Identical to He-Man’s Energy Sword within the Masters of the Universe sequel present Revelation, the collection itself was cut up in half, with the first half airing in July 2021, and the second held for November launch. Netflix was fortunate sufficient to seek out an natural midpoint for the break in Kevin Smith’s animated throwback, regardless that the present was written as a single season. The primary half did finish on a pair of main cliffhangers, and the concluding 5 episodes solely make good on half of the midpoint’s preliminary promise. However the second half of the collection is extremely worthwhile. It doesn’t move as easily as half 1, and it skips a handful of important emotional beats. However half 2 is so full of monumental concepts that the episodes’ unevenness feels much less like a bug, and extra like an unavoidable function.
[Ed. note: Significant spoilers ahead for part 1 of Masters of the Universe: Revelation.]
Despite the fact that Revelation is packaged as a Gen-X nostalgia act, it’s nonetheless primarily a youngsters’s present. (Although not as a lot as Netflix’s other 2021 He-Man series, a full reboot aimed toward a a lot youthful viewers.) Even so, Revelation’s second half matures in fascinating methods, largely regarding Evil-Lyn (Lena Heady), Half 2’s MVP. On the similar time, it retains offering the goofy thrills anticipated from a collection primarily based on a line of toys.
Half 1 ended with the slain Prince Adam (Chris Wooden) foregoing everlasting paradise with the intention to assist his associates, solely to be stabbed by a returning Skeletor (Mark Hamill). By the mid-season finale, the present had arrange each the likelihood and the potential fallout of Adam dying a second time, figuring out he solely will get to return again from the useless as soon as. However Half 2 finds a handy method to sidestep the conundrum. Whereas the short decision borders on a fake-out, Revelation solutions its different lingering query with aplomb: What if the cackling, megalomaniacal Skeletor had been to achieve entry to He-Man’s legendary energy of Grayskull?
The resultant powered-up design is the sort of cool iteration designed to promote a brand new motion determine to hardcore followers: Skeletor will get even greater, grows a pair of ram horns, and has a neck made solely of flames. His power-up is one in all a number of What If… fantasies the present solutions, not as fan-service (nicely, not solely as fan-service), however in ways in which often present some character-focused dilemma.
As an illustration: what would occur to Prince Adam if he called down “the power” with out utilizing his sword as a conduit, the way in which he all the time has prior to now? The reply is dropped at life via zippy, anime-inspired motion, however this unhinged energy fantasy paves the way in which for a deeply private father-son story, whereas additionally informing one in all Revelation’s main second-half themes: the character of energy, and the skinny line between holding onto it and willingly giving it up.
Like that different 2021 He-Man reboot, Revelation wrestles with the essential premise of its Eighties predecessor, wherein just one chosen warrior has “the facility.” The present locations important narrative give attention to the truth that as many instances as Prince Adam has reworked into He-Man, he has reverted to his human kind simply as ceaselessly, relatively than remaining in super-powered He-Man kind. When he finally ends up senseless and raging (primarily based partially on the toy Wun-Darr, or “Savage He-Man”), it’s a whip-smart narrative trajectory, because it each prevents him from performing that swish sacrifice once more, and inadvertently aligns him with villains like Skeletor, who by no means willingly cede their energy.
However whereas He-Man and Skeletor have extra display time in Half 2 than in Half 1, the story nonetheless largely belongs to the ladies who had been their sidekicks within the unique present. He-Man’s ally Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is lastly allowed to confront the secrets and techniques of her parentage — a story thread the ’80s present was by no means capable of tie up. Sadly, her arc isn’t given the identical time and care because it was in Half 1. She typically rushes from beat to beat with out struggling as a lot as she as soon as did, even when confronted with troublesome concepts like maternal abandonment.
She undergoes an unlimited shift in established order over the course of Revelation, and whereas it finally ends up being visually spectacular, it additionally comes way more simply than its setup would recommend. That’s arguably the most important failing of Half 2. And but this narrative sacrifice feels nearly worthwhile, since extra of the main target this time falls on Evil-Lyn, Skeletor’s second-in-command, and a personality who finally ends up on the heart of the present’s thematic musings on energy.
Skeletor, utilizing his newfound talents, conscripts Lyn as the brand new Sorceress of Grayskull, a job that gives stunning new prospects for the collection. Amongst them is the facility to witness the massive image of the universe itself — a universe Skeletor hopes to grasp, because the title suggests. The present presents that entry by way of a blinding visible show that additionally hits the collection on a basic degree, by introducing grandiose concepts like cosmic nihilism into what is basically a kiddie cartoon. The reconciliation between these heady ideas and the whiz-bang motion is commonly debonair, particularly in the way in which the present entwines every bigger theme with Lyn’s character arc and her sophisticated relationship to Skeletor. There’s an intriguing, melancholy type of apocalyptic villainy right here.
The aesthetic expression of Lyn’s story is simply as fascinating, from goals and summary visions meant to contextualize the enormity of her expertise, to the change in her look throughout Half 2. Just like the introduction of “Savage He-Man,” her modifications operate as an influence fantasy, but additionally facilitate character evolution. She’s additionally afforded a singular bodily enchantment, the sort not typically seen in trendy youngsters’s leisure. (It was extra widespread through the unique He-Man.)
Her embrace of her new kind feels way more significant than the same old ogling gaze of pinup fantasy, meant completely for straight males and teenage boys. There are scenes the place her seductiveness takes heart stage, but it surely’s a self-aware ploy, and her bodily transformations really feel nearly on-par with He-Man’s, when it comes to how chiseled and muscular the present permits her to be. She definitely goes past essentially the most inflexible requirements of female magnificence. When her outfits grow to be extra revealing, and extra akin to ’80s steel album covers, they reveal bodily may.
Teela’s father, the bearded, heavy-set Duncan/Man-At-Arms (Liam Cunningham), is afforded a equally unconventional (and emotionally rooted) sensuality, with shirtless scenes that showcase his broad and furry torso whereas centering his soft-spoken vulnerability. Arguably, these extra tantalizing designs are meant for the unique present’s now-adult viewers. However as with Half 1, author, story editor, and govt producer Kevin Smith doesn’t appear to have grownup nostalgia in thoughts, past a couple of minor hints of fan-service.
His narrative offers with sophisticated non secular concepts, however simplifies them with youthful viewers in thoughts. A key episode about ascendancy is titled “Comes With What You See Right here,” as if to contextualize lineage via the language of a Mattel playset. Whereas the unique He-Man has a popularity as a straight male energy fantasy, the visible enchantment of a number of the characters feels a lot broader in scope right here, between Duncan’s bear-like look, and the butch hairdo Lyn finally ends up with (not in contrast to Teela’s in Half 1).
It’s a small tease for a queer studying of the present, but it surely’s solely a tease. The supporting character Andra (Tiffany Smith), who shared a flirty dynamic with Teela in Half 1, is way much less current in Half 2, which additionally speaks to the way in which Teela’s prior improvement is positioned on the again burner in favor of a sped-up trajectory. Nevertheless, each characters do find yourself on the heart of some exceptional motion sequences. One of many methods Half 2 improves on its predecessor is thru its extra diversified setpieces, which aren’t solely bigger and extra colourful, however move with a extra zestful power, as Bear McCreary’s sweeping, adventurous rating continues to pulsate.
What’s extra, the motion by no means looks like empty energy. Regardless of an ever-growing arsenal of magical powers and technological equipment wielded towards a faceless horde, the battles are all the time rooted in character beats, and punctuated by significant choices — the sort that made the present value following within the first place.
With greater motion, stunning allegiances, and good-vs.-evil dynamics centered round recognizable philosophies, Half 2 of Masters of the Universe: Revelation proves that acquainted youngsters’s journey can nonetheless really feel recent, even when it takes the type of a 30-years-later nostalgia revival. Whereas Half 2 is way messier than Half 1, its bumps are a byproduct of tackling unusual and humongous narrative concepts that almost all youngsters’s exhibits wouldn’t dream of touching, and it succeeds by wrapping them in shiny packaging.
Half 2 of Masters of the Universe: Revelation is streaming on Netflix now.