Sibling Friction: “Her Brother’s Keeper”

“There is nothing, nothing more important than breakfast family”. — Goliath

Original Air Date: January 27, 1995
Introduces: The Coyote Diamond
Timeline placement: Jan. 25 – Jan. 29, 1995


Xanatos is driven across downtown by Owen, perfectly aware that he is being tailed by a police helicopter piloted by Derek Maza and with Elisa as its one passenger.  Elisa is determined to find Xanatos guilty of something, but Derek rightly notes that there’s no probable cause–they’re following the guy merely because Elisa doesn’t like him.

Over at the lair, Lexington is playing a helicopter simulation game for a videogame console that seems just a smidge too advanced for early 1995.  His rookery brothers are not entirely happy about this, particularly since he’s apparently been at it since they all woke up (“cause I’m the only one who knows how to work it” is his retort).  Before they can get too snippy, they’re interrupted by Goliath, who tells them that, as brothers, they shouldn’t be fighting over things like videogames.  Broadway gets a nice moment as he explains that he’s worried about Elisa–he doesn’t feel helicopters are entirely safe.

We return to Elisa’s chase, were Xanatos has decided that he has some urgent shopping to do.   At a nearby Diamond Exchange, Hyena and Jackal–last seen in episode 6–are about to steal the priceless Coyote Diamond with STEALTH.  Before they’re able to do so, the diamond is taken out of its display as it’s been bought by–quelle surprise–Xanatos.  This deters them not at all, as they decide to screw STEALTH and just take the diamond via kick.

The two criminal siblings make their way towards the rooftop, where they pick up the hang gliders they’d stashed there beforehand.  Before they can use them, they’re stopped by Derek’s chopper.  Jackal decides to go for plan C: hidden rocket launcher.  As he prepares to fire, he’s tackled by Xanatos, causing the rocket’s arc to go wide and hit the chopper’s tail, causing it to lose control.  As the pilot tries to land the ‘copter, the Pack goes for Xanatos.  They’re to slow: before they can carve up his face, Elisa approaches them, gun drawn.  They decide to go with their original plan, going back to the hang gliders and high-tailing it.

Now out of danger, Xanatos picks up the Coyote Diamond (somehow dropped during the action) and makes a quip about how there’s never a gargoyle around when you need one.  He heads towards Derek and hands him his business card, telling him that he’s impressed with the policeman’s flying and that he’d like to have him as a pilot and bodyguard, if he’ll accept.

As Xanatos makes his exit, Elisa tells Derek to ignore Xanatos’ offer: it’s obviously just a stratagem to get under her skin.  Derek bristles at his sister’s suggestion, particularly in the way it implies that Xanatos could never actually be interested in his flying skills.  While he doesn’t quite say it, his demeanor indicates only one thing: butt out.

Pack Media Studios, some time later.  After finishing a phone call, Jackal tells Hyena that they have new orders from Fox: kill Xanatos.  Hyena likes these orders.

At the lair, Elisa is not happy about the recent turn of events.  The Gargoyles tell her that, if it will prevent Derek from taking the job offer, she should tell him brother about the clan, and maybe even stage an introduction.  Elisa, determined to remain unsatisfied for the duration of the episode, doesn’t like that idea either.

Twenty-third precinct.  Derek is watching the sunset inside a briefing room when he’s approached by Elisa.  She has something to tell him, but doesn’t manage to say it before he drops a bomb: he’s taking the job.

Over at–OHMYGOSH, an actual bar–Elisa has gone to her father for support.  Peter agrees with her, telling her that she has to convince him.  He suggests that she “tell him…it’ll just kill his mother if he quits the family business.”

Aaaaand…he’s wrong.  At the elder Mazas’ homestead, Diane assures Derek that if he feels that quitting the force and getting a job with Xanatos is the right choice, then he should take that chance.

Much to its occupants displeasure, Elisa enters the 23rd Precinct’s locker room (male) and approaches Derek, telling him that she has something to show him regarding Xanatos.  Derek tells her it doesn’t matter: he’s taken the job, he won’t change his mind, and given how Xanatos saved his life, he’s willing to give him a chance.

At the lair, Elisa explains the situation to Goliath and asks that the clan help keep an eye on him.  Goliath instructs The Trio to keep watch over Castle Wyvern, preferably without killing each other in the process.

Later as they try to carry out their instructions, Broadway and Lexington fight over priorities–Lexington wants to go directly after The Pack, while Broadway considers helping Elisa to be more important.  Brooklyn interrupts them to tell them that Xanatos’ helicopter is on the move.  They watch as another copter, helpfully bearing The Pack’s logo, quickly begins following, and they decide to give chase.

As Derek and Xanatos try to respectively evade and shoot down their attacking followers, The Trio manages to eject Jackal and Hyena from their helicopter (the two manage to land safely with their parachutes) without quite realizing that it’s left them with an out-of-control aircraft.  While Lexington’s frantic attempts at “flying” aren’t pretty, he does manage to safely crash the thing, with no casualties and little property damage, inside an abandoned alley.

Later, at the lair, the gargs decide to fix the helicopter in case they need it to follow Derek and Xanatos.   Goliath, on the other hand, will watch over Derek for the night.  He again tells Elisa that  she needs to tell Derek about the clan.  Elisa responds that just telling him will no longer be enough.

Yay, Fox!  In a fantastic scene, Elisa goes to The Pack imprisoned leader for some answers–and boy does she get them.  Without missing a beat, Fox explains everything: how Xanatos is the mastermind behind The Pack; how he set up the assassination attempts on him as a way to assure Derek’s service; how she’s  the only one Xanatos keeps in the know; and how Xanatos had expected Elisa to track down Fox and had already prepared for it.  It’s all very gloat-ilicious: Fox has absolute confidence that Xanatos will prevail in this game–“He’s the most brilliant man in the face of the Earth,” she says, with not a little bit of adulation.

As Elisa leaves the prison, she takes a look at her prize: a tape recording of her conversation with Fox. As she nears her car, she herself is approached by Goliath, who informs her that Xanatos and Derek have gone somewhere via helicopter, too fast for him to follow.  Xanadu, Elisa concludes: the upstate retreat where Xanatos keeps his sleds and snowglobes and statues and wifes.  They meet up with The Trio and begin following in the Pack’s now-repaired and refurbished helicopter.

At XAA-NADUU!, Derek is asking Xanatos if he should expect as much excitement from his job as he got the night before.   The lights go out (or so we’re meant to believe–in reality, there’s no noticeable difference): it’s Hyena and Jackal, sporting some nifty-looking spy catsuits, night-vision goggles, and laser rifles.  Before they can do any killin’, the calvary arrives in the form of the Gargoyles-copter.  Thanks to all the nifty features Lexington installed–a blinding spotlight, armor, net-deploying missiles, and an impossibly accurate laser–the brother/sister criminal team goes down without much trouble.

The threat passed, Xanatos thanks Elisa and the Gargoyles for saving his and Derek’s lives, and leaves the two siblings to hash things out amongst themselves.  Derek reveals that Xanatos had beaten Elisa to the punch and had told him about the ‘goyles, complete with his own skewed narrative of past events.  He is also determined to remain with Xanatos.  As the siblings are about to again head into argument-land, they’re silenced by Goliath, who tells them that they shouldn’t be fighting, and that they should instead be grateful for those bonds of brotherhood–bonds he himself no longer has and misses terribly–and that the most important thing is family.

As snow begins to fall, Elisa apologizes for her behavior, admitting that she was wrong in insisting Derek not take the job.  She does however remain adamant in her assessment of Xanatos, and gives her brother the tape recorder with the Incriminating!Fox conversation.

Sometime later, as the gargoyles prepare for the approaching dawn outside the clock tower, Brooklyn and Broadway congratulate Lexington on his job with the helicopter.  Lexington reciprocates, saying it wouldn’t have been possible without his rookery brothers’ help.  As the sun rises and the snow accumulates on the now-stone gargoyles, a melancholy Elisa re-enters the building.


After watching and re-watching season 1 over the years (except, as I’ve mentioned, “Long Way Till Morning”) I’ve concluded this is my favorite non-pilot episode of the lot.  It has some great animation, a nice mixture of drama and action, and manages to feel meatier than the episodes that preceded it.  With no new characters or concepts to introduce, “Brother’s Keeper”  has the freedom to cram in a lot of characters and viewpoints; sharing the spotlight are the Mazas, Xanatos, Fox, The Trio, Hyena and Jackal, and Goliath–the most characters in a single episode to date.

The theme here, is, course, sibling relationships, with three groups for the viewer to compare and contrast: the Maza sibs; The Trio; and Jackal and Hyena, who, as murder-happy bastards, are of course have the best fraternal relationship.  Greg Weisman is a fan of parallelism, and while it works  in the case of the Mazas and Jackal and Hyena, it doesn’t quite work in the case of The Trio.

I can understand how three siblings living in close quarters and with no other peers would eventually get on each other nerves–that bit feels naturally enough.  However, the way it’s handled here, with a pat, “everything’s okay now” sort of resolution, feels false, particularly since a) their fighting is actually rather mild, and b) we don’t get to see The Trio really arguing in this manner until its again used in “Upgrade”.  It stands in stark contrast to its blog-mate, TMNT, where disagreements and fights are ever present, and don’t affect the plot unless they actually revolve around something important, such as the ones  “The Shredder Strikes”, pt. 1 or the entirety of “City at War”.  Granted, the cases are not quite equivalent–Gargoyles focuses on The Trio as a unit only occasionally, while the turtles fraternal relationship is the series’ main one–but I think that the latter series’ handling of the issue was superior.

On the other hand, there’s the relationship between Elisa and Derek which forms the true meat of the episode, and which shows why Gargoyles is one of the best-written children’s programs in memory.  Unlike TMNT, whose closest parallel to Elisa and Derek–April and Robyn–feels like an afterthought, this relationship helps enrich the world and the show in a manner that few shows bother to attempt.

When we got introduced to the family in “Deadly Force”, they were all acting as a united front in the face of a family crisis.  With life now back to normal, we begin seeing more of the family’s day-to-day interaction, and it’s actually rather interesting.   Like Katherine’s dad, Derek is another character whose backstory I’d really like some information on.  Clearly he doesn’t feel as strongly about his police work as Elisa and Peter do–maybe I’m just projecting, but it seems to me that to him police work was a last resort sort of thing, something to do after whatever his original plans fell through.  I’d like to know what that previous thing was.

Meanwhile, Elisa lets her distaste for Xanatos and particular hang-ups get the better of her here.  There’s a bit of an absolutist streak in her this episode–Derek CANNOT take the job; Xanatos CANNOT just be minding his own business, but fortunately, it gets some resolution by the end of the episode.  We eventually know how the job thing ends, but I still await discussion on how Elisa now deals with dealing with the guy who turned her brother into Talon as something other than an enemy.

Speaking of Xanatos, it’s hard to think of his attempts to hire Derek as something done for any reason other than getting under Elisa’s skin.  True, we don’t know the extent of Derek’s skills as either a pilot or a bodyguard, but absent any unknown details about him, it’s hard to think that he’d be in Xanatos’ sights if he weren’t Elisa’s brother, or that he’d be so cavalier about losing his services if he truly considered Derek to be the best man for the job.  So what does this mean?  Mainly that despite all his posturing (or Greg Weisman’s statements) Xanatos isn’t as above it all as he likes to think he is.  Which is fine: I like that he does have a streak of pettiness to him, as long as it’s not permitted to take over his entire characterization.  It makes him seem more human.

Moving on to the episodes other antagonists, this is a much better outing for The Pack than their initial episode, thanks in part to the tighter focus, and because they’re allowed to have some actual and defined chemistry.   They may not be the most credible long-term villains–their motivations tend to be the sort where success dramatically speaking is not an option, meaning they have a definite sell-by date–but they have some nice chemistry between them, and work as appropriately threatening antagonists here.  On a related note, Fox looks really good here, which is actually rarer than one would think it would be–more on that on Wednesday.

Random thoughts:

  • This episode features the first and only appearance of the Gargoyles’ helicopter, an attempt at synergy that went awry, as Kenner, who came up with the idea, decided to scrap their plans to build a helicopter action figure.  While this is really the kind of thing that feels more appropriate in TMNT–as evidenced by the fact that they acquire three different helicopters during the course of the series–I actually don’t mind the concept in theory here, and wish that they’d tried to either incorporate it more or explain its absence (say, by saying that they couldn’t acquire additional fuel for it, which is perfectly logical reason to discard the vehicle)–given Weisman’s fondness for bringing back old concepts no matter how insignificant (see the next bullet point), its absence feels somewhat amiss.
  • Like pretty much everything else in the series, the Coyote Diamond from Act 1 eventually makes its return, as part of the system powering Coyote 5.0’s A.I., which makes me wonder if Greg Weisman is a hoarder in real life.
  • Yet another little thing dating the series: Actual alcohol!  In an actual bar!  Sometime during the late 90’s/early 00’s, showing alcohol–even in innocuous cases such as here–became a big no-no, and adult characters have been meeting in badly-disguised “Billiard Rooms” since.