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Time to ramble...
Chapter XLVIII: "Pendragon"
Story Editor: Brynne Chandler Reaves
Writer: Lydia Marano
Director: Dennis Woodyard
There's a wonderful children's book called "Something's Coming" about three stuffed animals and [SPOILERS] a sneeze. I hadn't read that book when we did this episode, but it was all I could think of reviewing the opening minutes now.
In fact, what's coming, according to Macbeth, is the "Harmonic Convergence". When I heard that, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that this was a Cary Bates episode. (Cary, at least for a time, was very into incorporating all sorts of New Agey schtick into his work [cf. his comic book series SILVERBLADE published in the late 80s by DC Comics].)
Of course, as noted above, this was a Brynne/Lydia/Greg collaboration. No Cary at all.
A BRIEF STOPOVER IN LONDON
Arthur arrives in his "City of Wonders", i.e. modern day London. We throw in some beauty shots of the city from "M.I.A." here. It helped us trim a few bad seconds of animation later in the episode, and helped establish the mood a bit better.
With Arthur arriving at what must have been his final destination from Avalon's point of view (minus a quick Stone of Destiny hop to NYC's Guggenheim Museum), his skiff sinks down into the water. I always imagined that the skiff resurfaced back on Avalon. Having shown this here, I didn't feel bad about NOT showing the sinking skiff in "Gathering, One" when our quartet returned to Manhattan. Allowed us to keep some surprise at their arrival at the Clock Tower.
Arthur makes a point of using a mace, since his quest is to find EXCALIBUR and we didn't want to confuse the issue by having him simply exchange one decent sword for the subtlety of a better sword. Or at least not until the end of the ep.
We also made a point of him missing Merlin, which was a bit of foreshadowing to the proposed Pendragon spin-off, where Arthur and Griff's first order of business would be a Quest for Merlin.
Speaking of Griff, his silhouette is a bit too distinctive here for my tastes. I wish it hadn't quite given away his indentity so soon. His design is somewhat inconsistent in this episode. As I mentioned during my "M.I.A." episode, Frank, Greg Guler and I were never 100% satisfied with the design. In this episode, in particular, he has some real Foghorn Leghorn moments.
The first real stop on Arthur's tour is Westminster Abbey. The door is locked, which makes sense in the Twentieth Century but not to a guy from the Sixth Century. And it perhaps makes even less sense to us in the 21st-Century. Is that all the security that exists there: a locked door? And of course, GARGOYLES continues its traditions of wantonly damaging historical sites, when Arthur uses his mace to enter.
Inside we find the Stone of Destiny in it's 1990s home beneath the throne. Shortly thereafter, the Stone would be moved to Edinburgh Castle. As for the Stone, I perpetrated one of my favorite mythological devices, which is conflating various similar concepts... so the Stone of Destiny (i.e. Jacob's pillow) also becomes the Stone from the Sword in the Stone, i.e. the stone from which Arthur drew Excalibur. And the thing talks!! What's interesting to me now, is that Arthur doesn't seem surprised by the fact that it talks. Legends state that an inscription revealed that "Whosoever pulleth this sword from this stone [and anvil] will become King of Britain." But perhaps there was no inscription, and the stone talked from day one. One question: Is the Stone itself one of Oberon's Children (in stone form) or is it magically enchanted? (I lean toward the latter, but it's interesting to ponder the former.)
Arthur, without Excalibur, had hoped that the sword would have returned to the stone. He's frustrated when he finds it hasn't. But he doesn't doubt his "ownership" of it, until much later in the episode. The Powers That Be are much less sure of Arthur's claim on it. They are constantly reminding him that at best, all he has is a shot at it: "It belongs to the True King. Are you still he?"
I also love how Arthur says that he hates riddles. It just feels so right for my interpretation of Arthur as a man who LEARNED to be a thinker, but to whom it didn't necessarily come naturally. Said interpretation of course heavily influenced by the works of T.H. White. Anyway, that poem/riddle which Griff recites (an unknowing trust past down across generations of the London Clan) was written, as I recall, by Lydia. It was hearing this poem that reminded me that she had written this episode and not Cary.
Note that everytime he sees a gargoyle, Arthur asks if he's "of Goliath's Clan".
BACK AT THE RANCH
Once again, we abandon our travelers to focus on life on the homefront with the Trio & Hudson. We will, once they've met up with Griff & Arthur, get a bit of an update on how updated our left-behinders are. They've heard from Halcyon Renard that he spotted Goliath, Elisa & Bronx in Prague. They've heard from Diane Maza that she spotted them in Nigeria. [I have to assume that all communications were channelled, per Elisa's suggestion, through Matt.] Now they learn about the travelers stop-overs in London (from Griff) and Avalon (from Arthur). [All of this was a bit of a risk, as we couldn't guarantee the airing order of the World Tour episodes. But I guess we felt it was a risk worth taking in order to give us a bit of legitimate continuity. Fortunately, it all worked out.] I'm curious if Angela was mentioned by either Renard or Diane (or Griff or Arthur after the adventure was over), and if so how prominently. Also, Griff demonstrably proves that other Gargoyles still exist in the world. Though the ramifications of that and of Angela clearly don't sink in with Hudson and the others until "The Gathering, Part One".
You'll see flashes of Brooklyn taking charge in this episode. With no one (including him) questioning it or even making an issue of it. I guess the lessons of "Kingdom" stuck.
You'll also see Broadway destroying one of Macbeth's lightning guns. But in contrast, Griff -- a man of HIS era, i.e. the forties -- comandeers the other one and makes it a part of his arsenal. I liked that, even -- or especially -- with the spin-off series in mind.
WILL OF THE WHISP AND OTHER STRANGERS...
I've since revealed here at ASK GREG, that the Will of the Whisp (introduced here by Macbeth, who uses both science and sorcery to control and utilize it) is the primitive magical entity that Oberon's Children evolved from. Sort of the Homo Erectus of the magical set. (Or maybe something even more primitive like a lemur or lungfish.)
The Lady of the Lake surfaces (literally). I like Lexington's "And she was right in our own lake.." for its understated humor. Also, this gives Hudson an excuse to say "Jalapeña", thus fulfilling another of the verbal challenges that Voice Director Jamie Thomason set for me -- and thus further pissing off the contingent of artists who truly HATED that expression. I think this may be one of the last times, until "The Journey", that we used it.
Anyway, we constantly raise the question of why the sword and the Lady associated with it were now in New York and not in Britain. Of course, the short answer was that we wanted to involve Hudson & the Trio without sending them on their own World Tour. But in fact, we did have a larger purpose. We wanted Arthur to become a player on the World Stage. A larger stage, as the Lady says.
I wasn't wild about that Water Djinn sequence. We wanted Arthur to solve the problem through leadership. But having him order Griff to use the Lightning weapon seems a fairly feeble solution to me (even though I endorsed it at the time). Wouldn't Arthur simply be electrocuted?
It's a goofy joke, but I still chuckle at Lex saying "Brooklyn" and Brooklyn answering.
I also am amused by the fact that it's Banquo in his slow pondering way that gives Macbeth the idea -- if not the ambition -- to take Excalibur for his own: "Hey Boss, you're a king. And you've been alive a long time..." Mac, an established Arthurphile, may seem an unlikely person to try to supplant his own hero. But it perfectly suits my interpretation of the character. Our Macbeth may not have the ambition of Shakespeare's Macbeth. But he's always been a man to sieze an appropriate opportunity. And he's always been a man in search of his own purpose. Perhaps this business of being a "Timeless King" and everything else that Excalibur represents in the past and future provides the reason for why he's lived for a largely tormented nine hundred years. Of course, Mac is also a man of honor. He vies for the sword. But when it becomes clear at the VERY end that Arthur is indeed its true master, he swears fealty to the (Whitean) Once and Future King. The thought DID cross my mind to add Macbeth to the cast of regulars in my PENDRAGON development. To give Arthur, in essence, two knights: Griff & Macbeth. But the dilemma comes in the fact that any spin-off has to stand on its own two feet. Characters can have backstories, but you can't assume that the audience has seen x amount of episodes of Gargoyles. I felt that telling Arthur's GARGOYLES-related backstory was going to be difficult enough. Throw in Griff's complicated story and you've set yourself a real challenge. Throw in Macbeth and that boat is just going to sink under two much backstory-weight. Much better to use him as guest star. Then if it seemed to work, over time he might spend MORE time in Pendragon. You never know. [NOTE: I was considerably less worried about adding Blanchfleur, Merlin and Duval to the cast, as we would be introducing them IN Pendragon.] So in the end, Mac accepts a more separate but equal arrangement. This was still cool to me. It reminded me of Arthur's relationship with King Pellinore. King Pellinore was also a King, but he was a wandering King. He didn't always sit at the Round Table, but he always came to Arthur's side, when Arthur needed him. They maintained a certain equality between them, and yet unspoken was the acknowledgement that Arthur was the one true king.
Speaking of Banquo... note his "Popeye" expression throughout most of the episode. This is a result of his model sheet, which showed him squinting through one eye. That was just supposed to be a single expression, but many of the overseas artists naturally assumed that it was a permanent condition -- because of course, we didn't have another model sheet with a different expression. Also, what did you think of Banquo & Fleance's power armor. I'm not sure it really came across as power armor. It was supposed to make them tougher and stronger. But I think it just looked like a flight suit for their sky-cycles. [But I did love those sky-cycles, especially the way Lex used them as a staircase for the Gargoyles to get some air. That was really cool and clever, I think.]
Random fact: My ten-year-old daughter Erin was fascinated with the topiary monkey.
An episode called Pendragon needed... a Dragon. I think this one is positively glorious. I love those steam vents. And the stone flight. And the fire. GREAT FIRE. But before it wakes up, I like how in essence this stone statue becomes the NEW Stone of Destiny. Macbeth draws the (faux) Excalibur from the dragon's stone grip and declares: "Macbeth, son of Findlaech, is the one true king." Arthur for a minute seems a sore loser. But his better nature wins out, after Macbeth points out that he's being a jerk. [Macbeth is great about being right when he's wrong.] When, as a youngster, Arthur drew the sword, many opposed his rule. It's a lesson that he's learned from. Griff resists, but Arthur kneels. He will not be an obstructionist if Macbeth is the new true king. Erin also felt that Arthur was being a sore loser. But Benny, my seven-year-old, disagreed, calling Arthur "the World's best fighter" and therefore the guy who deserved the sword. What's interesting, is that was NEVER my intent. I don't think of Arthur as the world's best FIGHTER. Even in his own legends, there were many knights who could outfight him. Arthur was a decent fighter, but his greatest strength was as a LEADER of men. That's what we tried to get across, both here and in "Avalon, Part Three".
It's also a cool play on words, I think, that this time the phrase "Sword IN the Stone" needs to be taken literally. The dragon statue surrounds the true sword inside it. I love the steps Arthur goes through to figure this out, primarily that moment when he recovers the faux Excalibur and can instantly sense that it isn't the genuine article. That was us trying to DEMONSTRATE with clarity that Excalibur wasn't just any sword, but rather something special. But what exactly was it? That, to be honest, we still needed to figure out. But we were hoping we'd have an entire spin-off to explore that question.
SOME GOOD LINES
Fleance: "No free rides, Bat-boy."
Broadway: "Now you stay put." And Banquo: "No problem."
Lex: "Take the stairs."
Arthur: "Arise... SIR Griff."
Plus a bunch of great British Griffisms:
"In for a penny, in for a pound."
"Well, that just about tears it."
"You are the Once and Future King."
"Right with you, Your Majesty"
"That's the stuff!"
Anyway, that's my ramble. Where's yours?