This week’s retrospective of Disney’s Gargoyles looks at “Her Brother’s Keeper,” which aired January 27, 1995. The episode sees the return of (some of) the Pack, and casts the spotlight on Elisa’s relationship with her brother, Derek, who finds himself being swayed to Xanatos’s side.
1. Superman on an Airplane
The episode sees the younger of trio of Brooklyn, Broadway and Lexington building their own helicopter. At first I found the notion immediately daft, given these character can glide, but then I realized, don’t Thor or Iron Man enjoy flying on a Quinjet with their non-flying colleagues? And likewise, don’t we as humans prefer sitting in cars to walking? In any case, it’s actually quite cool seeing the trio develop their Batcopter and learning to fly it, all while making Star Wars and Star Trek jokes.
2. Return of the Pack (ooh yeah)
So the Pack are back, or at least two of them: Jackal (Matt Frewer), and Hyena (Cree Summer), who we learn in this episode are siblings (gee, it’s like there’s a running theme). Now I don’t know about you, but if a couple of my colleagues were arrested and imprisoned, I’d lay low and deny all knowledge of their activities. However, Jackal and Hyena have resorted to jewelry heists, despite still being in possession of their gang’s TV studio/gym complex. It’s all quite strange.
3. Little Lost Brother
OK, I’m not sure if Derek is younger than Elisa, but I do get the impression he only became a police helicopter pilot because their parents were proud of her, and encouraged him to follow in her footsteps. In this episode, Xanatos is impressed by Derek’s handling of Jackal and Hyena’s robbery, and offers him a job at his company. Like any decent sibling, Elisa’s concerned about him wanting to serve and protect an evil billionaire instead of ordinary people, but there’s a clear distance between the two, compounded by her keeping the Gargoyles’ secret. I hadn’t realized Derek was Elisa’s pilot in “The Edge,” by the way, and I think that’s a testament to how ignored he must’ve felt on the force.
4. A Divided Family
One of the ways you feel Derek and Elisa’s distance is how when they go to their parents to discuss Xanatos’s intrusion into their lives, she talks with their father at a bar, while he talks to their mother at home. I got the strong impression her parents are separated or divorced, which was still a pretty taboo subject back in the ’90s, especially in kids’ media (Mrs. Doubtfire only come out just over a year before this aired). In retrospect, that unacknowledged aspect of the Maza family means it’s aged well by not making a big deal of it, and making them feel more like a real family.
5. Winter is Coming
There’s a couple of beautiful moments at the end of this episode that particularly stand out for being quite moving. The first is Elisa and Derek’s last argument over his decision to work for Xanatos, where Goliath, like an exasperated boyfriend, realizes he’s part of her family now and has to remind them of what they risk losing. It’s a sweet moment, as we’re reminded of just how much Goliath has lost in the span of this short season.
This was the penultimate episode of season one, and the show acknowledges this with snowfall finally making its appearance on the show. The episode concludes with the first image of the Gargoyles in winter, with Elisa standing alone and quietly reflecting on her transformative year, and her newfound family. It’s spellbinding.
– Surely Elisa could’ve used that tape of Fox’s confession to prove Xanatos was wasting police time again?
– Gargoyles must fuse to the stone below during daytime right? Or else they might slip and break when it rains.
Next week we look at the season finale, “Reawakening.”