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Next up for my Ramblings is "The Mirror". What follows is the UNEDITED memo I sent to story editor Brynne Chandler Reaves regarding the first draft outline for that episode.
This is one I had very specific ideas on, so I may have been even tougher than usual. Oh, well...
Notes on "The Mirror" Outline...
Brynne, I hope you consider this flattering: I'm gonna be very tough on you here, because I think you can handle it. It's not just because of this outline, but because in general, I want you to be handing me cleaner, more finished pieces. Although the story is full of great ideas, there are logical and structural problems here that need fixing. As I've discussed, I want to be less "hands-on" so that the schedule keeps flowing and we all stay sane, but that means I need you to catch much more of this sort of thing before I ever see it.
One particular concern of mine (and not so incidentally of Gary Krisel's) is padded first acts, where nothing of substance happens until the cliffhanger. Each story dictates its own structure, so I don't want to make any hard and fast rules, but this is one thing you should be thinking about on every episode you edit or write. We can have a prologue scene or two. But we don't want to turn the whole first act into a prologue to events that only begin seconds before the commercial break.
Scene One is a nice prologue. So is Two, if it's brief. Three, Four and Five are padding. Six is good prologue, but by this time it feels like padding. Seven is problematic from a character/logic standpoint. Finally, we get going at Eight.
And opening acts aside, we need to beware of scenes that serve no function in the structure of the story. A real good character moment is worth a detour on occasion. But our stories have to be coming out of character anyway, so nine times out of ten, the detour shouldn't be necessary.
Ever since "Reawakening" we've tried to make the Gargoyles much more pro-active. But even by first season "survival-mode" standards they seem downright slow to act here. In scene Three, they suspect magical bad news is on the way. In scene Six, they confirm Demona's involvement. Yet in scene Ten, they go to the play in the park like nothing was wrong. Worse, in scene Sixteen, when the humans are transformed, the younger gargoyles actually think that the transformation is part of the play? They're more sophisticated than that. And instead of reacting like it's a problem, they just want "contact with their kind". I wouldn't mind a wistful line that summoned up their feelings about how this reminds them of their old lives when there were many gargoyles and/or that it's nice to be able to walk out in the open without everyone running away screaming, but they have to realize that this transformation is bad news. Then in scene TWENTY-TWO (that's the beginning of ACT THREE and a full fourteen scenes after Goliath battled Demona in the museum) they "are certain now that Demona is behind this". Who did they think was behind it for the last act and a half? This is a good sign that we're either short on structure, heavy on padding or both.
We must have a clear theme that involves at least one of the "good" gargoyles in every episode. We shouldn't have to dig deep for it. It's what focuses the events that dictate our structure. Today's theme is "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." It applies to Demona, obviously. But it applies to subconscious desires on the part of Goliath. And wistful, but conscious desires on the part of Elisa. And even (to a small extent) the desire of our young trio to assimilate. Emphasize the theme as much as possible.
GARGOYLES AND MAGIC
Please remember that the gargoyles are largely ignorant of the workings of magic. They have an advantage over humans in that they know magic exists. That's about it. Demona and Macbeth have had centuries to study it. Guys like the Magus and the Archmage dedicated their lives to studying it. Brooklyn, on the other hand, is no expert. I doubt he can even read Latin. And the GRIMORUM is not a textbook that would provide easy answers even if he could read it. It is, in essence, a cookbook. If a recipe is torn out, there's no way to infer very much about it from the remaining pages. Remember, the Magus had the sleep spell he used on the gargoyles, and even with that and all his training, he couldn't wake them up without the specific page that held the counterspell. HOW could Brooklyn find a list (scene 5) that matches Demona's list? WHY would the Grimorum list the items for one specific spell twice? HOW could he know the name (Scene Eight) of the entity being summoned?
Could the Grimorum tell them that Puck's spells must be reversed before dawn? Or how Puck frees himself? Unlikely. (Would Julia Child's cookbook feature recipes by the Frugal Gourmet?) But (if we assume Goliath reads Latin, and could make heads or tails of the Grimorum, without having to sit down and spend an entire week reading the thing cover-to-cover to find a helpful passage in a book which, as you noted, has no index) -- it is possible. We always skate by a few things in every script. But the more we have to skate, the thinner the ice in general. Something that normally would fit neatly beneath our audiences suspension of disbelief, becomes one more contrivance in a story that's got a few too many.
First off, she's not looking for an equal partner or ally. She's made that clear enough. That's exactly her problem with Xanatos. He always wants to know what's in it for him. He can't be easily controlled. He's fine if they have a mutual interest (resurrecting Goliath or Coldstone), fine if she can con him into helping her (as she does in "City of Stone"), but the latter isn't easy. Otherwise, they can't work together. They're goals are too diverse.
As for Macbeth, don't even bring him up. This story airs before CITY OF STONE. She hasn't seen Macbeth for decades probably. And it's been centuries since they worked together on anything.
None of this changes the story, but it's important to get her mind-set clear. She isn't summoning Puck as an ally. But as a slave.
And what does she want her slave to do? Basically, this episode is going to underline Demona's truly short-term thinking. She knows she wants humanity eradicated. But not what she'd do if she ever accomplished that goal. She's closed her heart to anything that doesn't serve her immediate short-term plans. (She's really, really screwed up.) At one point, Puck should offer her Goliath. He can make Goliath love her again. But she's so distracted by her hatred for Elisa in particular and humans in general, that she can't keep a positive thought in her head. Her monolithic and myopic fanaticism allow Puck to make a primate out of her, literally and figuratively.
First big note from Adrienne and ME: we cannot play this character like he's a demon. His summoning in particular came off as very satanic. Let's try to make it more fanciful and magical. One thing that would help avoid this problem, is to be clear about what Puck is. If we aren't clear, people might think demon or devil. If we are clear, they'll believe us. We've got to establish, not only Puck, but his entire magical race. They are the third sentient group that once populated our planet in addition to humans and gargoyles. We need a name for this race that we can be comfortable with. (We can say at some point that the Scots called them the Fair Folk; the Vikings called them Dark Elves. But neither name is great. There must be something that could work for us. "The Oberati" perhaps, after their king?)
Then we need to set some rules and limits. Particularly given what we know about the Weird Sisters (and about Puck's secret identity). Obviously, not all of these rules need to be spelled out in this script. But let's make sure we know them. Let's begin by saying that the Oberati can all shape-shift. But when they morph into a form, they're stuck with that form's limitations. No magic happening if they pose as human.
In their true forms, they have a lot of magic power, but a rule against the direct use of it in the world of man (witness the Weird Sisters more indirect manipulations). Maybe this is a command from Oberon which they are afraid, but not unable, to break.
An obvious exception to the rule occurs when they are enslaved by someone else who commands them to use their magic. They are off the hook responsibility-wise, so they can go to town. Thus, most cultures have wish-granting legends about Leprechauns or Djinn or whatever.
Conveniently, the Oberati are creatures of pure magical energy. When they cast a spell, the spell doesn't have the limitations imposed on the studied magic of human or gargoyle sorcerers. The subjects of their spells don't have to see and hear them to be affected. It's a more fluid, less structured form of magic. Magic to the Archmage is an art, craft or science to master. Magic to Puck is as natural (or super-natural) as breathing.
But even Puck must have his limits. Even magical energy should be finite. We MUST establish this fact, at least. If Demona asks to get rid of all the humans on the planet, Puck will have to admit that it's too much for him. Would she settle for all the humans on the island?
Did the Gargoyles meet or hear of Puck specifically, back in the tenth century? I doubt it. They lived fairly isolated lives out at Wyvern. And Puck didn't get famous until Shakespeare made him famous quite a few centuries later. Maybe they've heard stories about the Fair Folk, but again, let's resist the temptation to make Goliath or Brooklyn or Hudson experts on the subject. They seem pretty perplexed by the Weird Sisters in "City of Stone". That should define their reaction to Puck, whom they're meeting here prior to that story.
Why does Puck help Goliath turn stuff back to normal at the end? Well, for this episode's purposes, it'll probably work that Goliath holds the chain and issues a command. But Demona held the chain, and Puck always found a way to circumvent her commands. So why doesn't he do the same to Goliath? Two reasons, probably. First, it further annoys Demona, who he's peeved at for enslaving him in the first place. Second, once Puck is free, he can return to his secret identity, where he's been having such a good time. He wants things back to normal himself. Still in future appearances, we need to be sure that Puck doesn't turn into a personification of Deus ex machina.
Use it sparingly, but it's o.k. with me if Puck breaks the third wall and addresses the audience on occasion.
Finally, Puck's name. The Disney execs are of two minds on this. Bruce prefers Goodfellow. His main concern is the constant policing we'd have to do to make sure Puck doesn't ever come out Fuck. Ellen feels that Goodfellow has more association with Satan than Puck does and that Puck is safer on that level. I'm really torn. I tend to agree that Puck is a slightly more recognizable Shakespearean reference than Goodfellow, and thus stonger and safer. I also think the name suits the character. On the other hand, I think Goodfellow is an effectively ironic name for a character who is, for all intents and purposes, a villain. Part of me really wants to use both. Could the spell that enslaves Puck to Demona have something to do with her knowing his true name, Robin Goodfellow? Adrienne, I think, is on the fence with me. But I'm not sure. We should probably discuss this one last time before you go to script.
Think of the Wicked Queen's Magic Mirror times ten. It is a window, a doorway, a Peeping Tom.
HUMANS AS "GARGOYLES"
As we discussed, I don't think the humans notice they've been transformed. Some of the ridiculous fun of this episode should be to see them, walking around, going about their normal business, briefcases and subway tokens in hand, with no indication that anything is different. If they looked in a mirror, they'd preen as usual. They wouldn't freak out or recognize the change.
Although they have wings, I don't think it occurs to any of them to start gliding around the city. And if they see (the soon-to-be more self-aware) Elisa flying, it would be shocking: "Look, Mommy, that lady is flying!!" It's not that they'd see her suddenly as a gargoyle. (It'd be like seeing Superman. A normal enough looking person. He just happens to be leaping tall buildings with a single bound, which is, of course, unusual enough.)
When Goliath and clan walk among them as gargoyles, I don't think they see them as unusual. For once, looking like a gargoyle is normal. Like Halloween, in "Eye of the Beholder", it's another rare moment for our guys when they can be out in the open. (This may have been what you had in mind in scene 18. I wasn't clear.)
However, when Goliath and company enter their midst as "Humans", it should scare them. Once again, ugliness is in the eye of the beholder, and the "human" Goliath is still the monster. We should not skip this beat (as you planned to in scene 24). We should play it. It can be bitter, poignant and, yes, funny. (Appealing to Puck's dark sense of humor (and mine too, for that matter).)
ELISA AS A "GARGOYLE"
Like the other transformed humans, Elisa doesn't immediately realize she's been transformed. And looking in the mirror won't clue her in either. (And in any case, Elisa isn't the type to faint dead away.) In fact, she might turn to Goliath and suddenly ask, "Could you remind me why you guys are hiding up here in the clock tower?" Suddenly, they don't look so strange to her. Goliath is going to have to sit her down and talk her through the differences between humans and gargoyles. Her realization should play like a fog lifting.
And we probably should play out Goliath and Elisa both as gargoyles for an act. Maybe he teaches her how to fly. Maybe they're just about to get close enough to do the gargoyle equivalent of an embrace, when he's transformed to human. Get it so that we can all almost taste it. Then yank it away. (I know, I'm a cruel bastard.)
I also want to contrast Goliath's reaction to "gargoyle" Elisa with Elisa's reaction to "human" Goliath. He may say, "Elisa, I never realized how beautiful you are," because he always liked her for her inner beauty but, frankly, never found her physically attractive (no wings, no tail--shudder). And he's always made that mental distinction between the surface and what lies beneath.
Elisa never did. She recognized his inner beauty in episode three or four and ALWAYS thought he was handsome. Even before this episode, I think she's thought about the two of them and come to the inescapable conclusion that romance is impractical. Better keep it platonic. I think he's had those feelings, but has never connected to them mentally. (Look, no matter what the species, or how evolved the individual, he's still a guy. And guys are fundamentally stupid about this stuff.) Until this episode, it never crossed his mind that Elisa could replace Demona in his heart. The fact is she already has. But he never thought about it before now.
OUR GARGOYLES AS "HUMANS"
To be consistent, they shouldn't recognize the change until Elisa points it out to them. Maybe they were about to leap from the clock tower, and Elisa has to stop them and say: "Look, guys, you don't have wings anymore!"
But let's keep in mind that these guys are still heroes. NO WAY are they going to agree to step back because a gargoyle Demona is too tough for them now. Did Elisa ever step back when she was human? For that matter, there have been plenty of humans willing to go toe-to-toe with the gargoyles. Certainly Goliath is as brave as Macbeth or Wolf or Commando #3.
Also, I got confused in scene 29. Goliath has been transformed to human. That means human proportions. Sure, he'd be a big guy, but not as big as he was as a gargoyle. I don't know why armor would fit, say Broadway, and not him.
In contrast to our typical episodes, I think this one can have a more absurdist tone. Puck should both further the tone with his actions and undercut it with wry asides. Plus there'll be romantic stuff, also undercut, this time by Goliath's reaction to Elisa and the genuine frustration that comes from the situation's mutability.
GOLIATH BLAMES XANATOS...
For everything, it seems. In "Lighthouse" and to a lesser extent in "Leader", we've played the beat of Goliath mistakenly going to the castle to confront Xanatos for something that the latter had nothing to do with. I think by now, Goliath has learned his lesson. Particularly since the going's on here smack much more of Demona or Macbeth than Xanatos.
DEMONA'S HOME BASE
Let's get a clear sense of what this place is like. Particularly, how it is distinct from Macbeth's mansion: we've played his place like Wayne Manor. Dracon has the penthouse at the Park Manor Hotel. And Xanatos has this incredibly cool castle-on-a-skyscraper H.Q. Demona's home needs to be different from all of these and special in its own right. Also give us an at least approximate idea of where this thing is located. Gramercy Park, maybe?
SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
This was a great way to ground our Puck in Shakespeare, as opposed to Satan. No doubt about it. And no fault of yours, but I want to save this setting for a story that Michael and I have discussed involving Macbeth and an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Plus, in this story, I want to play with Manhattan life going on, business as usual, despite the fact that everyone's been turned into a gargoyle. We can't do that if we limit ourselves to the Park and the closed Museum. I want to get this story out in the open. Have the "gargoyle" humans reacting in panic to the "human" Goliath and clan, the way they'd normally react to them as gargoyles. That's an opportunity we won't get in another story. We must take advantage of it. But having taken the story out of the park, we should work other Midsummer references into the script. Name the mirror after Oberon or Titania, perhaps.
1. A warm Midsummer's Night. Demona arrives at the museum with grand theft in mind. She's come to steal the Mirror of Oberon (or whatever we ultimately call it) which has just arrived from Ireland (or Italy or wherever). The first museum security guard is no problem. But the second security guard turns out to be Elisa -- undercover, prepared and not without back-up, i.e. Goliath. They suspected that the mirror would be a prize too tempting for Demona to resist. Demona seems particularly furious over Goliath's continued "partnership" with Elisa. SHE HATES HUMANS AND SHE REALLY HATES ELISA!! (Demona knows how Goliath feels about Elisa, even if the big lug hasn't admitted it to himself yet.)
2. Anyway, we get a big action sequence in the museum which leads to a chase outside. Demona gets away from them, but without the mirror. And because our heroes are so thoroughly engaged in these activities...
3. ...They are absent when two high-tech but very human cat burglars show up at the museum, seconds later, to crate up and steal the mirror. (The real security guard is still unconscious and thus unable to do anything about them.)
4. The two thieves arrive at Demona's townhouse (or whatever) with the crated mirror. Otherwise, the scene plays pretty much as you had it with the delivery men.
5. Inside her home, Demona wraps thick iron chains across the glass of the stolen Mirror. She summons Puck. He comes flying out through the glass and thus winds up wrapped in the iron chains. He spends almost the entire episode with the chains pinning his arms across his chest.
6. Back at the clock tower, Goliath and Elisa are feeling like grade-A dorks. Elisa's just back from investigating the museum crime scene. It's now clear that Demona's job was to take out security and, if necessary, act as a diversion for the real thieves. Now the big questions are, what can she do with this mirror and how bad is this going to get? Perhaps this is a place to discuss the Oberati. Hudson tells what little he knows about them.
7. Our Demona and Puck scene. If he ever wants his freedom he must serve her. He tries to discourage her: he'd make a lousy servant. She doesn't buy that. Puck works for "him". He can work for her, etc. (That whole exchange.) O.K., okay, what does she want? Freedom from her one great vulnerability -- turning to stone during the day. What good is that, he wonders. You think you're gonna be able to walk down 5th Avenue in broad daylight? I can if you obliterate all humans, everywhere. What am I, the Genie of the lamp? There are limits, kiddo. C'mon, what do you really want? She pauses, and an image appears in the mirror. It is Goliath (in the clock tower, but we're tight on him, so we aren't tipping the location). Puck: "How quaint, after all these centuries, you're still carrying a torch. Well, if that's what you want, I can make him love you again. Although it will be really hard, because you're not exactly Miss Lovable." And then, in the mirror, Elisa steps into the shot, and puts a hand on Goliath's shoulder. Demona goes ballistic. She knows her heart's true desire. Get rid of the human -- Elisa Maza. Puck: "That I can do." He fires a magical bolt into the mirror at the image of Elisa.
8. Back at the tower, Elisa has a hand on Goliath's shoulder, reassuring him that they'll stop Demona's scheme, whatever it is. Suddenly, she is surrounded by a magical energy that rips her away from Goliath. The gargoyles try to help her, but they can't get close. We should think for a moment that this is the end of Rico... uh, Elisa. And then there is a blinding flash of light that whites out the whole screen. Followed by pitch black darkness. Elisa is still there. We see her silhouette as our eyes adjust and the light returns slowly to normal. She says she's o.k. And then she steps into the light. Transformed into a gargoyle version of herself.
END OF ACT ONE
Now I have to apologize. I know I promised you this for Monday. It's two a.m. Sunday and this is as far as I got. There's a reason (an excuse). Monday is Corporate Seminar. And my last act as an executive (before becoming a full-time producer on Tuesday) is to pitch all our new development to Michael Eisner and Rich Frank. This is a twice yearly event that requires a lot of preparation, and I just ran out of time to get these notes done. Normally, I'd pull an all-nighter, but I need some sleep to face these guys tomorrow.
You gotta admit, that was a pretty good excuse.
So I have to leave this to you. You're mission, if you chose to accept it, (AND YOU REALLY HAVE NO CHOICE IF YOU EVER WANT TO GET TO SCRIPT) is to write up a quick beat outline of acts two and three for me based on the sketchy notes below. It doesn't have to be long. Two to four pages is fine. The amount of detail that I gave you for Act One is all I'm looking for.
Act Two should have Goliath filling Elisa in about the change she's undergone. Maybe take her flying. Maybe this is where we get the line about him never realizing how beautiful she was.
Demona should be temporarily fooled into thinking Elisa's dead, and flushed with success, she asks Puck to rid all of Manhattan of its humans. Bing, bang, boom. Everyone's a gargoyle. People on the subway in from Queens, change into gargoyles as soon as the E-train hits the first Manhattan stop. "Gargoyles" on the way home to Jersey change back to human as they cross the bridge in their cars. NO ONE NOTICES AT ALL.
But Demona doesn't know any of this yet. She wants a tour of what she expects to be an empty city. Puck is secretly eager to see his handiwork, so they step into the mirror, which transports them to the heart of the city. Times Square, maybe? 5th Avenue?
Meanwhile, Hudson, Goliath, Elisa and the trio are all hunting for Demona. They quickly notice the change in the populace. (Maybe the shock of this wide-spread change interrupts what might have been the only chance Elisa and Goliath had for a same-species clinch.) They all know it's bad news, but the trio can't help enjoying the ability to walk among gargoyles again. Even if they are gargoyles in business suits: New Yorkers who still won't give them the time of day. Still, would it be so bad if this didn't get fixed? Yeah. Probably.
When Demona figures out she's been duped, she demands that the gargoyles be changed back to humans. Bing Bang Boom. Goliath, Hudson and the Trio are human. (I'm torn about Bronx. I guess the big dog is o.k. It just seems outside the terms of Demona's request, even by Puck's loose standards.)
Was Goliath flying at the time or is this another interrupted clinch between him and Elisa?
Act Three opens with Elisa saving Goliath from plummeting to his death perhaps. Then she has to make him understand that he has been transformed as well.
We wind up with a very public battle featuring Elisa and our Newly Human heroes against Demona and Puck. It's complicated by the fact that the general populace (who are all now Gargoyles) perceive the human Goliath, Hudson and Trio (and Bronx?) as monsters attacking what to them seems to be a very normal-looking Demona.
Still in the end, good triumphs. Puck makes everything right at Goliath's command, (but let's make it clear that at least in part, he's doing this to spite Demona and/or to suit his own agenda). Elisa is changed to human, before Goliath is changed back, and we have another near-clinch, that Puck interrupts with good-humored spite by changing Goliath back into a gargoyle.
Goliath frees Puck and he vanishes with Demona, rescuing her from Goliath.
Turns out Puck had more fun than he thought he would so he feels like he owes Demona a favor. He'll give her her original wish. No turning to stone during the day. (BUT WE NEED TO MAKE IT PAINFULLY CLEAR THAT SHE WILL STILL BE HER NORMAL GARGOYLE SELF AT NIGHT.) He takes his leave via the mirror.
Cut back to Elisa and Goliath for emotional wrap up. Just before the sunrise which, as usual, separates them.
And back to Demona. Silhouetted against the rising sun. It's up, and she's not stone. Puck kept his word, she can't believe it. Then she sees her human self in the mirror, which she smashes, yelling NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! And fade to black.