Contrary to popular belief, He-Man’s biggest foe wasn’t Skeletor, and She-Ra’s wasn’t Hordak. What they both fought more than anything was the incredible stupidity of their friends, teammates, and general populaces of Eternia and Etheria. Case in point: “The Missing Axe,” in which She-Ra and her friend Bow risk it all for a tool you can buy for $25 at Home Depot.
Our story begins with Adora and her horse Spirit walking in the forest. They overhear a Horde Trooper both trying to shoot and trying to catch a Scruffer, which is a small pink dog with a unicorn horn that looks like one of She-Ra’s many, many attempts to curry favor with the Care Bears/Popples crowd. The Trooper announces this highly merchandisable animal will make a fine addition to Hordak’s zoo (or Hordak’s soup; it’s a little tough to tell, and frankly either would be applicable) which is when Adora turns into She-Ra.
The Horde Trooper has a Cap-Tron, which is a bipedal robot that supposedly captures people, but whose sole capturing ability seems to be merely trying to grab people with its arms, which I would argue is not particularly more effective than a regular person trying to catch someone. She-Ra nimbly leaps out of the way, slowly walks behind it, and then twirls it so hard and fast that the Cap-Tron is somehow reprogrammed to catch the Horde Trooper instead. As the Cap-Tron heads back to the Fright Zone, She-Ra tells it to tell Hordak She-Ra said hello — which is super-weird because 1) it does not appear that the Cap-Tron can talk and 2) its head explodes 0.3 seconds later, so it's not telling anything to anybody. She-Ra leaves the Horde Trooper in its laser cage to slowly starve to death.
Meanwhile, Bow — the sole male member of the Etherian Rebellion, the one who has an Errol Flynn mustache and a big heart on his chest (no judgments, just an observation) — is at a random peasant’s house, showing off his archery skills to two small boys named Thad and Kyle. Before you jump to conclusions, the boys’ father is nearby chopping wood, although he’s only wearing a unitard and boots, so seriously, who knows what’s happening here. The boys want to learn how to shoot, but their father says they aren’t responsible enough. This is called “foreshadowing.”
It turns out Bow and Adora have a… meeting? A date?... or something, and Bow is killing time. The father invites Bow back to his house for lunch. It’s at this point the boys ask their father if they can borrow his axe to chop more firewood, because life for the serf class in both He-Man and She-Ra fucking sucks. Seriously, these boys ask permission to go do manual labor. It’s heartbreaking. The father agrees, but only after reminding them that the axe is his livelihood, meaning that if they lose it their whole family will die in poverty and misery.
The excited boys run off to go cut wood a goodly ways away from their house, because when you cut wood and live in a forest, you want to make sure you have to carry the wood back to your home over a great distance. Eventually, the tired boys decide to take a quick dip in the nearby creek, and, rather than bring the axe with them and put it on the creek’s shore, within eyesight, they leave it lying next to a fallen trunk and run off.
Immediately, two Twiglets arrive. First: Twilights are small purple people who dress like hillbillies, although all their clothes are green; they are one of She-Ra’s most egregiously moronic peoples. Second: When I say immediately, I mean immediately — the last boy has been off screen for less than a second when the Twiglets wander up, coming from almost exactly the same direction as the boys are running with no discernable object breaking their lines of sight. They should have clearly seen the Twiglets and vice versa, except that everyone involved is an imbecile.
The Twiglets see the axe and immediately assume, not that it belongs to the boys who left a mere two seconds ago, and who are probably still in earshot, but is lost. They pick it up and carry it to sorceress/Alzheimer’s sufferer Madame Razz to find out who it belongs to, even though the Madame Razz is god knows how many miles away, and Madame Razz's magic only works about 35% of the time at best.
Now, here’s where things get extra stupid. When the boys return, they find the axe is missing, and panic. So what’s their big plan? To tell their father that the axe was stolen by a man in a purple cloak. Of course, the axe was stolen, and the boys are just adding an unnecessary, easily disprovable fact into the proceedings. Of course, since everyone on Etheria is dumb, the father and Bow believe the clearly uncomfortable boys’ spurious story immediately — why would they possibly lie to the father who chastised them only an hour ago that they weren’t responsible enough? — and when pressed for more details, the boys lie some more and say the man was heading to the Horde-controlled town of Greenthatch, where he’ll likely sell this incredibly valuable piece of equipment that one could purchase in any goddamned town with a halfway competent blacksmith.
Bow decides this axe-stealing shit will not stand, and, rather than wait for Adora for their meeting, give the father the money to buy a new axe, or even just spend his time more constructively and fight the evil fascist Empire that is ruling most of the damn planet and enslaving and murdering people as well as stealing people’s axes and getting to the root of the whole damn problem, Bow heads off to Greenthatch. The boys yell “Oh no!” simultaneously. No one asks them why.
Bow, disguised in a full cloak, wanders into Greenthatch, and waits over an hour for somebody, anybody, wearing a purple cloak to show up. While he’s waiting, he’s spotted by Hordak’s lieutenant Mantenna, he of the bug-out eyes that shoot lasers. It is important to note that Mantenna recognizes the rebel Bow even while he is wearing a full hooded cloak himself, and yet somehow Bow does not notice the giant-eared, giant-eyed, four-legged red monster-person staring at him.
Mantenna decides to capture Bow and starts firing stun beams from his eyes. Bow uses his bow to force a fruit wagon full of pink spheres to unload its contents; Mantenna helpfully runs into the pile — even though it’s backwards, away from Bow — and falls down. Eventually, Mantenna hits the fleeing Bow in the back with a distortion beam, and Bow falls down and is captured. They throw him in one of the Horde giant’s prison transports, while Kowl, who wasn’t captured, because no one wants him, because he’s terrible, runs off to tell… someone.
Meanwhile, Adora is passing the time by handing small sticks to squirrels with lion tails. Why she is doing this is unknown, as is why the squirrels are lining up for these sticks when there are countless sticks littering the forest floor that don’t require a queue. Adora finally notices she’s been waiting for Bow for upwards of eight hours, and goes to look for him, changing into She-Ra and Spirit into the pegasus Swift Wind to cover more ground. She eventually finds the homestead Bow was at earlier.
She-Ra gets the story from the father, and the boys instantly crumble in the face of She-Ra’s steely gaze an/.or breasts, and confess. This is when Kowl arrives, declaring that Bow has been captured by Mantenna. She-Ra sets off to rescue her friend while the father undoubtedly gets ready to beat his children savagely for their deception.
When She-Ra spots the transport, she rolls a giant boulder into its path. While the Horde troopers try to shoot through the rock, She-ra leaps onto the transport and rips the steel ceiling off the vehicle. Is this to break in? Nope, it’s to wrap the metal into a tube so that when the Troopers exit the vehicle to investigate what's going, she can throw it on them and trap them without harming them in any way. But before She-Ra can open the back door of the transport — where the prisoners are — Mantenna, who has apparently been walking behind the transport for god knows how long in case someone happened to decide to mount a rescue attempt, arrives.
Mantenna starts shooting his beams, and She-Ra dodges. In fact, she dodges for so long and so fast that Mantenna gets confused and accidentally wraps his own eyeballs into a knot. Without the natural defenses to prevent such an self-damaging occurrence, or the ability to force his eyes to untie themselves, Mantenna passes out from the stupidity of it all. She-ra rips open the transport door and prisoners come streaming out, including Bow, whom She-Ra greets with a tender hug that implies that yes, they are balling each other hard off-screen.
She-Ra and Bow return to the woodcutter’s house to make sure the boys have been adequately punished for their lies, and man, are those kids sorry. The woodcutter chastises the boys yet again, and then wonders where his goddamned axe is. It’s then that the Twiglets, still carrying the axe, somehow arrive at the house, even though they’re ostensibly looking for Madam Razz, even though Madame Razz is now inexplicably with She-Ra and Bow and the Twilgets couldn't possibly know this, and everyone laughs and you’ve just sat through an entire episode of She-Ra where the primary antagonists were two stupid little boys and the only stake was a fucking axe owned by one dumb character that you’ve never seen before and will never see again and you wish the Twiglets would just take the axe and start hacking at every single person on screen but they won’t, they won’t, they’ll never do it no matter how much you wish they would. The end!
• If you see an axe by itself, someone lost it. If you see someone holding an axe, they stole it. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS.
• Kowl makes Orko seem charismatic and likable. Do you remember Kowl? The talking owl-thing with the giant rainbow ears he uses to fly? He’s Orko without the powers but with C-3PO’s obnoxious attitude.
• Loo-Kee is the entirely different rainbow-colored critter who happens to wear red overalls; hides in every episode, and at the end reveals his location and gives the episode’s moral. Regarding the latter, Loo-Kee says, “Trust takes a long time to build, and a single lie to destroy in a moment!” I’m pretty certain this means Loo-Kee has been burned before, probably by a lover.
• One thing I never realized as a kid until I was watching some He-Man documentary on one of the He-Man/She-Ra sets is that because of FCC regulations, the characters couldn’t use any of their weapons other than lasers. This means He-Man and She-Ra had swords, but they never once used them on living beings. They could cut robots, cannons, trees, whatever, but not any other characters.
• Furthermore, they couldn’t punch anyone, either. Watch He-Man again, and look for that iconic shot of him punching the camera — it will never once be used to hit another character. just walls, rocks, vehicles, etc. Any time He-Man or She-Ra has to best a foe, they would run up, grab them, and then toss them somewhere, usually into mud. This happened at least 4 out of 5 times, but occasionally you could get variations like She-Ra trapping bad guys in a giant tube she’d made, as in this episode. It’s madness.
• Mantenna has four legs, only the first two wear boots. I never noticed this as a kid, but as an adult, that really, really disturbs me for some reason.
• It should go without saying that the stun beam, freeze beam and distortion beam Mantenna shoots from his eyes all look exactly alike; this is because Filmation was the laziest animation studio on Earth. I'm not saying Filmation was solely responsible for the decline of the work ethic in the modern American generation, but I'm not not saying it, either.
• At the end of the episode, when Bow thanks She-Ra, he says his bow, his music and his magic are always at her service, then he makes a dove appear out of his hands. Not only is this “regular” magic, She-Ra the series has plenty of actually magicians, and Bow is never once mentioned along them. What I’m saying is that I’m pretty sure Bow had a live dove inside his pants for the entirety of this episode.