In which Adora and Bow put bags over their own heads.
Today’s episode opens in a school, where Serena the teacher tells the children they have some important guests. The guests turn out to be Adora and Bow, who are standing at the front of the classroom with bags over their heads. I’m assuming these bags are an attempt at a disguise, but this isn’t specified in the episode, and it’s always possible that the animators had one of their semi-regular holidays from reality. Anyway, Adora begins lecturing the children on how the Horde are evil.
She is interrupted by a child called Cory, who takes the Horde’s side, and thus a stimulating debate is sparked concerning the rights and wrongs of the Rebellion and the Horde. Well, I say ‘stimulating’. What I mean is that Cory says Adora’s lying, and Adora says the Horde are liars. This scintillating discussion goes round a few times before Bow gets bored and announces the Horde have arrived. He and Adora nip out the back quickly.
Leech and Mantenna enter the classroom, announcing that from now on, only official Horde books will be used as teaching material in the school. They start burning all Serena’s books, until Cory pipes up with the information that Adora and Bow have just departed. Leech and Mantenna give chase, but Adora and Bow put pay to them with some tedious antics involving a see-saw.
This is all well and good, but it doesn’t change the fact that Hordak shortly arrives in town, demanding the people give up all their books to the snakelike Rattlor. He also appoints a new school teacher, the equally snakelike Tung Lashor. Tung Lashor is at least capable of speech, a skill which seems to evade Rattlor, so of the two, I suppose he’s a better choice for teacher. Still, the situation leaves much to be desired, as the townsfolk realise – except Cory, who cheers like a doofus. Hordak recognises that Cory is a corruptible moron, and appoints him to be a Horde spy.
The Horde confiscate all the books in town, except for some that Serena squirrels away. After hours, the children come to her house and read the now outlawed books. Cory dobs her in, of course, and Serena is arrested, but is very speedily freed by She-Ra. The two then make their way to the town square, but arrive too late to prevent Tung Lashor burning the books on a bonfire.
Tung Lashor then takes up his new post as teacher, but it isn’t long before the children stage a rebellion, hurl the new Horde textbooks at him, and run out of school. When Tung Lashor responds to this by threatening to send the children to school in the Fright Zone, two of them make a dash for the rebel camp, where they ask for help from Adora and Bow. Cory follows, and listens in as Adora promises to save the children.
Back at the town square, Tung Lashor and Rattlor begin loading the town’s children into a transport ship. Cory’s sister Arianne is among those taken, and when Cory tells Tung Lashor to release her, he is coldly informed the Horde has simply used him. Arianne is put on the transport with the other children, and Cory only just escapes the same fate. He finds Serena and admits that the Horde are liars after all, then confesses that he’s informed the Horde that the rebels will be coming to rescue the children.
Adora and Bow sneak into town and easily board the transport ship, but are immediately captured. Adora is deprived of her sword and placed in the town jail, but Cory brings her sword to her, and she becomes She-Ra. She-Ra rescues Bow and the children, but Hordak shows up again and threatens to burn down the entire town if She-Ra and the children are not handed over. I was kind of expecting She-Ra to give herself up at this point, but instead she flies off to a lake, which she picks up and throws all the way back to the town. Yes, you did read that correctly.
By this stage, the Horde have set the entire town alight, but luckily the lake lands on the town and puts out the fire. Instead of simply lighting the fire again, Hordak accepts defeat and strops off back to the Fright Zone. She-Ra ties Tung Lashor up with his long tongue, and she and Bow have a disproportionately large laugh about the fact that the lake has rusted the Horde Troopers. Finally, Cory slinks along and apologises, and receives forgiveness from the entire town. Rejoice, rejoice.
In today’s adventure…
Very late in the episode’s proceedings – so late that I assumed I’d missed him – I noticed Loo-Kee hiding in a bucket of pineapples, which must have been nice for him. His moral concerns freedoms and how we may not notice them until they are taken away, and of course he singles out books and the right to read whatever we wish. It’s a sensible moral, though my only criticism is what he particularly expected his audience to do about it. Perhaps he thought he was addressing North Korea or somewhere, and was recommending an easing of censorship.
Very few of our regular rebels appear this time: we’re limited to just Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Bow and Loo-Kee. We also see the many villagers, of course, not least Serena, Cory and his sister. The villains are Hordak, Tung Lashor, Rattlor, Mantenna, Leech, and the usual fine selection of Horde Troopers.
Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance
We are treated to two transformations, but not to any excuses.
For such an action-packed episode, there was a surprising lack of insults.
Does it have the Power?
I really liked this one; in fact, it’s probably my favourite so far. It’s the first episode that’s really explored what life is like on Etheria for those under Horde oppression, and it really is astonishingly dark. The Horde can impose their own doctrine as truth in schools, take children to re-education centres in the Fright Zone, and burn down towns as punishment for non-compliance – all incredibly frightening stuff. Tung Lashor is an appropriately menacing presence; there’s no humour to him, and he’s disturbingly eager to set the town on fire and take away the children. Hordak also comes across well this week, seedily addressing the townsfolk as “friends”, pretending he’s there for their own good, and recognising Cory’s weakness and seducing him to betray his family and friends for power.
The message concerning the freedom to read books, to learn and decide matters for oneself is a great theme for the cartoon to tackle. Off the top of my head, I think the only move towards it we’ve previously had was He-Man’s The Great Books Mystery, which wasn’t nearly so much of a success. I suspect some people might consider She-Ra’s stupid lake trick at the end undermines the message, but I was happy with it. This episode is truly excellent.