The first season of Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power channeled the magic of the classic animated series into a surprisingly poignant, heartfelt, and inclusive story about how powerful emotions can pull people closer together or tear them apart. In the show’s second season, Adora and co.’s tale picks up right where we left it, but it’s impossible not to notice how Netflix is handling She-Ra differently now.
It’s not that She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has fundamentally changed as a show; you can very easily roll over from the first season’s finale into the second’s premiere. But that’s part of what makes watching it so odd—it doesn’t at all feel like an independent season of television. This isn’t by any means a bad thing, but it’s particularly noticeable, and there are times when the series’ emotional punches don’t land quite as solidly because they come at you almost too quickly over the course of the season’s seven, 30 minute-long episodes.
But again, that’s not to say that She-Ra and the Princesses of Power isn’t a triumph of a series, because it most certainly is.
Following Catra (AJ Michalka) and the Horde’s unsuccessful attack on Bright Moon that brought all of Etheria’s princesses together, the members of the Great Rebellion have embraced the fact that their magic is infinitely stronger when they’re working in concert. Even though Entrapta’s (Christine Woods) defection to the Horde has given them a significant technological advantage in the war, Team She-Ra understands they’ve still got a shot at returning peace to Etheria, but they’ll only be able to accomplish their goal by relying on their ingenuity and wiliness.
She-Ra’s return to the world has emboldened the princesses to truly step into their roles as the next generation of Etheria’s heroic protectors, something you can see in their collective eagerness to follow Adora (Aimee Carrero) into battle. Unlike her fellow princesses, who are somewhat new to being this directly involved in war, the crisis threatening Adora is all too familiar because she was raised to thrive in battle. But finally having a loving family of friends who care about her and expressly want to see her flourish puts Adora in the difficult position of having to balance her personal feelings with the responsibilities she’s been tasked with as the newest She-Ra. Adora knows that they’ve got a shot at beating the horde, but she’s haunted by the idea that the Rebellion’s victory might lead to massive casualties on their side, and potentially drive her over the edge in a similar way to her predecessor Mara.
While She-Ra’s first season was largely a story about the two sides of the war gathering their forces and getting to know one another, the new season shifts slightly to give a large chunk of the show’s characters significant moments of introspection as they take stock of their lives and the people they’re becoming. Believing Entrapta to be dead, Bow (Marcus Scribner) starts to become the team’s new de facto tech expert, and with her mother’s confidence, Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) takes on a larger role as a skilled military strategist with novel ideas about how to take on the Horde. But like Adora, and perhaps because they’re so emotionally connected to her, both Glimmer and Bow grapple with feelings of self-doubt and fear that they might not be up to snuff as the kinds of soldiers that Etheria needs.
Imposter syndrome rears its head in the Fright Zone as well as Catra begins to realize that, in achieving her goal of replacing Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint) as Hordak’s (Keston John) right-hand enforcer, she’s taken on a new level of responsibility that she’s not prepared to handle. Anyone who’s watched She-Ra and the Princesses of Power understands that Catra and Adora are two halves of the same whole, and they’re nowhere nearly as split along ideological lines as either of them makes themselves out to be.
Catra, like Entrapta, isn’t a bad person, but rather a misunderstood one who clings to the first and only source of emotional support that she’s known because she’s not ready to consider that there might be other ways of living. On some level, seeing Adora welcomed by the princesses hurts Catra because their situations aren’t entirely dissimilar. She’s also working with a team of enthusiastic princesses to change the world, but where the Rebellion actively lifts Adora up and supports her, even when she stumbles, Hordak shows nothing for contempt for Catra, making it that much harder for her to truly believe that what she’s doing is right.
She-Ra’s new season also packs in a significant amount of world and mythos building, which makes the show feel more expansive, but also somewhat narratively cluttered because it isn’t a traditional, complete season. While nothing about the show feels particularly rushed, per se, it’s difficult to think of these seven episodes as a season unto themselves.
That being said, the new season ends on a thrilling note, and it feels very much like Adora’s story is far from over—which is to say that if and when She-Ra and the Princesses of Power returns for a third outing, it’ll have the potential to be the start of something new and even bolder.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’s first and second seasons are now available on Netflix.
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