I don’t know what the writers were on when they penned this episode, but I want to bottle it and sell it on a late night infomercial featuring Vince the Slap Chop guy.
Titled “Legacy”, this episode answers some of the questions that came our way after last week’s revelation that the ancestors of the Thundercats worked for Mumm-Ra. While the other cats are sleeping, polishing their guns or babysitting at the foot of the Tower of Omens, Lion-O is inside trying to decipher the Book of Omens’ secrets. The young lord of the Thundercats suspects that the book isn’t magic, but rather a form of technology in need of a power supply. After fiddling with what look like input ports on the bottom of the book, the tome zaps Lion-O unconscious and sucks up his soul.
Inside the book Jaga-Wan Kenobi – told you he would be back – explains to a confused Lion-O that the book is a fusion of both magic and science. Jaga also reveals that clues to the the cats’ future lay in their past. To find that knowledge Lion-O must make like it’s Quantum Leap and explore the history of the Thundercats through the body of his ancestor, Leo. Of course, Leo isn’t just any old alley cat. He’s Mumm-Ra’s number one henchman.
On the bridge of Mumm-Ra’s pyramid-starship, Lion-O, as Leo, uses the Book of Omens to help Mumm-Ra track down the “Warstone” or as it’s known to Lion-O, the Eye of Thundara. This younger and more vigorous looking Mumm-Ra wants to unite the Warstone, along with three other “magic” stones already in his possession, within the hilt of the Sword of Plun-Darr. Doing so will forge a weapon of unstoppable power.
As the ship approaches the planet that houses the Warstone, we peel back another layer of the Thundercats’ mythology. When Mumm-Ra orders the troops mobilized for the invasion, we discover that the cats aren’t just his henchmen, they are also his enforcers. Decks upon decks of Mumm-Ra’s ship are filled with pens that contain anthropomorphized animals: lizards, dogs, elephants, vultures even…wait for it…Tiger Sharks. That’s right, Tiger Sharks, anybody who was born before 1982 knows what I’m talking about. The cats control the other animals through collars that explode if the wearer steps out of line. It takes a lot of balls for a cartoon to put the slavery card out there in such a flagrant way.
Despite appearances otherwise, Leo is actually part of a resistance movement against Mumm-Ra. A well spoken Jackal and a fat Lizard take advantage of a slave riot to gain some face time with Leo and his girlfriend who is very obviously a Shetara ancestor. The Jackal and Lizard explain that none of the other animals trust the dissident cats. Pre-Shetara promises that if the animals unite against the loyalist cat guards, the rebel cats, specifically Leo, will deal with Mumm-Ra.
Leo/Lion-O returns to the bridge in time for the second cameo of the episode. As Mumm-Ra drones on about every animal having its uses, one of his monitors displays an image of MonStar. MonStar was the antagonist of another Rankin/Bass 80s IP, Silverhawks. While there are no other overt Silverhawk cameos in the episode, I have to admit that I held out hope that they might show up to fight Mumm-Ra by the end of the episode. I swear I’ll get giddy like a school girl if the writers somehow work a proper Silverhawk crossover into the show.
But back to the story.
Just in case people weren’t paying attention to the animal UN in the previous scene, Mumm-Ra does some further foreshadowing, reminding Leo that the other animals hate the cats and Mumm-Ra equally. Shortly thereafter Captain Tigus, Tigra’s ancestor, signals that he has procured the Warstone. Earger for his prize, Mumm-Ra dispatches Leo/Lion-O to retrieve the bauble. En route to the hanger deck, Leo/Lion-O and Pre-Shetara detour to a crawlspace where a triad of cats have just forged the Sword of Omens. Sword in hand, Leo/Lion-O liberates the stone from Tigus, who vocally doubts the success of any rebellion. In a grand display, Leo/Lion-O joins the sword with the stone – how very inverse Arthurian.
The battle that ensues makes the previous episode’s Mumm-Ra/Thundercat fight look like a garden party. There was a distinctive anime feeling about the fight as Mumm-Ra pulled a Tekkaman style transformation into an armoured space knight thing. Though, I could also call it a Silverhawk inspired change since the writers are blending properties within the Rankin/Bass creative gamut.
Having used the Warstone to deprive Mumm-Ra of a second power stone at the start of the battle, Leo/Lion-O carries out his own transformation. He succeeds in holding his own against Mumm-Ra even when the battle explodes through the hull of the ship and into deep space. During the course of the battle Leo/Lion-O finds the time to drop the force fields on the animals’ pens and deliver a stirring “Unite under our banner despite the fact we’ve been dicks” speech. Apparently that was good enough for the slaves as they took to roughing up any cats loyal to Mumm-Ra.
With the combined power of the Eye of Thundara and second power stone, Leo/Lion-O is able to strip Mumm-Ra of his remaining stones. With Mumm-Ra reduced to his decrepit form, Leo/Lion-O merges all of the stones with the Sword of Omens’ gauntlet. The victory is short lived as Mumm-Ra escapes into a sarcophagus and the crippled ship falls into the atmosphere of the recently raided planet: a little world known as Third Earth. As Leo/Lion-O and Pre-Shetara make out through the ship’s plunge into gravity, Lion-O is pulled out of his ancestor and again faces Jaga-Wan inside the book.
Jaga explains that after the crash the animals formed the basis for the civilization that we saw during the first episode. Given what we know of Third Earth’s animal hierarchy, it would seem that some hallmarks of the old regime persisted under the Thundercat empire. Though that can be explained away as a result of the loss of the three power stones.
Returned to his body, Lion-O now understands that finding the Book of Omens was only the first part of his journey. His task now is to use the Book of Omens to find the lost stones. But more importantly, the lessons of the past taught Lion-O that defeating Mumm-Ra will require more than a weapon. To succeed, Lion-O must unite all of Third Earth’s animals against their common foe.
I’m calling “Legacy” a turning point for the series. While I enjoyed “Journey to the Tower of Omens”, it didn’t have to do much work to win me over after two episodes that seemed divorced from the overall story arc. “Legacy”, though steeped in back story, focused the plot and added a definitive richness to the rebooted universe. Moreover, it seemed like the pacing of the story finally felt appropriate. Although the philosophy was scaled back, the narrative felt complete without the need to rush a resolution for the sake of closure. The challenge now is to keep the momentum going without the next three episodes using formula n to find stone x, y and z where n is the number of minutes it takes to “Thundercats, Ho!” the bad guy into submission.
Episode Score: +4.5
Series Score to Date: +3.25