Not a Book! Thursday || She-Ra and the Princesses of Power S4

Not a Book

Apparently the Netflix gods heard my requests, because not only did S4 of She-Ra get a full thirteen episodes, but it delivered on every emotional beat, repeatedly punching me in the face with all the emotions I could have possibly cycled through in five short hours.

The short verdict? Oh my god, please watch this series, I’m begging you.

The long verdict? Yeah, that’s going below the cut, because it’s going to be SO LONG. And also peppered with spoilers, so beware.

She-Ra S4 Banner.png

From the get-go in S4, there is SO MUCH happening. Hot on the heels of S3 and the devastating loss of Angella, there’s no shortage of emotional havoc, and I needed some tissues in the first episode, which is really a feat. All of our characters are feeling the effects of their time in the alternate reality portal from S3, especially where their losses and almosts are concerned. Catra and Adora were almost happy. The world was almost safe. Glimmer almost had both of her parents. We, the viewers, almost made it without crying.

But now we’re back in reality, where Angella is gone, Glimmer is alone as queen, Adora has finally realized she can’t fix things with Catra, and so much more. In a way, everyone is stuck in their own little bubble, grappling with their own problems. Because of this, S4 is the least teamwork-heavy season of all.

And I loved it.

Normally, I despise miscommunication and an inability to compromise, but S4 hits all the right notes in giving the main characters reasons not to be the well-oiled, cooperative machine they used to be. It’s not an arbitrary decision to have this level of discord. It’s the direct result of conflicting desires, with a pinch of outside interference to stir the pot, and a dash of knowing deep in your bones that these characters value their friendships too much to let this go on forever.

Part of this conflict boils down to the characters having far different desires. While Bow gets caught in the middle of it all (bless him for trying so hard to keep the peace tbh), Adora and Glimmer in particular butt heads. Adora is trying so hard to be useful and keep everyone safe by becoming the She-Ra she feels she’s meant to be, while Glimmer stands in her mother’s shadow as the new queen of Bright Moon, and wants more than anything to be the one to end the war with the Horde once and for all, taking steps everyone else has so far been too afraid to take. This leads to Glimmer refusing to let Adora protect her and take charge, and to Adora refusing to allow Glimmer to issue commands without opposition, driving a wrench in their relationship.

And it works, because they both believe themselves to be doing the right thing, because in a way, they are both doing the right thing, at least in pieces. You sit there wanting them to make up and stop fighting, but you also can see exactly where the tension lies, and why it makes perfect sense that they can’t see eye to eye on all of this.

Catra is also finding herself in a pinch, but I think we knew that was coming given the lows she reached in S3. Now, armed with greater ambition and hatred than ever, plus an ally in the form of Double Trouble (who I’ll talk about in a bit!), she’s aiming to outclass Hordak and win the battle against the Rebellion on her own vicious terms. In her eyes, she’s the driving force behind the Horde, the only one strong enough and smart enough to carry the Horde to victory, and all of her plans are engineered with that in mind (not to mention she still wants to make Adora suffer).

And yet she unravels more and more as she gets what she wants, and I can’t help but be reminded of Azula from A:TLA in some ways. The parallel isn’t perfect, but there’s an element of a descent into desperation and madness that rings true between them both, a furious desire to be seen as the most powerful force, a terrifying panic when that turns out to be far from the truth. For all the control Catra gains, she loses some too, and it’s played masterfully. I still want her to get a redemption arc, to realize the harm she’s done and work to do better, but I think this is truly her rock bottom, and the climb out is going to be fascinating to watch. She’s gotten almost everything she wanted, so her choices in the future are going to come from a clean(er) slate. Now that she’s by and large succeeded, what does she even want anymore?

And holy hell, before I dive into a couple of side character things, I also have to talk about Adora. This season, she gets the full force of Mara’s legacy thrown her way, the full weight of the She-Ra title placed on her shoulders. Though the first three seasons show her gradually accepting greater and greater responsibility as She-Ra, bearer of the Sword of Protection, this is where she realizes the full truth of what that title entails, and it destroyed me. So much of Adora’s growth has come from realizing she is not beholden to the Horde, she is not trapped by the decisions of others, she is not someone else’s pawn to be moved without her knowledge. And so much of what pulls the rug out from under her this season runs counter to that. She is not free to completely disentangle herself from expectations. She is not free to make every choice alone. She is not free, not yet, not completely.

More than that, though, she has a single line in the finale that broke my heart. Even at the worst point of all, she holds tight to the belief that her destiny is her own rather than a preordained path, and the sacrifice she makes to save Etheria has put me in tears. The thematic resonance and the powerful visuals combine in the best way, and they place Adora in a very vulnerable position for S5, one that reminds me in some ways of Thor: Ragnarok.

Heartbreaking arcs and phenomenal writing aside, I have to mention a couple of side characters. Surprisingly, they’re both from the Horde, and I am so completely in love. First, of course, is Double Trouble, the shapeshifter who becomes Catra’s right hand schemer. I fell in love with them from their first scene, and I can’t believe how sharp and delightful their role was! They navigate Horde politics and Bright Moon plans with an effortless kind of grace, and though they place a ton of emphasis on the drama and the joys of acting, they’re easily one of the most calculating, dangerous characters the show has.

They’re also non-binary! They/them is consistently used throughout the show for them (except when they’re in disguise and other characters don’t know they’re talking about Double Trouble rather than the character DT is posing as), and they’re also voiced by a non-binary VA, Jacob Tobia! I was THRILLED to see how effortlessly She-Ra included a non-binary character, and how much fun Double Trouble was to see on screen. Even better, I think they’re going to continue to play a major part in the series, and I can’t wait to see more of them charming their way through to the end. They’re a fun, phenomenal addition to the cast, and I loved them far more than I expected to.

As for the second character with a major presence, it’s Scorpia, love of my life, sweetest Horde soldier there ever was. She may not have nearly as much screen time as the other characters, but every minute of her presence is so earnest and touching that I can’t help but adore her. She is so concerned with loyalty and doing right by her friends, and when she sees the point of no return in Catra, she strikes out on her own to find a way to make things better. She is the best friend anyone could possibly ask for, and it makes me weep that she’s treated the way she is by the Horde.

We also get a little more of her history as a Princess, plus some details on her relationship to the Black Garnet. It really puts so much of her personality in perspective, and then goes on to make the final couple episodes that much more emotionally packed for her. She is teetering on the edge of a life that will appreciate her for who she is, and yet she keeps looking over her shoulder at what she’s left behind, even though it hurts. If nothing else, I want Scorpia to finally get the love and respect she deserves. And she deserves the world.

Speaking of worlds, too, we’re going to take a fresh perspective in S5. The developments in the finale promise a wider universe than we’ve seen yet, and it looks like the real villain all along was imperialism and the vicious conformity that helps enforce it. It’s possible S5 may also be the last, since Noelle Stevenson has said four thirteen-episode arcs have been planned, and three of those arcs have been released. As sad as I would be to see She-Ra go, I also can’t wait to see it stick the landing the way I believe it can, exploring bigger and bigger themes alongside the existing emphasis on friendship and healing and doing the right thing, even when it’s hard.

 

There’s still so much about She-Ra I could talk about, but in an effort not to give a play-by-play of the whole season, I think I’d be better off ending my review of it here and encouraging you to go and watch it for yourself. At the moment, Netflix hasn’t yet renewed She-Ra for S5, but given the momentum the show has gathered and the phenomenal talent behind it, I suspect we’ll have confirmation of its return soon. In the mean time, the best thing to do is give it more views, supporting it until we hear for certain what its fate will be.

It deserves a finale of incredible weight, and I have no doubts that it could pull it off with aplomb. A show that gets better and better with every single season has that power for sure.

2 thoughts on “Not a Book! Thursday || She-Ra and the Princesses of Power S4

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