The Green Glow of Fear
Warning: Beyond This Point There Be Spoilers.
“Land of the Dead” doesn’t feature the flashbacks to Skeletor and He-man’s old adventures like past episodes have. Perhaps because we encounter He-man in a different way. Instead, we’re plunged headlong into Subternia, which is referenced as though it’s the Eternian version of hell, although if that’s the case it seems to not be a very populated place, unless all the souls trapped there are off-screen. In fact, the only thing we encounter that we can be sure isn’t just an illusion is Scareglow. Orko gives us a quick reminder of the group’s current situation, and foreshadow’s Scareglow’s appearance, via a Trollan nursery rhyme.
The Trouble With Trollan (Nursery Rhymes)
This introduces some issues and further muddies the waters when it comes the show’s mythos. Trolla has always been depicted as another dimension, and it certainly seems to be presented that way in Revelation as well. So, why is there a nursery rhyme about Subternia on Trolla, if it’s not a part of Eternia? Why does it mention Scareglow, who (might?) have his origins on Eternia? Orko’s a great one to deliver the line, but it probably would have made more sense from just about anyone else.
It should be noted that Subternia featured prominently in the 2002 reboot of Masters of the Universe. Except, there it was depicted as a large underground kingdom where Whiplash hailed from. Here, Subternia seems a more compact place, existing somewhere between an actual physical location and a metaphysical concept. They’re barely in Subternia before everyone but Teela is whisked off to illusions that, honestly, seem a little random. At first, I thought they might face their greatest fears. But the enemies they face don’t seem that specific.
Lyn & The Oracle
First, Orko and Evil-Lyn are paired together. After another magical mishap (that I found funny but was also surprisingly dark!) Orko and Evil-Lyn head into the Trollan Academy of Magic, which is a really nice piece of design. It’s effectively creepy, especially when we realize that the loss of magic seems to have led to the downfall of Trolla. It gets even creepier when shadow Trollans start forming on them, before becoming Shadow Beasts. The interplay between Orko and Evil-Lyn is great here. Lyn’s sarcastic nature plays off Orko’s innate sweetness well.
This sequence introduces the first, solid indicator that while Revelation might be a spiritual successor to the original 80s cartoon, it’s not actually a continuation. In the past, Orko has always been shown to be a powerful wizard on Trolla. His magic only goes awry in our dimension. The backstory we get here, however, is that he was terrible at magic on Trolla as well. It’s a fairly major departure for the character, at least in the eyes of many longtime fans. While it doesn’t change who Orko is on a fundamental level, fans of the original series always had the idea in the back of their head when it came to Orko. It created an interesting shading to the character that is lost here. That being said, what it’s replaced with is so effective, especially in the way it brings out the softer side of Lyn and creates a bond between the two characters. So, I didn’t mind it at all. But it is a definite change.
Andra, Beastman, and Roboto
While you could make the case that Orko is facing his greatest fear in his illusion—being the last Trollan, not being good enough, etc., the illusion provided for this threesome is a lot more generic. They’re left fighting zombies and Shadow Beasts. There’s a fun use of Roboto to take out the enemies, but other than some reinforcing Beastman’s new devotion to Evil-Lyn, not a lot happens. It’s most an excuse to have some battle scenes in the episode. It’s fun, though, and it’s cool to see the Shadow Beasts back in action.
The Shadow Beasts made an appearance in a handful of Filmation episodes, and in one episode of the 2002 show. They never had an action figure until they appeared in the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line. It’s unclear here whether these Shadow Beasts are servants of Scareglow, and are real, or just a part of the illusion. I tend to think they are servants of Scareglow, since it seems like they are changing form to strike fear into the trapped heroes. But it’s a little murky.
The Evil Ghost of Skeletor
The most exciting part, for longtime fans, must be the first appearance of Scareglow in animated form. Scareglow was a figure that came out in the last gasps of the line. As a child who lived in a small town, I didn’t even know he existed until I was an adult. The main reason cited for the original toy line’s demise was an oversaturation of product in 1986. The 86 toys ended up being way more than even the billion-dollar toy line could sell-through, so the figures released in 1987 toward the end of the line are much harder to find. A complete, vintage Scareglow out of package will set you back $300.
Scareglow has always been more of a periphery character. In the 2002 reboot, he made a brief appearance in a tie-in comic book, and that was all. So, it’s great to see him featured here. The character is one that is popular mostly based on his looks. I mean, it’s a glow-in-the-dark skeleton!! Many more figures have been made since the vintage figure. There was an excellent Masters of the Universe Classics version, one for the Master of the Universe Origins line from Mattel, and a new one is arriving soon based on this animated design. There was also a 12’’ version released by Mondo, which looked great but was bafflingly awful when it came to the glow-in-the-dark material it was made from.
As Teela confronts Scareglow (chillingly voiced by Tony Todd), we’re given a beautifully vague exchange about who he is:
Scareglow: Not quite. But I remember that name.
Teela: Who are you?
Scareglow: The shadow of a ruler, now ruler of shadows and this humble domain.
This exchange is a very playful call out to longtime fans, and a mystery that they’ve mulled over for a long time. You see, the vintage MOTU toys all had little taglines for each character. Scareglow’s was “Evil Ghost of Skeletor.” This has long prompted fans to wonder… is he Skeletor’s ghost? Or a ghost who works for Skeletor? The exchange here seems to hint at the former, but leaves it pleasingly open to interpretation.
He-man’s a Big Faker
For the second time in the series, we’re given an evil version of He-man as Teela confronts Scareglow disguised as her deceased friend and love interest. The upcoming Masterverse action figure of Faker includes a red-eyed head sculpt that would represent this version of He-man well, as it’s the only tell-tale physical sign that this isn’t He-man. It’s in this moment that Teela tackles her fears. It all happens in a very on-the-nose fashion with He-man just directly saying her fears out loud—fears of inadequacy and abandonment because of her feelings of betrayal.
Scareglow as He-man: I have the power because you surrender it. Most people fear being ordinary.
Scareglow as Classic Teela: But you are the opposite.
It’s a big moment for Teela, and a moment many fans have been wanting to see for a long time, as Teela acknowledges that something about her is a little off. No matter how hard she’s tried to be a good soldier, she knows there’s something magical about her. She summons the half of the power sword they’re looking for in Subternia from the air itself. I’ll talk more about what this likely means in some wrap-up thoughts in part five of this series of articles. Because it includes speculation about the rest of the series. And just in case someone is coming to the world of MOTU fresh, I don’t want to spoil anything.
A Heart-wrenching Sacrifice
When I was young, my mom had to work until at least five. I was too young to stay at home by myself, so I was usually dragged along to whatever afterschool activity my sisters were doing. Sometimes this was basketball, sometimes it was theater or swing choir. I don’t remember if it was for a play or for swing choir, but I was in the school auditorium, waiting for my sisters to finish whatever they were doing, and playing with my Orko action figure. The vintage Orko figure had a little rip cord feature that sent him spinning around, a simple magic trick you could do to impress your friends, and a removable hat.
The hat is what caused me so much pain. Somehow, while playing with the figure, the hat came off. I looked everywhere. This is an auditorium full of tiered, fold-down cushioned seats. I looked under every row I was near. I got on the floor. Finally, it was time to leave, and I never found Orko’s hat. I was heartbroken. Orko without his hat looked weird, for one thing. And I loved Orko. I was probably just the right age (5) to start watching MOTU and to love Orko. A lot of older fans seem to think he’s a nuisance. But to me, there’s great appeal in a sweet-natured character who is trying his best. Even if he causes trouble and gets things wrong. Orko was the jester, yes, but he had his own thoughts, feelings, and hopes. He’s the sort of character that too many properties tend to forget or try to make “cool” or cynical.
His reintroduction in Revelation, and his beautifully performed lines by Griffin Newman, only reaffirmed my affection for him. So, it’s devastating when, as our heroes escape to Preternia, Orko stays behind to keep Scareglow back and sacrifices his life. It’s good storytelling. And part of me hopes this isn’t a cheat and he stays gone. But if he does, I really miss him and what he brings to the series. The battle, though, is glorious. Evil-Lyn’s magic is almost all gone, so she can’t help. Wave after wave of Scareglow’s magic batters Orko, and he somehow musters the power to keep the Evil Ghost of Skeletor away while his friends escape. Beautiful.
Next Time: Episode 5: The Forge at the Forest of Forever. It’s the end of part one of season one. A veritable buffet of fan-favorites, the return of a lost prince, and a cliffhanger that’ll make you scream at your screen.