Welcome back! Here’s part one of what I so ungraciously robbed you of last week, dear readers. Look forward to more tomorrow.
City of Stone (Part 2)
We begin by taking stock: Xanatos is able, by the skin of his teeth, to safely land the helicopter and keep Fox from shattering; the gargoyles pay a visit to Hudson’s friend Robbins, who was unaffected by Demona’s broadcast because he couldn’t hear it; and Demona and Macbeth are converging on the studio alongside the angry gazillionaire funding this whole operation.
Oh, and Demona spends a cheerful couple of minutes committing genocide on the streets of Manhattan, full of glee and in full view of the camera. It’s one of the most famous reference points of the series, partly because it’s also one of its most horrific moments. One imagines it got past the censors because of the lack of bloodshed, but precedent on the show tells us that pulverized statues are quite dead, and there’s no doubt she took out as many as she could on her way to meet Xanatos. As establishing scenes of villainy go, it’s one of the strongest hands you can play on a kid’s show (Brooklyn even comments later about how it looks like the gargoyle massacre, meaning “self awareness” is now even more firmly in the camp of things Demona does not possess). This is right up there with letting Vincent Price sing a song that includes the lyrics “worse than the widows and orphans you drowned.”
Back in the Scotland of yestermillenium, some years after the last flashback, there are romantic shenanigans afoot. Prepare to grit your teeth. It would seem that Prince Duncan, who didn’t figure that killing Macbeth’s father quite fulfilled his dickishness quote, has ordered that Gruoch marry Gillecomgain AKA the Hunter. And because defying that order would mean being banished and probably hunted down for treason, Macbeth….doesn’t trust his beloved to make the decision of whether to continue in their plan to run away or not, and tells her to hit the bricks instead. And I take a moment to drink heavily.
Now, as the Weismann intro for this episode points out, this is based on a real bit of history – Gille Comgain of Moray was a king of Scotland burned to death by an unknown perpetrator. But one of the more popular suspects was, you guessed it, the historical Macbeth (whom I cannot mention enough was so different from Shakespeare’s, given that the bard was writing basically a pro-British propaganda piece for the kings paying the bills), who married the widow Gruoch later on. All this star-crossed lover business makes the murder bit rather more palatable.
And that murder comes about through some crossed wires that would make the soaps proud. So Duncan still wants his cousin dead, because he’s twenty points off of hundred percenting his Total Soul Putrefaction achievement, but Gillecomgain isn’t for it. He’s comfy now, and even goes so far as to suggest that Macbeth might find out who ordered his father’s death if Duncan were to push too hard…..in response to which, Duncan tearfully calls in Macbeth and tells him the awful, just horrific and shocking news that Gillecomgain has been hiding in their midst as the Hunter all along. Of course, Duncan can’t just attack the man on his own lest it be war, cough cough hint hint.
Because the only thing holding him back from being a shonen hero is a few too many inches in height, Macbeth does indeed charge off for revenge. And he gets his ass kicked, though to be fair the reason he actually gives up is because Gruoch shows up in order to be conveniently used as a shield. But Demona isn’t far behind, and we get a nice echo of the last battle with the Hunter, with Gruoch once more nearly falling off the edge, and Macbeth this time saving Demona from a fall. Gillecomgain is not so lucky, with the final indignity that Demona doesn’t even remember giving him his scars.
So that appears to be that: Macbeth and Gruoch are married, he’s steward of Moray again, all is right with the world. Except that Duncan’s taken on the mantle of the Hunter, and those three women are still hanging around and making spooky side commentary.
Back at the studio in 1994, Demona prepares to turn her mace on Owen only to be stopped by Xanatos. It’s a short-lived fight – Xanatos abandons any advantage to save his right hand from falling over and smashing (with an audible gasp of horror, one of those tiny moments of “aw, he has a beating heart” that one learns to treasure), and Macbeth shows up not long after. You may notice something rather odd about their fight, but hold onto that thought for a minute. He and Demona depart for a chase across the city, and Goliath shows up only to be forced to accept what’s now the lesser of two evils (and something he never would have considered when the series began, another indicator that he’s moving in the opposite emotional direction from Demona): a truce with David Xanatos.
City of Stone (Part 3)
You’ve probably put together by now that the three mystery women in the background of these episodes are meant to be the three witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, also known as the Weird (or Wyrd) Sisters. This image of three women goes all the way back to Greek myth and has a lot of permutations, most often with the women represented as the maiden, the matron, and the crone – the three faces of a woman’s life, the past/present/future, there’s all sorts of stuff there. In Gargoyles, they chose a different trio of symbolism (since the three are always the same age when they transform): Fate (silver/Luna), Grace (blonde/Phoebe), and Vengeance (black/Seline).
This episode also starts with a recap of sorts, as all the humans who were bespelled wake with the dawn (one hopes this did not include the bloody gibbets of the murdered) and Xanatos explains things to Owen, who seems to be as bewildered as I was that the phone receiver turned to stone along with him (is this a magic thing? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen with gargoyles), though not surprised when he sets that phone down and it makes the click of hitting a cradle I presumed had been destroyed in the fight. Anyway, the actual point of this is that Demona’s spell also has a loophole and can be broken when the sky burns. Xanatos is totally up for this. Fox is safe, Owen is safe, and you can tell it’s the most fun he’s had all day.
We’ve skipped forward another eight years in Scotland (that’s 1040 now, if you’re keeping track), to Duncan and Macbeth taking their kiddos on a lovely stroll through the moors. Rest assured that grey hair has not calmed Duncan’s charming personality, even when Macbeth saves him from falling to his death (which is clearly just a rite of passage for the Scottish people). Any loyalty brownie points Macbeth earned get spent pretty quickly when they happen upon Demona’s dwindled clan, and Macbeth begs Duncan to spare their lives.
Super spent, and not helped by the reenactment of the witch’s prophesy that opens the Shakespeare play. Y’know, the prophesy that Macbeth will be king?
The most spent.
Because Duncan takes some troops back to the cave at sundown and starts smashing the gargoyles. By the time it’s dark there are only four left, and the survivors are forced to flee. Demona, now white haired, has put two and two together regarding those three weird gargoyles, and vows to seek them out to bargain for renewed strength.
In further zero cookie points news, Duncan has started moving troops against Moray, and Macbeth reluctantly agrees to surrender himself in order to save his family. He once again does not inform Gruoch, continuing to lock her out of the terrifically terrifying agency for which Lady Macbeth is known. Truth be told, Demona is the closest to the Shakespearean conception of Lady Macbeth in this story, with her bitter pursuit of power and control infecting those around her until she’s ultimately broken by it (Demona’s willful obliviousness maps pretty nicely to the “out damned spot” sleepwalking).
But before he can make it to the castle, Macbeth comes across Demona and offers protection in exchange for her help in defeating Duncan. And lo, the sisters are there to help make this pact a real deal, spiritual spitshake style. There’s a really nice filter effect where the “objective” camera sees the sisters as adult women, Demona as gargoyles and Macbeth as witches; something I believe predates the Ian McKellan Macbeth (which suggested a lot of hallucinations and shamanic totems in place of concrete magic) but has a bit of a reminiscent. And here we have the answer to what these two are doing running around in modern day: Macbeth gave his youth to Demona, an act which ties their life forces together.
So neither can die while the other lives, and they feel each other’s pain. Oh, and bee-tee-dubs Duncan ordered your father’s murder, here take this glowing orb, okay byeeeeeeee.
And for a while, their alliance works. The gargoyles get kitted out in armor and get to take revenge on at least some humans (which includes Demona picking a guy up and smashing his skull into a cliffside, a fact I’m sure S&P was assured the guy survived), and Macbeth is able to get far enough with his armies to challenge Duncan on the battlefield. It doesn’t go well, and things look dire, until Macbeth remembers that doom orb. He lobs it at Duncan, who breaks it open, and…..he explodes in flame from the inside out. The cliff he falls over after is probably overkill, but it does stop us from having to deal with the charred corpse.
That means we end on another seeming happy ending, with Macbeth crowned king of Scottland and Demona (newly named, and her pride is seriously adorable) given the position as his foremost advisor. A good plan with no downsides or built in mutually assured destruction.
The present day bookend reveals Xanatos’ plan to break the spell. As with awakening the gargoyles, it’s a technical meeting of that loophole, something which would no doubt get tired if used more often but which I nonetheless love when it’s deployed. So he’s rigged up himself, his robots, and the gargoyles with gas packs that they have to dispense across the city’s atmosphere. After 25 minutes the robots explode, the gas lights up, and the sky looks like it’s on fire for a few seconds before burning harmlessly out.
Goliath agrees to it, no doubt largely because Xanatos is putting himself on the line too, and they head out. That leaves Owen and Elisa, frozen in the middle of a heated argument (the banter of which, along with Xanatos’ interjections, might be one of my favorite things); and Demona, who brought her mace along to night two of the smashing party. Cliff. Hanged. All that good stuff.
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of room for things to become more dire on every level.