My Top and Bottom 10 Things about He-Man Season 2
So, I’ve finished watching the second season of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. He-Man is my favourite cartoon of all time and it was about time I got a chance to take a peek at the second season and all its wonderful new fantasy/science-fiction nonsense.
If you’re one of those people who view the show as nothing but a 20 minute toy advertisement, please stop reading because for all its toy-line based silliness, He-Man also had many competent professionals of the animation industry work on it, some excellent action, great comedy and occasionally rather touching and well-written storylines.
Here are the ten things I both loved and hated about the second season of He-Man…
Top-10 Favourite Aspects
As a general note for Season Two, I have to say that vastly improved animation quality was one of the absolute best aspects of it. Of course there’s still a lot of stock-footage usage, but generally speaking, the quality of new animation was almost always above par in this season (whereas it would occasionally be very dodgy in season one). However, there were so many great highlights that I decided not to make it its own entry in this list.
10. Adam’s Grandfather
The episode Search for the Past had a wonderful surprise moment when we were introduced first time to what had happened to King Randor’s father, King Miro, who of course is Adam’s/He-Man’s grandfather. This was definitely one of the stand-out episodes of Season 2, with a new bird-clad one-of villainess, The Enchantress, providing some escape from the abundance of Skeletor episodes seen.
Quite frankly, I wasn’t too thrilled about most of He-Man’s new allies introduced during season two, but Fisto at the very least caught my attention and was actually a rather cool character. Sure, his super-power is that he has a massive right arm and fist which he uses to pound enemies to submission, but what really made him interesting was the fact that he was a former villain who changed his ways.
Fisto feature’s prominently in two good episodes from Season Two, Fisto’s Forest (his introductory episode) and The Games. You will also catch a climbse of him in the interesting, though over-all a bit disappointing, To Save Skeletor.
8. More Origin Story Episodes
One thing where I felt Season One of He-Man fell a little short, in my view, was the rather low amount of episodes explaining the origins of characters. Season Two more than made up for that. It not only featured origin story-episodes for Fisto and The Sorceress, but also for Cringer. However, I will admit that not all of these episodes really represented the cream of the crop from Season 2, which is why they collectively only hold number-8, but I’ll give Filmation credit for the effort.
7. Starchild’s Return
One of the most depressingly bad episodes of season one was the well-intentioned but goofy The Starchild. I really wanted this episode to be good, mainly due to its themes and the fact that it didn’t feature any villains, but the lackluster drama was what ruined it. Thankfully, the Starchild got a second chance in the late Season Two episode Bargain with Evil. Not only is the Starchild still just as adorable as in her debut episode, we also have the gung-ho female Robin Hood Bowena and the excessively well-animated demon king, Anghast, in this episode.
Definitely worth checking out.
6. Kobra Khan
Whereas I wasn’t very impressed with He-Man’s new allies in Season Two, I was actually very pleased with Skeletor’s new henchmen. One of the stand-out characters was Kobra Khan, who in spite of his silly ability to stretch his arms, was actually a rather serious and threatening foe. Also, he shows more competense than most of Skeletor’s lackeys which was excellent and he luckily had his own stand-alone episode at the very end of the season.
The only reason Kobra Khan isn’t higher is that his personality wasn’t anything special, but I definitely enjoyed his presense in this season.
5. More Dree-Elle & Uncle Montork
The early Season Two episode Trouble in Trolla really brought together all the important Trollan figures of Season One, mainly Orko’s girlfriend and his favourite uncle, Montork (and Montork’s pet Gark). Now I do think most of the Season One trolla episodes were better by comparison, but for all the goofy cartoony fun contained in this one episode, it was definitely worth a watch.
4. Granamyr’s Return
Granamyr also made two reappearances in Season Two. Disappearing Dragons was an okay if not excellent episode with some fairly good themes in the background (though unfortunately it’s also the season debut appearance for Mekaneck). However, the later Battle of the Dragons is an excellent episode where we see some serious destructive dragon action for the first time since Dragon Invasion in Season One.
3. Beastman & Trap-Jaw’s Solo Episode
The rather unfairly titled Orko’s Return was a delightful surprise towards the end of Season 2, where for the first time ever we got to see my two favourite Skeletor henchmen, Beastman and Trap-Jaw, attempting to extort the goodguys by kidnapping Orko and forcing him to use his magic to serve them. The episode is a massive lol-fest for the most part but actually does touch upon some solid themes.
He may have been even a little over-used in the early season episodes, but I have to say, Whiplash definitely became a new favourite henchman from Skeletor’s fold. The butch-chinned tail-whacking lackey has a bizarrely cartoonish appearance and a quirky voice, but somehow I just found him really likeable.
1. Queen Marlena Kicks Ass and Takes Names
I love it when a seemingly insignificant character gets to don the spotlight for once and in the case of Queen Marlena, that opportunity finally came with The Rainbow Warrior. Although Marlena’s backstory was technically already covered in Teela’s Quest from Season One, this episode gives it a bit more background and, best of all, Marlena gets to whoop Skeletor’s ass in aerial combat. This is potentially my favourite episode from Season Two and I highly recommend seeing it.
While Season Two had a lot of cool stuff, there was also a lot of nonsense that I found particularly annoying. It’s clear Mattel was pushing Filmation into featuring more toyline characters and vehicles, but there were also other puzzling elements to episodes which I couldn’t really wrap my head around. As well, there were some flat-out disappointments…
10. The Doom Buster
Okay, for this one I only have myself to blame for getting so excited. Those of you who have seen most of He-Man’s first season may remember a few non-specific references to a vehicle called The Doom Buster which Skeletor used time to time, but almost always seemingly off-screen. When I read the episode description for the episode The Shadow of Skeletor and realised I’d finally see the Doom Buster for real I got very excited. And then it turned out to be just a plane. A brown plane. With a skull in front of it. A tad anti-dramatic to be honest.
But like I said, I can only blame myself for getting so hyped up for it.
9. Kothos vs. Kathos
The wizard Kothos appeared for the first time in the Season One fan-favourite The Witch and the Warrior, where Teela and Evil-Lyn are stranded in the desert and forced to work together. The episode is definitely notable for that reason, though not particularly memorable, thanks largely to its rather boring main villain Kothos. However, at the end of said episode, Kothos was turned into a giant sand slug by Evil-Lyn, as revenge for stealing her magic powers.
Kothos made a reappearance in Season Two where Orko is tricked into turning him back into a human in the episode Revenge is Never Sweet. One nice thing about this episode is that it picks up on so many key things about the prior Witch and the Warrior episode… except that everyone calls Kothos by the wrong name: “Kathos”. It’s incredible to me that Filmation would make such a direct return appearance episode for a character and then get a rather vital attribute, his name, wrong.
Plus, if Kothos was a little boring as a villain, he’s even less interesting in this one and actually mends his ways by the end. Meh, I guess.
8. Premature usage of She-Ra music
One funny production aspect was that they were clearly getting ready for the production of She-Ra: Princess of Power during the production of He-Man’s second season. One aspect where you can clearly hear this is in the soundtrack (plus they clearly teased the second power sword in the episode Origin of the Sorceress). It seems Shuki Levy was anxious to show off the new music composed for She-Ra, and as a result you will hear She-Ra music many times during Season Two of He-Man. This in itself wasn’t bad (I mean She-Ra does reuse a lot of He-Man’s soundtrack) but at the same time I felt the She-Ra music was painfully out of place.
This has to do with the fact that most of the He-Man music from Season One (minus a few variants of Orko’s theme) are in a lower key than the music used in She-Ra and this just feels very unfitting for the He-Man environment. This is just a pet peeve I guess, but I really wanted to hear more of Levy’s original He-Man stuff during several episodes.
Although I was generally impressed with Skeletor’s new henchmen in Season Two, there’s was clearly one who I didn’t really care all that much for. Webstor is just some goon with grappling hooks shooting from his back-pack and on top of which he sounds exactly like Squinch the Widget, which felt really unfair since I happen to like Squinch myself. Thankfully Webstor’s appearances were few, but he does pop-up at the very start of season two, in the otherwise excellent episode The Cat and the Spider.
Modulock is stupid and egotistical but tolerable. Two-Bad is a lot of dead-weight but sort of okay. Even Spikor is kinda likeable. Webstor is just plain useless.
6. More Shameless Recycling
Now yes, there was heavy character model reusage during Season One of He-Man, but I like to stress that it was, for the most part, good reusage. Characters would have small details added or removed from their person. Their colour-palettes would be altered and generally, Filmation tended to take care that they didn’t resemble exactly the characters that they had played in prior episodes.
Sadly, in Season Two Filmation dropped the ball like no tomorrow. Not only was there shameless reusage of secondary characters but even characters introduced during Season 2. Firstly, there was a stupid kid character in The Ice Age Cometh who looks and sounds exactly like the whiney pussy Thad from Return of the Gryphon, but who apparently is just a new character. The child character Glitch was recycled almost completely unaltered from the enjoyable Things That Go Bump in the Night into the disappointingly bad Ancient Mirror of Avathar. However, the most glaring episode was definitely One for All where it seemed Filmation reused their entire reservoir of supporting characters, from Malik to Seiko and even that black-guy from The Tale of Two Cities. It’s a shame because One for All is an otherwise really good episode, but one where Filmation did a lot of lazy animating decisions.
5. Count Marzo
Without question, the Lamest Villain Award in Season Two goes to the borderline pedophilic Count Marzo. This douche-bucket made his debut in the second He-Man anti-drug episode The Eternia Flower and again in the train-wreck of an origin episode Search for a Son. Marzo is a creep who likes exploiting children for his evil schemes, but he’s essentially just a redressed Rago (from It’s Not My Fault) with magic powers and a wimpy voice.
I can’t seriously believe this guy was even brought back in the 2002 version of He-Man.
4. Episodes Predating Season One
This is another pet peeve for me. He-Man of course is a non-linear series comprised of one-of episodes with occasional returning characters to add a very loose sense of continuity. Regardless, I hate the fact that several episodes in Season Two attempted to set themselves, either deliberately or by courtesy of ignorance, before episodes that occurred in Season One.
My particular disappointment in this regard befalls the episode The Rainbow Warrior (which was an otherwise excellent episode) and The Shadow of Skeletor (Jacob and the Widgets is another potential candidate but I’ll let it go for now). The Rainbow Warrior sets itself up as being the seventh time that Skeletor has tried to conquer Eternia (Trap-Jaw argues Skeletor has attempted seven times, but Skeletor says the first time was trial and didn’t count). This unnervingly specific number sets the episode clearly sometime before or after the series pilot Diamond Ray of Disappearance (Diamond Ray is not the first time Skeletor has tried to invade Eternia but judging from various incongruities, it’s definitely one of the first).
Here’s the problem I have. In the episode The Shadow of Skeletor, the heroes act as if they’ve never seen the Doom Buster before – even though evidense in Season One indicates they have – which sets this episode before all those episodes and also before Rainbow Warrior, because the Doom Buster is present there. Unfortunately it also clearly places the episode Colossar Awakes before any of these episodes as well, since it introduced the Collector which is also present, and it also sets The Mystery of Man-E-Faces before it as well because Duncan had not met Manny before then, yet he clearly knows him in The Shadow of Skeletor.
And I don’t even want to think what this does to any Widget episodes (since Manny’s debut episode involves them). Bottom line: the scriptwriters for The Rainbow Warrior should have picked a different number.
3. Not enough Ram-Man and Stratos
A rather unfortunate side-effect to He-Man getting a new cast of supporting players in his fold was that the old favourites, Ram-Man and Stratos, appeared extremely infrequently. As I recall, Stratos had a grand total of one episode appearance and Ram-Man had two. Since these two were such regulars in Season One and I quite like both of them, I felt incredibly disappointed that neither character got more appearances.
As a redeeming point, both characters’ appearances are definitely worth checking out. Betrayal of Stratos is a really good episode from the start of the season and the mid-season Not So Blind will definitely have you feeling sorry for Ram-Man.
2. The Dragon Walker & Other Vehicles
The Wind-Raider, Basher, Sky Sleds and Collector all have a slightly toy-like feel to them, but still look presentable as vehicles for the main heroes in He-Man. The Attack-Track is unquestionably dumb-looking, but it made so many appearances in Season One that I’ve gotten used to it. However, almost all of the vehicles introduced in Season Two were just awful, looking more like toys than serious forms of transportation.
I was particularly confounded by The Dragon Walker. A vehicle which moves with a set of mobile feet swinging in a semi-circle and the cockpit moving forward one step at a time. This thing doesn’t even look like a vehicle. It looks like a literal translation of a plastic kids’ toy to screen. This was just a really sucky add-on to the show and not only that The Dragon Walker appeared quite regularly during the middle of the season. Thank God we saw less of it towards the season’s end.
He-Man’s new allies during Season Two were really disappointing for the most part, but the worst of the whole bunch and possibly a new candidate for the most irritating character of the whole show is the Bee Man, Buzz-Off. His name is terrible, his appearance is worse and Alan Oppenheimer once again caused my ears to bleed with the annoying screechy voice, coupled with some cheesy buzzing sounds to make it even extra annoying. I don’t know what was going on with Alan, but I really got fed up with Buzz-Off very quickly and even his Cringer sounded pretty bad for much of the season.
Insect characters in He-Man are generally pretty terrible, but Buzz-Off looks like a joke. The only consolation is that he stopped appearing after the mid-season episode The Good Shall Survive (not)..