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Time to ramble...
I watched "Grief" the other night with my wife Beth, my nine-year-old daughter Erin and my six-year-old son Benny.
This episode was directed by Kazuo Terada & Takamitsu Kawamura, story edited by Michael Reaves based on his story. The teleplay is by Michael and Brynne Chandler Reaves.
Though Brynne co-wrote the teleplay, this strikes me as a VERY Michael episode. I remember how excited he was to be using the Tanna Leaves and the Avatar, plus all those other references to Thoth, Osiris, Isis and Set. I think it was something he had wanted to do on a Batman episode, but it hadn't survived someone's interference (my memory is hazy). But these MUMMY trappings suited our purposes perfectly. The Tanna leaves even gave Hyena hay fever.
The one word title, as usual, was one of mine. I liked it because it had that double meaning, covering the Emir's grief over his son, and all the grief (trouble) that this was causing. I have a vague memory that Michael wasn't thrilled by the title, but, hey, I gave him his Tanna Leaves...
One of us had Wolf speak to the second meaning in the episode when he says he's tired of the Gargoyles giving the Pack grief. Just to give things a bit of clarity.
The new Coyote 3.0 surfaces, complete with a slightly new design and that now iconic Xanatos robot head (smashed in his last appearance) displayed on a video screen. (Goliath mentions seeing it, although in the ONLY scene where Goliath could have seen it, it's not visible. Arggh...)
The new Coyote design obeys Frank Paur's general rule of robots, which states that if you're not trying to fool anyone into thinking that the robot is actually a human being, then the design should clearly be inhuman enough so that you'd never think it could be a guy wearing an armored suit.
Coyote's an odd bird in many ways. So like Xanatos, but without his drive and with more of a vengeful nature. Programmed in, I believe, so that he doesn't let anyone or anything stand in the way of X's missions. He's got some fun lines ("Shoot first and ask questions later."), in particular his exchanges about the chain of command...
Coyote: "I'm not programmed to kill without orders.
Wolf: "I'm giving the order!"
Coyote: "You don't qualify."
Coyote: "Is that an order?"
Emir: "YES! Get rid of them!"
Hyena continues to be attracted to a Coyote that doesn't seem interested but also never closes the door on the possibility of hooking up with the cyborg. ("Wanna make sparks fly?" "Later, perhaps.") It's sick and twisted and hard to get your head around, but it sure is fun, culminating with her wonderful complaint to her brother after Jackal destroys Coyote: "Every time I meet a guy I like..." (I also like those buzzsaws on her arms.)
It's important to note that Dingo is already missing from the group. Clearly, during and after "Upgrade" he was rethinking his association with the other members. This doesn't bode well for the Pack as a unit. They're already talking about going their separate ways after the Emir's work is through and are only still together because they owe Xanatos for busting them out of jail. After this, Wolf will head to Scotland, answering the call of his ancestor Hakon. Jackal & Hyena will take a job with Cyberbiotics and head for Guatemala. Dingo will go to work for Fox in his native Australia. Coyote 4.0 will be rebuilt and head for Arizona with Xanatos.
So "Grief" is the Pack's swan song -- that is until a new Coyote forms the Ultra-Pack with Wolf, Jackal & Hyena and a new member... someday...
To be perfectly honest, the Emir entered the Gargoyles Universe as a throwaway line of dialogue to indicate how powerful Xanatos was in "The Edge". If he could keep an Emir waiting, X must be a real bigshot. But Michael and I remembered the line, and used the Emir again as a semi-throwaway in "Double Jeopardy". But by that time, I think we might have already known we'd be seeing him on the World Tour. It's just an example of how the Tapestry seemed to be working for us. Creating opportunities that were so right, it almost seemed as if we were truly tapping into the Gargoyles Universe. How many of you were surprised to see the Emir actually appear?
The Emir was a very successful and poignant character (at least in my opinion). I give most of the credit for that to actor Tony Shaloub and Voice Director Jamie Thomason. Not to knock our wonderful designers and animators who brought that voice to life. But let's face it, he's just a guy in a robe. Now over the course of the ENTIRE production of Gargoyles, I would say that I only missed two voice sessions EVER. But one of them was this pick-up session with Tony. NOW, of course, everyone knows that Tony is an Emmy-winning brilliant actor of movies and television. I just love MONK. But back then, the only thing that Tony was really known for was the Italian immigrant cab driver on WINGS. Pretty cool in and of itself, of course. But having missed the session, I was unprepared for just how wonderful he was as the Emir. Everything from the grief-stricken sighs to the bursts of anger are just wonderful.
And while we're on the subject of voice, how about that other Tony, Tony Jay, as Anubis. He's delicious in three different personae -- as the neutral and imperious Anubis, as the crazed Jackal/Anubis and as the exhausted Emir/Anubis. That vocal effect we did of having both actors (Tony & Tony or Tony & Matt Frewer) read the Avatar lines and blending them together was a bit of accidental brilliance, in my opinion. I'm also glad that they do NOT quite synch up. It's better. The lines basically fit, but they ebb and flow around each other like the magical melding it's supposed to be. It was a bit of a bitch to mix, but I love it.
But I digress. The Emir's heartbroken love for his son is, I think, one of the cleanest and most purest emotions (unencumbered by too much fantasy) that we ever presented. Something very real. When the Emir first pulled out the photo of his son, Erin said "Who is that? Is that his son?" She immediately knew the photo had meaning. (Again, Tony's big sigh really helped.)
And at the end, we (along with Goliath) really hope that after gaining true understanding upon becoming Anubis' Avatar, he is now at rest with his son.
Jackal also truly comes into his own in this episode. I love how he flat out has a thing for jackals. How he admires the Anubis hieroglyph and Anubis himself, calling him "The original model". It's cool and creepy. We also truly get to see Jackal as a sociopath here. I think I've mentioned before that I view Hyena as a psychopath and Jackal as a sociopath, i.e. someone with enough sense to know he's got to do his evil within a schema that allows him to get away with it. But what happens when you free the sociopath from all restrictions. What happens when you give him (Matt & Tony, remember) the powers of Death itself? Well, you see what happens. People die. Lots of them, in theory.
Getting away with that was interesting. I think maybe in Adrienne Bello's mind, everything was set right. Or the fact that we see that Egyptian town age into a ruin didn't count because we weren't seeing ANY human beings die. But we had much more trouble getting those two skeletonized crocs past her than the implied death of an entire town. Misdirection. Or she was just being cool. Or both, i.e. she thought the misdirection was sufficient that she COULD be cool.
I love when Jackal/Anubis says: "Life and Death at my command. I LIKE it!" I also like that he's smart enough and sociopathic enough to co-opt the most dangerous guy in the room: The Emir. The Emir? you ask. Well, yes, it's the Emir who does in fact end up defeating him by rereading the scroll. And Jackal keeps the Emir in his place by holding out the hope to him that he will restore his son.
Seriously, how could we not go to Egypt on the World Tour. How could we skip visiting what Angela refers to as the World's Biggest Gargoyle. So we stuck a fictional temple inside it -- and then trashed it. I think dedicated archaeologists must hate our show, because we're constantly trashing these amazing hidden chambers of antiquity. Maybe I'm getting older or something, but I find myself wincing everytime Goliath and Wolf bust a sacarphogus during a fight, everytime a pillar cracks or the roof falls in. I'm just glad we didn't destroy the Sphinx itself.
Goliath's entrance into the temple isn't one of our most brilliant animated moments. For starters, when Coyote is touching the hieroglyphs, he seems to miss every one. Goliath than claims to be repeating the sequence, but it looks nothing like what Coyote did. Yet it works for both of them. Maybe getting into that temple isn't as hard as it looks.
I love how the power of death flows from Jackal/Anubis and then through the Sphinx's own eyes before striking out at Egypt at large. Almost makes the Sphinx seem to come to life in those shots.
And I do love that shot at the end where the gargs are in stone in front of the stone Sphinx.
Love Wolf's reaction: "Shave my head and call me baldy." (Or something like that, all ramble quotations are approximate.)
The animation effects on this episode are all fantastic, particularly the lighting during tranformations (very reminiscent of "Shadows of the Past"). Gorgeous. Another reason for me to be bummed that Disney closed its Tokyo studio.
I like how Anubis has no real mouth. Certainly no synch to his dialogue. My kids both commented on it. It fascinated them. But I also think it puts him on another level. His speech is that of a god. He requires nothing as mundane as a mouth movement to get his meaning across. (That's why it's so disconcerting in "THE GATHERING, PART ONE" when his mouth opens to laugh. He seems above something as petty as laughter, non?)
And how about Tony Jay and those great lines of godlike neutrality: "I grant but one boon." "Death is always pointless. That is the point." "All are equal in death." "You would not like to see the Jackal God play favorites." Etc.
All right, once again, let me acknowledge my screw up. I should have let Coyote shoot Elisa, Goliath, Bronx and Angela dead. And have nothing happen. At that moment in the ep, no one can die. Emir and Anubis are just covering that in dialogue. Instead, Elisa pulls off a fairly elegant move that allows them to escape. But how much cooler if the distraction were the mere fact that they survived the Pack's barage unscathed? I blew it.
Otherwise, there is some pretty cool action.
Coyote advises Elisa to take her best shot. She does and it's kinda cool. But less cool because she then comments on it.
Coyote's limp afterwards is a nice touch, I think.
When Elisa and the gargs wake up in chains, Erin says: "They all wake up at the same time suddenly." Leave it to a nine-year-old to point out an obvious cheat.
Erin said, "Yuck, disgusting." when Jackal first transformed.
Benny: "He wants to be the strongest, I'm guessing."
Benny didn't quite get why the Gargs were turning old. (Designing a demonstably old Bronx was NOT easy, by the way.) Or for that matter why Hyena and Wolf turned into Cyber-baby and wolf-cub. (Though both kids thought they were cute.) So the exchanging of energies lacked a bit of clarity for our younger audience, perhaps. Still any excuse to give Keith David an opportunity to do a variation on a theme is fun. Like hearing Keith play Thailog, it was also cool to hear him play a very old Goliath. The guy's a maestro of his own voice.
I do remember arguing with Reaves about the Baby and puppy moment. I thought (a) that it was funny and (b) that it was necessary to illustrate Jackal/Anubis' power. Michael simply thought it was too silly in tone. Now, I'm very glad I held firm. I think it's a great moment. And a little in-context humor really helps any episode. (I also love Jackal's "Baby sister" line that prefaces the change.)
I think in hindsight, Goliath's explanation that the gargs aged at half-speed and Jackal didn't know it, is a cheat. They are visibly very old. Internally, they'd be no less old. It's not like Jackal was thinking, "Hmmm, if I age them fifty years that should be enough." He just kept aging them until they were old and feeble. It's also not like biologically a gargoyle's exterior ages faster than his or her interior.
Ironically, commenting on that was not necessary for the purpose of explaining the action. If there had been no explanation and Goliath had used sheer will power to drag himself up for one last feeble attack, I don't think anyone in the audience would have balked. Rather, I think that dialogue was put in by me to definitively establish the fact that Gargs age at half speed. Oh, well...
Anyway, that's my ramble. Where's yours?