Episode 90 – Shades of Orko

In which Man-at-Arms tries to steal Bow’s thunder.

My enthusiasm for this episode is slightly muted before I’ve even hit play, simply because of the title. I can’t think of a single episode with the word Orko in the title that hasn’t been below average at best. Orko’s Missing Magic was the best of the bunch, but only in that it wasn’t a complete atrocity. On the other hand, Orko’s Favourite Uncle was an atrocity, and so was its sequel, The Return of Orko’s Uncle. Orko’s Return was tedious, and Orko’s New Friend was terrible. The only episode I’ve vaguely enjoyed with Orko in the title was the hard-to-find “lost” episode, He-Man Loses Patience And Rips Orko’s Head Off. Though I may have dreamed that one.

Still, let’s see if Shades of Orko can buck the trend. I mean, we all know it can’t, but let’s at least try, shall we? It starts promisingly enough, with Shadow Weaver summoning some shadowbeasties to attack the village of Thaymor. Bow brings this news to She-Ra and Glimmer, but before they can get on with defending Thaymor, one of those beastly portals opens, and Orko pops through. He is accompanied by Man-at-Arms, which is surprising, not to mention irritating, since I bid Man-at-Arms a fond farewell three episodes ago and now I’m going to have to do it again.

She-Ra: “Get off my planet.”

These two have come to deliver some electric forceshields, but get roped in to help against the shadowbeasties. The forceshields prove to be quite useful in the battle at Thaymor, and it’s amusing how surprised She-Ra sounds when she exclaims, “It works! Man-at-Arms’ forceshield works!” It definitely seems that she has prior experience of Man-at-Arms’ rubbish inventions.

Once the battle is won and the shadowbeasties repelled, Shadow Weaver herself teleports in, and performs an unexpected spell to remove Orko’s shadow. I can hear the She-Ra voice actress fighting not to snigger at the sheer ludicrousness as she says sternly, “Give it back”. Needless to say, Shadow Weaver does not comply, and teleports out again to Horror Hall.

Orko: “Stop right there before I pelt you with eggs or something equally hilarious.”

Just to give this slightly stupid premise a bit of mild peril, Man-at-Arms reveals that by nicking Orko’s shadow, Shadow Weaver has also stolen his magic. I don’t want to be accused of victim-blaming here, but Orko’s lost his magic on at least two previous occasions that I can recall: the afore-mentioned Orko’s Missing Magic, and also in The Magic Falls. It seems to me that he doesn’t really look after it all that well, and shouldn’t expect He-Man and She-Ra to gallivant about recovering it for him all the time.

Anyway, we now cut to Horror Hall, where Orko’s shadow has done a runner and is flying all around the place, leading Shadow Weaver, Grizzlor and some weirdo Horde robot on a merry chase. This bit of the episode goes on and on for literally five minutes without anything of note happening.

Grizzlor: “Sorry to waste your time like this.”

Back in Thaymor, our heroes are still standing exactly where we last saw them, having made apparently zero effort to get Orko’s shadow back. They all seem to think it’s absolutely impossible to get to Horror Hall, despite them having walked or flown there on several previous occasions. Instead, She-Ra indulges herself in a needless conversation with Light Hope, who reveals that though She-Ra can get the team into Horror Hall, it will be up to Orko to get them all out. This seems like a stupid arbitrary rule drawn up to give the episode some tension, but okay.

Using some why-the-hell-not magic, She-Ra opens a portal to Horror Hall, and the assembled crowd of dimwits pile through. Once inside, it doesn’t take long for them to locate Orko’s shadow, which reattaches itself to Orko with very little fanfare. Instead, the episode focuses at this stage on She-Ra having a long and unnecessary fight with various Horde baddies, until Orko uses his reacquired magic to separate Shadow Weaver from her own shadow. After this, our heroes stand around in Horror Hall laughing their idiot heads off at this hilarious reversal in Shadow Weaver’s fortunes. Then the episode just ends there, without Orko having to fulfil Light Hope’s stupid prophecy about getting everyone out of Horror Hall.

She-Ra: “Man-at-Arms, why are you hunching like that?”

In today’s adventure…

Loo-Kee is in Whispering Wood near the start of the episode. He’s lying on his back and looks like he might be dead, but no such luck. He informs us that when Shadow Weaver took Orko’s shadow, that was stealing, and stealing is always wrong. I am reminded of a moral dilemma that was presented to me in my Psychology A-level class: Jack has a wife who is ill, and a drug can save her. However, Jack and his wife cannot afford the drug, so Jack breaks into the pharmacy, steals the drug, and uses it to save his wife’s life. Is this act of stealing wrong? Admittedly, this is rather deep, and not a topic into which I would expect Loo-Kee to delve, but still.

Character checklist

On Etheria today, we have Adora, She-Ra, Glimmer, Bow, Orko, Man-at-Arms, Light Hope, Loo-Kee, some villagers, Shadow Weaver, Grizzlor, Leech, Rattlor, Mantenna, and the weird Horde robot.

Mantenna: “Bet you’d forgotten I can do this.”

Insults

There’s some fairly vicious stuff flying around today. Orko kicks off by referring to the entire Horde as “meanies”, and gets more specific by informing Shadow Weaver that she’s only “got half a mind”. Shadow Weaver retaliates by calling Orko a “miserable excuse for a wizard”, a “little bozo” and a “little pest”, and she goes on to refer to Grizzlor and the weirdo Horde robot as “fools”, “buffoons” and “worthless bumblers”. Finally, Mantenna gets in on the act by telling Grizzlor, Rattlor, Leech and the weirdo Horde robot that they are “dullards”.

Oh No, Bow!

When She-Ra opens the portal to Horror Hall, Bow instantly chirps up to say, “Hurry up, that portal won’t stay open for long!” What the hell do you know about it, Bow? Have you been taking evening classes in magicportalology? Thought not. For all you know, that portal might stay open until half past three this afternoon, until this time next April, or until some nebulous time in the future like when the UK exits the European Union. There’s just no way to know. Now shut up.

Special mention must also go to Man-at-Arms, who in the final fight scene observes Bow being shot with a freeze ray and shouts, “Oh Bow, no!” He then blunders into the freeze ray and gets frozen himself. In many ways, Man-at-Arms is just as useless as Bow, though admittedly he isn’t such an arrogant cock.

Man-at-Arms: “It’s difficult to say exactly how I thought this might help.”

Does it have the Power?

I’m going to have to be completely honest: this one does buck the Orko trend rather well. It’s relatively imaginative for Shadow Weaver to steal a shadow, even if that does ultimately mean the repetition of the missing magic plotline seen a few times previously. It’s also good to see Man-at-Arms again; this one feels like a much better send-off for him than his brief cameo appearance in The Inspector. I’m not going to do my teary-eyed farewell for him again though.

On the production side of things, this episode treats us to some unusual and effective animation work; Shadow Weaver is often depicted from ground-level, looking up at her, which is a great way of making her seem imposing and intimidating. There’s also a fantastic panning shot from Grizzlor, through the weirdo Horde robot and Rattlor to Leech, which is used when She-Ra is cornered by these four, and it’s pretty scary. We also get some new music; I particularly liked the dramatic drum-roll which greets the fade-in after the commercial break.

Leech: “Pretty sure this is going to be my last appearance, so I’d like to thank all my fans for their support over the years. I do have fans, right?”

There are annoying things about this episode, such as Orko, though he’s not as bad as he could be. She-Ra too is her usual irritating self, Light Hope is a moron, and Glimmer is as useless as ever. For some reason, Bow really got on my nerves this week, and I can’t help thinking it’s not healthy to get as annoyed with a cartoon character as I sometimes do with him. Still, I shan’t be seeing him much more, and I may well miss him once we move into the uncharted territory that awaits us after the end of She-Ra…

Episode 47 – The Price of Power

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.

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Narwin: “You’re too irresponsible, Ardin. Look how happy-go-lucky you are about eating that soup.”

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.

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Castaspella: “Nice hat, Shadow Weaver. You don’t look moronic at all.”

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.

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Ardin: “Gosh, I’ve been a bit of a goit, haven’t I?”

 

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.

 

Character checklist

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.

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Marcus Mumford: “Getting a better reception than we did at Reading, at least.”

 

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.

 

Insults

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.

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Shadow Weaver: “I enjoyed my turn as Mephistopheles at the RSC, so I’ve brought some of those skills to this episode.”

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.