Although we can look back now and see how terrible most '80s cartoons used to be, most of them still have their charms. ThunderCats… not so much. Sure, it had an awesome opening credit sequence, but it was also the dumbest cartoon on TV, which was really saying something. And one episode, "Hair of the Dog," may well be the worst.
Our story begins when Lion-O sends Tygra, Cheetara and Panthro into space to fight "some of the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy," and stays at home himself. Already we're in trouble because this leaves only Lion-O and Snarf in the Cat's Lair HQ, meaning Snarf now makes up 50% of the episode's ThunderCats. Not an auspicious start.
Lion-O is worried that Mumm-Ra might try and pull something while the ThunderCats are understaffed, although this does not prevent him from allowing Snarf to head outside to collect "candy fruit," because Snarf is useless and grants Lion-O no tactical advantage whatsoever.
Mumm-Ra, who has had his ass kicked by the collective 'Cats on dozens of occasions, is indeed waiting for just this situation. He sends his dog Ma-Mutt — you remember Mumm-Ra has a bulldog named Ma-Mutt, right? —to go retrieve Snarf during his fruit-picking. Ma-Mutt flies off — yes, the bulldog flies without wings — and accosts Snarf; his mere presence is enough to cause the idiotic Snarf to jump headfirst into a tree trunk, rendering himself semi-conscious and easily picked up by Ma-Mutt, who returns him to Mumm-Ra.
Now here is Mumm-Ra's cunning plan: 1) Switch Ma-Mutt and Snarf's bodies. 2) Send the disguised Ma-Mutt into Cat's Lair to disable its defenses. 3) Win. Now, ignoring that fact that Snarf can talk and Ma-Mutt can't, and that Ma-Mutt can fly and Snarf can't (because the show does), it's one of Mumm-Ra's simpler plans. The disguised Ma-Mutt is indistinguishable from the regular Snarf, with the exception of his evil glowing eyes and his tendency to growl in the middle of his dialogue. Mumm-Ra even thinks to poison some of the candy fruit Snarf has gathered, so Ma-Mutt can give it to Lion-O.
Ma-Mutt walks right into the Cat's Lair and its control room, and offers Lion-O a delicious candy fruit. When Lion-O says "Maybe later," Faux-Snarf screams "NO! EAT CANDY FRUIT NOW!" forcing him to cover by saying some bullshit about the candy fruit being fresher now. The easily peer pressured Lion-O agrees, and almost immediately passes out from the poison. Ma-Mutt quickly disables the Cat's Lair's defenses, and shoots the iconic ThunderCats symbol into the sky to let Mumm-Ra know the plan has been successful, Mumm-Ra transforms into his buff Ever-Living form, and he hauls ass over to the Lair.
And here's where both Mumm-Ra's plan and the episode begin breaking down. First of all, Lion-O wakes up, meaning the poison knocked him out for maybe a couple of minutes tops. He's fully up and at 'em by the time Mumm-Ra comes by, which, I should mention, he does by flying through the control room's giant monitor screen like it's a window. Anyways, Lion-O and Mumm-Ra briefly fight, which is to say Mumm-Ra zaps Lion-O, knocking him to the ground and the Sword of Omens out of his hand. The Sword is out of reach, and thus Lion-O is powerless. Remember this, because it's going to be important later. Mumm-Ra tells Ma-Mutt — still in Snarf form — to lock Lion-O up, which he does successfully, despite the fact that Lion-O is a grown-ass man-cat and Snarf is an obese two-foot-tall housepet.
Cut to: Snarfer. Oh, you don't know Snarfer? Snarfer is Snarf's nephew, who looks exactly like him, but it about half his size, and his voice is as obnoxious compared to Snarf's and Snarf's is to regular people. Seriously, Snarfer is the worst thing that has ever been animated. Snarfer makes Scrappy Doo look like Hamlet. Snarfer is a hate crime against the children of the '80s.
Snarfer has a bad dream that Snarf has been turned into a dog (it may be worth noting since this is all happening in a single afternoon, Snarfer is napping, because Snarfer is a lazy fuck). He wakes up and tells the second-tier ThunderCats he lives with — namely Bengali and Pumyra — about this dream, and they decide to follow it up because they have literally nothing better to do with their time.
Back in the Cat's Lair, Mumm-Ra reveals his cunning plan— to break all the ThunderCats' shit. Seriously. He's just knocking things over and kicking them. It sounds lame, but Mumm-Ra seems super-satisfied with his accomplishment, so whatever. When he sees Bengali and Pumyra coming up the walk, he merely retracts the drawbridge to the Cats Lair; the ThunderCats use their amazing reflexes to fall off, although Pumyra manages to use her whip to keep them from plummeting to their death. They will stay there for the rest of the episode.
Snarfer, meanwhile, managed to get to the other side, and Mumm-Ra orders Ma-Mutt to "destroy" Snarfer, whatever that means. In effect, it means Ma-Mutt returns to his original form and starts chasing Snarfer around like every dog and cat cartoon from the '40s onward.
Lion-O wakes up in some kind of storage closet. Now, since Lion-O was fully conscious when the small cat lead him into his prison, I have to surmise that Lion-O had been taking a nap. Quickly discovering the closet door is locked, how will Lion-O get out of this mess? I'll tell you — he summons the Sword of Omens and it flies into his hand.
It flies from across the Cat's Lair, through the wall, into Lion-O's hand, actually. It also makes one wonder why Lion-O didn't summon it the first time when Mumm-Ra knocked it out of his hand and it was abut 8 feet away. To a lesser extent, it begs the question of why Mumm-Ra just left the Sword of Omens on the floor after capturing Lion-O, but I'm really more concerned about Lion-O's unwillingness to use the Sword of Omens' powers to pad out the episode.
With the sword in hand, Lion-O easily escapes the closet and runs back to the control room, where a delighted Mumm-Ra is watching Ma-Mutt chase Snarf on the monitor that he flew through minutes before. He's shocked to see Lion-O. "I should have destroyed you when you were at my mercy!" he yells. No shit, moron. He was both captured and unconscious and instead of killing him or even maybe tying him goddamn up, you put him in a closet so you could go break shit. You are a terrible villain, Mumm-Ra.
To be fair, Mumm-Ra gets a few good laser blasts in as he and Lion-O fight, and Lion-O is forced to call for help, using the Sword of Omens to project the giant-ass ThunderCats logo into the sky. But with most of the 'Cats in space, Snarfer cornered by Ma-Mutt and Bengali and Pumyra hanging off a cliff, who can possibly help him?
The lazy, lazy staff of ThunderCats, that's who. Here's their solution for resolving this conflict. Tell me how much sense this makes.
• The ThunderCats symbol is somehow picked up by Mumm-Ra's cauldron, so the captured and transformed Snarf can see it.
• Snarf needs to free himself, and he can only think of one way to do it: Channel the power of the same spirits of evil that Mumm-Ra does when he turns into his Ever-Living form.
• Snarf utters the incantation… and it works. It 1) returns him to his original form, 2) frees him, 3) makes him giant and get muscled and also gives him the ability to fly.
Think about this. Snarf summoned the spirits of evil. Snarf prayed for evil to help, and they did. Is Snarf himself evil? Do the spirits of evil help anyone who comes by and asks for their power in the right way? If so, don't they mind being called evil? Do they provide any other help besides making people giant and strong? Does this mean strong buff people are evil?
This whole scene raises infinite questions about the mythology and moral foundation of the ThunderCats, but all you really need to know is that Snarf begins calling himself Snarf-Ra the Ever-Living. Otherwise he seems to be suffering no ill effects from being imbued with power by the spirits on evil.
Now you might think Snarf-Ra would fly through the same goddamned monitor Mumm-Ra did earlier, but even that is too much consistency for the showmakers to deal with. Instead, Snarf just teleports inside the Cat's Lair, where Mumm-Ra is incredibly and understandably freaked out to discover the spirits of evil he's been relying on have not only helped the ThunderCats' shitty pet but made it more powerful than he is. Snarf-Ra basically catches all of Mumm-Ra's energy blasts and tosses them back at him until Mumm-Ra cries and goes home, and after some really dumb antics where Snarfer rides on top of the flying Ma-Mutt and yet does not plummet to his hideous, beautiful death, the dog follows.
To be completely fair, the ThunderCats staff could have ended the episode there. But, perhaps they wanted to make sure kids understood why Snarf-Ra the Ever-Living wasn't sticking around. Despite the massive, consequence-free power he's imbued with, Snarf would rather return to his tiny, pudgy body than be a useful member of the ThunderCats team. But how do you cure someone imbued with the powers of the ancient spirits of evil?
The Sword of Omens, apparently. Lion-O merely shines the ol' trademarked logo on Snarf, and he's back to normal.
Are you fucking telling me that Lion-O could be turning Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living back to his anorexic mummy form every single episode and is choosing not to? Apparently so. Apparently this entire fucking cartoon series is a waste of time because neither Lion-O nor the staff writers can be bothered to use this immensely useful power at the beginning of the episodes. But for now, the day is saved, the show staff have worked their eight hours, and it's time for ThunderCats, writers, animators and the rest to get drunk and think about they lies they live, and the lies they tell themselves.
What We Learned:
• Lion-O has no problem delegating the fight against evil to his subordinates.
• When granted unfettered access to Lion-O, the Sword of Omens and the ThunderCats' HQ, all Mumm-Ra really wants to do is commit petty acts of vandalism.
• The Ancient Spirits of Evil are shockingly generous and non-judgmental.
• Snarfer has an incredible psychic ability but should still be beaten to death with a sack of hammers.
• The Sword of Omens was the biggest deus ex machina in '80s animation. It had an infinite amount of powers that only worked in the second half of episodes. Seriously, watch any three random episodes, and you'll see.
• Snarfer, man. Christ. There's no words to express so awful his voice is — the only way I can think of to describe it is it's like someone trying to make the world's most sarcastic baby voice, while screaming at you and punching you in the junk. Here, have a listen (he's the "younger" Snarf) and just try not to go blind with hate:
• Suffice it to say, every episode with Snarfer is ThunderCats' Worst Episode Ever.