This article contains mild spoilers for She Ra Season 2
Continuing with aplomb Noelle Stevenson’s rebooted iteration of the beloved ‘80s cartoon, She Ra Season 2 feels more introspective and character-driven, and often darker than Season 1, which had a flightier “adventure/princess of the week” formula.
One of the benefits of any second season is that we hit the ground running with an established cast of characters. The first season did spend a good amount of time introducing Adora to the Alliance as our point of view character. Here, she’s still finding her feet a little, but there’s a definite increase in confidence, her powers (shapeshifting sword!), has a literal spirit animal, and the sprightly banter between Glimmer, Bow, and the rest of the Princesses of Power feels naturalistic, and it’s great seeing them bouncing off each other. It’s telling of the quality of the writing that seeing them all together, even this soon in the show’s overall run, feels like meeting old friends.
The comparisons to Star Wars are still apparent, especially in the second episode, “Ties That Bind”, which sees Adora and her wisecracking steed Swiftwind going on a spiritual pilgrimage and attempting to uncover the secrets of the First One’s ancient tech, while at the same time strengthening their bond together. It’s nice that we get Swiftwind right off the bat, and although he initially comes across as a bit Donkey-from-Shrek, his antics teach Adora patience and resilience, much like Luke and Yoda’s first encounter in Dagobah.
There are also numerous nods to Mara, the previous incarnation of She-Ra, and I’m not sure if that’s meant to be a deeper reference to the original show. I would surmise the show isn’t going to attempt some sort of Turtles Forever-style meta-crossover. I think the closest we’ll get is the brilliant fourth episode “Roll With It”, which, if anyone has seen Dreamworks’ other fantastic 2D-animated series Voltron: Legendary Defender, can be seen as “The D&D episode”, wherein our heroes plan a strategic attack on a Horde compound using a thinly-veiled Dungeons and Dragons board layout, and it gives the animators and actors the opportunity to really let rip with some hilarious alt-designs, one of which is a loving nod to the ‘80s show. Cat puns abound!
The true nature of our main big bad Hordak is becoming apparent; he’s a ruthless, nasty piece of work who, like Palpatine from Star Wars, cares nothing for his Force Captains. In the penultimate episode “Light Spinner”, we delve into some juicy Shadow Weaver backstory, which parallels neatly into her current situation, where Hordak has cruelly imprisoned her and replaced her with Catra without so much as a “good luck in all your future endeavours”. Severance packages presumably aren’t really a thing in the Fright Zone. We also spend a lot of time this season focusing on Catra, whose ambition is quickly starting to become her undoing; she’s clearly bitten off more than she can chew in her new role as Force Captain. It’s no wonder Catra is blind to the fact that Scorpia is clearly enamoured with her.
This aspect of Scorpia both adorable and sad in equal measure – the bonding scene between her and Sea Hawk is priceless. Sure it’s played for laughs, but it’s refreshing to see even the “villains” (and I hesitate to use that definition for Scorpia and Entrapta) fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional characters who aren’t just one-note hired goons. One of my favourite aspects of Season 1 was the frenemy dynamic between Catra and Adora, and while there wasn’t quite as much in this season, they’re clearly building to some sort of emotional showdown later on. The character beats are incredibly well-observed, especially in a show that’s ostensibly “for kids”.
I’m also really intrigued to know what the deal is with Entrapta – she’s portrayed as someone who’s definitely on the spectrum, but while she is technically working for the Horde, she doesn’t seem to have any real emotional allegiance to anyone; basically she gravitates towards whoever has the most interesting tech to play with. Our heroes quickly learn of Entrapta’s fate from Season 1, and while it’s initially played for laughs that the Horde are holding Entrapta against her will, the realisation that she’s actually defected to them is heartbreaking. The back and forth between Catra’s cunning and Glimmer’s ultimate realisation is pretty painful to watch.
She Ra and the Princesses of Power continues to be a compelling, relentlessly fun, exciting, dramatic show that goes for the feels and has some of the best character development and writing I’ve seen in recent years, and “drunk” Adora is always a hoot! My only real reservation with Season 2 is that, at seven episodes, it’s only half the length of Season 1. Even the finale “Reunion” which we mostly spend just chilling out in Bow’s fathers’ library, is a very mellow affair. Saying that, it still features some great character moments with Bow and his family that are as heartfelt as they are goofy. We do get something of a cliffhanger, but while I was excited to see how they follow it up, I did have a moment of crushing realisation that I was actually watching the final episode! It really does feel like the first half of a full story arc, one which I can’t wait to see them follow up in Season 3.
Oh and this is just a personal thing, so Noelle, if you’re listening… I would love to see them use the full version of the song “Warriors” by Aaliyah Rose, which is a fabulously energetic, disco-pop number that really sets the tone, but it’s tragically truncated to a mere 30 seconds for the show’s intro and ends before it feels like it has a chance to begin. Come on, Netflix — it’s not like you’re bound by the timing standards of TV or anything – let’s get the full song in there, even if it’s only for the opening episode!