Though reboot fatigue might be setting in for some people, there is a whole lot to love about the upbeat and truly magical She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Under the deft hand of executive producer Noelle Stevenson, a new generation of kids, and most especially young girls, will get to experience a diverse and entertaining re-imagining of a classic title.
The diversity of She-Ra was by far the most compelling reason – for me, anyway – to pay close attention to its development from when the show was first announced. And, as a long-time fan of Stevenson’s work, her involvement was the other significant driving force to add it immediately to my ‘must watch’ list.
But more than just the visual diversity, which has rightly garnered praise from She-Ra’s fledgling fans, there is also a diversity to the abilities of the different characters and how that affects their personality. Whether a characters’ power is more grounded in nature, or something STEM related, there is enough to appeal and encourage all manner of interests in kids watching the show. In She-Ra’s world there is absolutely no shame in being seen as traditionally girly, scientifically minded, or even favoring strength. There is a real love and care for everyone’s differences and how, when they come together, it can result in something genuinely special.
Those differences are explored over the first half of the season, in what can only be described as a “Princess of the Week” format. While that was a necessary and needed set-up to introduce the characters, it often slowed up the pace of the show, and made it difficult to connect with any one of them with the constant switching of locations and perspectives. However, with that formality out of the way, any potential future seasons will be in a much stronger place to delve deeper into their individual motivations, relationships, intricacies of their kingdoms, and even the extent of what their powers are capable of.
Much of the first season, in fact, has a simplistic feel to it. There were very few surprises, and the characters often fell neatly into their expected roles. It never quite pushed outside of the tropes of the genre, but with the general sense of the audience that She-Ra is seeking to appeal to, that was to be expected. If you were hoping for a show that involved a complex exploration of Adora’s split-loyalties between the Horde and Etheria, you will not find it here. Once the titular She-Ra discovers her true nature, the shift to the side of “good” is near instantaneous. Equally, the core friendship between Adora, Glimmer and Bow is expedited to “best friend squad forever” status, with any distrust and hiccups as to Adora’s loyalties limited to just the first couple of episodes.
The central trio – who have a significant amount of time dedicated to them, with the other “heroes” cycling in and out of their orbit – were sweet, though at times I found myself a little disconnected from their story. It sometimes felt a little too rushed, or forced, into a ride-or-die friendship, but was interesting enough to carry their part of the show. The back-half of the season was definitely stronger for their connection, with some genuine moments that tested them, but the conclusion of the season and emotional payoff felt rushed. The big “finale” showdown seemed almost like it was tacked on, and the more natural endpoint – for me – should have come a couple of episodes prior.
What surprised me the most, by the time I was wrapping up the first season, was where, exactly, my interests largely fell. When I stopped to think about what I wanted to see and learn more about, it wasn’t Adora, or any of the Princesses, it was the Horde and some of the characters more closely interlinked with them.
Of course, Catra and Adora’s tumultuous friendship is a large force driving the narrative, and by far one of the highlights throughout, but that is largely down to how complicated Catra is as a character. She has a tough exterior, covering up a heart that quite obviously cares deeply, and spends much of the first season hurt by Adora’s actions, and trying to piece together her life when the one constant in it is removed.
Catra is angry. She is vicious. She is betrayed. She is by far the most interesting and standout character of the show, and what Stevenson and the crew behind She-Ra have managed – including the exceptional voice work by AJ Michalka – with her, considering the simpler scope of the world surrounding her, is nothing short of incredible.
Additionally, many of Catra’s relationships outside of her one with Adora are equally as compelling. The dynamic between Shadow Weaver and Catra is absolutely fascinating, fluctuating wildly between two women with similar ambitions trying to secure a larger role within the Horde, as well as something almost familial – though not in the warm-and-fuzzy sense. As the single figure who raised Catra, there is a resentment on Catra’s part in how Shadow Weaver treated her, not quite as a daughter, but falling into something akin to that.
But, perhaps the relationship I’m looking most forward to seeing explored further is the one between Catra and Scorpia. Though I mentioned earlier that there were few surprises over the course of She-Ra’s first season, Scorpia was certainly one of them. She was not at all what I was expecting, and was an absolute delight to behold in every single moment that she was on screen. Should the show get a continuation, Scorpia is one of the characters that I hope receives far more development. She is multi-faceted, and the brief tease of her life prior to the show was just enough to have me running through my head all the ways in which they could expand on that.
(On that note, I’d like to give a special shout out to one episode of the season in particular. The Princess Prom — which comes roughly mid-way through the season — was the perfect balance between quirky, ridiculous, fun, and toed the line of going that touch darker too. It was by far one of my favorites, and will undoubtedly be for many of the audience.)
There is one other point of concern that I have, leaving behind season 1, and that is of the potential queer representation in Princesses Spinerella and Netossa. Krystal Joy Brown, who voices Netossa, announced via her Instagram that the two are a couple, however, in the scope of the show there was no explicit confirmation – likely due to how little the two appear, or even interact with the main characters. My concern is less about them, specifically – when they were on screen, I thoroughly enjoyed them and their interactions – but rather in how outside characters refer to them. They were often treated as the butt of a joke, and as though they were – to the wider mission – expendable or unwanted. Those moments were uncomfortable, with the information I was privy to outside of the narrative, and made me view one of the main characters far differently because of that.
All-in-all, She-Ra’s first season was a fun outing, though older and returning fans of the original may struggle with the more simplistic stories and characters. I’m intrigued enough to see where the show might go next, and it has certainly given itself enough of a foundation to build from. There is a ton of untapped potential that I would love to see explored, should it get picked up for further seasons.
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