First things first. Anyone still sore over Masters of the Universe: Revelation’s plot twist of sidelining He-Man and Skeletor in favor of other, unexpected character development, please stop grousing now. For starters, that shocking choice elevated the show to new levels of depth. But more important for the sake of this conversation, Masters of the Universe: Revolution, Season 2 of the continuation series, brings He-Man and Skeletor both back to the fore.
Picking up months after the events of Revelation, He-Man (Chris Wood) continues to lead the forces of good on Eternia, defeating the last retirements of Skeletor’s (Mark Hamill) conquest. Teela (Melissa Benoist) continues to aid him as Sorceress of Greyskull, as does Andra (Tiffany Smith), who now serves as Man-at-Arms. The forces of good set out to restore the kingdom of Preternia (the Masters of the Universe analogue of Heaven), which Skeletor and Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey) destroyed in the previous season.
An Enemy Returns
Little do He-Man & company know, however, Skeletor and his band have regrouped within Snake Mountain, their bodies augmented by the cybernetics of Motherboard (Meg Foster), a minion of the Horde. Led by Hordak (Keith David), the Horde once tried to conquer Eternia, only to suffer defeat at the hands of King Randor (Diedrich Bader). As Hordak sets his sights on the planet once again, a mysterious stranger (William Shatner) arrives with information that could upend the lives of He-Man and Skeletor alike.
More than that, we’ll not reveal here, as in Revelation, much of the enjoyment of Masters of the Universe: Revolution comes from the wild swings executive producer Kevin Smith and writers Tim Sheridan & Diya Mishra make in tackling the material. If Season 1 expanded the pathos of the characters in a more adult way, Season 2 dives into the Masters of the Universe mythology in a manner that both celebrates it and continues to add layers to the tales of Eternia. In addition to a recurring appearance by Hordak, fan favorites Granamyr (John De Lancie) and Gwildor both get significant screentime this season, which, paired with He-Man and Skeletor stepping back into the spotlight, should please longtime fans across the board.
He-Man For Grown Ups
It helps, too, that Revolution continues the assembly of outstanding voice actors established in the previous season. Most of the Season 1 cast returns here, albeit with two notable exceptions. Benoist replaces Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela, and though she gives a fine performance, the melancholy weariness that Gellar brought to the role feels missed. Gates McFadden takes over for Alicia Silverstone as Queen Marlena as well, and feels much better suited to the character, especially since Marlena’s storyline in Revolution takes her down some dark paths.
Hamill, as Skeletor, tones back the camp approach he took in the first season in favor of more gravitas, which adds to the thrills, particularly in scenes with David’s Hordak and Wood’s He-Man. But the big standout among the cast remains Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn. As with last season, writer Sheridan (who penned two episodes this season) seems to have a fascination with the character, the actress, or both, painting her with finer detail and conflict than any other role. Headey revels in the part, her cool voice conveying shades of moral gray throughout. In a sense, the character encapsulates the entire approach to Masters of the Universe: Revelation/Revolution: taking a one-dimensional cartoon and expanding it into adult drama.
At just five episodes, Revolution’s plotting moves at a breakneck pace—at times, too quickly for its own good. Several characters built up as major threats in the first couple of episodes get dispensed with by the season mid-point, suggesting that maybe Smith & company had plotted out a ten-episode arc, only to have Netflix shorten the season run.
At times, the show also feels derivative. Andra’s (who, incidentally, gets more of a function beyond her Season 1 token role, thank goodness) battle armor looks a bit too much like Iron Man’s Hulkbuster suit. Motherboard, more or less, translates Star Trek’s Borg Queen into the Masters of the Universe idiom. Hordak doesn't channel the Darkseid of Zack Snyder's Justice League so much as copy him outright. These details distract from the rest of the story, as do some out-of-place attempts at broad humor. They also undermine the creative daring that makes the show catch fire.
But catch fire, it does. Though not quite as dark or violent as the first season, Revolution offers no shortage of adventure, fun, and nostalgia for Masters of the Universe lovers. Toxic fans who trashed the subversive storytelling of Revelation and predicted swift cancellation for the show will find their dire prophecies quashed. They’ll also find the storyline in Revolution irresistible. A teaser for a potential third season lands with a reference that only the most die-hard Masters of the Universe fans will recognize. For those who do, it will add frenzy to their ongoing salivation for more.
Either way, Masters of the Universe: Revolution proves one thing: the power of Greyskull has returned in a major way.
Masters of the Universe: Revolution lands on Netflix January 25.