Season 1 Summary

I think it’s pretty clear that my relationship with She-Ra: Princess of Power isn’t so rosy as my relationship with He-Man. The main problem is, of course, that He-Man is an impossibly high standard to hold anything else to, but there’s also some serious issues that I’d have with She-Ra even if it were a completely standalone entity.

Primary among these issues is She-Ra herself, and Adora to a lesser degree. I just simply don’t like her, and I often actively want her to fail. She’s patronising most of the time, and is presented as simply unbeatable. Even He-Man had a few moments where he nearly lost; She-Ra, on the other hand, rarely seems to break a sweat. It’s a matter of opinion, obviously, but for my money, the leading light of this cartoon is just unlikeable.

Bright Moon 4
She-Ra: “LOOK HOW AWESOME I AM!”

With an unlikeable heroine, redemption could come from the antagonist. Unfortunately, here too the cartoon falls down, as Hordak is generally pretty bland, or – if he’s snorting like a prize porker – irritating. Sometimes, he does develop a little bit of character, and on those rare occasions, he can be genuinely great, but by and large, he’s dull. (I’m struggling to get through a paragraph about Hordak without mentioning how he pales in comparison to Skeletor, and I think I’ve managed to do so. Oh. Curses.)

We also have a pretty boring supporting cast. With very few exceptions, Glimmer suffers from a lack of character, and other individuals such as Castaspella and Frosta haven’t fared any better. The best that can be said for Madame Razz is that she isn’t as infuriating as I first thought she would be. I do like Bow and Kowl, the latter because he’s got a right gob on him, and the former because he’s a complete fuckwit.

The baddies are better, marginally. Starting at the top, Catra is absolutely awesome, with a spiteful, jealous, scheming personality which is great fun to watch. Shadow Weaver is also an entertaining presence, and conveys a greater air of danger and threat than Evil-Lyn ever really managed. Mantenna can be a decent source of comic relief, when Hordak’s bullying him, but Leech and Grizzlor are dull. Scorpia sounds thick as bricks in a vaguely off-putting way, while right down at the bottom of the rostra is Imp, who’s really, really annoying. I know he’s meant to be, but that doesn’t make it any better.

Shadows 3
Mantenna: “I hate performance appraisal day.”

Anyway, I’m sure the reason you’ve clicked on this entry is to read my by-now traditional list of highlights and lowlights. I recall complaining somewhere in the middle of the season that She-Ra was mostly mediocre, with few masterpieces or trainwrecks, but I have still managed to pick out some classics and duds. And here they are:

 

Highlights

Summary 1
She-Ra: “These episodes are so good I jump for joy.”

5. Horde Prime Takes a Holiday. Skeletor always manages to elevate an episode to the realms of the insane, and this instalment lives up to its promise, with him taking on Hordak, He-Man and She-Ra to steal a spaceship. This one was especially welcome, as it came quite early on, after a run of about 10 uninspiring episodes in a row. Very funny, and very entertaining.

4. Book Burning. This is the only episode to make the highlights list that’s primarily serious, rather than amusing. It’s a pretty hard-hitting moral tale about the dangers of allowing a state to control the dissemination of information to its populace, and makes a sound case for freedom. The need for the Rebellion’s presence on Etheria has never been better demonstrated than in this rather dark tale.

3. Flowers for Hordak. You’ll recall this one, of course, because it was only a few weeks ago, and it was outstandingly insane. Featuring Horde Troopers waltzing and the Fright Zone covered in flowers, it was completely crazy and great fun to watch.

2. For Want of a Horse. And, sticking with the silly theme, this episode centred around Hordak’s efforts to get Horde Prime a decent birthday present. It took the approach of a pretty standard kidnap plot, but fizzed along with great energy and some very funny jokes, as well as finding time to really showcase Hordak’s evil side.

1. Of Shadows and Skulls. Well, yes, I think it was inevitable really that this one would get the top spot. This is perhaps the closest Skeletor has ever come to winning outright, and it was great to see him kicking Hordak out of power and defeating She-Ra. His dialogue was brilliantly funny and verged on ominous as well, and the plot was great fun.

In all honesty, though, any of these top 5 episodes could have taken the top spot – they really are all very good.

 

Lowlights

Horde Prime 5
He-Man: “How dare you have episodes this bad?”

It was also pretty easy to choose the worst episodes of the season, though (with the exception of the top position) it was difficult to determine what order they should be in. Still, here they are, so you know what to avoid:

5. Darksmoke and Fire. This episode centres around an unnecessary and slightly confused return for Granamyr. The plot has She-Ra falling back in time to Eternia’s past, where she meets Granamyr of 1000 years ago, but he seems no different from the dragon we met in He-Man. We don’t learn anything new about him or Eternia’s past, and the whole thing is pretty dull and seems somehow pointless.

4. The Missing Axe. This one’s also pointless and dull, and rather forgettable too. It follows the same storyline seen many times in He-Man, and doesn’t manage anything of interest throughout. I haven’t got a lot more to say about it, really.

3. The Red Knight. Oh yes, the episode that introduced the odd concept of a rebels’ fair, as well as giving us the pleasure of seeing Bow feeling sorry for himself and running away, after being really boring for about 15 minutes. It also introduced a mysterious character called the Red Knight, who has not yet revealed his identity or even appeared again, and I have a suspicion that he’s never going to.

2. The Greatest Magic. Perhaps I’m being unduly harsh on this because it’s so fresh in my mind, but Christ it was annoying. I don’t like Orko, I don’t like Dree Elle, I don’t like Uncle Montork and I don’t like trips to Trolla where we have to watch drivel about magic going awry in ostensibly amusing ways. Essentially, I don’t like this episode.

1. The Wizard. Was there really any doubt in anyone’s mind that this would get the top spot? I think I detailed its myriad problems quite extensively in my review of the episode, but just to recap – it involves a plot about people running away, which is a guaranteed way of getting my goat. It also involves a really weird and terrifying baddy, and overall, it’s massively infuriating. Oh yes, and I still haven’t figured out why it’s called The Wizard.

 

Onward and upward

She-Ra’s second season consists of only 28 episodes, rather than the standard 65, so we haven’t got far to go. Let’s see if She-Ra and Hordak can stop being annoying, if Glimmer or any other rebels can develop a character, and if Skeletor might grace us with another visit or two!

 

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Season 2 Summary

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.

 

Highlights

Happy 1
He-Man: “Very proud of these ones, thanks.”

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.

 

Lowlights

Angry 1
He-Man: “These ones, on the other hand, were poor.”

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.

 

Favourite character

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.

Skeletor 1
Skeletor: “Yes! I won again.”

 

Where next?

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!

Season 1 Summary

Well, here we are, at the end of the first season of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. 65 episodes is a very long season, but they evidently worked themselves pretty hard in that Filmation office. I thought it might be a good idea to stop at this point and have a quick look back at the best and worst episodes of the season.

 

Highlights

There have been some really good fun episodes. Looking back at the titles, it’s hard to pick an absolute favourite, so I’m going to go with five (and even that’s difficult – there’s no space for The Shaping Staff or Golden Disks of Knowledge, among others):

defection-4
He-Man: “Ladies and gentlemen, I present my Greatest Hits, Volume 1.”

5. House of Shokoti, Part 2 – Definitely the creepiest episode of the season, and probably the entire run – and also notable for having a baddy actually able to incapacitate He-Man for a while, at least.

4. The Dragon’s Gift – A great twist at the end in which He-Man demonstrates clearly the importance of life for all living things really elevated this episode to one that makes you think (especially if you’re a child).

3. The Dragon Invasion – A fantastic early episode featuring a diabolical plot from Skeletor, in which he actually succeeds in getting into Castle Grayskull, and showcases his scheming side to perfection.

2. Evilseed – This one was lots of fun, including a threat against which He-Man and Skeletor had to team up to defeat. Skeletor was absolutely hilarious in this episode.

1. The Region of Ice – One of the funniest outings, and I suspect not always intentionally. He-Man’s fights with Beast-Man and Trapjaw were ludicrous, and he was talking nonsense the entire time. It was like He-Man on speed.

 

Lowlights

Well, yes, there have also been an awful lot of these. Many episodes this season were happy to settle into an unobtrusive mediocrity, but several really pushed the envelope. These are my five choices for worst episodes of the series:

shaping-staff-3
He-Man: “Yes, well, I’m a little less pleased about how these ones worked out.”

5. Wizard of Stone Mountain – Mostly boring, and occasionally a little bit sleazy and borderline misogynistic, what with Teela being treated as a prize to be fought over.

4. The Return of Orko’s Uncle – I’m actually surprised this is the only Orko-centric episode to make my bottom five, but it is definitely the worst of the lot. Montork and Orko were infuriating, and the villains were stupid beyond measure.

3. A Friend in Need – Hey kids! You want drugs? A Friend in Need is here to tell you that you definitely don’t, and it’ll make the point with all the subtlety of a hammer to the head.

2. The Remedy – This one barely had any story; it was just scene after scene of He-Man doing He-Man-like stuff, strung together seemingly at random, resulting in an excruciatingly dull episode.

1. The Starchild – A not-at-all subtle divorce allegory which quickly devolves into endless scenes of He-Man and co. running round the Palace bellowing “Starchild, where are you?” Seriously annoying and definitely bottom of the heap.

(Honorary mention: The Once and Future Duke – This was almost offensively rubbish, but the other episodes on the list just squeeze it down into 6th place.)

 

Favourite character

I don’t think I need to tell you that my favourite character is Skeletor – definitely my favourite character in this cartoon, and quite possibly my favourite in all of fiction. His sarcastic and vicious humour never fails to entertain me, and his increasingly insane plans are never short of hilarious. I’ll never understand why he didn’t feature every week.

evilseed-5
Skeletor: “I give a hearty thumbs-up to being voted favourite character.”

 

Themes

Continuity between episodes was never particularly a strong point for He-Man, but a couple of ongoing stories did manage to sneak in. Primary among them was Adam’s situation. Regarded by his parents and especially by Teela as a lazy no-hoper, there’s occasional flashes of the frustration he feels by being – in secret – the defender of Eternia. Prince Adam No More and Quest for the Sword are probably the best episodes to turn to for exploration of this theme, though there’s shades of it in Pawns of the Game Master as well.

Another ongoing plotline, if you can call it that, is the regular visits to and from Trolla, with Dree Elle and Uncle Montork putting in relatively regular appearances. But I’m going to gloss over that, because it’s one of the most infuriating aspects of the programme.

Orko's Uncle 3
Orko: “You should never have made it past the drawing board, Uncle. There, I said it.”

Onward and upward…

So, with stock taken, I think we’re ready to proceed to Season 2 …