Episode 76 – Brigis

In which Mantenna gets something right for a change.

It’s time for another hare-brained scheme from Shadow Weaver, which on this occasion revolves around the magical village of Brigis. According to legend, a good witch once hid her power source in Brigis, granting the villagers health and long life, as well as security. The security comes in the form of making the village vanish entirely except for one day every 500 years, but if any villager ever leaves Brigis, this spell will be broken. Hordak plans to capture a villager, thus breaking the spell and leaving him able to steal the witch’s power source.

For some demented reason, Hordak entrusts the capturing-a-villager task to Mantenna and Grizzlor, who do not have the best track record in getting things right. Still, Mantenna surprisingly manages to lure away a little girl called Jarine, in a rather well done scene which demonstrates stranger danger effectively. Of course, Grizzlor ruins it, allowing the girl to escape.

Brigis 1
Mantenna: “Come with me, little girl. At least I’m less creepy than Bow.”

As she runs away, Jarine shrieks, “Help! Help!” which brings Adora and Bow charging to the scene. Once he sees them, Mantenna decides to disregard his instructions and makes an ill-advised attempt to capture Adora instead. This does not end well for Mantenna and Grizzlor, but while Bow and Adora are busy, Shadow Weaver nips in, kidnaps Jarine, and takes her back to the Fright Zone.

Finding that Jarine is missing, Adora, Bow and Madame Razz go galloping off to Brigis, where the villagers explain once again, for the benefit of the slower viewers, that if Jarine doesn’t return by the end of the day, the spell will be broken and Brigis will be unable to disappear. Seemingly oblivious to this, Adora decides to move all the villagers into Whispering Wood to keep them safe from the Horde.

Brigis 2
Villager: “How can I best get these idiots out of Brigis?”

There follows one of those tedious fights in which She-Ra makes mincemeat of some Horde Troopers, while Hordak stamps about impotently and intermittently turns himself into a tank. After this, the episode indulges in some more blatant time-wasting, until She-Ra decides to go to the Fright Zone to rescue Jarine. She does this so easily that it was barely worth even showing.

We then finish up with a grand finale in which Hordak attacks Brigis again, with a variety of improbable tactics which are countered by even less plausible responses from She-Ra. Eventually, She-Ra repels the Horde, Jarine gets a quick lecture on the perils of breaking the rules, and then Brigis fades away, leaving the villagers to continue their inbreeding for another 500 years. Hurrah.

Brigis 3
She-Ra: “At least I won’t have to deal with this lot again, unless I live to be 500.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Loo-Kee is hiding under a bush, right at the end of the episode. He witters on and on about how we should always stick to the rules, for example by only crossing the street when the stoplight is in our favour. He doesn’t mention stranger danger, which I really think he should have, given its perfect demonstration in that early Mantenna scene.

 

Character checklist

Today’s episode is a showcase for Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Bow, Kowl, Madame Razz, Broom, Loo-Kee, Jarine, the other villagers, Hordak, Shadow Weaver, Mantenna, Grizzlor, Catra, and an endless parade of Horde Troopers.

Brigis 4
Madame Razz: “A better landing than usual, Broom.”

 

Insults

Very boring insults today. Mantenna calls Grizzlor a “fool”, and then Shadow Weaver calls both Mantenna and Grizzlor “fools”. I don’t even know why I bother to report this sometimes.

 

Oh No, Bow!

When Adora reappears at the end of the episode, Bow attempts to take the credit for She-Ra’s victory. Adora puts on a very shrill, brittle voice when she responds, “Oh, really?” Realising that he’s made a tactical error, Bow tries to make out that he was only joking. Just my opinion here, but there are times when I think Bow is more slimy and loathsome than the vast majority of the Horde.

Brigis 5
Bow: “Make sure you sign your name on any work you do in the office. Otherwise I’ll pretend I did it.”

 

Does it have the Power?

Well … it’s about seventeen thousand times better than any of the last three episodes we’ve had, but that’s still not to say it’s any good. The highlight is the stranger danger scene where Mantenna persuades Jarine to leave the village by telling her there’s some lovely flowers just over the hill; this is relatively subtle, and it’s good to see Mantenna being competent for perhaps the first time ever. Otherwise, there’s nothing really to recommend this episode, the second half of which in particular is dominated by endless scenes of She-Ra beating up Horde Troopers and destroying tanks. I’d probably miss this one, if I were you.

Episode 38 – Zoo Story

In which we discover that Hordak has a sideline in zoo administration.

She-Ra, Bow and Kowl are out in the Forest of Freedom, hoping to discover why all the animals of the forest have begun to disappear. They quickly spot a rare bird, and just as quickly see a dark shadow fly by and envelope the bird. Once the shadow disappears, the bird has gone as well. Bow suggests climbing a hill to try to further the investigation.

Zoo 1
Bow: “I wonder, if I suggest that Adora is a rare bird, would she slap me?”

At the top of the hill, Adora, Bow and Kowl spot a pair of Horde transports, bearing Grizzlor and Mantenna to some presumably nefarious deed. Bow temporarily absents himself for a short outbreak of imbecility (see Oh No, Bow! below), so Adora transforms herself into She-Ra. She and Bow then have a brief word with Mantenna, learning that he and Grizzlor were on their way to deliver some cages to Outpost Six.

While She-Ra and Bow have been thus occupied, Kowl and a female koala-owl creature have been captured by the mysterious black shadow, which soon reveals itself to house a scary Horde vulture-like individual who introduces himself as Vultak. Vultak is a surprisingly chatty fellow, and explains the plot for the benefit of slower viewers: he flies around capturing animals and putting them in Hordak’s zoo. Kowl and his lady friend are to be the star attractions in the zoo, apparently.

Zoo 2
Vultak: “Christ alone knows why Hordak would want you in his zoo.”

She-Ra and Bow head straight to Outpost Six to try to get a better handle on the situation. After banging a few Horde Trooper heads together, they quickly learn of the existence and the location of the zoo, so they begin to make their way there. And not a moment too soon: Kowl and Female Kowl are being thrown in cages and bossed around by the zoo’s staff, which consists solely of Vultak and a crowd of hovering dustbins. Vultak seems to like his job, but with employees like this, I can’t imagine he gets much in the way of office banter.

Zoo 3
Vultak: “My employees are rubbish. Chortle!”

After a discussion on the nature of freedom, as well as a comparison of zoos and prisons, Kowl and Kowla manage to bust out of their cell. They don’t get very far, of course, since the main entrance to the zoo is locked. Just as Vultak corners them, however, She-Ra and Bow burst in, release all the animals, and put Vultak in a cage instead, to see how he likes it. Believe it or not, he doesn’t like it.

 

In today’s adventure…

Sheer luck led me to be glancing directly at Loo-Kee today, as he skulked at the very edge of the screen in Outpost Six. The lesson today is that we often don’t appreciate the things we have. Examples of things we have include sunsets, flowers and family, presumably in that order of importance. While it’s a reasonable moral, I can’t help but think this episode would have been a good opportunity to talk about zoos, endangered species, or treating animals with care.

 

Character checklist

This time, it’s an outing for Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Bow, Kowl, Kowla, Loo-Kee, Vultak, Mantenna, Grizzlor, some Horde Troopers, and the flying bins. I also can’t remember if I normally include Bow’s horse Arrow in this list, but if so, then he’s here today.

Zoo 5
Mantenna: “Why does this sort of thing happen to me with tedious regularity?”

 

Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance

Bow asks why She-Ra has shown up, to which She-Ra simply replies that she has “heard animals were disappearing from Freedom Forest”. This doesn’t seem to satisfy Bow, who persists in asking what happened to Adora. She-Ra isn’t interested in this discussion, replying only with a terse, “She left.”

 

Insults

Grizzlor starts the ball rolling by calling Mantenna “bug-eyes”, leading to an entirely disproportionate response from Mantenna, who retaliates with “hairball”, “fur-brain”, “fur breath” and “fur ball”. Mantenna also refers to Bow as “stupid” and “crazy”, and even Kowl concedes that Bow is “foolish”. Vultak is a fan of the ever-popular “little fool” describing Kowl, to which Kowl responds with the far more imaginative “feathered freak”.

 

Oh No, Bow!

Despite being well aware that he’s massively outnumbered, and despite not having any ostensibly clever tricks up his sleeve, Bow decides to take on Grizzlor, Mantenna, a vast but unspecified number of Horde Troopers, and a pair of tanks. Even Mantenna, one of the stupidest people on Etheria, thinks this is a demented thing to do. Naturally, Bow is very speedily defeated, and only saved from the Fright Zone’s dungeons by the inevitable arrival of She-Ra.

Zoo 4
Bow: “Oh, balls.”

 

Does it have the Power?

This is the only She-Ra episode I had on video when I was little – recorded from ITV in those heady days of the late 1980s. Therefore, it’s the only one which is even vaguely familiar to me. I certainly recall deriving my definitions of “disappearance” and “vanish” from a random speech Bow makes during the episode; he states that things that vanish are gone for ever, whereas things that disappear must appear somewhere else. To this day, I’m not sure if this definition is actually true, but I do genuinely try to choose my words carefully with regard to disappearing and vanishing.

That random remembrance aside, it was a pleasure to see this episode. I didn’t know it off by heart, like I did with A Trip to Morainia and Disappearing Dragons, but as the story unfolded, I did find it familiar in a nostalgic way. Vultak instantly rang a bell – his design is quite striking – and the appearance of the female Kowl also brought memories flooding back.

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that it happens to be a good episode. The dialogue is snappy, it moves along at a sensible pace, and there’s some good stuff in there about the importance of freedom. It does find the time to criticise zoos that are only interested in displaying animals, rather than preserving them, but I’d have liked that to be made more explicit in Loo-Kee’s moral; I can imagine it going over a child’s head otherwise. Even so, this is a good episode, which I expect you’ll enjoy.

Episode 36 – The Unicorn King

In which She-Ra discovers Brexit Island.

Hordak and Mantenna are out for a pleasure cruise in the Horde’s new boat, the Sea Fright, when they discover the legendary Unicorn Island. Mantenna brainlessly suggests sinking the island, a suggestion which Hordak treats with the derision it deserves. On the other hand, his plan isn’t a lot better: build a Horde base on it, and enslave the unicorns. Less than specific though this plan is, Mantenna is sent out to make a start.

Unicorn 1
Hordak: “Mantenna, I can still see you even if you can’t see me.”

Over in Whispering Wood, Swift Wind suddenly gets some kind of telepathic hint that something is wrong. He doesn’t know what, however, so he and She-Ra fly off to see Light Hope to get more details. For once, Light Hope proves useful, and fills our heroes in on Hordak’s plan, then suggests that She-Ra find the Unicorn King and win his trust.

She-Ra starts by heading straight over to Unicorn Island and disrupting Mantenna’s unicorn capturing activities. Once that’s attended to, She-Ra and Swift Wind meet a gruff unicorn wearing a stupid helmet, who introduces himself as the Unicorn King. The King doesn’t trust humans, and demonstrates why by bringing out another unicorn called Bright Wing, who cannot fly thanks to having once been captured and enslaved by humans.

Unicorn 2
She-Ra: “Magic and unicorns! This must be Brexit Land!”

The King then goes on to say that now that the island has been discovered by the Horde, he and the unicorns must leave and find a new home. She-Ra offers to help defend the island, but the King spurns her offer. She-Ra then uses her healing powers to cure Bright Wing, after which the King – rather grudgingly – accepts her assistance in defending the island.

Mantenna intervenes to bring this tedious scene to an end, shooting a freeze ray at She-Ra. She-Ra immediately mounts Swift Wind and gives chase; once she is safely offshore, Hordak generates a force shield to surround the island. He seems pretty confident that the force shield will prevent She-Ra from returning to the island, but in this – as with so many other things – he is deluded. She-Ra simply swims underneath the force shield and emerges on the island, wiping the stupid smile off Hordak’s snorting face.

Unicorn 3
Hordak: “You’d think I’d be able to find something better to watch on my banging new HD TV.”

She-Ra and the Unicorn King then work together to destroy the force shield generator, after which the King concludes that maybe some humans are trustworthy after all. After gratuitously sinking Hordak’s shiny new ship, She-Ra accepts the King’s grateful thanks, and offers to help again if she is ever needed. I for one am very relieved. Just imagine if Hordak had captured all those unicorns. It simply doesn’t bear thinking about.

 

In today’s adventure…

There’s Loo-Kee, yes, yes, hiding behind a bush in Whispering Wood. This Loo-Kee malarkey is equally boring whether I find him or not. His moral lesson this week is also very boring: it’s cooperation, yet again. I’m certain that if viewers don’t understand about cooperation yet, they never will.

 

Character checklist

A smaller cast than usual today: it’s just Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, the Unicorn King, Bright Wing, Loo-Kee, Hordak and Mantenna. I may not have been watching carefully enough, but I don’t think I even saw one of those ubiquitous Horde Troopers.

 

Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance

Believe it or not, she doesn’t bother.

Unicorn 4
Spirit: “What do you mean, you can’t be arsed with an excuse? People are going to question MY disappearance too. Didn’t you ever think about that?”

 

Insults

Mantenna has a particularly bad day today, all thanks to Hordak, who calls him a “fool” twice, as well as various other, more imaginative, names, such as “floppy eyes”, “nincompoop” and “bugbrain”.

 

Does it have the Power?

If it weren’t for Hordak and Mantenna, who make for a pretty entertaining double-act, this would be a really very dull She-Ra-by-numbers episode. As it is, it’s still basically a dud, but with a few redeeming moments. I don’t care about the unicorns, who seem to have the same plotline as everyone else on Etheria: not trusting She-Ra, then changing their minds once She-Ra does something for them. This episode treads incredibly familiar territory, and I’d recommend that you don’t bother treading it too.

Episode 26 – Book Burning

In which Adora and Bow put bags over their own heads.

Today’s episode opens in a school, where Serena the teacher tells the children they have some important guests. The guests turn out to be Adora and Bow, who are standing at the front of the classroom with bags over their heads. I’m assuming these bags are an attempt at a disguise, but this isn’t specified in the episode, and it’s always possible that the animators had one of their semi-regular holidays from reality. Anyway, Adora begins lecturing the children on how the Horde are evil.

Book 1
Serena: “Children, today we’re going to learn about how putting a bag over your head is at best a really rubbish disguise and at worst makes you look like a Klansman.”

She is interrupted by a child called Cory, who takes the Horde’s side, and thus a stimulating debate is sparked concerning the rights and wrongs of the Rebellion and the Horde. Well, I say ‘stimulating’. What I mean is that Cory says Adora’s lying, and Adora says the Horde are liars. This scintillating discussion goes round a few times before Bow gets bored and announces the Horde have arrived. He and Adora nip out the back quickly.

Leech and Mantenna enter the classroom, announcing that from now on, only official Horde books will be used as teaching material in the school. They start burning all Serena’s books, until Cory pipes up with the information that Adora and Bow have just departed. Leech and Mantenna give chase, but Adora and Bow put pay to them with some tedious antics involving a see-saw.

Book 2
Leech: “This is so not going to end well.”

This is all well and good, but it doesn’t change the fact that Hordak shortly arrives in town, demanding the people give up all their books to the snakelike Rattlor. He also appoints a new school teacher, the equally snakelike Tung Lashor. Tung Lashor is at least capable of speech, a skill which seems to evade Rattlor, so of the two, I suppose he’s a better choice for teacher. Still, the situation leaves much to be desired, as the townsfolk realise – except Cory, who cheers like a doofus. Hordak recognises that Cory is a corruptible moron, and appoints him to be a Horde spy.

The Horde confiscate all the books in town, except for some that Serena squirrels away. After hours, the children come to her house and read the now outlawed books. Cory dobs her in, of course, and Serena is arrested, but is very speedily freed by She-Ra. The two then make their way to the town square, but arrive too late to prevent Tung Lashor burning the books on a bonfire.

Book 3
Tung Lashor: “One of my few regrets in life is that I look nothing like my action figure.”

Tung Lashor then takes up his new post as teacher, but it isn’t long before the children stage a rebellion, hurl the new Horde textbooks at him, and run out of school. When Tung Lashor responds to this by threatening to send the children to school in the Fright Zone, two of them make a dash for the rebel camp, where they ask for help from Adora and Bow. Cory follows, and listens in as Adora promises to save the children.

Back at the town square, Tung Lashor and Rattlor begin loading the town’s children into a transport ship. Cory’s sister Arianne is among those taken, and when Cory tells Tung Lashor to release her, he is coldly informed the Horde has simply used him. Arianne is put on the transport with the other children, and Cory only just escapes the same fate. He finds Serena and admits that the Horde are liars after all, then confesses that he’s informed the Horde that the rebels will be coming to rescue the children.

Book 4
Cory: “Chief Moron Cory reporting for duty, sir.”

Adora and Bow sneak into town and easily board the transport ship, but are immediately captured. Adora is deprived of her sword and placed in the town jail, but Cory brings her sword to her, and she becomes She-Ra. She-Ra rescues Bow and the children, but Hordak shows up again and threatens to burn down the entire town if She-Ra and the children are not handed over. I was kind of expecting She-Ra to give herself up at this point, but instead she flies off to a lake, which she picks up and throws all the way back to the town. Yes, you did read that correctly.

By this stage, the Horde have set the entire town alight, but luckily the lake lands on the town and puts out the fire. Instead of simply lighting the fire again, Hordak accepts defeat and strops off back to the Fright Zone. She-Ra ties Tung Lashor up with his long tongue, and she and Bow have a disproportionately large laugh about the fact that the lake has rusted the Horde Troopers. Finally, Cory slinks along and apologises, and receives forgiveness from the entire town. Rejoice, rejoice.

Book 5
She-Ra: “Rusty robots really make me laugh.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Very late in the episode’s proceedings – so late that I assumed I’d missed him – I noticed Loo-Kee hiding in a bucket of pineapples, which must have been nice for him. His moral concerns freedoms and how we may not notice them until they are taken away, and of course he singles out books and the right to read whatever we wish. It’s a sensible moral, though my only criticism is what he particularly expected his audience to do about it. Perhaps he thought he was addressing North Korea or somewhere, and was recommending an easing of censorship.

 

Character checklist

Very few of our regular rebels appear this time: we’re limited to just Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Bow and Loo-Kee. We also see the many villagers, of course, not least Serena, Cory and his sister. The villains are Hordak, Tung Lashor, Rattlor, Mantenna, Leech, and the usual fine selection of Horde Troopers.

Book 6
Bow: “Hmm, a massive fire. Maybe I should do something with this bucket of water.”

 

Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance

We are treated to two transformations, but not to any excuses.

 

Insults

For such an action-packed episode, there was a surprising lack of insults.

 

Does it have the Power?

I really liked this one; in fact, it’s probably my favourite so far. It’s the first episode that’s really explored what life is like on Etheria for those under Horde oppression, and it really is astonishingly dark. The Horde can impose their own doctrine as truth in schools, take children to re-education centres in the Fright Zone, and burn down towns as punishment for non-compliance – all incredibly frightening stuff. Tung Lashor is an appropriately menacing presence; there’s no humour to him, and he’s disturbingly eager to set the town on fire and take away the children. Hordak also comes across well this week, seedily addressing the townsfolk as “friends”, pretending he’s there for their own good, and recognising Cory’s weakness and seducing him to betray his family and friends for power.

The message concerning the freedom to read books, to learn and decide matters for oneself is a great theme for the cartoon to tackle. Off the top of my head, I think the only move towards it we’ve previously had was He-Man’s The Great Books Mystery, which wasn’t nearly so much of a success. I suspect some people might consider She-Ra’s stupid lake trick at the end undermines the message, but I was happy with it. This episode is truly excellent.

Episode 17 – A Loss for Words

In which Hordak turns himself into an egg.

Hordak is pretty livid this week, because rebels have been going from village to village, talking to the inhabitants, and encouraging them to rebel. To cheer Hordak up, Shadow Weaver demonstrates her new spell on Mantenna, which allows her to steal the voice of her target. When Hordak sees that Mantenna has been struck dumb, he is very pleased and starts plotting to take Adora’s voice.

Words 1
Mantenna: “Hey wait, I have loads to say!”

Adora, Bow, and two Twiggets are on their way to Gailbraith village, where Adora will go to the pub to give some inspirational speeches. Unfortunately, Shadow Weaver decides to meet them there, and steals the voices of Adora and three villagers. When Adora attempts to become She-Ra, therefore, she cannot say the magical words, and is unable to make her transformation.

Shadow Weaver prepares to spirit Adora back to the Fright Zone, but Bow and the Twiggets burst into the pub, providing a distraction which allows Adora and the villagers to escape. Adora and Bow engage in an elaborate game of charades, until Bow finally works out that Adora wants to go to the Fright Zone to recover her voice. The villagers want to come too, but Bow tells them that they’re useless and that he and Adora will be better off without.

Words 2
Bow: “It’s a nice enough house, though it does look a bit like it has a pair of pointy ears.”

Adora and Bow quickly make their way to Hordak’s throne room, where they watch for a good long while as Hordak is randomly unpleasant to Shadow Weaver and Mantenna. Finally, they get down to another game of charades, which lasts some time before Bow works out what Adora wants, which is for him to fulfil his usual role of creating a diversion. Adora then manages to nick the box containing her voice, opens it, and merrily transforms into She-Ra.

Hordak, exhibiting once again his complete lack of judgement, turns himself into a stupid egg-shaped machine with four arms. God knows what he was hoping to achieve with this, but I don’t expect he wanted She-Ra to simply bury him up to his egg-shaped neck, which is what happens. Hordak then cycles through a few more ill-advised transformations, but unexpectedly comes a cropper when Mantenna presses a button to open a trapdoor underneath him.

Words 3
Hordak: “All quail before me! Oh, fine, you think of a better egg pun then.”

In the meanwhile, Adora and Bow return the voices to the villagers of Gailbraith, and receive in return their undying gratitude and allegiance to the Rebellion. I think I should point out that one of the villagers looks exactly like Man-at-Arms would, if Man-at-Arms would just for one day wear some normal clothes and forget about that idiotic helmet.

 

In today’s adventure…

Thanks to my coincidentally pressing pause at precisely the right moment, I actually caught sight of Loo-Kee today! He was in the forest at the start, and you could literally only see his nose. It’s ridiculous, expecting five year olds to find him. I genuinely felt incredibly pleased with myself, and I’m 35 years old.

Words 4
Loo-Kee: “Congratulations to Owen! No prizes, though.”

Anyway, Loo-Kee is here today to tell us about freedom of speech. Actually, he’s not. He’s here to tell us to ask our parents or teachers about freedom of speech, since he evidently can’t be bothered to tell us himself. There’s literally no useful information that you could take away from Loo-Kee’s little monologue, which is a shame. Still, it’s a relevant topic, so points for effort, I suppose.

 

Character checklist

Today is a chance for Adora, She-Ra, Bow, the Twiggets, the villagers of Gailbraith, Loo-Kee, Hordak, Shadow Weaver, Mantenna, Imp, Scorpia, and the Horde Troopers to strut their funky stuff.

Words 5
Scorpia: “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to pull animals’ tails?”

 

Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance

“She’s safe,” says She-Ra, which is exactly what she always says. The second transformation gives She-Ra the opportunity to explain, “She’s fine,” which is not a lot better. I wish she’d say something like, “She’s gone to the Co-Op to take advantage of their amazing 2 for 1 deals,” or something, and then wink at the camera and pocket some advertising revenue.

 

Insults

Aside from Hordak calling Mantenna a “worm”, we only have the usual recitals of “fool” today. Shadow Weaver refers to the villagers as “fools of Gailbraith” and Bow and the Twiggets as “rebel fools”. This is counterbalanced when Imp calls Shadow Weaver a “fool” as well, just so she knows how it feels.

Words 6
Imp: “I’m sure I could stretch to calling you a fool too, Adora.”

 

Oh No, Bow!

Bow and Adora came to Gailbraith to try to recruit rebels. Therefore, when the villagers volunteer to come to the Fright Zone to help recover the voices, it’s pretty stupid of Bow to tell them that they’re not needed.

It’s also worth noting that Bow is incredibly bad at charades, though I think anyone would struggle with these particular charades, because Adora isn’t much good at it either. To be honest, I’m surprised no one thinks of writing things down, though that rather assumes Bow can read.

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s an episode with a very interesting idea behind it; it’s always fun when our hero can’t become She-Ra or He-Man for one reason or another. Unfortunately, once it’s got this good idea, the episode doesn’t seem to really know what to do with it, and a lot of it comes across as padding. We waste a good five minutes at the start with a completely irrelevant fight between She-Ra and Scorpia, and the rest of the story just seems to meander around comfortably and competently without doing anything remotely exciting.

Words 7
Adora: “I wish Bow had lost his voice.”

Still, I’m going to recommend it, partly because at least it has an interesting idea, and also because of the characterisation of the villains. We get some back story on Shadow Weaver: Hordak found her as a second-rate sorceress in Mysticor and granted her magical powers, and he reminds her ominously that he could take them away again if he pleases. Mantenna’s use of the trapdoor on Hordak is hilarious, especially his crafty facial expression as he does so. It made me chuckle, which I don’t think She-Ra has managed before.

Episode 12 – The Laughing Dragon

In which we learn that Bow looks rather fetching in a dress.

We open in a town called Elboron, which the Rebellion has just liberated from Horde oppression. As the Mayor gives a super-long speech thanking the rebels, Bow gets bored and wanders off. In no time at all, he manages to cause a massive crisis by igniting a fuel tank left behind by the Horde. Luckily, She-Ra is on hand to create a whirlwind, which picks up the jet of flame and drops it in a lake. This is as plausible as it sounds.

Dragon 1
Kowl: “Bow, don’t you realise by now that literally every decision you make is incorrect?”

She-Ra barely has time to return to Elboron, turn back into Adora, and dispense some harsh words to Bow, before a dragon pops up from underground. Luckily, the dragon in question is Sorrowful, but unluckily, this would appear to be Sorrowful’s first appearance, so no one knows he’s a nice dragon. Would it really be so hard for these episodes to be shown in the order they were clearly intended?

Even without the fact that technically they ought to know this already from two weeks ago, it doesn’t take Bow and Adora long to realise that Sorrowful isn’t a threat. They promise to be his friend, on condition that he doesn’t go round destroying towns, and they all decide to go to visit a lady called Castaspella, who may be able to magic up some courage for Sorrowful.

Castaspella turns out to be that nameless lady rebel from The Prisoners of Beast Island, so thank Christ we solved that little mystery. Despite initial misgivings, Castaspella is persuaded to carry out a ritual to enhance Sorrowful’s courage. She tries twice, but in both cases fails entirely. I’m sure even Madame Razz could do better than this.

Dragon 2
Castaspella: “Adora, stop blocking the bloody camera. This is my moment to shine.”

Unbeknownst to our heroes, right at this moment, Leech and Mantenna are engaged in a nefarious plot to build a road through Castaspella’s territory. I’m not entirely sure why this is such an evil thing to do, but Hordak certainly seems to think it’s pretty damn dastardly, so we’ll go along with it for now. Anyway, eventually Castaspella gets wind of the new road, and hurtles off to prevent this dreadful outbreak of infrastructure. She-Ra, Bow and Sorrowful come too, the latter reluctantly.

Bow is pretty confident that the Horde will run away as soon as they see Sorrowful, but he doesn’t known that Hordak’s pet Imp has been spying on them all afternoon, and knows exactly how cowardly Sorrowful is. When confronted by the rebels, therefore, Leech and Mantenna don’t really care, and it takes a nonsensical pep talk from She-Ra for Sorrowful to summon up the courage to breathe fire all over the Horde Road Building Team.

The episode concludes with She-Ra, Bow and Castaspella congratulating Sorrowful on his amazing performance, just like the other episode with Sorrowful did. This one’s slightly different, however, since for no readily apparent reason an army of blue-faced bipedal rabbits have turned up to offer their congratulations as well. That’s not the most unexpected thing though, believe it or not – what really caught me by surprise was She-Ra telling Bow he was terrific, and kissing him full on the lips.

Dragon 3
Rabbits: “No, we don’t really know why we’re here either.”

 

In today’s adventure…

I found Loo-Kee today! Just joking. I couldn’t see the little bastard anywhere. I don’t even care where he was, and I don’t care about what he’s got to say for himself either. On the off chance that you do, though, he said that you can always find courage in your heart. Ra ra ra.

 

Character checklist

Who’s Who in Etheria this time brings to the table Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Bow, Kowl, Castaspella, Sorrowful, Loo-Kee, Hordak, Leech, Mantenna, Imp, some Horde Troopers, some villagers, and some rabbits.

Dragon 4
Leech: “Come on guys, jazz hands!”

 

Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance

Adora pops behind a tree and mutters, “No one will see us here,” though that’s hardly an excuse. Still, it’s the best we get, and does at least supply lip-service to the notion of secrecy. While we’re on the subject, I expect Bow would like some more lip-service.

 

Insults

A fairly subtle insult starts us off today. When Bow tells Sorrowful, “You are now as brave and gallant as I,” Kowl immediately nips in with the smart comment, “Of course, that’s not saying that much.”

Dragon 5
Sorrowful: “Great. As brave as Bow. Forgive me for not looking more pleased.”

Otherwise, we learn that Leech is not a big fan of the circus, judging from the fact that he refers to all our heroes as “rebel clowns”, and shortly thereafter addresses Sorrowful to call him a “clown” as well. As if that weren’t enough, he also calls Sorrowful a “lily-livered reptile”. Fortunately, Sorrowful doesn’t make any oblique references to S&M in response, instead simply calling Leech a “grump”.

 

Oh No, Bow!

Granted, there was no way he could have known it was going to happen, but I don’t think I can fail to mention that it’s Bow who’s responsible for igniting the fuel tank in Elboron.

It’s also worth noting that when Sorrowful first appears, Bow – in a misguided effort to save her – drags Adora into a cottage, preventing her from becoming She-Ra. He then exacerbates his failure by putting on a pair of fake breasts and a dress, and draping a towel over his head. Still wearing the dress, he exits the cottage and introduces himself to Sorrowful by saying, “I’m a man.” Bow is quite possibly the most confusingly insane character in any programme I’ve ever watched.

Dragon 6
Bow: “No further comment.”

 

Does it have the Power?

Yes, I suppose so. As mentioned above, it really could have done with being aired before The Prisoners of Beast Island, because it’s just stupid for our heroes to know who Sorrowful was two weeks ago and not know him now. It would also be better if there was a space of more than two weeks between the episodes, because they’re essentially the same storyline. Still, judging this one on its own merits, and not by its placement in the running order, it’s a pretty solid entry, despite the weird bits about the Horde building roads and the unexpected and unnecessary arrival of the rabbit army.

Episode 08 – The Red Knight

In which Bow confirms that he’s going to be a very tedious presence throughout the series.

Adora, Glimmer, Bow and Kowl are riding through a dark and mysterious forest, on their way to a rebels’ fair. A rebels’ fair sounds like an unlikely concept, and when they arrive, it proves to be ridiculous. En route, however, Mantenna, Leech and Scorpia leap out of hiding and attack, easily getting the better of all of our heroes. They are rescued by an individual in red armour, who introduces himself as the Red Knight. It would be nice if he put a little effort into his voice, which is the flattest monotone I’ve ever heard, but we’ll let that pass.

Red Knight 2
Mantenna: “I didn’t sign up for this.”

Our incompetent heroes arrive at the rebels’ fair, where various rebels – including Queen Angela of Bright Moon – have set up stalls, and are presumably selling rebellious products. What the hell is the point of a rebels’ fair? As far as I can see, it’s just an opportunity for all the rebels to get together, thus allowing the Horde the opportunity to blast them off the face of Etheria. The Horde are even aware of the fair, since Hordak’s stupid pet, Imp, is present.

Queen Angela thinks she recognises the Red Knight’s voice, but the Red Knight vows that his identity shall remain a secret until all of Hordak’s evil forces are defeated. I was pretty confident we’d find out at the end of the episode who he was, but we actually didn’t. It’s a mystery that we are left to ponder. Still, we aren’t given much opportunity to wonder about the Red Knight’s identity at this stage, since a runaway horse and wagon threatens to destroy the fair.

Bow and the Red Knight each make an effort to stop the horse, but – in keeping with his usual degree of competence – Bow fails, and the Red Knight saves the day. Once that’s dealt with, the male rebels all have a race. I can’t get over how stupid this all is. Why aren’t they out rebelling, instead of having athletics competitions? And why aren’t the girls allowed to play? Maybe this is just something to keep idiots like Bow distracted, while She-Ra and Glimmer plan the important stuff.

Red Knight 3
Bow: “Hey, Red Knight, you could probably get an even better lead on me if you weren’t carrying that lance around.”

Well, if you’ll believe it, the Red Knight wins the race, and Bow loses. As he watches She-Ra award the prize to the Red Knight, Bow goes all Orko on us and storms off in a hissy fit. After an indeterminate space of time, She-Ra goes looking for him, and finds him feeling sorry for himself by a campfire. She remarkably easily persuades him that there’s no shame in losing, and he apologises for being a tosser.

In the meantime, there’s a subplot in which Imp goes barrelling along to tell Hordak all about the fair, and Hordak comes along with his mates to ruin the fun. They succeed in capturing Glimmer, Queen Angela and the Red Knight, but meet a sticky end when She-Ra and Bow reappear. Once that’s all over, the Red Knight congratulates Bow on how awesome he was in fighting the Horde, and then they all have a chuckle over some mindless joke.

Red Knight 4
Bow: “I wish I was in the front row of this picture, even if I can’t put my arm up as straight as the others.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Again, I didn’t see Loo-Kee this week. My excuse is that he was facing away from the camera, and I didn’t know what the back of his head looks like. I do now, so I shall definitely get him next time. Anyway, he dispenses the predictable rubbish about winning or losing not mattering, so long as you do your best. He could have also casually mentioned that Bow is a moron.

 

Character checklist

After last week not bothering to show us many of the rebels, we get a fair whack of them today. There’s Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Bow, Kowl, Glimmer, Queen Angela, the Red Knight, Loo-Kee, Hordak, Mantenna, Scorpia, Leech, and Imp.

Red Knight 5
Imp: “My, Hordak, you’re looking particularly evil today.”

 

Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance

“This looks like a job for She-Ra,” says Adora, and scarpers, on the occasion of her first transformation. She does make a similar comment when it comes to the second time, but I didn’t note it down, and I’m certainly not going to go back and check.

 

Insults

Mantenna gets a few moments in the spotlight early on, calling the Red Knight an “oversized tin can” and dispensing the slightly odder insult “Glimmer girl” to Glimmer. From here, it all goes downhill for him, though, with the Red Knight referring to him as a “villain”, and Hordak calling him the much harsher “brainless boob”. Hordak also calls the rebels “fools”, Imp a “nasty little nit”, and refers to Scorpia, Mantenna and Leech as “dolts”.

 

Oh No, Bow!

As I’m sure you can imagine, this entire episode is basically one long Oh No, Bow. Still, specific points include:

  1. In the forest, Bow takes fright at a frog, and falls into a pond. Adora and Glimmer laugh at him. Instead of getting out of the pond, Bow just sits there and laughs as well. I don’t feel qualified to guess how long this sorry state of affairs would have continued, if Leech hadn’t been lurking in the pond.

    Red Knight 1
    Bow: “I’m all for cuddles, but – well – frankly, Leech, not with you.”
  2. Bow attempts to stop the runaway wagon, but completely fails. Entertainingly, at the moment he realises his plan has failed, the animators show his face lose its smug smirk and develop a confused “oh, bollocks” kind of look.
  3. After the wagon incident, Adora tries to reassure him that even though he made a massive hash of it, he’s still done very brave things in the past. Bow is arrogant enough to respond, “That’s true.” Wow. I’m all for self-confidence, but this is excessive.
  4. The entire race is peppered with minor moments where Bow cocks up.
  5. And finally, the running away bit is infuriating and – as far as I can tell, this early in the series – out of character.

 

Does it have the Power?

I’m confident that this was a really poor showing. The only thing I liked about it was that we didn’t find out who the Red Knight was by the end of the episode; I don’t remember any other occasion where we had some kind of mystery that spanned multiple episodes. I’m assuming, of course, that we will eventually find out who the Red Knight is; if we don’t, it’ll simply be incredibly frustrating.

The rest of the episode was all over the place. We’ll start with a quick discussion of the rebels’ fair, which is an incredibly poorly thought-out concept. The notion that all the rebels come to a fair, held at a location without any magical protection, is ludicrous. Hordak says it best: “the fools are so busy with their silly celebration that they’ll never know what hit them.”

Red Knight 6
Hordak: “It doesn’t say great things about me that I’m unable to defeat this lot.”

For all his incompetence, I’d never pegged Bow as likely to be the one to play at being Orko and throw a tantrum. It’s not really done his character any favours, and frankly, it’s not a plotline that needed resurrecting. In complete fairness, it’s better than the billions of times Orko ran away, but not much.

My final comment is to note that She-Ra lets Hordak go, rather than taking a golden opportunity to lock him up, and I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the whole Horde plotline seemed tacked on to add at least a minor sense of jeopardy to an episode that wasn’t really working. All in all, I think you could safely skip this one, unless at some point in the future the Red Knight becomes massively relevant, in which case I’d retrospectively recommend you do watch this one after all.