Well, I sat on this one for awhile. Last summer saw the return of the Masters of the Universe to television in the form of Revelation. In somewhat typical Netflix fashion, the show arrived in “parts” rather than seasons though unlike many Netflix shows they’re at least not trying to trick us by calling either part a season. The first five episodes were not without some controversy and fans had to wait until the fall to find out what Kevin Smith had planned for the likes of He-Man, Teela, and Skeletor. Not personally being a massive fan of the franchise meant that I wasn’t waiting with bated breath for the second part to arrive despite mostly enjoying the first five episodes. I got to it though, eventually, and since I reviewed the first five episodes I felt I should probably do the same for the last five.
Part One of this inaugural season saw Skeletor (Mark Hamill) triumphant over He-Man (Chris Wood) for basically the first time and magic was removed from Eternia. After a period of time, the former Man-at-Arms for Eternia, Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar), set out with a rag-tag gang of misfits to return magic to the world. And they basically succeed, but in doing so bring back Skeletor in the form of Skele-God as he now wields the power of Grayskull. And despite Teela and the sorceress Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey) seeming to bond throughout the events of the episodes, she quickly turns her back on the gang and rejoins her man, Skeletor. As for He-Man, he spent most of the five-parter dead only to abandon a Heaven of sorts to return to life only to get stabbed by the newly powered-up Skeletor.
It was a downer of an ending, but knowing that a second batch of episodes was on the way certainly left room for optimism. Revelation Part Two is largely a contrast to Part One. It focuses the early bits on Prince Adam (spoiler, he didn’t die!) as his identity as He-Man has to be reconciled with those who never knew, while a lot of attention is put on the pairing of Evil-Lyn and Skeletor. In fact, I would say Evil-Lyn gets the most character development out of all the characters in the show. Her and Skeletor are presented very much like Joker and Harley Quinn (hardly a surprise with Kevin Smith at the helm) with the dominant personality of the pair being abusive and taking the submissive individual for granted. Skeletor’s absence for much of Part One means that Evil-Lyn has experienced life without her man and perhaps it is that which gives her the confidence to strike back. While audiences are probably rooting for her to knock Skeletor down and take up arms against him alongside the likes of He-Man, she actually doubles-down on the villainess aspect (she has the word “evil” in her name, after all) of her personality to pursue ultimate power. It’s a bit messy as the show wants to make her more sympathetic, but rather than make the audience frustrated with her out of a longing to see her reform, she mostly just stumbles around until we grow tired of her.
Pushed aside in all of this is Teela. She was the de-facto main character of the first chunk of episodes, but mostly hangs around on the sidelines for much of the second part only to resurface for a climactic battle in the end. Or it would be climactic if the show knew what to do with her during the other four episodes. She basically just plays audience surrogate as she learns secrets about her past and the nature of magic none of which is especially interesting. A lot of it feels like a shortcut to undo the audience’s perception of the magic in this world and basically ex machina some stuff for the end. It’s clumsy, and what should be a triumphant final battle ends up feeling unearned which is a shame because the first five episodes handled the character rather well.
What the show does still do well is humor. It’s pretty important than even a mature take on Masters of the Universe be allowed to have some fun because a lot of it is absurd. The show gets quite a bit out of Skeletor who is often amusing, and sometimes menacing. Mark Hamill’s performance continues to be a bright spot and if I return for another batch of episodes it will largely be due to his presence. There’s also some good moments with Cringer and some of the villains, some of which I’d rather not get into for fear of spoilers, but if the trailers have convinced you this is some grim story then worry not, or be disappointed if that’s what you wanted.
Animation is provided by Powerhouse Animation Studios while the soundtrack was done by Bear McCreary. The production values are the most consistent thing about this show whether we’re talking the look, sound, or voice acting performance – it’s all well done. This second batch of episodes provides the chance for it to show off a bit more and the show mostly rises to the occasion. There’s a massive battle taking place at one point with a lot of characters onscreen which is rather impressive. The only drawback is the backgrounds in that space are rather sparse, but some of that goes back to what Filmation presented. I suppose the show could have elected to do more, but Filmation gave them an “out” and I don’t blame them for taking it.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation mostly achieves what it set out to do. It takes a bunch of characters from a bad, old, cartoon and gives them a new coat of paint for the kids of the 80s who are the middle-aged adults of today. And it does more than just make the show look better, it finds direction, motivation, and just more depth for the characters even if most still retain their awful, on-the-nose, names. As for both parts of the first season, I definitely found more to enjoy with the first part. The character development was better and the moments looking for an emotional pay-off largely landed. Part Two is more action-focused, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s moments of character development and exposition fall flat more often than land. I like some of what the show does with the Evil-Lyn character, but am left feeling like there was more to do there that the show just didn’t find. There’s some fan-servicey bits in here that’s fun for what it is, and for those who wanted more of that in Part One, they may find this one more enjoyable. It’s mostly fine, a decent binge that doesn’t require more than that. When it was over though I was more than ready for it and I probably don’t need to see anymore out of this series.
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