And here we are, having reviewed every episode of the finest cartoon series in history. (That is my personal opinion, but I’m pretty sure there’d be support for having it settled as an undisputed fact.) 130 episodes is a vast number of episodes to make, and I’m pleased to say that on balance, I think the writers did a fine job. That being said, Season 2 has struggled – especially in its latter half – to match the highs of Season 1.
Nonetheless, there have been some real triumphs this season. As with Season 1, I have selected my top five episodes for your reading pleasure:
5. Here, There, Skeletors Everywhere – Utterly and completely barking mad. As if having hordes of miniature Skeletors running around wasn’t enough, the writers also saw fit to include three anthropomorphic teddy bears facing starvation because they could no longer become invisible. Watch this one for a troubling insight into what being mental is like.
4. The Rainbow Warrior – Hilarious dialogue from Skeletor is always a good start, but here we also have him actually succeeding in capturing everyone except Queen Marlena, into whom we get great character exploration, and who is the one who saves the day. While that doesn’t sound great, it’s a genuinely exciting episode.
3. Into the Abyss – Another one that doesn’t sound that great, this episode features Teela falling down an abyss, and He-Man rescuing her. It’s a surprisingly subtle exploration of what makes Adam, He-Man and Teela tick, and it’s fascinating for a Saturday morning cartoon.
2. To Save Skeletor – It’s essentially Evilseed from Season 1 done all over again, but who cares? He-Man and Skeletor being forced to work together to defeat a greater evil is a winning formula, and this one has moments of great humour and surprising darkness.
1. The Problem with Power – But if you’re into surprisingly dark episodes, you won’t find a better one than this. Skeletor tricks He-Man into believing he’s killed a man, and we see the resulting moral quandary that He-Man goes through. It’s an outstanding exploration of ethical dilemmas, and features brilliant writing.
Contrary to customarily accepted He-Man wisdom, I do not consider Origin of the Sorceress to be a very good episode, which is why it’s not on the list. So don’t go emailing me claiming I forgot about it. I didn’t. Sorry and all. On the other hand, I very much wanted to include The Cat and the Spider, Not so Blind and Journey to Stone City, but there wasn’t quite room.
There have been surprisingly few of these, actually. I thought I’d be able to find plenty of candidates for this list, but it seems that most of Season 2 has been content to wallow in anonymous mediocrity rather than going for broke with outright dreadfulness. Still, there were some episodes that seemed to be really trying to achieve notoriety:
5. The Bitter Rose – In fairness, this one isn’t absolutely appalling, but I needed an episode to fill the bottom space on this list, and I think this is probably an appropriate fit. It features Orko nicking a rare flower, He-Man occupying himself playing baseball with rocks for ages, and the sudden and random appearance of a half-woman, half-flower thing at the end. It’s thus boring for the most part, and mental when it’s not being boring.
4. Monster on the Mountain – There’s a vast chasm separating this one from The Bitter Rose in the rankings table. I wouldn’t mind watching The Bitter Rose again one day, after sufficient therapy, but everything else on this list needs to be consigned to hell. Monster on the Mountain is preachy, obvious, and dull. Need I say more?
3. The Greatest Show on Eternia – This episode has a reputation for being the absolute worst that He-Man has to offer, largely because of the enormous character assassination it performs on Skeletor. Skeletor has never been the most convincing baddy, but his evil plot to spoil the circus in this episode is perhaps as ridiculous as he ever got. Add to that a deeply infuriating double act from Crackers the Clown and Orko, and you’ve got an incredibly unlikeable episode.
2. Time Doesn’t Fly – Bad as The Greatest Show on Eternia was, it was at least a vaguely entertaining train wreck. Time Doesn’t Fly, on the other hand, was boring, didn’t make any sense whatsoever, and the moral lesson was deranged, featuring He-Man warning us not to stop time, as if we could if we wanted to.
1. The Rarest Gift of All – But the absolute lowest point of Season 2 came quite early on, with The Rarest Gift of All. Orko spoils everyone’s day, then runs away weeping about how everyone hates him, and everyone has to reassure him. It’s sickening and utterly pointless, and I regard it as perhaps the worst thing ever to have been on television.
Yes, obviously, it’s still Skeletor. It doesn’t matter that he became more for comic relief this year, he’s still the best baddy in the history of television.
With He-Man over, the first and largest part of my mammoth undertaking is complete. Luckily, I have it on good authority that He-Man and Skeletor make regular guest appearances on She-Ra, which will probably be a good way of easing me out of my serious He-Man addiction. So, next week, we’ll be beginning the first season of She-Ra: Princess of Power!