It has been a month since Netflix's She-Ra reboot brought the Princess of Power back to the hearts and minds of fans. In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, we see a world where women and men are equals on the battlefield and in the halls of power, where a Princess is someone you call when you need to be rescued, and where a complicated and fraught joint history has plunged the Horde and the Princess Alliance into a protracted battle for the fate of their planet, Etheria.
Overall, the show is pretty fantastic. The writing is funny, the dialogue is on-point, the animation is adorable, the characters are complex and interesting, and the show is true to its young audience. However, like Glimmer's (Karen Fukuhara) powers in the season finale, there were glitches in the reboot's first season – things that just didn't seem to work for the characters or the plot. As we finish watching (and in my case, re-watching) this first season and look towards the next, below is a list of things that worked, things that didn't, and things that we hope to see in Season 2. *Spoilers, Spoilers Everywhere*
- The format of the show and the seasonal arc: While all thirteen episodes advanced the overall seasonal arc, each episode was also a self-contained, 24-minute story without a lot of "To Be Continued…." episodes. The format made the story accessible to kids, kept the plot from getting too complicated, and made for interesting side plots.
- Bow: By far my favorite character in the series, and possibly my favorite animated character since Daria, Bow (Marcus Scribner) is the friend that everyone wishes they had. He is fiercely loyal, brave, an insanely good archer, a genius inventor, hilarious, and unafraid to be himself. I also really like his relationship with Adora (Aimee Carrero) and Glimmer and the way he will tell them when they are doing something stupid, but then back off and respect their decisions (with only the smallest of "I told you so's").
- Adora's relationship with Catra: Complicated female relationships that have nothing to do with romance are rare on television, and even more rare in children's shows. As foster sisters, Adora and Catra (AJ Michalka) grew up as both each other's savior and biggest competition. They were friends, but also competed for the praise and attention of their abusive and controlling foster mother, Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint). I really enjoyed the way that the relationship between Adora and Catra evolved over the season. Their complicated feelings for each other came up in every interaction and it made for good television.
- Shadow Weaver's relationship with Adora and Catra: In She-Ra, writers are very conscious of the emotional and physical abuse that Adora and Catra (especially Catra) suffered at the hands of their foster mother. Shadow Weaver brainwashed these young girls, made them compete against each other, and openly favored Adora over Catra. The way this abuse, and the mixed feelings the girls had for Shadow Weaver, influenced the plot added a layer of depth to the story.
- The animation: Made in a classic animation style, watching She-Ra feels like you are watching a Saturday morning cartoon. There are sweat drops, hearts and stars in the eyes, and all sorts of hilarious expressions for the various characters. There is also fantastic use of color, with bright jewel tones and scenery in the background of shots. The style of the animation made the show seem both nostalgic and new.
- Diversity: Show runner Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes) is known for depicting diversity, both in sexuality and body type, and she continues that trend in She-Ra. The diversity of body types, skin tones, species, and sexualities is remarkable for the fact that no one ever remarks on it. The Princesses all have different body types, including a muscular She-Ra that received some backlash after initial trailers were released. There are also several LGBT characters in the show. However, these differences are never remarked upon in the show, they are just accepted as part of the rich tapestry of Etheria. In fact, I cannot remember a single instance of a character commenting on the physical appearance (other than clothes) of another character, for good or ill.
- Entrapta's turn to the dark side: The show starts out on the premise that the Princesses are inherently good and the Horde inherently bad. But over the course of the season we meet two Princesses, Entrapta (Christine Woods) and Scorpia (Lauren Ash), that have allied themselves with the Horde. Entrapta's turn from the Princess Alliance is the most interesting, and possibly the most dangerous, because she never seems to be evil. She just wants to continue her research, and is willing to help whoever will give her what she needs to do that. She is a complicated villain because she isn't really a villain at all – at least not in the typical sense. I look forward to seeing what they do with her as the show progresses.
What Didn't Work:
- Angella: Glimmer's mother, Queen Angella (Reshma Shetty), was a surprisingly flat character in a show that had so many well-written and complex characters. I felt that she was never really shown as a leader, and certainly not a good one. Her relationship with Glimmer was also underwhelming when compared to the complicated triangle of Catra-Adora-Shadow Weaver. Additionally, I loved Reshma Shetty in Royal Pains, but her voice is very distinctive and when she speaks as Angella, I just hear Divya. I wish she had done something unique with Angella's voice.
- The relationship between Mermista and Sea Hawk: I am just not sure what they were going for with these two characters. Sea Hawk (Jordan Fisher) is very much the boastful Han Solo, but he and Mermista (Vella Lovell) seem to have this strange love-hate relationship. Mermista pushes him away, is seemingly annoyed by him, but also always with him and inviting him to things. Are they supposed to be secretly a couple? Cousins that don't really like each other? The lack of clarity makes their interactions seem awkward, and Sea Hawk sometimes gives off a creepy stalker vibe.
- Swift Wind: The character of Swift Wind, Adora's horse that is transformed by the power of Grayskull into a winged, rainbow-maned alicorn is the biggest character mis-step in the show. I think the writers were going for a Fabio-esque, conceited, fighter for horse freedom, but they mostly just ended up with awkward, strange, random, and not funny. Adora, Glimmer, and Bow do a lot of walking, despite the winged Swift Wind (Adam Ray), and the alicorn just seems to pop up when the Princesses need to look majestic while fighting something from the air.
- The Sword of Protections Magically Fixing Everything: In the season one finale, "The Battle of Bright Moon," all seems lost until Mermista, Perfuma (Genesis Rodriguez), Spinerella (Noelle Stevenson), Netossa (Krystal Joy Brown), and Frosta (Merit Leighton) show up and then the Sword of Protection, completely on its own, seems to go full on deus ex machina and heals Glimmer and Angella, repairs the castle, recharges all of the rune stones, and gives all the Princesses full power. It just seemed too convenient and hard to believe. Even the Princesses' rainbow tide of "by our powers combined" made more sense in the plot.
What We Hope To See:
Surprising given all the positive buzz, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has yet to receive a greenlight for a second season. However, Stevenson was quoted in The Verge saying that she has written "multiple arcs" for the series, giving us hope that there is more She-Ra on the horizon. In the meantime, we get to speculate about what comes next. The top five things I would like to see in season two are:
- More robust origin stories for supporting characters, especially Angella, General, Netossa, Spinnerella, and Frosta. They all had a vital parts in winning the Battle of Bright Moon, but we have almost no idea who they are.
- Now that Glimmer has re-formed the Princess Alliance, I would like to see more of her efforts to lead it, especially when Angella and Adora are not around.
- I would like to see how Adora would adjust to a period of no fighting. After their defeat, the Horde needs time to regroup. What does Adora do when she's not fighting, not training, not recruiting Princesses, and is not She-Ra?
- The Princesses taking command control of the Princess Alliance's military. Leading a group of magically gifted Princesses is one thing, leading a large army composed of individuals from many different Kingdoms is very different. This could also provide insight into how the various groups interact with each other.
- I know this sounds corny and obvious, but I would like to see Adora learn more about the She-Ra powers and how they can be used (and what the heck has been happening in the 1000 years since the last She-Ra).