Chalk this series up as yet another television show I had no business getting into, but did anyway. Like I said, when She-Ra came on TV in the 1980s, I watched it to fill the hole left by the cancellation of He-Man and got to be a fan of it as well. I can’t help it if I’m a sucker for nostalgia, particularly if that nostalgia-fueled reboot is as good as this one.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has run a gauntlet of themes from abuse to toxicity to PTSD. This season, perhaps most appropriately being that it’s the final season, deals with the question of if people can change for the better and we have quite a few who try despite suspicion and self-doubt.
Horde Prime, the big boss of Hordak himself, has come to Etheria following Hordak’s play for the Heart of Etheria which almost destroyed the world and which She-Ra had to break her sword and give up her powers to stop. Now, with Catra and Glimmer prisoners on his ship, the Great Rebellion is facing its most insurmountable enemy yet, one that can turn friend against friend and lover against lover.
Since season five is basically a large serialized story, it’s pointless to summarize each episode, particularly when the narrative runs together and I can’t remember what happened in which episode. Let me just say the following: This season has one of my favorite story elements and one that I don’t see very often – the last time that I remember being the reboot of Battlestar: Galactica: When things get so desperate that the line between good and bad is forever blurred and former enemies end up working earnestly together.
Shadow Weaver, arguably one of the most villainous people on the show, has been with the rebellion for about a season now. Scorpia defected last season as did Entrapta who had previously left the rebellion to work for the Horde because of their technology. Basically, original loyalties don’t matter anymore because the gray area in between is usually the safest place to be.
Which is sort of a hyperbole because there is no safe place in season five. The situation is desperate and only gets worse with each new revelation. The tension is palpable and the hopelessness is communicated beautifully.
Horde Prime is a very effective bad guy. If Hordak was a dictator, Prime is a cult leader with a cult following of clones who do not question or disobey him. In a season about following your own heart and becoming the person you want to be, a cult is the perfect foil.
All right, let’s talk Catra. She’s been a fascinating character ever since she was introduced. She’s been evil, vicious, and snarky and yet, given abuse she was subjected to and her own drive to work as hard as she can, you can’t help but root for her because you know that all of that drive is there because, deep down, she has the need to feel accepted by those in the Horde who, quite frankly, don’t deserve her.
This series has been as much about Catra’s journey as She-Ra’s and now, in the final part of that journey, Catra goes through hell to reunite with her old friend and be accepted once and for all. It’s been such a long road for her and it’s never been easy and, even when it looks like she’s finally there, she still suffers… it never comes off as tacked on or out of nowhere, it has been a personal journey for her and it’s still the most interesting thing about the show.
Even Shadow Weaver gets a moment of redemption and I was surprised by how well it was written.
One thing I didn’t like (and I know this is going to make so many people upset) was that Catra and Adora became a couple at the end. It was just too much in too short a time and, yes, even though it was hinted at that the two had a thing between them, they’ve been at each other’s throats for five seasons and spent an entire season without a scene together. It was, to me at least, too fanservicy and the only thing about the finale that seemed rushed and tacked on.
Catra could have admitted her feelings and that could have been enough or even Adora could have said, let’s just take it slow but no, they’re kissing right after and it’s every bit as cringy as Kylo Ren and Rey kissing in Rise of the Skywalker.
Still, it’s a very satisfying finale. There are callbacks (including a very amusing and unexpected return for Double Trouble), every character gets some really good scenes, unexpected characters become unexpected heroes, and there is just good drama, disturbing horror, and great action. Beyond that, the series was amazing for its messages of acceptance, body positivity, LGBT representation, and powerful depictions of abuse and toxicity.
The show never quite hit the high that it achieved in season three, but it has never wavered as high-quality entertainment. I am a little disappointed that we never saw He-Man on the show, but then again, I’m the one complaining about fan service, so what do I know?