The first two episodes of the ThunderCats reboot aired just over a week ago on Cartoon Network, and you know what? It was really good. Then the third episode aired this past Friday, and it was also really good. I wasn't expecting it to be bad or anything, but I was still really surprised by just how immediately engaging it was. Normally cartoons, and even live action shows intended for adults, take a little time to get going and build up a mythology. Thundercats managed to lay all that out in a pretty exciting way, and do it in a way that made it a much better show than the original. Third episode showed that it could still be entertaining while having a more standalone episode. It was so good I didn't even hate Snarf, probably because this Snarf doesn't talk. See what I mean about being better than the original?
I'm not going to try and explain the mythology of the show. For one thing, it would probably get spoilery, and since I think the show is worth watching, I don't want to ruin anything. For another thing, while it is completely easy to follow while watching the first episode, it would be too much to describe here. However, it owes a lot to things like Star Wars, Arthurian Legend, The Lion King, and other stories of which Joseph Campbell would approve. I would even say that it was all a bit predictable, but that didn't really detract from my enjoyment. (Truthfully, I find most things predictable, because I watch way too much television.) It's not the most original series, just very entertaining and well executed. One of the more interesting departures from the original series is that Thundera is a kingdom on Third Earth, so there is no escape to another planet where you have just a handful of cats versus a couple of bad guys. I'm hoping a fully populated planet will open up the show to more characters and story potential more quickly than in the original series. I liked the fact that technology was the mysterious and mythical thing in this world, rather than magic, too. It's a bit of a flip from the usual.
I also really like what the writers have done with the characters. Lion-O doesn't seem to be changed much. He's a young man, destined to lead, but not quite ready yet. That's typical of the heroes in these kinds of stories, and not in a bad way. I do like that he's a bit younger and is kind of a geek, being the only Thundercat interested in seeking out the mythical technology. He's also very compassionate and thoughtful, which are excellent traits in future kings, and certainly a good thing for the children watching to see, to temper all the violence. That subsided a bit in the third episode, where he had to deal with his grief and anger over what happened in the premier, but he learned a valuable life lesson after meeting a Captain Ahab analog and his crew of anthropomorphic fish sailing through a a sea of sand. It was cooler than it probably sounds.
Lion-O and Tigra are now brothers, and there's a sort of Thor and Loki vibe to them in the premiere (with Tigra being the adopted brother), though I am certain Tigra won't be turning into an archvillain. There's also no hint of rivalry in the third episode, but that doesn't mean it will never come into play again. Tigra is kind of a jerk though (again, not so much in the third episode, but I think that was because it was Lion-O's turn to be a jerk), so of course he immediately became my favorite. I suppose it's a bit cliche that Cheetara, as the lone woman of the group, would be a mysterious warrior, but I liked her and that aspect was cleared up by the end of the first two episodes when we found out what her mystery was. All in all, she's pretty cool and tough. I just wish she was more fully clothed. Finally, Wily Kit and Wily Kat, almost as annoying as the aforementioned Snarf on the original series, have been reimagined as street urchins and pick-pockets, so they actually have some legitimate skills to bring to the table this time around. I'm not going to talk about Panthro. You'll understand if you watch the show. I'll just say that I really hope there is more to that particular story.
Of course, it's all just potential, that I can only hope the rest of the series lives up to, at this point. There was a ton of cool stuff in the first three episodes, including the voice of Clancy Brown. (As a matter of fact, I just had a look at the voice cast, and I could immediately tell that Andrea Romano is involved.) the show is also really well paced, with a nice balance of action to all the exposition that comes with the set up of any new series. Not to mention a nice balance of anthropomorphic fish trying to eat anthropomorphic kittens to valuable life lessons. If you missed the episodes, I imagine they will be reaired eventually, but they should also available on demand.
New episodes air on Cartoon Network Friday nights at 8:30 PM EST.