What would you do if you turned into a panther every time you got angry? If you’re Tea, a Nigerian villager, you hunt down every panther you can as revenge, because one of them might be the werepanther who cursed you. It’s up to the gargoyles to stop her and get to the bottom at the problem. They might be in over their head, though, when they run into Anansi the Spider. He’s the creator of the Mark of the Panther. But how do you defeat a giant magical spider who can’t die?
Miss last week’s? Read Walkabout episode review.
Spoilers are in the 20/20 moments. Info from Ask Greg is in the According to Greg bits.
Season 2, Episode 34: Mark of the Panther
Reason(s) for existence: To introduce Diane Maza to the gargoyles. To introduce more magical beings. To explore the idea of what love really is.
Main antagonist(s): Anansi, Tea
Time(s): February 8th, 1996
Oh it’s this episode. Yes, I know I say that fairly often.
On Previously, we have Angela wondering about her parents, and how Elisa likes to feel special by keeping the gargoyles to herself.
You know, I wonder if that’s part of why she hates Xanatos so much. Putting aside the fact that he conned them into sabotaging Cyberbiotics, he’s also one of the few people who knows about the gargoyles. This makes her less special. Fox also falls into this category of knowing about the gargs.
Side Note: It amazes me that Owen is practically a nonentity in her book. I think Owen is a nonentity in most people’s book. Yes, he works to keep it that way, but it’s still sad. She’ll argue with him now and then when he plays bouncer to keep her out of Xanatos’s private property, but that’s about it. Never mind that he’s a major player in many of his boss’s plans, and has threatened the gargoyles’ existence for more than David ever has. Remember, it’s Xanatos who repeatedly restrains Owen from setting in with a sledgehammer or a laser rifle. Owen is a beast.
But I digress. Look, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to see either of my guys. It’s great seeing Fox, but she’s not a replacement for the dynamic duo.
But I digress. We have a native woman and guy guiding an Aussie who is obviously a poacher. He’s like a younger version of the guy in Rescuers Down Under, Percival C. McLeach. You know, the one with the monitor lizard?
They’re hunting a panther. And we know they kill it, even though we don’t see it happen.
Meanwhile, our protagonists are falling over a giant waterfall in the skiff. Not to worry though, as they go over like it’s a water slide. They crawl ashore and shake themselves dry, including Elisa. Now, I don’t know if these writers or these animators have ever seen a waterfall, but every waterfall I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot, involves giant pointy, hard rocks at the bottom. If you go over, you die. The end.
They figure that they’re in Africa. Elisa says her mom has Nigerian ancestry.
As they’re walking, they happen upon the panther’s remains. They comment that the skin is gone but not the meat. Elisa points out that this is what poachers do. Well, I know that they’re just talking about the “meat,” but this is pretty graphic for a series that often won’t even let them say “death” or “dead.” They have to substitute some ethereal word like “grave” or “gone.”
Speaking of Elisa’s mother, Diane Maza is sitting in front of a campfire in a native village, telling the kids a story.
It’s the story that never ends. It is so long and convoluted, and makes no logical sense, that I really have to drink a cup of coffee before I watch it.
I’m going to spare you, and you’re going to thank me, because I’m going to give you the summary version. That’s right, CliffsNotes.
There’s a panther queen who is very pretty, but very vain. She mocks everybody, including the spider Anansi. He’s some sort of magical creature that can’t die. He gets pissed off and turns her into a human. That’s pretty sucky, as we all know. She wants to be turned back. He says, “Nope, gotta make me a city that shaped like a web first.” Okay, because that totally makes sense for a spider. So off she goes to marry the king of a tribe and have lots of strong sons and clever daughters. (I like how they take into account the inherent strengths of each sex.) Anyway, things go swimmingly, and she builds a city.
Anansi turns her back into a panther. Shockingly, she’s lonely, because she left her entire family behind. Good thinking, chum. She bawls around to Anansi, who’ll allow her to have one kid turned into a panther with her. That’s the stupidest thing ever. Why in the heck wouldn’t you ask for the ability to change as you pleased from human to panther? You know, like a Selkie, or a werewolf but not crazy? She chooses her first born son.
He doesn’t want to, and Anansi cons him into trying to kill his mother. He does this because now he doesn’t want to lose the boy, his favorite subject. Oh, by the way I guess the city’s purpose is to feed the spider. I really don’t know why he couldn’t use his magic to bring those critters to him. So the boy goes up to kill the Mom because he doesn’t want to turn into a panther. But he can’t kill her, cuz she’s mom, so he becomes a panther with her.
Anansi is so pissed that he banishes everybody from the city. Well, now he’s got nobody to rule and nobody to feed him. That was really smart, Trickster.
The kids are all laughing because the spider’s hungry. Apparently they missed the part about everyone being banished and two people being turned into creatures that they didn’t exactly want to be turned into. Kids will be kids.
Let me side-note this. Last episode was all about moms. Fox is a mom, and Fox’s mom was there. We also saw the birth, so to speak, of the Matrix. Now we’ve got a Elisa’s mom. I swear, if the next episode has anyone else’s mother in it, I’m done.
Diane goes up to one of the tribe leaders, Fara Maku, and asks how she did, since she’s been studying really hard for months on that story. Wow, you’re slow learner.
Elisa wanders out of the bushes at this point. Unsurprisingly, Diane is surprised to see her daughter. Now, she doesn’t know where her daughter has been for the last month. She just up and left. So after the obligatory “where have you been, we’ve been worried sick,” Elisa shrugs it off and asks why Diane’s here. Well, she’s obviously here for a good reason. Namely, to tell native kids the native stores they’ve heard a million times.
Elisa has the lack of creativity to say she’s on a case. Really? Since when did you join the CIA?
Goliath and Angela are watching from the bushes. Angela doesn’t understand why Elisa doesn’t just tell her mother what’s going on with the gargoyles and Avalon. Goliath is a little more perceptive. He says that Elisa likes her secrets.
Angela takes advantage of the moment to say parents and kids should be able to discuss everything with each other.
Before this episode can get any more boring, Tea – who is the woman leading the poachers – appears with the rifle and her native friend. The Oz poacher comes too. They want to kill the panther that the tribe has locked up in a cage. I don’t know why the panther’s in a cage. Maybe they’re rehabbing it. I really couldn’t say.
Diane and Elisa throw themselves in the way. The leader of the tribe also does, but she’s even more pissed with him then she is with Elisa and Diane for getting in her way. Fara Maku says this is what the big city has done to her.
We don’t know, because she replies with kill them all. M’kay.
Well, that’s enough to make the leader turn into a panther. Yep. A panther.
The gargoyles jump in and mixed things up with the bad guys. The panther – the leader of the tribe – gets shot somewhere that’s not really apparent and goes bouncing into the woods. The angry woman goes after him.
Elisa is about to go after them, but her mom stops her. Her mom demands to know what’s going on with the gargoyles. Well, it’s not like your son has turned into an eel cat bat that can shoot electricity and fly. Or like his girlfriend is of the same mutant species. I’d expect her first thought to be, “My goodness, that Xanatos fellow’s been at it again.”
She said she thought the legends about the panther were just that, a legend. But Goliath says legends often have a seed of truth.
We cut to the two hunters in the woods, the panther and the woman. The panther is running away while the woman screams at it about love. The panther jumps a gorge. She’s about to kill him, but Goliath swoops in and takes her way. She turns into a cat in midair. Not surprisingly, he drops her in the river. She crawls out downstream.
Bronx leads the group, including Diane, to the ruins of the Spider Web City.
Elisa splits off, going with Angela. She says she doesn’t need anyone to look after her. Diane echoes the fact about herself but goes with Goliath nonetheless. There are spider webs and spiders everywhere.
Angela, Bronx, and Elisa have a web dropped on top of them, while Diane and Goliath fall into a pit. Well the first three get free, Goliath climbs out with Diane on his back. She does a nice not to Indiana Jones, saying, “Why does it have to be spiders.” Indie’s fear was snakes.
Angela and Elisa talk about parents. Elisa is irritated with her mother because Mom always wants more.
Angela wants more from Goliath.
Meanwhile, Goliath is bemoaning the fact that Angela wants to be treated like a special snowflake. Well, he can’t do that! Because all the clan are has kids. Except that there are pretty much no clan left, and she’s the only hatchling around. Diane has a sense to point this out.
20/20 moment: I have to give the writers massive props for the skill with which they bringing Goliath along his character arc. He goes from someone who really doesn’t value parenthood, because he thinks it’s a group activity, to a gargoyle who understands the incredible importance and strength of a parent-child bond. He understands it so intimately and values it so highly that he will even help his enemy, Xanatos, keep his son. This is even after Xanatos has attempted to kill Angela and Goliath, for the very reason that Angela is Goliath’s daughter and should provide the most leverage.
Now, I really don’t know if Xanatos would have killed them or not. I’m thinking he probably wouldn’t have, but dang was that trap real. He said he had to “be prepared to follow through,” which he may have been. The acid may have just given them a really nasty burn, or maybe it only works on sand. I don’t know. We didn’t really see anyone stick their hand in to test it. Owen wasn’t around. That was a low blow, I know. But Owen’s got a stone fist and can block pretty well now.
Now both panthers are around. Fara Maku has turned back into a human. He’s got a little scratch on the shoulder where the bullet nicked him. They have an argument. She said that before she left for the big city, she found a mark on her shoulder after a panther attacked her. Then when she moved into the big city, whenever she got mad she turned into the Hulk. Oh, I mean she turned into a panther. You can imagine how well that went down. She also seems to have a very troubling issue with anger management.
Fara Maku argues that he did it because her place is with him, because he loves her. Diane points out that that is not love, it’s just narcissistic idiocy. She doesn’t word it that way, but that’s what it is.
But the question is, who changed Fara Maku into a panther? Enter Anansi. He’s an enormous spider. He turned Fara Maku into a panther because the guy wanted to turn the woman into a panther and keep her with him. Jeez, man, why don’t you just chain or in the basement? It would be less crazy. So he promised to hunt for Anansi. Thanks to the eating and the not moving, Anansi is now bloated beyond all recognition.
The panther humans turn into panthers. Throwdown ensues. Angela has the common sense to see tubby isn’t going to do well if he’s not in his nest. So they cut his web. He flops onto his back. They poke his tummy with a spear, he turns into light, then disappears.
Well, that’s excellent, except now there’s no one to break the spell. But they decide that’s their punishment, and they will protect the jungle with their curse, which is actually sort of a gift.
Goliath says he’s proud of Angela because of her quick thinking. And then he calls her his daughter. It’s a cool scene. And it’s really groundbreaking for his character. Angela’s of course overjoyed. Yeesh. A lot of dads don’t acknowledge they have kids. Move on.
They embrace, and the sun comes up.
Diane says they are magical creatures. They actually are not, according to Greg. I wish he hadn’t have said this. I prefer they be magical. It makes way more sense, because there’s not a biological reason why their clothes and sometimes their weapons should turn to stone. I know Greg has some sort of complex explanation, and I think I talked about it somewhere else. I’m too lazy to look up the explanation, or to find where I talked about it.
20/20 moment: In the Gathering, we see many of the antagonists (with magical abilities) during the Avalon Arc are children of Oberon. Now, Oberon’s law says that the fey can not actively and directly interfere with human affairs. Sorry, but I think turning a panther into a human, having it marry a king and have kids, and then it building a city for you is interfering. As is having that panther change a human into another panther, and then doing it all again later. Really, you could say that whenever they fight humans, such as when they are fighting Diane, Elisa, Tea, and Fara Maku, that he’s interfering in human affairs. What if he kills them? I think that’s a pretty direct interference. Like, they don’t even have a life now. Does that maybe cancel out the fact that you interfered with it? I really don’t know how these laws work.
Tea was the antagonist. The real villain was Anansi. We don’t really hear in this one that he is a child of Oberon, so we’re just operating under the assumption that he’s some sort of magical creature. And there might be even be more magical spiders running around. The next time you open your mailbox, a magical spider might offer to turn you into a panther if you’ll give it food. That sounds like a cool deal, actually. All I ever find in my mailbox are black widows. And I don’t mean the kind that fight aliens with the Avengers. I wish.
He’s following his instinct, or his personality, and eating. He’s basically a glutton. He’s growing fat by consuming but not earning its keep. Uhg, it’s like the government in miniature.
It’s rather disturbing that a magical creature such as himself eats meat, and possibly human meat. I don’t know why it’s disturbing, I guess because I don’t expect a magical creature that can’t die to be…I don’t know. Energy is energy, but you think they could pull it out of the Earth or an electrical socket. As humans, I can see that they would need to, or at least be able to.
There, trickster, but he wasn’t too tricky in this episode. Fara Maku came to him asking to be transformed into a panther. He did. Now he’s going to forcibly make other people in gargoyles Panthers. I was not very tricky. Even the whole panther thing wasn’t a too terribly tricky move. Basically enslaved Panther to do as well. Now that is William made sense. Just magic it so that all the animals walk into your mouth.
As for Tea, we know she has rage issues. Which only gets worse if you turn into a panther every time you get angry. That might make you a little nutty. Now add the fact that she’s from a culture and upbringing where she probably already feels dis-empowered. That would explain why she went to the city. There she can live like a modern person, and make more money and have opportunities. Or so everyone thinks. Really all you end up doing is paying more money and wishing you had never come. Or so I imagine. I’ve never actually lived in a BIG city. But I’ve visited big cities plenty of times, and I can never handle being there more than a day. Plus they smell like urine.
I like that she’s got a change of character. They didn’t kill her. They didn’t even fix her! Let that sink in. I’m still surprised about that. I couldn’t remember if they changed for good into human, so I was actually surprised when I watched the episode this time. Hey, it’s been a long time since I watched the episode. I think I slept through it the last time I tried to watch.
It’s good that they changed her character so she would accept her curse. It actually makes sense, too. This is like when Una and Leo accepted the fact that they were in the wrong for blaming Goliath all these years.
As for the protags, we’ve got the family deal squared away. So now Diane is in on the secret and will probably be able to tell the rest of the clan when she gets back.
I don’t even want to hear the summary Elisa gave of the series’ events so far. In her world, everyone and everything is senselessly trying to destroy the gargoyles. The real world, we know, is far more nuanced than that.
This is not one of my favorites, largely because whenever I watch it, seems like the backstory section of Anansi goes on for days. I don’t know if it’s because they changed the animation to make it tribal – and by that I mean something that looks like a combination of Hey Arnold and Mayan art. I don’t know what else they’d put in here for filler, but it always seemed to drag. I find it interesting that the opinions I had about the show at the age of 10 are pretty much the same ones I have now.
Tune in next week when we look at the episode Pendragon. We’ll check in on ol’ Arthur and see what he’s been up to. Avalon has plans for him, apparently. And they involve a lot of destruction of property. Oh well, he is King Arthur, and that’s pretty much what knights do. So grab your sword, English accent, and Shakespearean language and let us away!