Dear Koko Animation,
Please decide whether or not Demona has cheekbones. In fact, the answer is no – Demona doesn’t have cheekbones, it makes her seem like she’s (relatively) 90 years-old. What the hell is wrong with you?
Visual oversight aside, Gargoyles, as implied in the previous review, is truly making some headway in the narrative department. Even though the first two parts of the “City of Stone” saga is heavily dependent on flashbacks, the actual story is moving forward, questions are answers, stakes are raised, and major events begin to occur. We finally get Demona’s take on events during and after the gargoyle massacre in “Awakenings,” and if there was any doubt to Gargoyles’ connection to Shakespearean allegories, well, three creepy sisters would like to tell you otherwise.
The Weird Sisters that pop up in and out of the various events in the first two parts of “City of Stone” are wonderfully creepy, giving an extra surreal sheen to already surreal events. They seem to be helpful to a mystical fault, as they attempt to persuade Demona to team up with Macbeth to defeat the Hunter (in the past), yet give Goliath warnings to be wary of revenge (in the present). They also drool over an upcoming “event” 975 years in the making, and they seem complacent in the machinations of Prince Duncan’s horrific acts back in 1000AD. Maybe they’re just mysteriously opportunistic. I doubt it, though.
“City of Stone” finally destroys the already tenuous alliance between Xanatos and Demona, which was on thin ice back in “Reawakening.” In the first part, Demona promises Xanatos that the spell she has will prolong their lives for centuries. Xanatos allows her to broadcast this spell to the world via Pack Studios video equipment. Xanatos knows something up, and tells Owen to only watch or listen, not both. Owen opts to only listen – but the spell isn’t right. When he goes to fight back, Demona traps him and forces him to watch AND listen to the whole thing.
These events are interspersed with the tragic story surging at the heart of Demona’s life struggle. When Goliath and Hudson headed off to fight the Vikings, Demona argues with her partner/betrayer. He reassures her that the Vikings won’t break the stone gargoyles in the morning, but let’s be real – we’ve all seen No Country for Old Men (alright, alright – The Dark Knight). There are some forces that you just can’t reason with, and Demona’s suspicions trigger her to duck out for the evening, away from the castle. Sure enough, when she gets back, everything is destroyed. She can’t bear to face Goliath upon his return, so she retreats into the night.
Weismen and co. use this opportunity to, for better or for worse, create their own Shakespeare play of sorts, creating a scenario about a soon-to-be-coronated prince named Duncan concerned about the popularity of his cousin, Macbeth, to the point that Duncan goes out of his way to plot his (and Macbeth’s father) death. The story they tell works so, so well, despite that it doesn’t make a lick of sense, since succession is purely about bloodline, not popular vote. Duncan would have been king no matter what, no matter how much more popular Macbeth seems to be (nor does the show display the populace’s reaction to Duncan or Macbeth, so a lot of these opinions are based on heresay).
The basic tale, though, is what’s so intriguing, so full of twists and turns and, yes, contrivances, because as much as we seem loathe to admit it, the best tragedies consists of contrived, convenient events that end in horrific results by people who mean well but tend to be viciously misguided. So the tale begins here, in the first part of “City of Stone,” where we see a young Macbeth fall in love with a girl named Gruoch, but is forced to marry a man named Gillecomgain by the decree of Prince Duncan. The scratches on Gillecomgain’s face are the result of a claw swipe from Demona many moons ago, when she attacked a stable boy while scavenging for food. This scratched boy has grown up to be an masked assassin, sort of, known as The Hunter.
Demona, during this time, has been laying low, gathering expatriot gargoyles and striking at the humans in quick, hit-and-run skirmishes. She relishes the chance to finish off this Hunter, who was sent after her as well, so by narrative decree, she gets indirectly roped into this story as well. The whole thing is big, grand, and dramatic, with boastful words to no one but the audience, grand gestures that add weight instead of melodrama to the preceding. The final conflict between the Hunter, Macbeth, Macbeth’s father, Gruoch, and Demona is, as mentioned, contrived as hell, but works, because it’s a tense, thrilling scene. especially since we know Gargoyles isn’t afraid to kill off a few of its characters. The Hunter kills Macbeth’s father, but escapes when Demona, with a surprising amount of heart, saves Macbeth and Gruoch from their deaths as well.
In the present, Owen calls Xanatos to warn him about Demona’s incorrect spell, but the sun goes down. As the gargoyles emerge from their stone slumber, the entire city of New York who watched (and listened) to Demona’s broadcast entered their own stone slumber. Fox was a victim of the broadcast, and the first part ends with a stone cold Fox (literally!) at the controls of Xanatos’ helicopter, her and Xanatos falling to their deaths. And the worst is yet to come.
The second part of “City of Stone” is vicious. Demona gleefully smashes a number of stone humans, and frankly I’m stunned that Disney let this happen. When the gargoyles were destroyed in “Awakening,” that at least happened off-screen. Demona’s rampage is up front and center, and it literally sent chills down my spine. The gargoyles follow her trail of destruction and death, and they have another bizarre conversation with the Weird Sisters, warning Goliath of the dangers of revenge. These three continue to be wonderfully mysterious, and I’m not sure if their end game will be revealed in the next two parts, or later in the second season.
We get more information about the past and Demona’s backstory, her continuing fight with the Hunter, and more intrigue involved with Prince Duncan. I have to admit that I’m somewhat confused. Gillecomgain here says that Macbeth is heir to the throne. So Prince Duncan isn’t? I’m not sure if Duncan wants to take out Macbeth because he’s afraid that his popularity would garner supporters for him to be a potential king, or if Macbeth is heir to a different castle and Duncan simply is resorting to literal backstabbing to snag more power. Why Duncan feels Macbeth is a threat is unclear. Maybe he just wants to murder some guys. Maybe he just likes to fuck with people.
That might be the case, actually. Duncan orders Gruoch to marry Gillecomgain and then pushes for Gillecomgain to finish off Macbeth. The Hunter refuses, and Duncan, who clearly doesn’t like to be refused, “reveals” to Macbeth that Gillecomgain was the one who killed his father. More swooping plot developments and grand events and elaborate betrayals give “City of Stone” an exciting foundation that even the best Gargoyles episodes so far seemed to lack. And these events are given an extra element, when the Weird Sisters convinces Demona to strike the Hunter, with the help of Macbeth. She’s reluctant, but concedes.
We get a great final sequence, with Macbeth, The Hunter, and Demona once again going at each other with Gruoch in the midst. It’s all swords, maces, and good ol’ fashioned fisticuffs, with a bit of thematic parallelism when Macbeth saves Demona life as the Hunter falls to his death. Macbeth and Demona seem linked somehow, and I wonder if the Weird Sisters are involved, since they want Demona and Macbeth to work together so much. In the end, Macbeth marries Gruoch, and Prince Duncan seethes while he watches from afar. While it’s still confusing as to why exactly Duncan hates Macbeth so much, there’s something stirring as he grasps the Hunter’s mask in his hand. He then hands over his son to three familiar, creepy female caretakers.
Back in the present, the gargoyles track Demona to Pack Studios, where Xanatos, who managed to land the helicopter safely, destroys the broadcast of Demona’s spell. And suddenly, a modern day Hunter appears! He and Demona go at it, and Koko’s fight scenes continue to be effective even though their character model designs fluctuates way too much. “City of Stone,” with its epic tone and larger stakes, should have been animated by Disney’s signature animation studios. Still, there are so many interesting things in the air now, especially now with this Hunter around and Demona on the prowl – not to mention the city still in the midst of a rocky situation. To that end, Goliath has no choice but to team up with Xanatos, which is never a good sign.
Next week looks to be very interesting.
[I decided to grade “City of Stone” like I graded “Awakening” – as a whole. So the grade will come next week!]