Monday, September 5, 2011

Television Series Review: ‘Thundercats’ Episode 7 - “Legacy”

While studying the book of Omens, Lion-O is suddenly transported back in time.  He witnesses key historical events through the eyes of his ancestor Leo, whose body he inhabits.  In the distant past, the Thundercats served as Mumm-Ra’s army, and Leo as his second in command.  Leo intends to overthrow his master and liberate his people.  To do so, he plans to intercept the coveted “warstone”, an item that is to be delivered to Mumm-Ra upon its recovery.  Once the stone is in his possession, Leo will confront Mumm-Ra and inspire the other species under his rule to rise up against him.  Thus begins the Thundercats existence on Third Earth.         

The 2011 incarnation of the Thundercats has functioned thus far without anything resembling an origin story. No explanation has been offered as to whether or not the cats and the mutants are indigenous to Third Earth.  By contrast, the original syndicated version of Thundercats began with an origin story titled “Exodus.”  “Exodus” showed a small band of Thundercats fleeing their dying home world of Thundera and crash landing on Third Earth.  The survivors of the crash establish a new life on the planet, where they continue their ongoing war with the mutants and confront Mumm-Ra for the first time.

“Legacy,” the seventh episode of the 2011 iteration of Thundercats, borrows certain elements from “Exodus.”  It offers a vague backstory that involves space travel, but avoids giving away vital details regarding the Thrundercats origins.  Thundera is never mentioned by name.  Neither the Thundercats nor Mumm-Ra are natives of Third Earth.  The Thundercats, as they were introduced on the season opener “The Sword of Omens,” didn’t come into their own until breaking free of Mumm-Ra’s rule.

In another deviation from the original series, the Thundercats have no record of their culture prior to arriving on the Third Earth.  All records of their existence were destroyed in the crash.  Aside from whatever stories they managed to preserve via oral traditions, the Thundercats have effectively been cut off from their lineage and heritage.  This makes them an animated counterpart to the lost tribe of Shabazz in that they were once technologically advanced and are now plunged into a period of primitivism, darkness, and warfare.  I doubt that the writers consciously drew parallels to Nation of Islam teachings, but the similarities are intriguing.

In a parallel to the story of Noah’s Ark, every species that currently populates Third Earth was present in the holding cells of Mumm-Ra’s ship.  Humanoid Canines and Lizards are shown huddled together in cages.  In the original series, Slithe was merely an antagonist.  Here, he is just like Leo: the leader of a lost tribe.  A common enemy forces them to unify and consolidate their forces.  The riot scenes are reminiscent of both Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and the more recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes.    

The final sword fight between Mumm-Ra and Leo plays exactly like a climactic lightsaber duel from a Star Wars film.  It also reveals that the Sword of Omens is not the first or only mystical blade of its kind.  Neither, for that matter, is the claw shield.  Both are presented as being the only armor and/or weaponry that their respective user would ever need in battle.  The fight itself is well done, but it lacks surprise and originality.  It seems a little cliché coming after so many homages to the Star Wars saga.

“Legacy” teases at a much deeper mythology that will be thoroughly investigated in future installments.  It also sets Lion-O up being a youth who seeks knowledge of his people and in turn himself.  The action elements of the episode are perhaps derivative and a bit underwhelming, but the backstory has been sufficiently fleshed out.  Lion-O’s quest now has meaning and purpose.       

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