The Consulting Analyst – The Hound of Ulster/Walkabout

banshee

The intro is here.

I promised a post to make up for the radio silence on Christmas, and your Analyst does their best to deliver on promises.

wisp
Watery women in Ireland are not as obliging about giving out swords
No swords, actually. Mostly murder

The Hound of Ulster

Here

Disenfranchised youths! In Ireland this time! Who wants to take bets on whether this story is handled with more grace than any of the other rudderless young adults we’ve met over the course of the tour? They’re even delinquents this time, so it can have extra punch when our wayward young man Rory comes home and his father gives him the spiel about hurm hurm you come from a noble family and you should comport yourself more befitting your heritage. And all Rory can say is have you looked outside though. Specifically he mentions a terrible economy, but I can’t help but get a bit of subtext of The Troubles around the whole thing. Of course the man’s worried about his son being out late – technically the IRA declared a ceasefire in 1994, but that was nothing like a safe bet that the violence had actually stopped. Arguably that is all too bloody to be even subtextually referenced, but a few weeks ago we had “Golem,” so…..

The tourists land and are almost immediately driven into a bog as they try to escape from some kind of hellish screeching noise. Bronx manages to crawl out of the much and go for help, while the other three are pulled out by the very creature who was tormenting them. We have a Banshee on our hands, as you might’ve guessed from the description, with a touch of will o’ the wisp in the whole “mysterious light leading people to their deaths” thing. Her ears are pointy and she’s animated with all the floaty flourish the animators have clearly been aching to use since Puck’s last appearance.

Yup, we have another one of Oberon’s children on our hands – it’s actually fitting here as opposed to in “Heritage,” since the Banshee is a cousin of the spectrum of fae lore. Her big scene with the gargoyles essentially amounts to exposition, but it is still packs quite the punch between the flowing animation, washed out coloring, and about as vague as they can push it for a kid’s cartoon hinting. The Banshee can tell that the tourists have come from Avalon, and concludes that Oberon has sent them to bring her back for “the Gathering.” She’s hellbent on avoiding that fate, and is ready to torture the travelers to death for information they don’t have about the king of the Third Race. It’s not necessarily tense, since our heroes are guaranteed to make it out alive, but the trick of having an already powerful character acting desperate to avoid the hand of an unknown, unseen player does a lot to add a sense of foreboding to both what we’ve seen (Avalon) and what we haven’t (Oberon).

The gang is ultimately saved mostly by happenstance: while all this has been going on Bronx has been out looking for help, and managed to track down Rory….and also to accidentally run him off a cliff, but it was only a couple stories so the guy’s fine. This is such bad news for some reason that the Banshee – who turns out to be the true form of Rory’s fellow delinquent and girlfriend Molly – is willing to drop her info gathering session in order to intervene. Rory really was special, as it turns out. But more for the “prophetic dreams and reincarnation” reasoning than the “proud and noble bloodline” nonsense (nobody in these stories is ever free to walk away and chooses to stay anyway, outside of Elisa. It’s kind of a bummer).

said hound
Oh no, yeah, the droopy porno stache and hellghast eyes are very alluring
The Crypt Keeper will be sending flowers any day

The revelation that Rory is actually the reincarnation of famous Irish hero Cu Chulainn kind of ends up being the episode’s saving grace. It fully extracts the “duty to country” narrative from any real-world connection and places it on firm footing as a mythic story. It’s still kind of tired at this point, but at least it’s not irritating in an attempt to connect to actual history. And while he’s not so well known as Arthur or Macbeth, Cu Chulainn is an equally huge mythic figure – Morrigan even appears in his stories, so it seems impossible that the writers weren’t planning a crossover with Arthur that never came. Though I confess I find the visual design a bit baffling – this is a guy who was so beautiful that women everywhere supposedly fell at his feet (and also his Totally Platonic Bro Ferdiad), an image slightly jarred by the “supersized Gimli” look.

So Rory goes to the ancient tomb he’s been having visions about, recovers his memories and does battle with the Banshee. Bronx gets to help, because this is trying so hard to be his episode (though in truth the tourists are almost completely ancillary to this episode’s plot). And at the end, Rory gets to have a whole Captain Marvel relationship with his rippling, beardy alter ego, a fact I am sure he is immensely relieved about. And now that his present day life is totally erased by the burdens of hundreds of years ago, I’m sure it will be a relief to stop worrying about things like “being financially soluble” and “fearing political unrest” ever again.

outback 2 boogaloo
Didn’t I just write about a trippy fantasy Outback?

Walkabout

Here

You may’ve noticed (or maybe not, if you’re just reading these recaps) that Dingo wasn’t around in the last Pack episode. That’s because he’s gone back home to Australia to find himself, ostensibly by going on the titular “walkabout.” This is suggested to him by a shaman, a poor and unfortunate cipher we’ll return to in a bit. The tourists arrive and get into a bit of a dust up with Dingo before they’re forced into an alliance against a strange grey goo. Hideo Kojima did not get a guest writing credit on this episode, but I have my suspicions.

See, Dingo also happened to be here to run perimeter security for Fox, who’s visiting her mother Anastasia’s laboratory out in the Outback.  They’re working together to create a hive mind of nanomachines called The Matrix (1995, sit back down), which Fox intends to use to completely recreate the world as her new family sees fit. Apparently she’s handling the material aspects while Xanatos sorts out that immortality. Because we’re not to forget that they’re selfish, awful people who aren’t going to go out of their way to screw someone over but are fully content if it happens to occur (though she did hire Dingo to make sure no civilians wandered onto the testing site. Baby steps?). Just terrible. And that….

mama fox
The Xanatos family is gonna have a baaaaaaaaby, they’ll be so evil and cute

Um. As you might expect, the self-replicating nanobots are well on their way to being self-aware, meaning that Fox and Anastasia spend part of this episode in a 50s sci-fi B movie. Complete with appropriate musical cues. It’s amazing. For an arc that was meant to widen the world of Gargoyles it falls prey to narrative repetition far more frequently than earlier episodes, making this little slice of genre experimentation a welcome break. But eventually they all end up at that little campfire in the middle of nowhere, talking about how the nanobots are on the verge of covering the entire earth. The initial attempts to wipe the program fail, leaving only one option: Dingo and Goliath have to enter the “Dreamtime” in the hopes of reasoning with the Matrix.

Here I am of two minds. On the one hand, the Dreamtime segment itself is a beautiful setpiece (which retroactively bears an amazing number of similarities to Gravity Falls’ “Dreamscaperers”) that capitalizes almost perfectly on Gargoyles’ central fascination with the melding of dichotomies (magic and technology, tradition and progress, so on). It also makes a great spotlight for Dingo, who’s always been rather apathetically on the Bad Guy side and has an opportunity to take active steps from neutral to decisive heroic action. It’s wonderful. It is also the thread of another spin off that the show never got the proper time to explore.

The mystical setup to get to this scene, on the other hand, is probably the biggest load of bullshit since “Heritage.” There is the distinct sense that the episode began with this central “journey to the mind” sort of idea and then worked backwards in building how they would get there. Hence, the Shaman has no name, personality or perceivable motivation besides being a Wise Old Black Man/breathing exposition for the heroes, and the route to the Dreamtime doesn’t seem to have any consistent rules beyond “hush it’s magical, and we need it to work this way,” which is extremely noticeable in a show that has been very strong in defining how its magic functions. It’s a lazy, lazy plot device hiding behind the shield of the world tour conceit, basically, and only the strength of the rest of the episode makes it possible to ignore the corner cutting.

That makes two episodes of impending major plot development: there’s a momentous “gathering” on the horizon, and Fox is quite far into her pregnancy. We’ll be spending another five weeks sailing around the world first, though.

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5 comments on “The Consulting Analyst – The Hound of Ulster/Walkabout

  1. Ayanami says:

    Though I confess I find the visual design a bit baffling – this is a guy who was so beautiful that women everywhere supposedly fell at his feet (and also his Totally Platonic Bro Ferdiad), an image slightly jarred by the “supersized Gimli” look.

    Cu Chulainn FIXED:

  2. Hey, maybe ancient Irish women liked moustaches.

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