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Cloud Fathers

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



by Lori Summers

Act I

"Previously on 'Gargoyles'" shows clips from "Mark of the Panther" and "The Cage."

At a Xanatos construction site, the earth trembles and a tornado-like wind wrecks equipment and destroys the site. As the winds twist and wail, a coyote's howl is heard and a ghostly coyote face appears in the funnel cloud.

Flashback to Arizona, 1960, where a young Peter Maza is setting off for New York, against the wishes of his father who is afraid his son is abandoning their Native American traditions. Peter thinks his father is living in the past, and sarcastically says he'll send him a postcard from the big city.

In the present day, Beth Maza picks up Peter at the airport. Beth is concerned about Xanatos' construction project on tribal ground, and Peter is determined to find out what Xanatos is up to. Beth asks if Peter would like to visit Grandpa while he's there. "No, I don't," he says definitively.

The travellers arrive in a waterway near the University of Flagstaff stadium. Elisa is concerned that if Avalon has sent them here, her sister might be in trouble.

Beth and Peter visit the construction site, where they are let in by a security guard who seems to have been expecting them. They are shocked to see the destruction caused by the earlier disturbance. Suddenly Xanatos appears with several armed guards and has the Mazas arrested. Beth protests that his own guard let them in. "But I didn't hire any guards for this site, though evidently I should have," Xanatos insists.

The next morning Beth and Peter return to Beth's apartment and are surprised to find Elisa there. Peter tells her that Diane told them what had happened to her (see "Mark of the Panther") and he is surprised to see the stone gargoyles on Beth's balcony. They tell Elisa that they've just made bail, and are suspicious that Xanatos might have set them up. Beth points out that he couldn't have since he didn't know they were coming, but the security guard did. Elisa asks them to start at the beginning.

Meanwhile, Xanatos is conferring with a large robot which speaks in his voice (obviously a new Coyote robot). He's aware that the Mazas weren't responsible for the destruction of his site, but he's suspicous of the mysterious security guard, and warns Coyote to be on the lookout for him.

The sun sets, and Peter and Beth are astounded at the gargoyles' awakening. Goliath and Angela plan to visit the construction site and see what Xanatos is up to. Peter is uncomfortable with breaking the law, but Elisa helps him see the loopholes and Peter knows better than to argue with her. They set off for the site. Elisa asks if he'd like to visit Grandpa, and she gets the same response Beth got.

Goliath and Angela arrive at the site, forcing their way into a large warehouse. Angela finds several aerial photographs of coyote-shaped ground drawings, one of which is on the floor of the warehouse at their feet. Angela is grabbed from behind by the new robot, who introduces himself as Coyote 4.0, the upgraded model. "Not who I expected, but you'll do," he growls as he stuns them.

Act II

The Mazas, arriving at the site, see the mysterious security guard leaving the site. They chase him and Bronx pins him down. Elisa and Beth are stunned by his appearance...he quite obviously is a spitting image of Peter but Peter does not notice it. He demands to know why the young man framed them.

Meanwhile, Xanatos has pinned Goliath and Angela to the ground with industrial staples. He says he's going to use them as bait, and Coyote 4.0 explains that in 10 minutes an overhead vat of boiling acid will spill onto them, obliterating both them and the soil carving they're lying on.

The Mazas are asking the young security guard why he's working for Xanatos. He expresses disdain for the Native American traditions, which would regard the soil carving of Coyote the Trickster as sacred, and touts Xanatos as bringing jobs to the area. Peter thinks they should inform the tribal police, grudgingly admitting that the carving would have anthropological value.

In the warehouse, Xanatos says he's no wish to kill Goliath or Angela, but he has to be prepared to follow through on his threat to nab his real prey, who seems to know when he's sincere and when he's just pretending.

As Peter starts to take the young man away, he retorts "Why worry about a few scratches in the sand when Xanatos is about to ice your two gargoyle friends?" The Mazas look towards the site, and when they turn back the young man is gone, replaced by a small cyclone. They rush to the warehouse. Xanatos is disappointed that it's not who he was hoping for, but says he'll just add them to the pot. Bronx knocks him over, but Elisa and Peter are unable to free Goliath and Angela. Bronx releases Xanatos in order to free them, and as Xanatos stands and takes aim he's knocked over by an invisible force. The gargoyles are freed, and Angela engages Xanatos after he attacks them with the industrial staple gun. A few staples hit the timer on the acid vat, stopping it. The Mazas and the gargoyles escape, and Xanatos is sure that the young man he seeks must be there, for his luck is never that bad. He spots the young man on the top floor and Coyote 4.0 goes after him.

As the Mazas drive away, Beth advances the theory that the young security guard is in fact Coyote the Trickster, the mythical figure of Native American legend. Peter isn't buying it. They try to report to the tribal police but no one's around. They spot four kachina dancers performing what Peter calls a dance of gratitude to the kachina Coyote. Peter's father made him participate in the ritual, and he played the part of the Coyote kachina dancer. He insists it's just a coincidence, but the the coyote dancer comes forward and removes his headdress, and it's the same young man. "Just a coincidence, huh Peter?" he says, just as Coyote 4.0 swoops down and spirits him away.


Elisa, Beth and the gargoyles are convinced now that the security guard is indeed Coyote the Trickster, but Peter is still skeptical, saying that Xanatos was just saving his employee from arrest when Coyote 4.0 snatched the Trickster. Elisa and Beth want to help the Trickster, but Peter says he won't have anything more to do with this.

Coyote 4.0 arrives back at the site with the Trickster, who is puzzled that Coyote 4.0 can hold him. Xanatos explains that he made Coyote 4.0 out of the melted down Cauldron of Life, and the cauldron's magic allows the robot to hold the spirit. As the gargoyles with Beth and Elisa arrive, Coyote 4.0 secrets the Trickster away inside his body. Fighting ensues, but is halted as Coyote 4.0 and Xanatos spot a Coyote kachina dancer dancing nearby. Xanatos asks the robot if the Trickster escaped. Coyote 4.0 says no, but perhaps he kidnapped the wrong kachina dancer. When he opens up the compartment to check, the Trickster escapes. More fighting ensues during the course of which Goliath takes out Coyote 4.0 with, as usual, a steel I-beam. The robot gets up and is bearing down on Beth, Elisa and Bronx when the Trickster taunts him into blowing up the supports on the steel building skeleton surrounding them, causing it to collapse onto the robot. Xanatos extricates himself from the rubble. "These last minute upsets you keep handing me are becoming...irritating," he growls at Goliath before blasting off.

The gargoyles and humans are amazed at having won, thanks to the fortuitious appearance of the kachina dancer, who approaches and removes his headdress to reveal Peter Maza. He says he isn't sure why he put on the costume, but the Trickster approaches and says that he knows why. He and Peter are connected, ever since Peter first put on the headdress and did the dance. When Peter left, he took part of the Trickster with him. The Trickster vanishes in a whirl of tornado and a brief glimpse of the ghostly coyote face. Beth marvels that he was actually real, and Peter suggests they go visit their they go from there to the graveyard where Peter's father is buried.


by Juan F. Lara

The episodes are improving.

Good Points

The travellers battled Xanatos again after God knows how long, in an episode with one of the regular cast members as its main character. So more than the most recent World Tour episodes "Cloud Fathers" resembled a pre-"Avalon" episode.

Like in some other episodes, the character interaction was the episode's main strength. The good guys and the bad guys alike tended to treat each other informally. So the script had scenes like Xanatos casually explaining his death trap to Goliath and Angela and joking about it. Likewise, the good guys often had to be careful about mixing up the Coyote Trickster with Coyote 4.0. The characters had some funny lines (listed below) when they were in these situations, and the episode had a casual tone that I found appealing.

I also liked the Coyote Trickster's characterization. He heckled his adversaries in the way that the "trickster" title implied. But he also showed a sincere personal affection for Peter. I was touched by the last scene, where the Trickster explained the connection he had with Peter. I don't think we've seen a Child of Oberon have such a relationship with a human, besides Grandmother in "Heritage". It was also a novelty to see a fairy in the helpless position that Coyote 4.0 held him in.

Bad Points

Elisa: Dad, he was clearly trying to goad you into action. His reverse psychology was pretty blatent.

I smirked at this line, as Coyote's caricature of a young Peter really was very simplistic and heavy handed. We've seen the "dejected lead turns his back on his heritage" premise so often already that this episode was more of the same. In fact Peter's conflicts seemed exactly the same as Chief Nick's conflicts in "Heritage". So Coyote's mocking in that scene fell flat, as did Peter's many refusals to recognize Coyote for what he was. (I understood why he wouldn't acknowledge Coyote, but I didn't empathize with him.)

I also didn't like Peter's deus ex machina change of heart in Act 3. The episode should've cut between the Act 3 fight and Peter watching from afar, and then showed Peter deciding to wear the mask again.

Koko (alone this time) did a subpar animation job. The characters tended to be stiff and have jerky movements. That was particularly a problem in the Cachina (sp?) dance, where the dancers moved like robots.


Goliath: The mist is clearing. The water is calm. I wonder where Avalon has led us this time?
Elisa: ...Well, this is certainly different.
Angela: Is this a pond?

Xanatos: Ahh. It's only the Mazas.

Beth: I think he's Coyote. Um, the trickster, not the robot.

Coyote: I should sue you for trademark infringement.
Xanatos: Consider him a tribute.
[The designers of the creature in the "Alien" movies might also consider suing. :-) ]

Goliath: We're here for Coyote.
Coyote 4.0: Right here.
Goliath: The other one.
Coyote 4.0: Also right here.

Xanatos: It's so hard to program good help these days.
[Coyote did seem not too bright overall. But maybe Xanatos purposely programmed him like this after his experience with Thailog.]

Coyote 4.0: I should warn you. I'm programmed for vengeance.
[Nice continuity here. Ditto for the use of the Cauldron of Life.]

Xanatos: Goliath. I must say these last minute upsets you keep handing me are becoming...irritating.
[Xanatos sounded unusually intense at this moment. Perhaps this line forshadowed an ultimate conflict between Xanatos and Goliath.]

Xanatos: It's my first real stab at cliched villainy. How am I doing?
[First stab? That can't be right. :-) ]

So, despite the poorly handled main premise, I enjoyed watching this episode more than any other episode from this week and last week.


by Todd Jensen

A landmark episode, this is the final time that Goliath and Xanatos face each other as adversaries (unless you count "Future Tense"). Xanatos's return stands out all the more since this is the first time that we see him since "Kingdom" (Xanatos and Goliath had not even encountered each other since "The Cage"). Fortunately, he hasn't gotten at all rusty in his absence; he's still the Xanatos that we know.

Once again, Xanatos's scheme is not directed towards the gargoyles; this time, his target is Coyote the Trickster, one of the leading figures of Native American myth and legend. To assist him in his endeavor, he's built a fourth Coyote robot (the only Coyote robot in the series who has no dealings with the Pack); in a particularly fun touch, Coyote 4.0 was made partly out of the Cauldron of Life (Xanatos being determined to get some use out of it even if it couldn't make him immortal). The fact that Coyote 4.0 is Xanatos's henchman here adds some comedy to the confrontation with Coyote the Trickster, as the characters in the episode keep on having to explain which Coyote they're talking about; the crowning touch, however, comes when Coyote the Trickster comments indignantly that he ought to sue Xanatos for copyright infringement.

Xanatos continues to cheerfully follow the trickster archetype himself (making it appropriate that he should be the one hunting Coyote the Trickster); his particular highlight comes when, explaining about his plan to dispose of the Coyote Carving (and Goliath and Angela alongside it) with a trough of acid programmed to spill over it at the end of a countdown, comments, "It's my first real stab at cliched villainy. How am I doing?" (Who else but Xanatos would make such a remark?) At the same time, he shows just how much he differs from the conventions of "cliched villainy" when he tells Goliath that, in fact, he bears no personal grudge against the gargoyles; he's doing this purely to capture the elusive Trickster and not to settle a feud with them. (Although at the very end, when he comments about how Goliath's "last-minute upsets" are starting to become annoying, he comes perhaps the closest in the series to displaying the vengeance-based mentality of a cliched villain.)

But the episode is not noteworthy only for returning Xanatos to the series. Having earlier brought her mother into the secret concerning the clan, Elisa now introduces her father and her younger sister Beth to the gargoyles as well (it is indicated that they had learned about them from Diane upon her return from Arizona, but this is the first time that they actually encounter them face to face). And, even more significantly, we learn something about Peter's background, that he left his home as a young man, over his father's objections, to join the police in New York, and that this caused a rift between them, a rift that, deep down inside, pains Peter, even if he won't mention it. More than once during the episode, Elisa and Beth ask him if he wants to "visit grandfather" while in Arizona, and each time he refuses, until the end. Only in the final scene do we learn that Carlos Maza is dead, and the true significance of visiting him as Peter makes peace with his father at the latter's grave.

That Peter's rift with his father and what his father stood for (such as the customs of his people), and the need for healing it, is the true heart of the story is made all the clearer in Coyote the Trickster's motives. We learn at the end that, when Peter had performed the Kachina Dance of the Coyote as a boy, at his father's request, he had become bonded to Coyote, who had become concerned when Peter had then left for New York and needed to bring him back home. (Is it possible that Coyote arranged for Xanatos to find out about the soil carving, in the hopes that Xanatos's threat to it would serve as a motivating factor for Peter to return to Arizona? It's never stated in the episode, but is certainly an intriguing possibility.) This has the additional advantage of giving some depth to Coyote behind his fun-loving, quipping characterization (so appropriate to a trickster), showing that underneath it all, he really cares about the Mazas.


This marks the final appearance of a Coyote robot in the series, but Greg Weisman was not finished yet with the concept. He had planned for at least three more Coyotes to come, as a matter of fact, if not more. The first two (Coyotes 5.0 and 6.0) were to have appeared in the third season; Coyote 5.0 would be involved in some unknown way with Iago/Coldsteel, while Coyote 6.0 would (apparently on its own initiative) form a new version of the Pack as the Ultra-Pack. And in the projected "Gargoyles 2198" spinoff, there would have been a further Coyote, Coyote-X, who had by this time developed enough sentience to be planning to take over the world (until the Space-Spawn invaded, after which Coyote-X, his eyes opened to larger horizons, upgraded his ambition to conquering the entire galaxy).

Xanatos's mention of the Cauldron of Life's being made out of iron, and connecting it to Coyote 4.0's ability to imprison Coyote the Trickster, is a foreshadowing of the revelation in "Ill Met By Moonlight" concerning the Third Race's vulnerability to iron, and also indicates (even before we discover this to be certain in "The Gathering Part One") that Coyote is one of Oberon's Children.

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