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So I unexpectedly came off work early today and found myself with a bit of free time-- not much, mind you, but enough. I don't know what it says for my intelligence or creativity that my thoughts immediately wandered to television, but eh . . . free time is supposed to make you feel good, not benefit humanity as a whole. And it felt like it'd been awhile since I'd gotten to actually sit down and watch anything (as opposed to, say, piping up the volume and listening from another room while I do this, that or the other thing). I wasn't sure what, if anything, I was in the mood for, and cast a casual eye onto my DVD shelf.
Well, why not Gargoyles? The quality ratio and fun factor with that show is so high that the only difficult part there is choosing which episode to run. So I pulled down Season One.
Initially I thought to watch Awakenings, but that's a lot of time to commit for one sitting when I had other things to be doing later on. I decided I'd watch "Enter Macbeth" instead.
It is, of course, one of my all-time favorites. mainly because of its titular character.
I actually watched it two times through for the hell of it. When I was finished, I ended up thinking and rethinking through a lot of it . . . and then somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered ASK GREG.
So, I thought I'd ramble. That *is* allowed, isn't it?
Yeah, we'll tell the truth on this one: The episode does kinda look like . . . well, crap. I have a much more affectionate eye for the episode than I did upon first viewing and look past a lot of it now, but there are still moments of "Enter Macbeth" that I can't get out of my head as something to say, "God, that's some [your negative adjective goes here] animation." I can't quite put my finger on what it is-- the whole episode just feels so off from a visual standpoint.
This would, in fact, become the start of one of the things I disliked most about this particular studio. When gargoyle wings fold over cloak-like, you should not see the three "limbs" as you do when seeing their interior. Or at least, you don't in the better animation studios. Drive me nuts; don't know why.
And of course, there was that one shot of Macbeth with the most yellow friggin' teeth. WTF?!
Greg, it's been many years since I've checked the archives in any great detail, but I think I remember you saying something like, "I was sure that the bad animation would make it so that almost no one would be interested in seeing Macbeth again." Well, this is one of those instances where the characters and plot shine through to make up for an episode's lackluster animation. (I call them "Korean Incidents".) It never detracted from the story. Not for me, anyways.
Let's start with Macbeth himself. This is an interesting character. At first glance, he appears to come out of nowhere. His motivations are unclear, so for now he's just "the bad guy". So how do you sell him without the cool backstory that will be developed later?
You have him kick copious amounts of ass, both literally and figuratively.
The scene with him posing as a prison guard is a highlight. So much of the credit for this episode should go to John Rhys-Davies, who from what I can tell just leapt into the role. Although, is it my failing memory or is this practically the only time that Xanatos and Macbeth have any real interaction with one another? If this is true, then that's a shame because they play well off of one another. But why would Macbeth introduce himself as . .. well, *himself*, rather than Lennox MacDuff (presuming that this is the identity he's gone by for many hundreds of years as a cover)?
Look at this guy, though. Not only does he wait for the gargoyles to awaken, he takes them all on single-handedly and wins. Not only that, but he takes prisoners. All on their home turf, and without so much as breaking a SWEAT. His knowledge in these "creatures" is so expert that he knows precisely what to do and how to do it with cold and calculated precision.
Check that attack. He throws (an admittedly off-guard) Broadway into Hudson and over the castle edge with ease. Then before anyone else can react, he tosses the smoke pellets and gains the upper hand over everyone else. Confusion ensues. The gargoyles who can't see and don't move end up blindsighted by gargoyles who can't see and DO move in very wrong directions. Or by Macbeth himself, who most assuredly can see and makes short work of Brooklyn before he can do a damned thing.
From there, it's just zap zap zap and it's finished. "Captured me three gargs in under 20 seconds, EL-OH-EL."
I always found this battle to be interesting in and of itself. Macbeth, for as much as we know this far in the game, is ordinarily human. He doesn't have biological enhancements or special powers or even henchmen; he's as human as you or me. And he takes them ALL down. Hell, Goliath himself probably gets the worst of it-- the outcome is so nakedly humiliating that I'm blushing. Oh, and that body slam into the fusebox didn't help either.
And is it me, or was Elisa WAY too close when Goliath came swooshing down after being electrified by the hull of Macbeth's ship? I say that she was damned lucky: If he had actually COLLIDED with her at that speed, I say that she might've been crushed to death.
So now Goliath leaves to track them down. Hudson and Broadway are left to defend the castle, but of course that's another subplot all its own.
Elisa warns Goliath that it's not safe to stay at the castle. Hell, she says it three times in a row. And his best reaction is to shrug her off-- something he won't be so apt to do in later episodes. He took off awful fast to rescue the other gargoyles at that point, almost as though he couldn't avoid the conversation fast enough.
Something else we don't see a lot of in later episodes tends to show in abundance with regards to Season One and particularly "Enter Macbeth", and that's Goliath Pissed Off. It was only juuuuuuust last episode that he was in a rage over what he thought was Elisa getting shot by Dracon. Goliath holding Dracon over the railing was a powerful dramatic moment. (Although in hindsight, he does that a LOT. Twice in "Awakening" with Hakon and Xanatos, Dracon in "Deadly Force" and I think at least once more somewhere down the line, although I can't remember when.) But in "Enter Macbeth", it's kinda flipped around. Goliath caught Dracon with relative ease, and it was clear what he would have done had Broadway not fessed up in time. Goliath never catches Macbeth, though. And he spends so much time chasing mirrors and shadows that I think Goliath might have been pissed enough to do worse than simply drop him. So we get to see a lot of vicious anger on his part in this ep. Roaring. Tearing through walls. Getting into a slugfest. Goliath isn't just another species, he's a dangerous one when it comes to the defense of his clan.
But that just makes Macbeth even cooler. Now it's Goliath who's handled with ease. Think about that for a moment. GOLIATH. A gargoyle warrior who is more than a match for just about any human out there. But against Macbeth, and especially on his turf, that same gargoyle finds himself at a disadvantage. And what makes that so interesting is that Macbeth isn't this ZOMG "genetically-engineered gargoyle sorceress hybrid mutant clone" superior foe. He's a human being. A human being with technology up the wazoo, but still human.
Look at the way he handles himself in their duel, after the chase is over. It's completely even. It was smart of Goliath to grab for a weapon when he got the chance, because even if weaponry isn't his habit I think he knew that against a sword-swinging Macbeth it was his only real chance. Even so, Macbeth doesn't relent. Goes on and on. Fights until the mansion is about to go up in flames . . . and he never gets too angry or panicked even when forced to escape. Is he pissed because the plan went to rot and his house burned down? Sure, why not? But he still takes it all with a certain amount of stride. No loud threats for vengeance, no personal grudge against Goliath, no real "villainous" actions taken at all (except, maybe, leaving the other gargoyles to burn alive). He just leaves when the gettin's good, and knows a little more for next time.
Love that little slip-out-of-the-jacket thing, by the way.
No, Macbeth doesn't have extra emotions to waste on Goliath and company. He wants Demona, Demona, Demona. The other gargoyles are just pawns (albeit useless ones as it turns out). I think it was a wise decision for her to not show up in this episode at all; it would have been too convenient, not to mention that it would also have detracted from Macbeth's character study. This is his episode.
Back at the castle, the remaining Gargoyles decide to take the Grimorum off Xanatos' hands. Now Owen gets his moment, too.
Hudson: Who's going to stop us? You?
You can tell by Hudson's attitude that he didn't expect Owen to knock his ass onto the floor. I don't think any of us did! Then, before Broadway can intervene, he's got a loaded gun pointed at his head. (I don't think that S&P would let that slide nowadays.) Owen is capable and reasonably prepared, no matter the circumstances. I think it's great that it's Elisa throwing a crutch at him that effectively turns the tables-- for all their strength, the gargoyles ended up pretty helpless otherwise.
Ah, well. All part of the job for Owen Burnett. However, I wonder if he faced some sort of penalty or reprimand for failing to prevent the theft of the Grimorum.
I despise when recurring characters are introduced via Korean outsourcing. I would say, introduce them some other way, and then give them crap animation somewhere down the line. Macbeth has a great character design; it should have been introduced through one of the better studios, perhaps the best one. (Not that I'm implying fault. You can give only so many episodes to Japan's Tokyo outlet; you make your choices and you live with 'em.) This is one of those episodes that I say to myself, "Damn, I'd love to see what this would'a looked like with kickass animation."
The "City of Stone" four-parter becomes interesting for this reason, given that we see how many changes Macbeth has gone through throughout the centuries . . . again, both figuratively and literally. It's not done by the Tokyo studio, but we're given so many designs for Macbeth. It's wonderful.
I've gotta start dinner now, so I guess that about does it for me. Later!
We couldn't know while writing scripts which episodes were headed for Korea vs. Japan. Of course, nowadays, things in Korea have improved quite a bit. ALL of The Spectacular Spider-Man is animated there, and we're generally thrilled with the results.