, and consider genetic relationships subordinate to clan relationships. Neither is in evidence within the Avalon clan: Angela, the Avalon gargoyle we get to know best, will be all about determining and establishing a relationship with her birth parents, which might be an idiosyncrasy, or might point to the way she was raised. The names thing, on the other hand, is most definitively all due to her foster parents, and something that can’t be accounted for by a lack of knowledge–it is impossible to believe that Princess Katherine, who grew up surrounded by gargoyles, never realized that gargoyles as a rule don’t have names. And yet, gargoyles in the Avalon clan have been given names, particularly names of angels according to European Judeocristian tradition, which carries its own set of problematic historical connotations. If gargoyle convention was ignored when it comes to personal identity, what reason is there to believe that they adhered to it in other respects, Word of God aside? While the Castle Wyvern eggs survived, one could very well say that the survival of Scotland gargoyle culture, as Goliath once knew it, remains an open question.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Katherine, the Magus and Tom were bad parents or people, that Goliath was mistaken in entrusting the eggs to them, or that its a mistake for Gargoyles to portray the Avalon clan in this manner. On the contrary, given the characters involved, it feels perfectly natural for this to have been the outcome of this particular set up. It just means that the situation is incredibly complex, and something that I feel that writers (official or otherwise) could and should explore, particularly in light of what happens next. Yes, being raised by humans was by far the best of the solutions available for the eggs. Yes, the clan could very well argue that their culture is a valid expression of gargoyle-dom as any other, regardless of how it was informed by a human minority–and given the clan’s isolation, there wasn’t really anyone who could challenge that claim. But that is no longer the case: Goliath and Demona have arrived on Avalon, and Angela will soon leave. They will not be the last. As the various gargoyle cultures become more aware of one another, gargoyles belief on just what gargoyle identity and culture means will be questioned and challenged in a way it never was before. The Avalon clan cannot hope to escape.
- When I link transracial adoption and white supremacy, I am not speaking entirely from a historical perspective, as if to say that the two are no longer connected. On the contrary, it can still be seen today; this NPR article, for example, describes the systematic manner in which Dakota Native American children were removed from their homes and placed into foster homes run by white people.
- Also, it’s important to note that the series does take some steps in exploring this, mostly via the differences between Angela and Goliath re: parents. So it’s not something the series altogether ignores. It could, however, be explored further.
- I’m curious about the implications of the Archmage’s leaping around time, covering increasingly small time periods, done constantly. While it makes perfect sense to do it across long distances–after all, the dude’s not ageless and can’t afford the slow path–it makes me wonder if he would have used it that way for any sort of wait, and if so, what the implications of doing that all for everything would be. A film trailer makes you really want to see a film. Bam! You’re at the movie theater the day of release. Can’t wait for that package you ordered. Floop! You’re now there just in time to meet the USPS person. If time means nothing to an immortal, what does it mean for a time traveler? What happens when instant gratification becomes the norm, and you go from plan to action without literally no time for second thoughts? I really want to explore this.
- Tom continues to insinuate a deeper history with the gargoyles than the one he actually had, as he refers to Demona as “a female gargoyle we once knew as your second in command”. Again, Tom can’t be said to have known any of the Wyvern gargoyles–it’d be more accurate to say “a female gargoyle I saw once and I’ve been told is your second in command after she attacked earlier today.” But I could see how that would be awkward.
- Speaking of Tom, there’s something unsatisfying about him being the only one really referred to as a Guardian. I get why Katherine gave him the title when he was a child, but the fact that only he gets to be considered The Guardian–as in the only one–as an adult feels is off-putting, since there seems to be an unspoken link between Tom’s guardianhood and the fact that he’s apparently the clan’s sole trained fighter, which is rather problematic.
- One of the weird tiny details in this episode is the Weird Sister’s reference to being “banished” from Avalon by the Magus’ “parlor tricks”, which suggests that they can’t actually reenter. No other detail is given, and given that they can enter fine in this episode without explanation, I’m not sure what they actually meant.
- The Archmage’s very sad looks at Katherine’s affections towards Tom, which will be contextualized next episode, can’t help but remind me of how Brooklyn will eventually react in similar circumstances. Both characters are voiced by Jeff Bennett. Coincidence?
- Okay, this is kinda obvious, but the way the Archmage exits the beach battle is really cool.