Noelle Stevenson’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is back on Netflix and nothing is the same anymore. Even though Adora (Aimee Carrero) in her sword-wielding She-Ra form and her Rebellion have managed to stop the Horde’s inter-dimensional armageddon, the threat looms closer. Last we left off, season 3 saw the sacrifice and vanishing of Queen Angella, leaving Princess Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) to ascend to the Bright Moon throne in “The Coronation.” Her friendship with Adora and Bow (Marcus Scribner) is then tested by heated disagreements over how to save their home from the evil Horde.
The villainous side is going through fallout as well, even as they gain ground. Devastated by what he assumed was the betrayal of Entrapa (Christine Woods), Hordak (Keston John) is more determined than ever. His second-in-command Catra (AJ Michalka) is banking on her leadership to conquer more territory. However, Catra cannot quite admit she is hurtling into a downward spiral, reeling over the finality of Adora relinquishing her attachment to her. Then there’s Catra’s other Horde friend, Scorpia (AJ Michalka), dear lovable Scorpia, who gets her limelight in “Princess Scorpia” and reckons with her toxic relationship with Catra, her status as a Princess, and her Horde-conquered kingdom. The moment where she realizes Catra’s true nature and her own complicity in severing bonds is a delight. Tossed into the villainous mix is the pointy-eared shapeshifter Double Trouble (Jacob Tobia), a step forward in featuring non-binary representation in fantasy cartoons, who introduces a delightful love of theatrics to their shapeshifting and deception craft. Double Trouble is a mesmerizing amoralist who understands their marks’ psychology and they treat their clients as fair-weather buddies.
Unlike the last two seasons, each a package of 6-7 episodes, this season goes for a fuller package of 13 episodes, which allows more breathing space for supporting players, such as Mermista’s (Vella Lovell) Murder Mystery shenanigans or Sea Hawk’s (Jordan Fisher) disastrous Boys’ Night Out.
The message is echoed throughout — “friendship takes work” — as Glimmer and Adora encounter rifts thanks to the shift in power dynamics. Determined to win at any cost and pressured by her new queenhood, Glimmer enters a fraught magic apprenticeship with Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint), which incenses Adora since she experienced Shadow Weaver’s parental abuse firsthand. If I had to complain about one aspect of this season, I felt Glimmer would voice awareness that she is in cohorts with Adora’s abusive former parental figure.
This season throws Adora a rude awakening about her She-Ra Chosen One mantle as she digs deeper into the previous She-Ra’s past. It’s a smack-down on the Chosen One trope, which has never gone uncritiqued (see Avatar: The Last Airbender and The LEGO Movie), but here it sends seismic waves on its heroine’s psychology as well as the fate of the world. Season one pointed out from the get-go that Chosen Ones don’t ever get to choose their responsibility, but the latest arc escalates a worst-case scenario: What if you’re a Chosen One for a side that doesn’t serve the best interests of the world?
“We’re the good guys,” one of the main characters insists, but the assertion is hurled into question whether they’re doing the ethical thing. Through the flurry of color, backstory building, and a universe at stake, the final few episodes feel like a pressure cooker before the inevitable steam. It’s a game-changer.
/Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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