In the thirty-fourth episode of the first season of Gargoyles, the team meets up with Elisa’s mother to fight back against Anansi’s influence. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Gargoyles.
I really enjoyed this episode, but don’t let that stand as an “approval” of sorts on the content in terms of representation. I’m not Nigerian, and while I think the show does a pretty good job with the Anansi myth, that doesn’t mean I actually know what I’m talking about. After “Heritage,” I was worried that we’d eventually get into Elisa’s background and the same sort of bland generalization would unfold again. The writers are specific here, however, showing us that Diane is Nigerian and that she has a cultural connection to her heritage there. It’s on a visit to Nigeria that she encounters her daughter and the Anansi myth comes to life. Now, I can’t claim to know whether there is much of this mythology present in Nigeria; I know it’s West African in general and I believe it originated in Ghana, but that’s the extent of my knowledge here.
I also admit that I didn’t expect so much of “Mark of the Panther” to focus on the retelling of the Anansi story. At the time, I loved it, and in hindsight, I STILL LOVE IT. It grounds this episode in this legend and helps us understand the conflict we later see between Tea and Fara Maku. It’s also animated in a different style that helps it stand out as something special within the show as a whole, since we’d never gotten something like this before.
Yet it’s the parallel storyline between the two parents and their children that completely overshadows everything else. I adored the decision to introduce Diane Maza to the gargoyles. (Though I must be confused, since I recalled her being a part of the scene where Elisa took Derek home to introduce him as Talon. I could swear she was there. If so, then it’s a little odd that she’s so shocked here.) I admit that it’s one of those tropes I kind of universally love because there’s so much potential in introducing characters to worlds they didn’t know existed. Yet in doing so, Elisa opens up a new can of worms: exactly how honest should a child be with their parent? It seems obvious that Elisa had to keep the secret of the gargoyles to herself, at least until she could gauge what Diane’s reaction would be. But on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got Angela, who is desperate for her father to share anything with her. The dynamic of gargoyle families means that he’s not quite as attentive or affectionate as she desires. And it makes sense that she didn’t know this because she wasn’t raised as a “normal” gargoyle is! So her needs and desires are not what Goliath is used to either.
This is all wrapped up in the conflict between Tea and Fara Maku, and I’d argue that all three of these plots deal with honesty. It’s because Fara “marked” Tea without consulting her that she came to resent the power of the panther, which is why she decided to take up poaching. She was furious over what Fara Maku had done to her, so I understood why she couldn’t see it as an act of love. (And there’s a nice mirror here to the version of the legend within the episode, too, since the Queen’s prince felt the same way.) If Fara Maku had just been honest with the woman he loved, perhaps this could have been avoided. Thus, honesty plays a huge part in how the other characters repair their relationships. Elisa comes to realize why it’s important to be honest with her mother, and Goliath begins to treat Angela how she’d like to be treated. EVERYONE IS GREAT AND EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. Which is pretty cool, considering that this episode also has a shit-ton of spiders in it and I don’t know how I survived it.
The video for “Mark of the Panther” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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