Here’s the thing; I could spend a few paragraphs waxing poetic about how She-Ra has continued to get better and better the longer it runs or talk about how the series has exploded in popularity in the short year it’s been on the air, but that wouldn’t be an efficient enough way to state my thoughts on the show, so I’m just going to cut all pretenses and say my thoughts right here, right now.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’s fourth season is the show finally reaching its potential. Noelle Stevenson finally did it. This season is not only the best season of the show so far, but it’s one of the best seasons of television I’ve seen all year. I can’t remember the last time a show I was watching was THIS good.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Season 4)
Showrunner: Noelle Stevenson
Release Date: November 5, 2019 (Netflix)
Following the events of the Season 3 finale, there’s been significant changes in the leadership in both the Princess Alliance and the Evil Horde. With the previous queen dead, Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) is now in charge of the Alliance and has to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders because of it. Meanwhile, Catra (AJ Michalka) has worked her way up to being Hordak’s second-in-command, though their arrangement is most certainly not amicable. With the arrival of Horde-Prime on the horizon, the Horde has doubled down on defeating the princesses, which causes incredible stress not only for Glimmer, but for her friends Adora (Aimee Carrero) and Bow (Marcus Scribner).
If the goal of the season was to push each character to their breaking point, then Stevenson and crew accomplished their goal and then some. Instead of having meandering drama and truisms thrown at us by episode’s end, Season 4 presents problems that can’t be solved simply by smashing Horde soldiers or even talking with each other. One notable dilemma that our heroes face is that Glimmer, in an effort to become a better ruler, starts to train under Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint), who now allies herself with the Alliance. On one hand, she is an incredibly powerful sorceress who’s change of heart seems genuine, but she’s still the Horde’s former second-in-command who was responsible for emotionally torturing Adora earlier in the show. It creates a scenario where both sides are right and the drama comes from these friends drifting due to their own ideologies.
It’s almost painful watching a wedge drive in between our main cast as the complications of war truly start to take focus. How far will our heroes be willing to go in order to defeat the Horde? Do the ends truly justify the means, even if it costs the lives of innocents and one’s own humanity? Again, there are no easy answers here, but the season’s 13 episodes all build on top of each other to create a narrative that had me on the edge of my seat.
Easily one of the show’s new standout characters has to be the elusive Double Trouble (Jacob Tobia), a non-binary shapeshifter that will work for any side for the right price. At face value, while they’re deliciously sly and manipulative, the more they’re used the more I came to love them. Whether it’s how easily they’re able to trick anyone or their absolutely phenomenal confrontation in the finale, they became the stand-out addition to the series and I hope that they continue to be a part of the show moving forward.
It’s taken me some time to realize this, but while She-Ra originally began as a fantasy epic that leaned more towards the fantasy, Season 4 goes all in on the epic side of the equation and makes it work. The stakes continue to rise and we finally reach some semblance of payoff for nearly every character by the end of the season. Even side characters like Mermista (Vella Lovell) and Entrapta (Christina Woods) all reach some catharsis that elevates their characters to the next level, but the most powerful character of the season has to be Glimmer and her transition from a mere sidekick to one of the driving forces of the show.
We’ve reached the point where the characters all feel developed and lived in. All of the actors have become comfortable in their roles, delivering strong performances and even stronger moments. Nearly all of the fat has been trimmed from previous seasons. Sure, there are still filler episodes that help the audience take a break from the non-stop action, but even when the show is being comedic and interjecting levity into its now serious disposition, the show smartly still uses those respites to build on each character. In particular, “Boys’ Night Out” was an episode that featured most of the male cast members having a guy’s night out, yet it features a scene between Adora and Glimmer that was so raw that by the end even I was shocked at exactly what these two best friends said to each other.
Even the Horde had sufficient development, despite their lack of prominence this season. Hordak has taken a backseat to Catra running the show, with her ruthlessness and efficiency turning her into a villain arguably worse than Hordak. Even her most ardent supporter Scorpia (Lauren Ash) comes to the realization of just how toxic of a person Catra is. It almost makes you feel bad for her and watching her slowly break down as the series progresses is enough to make you want to reach out and hug her.
To my absolute shock as well, the excellent narrative and character development is supplemented by animation that has shockingly gotten better. While we haven’t reached ludicrous levels of animated glory like this year, She-Ra instead channels its budget into creating more interesting locales that paint much more vivid picture of the world of Etheria. While new places like Beast Island, an island full of decrepit machinery slowly being overtaken by nature, are cool, it’s the new twists on previous settings like perked my interest. Sure, we’ve had magical forests before, but how about one that shifts in time from the present to 1,000 years in the past? Even the action scenes feel a but more well choreographed and better framed, making each hit more impactful and each battle more dynamic.
If you haven’t been watching She-Ra and the Princesses of Power yet, now is the time to do so. In the beginning it was pretty good, but not great. Now it’s beyond great. This has truly become a wonderful series that surpassed any and all expectations I’ve had for it. It’s the best original series Netflix is streaming right now and you owe it to yourself to give it a watch. The original plan for the series was to have four arcs that last 13 episodes each, but with 39 episodes already under the show’s belt, the next 13 episodes may in fact be its last. I don’t want to see it end after it’s gotten so good.