Western Animation / He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)

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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a 2002 Continuity Reboot to the Masters of the Universe franchise, and particularly the 1980's cartoon; it's the first animated adaptation since 1990's ill-fated The New Adventures of He-Man. However, this series was similarly short-lived, and only lasted one and a half seasons before getting cancelled owing to a lack of promotion and poor toy distribution.

For what it's worth, this version was better received by fans than 1990's New Adventures of He-Man was.


Tropes:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Evil-Lyn and Keldor seemed to have a relationship going before Keldor became Skeletor.
  • All the Other Reindeer: Ancient Snakemen think lowly of their modern descendants, except for King Hiss, he loves all his children.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Fisto to Man-At-Arms.
  • Arm Cannon: Man-At-Arms wields a cannon on his forearm sometimes.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Odiphus is shown to desperately want to be fighting for the bad guys, which he ultimately does as Stinkor.
  • Autocannibalism: In the last episode, Zodak mystically hypnotizes four of King Hiss' heads into eating the fifth, and main, one (had the show gone on for another season he would have regenerated it).
  • Bad Boss: Skeletor is a terrible boss who constantly punishes and berates his minions while undermining any legitimate accomplishments they may make. The only reason they put up with this treatment is because they know he'd do much, much worse if they talked back.
    • Slightly averted with Stinkor, whom he often praises, even when missions go south. (It didn't keep him from sacrificing him along with the rest of his minions, though. Hence the "slightly".)
    • Later with his Council of Evil, he makes this striking threat to the giants over asking a simple question:
      "You are aware that I sacrificed my evil warriors without a second thought? And them I liked."
    • Hordak vaporizes one of his warriors - not for questioning him, but. for delivering bad news beyond his control that he didn't want to hear.
    • Subverted with King Hiss, who actually cares for his servants, and is the only one never seen abusing them.
      "He is as gracious to his allies, as he is ruthless to his enemies."
  • Badass Boast: The Pilot Movie has back-to-back examples.
    Skeletor: Surrender? Have you the faintest inkling to whom you speak? I am Skeletor, overlord of evil!
    He-Man: [deflects his blast] And I am He-Man, defender of Eternia!
  • Batman Gambit: Skeletor has one in spades in "The Council of Evil" two-parter. He sends all of his Evil Warriors to a region he knows the Masters regularly patrol, leading to them being captured. Once the Masters let down their guard, he sends his new team to capture them one-by-one. He also counts on He-Man rushing to Snake Mountain to try to rescue them.
    • "Sky War" has two. Skeletor instigates a war between Stratos and Buzz-Off's people in order to steal ambrosia and gain power to kill He-Man. During their fight, however, He-Man goads Skeletor into exerting himself—knowing that the ambrosia will wear off quicker if he does.
  • The Beastmaster: Beast Man as always. He's even able to use this ability in "The Monster Within" to take control of Man-E-Face's monster mode.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: "Dragon's Brood" opens with Adam free a creature from a collapsed cave, and it turns out to be a dragon. During a later fight, the dragon smells He-Man and realizes he's Adam, so it spares him and later helps fight off the Evil Warriors.
  • Berserk Button: Cringer is a scaredy cat, but as Tung Lashor found out, he won't tolerate anyone threatening Adam.
  • Bifurcated Weapon: Skeletor's sword.
  • Big Bad: Skeletor.
  • Bigger Bad: Hordak was set up as this, but we never got far enough to find out if Horde Prime would exist there or not.
  • Bishounen: Poor Keldor
  • Bittersweet Ending: "The Ties That Bind" ends with Skeletor's forces again driven off, but it's an emotional hassle for Teela and the Sorceress. Also, Skeletor learns for certain about the power hidden inside Castle Grayskull.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • The Sorceress has the same limitations as in the original cartoon series, where she has extraordinary powers but could only use them in Castle Grayskull. "Out of the Past" showed she does have some power outside the castle, but it's greatly diminished.
    • The Faceless One is implied to be a powerful practitioner of magic, but can't leave the Temple of the Ram Stone.
  • Body Horror:
    • In "Second Skin," King Hiss uses an ancient artifact to turn people into Snakemen - including Man-At-Arms, Teela and Mekaneck.
    • We don't see much, but what we do see of Keldor's skin melting and his transformation into Skeletor is quite horrifying.
    • Tri-Klops gets his cybernetic eye array busted open in one episode to give us a lovely view of cables going into his natural eyesockets.
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: Season 1 ends with Skeletor capturing all of the heroic Masters, leaving only Prince Adam (sans Power Sword) to defend Castle Grayskull against Skeletor, all his minions, and nearly every villain from the whole season.
  • Broken Aesop: Pretty much the whole episode "The Courage of Adam". It implies that Adam is useless and really needs his alter ego form to be of any use. It also contradicts many subsequent lessons, about being yourself. Adam is never allowed to develop his own, more realistic character. What we see instead is an instant of little-effort, power-gain transformation.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: This series explains just what that phrase means.
  • Cardboard Prison: "Trust" opens with Tri-Klops breaking Mer-Man out of custody. Reportedly, this is not a unique occurrence. The plot of the episode is about obtaining a stronger metal to build cells out of.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: He-Man just can't help himself. He'll even save the villains.
    Man-At-Arms: You saved Skeletor because you could do nothing else, because you have a good heart.
  • Continuity Cameo: Grizzlor, Leech, and Mantenna appear in "The Power of Grayskull" as Hordak's generals.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Characters routinely stand near lava or dangle over it without suffering any ill effect.
  • Crushing Handshake: There is an episode where Man-At-Arms shakes hands with his brother Fisto. When they shake, Fisto's mechanical hand can be heard clanking, implying he's applying more pressure than he needs to. Man at Arms doesn't scream, however.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the original series.
  • Darkest Hour: Skeletor's Council of Evil plan was as grim as it gets: the Masters locked up in Snake Mountain, Adam losing his Power Sword, and all of the villains poised to invade Castle Grayskull.
  • Deal with the Devil: "The Price of Deceit" reveals that after his last encounter with Randor, Keldor was taken to Hordak's sanctuary. Keldor begged him to save his life, which led to him being remade as Skeletor. Hordak warned this would come at a price, which he intends to collect in "The Power of Grayskull" by getting Skeletor to free him.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the second season, Skeletor and his minions appeared less frequently and had less impact on plots to make room for King Hiss and the Snake Men (Season 2 being half as long as Season 1 likely didn't help, either). Reportedly, this would've been rectified in a third season.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: This happens to Keldor when he first meets Evil-Lyn.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Nearly all of the villains and a few of the heroes. Most, yet not all of the cases are characters who had clawed feet in the original toyline.
  • Dumb Muscle: Ram Man, Clawful, Baddrha, and to a lesser degree Beast Man, Trap-Jaw, and Whiplash. Clawful is probably the single most emblematic example — the show's writers mention in DVD commentary that they once drew up a hierarchy of intelligence among the evil Masters, and Clawful was dead last. It's eventually revealed that he's more or less illiterate in his own native language; Evil-Lyn had to translate a message sent by his cousin for him. However, when it comes to physical might, he knows few true equals, and he can outmuscle even He-Man.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Happens a few times, with each example getting more screen-time later:
    • "Snake Pit" actually has three. The main example is Season 2 Big Bad King Hiss, who appears briefly in shadow in the flashback and later the pit. Webstor also makes a brief cameo in a cavern of Snake Mountain—setting up his appearance at the end of the season. A little fellow by the name of Odiphus appears in a cell, and he'll return in "The Sweet Smell of Victory" to become Stinkor.
    • Hordak makes a shadowy cameo in "Separation" when the Sorceress explains the origin of the dark hemisphere.
    • The Sorceress's husband in "Out of the Past" is deliberately shown covered in bandaged. Nothing was ever revealed onscreen, but Word of God says he's Fisto.
  • Eldritch Abomination: In "The Price of Deceit," Skeletor summons one from the Forsaken Realm.
  • Enemy Mine: Stratos and Trap-Jaw have to work together to survive! It doesn't go well.
  • Even Bad Women Love Their Daddies: Evil-Lyn returns her father's sacred magical artifact the Ramstone to him after Skeletor tries to destroy He-Man with it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Evil-Lyn is willing to help Skeletor in his attempt for world domination, but she will not betray her father and returns his magical Ramstone back to him when Skeletor loses it.
    • Also, Evil-Lyn wouldn't betray Skeletor to the Snake Men until Kobra Khan revealed to her that Skeletor had set her (and his other allies) up to be captured so the heroes would be lured into a false sense of security. Even then, she demanded the one telling her to prove it.
  • Evil Uncle: Word of God indicates that in the 2002 reboot Keldor/Skeletor is actually King Randor's half-brother. Um... on which side of the family are Randor and Adam related to King Greyskull again? Funnily enough, Skeletor doesn't even know Adam's name (he thinks it's "Alan"), probably due to being exiled before he was born.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Evil Warriors and the Snake Men are in much less amicable terms than in the old minicomics.
    • Had the series continued the plot would have eventually involved Hordak returning to Eternia and most of the fighting would be between the Horde and Skeletor's Evil Warriors.
    • According to "The Power of Grayskull," the Snake Men and Hordak fought against each other as often as they did King Grayskull. An off-screen battle between them was so decisive that Hordak was free to begin his true conquest.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Both Skeletor and King Hiss are intimidated by Hordak—feeling it'd be impossible to conquer Eternia if he were around.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Anwat Gar is/was feudal Japan.
    • Although its name seems inspired by Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
  • Foreshadowing: Teela reads Mekaneck's mind in "The Ties That Bind" and learns he wishes he had better powers. "Mekaneck's Lament" is built around this.
  • Giant Spider: Webstor is human-sized spider, but eating ambrosia in "Web of Evil" mutates him into an actual giant.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Upon seeing what Hordak turned him into, Skeletor just starts laughing.
  • Guest Star Party Member: Zodak and Moss Man agree to ally with the Masters, but they only appear sparingly since they're quite powerful.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • During the Great Unrest, Randor served as captain and led the Masters in battle against Keldor. We see some of this in the first episode.
    • While we see King Grayskull's final battle with Hordak, he is reported to have regularly fought both his forces and the Snake Men.
    • Zodak imprisoned all of the Snake Men in the void.
    • A flashback sequence in "Out of the Past" shows the Sorceress defending a town against a warlord.
    • In Count Marzo's backstory, he was foiled and subdued by forces led by Captain Nero (Adam's grandfather).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: King Grayskull gave his life to banish Hordak.
  • Huge Holographic Head: Hordak appears as one in "The Price of Deceit".
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: The flashback in "Out of the Past" shows the Sorceress grew tired of being all alone in the castle. She left for a time to enjoy a simpler life and met her husband. She only returned to the castle when it was necessary.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: King Hiss uses an artifact in "Second Skin" to turn Man-At-Arms, Teela, and Mekaneck into Snake People obedient to him.
    He-Man: Duncan, fight it.
    Man-At-Arms: I can't... nor do I want to!
  • I Surrender, Suckers: In the pilot movie Skeletor pulls this off twice in the same fight.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: Most of Skeletor's Council of Evil is introduced in otherwise one-off episodes: Count Marzo in "Mekaneck's Lament," Evilseed in "Orko's Garden," and the three giants in "Buzz-Off's Pride." "Lessons" also introduces the Ram Stone, which Skeletor later uses to incapacitate the Sorceress.
  • Ironic Echo: From "Turnabout":
    "You didn't say please."
  • Ironic Hell: Skeletor punishes bitter enemies Tuvar and Baddrah by merging them into Two-Bad.
  • It's the Journey That Counts / Magic Feather: King Grayskull seeks the power to defeat Hordak, and is told by a seer to give up his sword and journey to find a new magic sword. When he does, he finds the seer, who returns Grayskull's sword and tells Grayskull he always had the power, he just needed the trip to focus his abilities.
  • Large Ham: Man-E-Faces has his moments due to being an actor.
  • Legacy Character: He-Man is revealed to be one of King Grayskull—having the same power and sword, as well as a cat companion.
  • Loophole Abuse: Zodak would never open the Snake Men's prison in order to get revenge on King Hiss, but if someone just happened to steal his staff and open the prison themselves...
  • Magic Skirt: Teela fights in a very acrobatic style with flips, spins, and kicks, yet manages to maintain her modesty. However, "Awaken The Serpent" averts this; When she is lifted up by her ankle by Tongue-Lashor, her skirt drops down, resulting in a brief Panty Shot.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: Zortek in "Of Machines And Men".
  • The Man Behind the Man: In this version, Hordak saved Keldor's life by remaking him as Skeletor.
  • Mommy Had a Good Reason For Abandoning You: As in the original series, the Sorceress is Teela's mother and cannot raise her due to her responsibilities. "The Ties That Bind" deconstructs it by showing the Sorceress anguishing over the choice she had to make and Teela struggling with being left in the dark.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: Snake Mountain, it was eventually revealed to actually be a giant snake frozen in place when King Hiss and the Snake Men take over.
  • Mooks: Hordak is shown having four generals: three of which were name characters and a one-shot guy named Calix that he can kill.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Pretty much everything the Snake Men do in Season 2 is the result of Zodak allowing Evil-Lyn and Kobra Khan to steal his staff.
  • Not Quite Dead: "Rise of the Snake Men, Part 2" ends with Zodak besting King Hiss and throwing him into the abyss around Castle Grayskull. Viewers quickly learn he survived, but it's not until "Second Skin" that the protagonists do.
  • Pet the Dog: Skeletor somehow manages to do this at the same time as he has a Kick the Dog moment. He admits that he actually does like his Evil Warriors (possibly as friends) but says this in the same breath as he admits to betraying them without a second thought. And he only says it as a threat to someone else.
    • "The Sweet Smell of Victory" has a similar example. Skeletor punishes the other warriors for failing, but he praises Stinkor for proving himself useful.
    • King Hiss treats all of his men quite well, but his treatment of Kobra Khan is notable since the other Snake Men often deride him as a weakling descendant.
  • Pilot Movie: "The Beginning" three-parter originally premiered as this.
  • Power Incontinence: Poor Stinkor. He's not immune to his own power, either.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: In the last few episodes, King Kiss seeks to revive Serpos in order to conquer Eternia. However, when he learns Evil-Lyn is plotting to free Hordak in "History," he puts all of his plans on hold to deal with that.
    Rattlor: It is vital that—
    King Hiss: That Hordak never return!
    • In the same episode, Count Marzo agrees to help Evil-Lyn free Hordak in exchange for getting his amulet back. In all of the later confusion, he steals it back and double crosses her—feeling it's in his best interests if Hordak remains trapped.
  • Prophecy Twist: In the first episode, the Sorceress tells then-Captain Randor that a hero will emerge the day that Eternia is again threatened by evil. Randor asks how he will know this hero, but she doesn't tell him. Viewers, of course, know it's the son he'll eventually have.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: "The Power of Grayskull" opens with Adam having a nightmare about King Grayskull fighting Snake Men and facing Hordak. The Sorceress comes to believe this was no dream, but is instead the power of Grayskull attempting to warn Adam about Hordak's attempt to return.
  • Punny Name: Skeletor coins "Two-Bad" based on Tuvar and Baddrha's actual names.
  • Put on a Bus: After "The Last Stand," the Council of Evil characters drop out of sight. Webstor returns in "Web of Evil" and Count Marzo in "History," but Evilseed and the giants never appeared again.
  • Race Lift: Zodak is black and Sy-Clone is more or less Asian. In response to the former, the Classics toyline split the difference and released "Zodac" (based on the original) and "Zodak" (based on the '02 interpretation) as separate figures/characters.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Skeletor.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: After betraying Skeletor to the Snake Men, Evil-Lyn found that King Hiss was going to eat her. Of course, from the Snake Men's perspective, that's considered a great honor. She avoids this fate, though, by telling King Hiss where the power of the Elders is.
  • Save the Villain: The climax of "Turnabout" sees Skeletor dangling from a cliff, begging to be saved. Much as he might want to let him fall, He-Man saves Skeletor and gets blasted for his trouble.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: All of the major villains. Skeletor and his Evil Warriors start out trapped behind a mystical barrier and break free in the pilot. The Snake Men were sealed away in a void and were set free in Season 2. Hordak was trapped in Despondos by King Grayskull and continually struggles to escape it.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: The Faceless One within his temple.
  • Secret Test of Character: In "Trust," Stratos and Trap Jaw both try to claim to the Kulataks that the other is trying to steal their Eternium. The leader wants time to think on it, so he has them locked in a supply chamber. The Kulataks secretly watch, Trap Jaw tries to claim what he thinks is Eternium and Stratos tries to stop him.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The tide quickly turns in "The Last Stand" when the Masters arrive. While most of the villains at least try to put up a fight, the three giants agree working for Skeletor just isn't worth the trouble and walk off.
  • Shoot the Messenger: Calix, one of Hordak's generals, advises against attacking Castle Grayskull, saying their forces were depleted from fighting the Snake Men. Hordak thanks him for his council before saying he really hates getting bad news.
  • Sixth Ranger: The Masters and Evil Warriors start out with fixed lineups. Over the course of Season 1, Buzz-Off, Sy-Klone, and Roboto join the Masters, while Two-Bad and Stinkor join the Evil Warriors. Fisto also joins the Masters towards the end of Season 2.
  • Spanner in the Works: Skeletor would've succeeded in "The Last Stand" if not for Zodak contacting Moss Man and aiding the Sorceress, as well as Orko finding Adam's Power Sword.
    • Rattlor ends up being this to Evil-Lyn in "History." He sends Kobra Khan on a mission to distract the Masters in the hopes that he would be captured. However, Khan stumbles upon Evil-Lyn approaching Count Marzo about freeing Hordak. King Hiss decides to stop them, which ends up causing He-Man to be alerted to what's going on.
  • The Starscream: Evil-Lyn primarily. Tri-Klops has a brush with this in "Roboto's Gambit" when his new army proves quite unstoppable. Kobra Khan is completely loyal to King Hiss, but he often tries to undermine Rattlor.
  • Take a Third Option: Skeletor's side plot in "The Power of Grayskull" presents him with a Sadistic Choice: free Hordak from imprisonment (which would mean no chance of ever conquering Eternia) or be killed (per the Deal with the Devil). Skeletor was all set to comply, but He-Man intervened and pointed out the sanctuary was key to setting Hordak free. Skeletor realizes he's right and destroys the sanctuary.
  • That Man Is Dead: Skeletor doesn't answer to his old name any more, but it's Hordak who officially coined this.
    "Keldor is no more. Now, there is only... Skeletor!"
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Mer-Man in "The Deep End." He swipes a powerful crystal for himself, which sets off a chain of events that endangers Man-At-Arms and leads to Skeletor to suspect that Castle Grayskull houses something important.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Shadow Beasts are quite powerful, but they can't stand light. Even moon light gives them trouble.
  • Wham Line: At the very end of "Lessons" when the Faceless One finds Evil-Lyn returned the Ram Stone.
    "Perhaps there's hope for you yet, my daughter."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Zodak deliberately allows the key to the Snake Men's prison to be stolen so that King Hiss can be released and Zodak can settle his personal vendetta against him.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: He-Man is sometimes pretty clever in how he defeats his enemies in the 2002 series but most of his solutions usually involve crushing something since he's not quite as versatile as most of the bad guys. Supposedly, this version would always have enough strength necessary to complete any given task, he just needed to apply it correctly.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The Power of Grayskull." Much of the episode is the Sorceress showing Adam King Grayskull's climactic battle with Hordak.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: In "Turnabout," Skeletor spends the episode being mocked by his minions, because he is wearing a belt that shocks him whenever he thinks an evil thought, and seemingly can't be removed. When he finally gets the belt off, he gets his revenge by suspending his minions over a tub of lava.
    "So, you enjoyed yourselves, hmm? Mocking me, laughing at me—funny, I don't see anyone laughing now."
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Ram-Man is afraid of the dark. Orko is afraid of dragons, but as anyone who hears him say it replies, "Who isn't?" Rattlor is afraid of mongooses.
  • Women Are Wiser: Man-At-Arms and Randor fall over themselves in "The Last Stand" to take the blame for Skeletor's plan. Marleena tells them to stop acting like whiny children and to instead work towards a solution that'll prevent similar disasters.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Eldritch Abomination in "The Price of Deceit" is actually impressed by the fight He-Man puts up.
    "Such power..."
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: He-Man assumes in "The Power of Grayskull" that Skeletor wants to free Hordak when the viewers know he's being blackmailed into it.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are:
    • "Lessons": Orko feels he's really screwed up this time, so he asks the Sorceress to return him to Trolla. While he waits for the spell to be completed, Orko is reminded of the time he saved Adam's life when he first came to Eternia and how he always helps others however he can. He even outwits Skeletor.
    • "Mekaneck's Lament": Mekaneck feels his power is pretty useless, leaving him stuck with recon assignments instead of fighting. Adam tries to assure him what he does is important, but Man-At-Arms developing a new recon system doesn't do much for his mood. After Mekaneck later foils Count Marzo, He-Man points out how useful his power was.


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