She-Ra Season Five: Surprises and Sweetness
Easter-eggs, Modeling, and Epic Beauty
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power season five begins with the devastated heroine reverted to just Adora. After last season, she’s shattered her sword, Glimmer betrayed everyone, the trio was broken up, and they’ve lost a lot of the certainties they depended on. Adora’s certainty in her destiny is one of the things to go. Further, by this point many of the outsiders – Scorpia and Entrapta as well as Shadow Weaver – are stuck among the goody-goody princesses. This emphasizes how much their opposite sides are an illusion.
In fact, Entrapta stars in an early episode where the team work on whether they can trust her. Of course, she presents as autistic, absorbed in her machines to the point of bad priorities. Here, however, she insists that while she’s bad with people, she’s put her effort into making her machines help the rebellion so she’ll be liked. With this, she models how much outcast kids may not appear to crave acceptance, but they still do. The others are kind enough to offer it to her.
Another concept modeled is nonviolence (despite all the weaponry). In one scene, Scorpia finds empowerment and covers the others’ escape. However, rather than killing the controlled but basically innocent Etherians around her and bringing down the cavern in a great burst of ruby power, she in fact uses her red energy to fix the cavern and stabilize it in an unusual visual, presenting a different more lifesaving model.
This season, like the others, updates a few eighties characters. Of course, this season brings the last chance for this, with some increasingly bold choices. Double Trouble (originally a double agent for the good guys in a green hood and skimpy bodysuit) got much attention when cast as a nonbinary character played by a nonbinary actor. Other characters embrace this diversity, politely referencing the character as “they.”
Introducing the pretty Peak-a-Blue as a male performer seems a stroke of genius, considering not only that the blue-green peacocks are male but that the costume switches over very smoothly. He’s called a prince, leaving his connection to the gems unclear, but he certainly may be royalty but not the heir to a kingdom. There are other, smaller updates and easter eggs: Escaping at the end of this storyline, characters take an elevator-on-a-winch that strongly resembles the one in the Crystal Castle playset. Moreover, Catra’s new friend, a magical alien, solidifies as a lion with a color scheme calling back to her eighties incarnation Clawdeen. Another amusing nod is that the villager children have She-Ra and Mermista dolls, echoing the action figures.
The other big adaptation is She-Ra’s new outfit. Once She-Ra returns (c’mon, that can hardly be considered a shocker), she has a new look. While the elements are different (pants, ponytail, and a coat-skirt instead of a cape) this actually looks more like She-Ra classic. It also looks more feminine. (I am not of the bursting-from-her-corset camp, but the skirt over shorts felt a bit awkward). This look feels more streamlined and elegant – more woman than awkward teen in a romper. It’s also less like Mara, showing Adora redefining the role for herself. The face-framing crown is much closer to the original, with her stick-up ear concept vanished. A small heart cutout seems a little unnecessary (Is this a superhero emblem? Is this to match Bow’s? Is this as a modest replacement for the cleavage look?) but otherwise it’s a killer look. She has new powers too.
Of course, her return emphasizes the theme that the power really is within Adora ready to be claimed. Characters are seriously tested this season, sometimes tortured and imprisoned to the point of hopelessness and sometimes brainwashed. Catra has a rough time, and her pushing away of friends alternates with better moments after she tries out friendship. Unlike Draco Malfoy, when Catra considers who she’s become thanks to a lifetime’s comparison with the hero, she doesn’t like what she sees. This has her making choices that are believable yet heartening. And (in a dynamic only alluded to in Harry Potter outside the fanfic) Catra and Adora really are the most important people to each other.
In fact, Harry Potter insisted people don’t divide into good people and Death Eaters and then disappointingly did just that with Draco and Umbridge revealed as Voldemort’s supporters. When Shadow Weaver, Entrapta, Scorpia, and Catra reevaluate their loyalties to their planet in seasons four and five, in the face of galactic war, it’s more complex and satisfying, even as the good guys must consider their trust in these characters. As the story progresses, Shadow Weaver offers more of her wise crone powers, emphasizing that she understands their world better than anyone. This is a more interesting archetype for her than wicked witch as the show escapes the “powerful women are villains and must always compete” trope. She’s even reunited with Castaspella, giving them time for a different dynamic. In another unusual twist on hero’s journey fiction, the parents and mentors return to offer final pieces of the puzzle and emphasize that they’re all united.
The heroes also explore the wider galaxy, going on over a half-season of space adventure (during which Entrapta is her usual annoying, exuberant, brilliant self) and discovering their planet is not alone in its struggle against the Horde. They actually make an ally who has magic as they do. Multiple planets rebel as the season progresses. As it finally closes, the heroes succeed through the bonds of friendship the heroes and villains have made with each other. Clearly, while it’s easy to love one’s friends, loving one’s enemies in what has often been a messy family dynamic (with Shadow Weaver and Hordak as evil parents to many characters) can save the world. At last, almost everyone gets what they’ve always wanted, even troubled Catra. They end in a paradise of cooperation and love, aware of the wider universe and determined to save it too. It’s a sweet, gentle ending filled with nature, magic, and friendship, for a series that was safe and surprising, boundary-pushing and endearing, kind and empowering for everyone.
Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of many pop culture guides including Turning Darkness to Light: She-Ra: The Classic, the Reboot, and the Heroine’s Journey Catch up on She-Ra and explore the deeper symbolism