I’ve previously reviewed some five-parters from the first season of Thundercats, but this is the five-parter that kicked off the second season with a whole bunch of new characters, firstly the new Thundercats. There are also going to be a lot of guest characters from the prior season as the cast is pretty extensive by this point, so pretend we’ve met them already and let’s get ready for some fun!
The story: Lion-O is having a recurring dream of his last moments on Thundera and leaving the planet, but seeing three that got left behind: young white tiger Bengali, female Pumyra, and the elder Lynx-O, who is blinded by debris from explosions. They hold no grudge, knowing they were unfortunately too late amidst the cataclysmic events and at least the Code of Thundera will survive, but Lion-O is haunted by the guilt of leaving them behind. Jaga, now in his spirit form, encourages him to get Cheetara to enter her trance-vision state to help find them, as they have ended up on Third Earth, as they were saved by two Ro-Bear Berbils, the humorously named Bert and Bob. Pretty melodramatic acting from Cheetara as she introduces the optimistic flashback.
The search for them ensues as Mumm-Ra, now seconded by pet bulldog Ma-Mutt, finds out about them too and looks to destroy them. First agents he uses: the Berserkers. These are pirate/viking crosses, led by Hammerhand, who had a vastly different character model in the prior season and had been killed in a shipwreck and brought back as a ghost, but he’s alive here with new crew members: brute Cruncher, human battering ram Ram-Bam (kinda like Dragstor from Masters of the Universe), and the diminutive Top Spinner, who can becomes a human tornado. They are one of the first to get one in a series of cool new leitmotifs (even the vehicles got them on Thundercats, as anyone can attest if they’ve heard the Thundertank in action).
The Berserkers raid the island the new Thundercats and Berbils are on and best them in battle after showing their various abilities and take them prisoner on their ship. Lynx-O gets to be a guy who can do anything despite his disability, with a weird nerve centre death touch he can use at times. Cruncher is pretty hilarious to listen to, with Earle Hyman doing his best to do a pirate impression and landing on any sort of accent he can hit. Lion-O learns of the capture and goes after them while Panthro finishes off the new vehicles, the Thunderclaw and the Hovercat. Incredible pace to the episode, as there’s always something going on.
Lion-O gets to the ship and gets caught trying to release the Thunderians by Hammerhand and his men, with a battle ensuing where the Berserkers almost destroy their own ship in stopping him. Lion-O brings the A-game smack talk when Hammerhand says he’ll have to deal with the leader himself (“And it’ll be a dirty deal if I know you, Hammerhand!”). He gets away from the ship for now when the lives of Lynx-O and co are put in danger, then Hammerhand manages to boil the seawater through shooting fireballs at it and Lion-O sinks under into unconsciousness to end the first part.
Back in the second, Hammerhand stops to gloat and sees his ship under fire. Really well directed, as the ship that’s attacking moves really quickly and you can’t see who’s responsible until we learn from the Thunderians that they recognise him: it’s Panthro, at the controls of the new Thunderclaw, which does seems to grow and shrink between shots depending on how many it needs to seat. He leaves the Berserkers and their captives as they race off via rocket propulsion to scoop up Lion-O from the sea under Snarf’s direction.
The Thunderians are ferried on to the Mutants, who try to cheat the Berserkers out of their payment and a bad guys versus bad guys battle almost proceeds until they realise the prisoners are getting away. They almost escape too, but no man gets left behind when Bengali is tripped up and Hammerhand looks like he’s about to tear his neck out. As Mumm-Ra meets them, he realises that while they’re commoners and not nobles, the real Thundercats wouldn’t want to see them as their prisoners, so he sends them to a prison in Fire Rock Mountain, which is actually surrounded by Thundrainium, which like Kryptonite to Thundercats.
Snarf is then captured by Ratar-O, the Mutant general, who is back after a brief appearance the previous season, once again aided by his chief suck-up Vultureman. Ratar-O acts like it’s not the first time Snarf is his prisoner, but he actually captured Snarf’s nephew Snarfer, who soon will be a regular on the show too. Lion-O tries to rescue him, but is dropped off over Hook Mountain. Snowman, who was once an enemy but now a regular friend, finds him (“Looks like Lion-O, but he’s the wrong colour! Not supposed to be blue!”). The Mutants track him down, including in their new big vehicle to match the Thundertank, the Fistpounder, which causes an avalanche.
Mumm-Ra has also hired Captain Shiner, another returnee from season one, last seen navigating space. He overcharges Mumm-Ra for moving the Thunderians to Fire Rock Mountain aboard his ship the Vertus. Anybody who can work out what kind of animal Shiner is based on is welcome to have a go. Most say a dog, but looks like no fucking dog I’ve seen! He allows some Thundrainium to be filtered in when his ship is almost taken over by the Thunderians.
Getting towards the middle part, Lion-O is iced again, dug out by Snowmeow, who it’s acknowledged has a spiritual link to the Thundercats being feline himself. In a good detail, they retain that Snowman’s lance is broken at the tip from the last episode. Lion-O manages to get control of a Skycutter from S-S-S-Slithe, but almost gets shot down by Tygra in the Hovercat and Cheetara on the Thunderclaw until giving them the signal. Lion-O, in this world-covering adventures, heads to Mumm-Ra’s pyramid to find out where he’s sent the Thunderians, which seems stupid, as if Mumm-Ra would actually get shaken down and give up the info out of fear.
Things feel like they’re getting a bit dragged out at this point, but we do get a nice simian battle between Monkian and Snowman atop the Fistpounder before the attention is moved to Panthro and the Thundertank. The Ratstar is flying overhead, so it interrupts in the fight and overturns the Thundertank. At Fire Rock Mountain, S-S-S-Slithe and Jackalman take over jailer duties from Captain Shiner in a really well-animated couple of scenes with great lighting and shading.
Lion-O at the pyramid meets Ma-Mutt for the first time and roles him up into a ball in a funny scene, but he turns into a fireball and then gasses him, before getting shoved into a sarcophagus. Lion-O gets temporarily mummified until the bandages are destroyed by sunlight, which makes you wonder how Mumm-Ra’s other mummified prisoners didn’t escape too. This kicks off the fourth episode of five, with everyone being gathered together, with Ratar-O and Vultureman summoned by Mumm-Ra to back up the other Mutants. Passing through Tuska country they engage in battle with the Tuskas, led by Turmagar, who Ratar-O threatens to turn into “a stain on the beach”. Snarf fucks things up for them and part damages the ship, which takes a tumble into the water without him in. This is interesting because Vultureman and the Ratstar returned, but Ratar-O never did – did he die underwater?
The Berserkers turn back up, as the mini-series is running out of ideas of how to get to five parts. Hammerhand suggests recapturing the Thunderians and then selling them to Mumm-Ra again, as if he’d go for that. Turmagar messes with their plan by towing their ship away when they’re on shore and Snarf releases the Berbil prisoners, who haven’t been entirely been forgotten. Top Spinner has to substitute for a propeller on their broken speedboat as they chase after their own ship.
S-S-S-Slithe and Jackalman are hitting the drinks as they watch the prisoners, but Lynx-O uses some weird tone to shatter their glasses, bringing them into the cell to get whacked and locked in. Mumm-Ra now calls on Hachiman and tricks him into thinking Lion-O has gone bad as another obstacle to defeat. He’s a pretty stout guy, even bigger with his armour on. Also gullible and stupid, as he falls off the bridge to the prison when he charges Lion-O. Lion-O is just as bad, but at least that’s made up for with a nightmarish vision of his supposed uncle looking like he’s going to bum him.
In the last part, Hachiman realises he’s been played and helps Lion-O until he’s sent back to his own planet. Tygra and Cheetara bump into the Vertus and send Shiner and his men flying into space at full speed to get him out of the way. The Berserkers catch up to their stolen ship and ground the Gomplin, allowing the Thunderkittens a chance to have a bit of action. They kinda call it a draw, then the Thundertank and Fistpounder return for a rematch. Rewatching it, I didn’t get why the two separate battles end inconclusively, but the Fistpounder takes a dive off a cliff and onto the ship, sinking it.
Jaga, late in the story, travels in the spirit dimension to get Lion-O the Star of Thundera to allow him to be impervious to the effects of Thundrainium. Grune the Destroyer, a former Thundercat and Jaga’s old partner, now immortal enemy, returns briefly to attack him, but gets knocked out of the way like a goober after giving a cool speech. Jaga gets the amulet and gives it to Lion-O, who rescues the Thunderians at last. The Mutants are jobbed out, so Mumm-Ra turns up to finish off the job. He steals the Star of Thundera, tries to open it and causes the equivalent of a nuclear explosion, seemingly killing himself and destroying Fire Rock Mountain (and the Mutants in the process). Well, the next mini-series is called Mumm-Ra Lives!, so you can guess it’s only temporary.
The Thunderians are then sworn in as new Thundercats proper, with Tygra calling Bengali “brother”, although them being biological brothers is never brought up again. The Berbils look on approvingly, but seemingly are fucked off, as they never appear in the series again. I guess they could’ve rejoined the other Berbils. Everyone celebrates at the end.
The Bottom Line: It’s a pretty action-packed and excessive showcase for new characters/figures and vehicles, along with last appearances for some characters, and that’s great for about the first three episodes, but you get the feeling the writer lost interest and ran out of ideas and had some shopping to do towards episodes four and five and just figured throwing in Hachiman and Grune and the like would be good for shits and giggles, but didn’t have enough to sustain them. This was sold, in edited form, as Thundercats – Ho! The Movie in the UK, and does have a movie feel and you could believe it was the end of the series with how it ends (and we got no more episodes beyond it, so we could believe it is). But, seeing as the next five-parter, which I’ll review another time, instantly brings Mumm-Ra back AND introduces new villains, it feels a little bit like doing something just to do it.
Overall, even if it’s not perfect, I’ve got a lot of time for this mini-series and definitely recommend watching it. It has the weird distinction of being exciting but not able to hold your excitement all the way, but get the most you can out of it.