EPISODE REVIEW: Thundercats: "Old Friends" (Episode 5)

shhhimbatman
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RECAP

The episode opens with Lion-o, Tygra and Cheetara talking about their expectations of Panthro as he works on the Thundertank. After Lion-o offers help and gets turned down Panthro explains that the tank is out of Thundrillium, a type of crystal that fuels tech, and must gather more from a mine in a nearby mountain. Unfortunately the mine is controlled and guarded by the lizard army and their commander Grune.

Lion-o and Panthro disagree on how to infiltrate the mine and it’s clear the General doesn’t respect the younger king. As the cats take out the guards it leads inevitably to a confrontation between Grune and Panthro. Throughout the episode we’ve been shown flashbacks in Panthro’s mind about him and Grune’s friendship and falling out after the latter’s defection. However before the cats are able to take out the traitor, a machine henchmen named Driller appears and battles them as Grune escapes. Lion-o defeats the robot and earns Panthro’s respect. The cats escape the mine, now collapsing after the battle, with enough Thundrillium to power the tank. Panthro pledges his allegiance to Lion-o but makes it very clear who will be driving in the future.

OBSERVATIONS

This is the weakest episode so far and makes it hard to keep buying this show as designed to appeal equally to all ages. The execution was very Saturday morning cartoon, but in a very bad way.

The opening dialogue between was hilarious and it was good to have some humor and an overall lighter tone, as the past few episodes have been a bit moody in comparison. I always feel that the moments when the characters are allowed to interact naturally outside of the action is when you get some of your best moments and development. We know it’s going to be an action heavy show but it’s nice to see the cats as people (?) instead of always action heroes. This is something Avatar did incredibly well and I continue to compare Thundercats to that series both for the similarities but also because I believe it has that type of potential.

I do have one question about the cats’ comments about Panthro. They discussed how they envisioned him mentally differed from his actual appearance, but it doesn’t make much sense because they had to have seen him before. He’s a hero to the cats as a society and a public figure. Plus, in one of the flashbacks he’s overseeing Tygra and Lion-o’s training, sooo….not really sure why they seemed so confused.

In a few comments I’ve read some did not understand Panthro’s mistrust of Lion-o’s leadership, stating that it didn’t match up with his loyalty to the kingship in the flashbacks. I on the other hand enjoy the fact that Lion-o had to earn someone’s respect instead of just throwing his title around. It makes sense that Panthro, an established war vet and general under Claudus wouldn’t be eager to throw his trust behind a new, unproven, much younger king. Add in the fact that he wasn’t there to see Lion-o crowned or even presented with the Sword of Omens and one can easily understand his skepticism.

On the other hand I was more than glad to see Lion-o stand up for himself. He could’ve easily followed along with Panthro’s plan to attack that night, but doing so would’ve handed power over to him. His decision to attack alone was reckless and could’ve gotten himself killed, but it was the perfect face stick to the general. He held his ground and proclaimed that he as king gave an order which was ignored and then questioned Panthro’s loyalty to the crown. It was wonderfully played out and this struggle between the two was by far the highlight of the episode.

The supposed focus of this episode seemed to actually be establishing Grune and Panthro’s friendship and setting the basis for their rivalry which I’m sure will be played out over the course of the series. This is where things fell apart.

Panthro’s flashbacks were terrible. The scene of their initial introduction was dumb beyond belief. In the midst of a battle between Lizards and Cats they stop to have a conversation with no danger to either of the two? I rolled my eyes through the whole exchange. Kids won’t notice that kind of thing, but older viewers do and it’s frustrating. The best thing about that scene was the medal ceremony reminiscent of Star Wars. All the other flashbacks were fine except for one problem: Grune. As viewers we find out he’s been a jerk the whole time! It actually insulting that Panthro didn’t notice. When a character says things like: “I plan to be king” or “anything you can’t earn can be taken”, it should be pretty obvious that his level of “ambition” may be bordering on dangerous. It would’ve been much more interesting if Grune was a likable, great guy, loyal and honest. A betrayal isn’t a betrayal is we SEE IT COMING.

The last straw for Grune seemed to be Claudus passing him over as leader of the army, instead choosing to send him to search for the Book of Omens. If Grune had been showing in a sympathetic light, working solely for the dream of being leader of the army, Claudus decision may have stung more and viewers may have even understood Grune’s frustration. The way it was portrayed I’m with Claudus. I wouldn’t want that guy anywhere close to leader of my armed forces. It actually makes me question whether or not the king suspected something and this doubt influence his decision to send Grune away. After all, since Jaga was able to give Lion-o some clues about the books location, why seemingly send the two generals out with none at all?

Lastly, Grune has become the weakest point of this series so far so I’m glad we haven’t had to see him much. His character design is pretty ridiculous with that one huge tooth. The dialogue is the real crime though. I’m hesitant to blame the voice actor. After all, he’s only reading his lines. But the dialogue between him and Panthro was atrocious. It reminded me of a video game where you corner the bad guy you’ve been chasing and just when you think you’ll fight him his henchman (Driller) bust in and he gets away with a haughty cackle. All Grune needed was a cape and he would’ve fit right in. This is the kind of throwback cheesiness that fans don’t want. His line: “Ha ha! Until next time Panthro!” (runs away). He doesn’t seem like a legitimate threat and I’m starting to regret any time he’s on screen.

COOL MOMENTS

• The samoflange comment is a reference to a YouTube video of profanity laced outtakes from the original show. Pretty cool moment of fan service there.
• Driller seemed like a pretty uninspired villain but I’ve since learned he was in the original and they did improve him for this series but were smart enough not to have him stick around.
• I’m enjoying the treatment of Kit and Kat. They’re not running around doing dangerous stuff and are treated as kids.
• Lion-o face as he watched Panthro take out a crowd of Lizards was priceless.

OTHER COMMENTS

• I would love to see them play around with the extendibility of the Sword of Omens. It’d be cool to see different lengths in battle.
• How did Panthro get his nunchuks back? He dropped them when he fell off the platform in the flashback
• There was a mention of Lynx-o from the original series although he was not seen. In the original he was older but clues point to him being younger than Panthro and Grune. Might he serve as a bridge between the different generations of characters if he is introduced?

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

I can’t see a problem any would have with this episode.

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