There is only one word for this episode: WRONG. I think I said the same thing about the last episode the Pack was in, Upgrade. Seems to be a theme with them.This episode takes the cake, though – and it takes Anubis, God of Death. We’re talking about the Egyptian god, not the one from Stephen King’s work or Stargate SG-1. He who controls Anubis controls life. And death. Xanatos doesn’t care about that, he simply wants immortality. The Pack is along to see his will is done by the Emir, a man skilled in the ways of Egyptian lore and magic. But when you play God, you often summon the Devil.
Spoilers are in the 20/20 moments. Info from Ask Greg is in the According to Greg bits.
Season 2, Episode 31: Grief
Reason(s) for existence: To explore the theme of death but not touch any religion in doing so. To show the Pack’s true selves. To show Xanatos is dead serious about immortality. To give kids nightmares.
Main antagonist(s): The Pack, the Emir, Anubis (sort of)
Time(s): January 25th, 1996
Location(s): The Sphinx, Egypt
We start with a preview, which is about the Pack and their upgrade. There’s also Xanatos and Owen talking about the Emir way back in Double Jeopardy.
According to Greg: Michael Reaves was thrilled about this ep because he got to use a story idea that Batman: The Animate Series had rejected.
Inside the Sphinx, Coyote is carrying pillars. He’s got an upgrade. I don’t know if I like it, since the bottom half of makes it look sort of bird like. The top half is okay. It does have a sort of Egyptian flavor to it. Wolf is helping him, but he’s not happy. Wolf is beholden to Xanatos for getting him and the rest of the Pack out of America.
An Egyptian steps out of the shadows. This is the Emir. He’s been mentioned a few times by Xanatos. He’s working on something special for David, apparently. And it looks like we’re about to find out what.
He tells them that they are almost ready to begin. They need to go get some tanna leaves for the ceremony. He remarks that then the healing may begin. Well, that’s interesting, considering this is obviously a Xanatos plan, and those plans don’t usually involve a lot of healing.
According to Greg: The Emir started as a random line of dialog that was meant to show how powerful Xanatos is, not to mention how casual he is about that power.
As Coyote is walking off to get the magical leaves, Hyena starts hitting on him. She asks if he wants to “make sparks fly.” I’m sorry, did she mean what I think she means? And are we still in a Disney kids show? Why yes, I think she did. I don’t want to think about how that would work. Coyote obviously doesn’t either, because he says “later perhaps.” This is probably the best he can do as far as getting rid of her, since she’s not the type to take no for an answer. Delay is his best course until he can be rid of her.
Elisa and the gargoyles arrive and see Coyote’s hulking form flying over. He’s carrying some sort of jug. He lands between the arms of the Sphinx, pushes a few hieroglyphs, and walks in the opening that a secret panel reveals.
Now they know why they’re here. Goliath says that they are here to protect the land from the evil of the Pack. Well, nowadays if they went there, they could protect the land from the evil of the oppressive regime that persecutes any person who does not practice their version of Islam.
Inside, the Emir has Coyote light up the torches with his laser beam. Now the Emir speaks the sacred words for summoning Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the dead. Part of the summoning says that the summoner will compel Anubis to do his will.
Note: Tanna leaves according to GargWiki: “Tanna is a fictional plant, created for the 1940 film The Mummy’s Hand and its many sequels. In the movie, tanna leaves are important for the survival of the undead mummy Kharis, and are used for in various ways to control the mummy. Tanna leaves (sometimes spelled tana) have been used in mummy stories ever since. The name was invented by Griffin Jay, one of the writers of The Mummy’s Hand, who initially intended to call them tanya leaves, after his wife.”
Anubis materializes, with smoke swirling around him and lightning flashing.
The Gargoyles jump into action. There’s a bit of a throwdown, involving impractical saws in Hyena’s arms, Coyote shooting everything, Bronx chewing on Coyote, and Coyote lassoing Goliath. There’s also a scene when we almost get to see Wolf punch Goliath in the face without any intervening camera angles. Almost. This whole episode was a miracle to get past S&P, so this scene shouldn’t surprise me either.
The Emir wants to send everyone out. Coyote, however, is a loyal robot and wants to make sure Xanatos’s interests are protected. Xanatos wants immortality, he reveals. What a surprise! He says that Xanatos will want to know that he’s achieved immortality. That does bring up an interesting question. When you are said to be immortal by some spell, how do you know? Do you wait until you start to age? Perhaps you cut yourself? But if the immortality isn’t one that protects you against injury, kind of like the immortality of the elves in Lord of the Rings, then how do you know? You could have a side business selling immortality, and tell people that it just makes them eternally young. You’d be long out of the city by the time they realized it was a lie.
After everyone leaves, the Emir and Anubis have an esoteric, philosophical debate about death. Why yes, this is a Disney show aimed at kids. But it is the 1990s!
Side note: Tony Shalhoub is the voice actor for the Emir. You know, Tony, who plays Monk. Yes, I was surprised too!
The Emir wants Anubis to bring his son back. His son died in a pointless car accident. Anubis says that all death is pointless, and that is the point. Wow, that’s uplifting! Anubis also says that which is gone must be left to rest. So, is there an afterlife? It seems so, since rest is different from being annihilated or going into oblivion. Who is in charge of this afterlife? Is there a hell? Is there a heaven? Or is it all sort of the Nirvana? Anubis says that everyone will die. This I’m assuming includes Demona and Macbeth, which matches the Weird Sisters’ prophecy that one will kill the other.
The Emir, however, explains that because Anubis is now trapped in this realm, nothing can die. The Emir quotes the Bible and says that death has no sting. So does that mean Anubis is like DEATH in Discworld? Or does he perhaps have minions like in Dead Like Me? Who set up all these rules?
According to Greg: he regrets not using the fact that no one could die during that time. He now wishes he’d had one of the protags “die.”
Anubis stands strong: No son for you! He will grant one favor, and that is death. Well now, I think we have different versions of what that word means. Unless I am suffering incredibly, death is not a favor. Unless the afterlife is pleasant, then death only makes things worse.
Meanwhile, the Pack is discussing what to do with the gargoyles. Everyone wants to kill them, but because Coyote does not have orders regarding what to do if the gargoyles show up, they get to live. I guess this goes along with keeping robots programed not to kill people. 20/20 moment: Now, we know that Coyote is program for vengeance /moment, but he’s apparently not programmed for murder or execution. He will take orders, but not from his fellow Pack members. Even though he says he would enjoy dealing with the gargoyles. Is it just me, or does Coyote seem to be getting more of a personality?
While Coyote won’t let them kill the gargoyles, Jackal has the great idea of going inside to watch the ceremony and “safeguard Xanatos’s interests.” Evidently whoever programmed Coyote – and I really hate to blame David Xanatos, because he is a very suspicious person, and by that I mean he suspects other people because he knows what they are capable of – skimped on the suspicion factor.
This episode is one I really am shocked Disney allowed to be created in the first place, much less broadcast. They banned Deadly Force because it had guns in it, never mind that every other episode has guns in it, on the grounds that it might be too violent, since Elisa gets shot. That episode taught valuable lessons about gun safety and responsibility. This episode, however, is purely disturbing material. But it also opens a lot of interesting questions, and answers a few of them as they regard the after life, death, and deities in the gargoyle universe.
It’s very difficult to discuss death while studiously avoiding any reference to religion. Sorry, but even sweeping generalizations like “I grant one boon,” “death is pointless,” and “everyone dies” don’t hold true in all faiths. In Christianity, death is a curse. It’s also not pointless. (Heck, not many religions say death is pointless.) To top it off, not everyone will die, as the last generation will be caught up in the clouds at Christ’s return.
PS: this was typed with voice to text, so there are probably errors I didn’t catch.
Come back Friday when we discover what happens when you become the avatar for a god, and what happens when a sociopath gets the power of life and death.