Gargoyles: “We are Defenders of the Night….”

The Manhattan Clan

Heigh-ho, DiNozzo!

DAY FIVE of Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, coming at you!  How’s your week been so far, Tony?

Miserable?  Huh.  That’s strange.  I’ve been having fun this whole time.

Hah-ha!  You missed!  Try to head slap me again, and I’ll call Gibbs down on you!

Easy, easy!  If you’re that desperate for me to start talking then I’ll just skip the pleasantries and jump right in.

You are?

All right, here we go!

Back in the 1990’s, Disney had an interesting animated series called Gargoyles.  It starts out one night in New York City.  A storm is moving in.  People are walking along the streets when they hear loud explosions from the top of a nearby skyscraper.  Looking up, they’re in time to notice falling debris.  Everyone jumps out of the way as huge blocks of stone crash to the street below.

The police arrive and push the curious crowd away from the scene.  One detective, Elisa Maza, gets close enough to the stones to notice one block has huge claw marks in it.

Her musing is cut off as more blocks fall and she has to pull back.  But what could leave claw marks like those in solid stone?

The answer?  Gargoyles.

Gargoyles, as a series, technically begins in 994 A.D. at Castle Wyvern in Scotland.  Vikings are attacking the castle.  It is almost nightfall, and the Viking soldiers are nervous.  They say it is insanity to attack a castle with gargoyles near night time.

But their leader, Hakon, intends to take Wyvern at all costs.  Declaring that the gargoyles “are no more than carven stone” he leads his men in climbing the walls.  He reaches the top of the tower, where the biggest gargoyle sits in a thoughtful pose. The sun sets….

And the gargoyles, starting with the one nearest Hakon, shed a skin of stone and spring to life!

Hakon is shocked, but still attacks the huge gargoyle (6ft, 10 inches tall) above him.  The gargoyle is called Goliath by the residents of the castle for his size and strength.  He blocks the Viking’s stroke but has his hand cut in the process.  Hakon urges his men to fight the gargoyles since they can be hurt.

The attack is pitiful as the gargoyles almost playfully drive the Vikings away.  Goliath throws Hakon after his men, and the Viking leader swears vengeance for the humiliating defeat the gargoyles have handed him before he, too, retreats.

At a feast in the hall later that night the teenage Princess Katherine, ruler of Castle Wyvern, offers the Captain of the Guard her thanks for such a brave defense.  The Captain replies that it was Goliath and the gargoyles who really won the night.  Princess Katherine frostily requests that he avoid mentioning “that monster’s name in my presence!”  No sooner does she utter these words than the doors to hall are thrown open and Goliath and his mate enter.  The Captain hastily explains that he asked them in so they could be thanked for their bravery.

The entire castle court, present for the feast, is affronted by the gargoyles ‘daring’ to enter their company.  Both the Princess and her magician, known only as the Magus, describe the gargoyles as beasts to their faces.  Goliath’s mate (voiced by Mirina Sirtis, a.k.a. Deana Troi) hisses angrily at the insults but Goliath pulls her back and excuses the two of them from the party before trouble can erupt.

Outside on the walls, the Captain apologizes for the insults but Goliath brushes them off.  She does not, accusing her mate of having neither a sense of justice nor of pride.  Goliath responds that it is the nature of humans to fear what they don’t understand and seemingly calms her down.  Later on, the Magus is shown flipping through his book of spells in search of something.

At dawn the gargoyles return to the walls where the rising sun again turns them to stone statues.  Just after the sun has risen, a lone rider leaves the castle.

In the camp of the Vikings, he speaks to Hakon.  “You seek to take Castle Wyvern,” says the traitor.

Hakon is skeptical until the man mentions a way may be opened for the Vikings to get in.

That night Goliath, his mate, and the Captain talk about the threat the Vikings still pose to the castle.  The Captain suggests Goliath take his clan of gargoyles and hunt down the Vikings so they cannot attack the castle again.  Goliath’s mate seconds the plan, but Goliath himself is leery of the idea of leaving the castle defenseless.  He also reasons that the plan puts too many gargoyles at risk.

However, he’s not averse to chasing down the Vikings himself.  Because of his size and strength, he feels he can “scare those cowards away without any help.”  His mate begs to go with him but Goliath refuses.  As his second-in-command, she will have to remain at the castle to keep order among the other gargoyles.  Still, he promises that he won’t go after the Vikings completely alone.

With this plan settled, Goliath goes to find his traveling companion.  His mate flies off to another section of the castle and watches two younger gargoyles play with the castle gargoyle ‘watchdog.’

A young human boy named Tom, curious about the gargoyles, approaches the two and asks their names.  They reply that only Goliath has a name; traditionally gargoyles don’t take names.  The budding friendship is halted by Tom’s mother as she pulls him away from the gargoyles in fear.  One gargoyle with red skin tries to assure her that they would never hurt the boy but her response is to throw an old bone at him, catching him in the beak.

Angered, Goliath’s mate enters the situation, reprimanding the scared woman for her behavior.  Things get further out of hand when the two gargoyles start ‘teasing’ the woman and a few other peasants attracted to the noise.  Before things totally spiral out of control, Goliath and an older, one-eyed gargoyle drop down between the gargoyles and humans.  Goliath chastises the two gargoyles and a third (who was eating during the fuss but arrived on the scene in time to be mistaken as a partner in the mischief).  He sentences the three and the ‘watchdog’ to a night in the rookery, the part of the castle where the gargoyles keep their eggs.

Goliath’s mate defends the three, claiming it was the humans who started the fight.  Goliath, although he cannot permit fighting between gargoyles and humans, promises that he will make amends with the three punished gargoyles the next night.  Then he and his mentor take off to find the Vikings.

It takes the two all night to catch up with the Norsemen.  When they do, they find only a handful of Vikings leading the band’s horses as a distraction.  Turning back to get to the castle, Goliath and his mentor are too late.  The sun rises and both transform into their ‘stone sleep’ for the day’s duration.

That day Hakon attacks the castle.  Though the human defenders fight, they are betrayed.  The archers’ bowstrings snap and someone opens the portcullis.  The Vikings rush into the castle and begin a slaughter.

Running to get to her commander, Princess Katherine meets the traitorous Captain of the guard who grabs her wrist and leads her away with a snarl.  The castle is soon sacked and the Vikings have carried the day.

On the walls at dusk, Hakon and the Captain discuss their deal.  Then Hakon turns to a nearby stone gargoyle and raises his mace.  The Captain tries to stop him but when the Viking leader threatens his own life; the traitor sits back and watches as Hakon begins smashing the defenseless gargoyles to pieces.

That night, Goliath and his mentor return to find the castle burning and their clan rubble.  Goliath is especially distraught when he finds his mate’s perch.  Mourning his ‘Angel of the Night,’ Goliath finds the punished trio and ‘watchdog’ are the only survivors of the Wyvern massacre.  The five unanimously decide to rescue the inhabitants of the castle and then get revenge on whoever betrayed them.

In the camp of the Vikings, Princess Katherine vows to see both Hakon and the Captain hang for what they’ve done.  When the Magus suggests what he would do if he had his book of spells in hand, Hakon contemptuously rips a page from the book and burns it.  The little chat is interrupted by a gargoyle roar.  Terrified, Hakon orders his men to attack while the Princess seizes her opportunity and makes a run for it.  Hakon and the Captain pursue her with the intention of killing her while the forgotten Magus attempts to free himself.

The three young gargoyles, the watchdog, and Goliath’s mentor quickly chase off the Viking band.  But the round of congratulations is cut short when the Magus, having freed himself, spots them.  The last he saw of the Princess, she was running for her life from Hakon and the Captain.  Thinking she’s been killed and in a blind fury, he casts a spell on the bewildered gargoyles.

Meanwhile Goliath, who saw the escaping Princess, has arrived to help her.  She and her two captors are backed up against a cliff and Goliath is furious when he recognizes the Captain.  The Captain begs his old friend for mercy, saying that if he had only taken the whole clan with him they would still be alive.  When Hakon attempts to divert Goliath’s wrath solely onto the Captain, he becomes enraged and attacks the Viking.  In the struggle the two fall off the cliff, knocking the Princess off as well.

Forgetting his rage, Goliath rushes forward in time to catch and rescue Katherine.  He is too late to do anything with Hakon and the Captain, who tumble into darkness.  But Goliath has little time to mourn his lost revenge as Tom, taken captive by the Vikings with his mother during the day, rushes up to him and the Princess with bad news.

Returning to the Viking camp, Goliath finds his remaining gargoyles turned to stone at night.  The Magus is about to do the same to him when he spies Princess Katherine.  Goliath orders the magician to restore his friends but the Magus cannot.  The counter spell was on the page Hakon burned earlier in the evening.

However, the terms of the spell are that the gargoyles “shall sleep until the castle rises above the clouds.”  So there is hope, albeit faint and thin.

Restoring his friends to their places in the castle, Goliath accepts the apologies of both the Princess and the Magus who have changed their opinions of him and his species.  He then asks that they each do something for him: he requests that the Princess guard and care for the gargoyle eggs in the rookery since they will soon hatch.  On receiving her promise, Goliath then asks the Magus to cast the spell he put upon the other gargoyles on him as well.

As dawn breaks over the silent castle, the audience spots Goliath in his accustomed place atop the tower of Wyvern castle.

Whew, that is one of the longest descriptions I have ever had to write!  And this is for the first two episodes of a five part opening!

Aw, come on, DiNozzo!  I’m almost out of breath here!  All right, tell you what: there’s too much detail in the next three episodes, so I’ll attempt to sum them up.

Castle Wyvern stands in its exact place for a thousand years.  Then, in 1994, a millionaire named David Xanatos arrives and buys the castle lock, stock, and barrel.  (Interestingly, Xanatos is drawn to resemble Jonathan Frakes, who voices the character throughout the run of the series.)  He transports the castle to the top of his newest skyscraper, high above the clouds.

This fulfills the terms of the spell and awakens Goliath and the other gargoyles.  Xanatos tries to make friends with them, and an attack on the castle seems to help reinforce his claim of friendship.

Still, once bitten is twice shy.  Goliath’s trust is no longer easily given to whoever asks for it.  Xanatos finds the huge gargoyle hard to bring around, and he doesn’t seem to like it.

Later, Elisa Maza arrives at the castle atop the skyscraper to ask about the noise she heard, the fire of automatic weapons.  Xanatos shows her around after telling her that his “multi-million dollar company” is threatened on all sides and he has a right to the arms he keeps on hand to protect his assets.  After the tour he asks his butler, Owen Burnett, to show Elisa out.  On the way Elisa spots one of the gargoyles but doesn’t realize he’s not made of stone.  Owen tells her he gets the creeps around the old castle at night, too.  He puts her in the elevator and leaves.

But Elisa doesn’t.  Stopping the elevator, she proceeds to poke around the castle.  The watchdog and Goliath surprise her and Goliath has to rescue her when she accidentally falls off the parapet.  Taking her back to the castle, he explains the gargoyles’ history and she explains what a detective is.  Curious about this new human (who is equally curious about the gargoyles), Goliath agrees to meet Elisa the next night a few rooftops away.  As the NYPD detective leaves, Goliath is summoned to Xanatos’s office.

Xanatos tells Goliath the attackers stole important ‘talismen’ (computer disks) from him.  He asks Goliath if he and the others would be willing to go and get the disks back.  Though he is grateful for Xanatos’s awakening the clan, Goliath draws back from doing this.  He is unwilling to send his entire clan into open battle when they don’t know the risks.  Xanatos lets the subject go and Goliath leaves, as it is nearly dawn and he will have to sleep soon.  But it’s obvious that Xanatos wants Goliath to go after those disks.

So the day passes and Goliath goes to meet Elisa.  His mentor drops in almost as soon as the two meet, having come to make sure Goliath wasn’t walking into an ambush.  Elisa’s response is that the two gargoyles are “paranoid even for New York!”  She then offers to give Goliath a tour of the city and asks what to call his friend.  When it’s revealed that Goliath’s mentor has no name, a debate between Elisa and the older gargoyle ensues.  In the end, the old warrior agrees to take a name honoring the Hudson River in order to satisfy Elisa (the Hudson part, not the river part, you goose!).

To get from place to place, Goliath has to carry Elisa since she can’t fly and he would attract attention by walking down the street.  This leads to an awkward moment that hints Goliath and Elisa have begun a romance; a hint the newly named Hudson sees right off the bat.

Oh, gee wiz, it’s not an impossible plot twist, Tony!  Remember the series Beauty and the Beast?  It even happens in real life!  Have you married Ziva yet?  No, but you’re giving each other the look.

Whoa!  Hey, no head slapping here!  That’s Gibbs’s department!  Do you want me to call him?!

Then sit down and let me finish.  Thank you.

Anyway, Elisa and Goliath’s night is going fine when the same people who attacked the castle come after Goliath.  They manage to sting him with a tranquilizer dart but it has very little effect on the giant gargoyle, merely making him unable to take off and somewhat drowsy.  Elisa soon discovers how the mercenaries found them; someone planted a bug on Goliath.  Taking it off, the savvy detective attaches the device to a stray dog and helps Goliath farther into the park.

But the pursuit continues until dawn, when Goliath must again transform to stone.  With the renegades closing in, Elisa takes action.  She leads the band to the lake in Central Park and manages to lose them there, returning to the spot where Goliath is sleeping to guard him through the day.  As night falls Goliath sheds his stone skin and stretches.  Elisa is as surprised by this as by his sudden change to stone during the day.  The two agree to meet later that night and then part ways amicably after shaking hands.

Back at the castle, the trio learns from a returned Goliath that Hudson took a name.  Inspired, the three then name themselves: the red gargoyle calls himself Brooklyn; the large (bordering on fat) gargoyle takes the name Broadway, appropriately enough; and the smallest calls himself Lexington (thereafter called ‘Lex’ for short).  Brooklyn then names the watchdog Bronx, though the creature seems less than enthusiastic about the new name.

After the round of name-giving, Xanatos calls Goliath to his office yet again.  This time, however, he has a surprise.  A door in his office opens to reveal Goliath’s ‘Angel of the Night,’ alive and physically unchanged by the centuries!

Their reunion is happy enough but something is off, or at least it is to the audience.  Goliath’s mate spins a story about begging to be frozen like the rest of the clan and that Xanatos bought her before purchasing and moving the castle.  He then brought her to the castle to see if she was also under a spell, at which time she awoke as well.  She next suggests that the clan go after the stolen disks, hidden in three facilities belonging to a rival company, as a thank you for Xanatos’s awakening them.

Can you say ‘set up’?

Overjoyed to have her back, though, Goliath agrees to the plan.  He sends Hudson and Bronx after one facility and the trio after a second.  The third, a floating fortress, is his and his mate’s to attack.

The two other teams accomplish their missions easily enough, retrieving the disks but hurting no one.  At least, they hurt no one very seriously.

The fortress battle is another matter.  Goliath and his mate easily knock down a few guards, but then Goliath’s mate prepares to drop one of the unconscious men out of an open hatch.  Goliath is horrified by this attempt at murder and prevents it.  Because they’re in a battle, Goliath has to concentrate more on the task at hand then on his mate’s sudden change in behavior.  The two soon retrieve the disk and Goliath is prepared to simply leave.

His mate, however, has other ideas.  She rips a power cord out of a console and sets it to the control systems of the fortress.  This wrecks the fortress’s ability to stay aloft and it starts to plummet into the bay.  Goliath is forced to avoid telling his mate off so they can instead focus on escaping the sinking ‘ship.’

On a pier below, Elisa arrives as the fortress crashes into the bay.  She catches sight of two gargoyles gliding away from the scene and recognizes one of them as Goliath.

At the castle, the clan gives the disks to Xanatos and goes outside.  Remembering his promise to meet Elisa, Goliath tells the others he has to meet a friend.  His mate becomes angry, saying that the clan has no friend other than Xanatos.  Because of her behavior aboard the fortress and her outburst here, Goliath doesn’t name Elisa and remarks that while his mate says the centuries have changed him, they seemed to have changed her more.  He leaves the castle, and his ‘Angel of the Night’ goes in to see Xanatos.

Meeting Elisa on a rooftop some distance away, Goliath is surprised to find her angry and somewhat hurt.  She reports about the break-ins and admits to seeing Goliath and another gargoyle leaving the doomed fortress.  When Goliath replies that they were merely taking back items stolen from Xanatos a few nights ago, Elisa proceeds to give him proof that nothing was stolen but the disks he and his clan took, which belong to the other company.  Xanatos has used the gargoyles to do his dirty work for him this whole time!

No, this does not make Goliath happy.  And an unhappy gargoyle, especially one of Goliath’s size and strength, is not a good thing.

Goliath returns to the castle in time to help his clan fend off an attack by robotic gargoyles built by Xanatos.  Programmed with the information from the stolen disks, the so called ‘Steel Clan’ is nevertheless trashed by the more adaptable gargoyles.

Xanatos then resorts to hand-held weapons.  Goliath receives yet another brutal betrayal when he sees his mate side with the villain.  This leads to an angry argument between the two.  Goliath’s mate finally reveals that she was in on the plan to sack Castle Wyvern in 994.  Though the Captain had said that he would protect the gargoyles while the Vikings were in the castle, she hadn’t trusted him and had spent the day elsewhere.  “I’ve stayed alive this long because I don’t trust anyone!” she tells Goliath.

She then proceeds to lay the blame for the gargoyle slaughter on Goliath because he didn’t take the entire clan with him to chase down the Vikings, instead leaving them behind to protect the humans.  Goliath responds that there are evil humans but also evil gargoyles; he tells her the massacre would never have happened if she and the Captain hadn’t betrayed the castle in the first place.

Finding she can’t turn Goliath, his former mate fires her RPG (she likes big guns) at him.  Goliath, though blinded by tears of pain, manages to dodge the shot but is knocked over.  His mate then points the RPG directly at him and tells him she was also named by humans.  “I am Demona,” she says as she pulls the trigger.

Her shot is sent awry, though, as Elisa slams into her to save Goliath, having arrived to help the clan fight Xanatos.  The wild missile streaks into a stone tower which tilts over in the direction of the two disoriented females.  Xanatos is knocked out by falling debris as the tower crashes onto the parapet, breaking it and sending Elisa and Demona falling.

Because Elisa cannot fly, Goliath swoops after her.  He manages to rescue her but cannot go after Demona, who is hammered by falling stones and continues to fall until she’s out of sight.

Yeah, unless I heard or saw her go splat, I wouldn’t buy that she was dead either.  Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be completely sure she was toast even after the splat.

But this is off topic.  Still wounded by this unexpected treachery, Goliath grabs Xanatos and threatens to drop him over the castle wall, too.  Elisa and Hudson turn him against the tempting idea by stating that if he drops Xanatos he’ll be no better than Demona.  Goliath relents and instead lets Elisa arrest the billionaire, who smiles smugly because he’ll be out of jail by dawn.

Speaking of which, the sun is about to rise at this point.  As the gargoyles prepare to sleep, Elisa and Goliath chat for a few minutes.  Goliath’s face is quite a picture when Elisa suggests that they could go and catch a Giants game the next night.  Goliath, of course, suspects she means real giants.  As he freezes in stone sleep Elisa muses to herself about whether or not New York is ready to have the gargoyles flying over it.  On this note, the episode concludes….and the series begins.

Okay, yeah, that was a little more than a short summing up of the introduction to Gargoyles.

Now I’ll tie up the loose ends.

While Gargoyles is an undeniably fascinating series, it does suffer somewhat from dark themes and plot arcs.  I find that these types of stories were prevalent in the ‘nineties as writers somehow decided upbeat stories were no longer the ‘trend.’

The series also ends up, in my opinion, overplaying its hand with both the magic characteristics of the gargoyles’ history and Xanatos’s wanton dabbling in scientific matters (he didn’t stop with robots but went so far as to clone Goliath as well as mutating four humans into humanoid cats with giant bat wings, one of which was Elisa’s younger brother Derek).  Though the magic aspect causes its own problems, the series’ dive into berserk science is equally heavy throughout the series’ three seasons.

Despite these darker viewpoints, the series’ exploration into the gargoyles as individuals makes it very intriguing.  The romantic hints that often showed up in situations with Elisa and Goliath were also a fun angle to the show.  In essence, one could argue, this odd romance was the driving theme behind the entire series.

All in all, I think it’s a real pity that the show was left with a cliff-hanger ending in the third season.  Although Gargoyles continued in comic book form for some time, in a decade where an animated TV series could run for years (witness the 90’s X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man shows, which each ran for about seven years), this series didn’t deserve such a brief send off.

If they ever decide to revive the show, I’d be happy to take a look at it.  Though I will add that I would hope they could drop the darker features of the original series.

What is tomorrow’s note about?  You don’t really expect me to tell you what I have in mind, do you, DiNozzo?

Well, all right.  One hint.  I may be talking about something related to Disney tomorrow.

Ah, that’s all you get!  Nothing else!  Nada! Zip!

Later,

Mithril

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