This week’s retrospective of Disney’s Gargoyles looks at “Long Way to Morning” (which aired January 20, 1995), a strongly atmospheric episode that sees Hudson carrying around a wounded Goliath while pursued by Demona, cross-cut with flashbacks to 984 AD.
1. Do Gargoyles Dream of Stone Sheep?
We first gain insight into the events of 984 AD – a decade before the events of the first episode – through Hudson dreaming of his days as leader of the clan. It’s the first indication in the show that Gargoyles dream like we do, which is pretty cool. We see Hudson as the leader of the clan, Princess Katharine’s father Malcolm.
Hudson and Malcolm’s friendship is fascinating, as the prince is prone to reinforcing fearful stereotypes of Gargoyles to get his daughter to obey him, which, as we saw in the first episode, filled her with a lifelong mistrust that ultimately proved to be the downfall of Castle Wyvern. Malcolm’s dismissal of Hudson’s concerns brought to mind the exasperating conversations, about even the smallest jokes about marginalized people, that I’m sure we’ve all had with colleagues, friends or family.
2. Hudson’s name
One major question the episode raises for me, is if Hudson was the leader of the clan before Goliath, why didn’t he have a name in Medieval times? Why wouldn’t Prince Malcolm give him a signifier? I imagine this is when Michael York shows up to tell me to stop dwelling on it, but such are the pitfalls of retroactive continuity. Perhaps Malcolm didn’t name Hudson out of respect, or was it another sign of his casual, unconscious speciesism?
As you’d expect from an episode set in two different time periods, there’s some really fun writing with the parallels in both storylines. In 984, Hudson, Goliath and Demona set out to hunt the treacherous Archmage, who has poisoned Prince Malcolm. In the present, Hudson and Goliath set out to confront Demona, after she makes an attempt on Elisa’s life with a poison dart. Likewise, in the past they search for the Archmade in a cave, and hide in the sewers in the present, where their wings are rendered useless both times.
More important though, is the contrast these storylines offer. We get to see Demona as a hero, which is so important: as lengthy as the series’ opening episodes were, we still only saw her when already filled with loathing towards humanity. We never got to meet the woman Goliath fell in love with, so we never felt the weight of her descent into xenophobia, until now.
4. The Fugitive
There’s a moment where Demona confronts Hudson and Goliath in a drainage pipe, which leads to our heroes making a daring jump into the lake below. It’s not as blatant as The Simpsons‘ parody, but it’s pretty amazing to to look back and consider how much of phenomenon The Fugitive was that it was already being homaged in cartoons only a year-and-a-half after its release.
There is a couple of instances of self-censorship in the episode. First up is the Archmage in the past, who like many Disney villains falls to his death, because you can’t actually have the heroes be culpable for that in case parents complain. Then there’s how Hudson and Demona don’t actually use their claws in battle. It’s a small nitpick, given their fight at the end isn’t the point, but how Hudson is patient enough to wait out the struggle so the sunlight will heal Goliath, but Demona does look very silly using her rifle like a baton. (You also have to wonder why Hudson doesn’t strike her weapon with his dagger.)
– You’d think Elisa would be wearing a bulletproof vest after what happened with Broadway.
– The Archmage’s cave has some rather Mesoamerican carvings for a Scottish hole – evidence of an older, shared magic between continents?
– I keep wondering how they made Goliath look younger in flashback – did they increase the size of his eyes? Give him a smaller wingspan?
Next week we’ll look at “Her Brother’s Keeper,” featuring the return of the Pack, and Elisa’s brother.