Emotional attachment and investment in the characters is key to any good story. Unless you care about the characters and thus care about what happens to them, even the best and most imaginative storylines will fall flat. Creating that bond between the characters and the audience is especially important when a TV show is just beginning the journey that it will take its’ audience on, and this is why “Song of the Petalars” is a vital component in the future success of the new ThunderCats series.
Penned by the legendary J.M. DeMatteis, a master craftsman of storytelling, the premise of this episode is a perfect example of what makes this episode work. In the course of this episode we discover that the Petalars are a race whose lifetime is played out over the course of just one day, with their own concepts of time. Lion-O befriends Emeric, a Petalar whose personality is designed mirror Lion-O’s own and provide Lion-O with inspiration and insight.
By experiencing Emeric’s lifetime in the course of just one episode, we see him grow as a character right before our eyes, and the storytelling concepts employed to connect him to Lion-O and thus also to the audience are all masterstrokes. To actually make an audience care about a guest character within the space of a short episode is quite a challenge, but one that the creators of this episode don’t shy away from. At different times in this episode, Emeric is endearing, engaging, and inspiring, and it’s those things that make this episode so memorable.
This episode is also a grand showpiece for one of the series’ main villains, S-S-Slithe. As with the original ThunderCats series, S-S-Slithe is portrayed as a cold, calculating, heartless leader, and both his design and personality are instantly evocative of the original character. We also get to meet some more of the Lizards (the race known as Reptillians in the original series), and in fact one memorable scene shows Lion-O cutting down the chameleon Lizard who attacks them.
This in fact brings up one of the more controversial aspects of this episode, whether Lion-O actually kills the Lizard using the Sword of Omens. In the original series the Sword was incapable of being used for evil deeds, and this is something that this remake has tried to retain – however, by Lion-O’s delivering a (presumably) fatal blow to the Lizard, the series seems to try and take an ethical stand on the issue of killing one’s enemies in defense. How this portrayal is set to play out is something that will be of keen interest to ThunderCats fans, both those in favour of this and those who dislike it.
Another memorable moment is when Lion-O inadvertently summons Panthro, who, along with the new Thundertank, makes his debut in this episode. This is another powerful emotional element that is played to perfection, with the series’ most iconic vehicle racing in to save the ThunderCats from a hopeless situation. The visuals of the Thundertank racing into action, and the introduction of Panthro, are all stunningly well-done, and provide a very fitting conclusion to a very special episode.
Yet whilst this scene has the potential to steal the show, in fact strangely it doesn’t, for the heart and soul of this episode lies with the Petalars and with Lion-O’s friend Emeric. Lion-O’s growth as a character is a central element of this new series as it was with the old, and this episode more than any other so far allows the audience to make that emotional journey with Lion-O.
By the conclusion of this episode Emeric has inspired Lion-O and thus inspired us, to live life to the fullest, to be the best we can be, and to never give up hope.
The song of the Petalars is a powerful, resounding chorus, and one that should be heard by everyone.
Written by Chris (He-Fan)