Appearing right in the middle of ThunderCats‘ first season, “Between Brothers” always needed to be something special – an episode far-reaching in its scope, that touches on the most memorable elements of the series so far and moves some of the show’s primary storylines into a whole new dimension. This action-packed episode succeeds in achieving all these goals.

The main theme running through this episode is that of relationships. The first and most obvious of those relationships is the one between Lion-O and Tygra. With so much of their background left unexplored, this episode nevertheless showcases much of their sibling rivalry – their antipathy towards each other is brought to boiling point, and yet so is the bond between the two, showing that there is something at both extremes of their relationship, a rivalry, a jealousy, perhaps even at times a dislike, and yet beneath it all a bond that cannot be broken.

The second relationship to be explored is the one between Panthro and Grune. In its own way, this relationship is as complex as the one between Lion-O and Tygra – for, whilst Panthro and Grune are not brothers, they have nevertheless trodden many of the same paths and fought the same battles, and the hostility between the two is given a great deal of emotional depth thanks to this, adding weight also to Grune’s betrayal of the ThunderCats and Panthro in particular. The retelling of Panthro and Grune’s encounter with Spidera, as well as being a great nod to old-school ThunderCats fans (Spidera was, of course, the guest villain in the original series episode “Queen of 8 Legs”), also serves to shine a spotlight on the relationship between these two characters.

Third and final of the relationships focussed on in this episode is the one between Tygra and Cheetara, where in a moment of shock she choses Tygra over Lion-O. This is as jarring for the audience as it is for Lion-O himself, as it completely flies against the clues that have been shown throughout the series – which, in a perverse type of way, should make it less surprising than it is. It’s not difficult to predict that the love triangle between Lion-O, Tygra and Cheetara will run for many episodes to come, and one suspects there may yet be a twist in the tale.

This episode also benefits greatly from the return of all the series’ main villains that we’ve met so far – S-S-Slithe, Grune and especially Mumm-Ra all shine during their moments of screen time, and the transformation of Mumm-Ra into his ever-living form is a visual highlight in an episode full of stunning animation.

The action sequences in this episode work on a variety of different levels, providing both straight excitement when the ThunderCats are battling to protect the hut, to heightening the emotions between Lion-O and Tygra when the two are battling. Indeed, from a visual perspective this episode is nigh on impossible to find fault with, and it’s clear that a great deal of thought and effort went into making this episode one of the most striking of the series.

The first thirteen episodes of ThunderCats have not been without their flaws, but when taken as a collective they stand as a fine example of modern animated storytelling. This episode is the perfect encapsulation of everything that has been good about the series so far. A grand epic that sets the scene for more adventures to come, “Between Brothers” proves that the ThunderCats are back to stay.

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