Daily Cartoon: He-Man & The Masters of the Universe S02E13: “Awaken the Serpent”

Friends, we’ve made it. It’s not the results, it’s the journey and I’m happy to say that the last two months on this journey through the telling of the mythos of the happenings on Eternia has been incredibly fun.

From the beginning, I’ve been upfront about my love for all things MOTU and when I decided to go back through the wormhole of rewatching this series I was admittedly a bit nervous to see how it would hold up since I had remembered enjoying this reboot very much when it was new and hip and fresh and I’m pleased to report that it has confirmed my feelings as well as further stoking my love for the property.

It’s been a really fun ride and although I’m happy to have gotten to this point, I am already feeling a tinge of sadness that we’ve come to the end. We can delve more into my feelings at the end once we’ve finished the episode, but right now we’ve got a story to complete. There is no “until next time.”

S02E13: Awaken the Serpent

Original Air Date: January 10, 2004

Screen Cap Analysis: ‘Cuz the boyz in the hood are always hard.

Quick point: despite a big shift in focus from Skeletor for this second season, the opening title sequence was never changed or altered to include King Hiss or any of the Snake Men. I’m going to assume it was just a way to cut a cost somewhere. Then again, it’s a pretty badass opening so maybe they just liked it and didn’t want to change it. This isn’t me making a complaint, just an observation.

Hiss gathers his crew and begins the spell to unleash Serpos from Snake Mountain. Skeletor and his goons are inside and try to find a safe space as the headquarters goes under a massive transformation in which the stone snake (now with three heads to display the rise of the Snake Men) that makes up Snake Mountain comes to life and is so massive that it makes the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets look like a regular old garden snake.

The Sorceress immediately contacts Adam, telling him to assemble the Masters and some real big boy shit is going down. He hits the He-Man highnote and the MOTU head out looking to dine on danger. It doesn’t take long to find Serpos because it a FUCKING MASSIVE THREE-HEADED SNAKE, but nothing they throw at it has any effect. Hiss, now with command of Serpos sends it off to attack the palace.

They evacuate the town and man the brigade to try and stave off Serpos, but this motherfucker straight up spits lava out of all three heads! He-Man decides he’s gonna take it on single-handedly, but gets knocked so damn hard that it transforms him back to Prince Adam. The Sorceress can sense the end may be near so she tries conjuring up a last hope: Zodak.

If you recall, Zodak has basically been unavailable for this whole feud with the Snake Men because he’s been in deep meditation where he’s pretty much removed from all existence until he’s completed his session. Sorceress, though, is a powerful telepath and after repeated tries is able to wake him from his trance.

With the palace melted down to ash and the Masters seemingly defeated, Hiss sets his sights on bringing Serpos to see more of the sights on Eternia. Next stop: Castle Grayskull where Serpos can devour the power of the Elders as punishment for them having imprisoned the ancient deity all those centuries or however long it’s been ago.

Adam begins to come to and when he’s able to collect himself, he finds Zodak standing over him offering the power sword and letting him know that He-Man is needed. Adam is surprised that Zodak knows his true identity, but honestly, there are much more pressing things to worry about right now that don’t include how fucking Zodak figured out your secret identity.

Back at the palace, the other namebrand Snake Men have separated the Masters – now prisoners – into two groups: one for slaves, one for food. Kobra Khan catches them whispering and gives some friendly advice to not be caught talking. King Randor, a pretty smart guy, tells Khan that he was just imploring his fellow prisoners to drop to their knees and hope the Snakes will show mercy. Khan thinks that’s a swell idea because he’s too stupid to realize that there’s an escape plan tied into this so when they kneel, Fisto is able to punch through the chains and free the “food group” who then run for the hills leaving the slave group behind and Ram Man (Food Group) to guard the passageway to give the freed good guys some time to get distance from the Snakes. Randor leads them to an armory where they’re all able to grab swords and go after the Snake Men immediately.

At Castle Grayskull, He-Man and Zodak magically appear using what appears to be teleportation. I guess that makes sense…Zodak is the cosmic enforcer and all and he’s got all this fucking power since he pretty much single-handedly locked up the Snakes the last time around so sure, why not? The Sorceress meets them and breaks down the history of Serpos and how he was only able to be stopped by the power of the Elders…the power that now fuels He-Man’s sword. Zodak gives He-Man a fist bump telling him to get Serpos because he will be going after King Hiss.

Zodak gets his one-on-one matchup with Hiss and the King talks a lot of shit about being excited to eat him just as he ate his brother long ago. Zodak convinces Hiss to toss aside his staff and battle him but when Hiss sheds his skin to turn into his five-headed snake form, Zodak uses the power within him to turn Hiss’s limbs on himself and they literally eat the head of Hiss.

Goddamn, pal.

He-Man stands in front of Grayskull ready for Serpos. The Sorceress will activate a force field that should stun the giant serpent for just a second, but it’s in that second that He-Man will have his opportunity to eradicate Serpos. Force field, stunned snake, He-Man shoots his shot and gets rejected with Serpos basically waving the Dikembe Mutombo finger at him. Sorceress implores He-Man to hurry before Serpos is able to regain full strength and he does: leaping into the air with such vigor that his Power Sword splits itself open showing a glowing emerald jewel from within the lets off bolts of lightning as He-Man tears through the skin of Serpos like a knife through warm butter…for two of the heads anyway. The center main head of Serpos is not happy with He-Man’s handwork and bucks him off causing him to take a hard bump to the ground. Serpos slams his remaining head on He-Man multiple times trying to crush him, but He-Man still has breath and it able to active his sword once more to stab Serpos right through his stupid snake nose where the power of the sword erupts, decimating all of Serpos to tiny bits.

He-Man has won…or so he thinks for just a moment.

Rising from the ashes of Serpos is what appears to be his snake soul. He-Man takes an exasperated breath and looks to his power sword where a flame emblazons from the emblem. He reaches to sky and hollers his familiar, “I have the power,” which this time brings forth the full power of the Elders, illuminating Grayskull with beacons of power and light and bringing forth the spirits of the Elders who once again imprison Serpos in stone unable to be of harm to Eternia again.

You’d think that’s it, but the battle still wages on at the palace with Randor, Teela, Man-At-Arms, Fisto and others still locked in combat with the Snakes. The good guys have the upper hand, but Kobra Khan is able to tangle up Stratos, threatening to melt him with his venom if the Masters don’t lower their weapons. Fortunately for our heroes, though, He-Man and Zodak arrive on the scene carrying King Hiss’s headless carcass which they drop right in the middle of the fray. Rattlor calls for the Snakes to retreat which they obey instantly. They get away, but Eternia has been saved for now.

King Randor offers a He-Man a hearty thanks, but He-Man says the one to thank is Zodak, who apparently doesn’t want to be thanked and is already on his floating chariot heading back home to the Mystic Mountains with a satisfied smile.

PSA: Take it one step at a time.

Final Thoughts:

Wow…OK, I did not see that ending coming. Not in a bad way, just in a “I was thinking they were going to do something completely different” kind of way. This was a damn fine SEASON finale, but gives off the sense that they were at least hoping/preparing for a third season since there’s no real sense of finality for the series.

They wrap up the series very snuggly and complete the arc with a very compelling final episode that sees a ton of characters get a quick shine on both sides with some really fun and great-looking action sequences peppered throughout all 23 minutes.

It’s really good and a very strong conclusion to a very good season.

As I’ve speculated in previous recaps, I really think the writers may have had a sense of excitement with being able to focus on the Snakes and King Hiss for the most part rather than having to keep sipping from the Skeletor well. Everything felt new and exciting and it really worked and added a new dynamic that really hadn’t been seen before. If I was giving this whole season a rating, I’d probably go 8-8.5 out of 10; it’s that damn enjoyable.

The one thing this episode doesn’t do is feel like a SERIES finale. Skeletor was once again a no-show outside of just a quick moment where Serpos is being brought to life causing Skelly and the goons to scurry for safety within Snake Mountain.

The backbone of any MOTU story begins and ends with He-Man versus Skeletor and to have this series close out without that being the case almost feels wrong. I say “almost” because I just spend 1,700 words before this saying how King Hiss as the big bad made everything feel new and shiny and that I loved it.

I did. I really did. And if there was going to be another season I’d feel even better about it. But, for as good as the series is and as much as I enjoyed it there is a small sense of disappointment that it didn’t go out with a clash involving Skeletor.

It doesn’t take away from the quality of the season or this singular episode, I’m really just lamenting that I didn’t get even more of this show to watch and love. Damn, I wish those fucking toys sold better!

I was really hoping to enjoy this show as much as I remembered from years ago when I watched it through on DVD after falling off the Cartoon Network broadcasts and I was richly rewarded with a very fun, authentic-feeling telling of the He-Man story that took everything I remembered loving about the original Filmation series as a kid and jazzed it up with advances in animation and terrific writing that told deep, rich stories while keeping true to the legacy.

I’m biased by nostalgia, but I can’t recommend this series enough. If you grew up with MOTU, this was everything you could have wanted and hoped for in a reboot and the only bad thing I have to say is that it didn’t last long enough. This last episode left me so hyped that I’m pretty much ready to five into Season 3 right fucking now, but I have to take a breath.

We’ve come to the end of this road, but hopefully there will be more Masters in play very soon. The long-rumored movie finally seems to be happening after years and years of headlines reading, “…a He-Man script is making the rounds” and over the past year we’ve been graced by the wonderful reimagining of our hero’s twin sister with She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix. No, I’m not kidding. That She-Ra show is fun as fuck. Season 3 of that just got released so go watch and support!

Thanks for coming around and reading through 39 episode recaps of a 17 year-old cartoon that never seemed to get as much traction or respect as I felt it deserved. Watching it back with a more discerning eye (at least I’d like to think that) has confirmed my belief from 2002 that this show was terrific and I hope you all agree.

What’s next? Who knows? Although I’ve done plenty of cartoon episode recaps in the past, I wasn’t necessarily planning to ride out this whole series even when I started it. I just got hooked, was totally loving in and thought maybe someone would come across this blog that had never seen it or didn’t really remember it and now you love it. Too much of life is spent being miserable and watching and blogging about this allowed me a chance to do something I like. Find stuff you like to do and do. I like He-Man and I hope you enjoyed me sharing that with you. Thanks for sticking with me and He-Man.

Until next time.

Joe

Twitter: @MaxSexPow

Email: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com

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