She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’s relatively short second season left you wanting more, in large part because its length led to a chunk of Adora’s story feeling incomplete. The new third season not only continues to give She-Ra’s sizable cast space to evolve, it also introduces new, fascinating revelations about the nature of She-Ra’s magic and her connection to Etheria.
She-Ra’s third season is a drastically different beast than either of its predecessors, but it also leads with their respective strengths. At six episodes, it’s the most compact chapter of Adora’s journey so far, but it also has an almost laser-like focus on moving its heroes and villains’ stories forward, which gives the whole season a welcome sense of urgency and importance.
Season three picks up soon after the second season’s events, which left Adora, Bow, and Glimmer asking questions about Mara, the previous She-Ra, while Catra found herself on the outs with Hordak and in danger once again. Ever the survivor, Shadow Weaver made her escape from Hordak’s imprisonment by playing on Catra’s insecurities and the small part of the young girl that still yearns for Shadow Weaver’s affections. But the places that Shadow Weaver’s treachery left her and Catra end up being fortuitously complicated and not what they appeared to be as She-Ra’s third season opens.
As easily accessible as She-Ra’s first two seasons were, season three assumes that you’ve been following along and have become invested in the latest chapter of Adora and co.’s journey and the larger world it exists within. It works in the show’s favor because at this point, the series feels like it’s done most all it can to establish who its characters are, meaning there isn’t exactly much “new” to learn about them. The interesting thing is to see these characters in new situations that challenge your conceptions of who they are.
Adora, Glimmer, and Bow have all already gone through existential crises that led to them gaining a better understanding of what kind of heroes they want to be. This season finds them focusing more on looking into the mystery of She-Ra’s legacy and how learning about Mara might factor into their ongoing battle against the Fright Zone. Though the trio of friends travel into unknown territory, they have a newfound kind of self-assuredness that makes the journey feel more adventurous than perilous.
By contrast, She-Ra’s villains—like Catra, Scorpia, and even Hordak—are forced to reckon with the fact that they’ve never been as in control as they so desperately wanted people to believe. For much of the season, She-Ra’s villains are in a much more defensive, ruminative space, which leads to some very interesting character developments. It isn’t exactly surprising that there’s more to Hordak’s story than his just being a run of the mill villain with a penchant for on-the-nose naming conventions. But Hordak becomes a more compelling character as you learn about origins, his weaknesses, and his ability to recognize when people like Entrapta are truly good influences on him.
While She-Ra’s other seasons both gave a fair amount of screen time to the other princesses, Entrapta and Scorpia really take center stage this season in a handful of thoughtful arcs that give you a better sense of their interior lives. As easy as it would have been for the show to only explore the nuances of Catra and Scorpia’s dynamic from Catra’s perspective, season three does an excellent job of giving Scorpia more space to speak her piece, which makes it that much easier to sympathize with her and want better for her. In a similar way, you get a much better sense of Entrapta’s worldview as she continues to work alongside Hordak on his plan to use First Ones’ tech to create portals to alternate dimensions.
Entrapta’s well aware of how she’s been treated badly by the people she believed to be her friends at different points in her life, but she’s able to think about her experiences with an analytical removedness that stuns and perplexes Hordak. As we’re learning about where Entrapta’s at, psychologically speaking, Hordak’s learning how to better deal with his own traumas and hangups, and you end up legitimately wanting things to “work out” for them both, even though they’re trying to create a machine that could literally usher in the end of all things.
All of these arcs end up coalescing as She-Ra takes a bold step forward, becoming a deeper, more expansive series that’s about more than just the Fright Zone’s fight against the Princess Alliance. After spending so much time accepting that she was destined to leave her life with the Horde behind in order to become She-Ra, Adora begins to question what being She-Ra will mean for her ability to live her life on her own terms. The more Adora learns about She-Ra’s role in protecting the world and how her power, like Mara’s, has the potential to impact reality itself, She-Ra takes a hard turn into heavy sci-fi territory, which is exciting because it opens up a bevy of new possibilities for the series’ future.
Lean as the season is, it’s substantial in the way it forces a number of its characters to make difficult decisions by the finale. Newcomers like Geena Davis’ Huntara go through relatively straightforward transformations that quickly fit them into the series’ larger mythos, and people we’ve followed before—like Glimmer’s mother Angela—reveal things about themselves that allow you to see them in a different light.
More than anything else, this season feels like it’s finally getting into the story that She-Ra’s always been trying to tell about defining one’s place in the world, but getting into it in a more traditionally spectacle kind of way that we usually associate with genre media. The show’s done the necessary work to ensure that its characters actually feel like people whose motivations and ambitions have a rhyme and reason to them. Now, it can really start having fun, getting weird, and making the future of She-Ra’s story something to look forward to.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is streaming now on Netflix.
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