The crystals of Thundercats
Around the mid-season mark, Thundercats had basically fallen apart for me. The clever mythology and dynamic characters introduced in the pilot were lost in the mundaneity of the individual 20 minute episodes.
The characters became too goofy and lost a couple of the dimensions which were clear in that first episode.
Although the quality of writing and plotting in the pilot has yet to return, the series did improve significantly from the few episodes which followed the pilot.
The characters each began to fall into roles which worked into the team, and while the spot of comic relief still hasn’t found itself solidly within a pair of characters, the overall tone has become softer and more compelling. The romantic drama is a bit overdrawn, but there’s really not all that much that can be done with romance in Thundercats.
The season does have an arc to it, at least. Lion-O and his friends have been seeking the Spirit crystal, a companion to the Eye of Thundara which rests in the hilt of his sword. This crystal is meant to reside in his claw-bracer, and he needs to find it before Mumm-Ra does, although the reasoning behind this is a bit unclear.
Along the way, the team meets many different races of Third Earth, far from the land they once called home. The world is a rich place, and the world-building here is truly fantastic. The real strength of this show is the depth of the mythology of the world. If for nothing else, I would continue to watch the show just to meet more new Third Earth races and see new parts of the strange world. Of course, each race and people they meet are highly and transparently symbolic, but this is the nature of a fable, which each episode essentially boils down to.
The quality of the production has remained high throughout the season, and the casting is impressive, all the main characters are played well, especially Kevin Michael Richardson in the role of Panthro, but I was consistently impressed by the quality of the guest single-episode performers. They were always uniquely suited voices, and some of the episodes, like The Duelist and the Drifter, which was the best post-pilot episode of the season, were made great in part by the incredible vocal performances of the single-episode characters - in that case, Stephen Root as Hattanoz.
Overall, if you can look past a few of the show’s childish indulgences, it really plays out more like an adventure story than a Saturday morning cartoon, and it’s worth your time to check it out, especially with how quickly the episodes go by.
A second season of Thundercats has yet to be announced.