Episode 106 – The Bitter Rose

In which Orko reveals that his sexual predilections go beyond vanilla.

This week’s episode seems to have a missing opening scene or something, because with no explanation whatsoever, Orko’s girlfriend Dree Elle is hanging out at the Palace, and she’s massively depressed for no apparent reason. Orko resolves to do something nice to snap her out of this unexplained downer.

Man-at-Arms (in his unlikely capacity as Eternia’s foremost embroiderer) reveals a tapestry of the legendary Bitter Rose, and tells the story of the Rose’s origins (in summary, a woman was really upset and cried every day, then turned into a rose, or something insane like that). Orko decides that this mythical flower would make the perfect gift, so heads off to Rose Mountain and successfully picks the Bitter Rose.

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Man-at-Arms: “Yes, yes, I embroidered this myself. Definitely didn’t nick it from someone who can actually embroider. No.”

Unfortunately, this triggers an avalanche, which is bad news for a bunch of butterfly men who appear to live inside the mountain. Their first reaction is to call a meeting, despite the fact that holding a meeting inside a collapsing mountain is about as stupid as you can get. The only butterfly man with an ounce of brains is Garth (first seen in Eye of the Beholder many episodes ago), who heads to the Palace to ask for help.

At the Palace, Man-at-Arms is demonstrating his new invention. It’s called a Matchorator, but despite a reasonable chunk of screen time devoted to Man-at-Arms explaining it, I can’t figure out what it’s meant to do. However, Man-at-Arms does say that the Matchorator still has a few flaws, so he wouldn’t like to try it on a unique specimen. I am pretty sure, therefore, that very soon he’s going to have to try it on the unique Bitter Rose.

Once this piece of either blatant scene-setting or random irrelevance is over, Garth arrives at the Palace to report that Orko has nicked the Bitter Rose and caused Rose Mountain to start collapsing. He-Man heads straight for the Mountain, where he spends a fair chunk of the episode’s run time in building a wall to prevent rocks hitting the butterfly men’s village. He and Teela then waste further time playing baseball with falling rocks. This was truly riveting entertainment.

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Battle-Cat: “He-Man, why are you dancing with that log?”

Luckily, Skeletor enters the episode to inject a bit of random animosity to proceedings. Getting wind of the fact that Orko has acquired the Bitter Rose, Skeletor – with no evident purpose – decides that he’d like the Rose for himself. He sends Beast-Man and Trapjaw off to get it, which rather surprisingly results in Orko’s speedy capture. There’s then a (potentially unintended) hilarious bit where Beast-Man makes a rubbish joke, and Trapjaw just looks at him, leaves a pause just long enough to imply that he thinks Beast-Man is mental, and then changes the subject.

He-Man decides that he will spend the rest of the episode hoofing boulders about, and thus it is left to Garth to rescue Orko from Snake Mountain. Orko appears vaguely apologetic for causing this trouble, and agrees to head back to Rose Mountain to replant the stolen flower. Unfortunately, Beast-Man and Trapjaw are in hot pursuit, and they accidentally shoot and kill the Bitter Rose. They then return to Snake Mountain and make a replica of the Rose, in a futile effort to deceive Skeletor.

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Skeletor: “This is going to be the picture on my new range of Valentine’s Day merchandise.”

Meanwhile, Man-at-Arms – not entirely unexpectedly – decides to take the Rose to his lab and use the Matchorator on it. The Matchorator doesn’t work, so Orko and Dree Elle do some mumbo jumbo about having good intentions and love and ra ra ra, which makes the Rose come back to life. The whole crowd of them return to Rose Mountain and replant the Rose.

The Bitter Rose then transforms into the woman who was mentioned when Man-at-Arms unveiled his stupid tapestry. Orko develops a really weird hunchback and begs the woman to punish him, but she informs him she’s not into that sort of freaky business. Speaking as if she’s drugged up to the eyeballs on Valium, she ponderously yammers on about the power of love, then disappears. Praise be. Also: what the hell?

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Dree Elle: “Jesus, Orko, what the hell is wrong with you now?”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms tries to tell us that Orko nearly caused disaster today by doing something that he knew was wrong. I’m usually the first in line to criticise Orko, but frankly all he thought he was doing today was picking a flower. Yes, a rare and special flower, but he was fully intending to replant it when he got it to the Palace anyway – he even said as much. One could even argue that he was attempting to preserve a one-of-a-kind species by taking it to a more secure environment. That might be going a touch far in Orko’s defence, but still, it’s a bit excessive to make out that he was deliberately doing something wrong.

 

Character checklist

Populating this excitingly deranged dribble of an episode are Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, Dree Elle, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Trapjaw, Garth, loads of butterfly people, and the weird rose woman.

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Rose woman: “Dree Elle, if I give you this rose, please will you make sure your creepy boyfriend stays away from me?”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

“Come on, Cringer, let’s find He-Man,” says Adam, and walks into a very small bush in the Palace courtyard. He then emerges seconds later as He-Man. Dree Elle and Teela are watching, and even if they are so monumentally thick that they don’t work out the dual identity thing, they must at the very least wonder why He-Man is skulking about in a shrubbery.

 

Insults

Although Trapjaw does take the time to call Beast-Man a “fur-brain”, it should come as no surprise when I reveal that Skeletor is responsible for most of this week’s vitriol. He calls Orko a “little menace”, then turns on Beast-Man and Trapjaw, who he refers to as “dolts” and then, rather unexpectedly, “meatheads”. The episode ends with him shrieking at them, “You no-good rotten excuses for …” before being too overcome with rage to speak properly.

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Trapjaw: “Beast-Man, there’s no need to look so incredibly put out. This is no stupider than what we normally do.”

 

Does it have the Power?

This cartoon is customarily insane, but sometimes it really surpasses itself. This week was one of those occasions. I would like to know why Dree Elle was present, why she was so bloody miserable, why Skeletor decided to get involved, why it was deemed necessary for He-Man to spend the entire episode pushing rocks about, and why the writers thought that the episode would be best served with a grand finale featuring a sexualised half-woman-half-rose thing talking dopily about peace and love, man. So basically, no, I don’t believe it does have the Power.

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Episode 055 – Eye of the Beholder

In which Man-at-Arms develops a minor obsession with the Wind Raider.

Hello and welcome to 2017. It may be a new year, but it’s the same old me, I’m afraid. If you’re looking for sensible analysis, you’ll continue to be disappointed, but if you want sniping, immaturity, and occasional disproportionate spasms of temper directed at 30 year old cartoons, then you’ve come to the right place.

Out for a pleasure jaunt before breakfast, matters take a serious turn for Prince Adam and Man-at-Arms when the Wind Raider begins to lose power. A disaster is prevented only through He-Man’s quick thinking and surprisingly plausible solution – but He-Man feels as though he himself is also losing power. This feeling cannot be helped by the fact that Man-at-Arms makes him drag the Wind Raider all the way back to the Palace, not offering any assistance.

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He-Man: “You know what, Man-at-Arms? It’s your turn now.”

When He-Man suggests a link between his diminished strength and the Wind Raider’s lost power, Man-at-Arms ignores him in favour of doing a diagnostic on the Wind Raider. The pair then discover a dead tree that was perfectly healthy earlier, but Man-at-Arms’ priority is still the Wind Raider. Orko pops up to complain that he feels weak and can’t do any magic, but still all Man-at-Arms can say is, “Let’s check out the Wind Raider.” I don’t think it could be signposted any more clearly that this is not a problem with the Wind Raider, you idiot.

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Man-at-Arms: “He-Man feels weak, Orko feels weak, and a tree has died? Hmm. Must be something to do with the Wind Raider’s engine.”

After cheerily disassembling the Wind Raider and predictably concluding that there’s nothing wrong with it, Man-at-Arms starts to feel weaker himself and suddenly gives a whole lot more credence to the theory that maybe there’s something bigger going on. Once he puts his mind to it, he works out in less than 20 seconds that somehow the oxygen content of Eternia’s air has been lowered. Equipped with this information, He-Man decides to run as fast as he can to Castle Grayskull, possibly in the mistaken belief that running will preserve his remaining oxygen because he’ll get there quicker.

The Sorceress offers He-Man a quick lesson in the carbon cycle, and informs He-Man that someone must be messing about with the Sea of Eternity, from which all the plants in the Evergreen Forest draw their water. Without water, the plants cannot produce oxygen. He-Man returns to the Palace, where he picks up an oxygen canister and heads off to the Sea of Eternity.

En route, He-Man befriends a giant insect called Garth, before running into Beast-Man and Tri-Klops, who are still at full strength thanks to their own oxygen canisters. During the fight, He-Man deliberately destroys their canisters, rather than simply taking them as spares in case his own gets damaged. He-Man can be such a nitwit sometimes. Anyway, with Beast-Man and Tri-Klops out of action, He-Man and Garth merrily proceed.

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He-Man: “Just me and my new bestie out for a stroll.”

On reaching the Sea of Eternity, the dynamic duo find that the sea is being pumped away into a pit, and the river to the Evergreen Forest has been dammed. Moreover, they find Skeletor happily crowing about how clever he is. When He-Man attacks, Skeletor destroys his oxygen canister. Shame you don’t have a spare, eh, He-Man?

It’s now all up to Garth, who dives into the Sea and blocks up the pump with a very large rock, which distracts Skeletor long enough for He-Man to press the reverse switch and start pumping the water back into the Sea. He-Man then destroys the dam and sends water rushing back downriver to the Evergreen Forest, and oxygen immediately returns to Eternia’s atmosphere. In the meantime, as a result of his swim in the oxygen-rich Sea of Eternity, Garth inexplicably evolves into a butterfly.

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela’s moral this week is the sensitively phrased “ugly people are sometimes beautiful to know”. This is inspired, of course, by Garth, who looked like a monster but behaved like a beautiful person. The whole bit with Garth was, I suspect, only tacked onto this episode at a late stage when the writers realised there was no readily apparent moral in the oxygen storyline.

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Garth: “Hey, He-Man! Look how beautiful I am now! And look how pleased I am with myself!”

 

Character checklist

The series regulars of Prince Adam, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Orko, the Sorceress, Skeletor and Beast-Man show up, with Teela putting in an appearance to deliver the moral. We also get a rare outing for Tri-Klops, and one-off showings for Garth and various other insect people, including one identified as Shaman.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Prince Adam only gets about 30 seconds of screen time, at either end of the episode, and he doesn’t waste his crucial time in explaining himself.

 

Insults

As usual, it’s Skeletor who takes the lead here, calling Garth a “hideous insect” and a “crawling, ugly bug”. Otherwise, nothing to report.

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He-Man: “I love your new car, Skeletor.”

 

Does it have the Power?

This episode has a lot to recommend it. It’s an interesting mystery in the early stages when He-Man and Man-at-Arms find themselves losing strength – though Man-at-Arms’ obsession with demolishing the Wind Raider is a bit peculiar. Though He-Man’s journey to the Sea of Eternity isn’t all that exciting, the final confrontation with Skeletor is very good: Skeletor is at his most sneeringly unpleasant, and due to the lowered oxygen, he actually defeats He-Man in a fight. I think this is the only occasion on which Skeletor would have won if it weren’t for one of He-Man’s friends, rather than He-Man himself, and that makes it rather special.

On the downside, the science portrayed in the episode is dubious at best. While the science lesson from the Sorceress about plants taking in carbon dioxide and producing oxygen is perfectly reasonable, I can’t see how Skeletor draining an oxygen-rich sea would lead to the plants quickly dying, and equally, the speed with which draining and refilling the sea had an effect on Eternia’s atmosphere was nothing short of ludicrous.

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Garth: “Yes, this draining the sea business is a bit silly. But I bet if I dive in, I can make the whole thing sillier still.”

In addition, there’s the super-odd bit where Garth becomes a butterfly. Now, clearly this is here to show his inner beauty, and if he had said he’d metamorphosed into a butterfly, I’d have been happy with that – he looked vaguely like a caterpillar before, if you used your imagination – but no, he specifically said, “I think this is the form my people will evolve into in centuries to come.” So going for a swim in the Sea of Eternity will make people hyper-evolve? This is not how evolution works.

Still, I’ve said it before: getting cross about implausibilities in this cartoon is at best pointless and at worst certifiable, so I’ll simply leave it with you that this is an entertaining outing that’s worth the watching.