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Synopsis |  Review by Juan F. Lara |  Review by Todd Jensen



by Leigh Ann Hussey

Act I

"Previously on GARGOYLES" shows clips from Upgrade. In a secret chamber under the Sphinx in Egypt, the Pack (minus Dingo) are setting up a number of ritual objects for the Emir, who tells them that before the night is over, they'll have what mankind has dreamed of since the beginning of time. "And the healing," he adds to himself, "will finally begin." As they continue to work, Hyena makes an unsuccessful pass at COYOTE and Jackal spends time looking appraisingly at a carving of Anubis on one of the stelae in the chamber. It isn't long until midnight -- the Emir orders COYOTE to fetch the sacred tana leaves.

Meanwhile, the travellers arrive. As they explore, they see COYOTE returning to the Sphinx with the urnful of leaves, and surmise that there's dirty work afoot.

The Emir looks at a photo of his young son and sighs. Jackal and Hyena are throwing leaves into big braziers near a bigger altar as the Emir enters and tells them to prepare for the ceremony -- it's almost midnight. Goliath, having taken careful not of the sequence in which COYOTE pressed the carvings to open the chamber's door, gets the travellers inside.

The Emir unrolls a papyrus scroll on the altar and orders the braziers ignited, which Jackal does with an arm-laser. "By the scroll of Thoth," chants the Emir, "by the sacred tana leaves, by the power of Amen-Ra, I adjure and compell you. Come forth from your dark domain, Jackal God, Keeper of the Dead! Come forth to do our bidding!" With lightnings and noise, a form begins to appear in the swirling smoke.

Just then, the gargoyles appear, and the Pack immediately engage and overcome them. With a cry of triumph, the Emir announces that the spell was a success, and they all look up at the huge figure of Anubis.

Act II

The human members of the Pack look on admiringly -- Jackal comments, "The original model!" The Emir dismisses them, though COYOTE doesn't want to go until it's sure the Emir has secured immortality for Xanatos. They leave reluctantly. The Emir turns back to Anubis, demanding a favor. "I grant but one boon, mortal, and it will be given to you as it is given to everyone -- when your time has come." The Emir won't take this for an answer -- he wants back his son, killed two years previous in a car accident, backing up his threat with the information that no one can die with Anubis his prisoner.

Jackal ponders a statue of Anubis, then volunteers to go back to the temple chamber, "To look after Mr. Xanatos' interests." The travellers begin to come to, chained to the temple's pillars. Jackal overhears the Emir arguing, "My son was unfairly taken from me!" "On the contrary," Anubis replies. "Death is the ultimate fairness. Rich and poor, young and old, all are equal in death." Anubis urges him to think what he is doing -- all over the world there is birth without death -- the planet cannot support so many lives. But the Emir will hear none. He tells Anubis that he will use a spell in the papyrus to make himself Anubis' avatar (Goliath explains this word to Angela as being a human who acts as a vessel for a divine power). The Emir likewise disregards the gargoyles' objections. Their struggle against their bonds begins to break up the temple -- the Pack (save for the still-hiding Jackal) run in and the Emir orders them to take the travellers out and dispose of them [LA's note: though how he expects the gargoyles to die at the Pack's hands when he's got Death penned up in the temple, I have no idea... ;) ] They all leave, except for Jackal.

In a mustaba (burial chamber) in the complex, the Pack prepares to kill the travellers, but before they can actually do it, Elisa kicks out the lantern. In the ensuing fight, COYOTE blows a hole in the wall and the travellers escape through it, back to the main temple.

Meanwhile, the Emir is invoking, "In the names of Osiris, Isis and Set, let Anubis and I now be one!" A great glow gathers above the altar in Anubis' place, and then hurls itself at the Emir in a fiery bolt. Jackal hustles up, shoves the Emir out of the way, and receives the strike of the god-force himself. The gargoyles arrive just in time to see him morph into a combination of his human self and the canine-headed Anubis. He turns to them with a laugh of manic triumph.


The rest of the Pack rush in. "What the blazes is that?" Wolf demands. "I think it used to be my brother," Hyena answers. COYOTE trains its laser canon on the avatar, saying, "This can't be what Xanatos had in mind." The avatar laughs, "It's not," and from the cyborg eye that was Jackal's comes a bolt of dark force that turns COYOTE into a rusted heap of scrap. Hyena yells at the avatar, "Every time I meet a guy I can go for, you have to ruin it!" "I'm sorry," the avatar says syrupily, "did I upset my baby sister?" And this time his bolt turns both Hyena and Wolf into babies -- in Wolf's case, a puppy. "Life and death at my command," the avatar gloats. "I like it!"

The gargoyles and Elisa attack, and the avatar's force ages them too. He tells the Emir, "I think I'll keep you alive to watch as all life on this planet withers and dies. After I bring the gift of death to this world, maybe I'll unite you with your son."

"Let the purge begin!" the avatar roars, and beams of his dark power emit from the eyes of the Sphinx, aging everything in its path hundreds of years in an instant. Vehicles rust and disintegrate, rivers dry up, animals are reduced to skeletons, cities crumble and fall. Goliath urges the Emir to act. "We've all lost souls we care for. Must I lose my daughter to prove that this is evil?" The Emir turns away, so Goliath and Angela take on the avatar themselves one more time. It throws them off easily and recommences its power drain.

The Emir calls to Goliath, "The papyrus! With it I can make myself the avatar!" With his last strength, Goliath throws the papyrus to the Emir, who takes it up as the avatar turns to destroy him and calls the spirit of Anubis into himself. And as Jackal screams "No!" the god-force leaves him for the Emir; Jackal returns to his old form and passes out.

The avatar of Anubis in the Emir is gentler and more sad. "Now I understand," it says. "What is dead and gone cannot be restored, but the stolen energies can be rechannelled." He raises his hand and the travellers and Wolf and Hyena are restored to their former ages. Hyena and Wolf collapse, but the travellers are quite awake as the temple begins to collapse.

Goliath wonders if the avatar will now bring back the Emir's son, but it replies that it will not. "The Jackal God cannot play favorites. I understand that now. And I also understand that no one must ever have access to such power as this." The avatar raises both hands and a blue-white power explodes from them. The travellers flee for the door as the temple comes crashing down around them. Blue-white fire pours out of the Sphinx's head as the travellers reach the outside, and they watch as it makes one last blinding flash before it subsides.

"What do you think happened to the Pack?" Angela asks. "I'd rather not think about it," Goliath answers. Elisa wonders how they could attack Jackal after he had aged them and she herself could barely move, and Goliath explains that gargoyles age at half human speed -- "Fortunately, Jackal did not know that." The dawn is near. The gargoyles prepare to sleep. "And the Emir?" Elisa wonders. "If there is any justice in this world or the next," Goliath answers, "he's with his son now, at rest."


by Juan F. Lara

The Emir turns out to be not just a hypothetical character. :-)

Good Points

It was Jackal's turn for the spotlight. Up to now, I didn't think that the jackal meant anything more to him than his TV role. But Jackal showed an admiration for Anubis that resembled a personal-furry connection. I found this connection appealing, and thought that Jackal would become a sympathetic character by Act 3, as Dingo did in "Upgrade". But in Act 3, Jackal unleashed the psychopathic inclinations that we've seen from him before. The glee he felt in destroying that city horrified me. So Jackal showed a large range of characteristics during this episode.

The other Pack members had notable characterizations, too. Coyote's free will had programmed limitations, like needing a direct order to decide what to do with the good guys. But his robot characteristics easily fit into his Xanatos mannerisms. Wolf still had his animosity for Coyote, and Hyena her attraction to him. "Grief" was a Pack episode that put the most emphasis on the personalities of the Pack members.

Bad Points

I felt neutral about the Emir storyline. Tony Shalhoub did a good job portraying the Emir's grief over his son, and I also liked Tony Jay's stately reading of Anubis's lines. But I didn't find anything outstanding about the Emir's situation, and so didn't care very much about the episode's outcome.

The Emir asserted that no deaths could occur while he held Anubis prisoner. But the story never elaborated on that point. This plothole was particularly conspicuous when the Emir ordered the Pack to dispose of the good guys. How could they if no one can die? I was expecting one of the good guys to get "killed" but not die, to show the effect of Anubis's imprisonment.

I didn't like how they swept the fate of the Pack under the rug. The gargoyles chose to roost right in front of the Sphinx. The Pack could've suddenly burst out, and Elisa would have no chance defending the gargoyles and herself.


Dingo was absent. Some people felt that Dingo would quit after "Upgrade". So I was glad that the series followed this continuity.

BTW1: Was Anubis a Child of Oberon?
BTW2: Was Coyote's head only a video image? And how capable of emotions is he?

I laughed at the baby version of Wolf. Also, Jackal somehow was able to shrink Hyena's cybernetic parts to baby size. :-)


Wolf: Man, I've had it with this working-class hero bit.

Angela: We have to take a close look at that. It looks like the world's biggest gargoyle.

Anubis: You cannot comprehend the forces you unleash.

Wolf: ( laughing ) Never did like that robot.
Hyena: Well, I did. Every time I meet a guy I can go for YOU have to ruin it!

Jackal: After I bring the gift of death to this world, maybe I'll reunite you with your son.

Overall, "Grief" was an O.K. episode, but an uninvolving one.


by Todd Jensen

The Emir, hitherto an offstage character, now appears on-stage - and as one of the leading figures in this episode. (How many people were expecting that?) He presides over what is, in some ways, one of the darkest and most unsettling episodes in "Gargoyles" (if one that still has a hopeful resolution).

The Pack (now minus Dingo, but with a third Coyote robot to replace Coyote 2.0) has been sent by Xanatos to Egypt to help the Emir with another project to help the scheming billionaire gain the immortality that he yearns for, this time by summoning Anubis, the ancient Egyptian god of death, within a secret chamber beneath or inside the Sphinx. What Xanatos and the Pack don't know is that the Emir has his own agenda; his son had been killed in an automobile accident a couple of years earlier, and the Emir is so desperate to get him back that he plans to force Anubis to return the boy to life, whether Anubis wants it or not.

In the meantime, Jackal is intrigued to discover that Anubis has a jackal's head, and the more that he sees of him, the more fascinated he becomes. (Just how strong his obsession is becomes clear when, while the rest of the Pack is eagerly discussing what to do with the captured gargoyles, Jackal is too busy staring at a statue of Anubis to participate in a talk that he would normally have enthusiastically participated in.) And when he discovers that the Emir has a spell that will make him into an avatar of Anubis, housing Anubis's essence and powers within his body, Jackal's interest becomes all the stronger - with fateful consequences....

Anubis himself is an imposing figure, solemn, regal, calmly explaining to the Emir about how misguided his request is (and ably voiced by Tony Jay). Unlike most of the other mythical beings that Goliath and his friends encounter, he has no personal agenda, but is focused simply on carrying out his duties as a death-god, which he sees as merely fulfilling the natural balance on the planet. He provides the series with one of its most impressive minor characters, who does nothing more (when he isn't being hosted by Jackal or the Emir) than speak, and yet genuinely feels like a being of considerable power.

And this power falls into Jackal's hands with alarming results. In quick succession, Jackal reduces Coyote 3.0 into a pile of rust, turns Hyena and Wolf into a baby and a wolf cub respectively (Wolf's fate, incidentally, supplying a much-needed piece of comic relief amid a host of otherwise disturbing actions on Jackal's part), drastically ages Goliath, Angela, Elisa, and Bronx, and lays waste to the Sphinx's surroundings, snuffing out the lives of palm trees, crocodiles, and even an entire village (this last carried out by his death-gaze shooting out from the Sphinx's own eyes). Fortunately the Emir stops him before he can do even more damage, but the scene is perhaps the most chilling moment involving any of the Pack in "Gargoyles".

The Emir, by contrast, begins as a semi-antagonist (he is working for Xanatos and with the Pack, after all), but becomes more sympathetic as we understand what his real goal is (misguided it might be, but all of us who have lost someone dear to us would have to admit that, if we had had access to the means of summoning Anubis, we might not have been able to resist the temptation any more than he had), and then as he discovers the consequences of his rash act and thwarts Jackal's designs. Tony Shalhoub (the Emir's voice actor) adds to the portrayal with his skillful incorporation of the sorrow of a bereft father into the character's lines, even when he is at his most angry or business-like.

The rest of the Pack (appearing in their final team-up episode to date) are overshadowed by Jackal, but still have their moments. Hyena is still flirting with Coyote, leading to a particularly amusing moment when she asks him, "Want to make sparks fly?", and when Coyote shrugs her off with the words, "Later, perhaps," doesn't seem particularly pleased. And later on, when the Pack now have Goliath and his companions at their mercy, Coyote has his own altercation with Wolf, which begins when Coyote explains that while he'd gladly kill the gargoyles, he had not been programmed with instructions over what to do if they showed up in Egypt, and can only slaughter them if giving specific orders from someone in authority:

WOLF: I'm giving the orders, metal-mouth!
COYOTE: You don't qualify.
WOLF: Grrrr....

Like "Shadows of the Past", "Grief" is another richly atmospheric episode, aided all the more by the fine cameos made by Anubis and the Emir, and Jackal's most unsettling behavior ever (unless you count his daydream about remodelling Goliath's features in "The Green"). And its aging of Goliath and his friends definitely spooked me, the first time that I saw it. It's another very memorable story.


Michael Reaves introduced a few elements into the script for "Grief" rejected from a story that he had written for "Batman: TAS" entitled "Avatar" (such as the tanna leaves burned as part of the ritual to summon Anubis, and the mentions of such other Egyptian gods as Osiris, Isis, Set, and Thoth), which also involved the uncovering of a being of almost godlike powers over life and death native to ancient Egypt.

Greg Weisman regards this episode as one of his leading "missed opportunity" cases. He had had the Emir state that, while Anubis was being held prisoner, nobody on Earth could die, but then failed to do anything with the idea. After making the episode, he realized that he ought to have used it, by proceeding to have the Pack "kill" Goliath and his companions, only to discover that, because of Anubis's captivity, none of them could die. He has often spoken of his regret over overlooking this since.

With Coyote's literal half-robot head destroyed by Goliath in "Upgrade", this trademark feature of the robot now becomes a video image (which would also be incorporated with Coyote 4.0 in "Cloud Fathers").

Animation nit: Elisa's jacket is missing from one of the scenes near the end (as the protagonists stand in front of the Emir-as-Anubis's-avatar, in a grand sweep past).

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