Episode 128 – The Games

In which He-Man takes micro-management to a whole new level.

Adam, Man-at-Arms, Fisto, Orko and Cringer are hanging out at the Palace, playing stupid games to see which of them can remain motionless the longest. This is as tedious as it sounds, despite Fisto trying to make out that it’s an “excellent” game. The whole sorry bunch of them are interrupted by a flying saucer, which hovers above the Palace and transmits a radio message.

Games 1
Prince Adam: “If I stand behind Fisto and glare at him, he won’t be able to see how much I loathe him.”

The saucer contains an alien race called the Bendari, the self-proclaimed seekers of truth. Allegedly, on their world, the concepts of good and evil are non-existent, so they have come to Eternia to try to gain an understanding. This understanding will apparently be reached by asking representatives of the diametric forces of good and evil to compete in some games.

Fisto stands around whinging that he is unlikely to be selected as the champion of good, since the Bendari will undoubtedly choose He-Man instead. Over in Snake Mountain, Skeletor has come to the same conclusion, and furthermore has realised that he is likely to be chosen as the champion of evil. For some reason, he is not keen to go up against He-Man in any kind of contest, and therefore puts his henchman Spikor through a machine called an Evilgizer to make him more evil.

Games 2
Spikor: “The Hacienda is a little lower budget these days, but still pretty rave-tastic.”

When the Bendari come to choose their champions, Teela has delayed Adam by forcing him to take part in sword fighting lessons. Consequently, He-Man is nowhere in sight, and the Bendari choose Fisto instead to represent good. In accordance with Skeletor’s plan, they select Spikor to represent evil, and transport the competitors to the Eternian forest. The Bendari then explain the game, which is basically a glorified Easter Egg Hunt, and they specify that good is bound by its own rules, while evil is not required to follow any rules.

Spikor takes an early lead, thanks to the efforts of Beast-Man and Mer-Man, who help him to reach the Easter Eggs. Skeletor, on the other hand, rather oddly chooses to spend his time burrowing around under the surface driving a giant drill, for no evident purpose. Once Spikor is 2000 points ahead, Adam decides that enough is enough, transforms into He-Man, and replaces Fisto in the game. Way to undermine Fisto’s confidence, He-Man.

Games 3
He-Man: “I’ll take it from here, you useless waste of space.”

He-Man quickly finds a special Easter Egg worth 2000 points, which equalises the gap between him and Spikor. Skeletor, still merrily drilling away, is livid, and orders Spikor that he must find the final Egg and win. Both He-Man and Spikor locate the Egg at the top of a very tall tree, and prepare to start climbing. Spikor prepares by doing a stupid dance and chanting, “Spikor is strongest, Spikor will win!”, a little display of lunacy which He-Man ignores, instead heading up into the tree.

Games 4
Spikor: “Form an orderly queue, ladies.”

Predictably, whilst climbing, Spikor runs into difficulty and it becomes necessary for He-Man to rescue him. Equally predictably, Spikor proceeds to respond by knocking He-Man out of the tree, and almost reaching the final Easter Egg himself. He-Man then does what he should have done in the first place, and shakes the tree so violently that the Egg falls out, into his waiting hands.

The Bendari proclaim He-Man the winner, and thank the participants, announcing that they now understand that good is greater than evil. He-Man stands around smugly in the Palace courtyard, ignoring Fisto’s cold glare, while over in Snake Mountain, Skeletor shrieks that he hates losing. Well, Skeletor, just a thought, but perhaps you wouldn’t have lost if you had done something constructive rather than pissing about in your drill.

Games 5
Skeletor: “Surely the random and pointless use of this giant drill should have led me to victory?”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms decides that the best lesson from today’s little fable is that we should never stop trying, even when the task seems hard, or when other people aren’t playing fair. This is nothing we’ve not heard before, so I might suggest that a more interesting moral – albeit one more tailored towards staff managers than five year olds – is that He-Man’s behaviour towards Fisto was inappropriate in the extreme. If you act like He-Man and micro-manage your team, and undermine them when they are doing their jobs, you’ll end up with dissatisfied staff and a loss of productivity in your team.

 

Character checklist

Ooh, wow, it’s rare appearances from Fisto and Spikor! That’s the sort of thing that really draws in the crowds. If these two no-hopers don’t float your boat, though, we’ve also got Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Orko, Teela, Skeletor, Beast-Man and Mer-Man. There’s the Bendari too, but we only see their spaceship, not them in person.

Games 7
Beast-Man: “Christ, Skeletor, we didn’t need to see your re-interpretation of Equus.”

 

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

He doesn’t give one at the time of the actual transformation. However, early on, he tries to make an exit by claiming he’s got stuff to do, but Teela won’t have it, and forces him to stay, which was a pretty amusing scene.

 

Insults

Skeletor calls Fisto a “goody-goody”, and tells Spikor he’s a “fool” twice. Otherwise, there’s nothing to report here.

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s a bit of a rehash of The Arena, which was definitely a superior episode, but it’s by no means a failure. It’s a fairly snappy script, and though it’s clearly geared towards selling Fisto and Spikor action figures, it’s a lot more subtle in this aim than other similar efforts, such as Happy Birthday Roboto. Spikor seems to be in serious need of psychiatric help, taking in consideration his loopy little dances and his voice, which sounds like he’s one step away from complete mental collapse. Fisto, though he doesn’t come across as a nutjob, doesn’t fare much better in that he achieves precisely nothing before being replaced by He-Man.

Games 6
Fisto: “Got the time, Spikor?”

However, the oddest thing in this episode has to be Skeletor’s behaviour. For a start, he seems unusually invested in winning the game, especially given the Bendari make no mention of a prize. In addition, there’s no particular reason why he doesn’t want to compete in person, though it’s not difficult to imagine that he simply is fed up of facing He-Man. It’s harder to come up with a plausible explanation for all the drilling, which is genuinely completely purposeless.

And finally, I think the whole thing would have had more impact if Spikor had actually managed to reach the final Easter Egg and win the game. The Bendari could have concluded that He-Man’s moral action in saving Spikor meant that good was the winner anyway, and it would have showed viewers that the most important thing isn’t winning, but doing the right thing. It would have also been interesting in that it would have been the only He-Man episode in which the baddies win, and considering who won the game didn’t make any difference to Eternia, it’s the sort of situation when it would have been okay for Skeletor to have a victory. Just a thought.

Episode 075 – To Save Skeletor

In which Skeletor bites off more than he can chew.

In Snake Mountain, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn open a portal to another dimension, with intent to summon forth an evil entity with sufficient power to defeat He-Man and conquer Eternia. In this, they are successful: a gigantic, one-eyed, tentacled demon named Sh’Gora appears. Unfortunately, Sh’Gora is unwilling to accept Skeletor’s leadership, and Skeletor’s attempts to tame it simply make it laugh. Skeletor then orders all his minions to destroy Sh’Gora, but they are defeated with ease.

To Save Skeletor
Skeletor: “This isn’t going to end well, is it?”

Only Whiplash escapes, and – badly injured – he makes his way to the Palace to beg King Randor’s assistance. As Adam and Man-at-Arms debate the issue, the Sorceress pops along to verify that Whiplash is telling the truth, and informs Adam that the powers of good and evil must unite to defeat Sh’Gora.

Adam transforms into He-Man, and gathers a motley crew consisting of Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, Fisto and Battle-Cat to travel to Snake Mountain with Whiplash. Once inside, they discover Skeletor, Evil-Lyn and Trapjaw imprisoned in crystals, from which He-Man releases them. Skeletor notably does not say thank you, but he agrees to form a temporary alliance.

To Save Skeletor 2
Fisto: “Who the hell does that purple-booted leg underneath Skeletor belong to?”

Sh’Gora summons a host of shrieking things that look like flying eels, which distract the heroes and villains while Sh’Gora gets on the next South West Trains service to Castle Grayskull. On arrival, Sh’Gora opens the jawbridge, enters and casts a spell on the Sorceress. Shortly thereafter, He-Man arrives, and leads the assembled multitude inside, where they encounter the Sorceress transformed into an evil bird woman.

Evil-Lyn restores the Sorceress to normal, after which they both combine their powers with those of Skeletor’s to reopen the portal to Sh’Gora’s dimension. While the heroes watch Sh’Gora being sucked back to wherever he came from, Skeletor and his crew skulk off to try to find the secrets of Grayskull. They are, unfortunately, deceived by a cunning double-bluff from He-Man, who warns them not to enter a specific room. Skeletor – not being one for subtlety – enters that very room and finds himself teleported back to Snake Mountain, to his distinct displeasure.

To Save Skeletor 4
He-Man: “No secrets here, Skeletor. No. None at all.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Fisto dispenses the moral that we should never be afraid to ask for help if we need it. He stops short of pointing out that this sound advice was demonstrated in today’s story by Whiplash, of all people. Instead, he adds that if we ever need his help, we should let him know. I’m sure that subsequently, Filmation were flooded with letters from anxious four year olds asking for Fisto’s help.

 

Character checklist

This fairly epic episode has pretty much everybody in it, but being more specific, it’s Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, the Sorceress, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Fisto, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Whiplash, Trapjaw, and Sh’Gora. There’s also a load of nameless extras at the Palace at the beginning, if you’re the sort of person who needs really extensive details.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

While there’s no actual excuse, Teela does comment that she bets Adam’s been having a wonderful time while they have been fighting Sh’Gora. He-Man responds, “Given the choice, Teela, I’m sure he’d much rather have been with you.” He then revives his old irritating habit of winking at the camera.

To Save Skeletor 5
He-Man: “Winking at the camera is a great way to come across like a creepy old uncle.”

 

Insults

Today’s episode is fairly thin on the ground for insults. Man-at-Arms calls Whiplash a “monster”, Sh’Gora calls Skeletor a “foolish creature”, and Skeletor offers “fools” to encompass all of He-Man’s crowd.

 

Does it have the Power?

This is a great episode, which I’d put among the top ten of all the series. The notion of He-Man and Skeletor having to work together is fantastic, allowing for a great deal of entertaining banter between the two. It contains one of the funniest lines in He-Man ever: He-Man tells Skeletor to follow him to Castle Grayskull, and Skeletor simply responds, “I know the way, He-Man; I’ve been there before,” and then collapses in giggles, which He-Man finds not at all amusing.

To Save Skeletor 3
Sh’Gora: “It’s Black Friday on Eternia! Let me in!”

The sequence in which the Sorceress is transformed into an evil version of herself is pretty creepy, and Sh’Gora conveys an air of genuine menace that is rarely seen on He-Man. The animation of his body is admittedly not a 100% success, but his facial expressions are very well done, putting across his evil and unpleasant nature very effectively. In addition, the early references to Skeletor being near death, and Whiplash’s injury, give the episode a rather dark feel that isn’t matched in any other episode so far.

In short, if you’re looking for a fine example of He-Man – perhaps in order to try to hook some poor unsuspecting soul into watching the entire series – you probably couldn’t find a better one than this.

Episode 070 – Fisto’s Forest

In which we meet Eternia’s most dubiously named hero.

An irritating Eternian child (TM) falls out of a tree and is attacked by a Grazzlor, but luckily for him along comes a man called Fisto. Just in case you had any funny ideas, Fisto has his name because one of his hands is an enormous metallic fist. The child admires Fisto, claiming that he is almost as much of a hero as He-Man, and with little to no provocation, Fisto then embarks on an episode-long flashback recounting how he used to be evil, but now he’s good.

It seems that a few years ago, Fisto was messing about in a forest, being evil by damming rivers and thus killing crops. It’s not really evil mastermind level, but I suppose it’s unpleasant enough. Skeletor is apparently behind this, having imprisoned the Elf Lord in a crystal ball and installed Fisto in the forest in the Elf Lord’s place, but quite what Skeletor intends to gain from this little arrangement is anyone’s guess.

Fisto 1
Fisto: “Worst snowglobe ever.”

A little girl called Rayna heads to the Palace to ask for help, and Randor dispatches Adam, Cringer, Orko and Teela. In the meantime, Rayna’s father goes into the forest where he is attacked by Fisto’s pet giant spider. The heroes arrive to effect a rescue, but because no one on Eternia except He-Man has the slightest degree of competence, Teela and Rayna manage to get themselves trapped by some kind of glue spat out by the spider. He-Man and Orko help them out, and they head off to save Rayna’s father.

Imprisoned in a tree, Rayna’s father asks Fisto a very pertinent question: “Why are you doing this?” Fisto responds with the absolutely insane reasoning, “Because people will stop me if I let them, but they never get the chance.” Well, perhaps if you stop yourself, Fisto, then other people won’t need to stop you, and then everyone would be happy, no? This makes so little sense that I wonder if this bit of the script simply said [insert villain’s motivation later], and then the voice actor had to improvise on the spot when it came to recording.

Anyway, Fisto now indulges in a bit more craziness, flooding a valley in which Teela, Orko, Rayna and Battle-Cat are standing, in the hope that the water will wash them directly into his dungeon. Which it does, mightily conveniently. Fisto then rigs up a stupid trap to fill the dungeon with water, with the intention of drowning his prisoners, but being an idiot, he winds up trapping himself under a log and in danger from drowning himself.

Fisto 2
Fisto: “Somehow my plan seems to have gone wrong somewhere.”

Orko reveals a hitherto unknown talent of contacting He-Man telepathically, and calls for help. Before He-Man can show up, however, Rayna manages to squeeze through the dungeon’s bars and helps Fisto out from under the log. This act of kindness prompts Fisto to change his ways with immediate effect, and he releases Teela and Orko from the dungeon. He-Man then rescues Rayna’s father and the Elf Lord, and Fisto becomes a good person forever after.

We now fade back to the present day, where Fisto has just finished telling this story to the irritating Eternian child, who politely claims that it’s a nice story, and tries to get the hell out of there before He-Man and Fisto start telling pointless and unfunny jokes about the size of Fisto’s hand. In this, however, he does not succeed.

Fisto 3
He-Man: “It’s great fun hanging out in the forest with my mate Fisto, wearing virtually nothing except a pair of furry underpants and chatting to young boys.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela comes along to tell us all about how we should do unto others as we’d have them do unto us. This is precisely what Fisto did in this episode, and it seems a reasonable conclusion from the events depicted, I suppose. It’s a bit boring, though. I wish, just once, they’d go mental and say, “If you live in a forest near an evil man with a giant metal fist, the best thing to do is to go to the Palace and get help. Until next time!”

 

Character checklist

Well, obviously, there’s Fisto. But more importantly, there’s Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Orko, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Rayna, Rayna’s dad, the Elf Lord, the Irritating Eternian Child, and let’s not forget Skeletor’s most pointless appearance ever.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Teela hands it to Adam on a plate this week, actively telling him to go and head off the giant spider. This is all the excuse Adam needs to get out of sight. Then, when He-Man appears, Teela comments, “It looks like Adam and Cringer have gone on to the village.” It’s as if she’s so used to the standard excuses that she’s started giving them herself.

Fisto 4
Teela: “I can’t really be bothered pretending I don’t know your secret identity, Adam, but if it really matters to you, why don’t you ‘go on to the village’?”

 

Insults

Fisto sounds very much like he nonsensically calls He-Man and Teela “metal do-gooders”, though I suspect it’s “meddling”. Otherwise, there’s nothing to report here.

 

Does it have the Power?

This episode is nothing more than an advert for the Fisto action figure, and since Fisto is not an enormously interesting character, it really struggles. Fisto’s problem is that his ability is to hit things really hard, which also happens to be He-Man’s ability, except that He-Man doesn’t require an enormous deformed hand in order to do so. Consequently, children are far more likely to be interested in He-Man, rather than this second-rate replacement. Giving him an evil past doesn’t make him any more exciting, especially since his evil past lacked any kind of ambition or motivation.

Fisto 5
Orko: “Photobomb!”

One thing I will say, though, is that in the five episodes of Season 2 so far, I’ve noticed a definite step up in the quality of the animation. Fisto’s evil forest this week was beautifully done, there are new and interesting panning shots of the Palace being used, and new locations have been created, like the village this week. Whereas in Season 1 we got a lot of recycled animation, Filmation have made a definite effort so far to keep things fresh and varied. It can’t make episodes like Fisto’s Forest into classics, but it does make them at least worth a watch.

And with that, I’m on holiday for a couple of weeks. Reviews will resume in early May. Bet you can’t wait.