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09 - Berbils
Cheetara: You coming?
Panthro: Fine. But I don't trust anything that adorable.Man, things have gotten dusty around here. Been a while since we got a new episode.
First a bit of background. This episode shares name with the third episode of the original series. They are named after the titular berbils, essentially what you'd get if you crossed an Original Cylon with a teddy bear. They spoke in this artificial voice that made it really hard to make out what they were saying. In the original episodes, Lion-O and Snarf met the Berbils (Also called the Ro-Bear Berbils), led by Ro-Bear Bill, who were being terrorized by some bulldog-looking cavemen called Trollogs who steal their candy fruits to give to another species called the Giantorrs. Lion-O and the Thundercats save the day, and the Berbils build the cats' iconic base for them as a reward. The Berbils would continue to make appearances in the show through its run, being the first allies the Thundercats ever encountered on Third Earth. You might ask why I gave a recap of the old episode? Well because this episode is pretty much a remake of that one. It changes a lot, mind you, but it also heavily borrows from the original, beyond the shared title. About the berbils themselves, I never really liked them. They were hard to understand, frankly, creepy looking, and all around annoying, pretty much as useless as could be. To say I was less then enthusiastic at hearing they were returning in the new series would be an understatement. But lets judge the episode on its own merit. Our episode begins in a Mushroom forest. The Thundertank has broken (again), and Panthro's trying to repair it, with no real success. Lion-O and the crew exposits that they've run out of food, and there's no shelter from the constant rain (Panthro's repair having caused the tank to fill with smoke and be evacuated). And to make it worst, Cheetara is snuggled with Tygra while sleeping! As he falls asleep, creepy glowing eyes look at our heroes from the darkness. Ominous shadow creep by the sleeping Thundercats while scary music plays. Cut to the next morning and it seems to have stopped raining, only for the cats to realize someone's put up a roof over their campsite and the Thundertank. No one knows who did it. Which is kinda of weird since Panthro was seen still working on the tank while the others were trying to sleep, and he's still not at the camp when the strangers are looking at it from the shadows... How did he not see this? The kittens complain that they are starving, and they see someone's left them lots of colored fruits in bowls. Not being remotely suspicious (after all, not like the last time they found food just waiting to be taken, it ever got them captured by people who wanted to eat them... Oh wait...) they try the food, along with Panthro, who recognizes this as "Candy Fruit". Already the kittens are entering a sugar-high. Lion-O, Cheetara and Tygra wonder who is helping them. Cut to some wheel-like creatures approaching the tank, unfolding into the new Berbils. They begin to thinker with it, and we see the Thundercats hid to spy on their mysterious benefactors. Panthro does not take kindly to someone else messing with his tank, and jumps out, scaring the Berbils away but capturing Ro-Bear Bill, who introduces himself. In a bit of funny dialogue, the Thundercats also have trouble understanding the Berbils. Because yes, their voice still makes them annoyingly hard to comprehend. Bill offers the Berbils' help, and the rest of them return, fixing up the tank and leading the cats to their village. Panthro of course acts jealous, and rightfully suspicious. The Berbil village is of course suitably idyllic. With them harvesting tons of candy fruits, living in the middle of colored plants and mushrooms. Bill introduces his family, with his son Ro-Bear Beeble and wife Ro-Bear Bella (The specifics of Berbil reproduction are best left to the imagination). They offer the cats more candy fruits, which the kids devour. Cheetara tells Panthro his suspicions seem unfounded, but he points out the obvious: Why would the Berbils help them without expecting something in return? Lion-O likes to believe they are just nice. Then an alarm sounds, Berbils roll into balls and take refuge inside a hole. Explosives land near the hole, disabling it and Bill explains that Conquedor is coming. Conquedor captures Berbils to use as slaves. He arrives in a contraption that reminds of the vehicule driven by the villain of The Rescuers Down Under, only Steam Punk. Conquedor himself is a... robot.. thing... conquistador. His arms are clearly covered in fur, but I have no idea what he's supposed to be. Still, his Steam Punk look and gear has won him my approval! He uses his vehicule to capture a Berbil (Ro-Bear Bob) and the Thundercats leap to the Berbil's defense.
'''Panthro: What did I tell you guy? Try to use their cuteness to get us to fight their battle.
Lion-O: Well looks like it worked.Lion-O saves Bob, and the Cats fight Conquedor. They end up losing however as Conquedor captures Bella and Beeble, before making his escape. Incidently, all Cheetara does during the fight is dodge some gunfire. She's never hit, never injured, she just... stops existing when he stops shooting at her, never using her super speed to, ya know, save the berbil or take Conquedor out. I mean, Tygra is knocked out, Lion-O goes to rescue Tygra, Panthro is stuck in goo... And Cheetara's doing... fuck all? Heck, it's Lion-O who attempts to catch up to Conquedor on foot. Man I wish we had someone with super speed in the group! Bill makes an attempt to save his family, but he's thrown off and seriously damaged in the process, being brought back by Cheetara who I guess just returned from her cigarette break. Cut to the Berbils attempting to repair Bill, but making no progress. Panthro decides to do it himself, so he begins to repair Bill, and with the advice of another Berbil, Bill is soon back up and running like new. So brand new he does a bit of break dancing. The Berbils celebrate by hugging the crap out of Panthro's legs, repeating something over and over that even after half a dozen viewing I can't make out (It sounds like Kojak Panthro or maybe Project Panthro or Reject Panthro). Lion-O decides to go rescue the Berbils with Cheetara, Tygra and Bill, leaving Panthro with the twins to defend the village. Much to Panthro's dismay.
Panthro: Whoa whoa whoa. There's no way you are leaving me here with these... things.Cut to Conquedor auctioning a blue ...creature (It looks like a Bearhound from Dungeons & Dragons) to a group of Trollogs and Giantorrs. Tygra says they can't take them all on. And Lion-O says he's got an idea. Cut back to the Twins being hyper and addicted to candy fruit, while Panthro gets a massage from some Berbils. Other Berbils reveal they've changed the Thundertank's faulty engine for a brand new one they've built. Which causes Panthro to shed some manly tears at this. Back at the auction, we discover that Lion-O's plan is to pose as a bidder till he can get close enough to free the bearhound, freeing the Berbils in the ensuing panic, before making their escape after the Berbils transform and roll out. Conquedor promises he'll return to the village to get his revenge. Thankfully, as we are about to find out, he's kind enough to wait till nightfall so the cats can prepare some defences. The cats and the escaped Berbils re-unite, Lion-O saying that Conquedor is coming back, with the Giantorrs and the Trollogs. And the Berbils are still useless in a fight. But thankfully Panthro has a solution: an A-Team Montage! So the Berbils build defenses and traps (all shaped like either a teddy bear head, or Mickey Mouse's head, depending on your point of view. Conquedor and his buyers arrive post-montage, having presumably taken the scenic route. Lion-O fires the catsignal into the sky, which is a signal to Panthro in his tank with bill as his co-pilot to attack, flanking the attackers. Follows a fight scene with the Berbils unleashing their arsenal. Highlights include the kittens using the super-speed from the sugar rush caused by the candy fruit to take out a Giantorr, accompanied by Video Game music. Silly, but I liked that. Even Snarf bites a Trollog in the ass. Go Snarf! Every Thundercats gets to contribute to the fight scene, which is nice. Panthro & Bill use the tank to take out the Conquedor's ride, eventually using the new engine to unleash a Rocket Punch (Yes, the thanks can do that) and, in a nice bit of foreshadowing, this is NOT New Powers as the Plot Demands, since you can actually see the thrusters on the Thundertank's claws earlier in the episode from certain angles. With the Conquedor's vehicule disable, Lion-O disarms him, and the Conquedor, Trollogs and Giantors make a hasty retreat. In the epilogue the cats confident that they won't return now that the Berbils have cannons. The Berbils repair their village, while Panthro shows a softer side by hugging Bill, before terrifying the kittens into never teasing him about said softer side.
All in all I liked this episode. These new Berbils succeed much better than the original at being cute and endearing. They also don't come off as so useless. They are still very hard to understand, with their synthesized voices, not helped by the fact they have an odd grammar. The new Berbils also show a greater diversity in appearances. Having different colors, body shapes, head shapes and faces, making them more interesting to look at, and less creepy. The episode did not let Lion-O hog the spotlight. While it's not a "Panthro episode", as Lion-O still takes a large part of the plot, it is nice for someone else to get the chance to shine. 9 episodes in, it's about time we got an episode like this. It's not a GREAT episode, but it is a good one, a net win in my book. I would not be opposed to see the Berbils show up again. The episode shares a lot with its namesake from the original series: Cats meet Berbils, Berbil village needs to be defended by the cats, but otherwise expands and improves on every aspect of the original, and that is good. I'd have not guessed someone could have remade that episode and made it actually interesting or pleasant.
You forgot the most important thing: No one said "Whiskers!" this episode, for the first time. I guess they didn't want to curse in front of those cuddly robot-pandas. Anyway, this was an okay episode. The chemistry was working overall and props to every non Lion-O focussed episode (though Tygra and especially Cheetarah need the focus more badly than Panthro), but I get quite annoyed by the Thundercats being incompetent or doing nothing in fights so every dirty brigand can pose enough of a threat for an episode. I mean they were basically fighting one fat slaver with an old tank and some primtive, undisciplined thugs. They fought organized armies to some success before, damnit!
I believe said blue creature is Snowmeow, Snowman of Hook Mountain's mount, so we can expect more of the allies from the original series to show up. I was also a bit apprehensive about this ep, the Berbils NOT being among my favorites, but it worked out pretty well. The Thunderkittens tweaking on fruit was amusing, I hope they don't completely abandon that element.
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