Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Little More Repetitive, A Little Less Original, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Season Two Is Still Good!

The Good: Great morals, Interesting characters, Good characters
The Bad: Dated animation/lots of looping, Light on substantive character development, Low serialization
The Basics: Following a magical first season, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe goes into more repetitive and familiar territory with the Complete Second Season.

While my wife has been at work the last two months, I have had a lot of time on my own and some part of me may have regressed a little. I’m not sure why; I’m at a wonderful place in my life and she and I are very happy, so I have no particular reason to feel unsafe and need to return to something more youthful and safe. Perhaps it was just suddenly having access to the complete series that got me watching He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe again for the first time since my childhood. Given how much I enjoyed the first season of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe (reviewed here!), it is no surprise that I would eagerly continue on for the second season.

The second season of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe is good, but given how original and clever some of the first season felt, the second season feels less extraordinary. It is not bad, not at all, but it felt like more of the same. Given that the complete series of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe has over a hundred episodes, but very low serialization – the characters do not truly grow or change, they just have more adventures – there is almost no growth or development.

In its second season, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe continues with the highly successful concept of the first season. Prince Adam, the heir to the throne of Eternia, leads a dual life as a layabout prince and the super-powerful He-Man, the champion of good and order on Eternia. Assisted by the King’s Man-At-Arms, the hapless magician Orko, the Captain Of The Guard, Teela, old friends Stratos, Ram Man, and Buzz Off, and new friends like Mechaneck (a cyborg with a neck that rises and lowers extreme amounts on what appears to be a hydraulic lift) and Roboto (an alien robot), He-Man defends Eternia against Skeketor and other evil monsters and magicians.

Because the show utilizes very few references to past events, almost every episode is a self-contained adventure. Several use recurring characters – the royal archeologist, other Trollans (Orko’s alien race), and the wizard Zagras – but they do not tell a story that is building on those earlier appearances. So, because there is little in the way of character development, it is far more worthwhile to note what the adventures are. In the second season of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, there are sixty-four episodes written by some impressive talents, like J. Michael Straczynski!

Season two begins with “The Shadow Of Skeletor,” which has Teela and Man-E-Faces rehearsing a play. When Beast Man crashes a vehicle near Palace Eternia, Man-E-Faces impersonates him, and Man-At-Arms fixes the autopilot on the plane to lead them to Skeletor’s target! When the heroes discover a photon cannon on Eternia’s dark moon, their journey takes them into space, where it appears Skeletor is trying to precipitate a war between the two moons of Eternia!

In “The Energy Beast,” a mysterious temple is unearthed near Palace Eternia. Eager to get some respect, Orko enters the temple and released a trapped being there on the promise that he will be made famous. Unfortunately, the entity he released is maniacal and violent. When the Energy Beast tries to take over Eternia, Skeletor attempts to work with him while He-Man struggles to stop them both.

“Fisto’s Forest” introduces the metal-fisted Fisto, who rescues a boy from a bear in the forest. There, he tells the boy how he went from being a villain to a hero, thanks to the intervention of He-Man. Fisto was essentially an eco-terrorist who dammed up a stream and used a spider as an ally when the neighbors rioted and He-Man had to rescue him.

Teela goes off with a stranger from a faraway land in “The Gamesman.” When the Sorceress calls Adam and Man-At-Arms away, to deal with a monster that is burrowing around Eternia, Teela is captured and must be rescued.

Orko desperately tries to be a part of the celebration for King Randor and Queen Marlena in "The Greatest Gift Of All," making a mess of things in the process.

“To Save Skeletor” is one of the rare episodes where He-Man and Skeletor team up. Whiplash arrives in Palace Eternia where he relays the story of how Skeletor summoned the demon Sh’gora, but quickly lost control of it. When Sh’gora captures Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, and Trap Jaw, He-Man, Teela, Man-At-Arms, and Battle Cat have to rescue the Sorceress and Grayskull with their help!

In “The Good Shall Survive,” the humanoid bees on Eternia are besieged by Tycons, giant insects who quickly get used by Skeletor in his latest plot. With Buzz-Off, Man-At-Arms, and Teela flying to the hive, He-Man goes in search of the corrupted Tycons stop Skeletor.

Man-At-Arms is deeply frustrated by his latest prototype, a remote controlled rocket, failing in “Day Of The Machines.” Seeing his drop in self-confidence as a way to exploit Man-At-Arms, Skeletor launches an assault on the inventor. Shrinking an energy duplicate of one of his most powerful creatures, Skeletor infects Man-At-Arms’ computer with Byte. Byte, Man-At-Arms, and He-Man must do battle within the machine, as miniaturized versions of themselves!

The Royal Archaeologist returns for "The Cat And The Spider,” which gives Prince Adam proof of an ancient cat race on Eternia! Taking a statue from the site brings one of the cat people in search of it. The statue has a demon inside it and Skeletor seeks the demon for his own!

In “Trouble In Trollo,” after one of Orko’s magic tricks goes wrong, Dree Elle appears again. She informs Orko that Orko’s Uncle Montork has been deposed. Arriving on Trollo, Orko discovers that the Trollan who has replaced Montork is teaching Whiplash magic, necessitating He-Man’s rescue of Orko and Trollo!

“The Great Book Mystery” has all of the books on Eternia disappearing. Fearing something nefarious, He-Man takes Prince Adam’s place and follows Teela and Orko to the lair of a villain who is trying to discredit and replace King Randor.

When Eternia is threatened by a powerful sorcerer, the viewer is given “The Origin Of The Sorceress.” She tells of how an alien invasion led her to solve a riddle that brought her to Castle Greyskull, its powers, and her future as the Sorceress.

In “Betrayal Of Stratos,” Skeletor’s forces attack Avion after Evil-Lyn, disguised, sabotages their shield. Skeletor steals the Egg of Avion to cause the citizens there to lose their ability to fly. He-Man, Stratos, and Orko must go to the Demon Zone to recover the Egg.

In “The Ice Age Cometh,” Skeletor sends Whiplash to get the new Ice Raider vehicle from Palace Eternia. When a youth there needs He-Man to bail him out, he is banished to the top of the world for the weather station. He inadvertently lets Ice-or into the shield’s perimeter and He-Man, Teela, and Orko must follow him, stop Ice-or’s plan, and save Eternia!

Ripping off the original Star Trek, “The Arena” finds the alien Om deciding a dispute between the forces of Eternia and Skeletor by pitting He-Man and Skeletor against one another in a gladiatorial contest.

It is followed by a similar episode, “Disappearing Dragons.” In that, Granamyr calls upon He-Man to help him find his missing dragon kin. Orko, Mechaneck, Buzz Off and He-Man go searching for them and run afoul of two of Skeletor’s lackeys. He-Man fights a giant robot to prevent the dragons from being used as fighters for the entertainment of ancient, godlike betting entities.

“Island Of Fear” has a new dam helping the people of Eternia, but disrupting the animal life in the kingdom. In dealing with that, He-Man learns from Buzz-Off about a volcanic island that never appeared on any maps. The floating island is moving toward the dam and Prince Adam must investigate to stop disrupted food shipments that are plaguing Eternia. In unlocking the mystery of the island, they must thwart Skeletor’s forces once again.

Orko unwittingly aids an ancient sorcerer who was transformed into a slug by Evil-Lyn in “Revenge Is Never Sweet.” He captures He-Man to turn over to Skeletor. In getting freed from Skeletor and the sorcerer, He-Man gives his word to save Evil-Lyn from the sorcerer as well, forcing him to invade the villain's flying palace.

The Widgets return in “The Littlest Giant.” Tired of being overlooked, Squinch makes a deal with Evil-Lyn to give He-Man a magical gift in exchange for being made large. Evil-Lyn, predictably, betrays him, and Skeletor makes an attack on Palace Eternia while He-Man is out of commission!

In “Attack From Below,” Eternia’s corn crop is attacked and Teela falls down a fissure into caves beneath the planet’s surface. There, she discovers a race of beings underground stealing the food stores of the planet. Orko gets He-Man, Battle Cat, and Man-At-Arms to find and rescue Teela.

“Into The Abyss” has He-Man defending the Widgets and Teela from Beast Man and his forces. After the battle, Prince Adam wants time to relax, but Teela gets upset with his lackluster ways. On the advice of Man-At-Arms, Teela tries to relax, by playing hide and seek in the forest with Prince Adam. Teela meets a small animal in the forest and she falls into an abyss, which necessitates her rescue by He-Man.

Cringer is the subject of “Fraidy Cat,” when Skeletor makes his boldest move yet, sending his lackeys into Palace Eternia to kidnap Queen Marlena. After Cobra Khan puts everyone in the palace to sleep, Man-At-Arms, Teela, and He-Man follow the dummy trail after her. Orko and Cringer, then, must rescue Marlena from Mer-Man and Skeletor!

In “The Rainbow Warrior,” Skeletor finds himself frustrated by Beast Man and Trap Jaw and their lack of attention to him. With Teela dismayed about losing her joust, Queen Marlena becomes homesick for Earth and Skeletor uses the opportunity to capture the entire royal family! Marlena is left at Palace Eternia to thwart the ensuing siege!

“The Road To Morainia” has He-Man, Orko, and Battle Cat headed to the ice kingdom of Morainia for special ice crystals when they are set upon by Skeletor’s forces. When they arrive, they find Princess Janice, a smart confident young woman, who is kept in her place by her arrogant brother. When Skeletor’s forces capture the King and the palace, He-Man must rely upon Janice to save him!

The heroes of Eternia thwart an incursion by Skeletor when they try flying near Snake Mountain in “Things That Go Bump In The Night.” Upset by his lackeys, Skeletor casts out his young recruit, Glitch, who is rescued by He-Man. When Prince Adam tries to befriend the terrified boy, they take on the Enchanted Forest together, allowing the boy to overcome his fears.

Teela goes off with three young people in “Three On A Dare” when the radio transmitter on Eternia goes down. To fix it, Prince Adam must visit Snake Mountain for pure rainbow quartz. While on the field trip, the three kids steal her vehicle on a dare and Teela and the kids end up captured by Skeletor at Snake Mountain!

Prince Adam’s cousin from Diperia arrives in “Just A Little Lie,” as his home comes under attack. Orko uses a white lie about a simple rock to make the prince believe it is a powerful artifact. This leads the prince to take the stone and try to rescue his kingdom, which forces He-Man and his forces to bail them out!

“One For All” finds a village being invaded by space pirates, who want to steal half the village’s crops. When his sword is stolen, Prince Adam, Cringer, and Teela are captured by the space pirates! They must work together and get the villagers to work together to thwart the villainous Sticky Fingers and his pirates!

In “Jacob And The Widgets,” opens with Man-At-Arms, Teela, and Prince Adam testing a new Windraider made of Widget-mined corodite, when Teela does not want to stop the test. She and Prince Adam take the Widgets to the beach. In rescuing the Widgets from a mechanical sea monster, He-Man rescues a hermit, Jacob, who slowly learns to trust the Widgets and resist Mer-Man’s incursion in their village.

A weak old man comes to request strength from the Sunstone in “Trouble’s Middle Name.” That drains the power of the Sunstone. In going to recharge the Sunstone, Orko, He-Man, Teela, Cringer, and Man-At-Arms run into a bottle which Orko opens. The bottle releases a practical joking Trollan that can only be forced to return to Trolla when the others guess his name. Witnessing that, Negator decides to leap upon the opportunity to recharge the Sunstone himself and become the most powerful man in the universe!

In “Journey To The Stone City,” an ancient city is discovered. When Evil-Lyn delays Prince Adam, she arrives at the Stone City with Webstor and Cobra Khan first, she sets free the greatest warrior of the age. Evil-Lyn finds herself outmatched and in possession of the technology the hero of the Stone City needs to resurrect his peers and she sets him against He-Man.

“A Bird In The Hand” has Orko accidentally breaking a statue, which contained a magic scroll that they knew nothing about until the statue broke! When Adam and Orko go in search of the ancient scrolls alluded to on the scroll they found, Skeletor and his forces follow to acquire the Ancient Book Of Spells!

The origins of “Battlecat” are revealed in the episode of the same name. A young Prince Adam rescued Cringer from a saber cat and they became friends. After Adam began transforming into He-Man, he was on a mission that he needed help and the Sorceress helped him use the power of Greyskull to transform Cringer into Battlecat.

Prince Adam and Orko go for a geology field trip in “The Time Wheel” and they end up getting far more than they bargain for. After He-Man unearths an ancient temple, Orko gets lost and accidentally resurrects Talosk, the last sorcerer king of Eternia! Talosk is upset by the idea of Randor on his throne and he approaches Palace Eternia intending to take it back.

In “Search For The Past,” Man-At-Arms is intrigued by a bracelet he found in the marketplace. Recognizing it as a royal crest, Man-At-Arms and King Randor realize that Randor’s father might still be alive and they go searching for him. Queen Marlena sends Prince Adam to follow the older men. In searching for King Mero, they run afoul of the Enchantress, Mero’s old enemy!

Prince Adam recklessly utilizes Man-At-Arms’s autopilot on the Wind Raider when Skeletor shoots down the vessel, necessitating a “Hunt For He-Man!” Poisoned by the water of Misty Swamp, He-Man falls ill and Cringer, untransformed, is unable to save him. When a hermit and his grandson rescue the wounded He-Man, the quartet must evade Trap Jaw, Whiplash and Skeletor’s hunter droids!

The circus comes to Palace Eternia in “The Greatest Show On Eternia.” Orko is thrilled by that and becomes convinced that he wants to join the circus. While Orko learns the valuable lesson that work is actual work, Skeletor tries to sabotage the circus because they refused to come to Snake Mountain to entertain him.

In “None So Blind,” He-Man humors a blind boy by bringing him to the cavern of the singing crystals. However, when a cave-in there leaves him and Ram Man blind, they must rely upon the boy to save them!

In “The Secret Of Grayskull,” Palace Eternia comes under siege from Skeletor’s fireworks, which transform into spiders! In trying to defend Palace Eternia, Orko feels neglected and unloved by his friends. This makes him vulnerable to the power of Skeletor, who pretends to be a genie. Rescued by the Sorceress, Orko is later captured by Skeletor and his minions. He seizes the opportunity to attempt to take Castle Grayskull!

A trip to Eternia’s moon allows Evil-Lyn to take advantage of the situation in “No Job Too Small.” After Duncan is hurt, Man-At-Arms, Teela, and Orko are kidnapped by Evil-Lyn and her forces, necessitating a rescue by He-Man. Unfortunately, Evil-Lyn lays a trap that requires Prince Adam’s ingenuity over He-Man’s strength.

“The Bitter Rose” has Orko trying to take the mythical Bitter Rose for his sad love, Dree Elle. Unfortunately, removing the rose causes an environmental catastrophe that requires He-Man to intervene to save Rose Mountain, the race that lives there, and the captured Orko!

The Widgets return in “The Gambler,” which has a magician manipulating one of the Widgets for cordite. The Widget Guard tries to keep his crimes secret, but he has to be rescued by He-Man before disaster ensues.

The Sorceress has a strong desire to tell Teela that she is her mother in “Teela’s Triumph.” Leaving Grayskull, Zoar is teleported to another world and when the heroes at Palace Eternia learn of that, Teela is summoned to Grayskull to take the Sorceress’s place. While Teela guards Grayskull, He-Man tries to get information from Skeletor and ends up banished with the Sorceress!

“Orko’s New Friend” has a lying Trollan arriving on Eternia around the same time as the Slave Master, who visits different planets and enslaves the populations. When Orko is captured, his friends must be convinced the other Trollan is telling the truth to come to his rescue.

In “The Problem With Power,” Skeletor makes an obvious play, which lures Man-At-Arms, He-Man, and Orko into a trap with a goblin who has no heartbeat! He-Man is lured into a trap where he destroys a giant column and appears to kill the goblin, who has shapechanged to look like an innocent person. He-Man is disillusioned that someone has died on his watch and Orko, who learned the truth, cannot tell him the truth because he has been captured!

A storm opens an ancient passage in “Double Trouble.” In the corridor, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn find a mirror that can make an evil duplicate of anyone! He-Man’s old friend Col-Dar is duplicated by Skeletor and the duplicate goes to get He-Man to give him the secrets of Grayskull!

“The Eternia Flower” has Palace Eternia honoring valiant Eternian children, one of whom is drugged by an evil power and used to infiltrate the court. The drug-addicted child becomes Count Marzo’s way into Palace Eternia and, fortunately, Orko is able to help prevent a full takeover!

Roboto is seen for the first time in “Happy Birthday, Roboto,” when He-Man unearths a crashed space ship in the desert. There, they find a damaged robot, who comes to life when Orko accidentally jostles it! Roboto befriends Man-At-Arms and Prince Adam, but is captured by the evil Modulak, who uses it to break into Station Zeta, an Eternian research laboratory! He-Man and Man-At-Arms must stop Modulak and rescue Roboto from his reprogramming.

In “Battle Of The Dragons,” He-Man and Man-At-Arms return to Darksmoke to visit the dragon Granamyr, with Orko stowing away in their Windraider. But, Granamyr is fooled by a deceitful lieutenant who frames humans for putting out the flame of Granamyr, As the dragons go to war, Orko goes on a quest to restore Granamyr’s magic!

In “Time Doesn’t Fly,” the villain Hexon delays the changing of the seasons by altering time, necessitating a response from Teela, He-Man and Orko.

Man-At-Arms develops a duplicating machine in “Here, There, Skeletors Everywhere.” When Skeletor gets control of it, he makes duplicates of himself, which try to take over Palace Eternia.

The classic tale of “Beauty And The Beast” is remade on Eternia when Skeletor transforms and enslaves a prince, who takes Teela and Orko hostage . . . against his better judgment.

Orko is taken prisoner by Beast Man and Trap Jaw in “Orko’s Return.” They ransom Orko for a metal that will leave Palace Eternia defenseless if they give in. Meanwhile, Beast Man compels Orko to use his magic only at Beast Man’s own command!

Eternia gets two new “Visitors From Earth” when an American space ship hits a wormhole that carries them to Eternia! When the female Major ejects, she ends up at Palace Eternia where she tells the heroes there of how she and her Commander are Earth’s last hope from a magnetic meteor which will crash on Earth and kill everyone. When the Commander crashes near Snake Mountain, He-Man must rescue him before they turn their attention to saving Earth!

In “The Monster Of The Mountain,” townspeople fear a creature they believe is causing an avalanche. Unwilling to simply believe the rumors, Prince Adam, He-Man, and Teela investigate the allegations of the townspeople against the Tingler.

“The Magic Falls” has Palace Eternia preparing for Eternia Day, where Randor grants requests from his subjects. Evil-Lyn and Skeletor want to take advantage of the king’s benevolence using a magically-transformed Cobra Khan, so they enchant Orko so he has to sit the event out. Realizing that they have enchanted him, He-Man and Man-At-Arms work to restore his magic in order to undo their fiendish plans.

“Search For A Son” has the backstory of Mechaneck, who lost his son on Dragon Mountain years before. Having been found by Count Marzo, Mechaneck’s son has been essentially enslaved and must be rescued by He-Man and his friends. When Count Marzo tries to extort Mechaneck, the cyborg turns to Man-At-Arms and He-Man for help.

A woman’s obsession with He-Man leads a jealous young man to make her assume that he is the hero in “Mistaken Identity.” But, when the boy is captured by Modulak, the real He-Man must rescue him!

“The Toy Maker” wants to join Skeletor’s gang, so Skeletor gives him a test. The villain wants the Toy Maker to capture Man-At-Arms and bring him to Snake Mountain to use his knowledge. The Toy Maker uses Orko to get close to Man-At-Arms and when Man-At-Arms is captured, He-Man must rescue him!

The exceptionally-powerful Starchild returns in “Bargain With Evil.” When a magic user’s father is captured by a creature trapped in the Realm Of Evil, the Starchild is exchanged for the sorcerer. When the Starchild is abducted, He-Man and Orko go to the alternate realm to rescue her and the other prisoners!

“Capture The Comet Keeper” finds the wizard Zagras being abducted by Skeletor. Trapped, Zagras’s comets run amok over Eternia, necessitating an intervention from Teela and He-Man!

In “The Ancient Mirror Of Avathar,” the seafaring race on Eternia helps Prince Adam, Moss Man, and the royal archaeologist to find the ancient temple of Avathar. There, Moss Man teaches the archaeologist the value of plant life and together they discover the ancient mirror, which contains the ancient knowledge of Eternia within it! When Evil-Lyn and Skeletor’s henchmen set their sights on the Mirror, Trap Jaw sabotages the boat carrying Prince Adam!

Fisto returns for “The Games” when an alien race comes to test evil and good. When He-Man does not appear, Fisto is chosen as the representative of good. Spikor is put in Skeletor’s Evilgizer, which gets him selected to represent Evil. He-Man eventually steps in for Fisto to work to prove to the aliens that good can overcome evil.

When Beast Man invades Eternia’s animal sanctuary, He-Man must work “To Save The Creatures.” Skeletor enslaves a scientist to make an animal-control beam that might allow him to do away with Beast Man! He-Man, Teela, and a young Eternian have to rescue the animals in the animal sanctuary!

Cobra Khan declares a temporary truce with He-Man in “The Cold Zone.” The Reptons, Cobra Khan’s people, eternal flame goes out. He-Man, Orko, Man-At-Arms, and Battle Cat accompany Cobra Khan and Land Shark into the Repton’s territory to get the Eternal Flame lit again! Cobra Kahn uses the extinguishing of the Eternal Flame to make a move to take over the kingdom of the Reptons.

Each episode, like in the first season, features a wrap-up where the characters give an explicit moral for events that occurred in the episode, like “don’t take gifts from strangers” and “if a stranger wants you to keep a secret, there is probably something bad going on.” Those morals are great for young people to grow up on and enough to knock an otherwise mediocre season of television (which nevertheless has been cleaned up to look amazing on DVD!) up into a slightly better than average rating.

For other television adventures, please visit my reviews of:
Wonder Woman
Once Upon A Time - Season 1


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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