Aimee Carrero as Adora / She-Ra
She-Ra Season 5 Review:
DreamWorks’ She-Ra and the Princesses of Power first hit Netflix in late 2018, but I only discovered it quite recently thanks to the two young fangirls in my house. To be fair, there was nothing drawing me to the series — a remake of that cheesy old She-Ra cartoon from the mid-80s that I only knew about because it immediately followed He-Man? Who needed that?
Yet, after a few episodes, I was immediately drawn into the conflict between the Horde and the titular Princesses of Power. For those unaware, the animated series follows the adventures of Adora, a young woman raised in the Horde who defects to the good guys and forms “The Best Friend’s Squad” with Glimmer, a princess who can teleport and shoot sparkles from her hands, and Bow, a young man who wields a bow and a variety of arrows that would make even Hawkeye jealous — one turns into a magnifying glass!
Other characters include Catra, a former ally of Adora who can’t decide if she wants to kill her friend or bring her home; Scorpia, a villain with a true heart of gold and an affinity for hugging; Entrapta, who loves science more than people; the mysterious Shadow Weaver; and Hordak, the series’ big bad who yearns to conquer the planet of Etheria and wipe out the princesses once and for all.
Ok, let’s get to the goods. Season 5.
When we last saw Adora, she had sacrificed her sword (and the power of She-Ra) in order to stop the Heart of Etheria from wiping out the planet. Catra, Glimmer and Hordak were stuck with even bigger baddie, Horde Prime, and the Best Friend’s Squad was split in two.
The new season hits the ground running and quickly sets the stage for a number of battles, confrontations and dangerous situations for our heroes to traverse. No worries, for while there are plenty of dire circumstances at hand, the show keeps its oddball humor in tow and devotes as much time to hero-vs-alien smackdowns as it does to bits of Bow berating Adora for not getting enough sleep.
Make no mistake, there are dramatic twists turns in this final season — some you expect, others quite shocking, even more that are quite shocking even if you expect them — many of which occur quite early on, but the show’s true power comes from its oversized heart and devotion to the power of friendship. Adora as She-Ra may have the ability to take on an armada of spaceships in the middle of an asteroid field Captain Marvel-style, but it’s her devotion to her friends that supplies the magic needed to accomplish such extraordinary tasks.
Character interactions, even those between seemingly minor heroes and villains like King Micha and Shadow Weaver, remain the show’s greatest strength. At one point, in Season 5, a character takes a giant leap into space to save another — and you truly feel the emotional weight of the scene, which is funny to say about a cartoon featuring a goofy unicorn with rainbow wings*. And yet, here we are.
Through thick and thin, Adora and her pals remain optimistic even in the face of insurmountable odds — “Take it from someone who’s defeated you guys, like, a lot, charging in without a plan won’t work!” one character says to the chagrin of Adora who nonetheless charges full steam ahead, sword in hand and ready to protect her friends.
That Adora eventually discovers her inner-She-Ra isn’t a spoiler. It’s the consequences of wielding such power that lead to the final season’s unique twists and turns. Suffice to say, She-Ra refuses to succumb to fantasy tropes and instead enjoys circumventing what we perceive as right and wrong to explore the gray areas in-between. Even the baddest of bads are simply misunderstood souls in dire need of a hug from a friend. In this day and age of cynical, violent, often bleak TV, She-Ra rises above the crop with a positive message about acceptance, hope, determination and love. I dig it.
One knock I will apply to the series in general is its knack for Marvel-ing out of tricky situations. Whenever the villains seem to gain the upper hand, the show introduces a new power or character to save our heroes at the last second. That’s a tried and true formula inherit with most shows of this ilk, but knowing the writers have an endless supply of get-out-of-jail cards also lowers the stakes and makes the dramatic moments hit with a little less authenticity.
I’m sure fans won’t complain. There are enough service-y moments in Season 5 to distract from such minor flaws — including the long-awaited conclusion to She-Ra and Catra’s personal conflict — and plenty of world-ending scenarios to keep viewers riveted. I admired a sequence midway through the season in which Adora and co. travel to a planet to gather materials needed to power their ship. The resulting action scene evoked memories of Indiana Jones and Star Wars, what with multiple perilous scenarios playing out concurrently. I also enjoyed Horde Prime, and found the big guy, whose only family are his numerous, empty-souled clones, to be a remarkably unique and formidable villain. And say what you will of Shadow Weaver’s past deeds, but she truly makes for an intriguing character, what with her manipulative personality and altogether evil shell — you fear for her but continue to root for her all the same.
In other words, if you found it difficult to truly despise any of the heroes of villains on the show in previous seasons, this final batch of episodes (13 in total) ups the ante and then some.
Even the action sequences seem to have risen a notch or two from previous seasons and show off some nifty Doctor Strange-style magical kung fu and space battles. Characters conjure tornadoes, protective shields and dark, jelly-like masses; fight with laser swords, spaceships and exploding arrows. Such sequences are never superfluous thanks to carefully developed plot points and fully realized characters.
And that’s the magnificent feat showrunner Noelle Stevenson pulled off with She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. As an action series it entertains in spades. As a show about people with real emotions who genuinely care for one another regardless of whether or not they have an oversized mushroom sprouting from their heads, you can’t get any closer to perfection.
*That damned unicorn, aptly known as Swift Wind, was probably my favorite character on the show. Can we get a spin-off of that character, please?
Check out all five seasons of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix now!