The Three-eyed Monster: “Eye of the Storm”

“I tried barter and I tried fair combat. You have left me no choice. Return my eye, or forfeit the maiden’s life.” Odin

Written by: Cary Bates

Original Air Date: February 13, 1996

Introduces: Odin, Gunther Sturluson, Erik Sturluson

Timeline placement: May 19 – May 21, 1996

Location: Norway

TMNT episode I could make a comparison to: N/A

 

The Deets:

  • The world tourists arrive in a location that is, for once, freezing cold.
  • No sooner do they disembark that the tourists run into a one-eyed man, who recognizes the gargoyles for what they are (he’s “well-versed in matters of myth and legend,” he explains). Noting Elisa’s need for warmer clothes, he offers a fur coat in exchange for the Eye of Odin Goliath carries. Goliath, spurred by Elisa, refuses. As snow begins falling, the old man leaves.
  • At the nearby mountains, Erik and Gunther Sturluson are returning home from a match when a crossing Bronx causes Erik to lose control of the car. Before the car can fall into the crevice, it is stopped by Goliath, who pulls it back to safety. Goliath does not remain for the aftermath, but Elisa does, and Erik, recognizing her need, offers her shelter in the car.
  • The Sturlusons take Elisa into their farmhouse. Goliath, Angela, and Bronx, after confirming that she’s all right, go and seek shelter of their own. Their rest, however, is interrupted by the arrival of a one-eyed bear who attacks Goliath. After a fierce battle with all three gargoyles, the bear runs off with Goliath’s pouch, which carries the Eye of Odin and Phoenix Gate. Goliath follows and retrieves the pouch, leaving the bear to sink at a lake.
  • Concluding that the bear and the man from earlier are one and the same, that their foe has magic at his disposal, and that he will make a third attempt at the eye, the gargoyles decided to return to Elisa so that they may protect her.
  • The gargoyles are correct: at the Sturlusons’, the old man, now on horseback, breaks down a wall and takes Elisa with him. Addressing the arriving gargoyles, he identifies himself as Odin and makes a new offer: the Eye for Elisa’s life. Goliath, realizing his conundrum, takes a third path, and dons the eye himself.
  • Odin, realizing that God Goliath is more than a match for him, retreats. Goliath follows and easily rescues Elisa before letting Odin go.
  • The sun rises. Angela turns to stone, but God Goliath does not. Elisa, apprehensive about the changes the Eye has brought on Goliath, suggests that he remove it, but Goliath convinces her that he will need to be awake in order for them to weather the day ahead.
  • The Sturlusons arrive and watch Goliath speak of them and leaves. After some explanations and introductions, Elisa and the Sturlusons return to the latter’s home to process recent events.
  • Another snow storm begins, and Goliath arrives at the farmhouse, telling the humans that the weather is Odin’s doing, and that they will need to move elsewhere for their protection. Erik suggests a nearby cave, and Goliath agrees.
  • Goliath escorts the Sturlusons’ car, now bearing both essentials and the two still-sleeping gargoyles. After stopping at sundown to allow Angela and Bronx to awaken and be caught up. Goliath orders them to remain behind while he goes ensure things are safe.
  • The car arrives at the cave, shortly before a lull in the storm. While the others rest and prepare their shelter, Goliath heads out to find a proper door. However, Angela, who is outside seeking snow to melt, spots her father, and notices that he, not Odin, is the one creating the storms.
  • Goliath returns to the cave bearing a huge boulder. The humans and Angela, however, waste no time letting him know the jig is up. Goliath easily admits his complicity, and explains that he created the storm to lure them into the cave, where he could more easily protect them from Odin until he can dispose of him. After dismissing Elisa’s concerns about the Eye’s effects with a literal pat on the head, he uses the boulder to seal the cave shut.
  • Goliath calls out Odin, and challenges him to combat. Odin accepts, and the two fight. While Odin has experience and the home court advantage, Goliath has more sheer power. Still, the god has other resources at his disposal: using his power, he covertly unseals the cave with Elisa, Angela, and the rest.
  • Elisa, Angela and Bronx join the battle, using both words and force to attempt to get Goliath to yield. Angry, he decides that he will no longer protec, but that he will attac instead, using his power to open a chasm beneath them, which quickly begins closing. Elisa and Bronx manage to climb to safety, but Angela calls out for her father’s help. Goliath, unable to ignore his daughter’s cries, leaps to rescue her, and then removes the Eye before falling unconscious.
  • When Goliath awakens, he is back at the cave, along with the others, and to his surprise, Odin, who has once again recovered his Eye. The god, now apparently chastened, apologizes for the way he went about attempting to recover the eye. Goliath apologizes in return. Odin mounts his horse Sleipnir, creates a rainbow bridge, and disappears into the skies.

Mythology and Continuity Notes:

  • The Eye of Odin was introduced in “Eye of the Beholder” and became a factor once again in the “Avalon” Trilogy.  That it was the literal eye of Odin had never been suggested despite, y’know…the name.

—-

I’d mentioned in my review for “Golem” that its biggest problem that it didn’t have the space to really develop its half-dozen or so different concepts, giving it a breathless quality that worked against it.  While those concepts were, in and of themselves, quite interesting, there just wasn’t any space for them to really land.

(If I didn’t actually say those things, pretend I did.)

“Eye of the Storm” is, like “Golem”, an episode that goes by too fast to have an impact. The tourists arrive in Norway and immediately come upon Odin. Elisa is cold in one scene, and finds shelter in the next.  Goliath’s rescinds his protection over Elisa and Angela, and rescues Angela a minute later. The tourists make peace with Odin, and just like that the episode is over.  It’s an episode driven by the needs of the plot, and it shows.

While this sort of checklist approach would have made sense if the sequence of events here had been especially complicated or required time to unpack, or if it were an especially dense episode, with lots of different elements that needed to be introduced and developed, this is far from the case—in fact, “Eye of the Storm”, as executed, is possibly the slightest episode of Gargoyles so far. The Sturlusons, our human guest stars, don’t receive any particular focus or development; they’re there as sounding boards, because Elisa needs a jacket, and because the episode requires somebody to call out God Goliath before Elisa and Angela are ready to do so themselves. Odin is largely there to fill the antagonist slot, rather than serve as an actual character; while there’s plenty of precedent for depicting gods as mercurial, using that to justify a plot that could have been avoided if he’d actually attempted to explain himself feels beneath the series, and having him turn cordial by the time the episode ends feels less like development, and more like an admission that they’re out of time to do anything else.  Norway, our location for this episode, gets to be little more than a snowy deathscape; we’re here because that’s where the Norse legends are, and that’s apparently the only interesting thing about it. Very little here is actually developed.

If there is an apparent core to the episode, it is the idea that Goliath may be the sort of being who, when all is said and done, just really wants to lock the people he loves in a tower so that they can’t possibly get hurt. It’s an interesting idea with obvious implications—At what point does the protective instinct turn paternalistic? Have there been instances of behavior that hint, in retrospect, that Goliath was capable of this sort of behavior?—but unfortunately, it doesn’t really get its due: it happens, it’s a problem for a while, and then it’s not, and its repercussions are not explored within the episode (or thereafter, really). That the element worthy of most focus receives almost none of it is perhaps the most disappointing thing about the episode.

Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a good story here—as with almost all Gargoyles episodes, the pieces are there.  Gargoyles does Jack London, is, on its own, one hell of a premise. Strip away all the extraneous stuff (which, unfortunately includes Odin—not great, given that he’s the reason we’re all here) and really focus on the struggle for survival, and you’d have something singular and special. Similarly, God Goliath and a story about the ease with which tyranny can assert itself—quite relevant, now—and the progressive loss of trust in one’s protector has tons of potential. However, instead of using the episode as a way to see Goliath under a new prism, things simply happen, in a way that feels uncharacteristic for Gargoyles. Yes, on one hand, Goliath would have likely not created a blizzard in and trapped his clan in a cave if he had not donned the Eye of Odin. On the other hand, as the episode stresses, the Eye turns its wearer into purer versions of themselves (or so characters claim—I’m not sure how accurate that actually is); this should matter, even if Angela, by the end, manages to trick Goliath’s protective instincts into reasserting themselves.  Even if Elisa and Angela conclude that Goliath can still be trusted—and especially if they don’t—this needed to be discussed, and the discussion needed to occur on-screen.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, given how little there is to the episode, “Eye of the Storm” feels as if it would have been better-served by being a two-parter.  Spend most of the first episode establishing the threat of the cold.  Get rid of the bear entirely (even if “Goliath fights a bear” is a plot beat I normally have lots time for) and make the episode largely about Elisa and the Sturlusons having to survive weather far more extreme than they were expecting—frozen pipes and lost power cold. Then move the episode outdoors, where they can do a riff on “To Build a Fire”, where the point is surviving long enough to get to the cave.  Then, at the end of the episode, have Odin show up for the second time and call for the Eye, which is when Goliath chooses to don it for himself.  The second episode, then, would play out more or less like the second half of the existing one, albeit with more space to breathe. Goliath, claiming that the threat of the cold justifies his actions, would grow slowly more paternalistic, with the beats playing out as they do in the actual episode. The cold would remain an ever present threat. God Goliath would be dealt with at the seventeen-minute mark, allowing the rest of the episode to truly deal with the consequences (the existing episode ends with the Sturlusons still without a habitable home; how do they deal with that, long term?). If subsequent episodes can’t deal with the consequences of the events here—and they can’t, at least in the short term, even though they really should—then that discussion needs to happen here. What’s the point, otherwise?

I am tempted, looking at this episode, to say that its problems are not limited to it, and that the World Tour in general feels like the series checking items off a list. While this is, to a degree, the case—it is perhaps the reason why this era of the show feels less than the sum of its individual parts—this argument overstates the situation.  Yes, the World Tour’s main issue is arguably one of focus—too much focus on introducing characters and concepts, too little focus on existing ones or developing longer term stories. At the same time, the series often manages to do better than this. Even the most objectionable of episodes gave viewers more to chew on than this one. “Eye of the Storm” remains an outlier.

 

Random Thoughts:

  • I quite like Goliath’s almost-literal moment in the sun; it’s one of the few moments where the episode stops and takes in the details of what it’s doing.
  • Angela has never seen ice or snow in Avalon. I think this had been established before, and it makes one wonder about how farming seasons work on the Island, if that’s even something that happens (I suspect not.)
  • God Goliath’s design is really, really cool.
  • Angela, once again, is shown to be quite adept at thinking on her feet.  She is also shown to be someone willing to take big gambles. There’s an argument to be made that Angela is underdeveloped and a bit bland, an argument bolstered by the fact that her main partners are Goliath and Elisa, who are, like her, resist simplistic descriptions.  This argument is incorrect.  Her development is subtler, and doesn’t easily conform into existing archetypes the way other characters do, but it’s there.
  • So what are some instances in which Goliath arguably acts as he does this episode?  While his stubbornness has been showcased more than once, I don’t think he’s ever displayed it in service of paternalistic protection. I could very much be wrong, though.
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