Throughout their various incarnations, the ThunderCats have always typically been portrayed as a strong force for good. Through the evolution of Lion-O as a character, the audience has been able to watch as good and evil, whilst not obvious at first, nonetheless reveal themselves as Lion-O’s wisdom and powers of perception evolve and grow. That classic ThunderCats theme is what makes this episode work.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that this episode evokes such a “classic” vibe; penned by the great Peter Lawrence, one of the creative lynchpins behind the original series, it’s not difficult to close one’s eyes and imagine the original series’ voice actors speaking each of the characters’ lines. Perhaps it’s these strong roots that allow this episode to flourish like the trees the storyline is built around.
When Lion-O first encounters the Wood Forgers it appears as though they are, once again, the series’ straightforward “guest race of the week”. What makes this episode refreshing is how it veers away from this, keeping the audience guessing until Lion-O’s leap of faith when confronted by Viragor – this lovely character building moment being one of the highlights of this episode.
There are other highlights too, and they tend to all be built around the development of the ThunderCats as people. From the main development for Lion-O that’s the central point of the story, to other subtle touches like the brotherly moment between Lion-O and Tygra round the campfire, to Panthro’s declaration of respect for Lion-O – all of these are strong moments that help the audience care about these characters and helps to forge a bond between them.
That’s not to say that this episode is without its flaws. By now the absence of the series’ main villains such as Mumm-Ra, Grune and S-S-Slithe is beginning to harm the sense of continuity that the series has attempted to build up. For these villains to have been off the screen for so many episodes now risks the audience forgetting the overriding threat that these characters present to our feline heroes, and a strong enhancement to this episode would have been some sort of epilogue sequence featuring one or more of these characters.
Nevertheless, “The Forrest of Magi Oar” still stands out when measured against some of the other ThunderCats episodes of recent times. With a strong storyline, engaging dialogue, and a real sense of embracing the best of both the original and new ThunderCats, this episode is an action-packed lesson to us all that sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.