Blending the classic with the new is what the new ThunderCats series is built on. From the characters to the storylines to the visuals, the new series is built around trying to strike the perfect balance between the original series and the new one.

It’s the quest for this perfect balance that clearly drives the creation of “Old Friends”, an episode filled with classic references and yet which captures so perfectly what makes the new series work so effectively.

The main focus of this episode is the relationship between Panthro and Grune – a new concept for this retelling, the two characters are portrayed as perfect foils for each other, both beginning the same way and striking up a friendship, and yet each taking divergent paths. Grune is a perfect example of the darker edge that exists within this Thunderian society, and Panthro (despite his flaws) is a perfect example of the ThunderCats we’re used to, loyal warriors with a strong commitment to their society. The connections that this episode creates between Mumm-Ra and Grune, and also between Grune and Panthro, one suspects will form a continual thread throughout this new series.

This episode makes many nods to the classic – from the comical reference to a “Samoflange” (a fan favourite piece of technical jargon from the original series, popularised by the infamous ThunderCats outtakes) to the return of the Driller, one of the most popular classic guest villains, this episode should lay to rest any concerns that fans may have regarding the new series writers’ reverence for the original source material; for, in many ways, this episode is very much a tribute to what has gone before it, at times positively bristling with the sense of excitement and adventure that permeated the classic series.

And yet with that tribute comes a prime example of what makes this series very much its own animal, with mature, tangible character development, the continuation of a far-reaching story arc, a backstory for several leading characters, and a ramped-up, powerful emphasis on action – all of these fast becoming trademarks of ThunderCats in 2011.

The scenario of Lion-O having to earn Panthro’s respect is a very believable one. Thanks to the flashback sequences (which, along with their obvious intent to provide backstory for Panthro and Grune, also provide a real sense of the history of Third Earth and the conflict between its various species), we see that Panthro was extremely loyal to his king Claudus, and the concept of Panthro having difficulty accepting Lion-O in this role is an easy thing to relate to. The fact that Lion-O’s bravery and strength help to overcome Panthro’s skepticism is another important building block in Lion-O’s own development as a character.

As the new series continues to grow and develop its own identity, “Old Friends” serves as a bridge between the old and the new. With many nods to the past, this episode nevertheless sets up many exciting possibilities and thus has its eyes set firmly on the future.

Written by Chris (He-Fan)