To Live and Diode in Eternia
In my last journal entry, I covered episode 1 as well as some general thoughts about this new MOTU series. This time, I’ll dive straight into Episode 2.
Warning: Beyond This Point There Be Spoilers.
Episode 2: The Poison Chalice
We’re given the first glimpse of the state of Eternia following the deaths of He-man/Adam and Skeletor. The duo of Teela and Andra are given a fun introduction. Stinkor was one of my favorite figures when I was a kid. I once absent-mindedly put him in a LEGO box and wow, it stunk up that LEGO box for a long time! It was kind of hilarious to learn, later on, that they mixed patchouli oil in the plastic to make him smell bad. Because my mom wore that all the time. The oil smells significantly different on a human versus on plastic, I have to say. Jason Mewes voices Stinkor, and it’s a good role for him. Stinkor seems to be a mercenary/thief here. I’m guessing he’s doing whatever he can to get by in Skeletor’s absence. I liked this intro because it also gives us a glimpse into how the drain of all magic in Eternia has affected the everyday people of the planet.
This got me thinking about what Randor and Marlena are up to. I’m worried about the answer, because I fear that our grieving king might have receded from his duties. Maybe not, but the feel we get here is that Eternia is a world without a strong, established sense of order. Otherwise, why wouldn’t the priestess have gone to the authorities instead of Teela and Andra?
Magestra approaches Teela and Andra. Now, it’s probably clear to most hardcore fans that this is Evil-Lyn. It might be obvious to everyone, I’m not sure. But MOTU fans will remember that Magestra has appeared before. She was much younger, with a white bob, when she appeared in the original series episode “The Shaping Staff She was also Evil-Lyn in disguise. Clearly this episode must have left an impression on Smith and team since they featured the titular item in the first episode! Although it’s shorter and silver for some reason. I haven’t seen The Shaping Staff in a long time, so I can’t remember if Teela was around. But maybe not the best idea to recycle that disguise name, Lyn.
This episode introduces the repeating device of showing a “classic” flashback adventure with He-man before presenting a modern location today. This works really well in that it maintains He-man and Skeletor’s presence in the series and gives viewers a little more insight into what Teela has lost, assuming you hadn’t watched the old series. The realization of Snake Mountain here, incorporating more elements from the vintage playset, is satisfying. As is the fan-pleasing touch of having a net under the trapdoor, just as the old playset did!
Resistance is Futile
Snake Mountain has undergone a borgification. I’m, honestly, kind of split about this whole plotline. On one hand, it gives Tri-Klops a moment in the spotlight. It makes sense with his background as, basically, Man-at-Arms equivalent in Snake Mountain. He’s an inventor. It’s interesting thinking of him as being charismatic enough to pull this off. I don’t know if I’d really gotten that from him before. I’d have loved to know if he was a true believe or if this was all a con. Maybe that’s to come! There’s some effective body horror here. Part of me wishes Trap-Jaw had been saved and swapped in with some other lower-level flunkie. Because I like the idea that Skeletor’s major crew all went off and did their own thing. That being said, it gets Trap-Jaw into the series. So, I won’t complain too much.
Design-wise there’s some great stuff here. I like Tri-Klops’s new cult leader look. I wish we’d finally got to see his different eyes having different powers like in his original backstory, but ah well. Seeing Blast-Attak (the robot-looking guy who explodes) was fun. He was a late-in-the-line character who didn’t get much love media-wise before. I’m not sure I loved Whiplash’s design as it felt just a tad too generic. Whiplash with some robot bits. I feel similarly about Andra’s character design. You could take her and put her in literally any sci-fi story, and she’d fit. I just wish she felt a little more specifically MOTU and had a stronger, thematic design. However, I really love Teela’s redesign. I might like a little more of a theme to her, but her outfit completely fits where the character is right now. And, of course, we have no way of knowing if either one will keep these looks. Certainly, there are hints that a bigger destiny awaits both.
Is This a Xena and Gabrielle Thing?
Speaking of Andra and Teela, some of the hubbub online was about the fact that Teela is “clearly” a lesbian now. I’m not going to unpack that theory too much. For one thing, I’d say she’s more likely to be bi (or identifies as some other more flexible sexuality) if anything because she very much still carries a flame for He-man/Adam. There are some parts of Andra and Teela’s interactions that you could possibly read as though they’ve had some kind of romantic or physical relationship. But… those are honestly just as easily read as a close friendship. I suspect most of the assumptions about her being a lesbian rely heavily on stereotypes. Either way, I’m fine with it. All I know is that I enjoy their interactions.
“You’ve Not Experienced Shakespeare Until You’ve Read it in the Original Eternian.”
If I had any negatives to this episode, it’s largely around some of the dialogue. It pushes things to just this side of too-cheesy for me when Tri-Klops is talking about “the motherboard” and “to live and diode,” etc. But I also thought it was kind of fun? I don’t know. I feel conflicted about it, because I think they could have played it straight and let it just be scary. Also, I did not love “Cry havoc and let slip the cogs of war.” Not because it’s a pun. But because it’s a quote from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This either means that Eternia has a Shakespeare too, or perhaps Marlena had a copy of his work in her space shuttle and Teela has read it. The fact that we do have a character (Marlena) that is from our Earth gives some wiggle room here. And yes, I’m probably being picky. But I have never liked when fantasy or sci-fi shows on other worlds plop something very Earth-centric in amidst everything. It just takes me out of the world for a moment.
It’s gratifying that everyone knew that Magestra was Evil-Lyn the whole time. And it’s a fun twist that she’s working forthe Sorceress here. Evil-Lyn, much like Catwoman, has always flirted with going good in the past. So, it’s definitely not out of characters, especially since her goals are aligned with our heroes. When the power leaves Sorceress, I was reminded slightly of Christina Pickles’s “old” version of the Sorceress from the 1987 movie. I’m not sure if that was intended or not, but it did seem a little familiar.
- Special mention must be made of Stephen Root’s fantastic portrayal of Cringer, here. It really is very sweet and touching. He does a good job of keeping the voice in the same spirit of the old cartoon, while also giving it the nuance it needs when Cringer is trying to win Teela over.
- With both Duncan and Teela abandoning the position of Man-At-Arms, it makes me wonder who might have taken over. I’m hoping for Clamp Champ!
- The design for the “motherboard” (or at least the apparatus that dispense the bio-tech goo) is based on the old toy of “Screech” from the original line. The tank that Trap-Jaw drives is also based on this design. In the old toy line, Screech was a repaint of the Zoar bird. Zoar, in the cartoon, is the alternate form of the Sorceress. Screech, however, was not used much outside the toy line. Screech showed up in a Golden Book (The Sunbird Legacy) and is actually a bird form that Evil-Lyn can turn into. This is probably why I associate Screech with Evil-Lyn so much, and found it slightly odd it was used here. Screech did appear in the old cartoon, kind of, but the design looked nothing like the toy and was essentially a mechanical bird. But you could trace that to its inclusion here.
Next Time: Episode 3: The Most Dangerous Man in Eternia. We’ll meet some more old friends, witness a surprisingly effective disguise, and get more of a sense that Eternia isn’t doing so great in He-man’s absence.