she-ra and the princesses of power (2020)

Manila, 23 May—I have loved this new She-Ra series on Netflix ever since it first came on with its 13-episode first season in 2018. When its final season premiered last week, we remembered we’d fallen behind some seasons, and we ended up marathoning some thirty episodes from Season 3 onwards.

Friends, it was so worth it.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES FINALE (AFTER THIS ADORABLE SEASON 1 TRAILER FROM LONG AGO)

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES FINALE (IN CASE YOU MISSED THE FIRST ONE)

Okay, now that we have that out of the way:

So in a nutshell, this reboot of a 1980s classic follows Adora, who defects from the evil Horde side to join the Rebellion. With the help of a magical sword, she transforms into She-Ra, a mythical warrior princess. Alongside her friends Glimmer and Bow, a band of powerful princesses, and her fancy steed Swift Wind, Adora/She-Ra fights the Good Fight by defending their magical homeland Etheria and warding off the evil machinations of Lord Hordak and his trusted lieutenant, Catra—Adora’s former best friend from her Horde days.

The five-season adventure takes the gang to all sorts of places where they meet all sorts of people—and it’s the best thing about She-Ra. Above all, the show is about friendship, kindness, acceptance and navigating life as young people who have so much to offer the world. I highly recommend it as a good wholesome watch with kids in your life! :)

It’s one of those shows that makes a lot of people feel seen. It has awkward tall girls (Scorpia), furious small girls (Frosta), girls who find it easier to relate with tech than other people (Entrapta), girls who are badass and deadpan (Mermista), girls who are fiercely protective of friends (Perfuma), girls who want to be taken seriously as leaders even when young (Glimmer), angry girls (Catra), extremely talented transgender persons (Double Trouble), competitive lesbian couples (Netossa and Spinnerella), singing pirates (Seahawk), peacemakers (Bow) and of course: the indefatigable, stubborn hero who never backs down (Adora).

Its final season, I think, is expectedly its most mature: Glimmer steps into her mother’s shoes, and all that forced growing up takes its toll in her friendships, particularly with Adora. I think this is important to note, because this journey offers so much insight, particularly into the changing dynamics of friendships over the years, and the conflicts between girls that are not just about boys. I think we are starved for representation like this: Often, when we see girls in conflict, it’s always over the affection of the same guy.

This is never the case in She-Ra; here, girls become themselves, examining their powers, cultivating their passions, and shaping their dreams. They get to discover what they’re good at and get a chance at improving them. They talk with other girls about their common interests and get to work toward shared goals with them. Often, there is conflict—unavoidable in situations where decisions have to be made with only so much information, or only so much time. Regardless, it’s so fun watching all these girls from all walks of life get the gift of a spectacular found family, and just be together. In one screen. Young girls of all shapes and sizes and kinds.

This is in stark contrast to the final season’s Big Bad: Horde Prime, who turns out to be a Bigger Bad Much Bigger than Hordak, because he runs an army of clones: Thousands of other nameless Hordaks connected to one big Hive Mind—Horde Prime’s. His mission: To spread his brand of “peace” across the Universe. Which, of course, has always been code for destroying planets and killing everybody. (Showrunner Noelle Stevenson has said that she based this villain off real cult leaders.)

What I love best about this final season is its self-awareness—it does not shy away from poking fun at itself. A prime (heh) example of this is Wrong Hordak, one of the clones who is accidentally disconnected from the Hive Mind. He joins the gang and discovers the joys of being his own person—of course, after conquering his requisite meltdown and existential crisis after realizing how Prime had lied to him about so many things and kept him away from so many others. He is a direct critique of Prime and what he stands for, and in the end, he turns out to be a vital portion of the rebellion. I loved Wrong Hordak, honest. He’s such a memorable character.

Another instance of the show poking fun at itself is when Catra joins the gang and then proceeds to critique their decision-making processes and utter disregard for planning. (“How do we keep losing to you guys?”) She openly goes against Adora’s impulsive moves and tries not to get her killed—staying with her until the very end.

I confess I wasn’t on this show’s popular ship at first, but watching their respective characters’ journeys from start to finale, it was hard not to be moved by that ending. Up until the season 4 finale, we wondered how they were going to handle Catra’s redemption arc, considering she’s been plotting against the rebellion and had been so single-minded about emerging victorious over Adora.

Going through Season 5’s storytelling, I must say it’s a well-deserved redemption. We understand how Catra has been a product herself of systemic abuse, and the show demonstrates how no one is beyond redemption—not even Shadow Weaver, who we kept doubting throughout the last season. That is, until the very end, when she devotes her final act to helping Adora fulfill her mission—thereby finally giving both Catra and Adora the closure they deserve, considering that Shadow Weaver’s uneven treatment of them had been central to their conflict.

Looking back, the turning of the tide in Catra’s arc—where she decides to do One Good Thing For Adora—is also symbolic, because it involves saving Glimmer—Adora’s new best friend, who is also a subject of Catra’s jealousy.

Catra’s abandonment issues run deep—she and Adora grew up as orphans in the Horde, so it really hit her hard when Adora defected and left her. When Shadow Weaver left her as well, she was consumed by anger and resentment, which was exacerbated by Hordak, who showed little attention and gratitude for her efforts furthering his empire.

Catra’s obsession about winning against Adora soon had her pushing away even her other Horde allies—Scorpia and Entrapta, whom she also gets jealous of, because she was getting close to Hordak. My heart bled for Scorpia, who wanted nothing but to be Catra’s friend, but in the end she, too, had to make a choice, take a stand and leave—but not without telling Catra, as calmly and gently as she could, that she was being a bad friend.

The show builds Catra’s story clearly without letting her off the hook; it shows us how her ways hurt the people that, as it turns out in the end, she really truly loved. And throughout the final season, we also see how she actively works toward her redemption: She actively tries to change (“I’m sorry I got angry; I am working on it.”) and whenever she regresses, Adora puts her foot down and tells her off.

But other than that, the show also tells us that this is no one way street: Just as Catra works on herself, the group also works on supporting her by welcoming her into the fold and letting her find her place there. It sends an important message that it truly takes a village to change and heal and move forward together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that ending, where Adora takes on the challenge of Saving The World as Adora—not as She-Ra, given that at the most crucial of moments, she is unable to transform into the superbeing that could withstand the devastating power of the Heart of Etheria—and the role that Catra plays as the one person who tells Adora not to sacrifice herself.

The Girl Sacrifices Self to Save World trope is common enough—I can’t help but remember the Season 5 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Buffy sacrifices herself and plunges to her actual death. The following season, her friends resurrect her, which she detests; this resentment defines her in the last two seasons of the show. The Best Friend Squad of Bow, Glimmer and Adora reminds me a lot of the Scooby Gang’s original trio—Xander, Willow and Buffy. Same concept: Girl-Hero (Buffy/Adora), Magic-wielder that grows stronger over the seasons (Willow/Glimmer), and the Boy who is The Heart (Xander/Bow).

When the reveal comes at World’s End—Don’t you get it? I love you, I always have, so please—just this once. Stay.—I am utterly upended. It’s not that I don’t see the reveal coming—I have lived in queer fandoms long enough to know when reveals like these are forthcoming—but what ultimately caught me off-guard was how emotionally invested I was in it, considering I wasn’t even on this ship! I have watched these girls go from Horde to here, and I must say: She-Ra getting out of there, all glowy as she carried her new girlfriend out of the Apocalypse is truly the Coming Out we all deserve.

Sorry for the ramble, but thanks for getting this far.

XO,

K.