It’s said that what defines and makes a superhero is the challenges that they are pitted against, whether those challenges are obstacles, emotional issues, or enemies. In “Journey To The Tower Of Omens”, Lion-O and his friends are pitted against all of these, in one of the best-received episodes of the new ThunderCats series to date.
ThunderCats in 2011 is about building a far-reaching story arc, with many slow-burning story elements, intricate backstories, and a strong sense of continuity. One such element present in the series so far is that of Mumm-Ra, the ThunderCats’ main antagonist and who thus far has been a character shrouded in mystery. Some of the most effective scenes in this episode center around Mumm-Ra, as the audience discovers more about him and his connection to the ThunderCats’ race, scenes that at the same time raise as many questions as they answer.
Whilst prior to this episode Mumm-Ra has been portrayed more as a puppet master, pulling strings and commanding minions such as S-S-Slithe and Grune, in this episode Mumm-Ra’s Ever-Living form is revealed, reaffirming him as a true threat to the ThunderCats and an enemy almost impossible to defeat in battle. In a clever plot twist, the ThunderCats themselves actually fail to defeat Mumm-Ra in his Ever-Living form – it’s only thanks to Jaga’s intervention and sacrifice that they are able to survive, building a tangible sense of threat for any future encounters between the two factions.
One of the more interesting aspects of Mumm-Ra’s character and backstory is his mastery of technology. From the very beginning, the writers of this new series have tried to establish technology as being Third Earth’s version of magic, thought of by the planet’s denizens in the same way as we think of witchcraft or wizardry. So, it’s perhaps fitting that the ultimate example of this should be to show Mumm-Ra, thought of as an ancient sorcerer in the original series, as being a supreme master of technology in this retelling. How well this fits with Mumm-Ra’s character and sense of menace is a debatable point, and also begs the question as to which of the super powers that he displays are based in technology and how much in magic.
However, this episode is far from just being about Mumm-Ra, because it is also about the ThunderCats themselves and their adventures striving to locate the Book of Omens. This episode continues Lion-O’s development and personal voyage of discovery as he learns how to use the Sword of Omens’ “Sight Beyond Sight” for the first time – this phrase was an integral part of the series’ pilot, and is given even greater meaning here. His battle with Mumm-Ra, and in particular Jaga’s sacrifice to save Lion-O, reaffirm that this series represents a journey for Lion-O, one that he must complete in order to be powerful and wise enough to defeat Mumm-Ra himself.
This episode also fleshes out the role of the clerics in the ThunderCats‘ history, and in so doing shines the spotlight effectively on Cheetara. This episode focuses heavily on her, to great effect, and the fact that her skills and powers react so positively to Lion-O’s use of the Eye of Thundera suggests that there is a lot more to be revealed about the speedy female ThunderCat.
Probably the greatest achievement of this episode is how successfully it bridges the gap between action, character development, and backstory, creating a perfect link between the three elements. The ThunderCats encounter adventure and peril as they labour towards the Book of Omens, with these situations at the same time developing the characters and teaching us more about them (such as Panthro’s inability to swim). Each ThunderCat gets their moment to shine, including Snarf and the Thunderkittens, the latter of whom show their bravery and worth when they between Mumm-Ra and the unconscious Panthro.
In short, what makes this episode work above all else is how it takes separate ingredients and blends them together to create something greater than the sum of its parts – a rich history, engaging characters, and a healthy dose of adventure. These together make for great entertainment, and make the ThunderCats’ journey to the Tower of Omens a journey the audience wants to share in.
Written by Chris (He-Fan)