In which a familiar story is told surprisingly well.
This week’s episode follows the story of Ardin and Narwin. Narwin is an old man, learned in magic, while Ardin is his pupil. Ardin has the same beef that every wizard’s pupil has, namely, that he wants to use magic for everything, but Narwin doesn’t want him to until he can use it responsibly, and preferably not even then. This all-too-common argument results in an all-too-common storyline: Ardin tries to take the quick and easy way to power.
In this circumstance, the quick and easy way is for Ardin to approach Shadow Weaver and ask her to help. He goes to her home at Horror Hall, where he learns that a long time ago, Shadow Weaver and Narwin had some history. Unfortunately, Shadow Weaver blames Narwin for some past injustice, and now intends to use Ardin as an instrument of her vengeance. Her plan for doing so is to accept Ardin as her pupil, and turn him to the Dark Side.
Narwin, in the meantime, sends a message to the Rebellion asking them to come and meet him. She-Ra, Madame Razz and Broom go along, and Narwin fills us in on the rest of the story. Both Shadow Weaver and Castaspella were once his apprentices, but when the Horde arrived on Etheria, Shadow Weaver betrayed the planet’s defenders by handing over the Council of Kings to the Horde. In return, she received great magical power from the Horde; but would have received even more, if Narwin had not intervened at the time.
She-Ra and her posse head to Horror Hall, where Shadow Weaver quickly learns of their arrival. She sets up a test for Ardin, explaining that in order to learn great power, he must sacrifice other things such as friends. When She-Ra and Narwin confront them, Shadow Weaver offers Ardin a jewel which will give him magical power beyond imagining, and encourages him to take it. After a very short internal debate, Ardin refuses the offer, realising that at least Narwin cares for him and for others.
Shadow Weaver doesn’t take kindly to this rejection, and unleashes all sorts of hell involving flying gargoyle statues and green tentacles that grow up from the ground. She-Ra deals with this silliness with her usual aplomb, while Narwin himself vanquishes Shadow Weaver. The final scene shows Narwin congratulating Ardin for having the wisdom to reject Shadow Weaver’s quick and easy route to power.
In today’s adventure…
Loo-Kee is, as ever, in Whispering Wood, this time hiding under a bush. He says that it’s important to learn from our mistakes, like Ardin did in this episode. I’d argue that Loo-Kee doesn’t learn from his mistakes, since he’s always hiding in pretty much the same place.
So here we have Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Madame Razz, Broom, Loo-Kee, Narwin, Ardin, a flashback version of Castaspella, Shadow Weaver, Mantenna, some Horde Troopers, and all manner of extras, including a bunch of people who I’m going to assume were Mumford & Sons.
Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance
Don’t be silly. Why on earth would Adora need to give an excuse? It’s not like this She-Ra business is a secret or anything.
It’s all very polite in Etheria today, with no insults dispensed. This is despite a short appearance from Mantenna, who usually bears the brunt of someone’s temper.
Does it have the Power?
I didn’t have a good feeling about this one, given the all-too-familiar set-up with a wizard’s apprentice who wants to skip the hard work, which is a story we’ve seen so many times it’s not even funny. Therefore, it’s a pleasant surprise that this episode manages to tell the same story again extremely effectively. I think this is largely down to Shadow Weaver, who is portrayed with a perfect balance of seduction and threat. Perhaps the best example of this is when she offers Ardin the jewel and hisses, “Take it! It’s so easy…” There’s a strong undercurrent of danger, but it’s still believable as a temptation. Even Shadow Weaver’s closing monologue – “We will meet again someday, and you will regret this” – comes across as a serious threat, rather than the usual impotence such a line would convey.
There’s also an effective scene in which Shadow Weaver shows Ardin her true face, but does so with her back to the camera. Ardin’s reaction is enough to convince us that her features are hideously twisted by evil, but we don’t actually see. This is a great example of less-is-more; I have no doubt that if the animators had actually shown us Shadow Weaver’s face, it would have been less than imposing, but without seeing it, we are left to imagine its horrific nature.
It’s not all perfect, of course; there’s a pointless scene early on in which Shadow Weaver conjures up some spirits called Dark Riders, for no reason whatsoever. They’re suitably scary, but her motivation for actually doing it is less than clear. But that’s just a very minor quibble; this is a very fine episode.