Last week’s episode of Thundercats left me lukewarm. The stakes of the love triangle seemed low and the landscapes less unique than in previous episodes. Trials of Lion-O Part 2 improves on the ‘trial’ format, and while its science-magic doesn’t make much sense, it satisfies the part of me that just wants a fun fantasy.
Thundercats is always good at reminding the viewer what they should remember about previous episodes and what certain events meant to characters. Panthro reminds the group that he tried, and failed, to attack Mum-Ra’s fortress before. The blowing, bluish sand gives an apocalyptic feel to the scene as the living Thundercats make plans without their fallen king. The break-in has a Star Wars feel to it, with an air shaft leading to a hallway full of lizard minions. There’s a nice audible effect as Wily-Kit’s flute plays in contrast to blaring sirens.
Lion-O’s tests were a little more clever this time. Although we do get more recycled locations, the moral lessons received in them seem fresh, Panthro’s especially. It was also cool to see Tygra take on the bell retrieval test from the pilot episodes, now armed with his adult abilities. Returning to familiar locations makes them feel more real. Last episode’s attempts at coming up with new ones and instead recycling them from Harry Potter did the opposite.
I also love that Lion-O fails his final test. The logistics of his deal with ghost-Jaga were as shaky as the rest of the afterlife stuff, but it makes sense for Lion-O, who has run headlong into every problem he faced even when that’s the worst thing he could have done, to enter into a bet with his very soul on the line. I’m not sure why he didn’t do this in the first place.
The animation seemed a bit off in this episode. Were the mouths always so simple? It’s easier to notice things like this, or like the twins’ stilted voice acting, when a muddled plot makes it harder to fully engage with the story. But the mediocre first part of this two-episode arc flowered out into a very high-stakes second half. With the reappearance of Mumm-Ra’s boss form feeling like a mid-season climax, I’m wondering what it’s all leading to. There’s been a slightly odd balance out large scale action and smaller set pieces such as the Petalars, but this does make sense for a show patterned on anime, which always has its ‘filler’ episodes.