This review contains spoilers.
3. Ramlak Rising
Thundera is burning. Great stone cats’ heads lies strewn in the dust as Lion-O, Cheetara and Tygra hold a funeral for the dead king Claudus, Lion-O carving the ThunderCats symbol into a fallen statue of his father.
Determined to get revenge, Lion-O sets out for the Sand Sea with Tygra and Cheetara reluctantly in tow. They think he should be following Jaga’s advice to seek The Book of Omens, but have no choice as Lion-O is now king.
Along the way they’re joined by Wilykit and Wilykat, a pair of street urchins who ask to accompany them until they find the lost city of El Dara. Lion-O refuses to babysit them, but they follow anyway.
They eventually reach the ocean, which seems to be made of liquid sand, but are captured by a ship crewed by Fishmen and led by the grizzled Captain Koinelius Tunar. He’s obsessed with hunting the Ramlak, a giant Kraken-like creature which swallowed up the waters of their oasis home. Just as Lion-O and the others are about to become fish food, the Ramlak attacks and the ThunderCats use the opportunity to escape. Realising that they’re powerful warriors, Tunar decides not to eat them and enlists Lion-O’s help in tracking down the creature when it retreats. Succumbing to his own desire for revenge, Lion-O agrees, much to the protestation of Tygra and Cheetara.
Ignoring the first mate’s complaints, Lion-O and Tunar steer the ship directly into a storm, but when the creature smashes the mast to bits, Lion-O refuses to sacrifice the crew to sate Tunar’s bloodlust.
Tunar, burning with rage, makes one last attack and is killed in the process. Everyone now safe, Lion-O is swallowed whole by the creature, only to cut himself out from inside using The Sword of Omens, releasing the waters of the Fishmen’s home.
Having earned the respect of the Fishmen, the ThunderCats resume their journey and Lion-O decides to look for The Book Of Omens as he was advised, and welcomes Wilykit and Kat to the group after seeing their resilience.
Meanwhile Jaga is revealed to be alive, but is tortured by Mumm-Ra, who traps him inside a dark magic lantern which will show him the location of The Book of Omens.
1985’s ThunderCats started off as a story of refugees trying to survive on a new and hostile planet but quickly settled down into a ‘monster of the week’ episodic formula. 2011’s incarnation seems more intent on telling an overarching story – for the first time, the ThunderCats have a quest and a goal.
Ramlak Rising is an obvious riff on Moby Dick: one man’s obsessive need for revenge at all costs. Tunar even quotes Ahab as he dives to his doom (“For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee”). But it’s a relevant and valuable lesson for Lion-O. He’s headstrong and blinded by his own anger, even spitting at Tygra “I’m not letting anything stand in my way – not a storm, not you”.
This is important because it makes Lion-O realise that he’ll have to work as part of a team – the inevitable creation of the familiar ThunderCats line-up cannot happen unless Lion-O learns that they’re stronger united.
It’s also a good opportunity to showcase the fantastic world in which they live. 1985’s Third Earth featured locations like Acid Lake, Hook Mountain, The Desert of Shifting Sands, Midnight Woods and The Forest of Silence, all of which all had a fantasy appeal – each place not only sounded foreboding, but promised excitement. As 2011’s Thundera unfolds, it’ll be just as important to develop similarly creative scenarios.
Ramlak Rising is a stepping stone episode which lacks the grandstanding that made the previous two so compelling, but it’s a necessary diversion on the way to better things: an episode which teaches a lesson and allows its characters to grow. ThunderCats is on Cartoon Network in the UK, Saturdays at 11am.
Read our review of episode two, The Omens Part 2, here.