In the twelfth episode of the second season of Gargoyles, we finally learn why Macbeth and Demona hate each other so much. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Gargoyles.
This show is too much, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. Gargoyles seems like an impossible reality on paper: an animated children’s show focusing on a group of gargoyles who protect Manhattan while dealing with science run amok, a vengeful compatriot who is obsessed with sorcery, and all heaped with a heavy dose of Shakespearean tragedy. It almost comes off as messy if you strip it of context and meaning. Yet this episode (and the show as a whole) is anything but. This story is crystal clear, a searing vision of miscommunication, prejudice, and betrayal, and the tragedy of it all is that it could have been resolved with just one conversation.
Or perhaps I’m being far too optimistic. Demona’s layered persona led in part to the end result we see here in “City of Stone, Part IV,” but the writers are just as careful to make us understand why she chose to betray Macbeth after thirty-odd years of support. That’s what makes her such a compelling character! She’s flawed – almost irredeemably so at times – and yet I get her. I get that gut reaction she has to protect herself, to protect other gargoyles, to view humans with a vicious suspicion because she’s rarely been given any reason to see them as anything other than an enemy.
So when she overhears Macbeth’s advisor recommending that he distance himself from the gargoyles in order to appease the English, it’s all she needs to hear. Hadn’t that happened already? Hadn’t humans decided countless times before that the gargoyles were inconvenient, that satiating the bigoted desires of others was more appealing than sticking up for these creatures? Thus, those words she overhead were a dogwhistle of sorts, a sign that the inevitable betrayal and persecution were imminent. It doesn’t matter that Macbeth had intended to continue to oppose the English and keep Demona at her side. All that mattered was the chance, and there was too far great of a chance that Macbeth would turn out like every other human she’d ever met.
At the same time, this episode doesn’t suggest that Demona has no agency, that she never made many of these choices herself. Even if her disgust for humans influences her decision-making, that doesn’t negate how responsible she is for certain things. This is where the Wyrd Sisters come into play in a fascinating manner, mainly because I’m so used to mythical figures like this existing outside the scope of accountability. In a sense, you could argue that the end of this arc is a deus ex machina, since the big fight between Macbeth and Demona is stopped by the sisters appearing and putting them both to sleep. I’ll accept that, but I’d also argue that in doing so, those three beings accept responsibility for setting these two characters onto that path. Before they do so, however, the sisters urge Demona to reconsider who was responsible for betraying Macbeth. For siding with Canmore. For creating the Hunters in the first place. Humans are definitely terrible towards gargoyles, but is that the full truth?
Not really, and the complete portrait is far more complex than that. But it’s through this that the audience finally understands the hatred that Macbeth and Demona have for one another. The binding spell has linked them eternally, at least until one kills the other, thereby killing themselves in the process. Demona’s betrayal of Macbeth led to his “death,” which had to be covered up. (HOW HEARTBREAKING IS THAT SCENE WHERE LADY MACBETH CONVINCES HER HUSBAND TO DISAPPEAR LEST EVERYONE TURN ON HIM). So Macbeth went into hiding for HUNDREDS OF YEARS, and it’s only now that he’s finally gotten close enough to Demona that he might actually get to kill her.
But back to the sisters, who shockingly admit that maybe a lot of this is their fault as well. I didn’t expect that, as I mentioned before, because this isn’t what these kind of characters normally do in fantasy narratives. I don’t know where the Wyrd Sisters took Macbeth and Demona and what they’re going to do with them, but I suspect we aren’t going to see them for a while. Is there a chance that either of them could change? Lord, I don’t know, but this was a whole lot of fun to watch. I’m so glad I’m watching this show again!!!
The video for “City of Stone, Part IV” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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