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The Grimorum Arcanorum

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Chapter Five: TGS - Heir to Gargoyles or Just Another Shared Universe?

By Sean A. Simpson

In the fall of 1997, roughly eight months after word seeped back to the fandom that Gargoyles would not have a fourth season -- that the almost universal disappointment of Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles, which had been the show's third season, would be the last we would see of our beloved saga on television -- the fan-written continuation of the series, The Gargoyles Saga, began its first season, picking up where Greg Weisman left off.

TGS was and is not the first of its kind. Forever Knight fans picked up the ball after that series ended in 1996 with their Virtual Fourth Season. Highlander fans wrote Highlander: The Fanfic Season, which ran concurrently with that show's sixth and final season, and the staff is working on a second fan-written season. Similarly, TGS is already hard at work on its second season, with the second season premiere to debut at the 1998 Gathering, by the time this essay sees posting.

During the past year, I've gained something of a reputation as a critic of TGS. I even wrote a review of the first season on my site, citing what I think worked about the first season and what didn't. However, I don't plan to restate the same things I've said before in my reviews of TGS; I plan to make a case for both sides of this.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for TGS as the heir to Gargoyles until the film, if it comes out, and a subsequent television resurrection, is the staff of the series: the fans. A sound argument could be made that none save the writers and creators understand a given series better than its most rabid fans; the people who have every episode on tape, watch them on a regular basis, analyze the characters for fun, organize and attend conventions across the country.

Secondly, on a more specific level, the TGS staff is composed of some of the most skilled and talented writers in the fandom. Individually, many of the staff have produced stories that very much carry the feel and style of the original series. Many are accounted among the most popular and the best by fanfic readers.

Thirdly, the stories themselves are of a consistent, good quality. Characterizations are generally on-target, the plots are rarely more cliche than the average television show. The writing itself is generally good, and there are none of the typos that make many fanfics at best tolerable, at worst completely unreadable.

Finally, TGS, through being a text-based medium (as opposed to an animated series) has much greater latitude in the amount and kind of material that can be presented. Already, the staff has taken advantage of this by producing not one but four series; in addition to continuing the main storyline, three of Weisman's six planned spinoffs (Timedancer, Pendragon, Dark Ages) are also running. So it has already demonstrated its ability to see much of the show's potential through.

So is TGS fit to carry the Gargoyles torch onward into the future?

To answer that, we need to examine TGS' shortcomings as well as its virtues. Above, I discussed what TGS has going for it; now, it's time to discuss what is going against it.

It seems to me that the real barometer for TGS' suitability to follow the original is the quality of the main series; specifically, how well it follows the feel and style of the original. Does it capture the pacing? The careful, thorough integrity of the universe? The hundreds of little touches that caused Gargoyles to transcend merely being good and becoming great?

One of the key strikes against TGS is its pacing, and, related to that, its focus. In any recent television series of quality, stories break down into basically two things: plots for individual episodes, and ongoing plot threads and storylines. For example, throughout the entire first season of Gargoyles, a key plot thread was the lingering remnants of Goliath and Demona's former love. In Awakening, we saw Goliath and Demona as a couple; through that five-parter, they were separated, reunited, and finally driven apart irrevocably. Yet Gargoyles mate for life, and Goliath could not simply let her go; as late as Vows, Goliath still had not given up on her altogether.

Working from that example, I'm going to point out that most series are about the lives of the major characters, covering the time of a certain period in which they are brought together. Gargoyles was about the lives of the clan members and their closest friend, Elisa, after their abrupt transplantation from 10th century Scotland to 20th century Manhattan. Yet TGS' first season was focused so heavily on the Unseelie Court and Maddox that it seemed to be a series about the Manhattan clan and friends against the Unseelie Court, with little relief from Maddox and co. as villains, particularly after the (in my mind) premature removal of the Quarrymen. Given that the cliffhanger indicates that the first part of the second season will focus on this storyline as well, it becomes quite obvious that this and its aftermath will dominate for some time to come.

On a more personal level, I have to wonder why so many new characters were introduced. Not even one-shot minor characters, but recurring characters who have their own plotlines, resulting in plot threads that get abandoned when the primary story goes into high gear. I've spoken to some of the writers, and learned some of how this happened, but the means do not justify the end. In Gargoyles, the writers and story editors did not start a plot thread without knowing that they could finish it later; Reawakening and Hunter's Moon, being season finales, both ended with plot threads largely tied up, and The Journey, Greg Weisman's final episode, similarly left a feeling of resolution. Yet TGS has left the reader hanging many times; what about Sharon? Liz, Lex's friend who has apparently been forgotten? Sara Jasper? Characters that were introduced -- some with more reason than others -- and then forgotten later on, by all appearances. The end result of this is that TGS is left with something of an incoherent feeling due to all the plot threads; the Gargoyles tapestry seems rather frayed.

In the final analysis, is TGS really enough to carry on Gargoyles into the future? Ultimately, I think each reader has to make that decision for her or himself, whether TGS' strengths overcome its weaknesses to that degree. For me, I'm sorry to say, it does not; TGS lacks the tightness, coherency, and power of Gargoyles, and I find it far less compelling than the original series. I can't consider it canon; to me, it seems to be only another shared fanfic universe, only far more coordinated and hashed over than most.

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