She-Ra and the Princesses of Power are back! The DreamWorks Animation reboot of the 1985 cartoon burst onto the scene last fall when the first 14-episode run arrived on Netflix. Noelle Stevenson‘s contemporary take on the character pays homage to the original hero Adora and her title alter ego but also puts her own spin on things, not least of which includes giving both heroes and villains multi-dimensional storylines and plenty of time to shine. That trend continues in Season 2, but it’s overall positive effect a bit hampered by the shorter run of episodes.
Season 2 finds Adora firmly at the lead of the Princess Alliance, embarking on a quest of self-discovery to learn more about her past and her future as She-Ra. With Catra rising the ranks of the Horde, the Rebellion must fight to thwart her next attack. If that synopsis of the second season of She-Ra sounds rather generic, well, it is. This run of 7 episodes doesn’t have a strong thematic arc for our hero at all since the adventures are more like stepping stones along her ultimate path. However, some supporting characters get a chance to step up in big ways, either by pitching in to help their leader achieve their ends or by revealing more personal details about their own lives. The fun part here is that we get wonderfully developed characters on both sides of the battle.
I honestly can’t think of many cartoons that give an equal share of screen time to both the heroes and the villains, but She-Ra and the Princesses of Power does this admirably well. This approach not only keeps the title team’s camaraderie and variety of adventures feeling fresh, it keeps the villains from being reduced to “evil for evil’s sake.” In fact, fans of the show might find they prefer the time spent with Catra, Scorpia, and Entrapta to that of Adora, Glimmer, and Bow. And that’s perfectly fine! It’s a testament to the strength of the writing, the attention to Character over Plot, and powerful performances from the cast that viewers can be equally invested in both sides of the divide.
Now, obviously, most people will want the Princesses to succeed in their quest to heal the land, prevent the spread of the Horde, and to discover the true depths of Adora’s powers as She-Ra. That core story is fun to behold because the Princesses, despite their differences, are learning how to get along and fight beside one another. Ice Princess Frosta is much more open and active than she was in the previous season, though she’s learning how to make friends; “Sea-Ra” Mermista is still playing some power games, but she’s a team player at heart; and Swift Wind is … doing his best, insufferably so. But the real meat of the side story goes to Bow this season in a surprising reveal that complicates his relationships with the Princesses; you’ll have to see it to believe it.
On the villainous side of things, Catra’s in her own power struggle, having just usurped Shadow Weaver to become Hordak’s most trusted soldier … but another is threatening to take her place. Meanwhile, Scorpia tries to navigate her duties in the Horde with her own personal feelings, giving us a great supporting character turn. The best side story, however, likely goes to Shadow Weaver, who has a big part to play in the main story, past and present. And while there’s some really substantial character work going on here, we do get some more mythology and straight-up villainy from the leader himself, Hordak. There’s just enough teased here and there to make us want to know more about the world(s) and what’s waiting for us to discover in the future.
But it wouldn’t be She-Ra and the Princesses of Power without She-Ra herself. Though her main struggle throughout the series is to come to grips with her incredible powers and the responsibilities they’ve placed upon her, this short season sees her grappling with concern over the safety of her allies. She-Ra can fight for herself without fear, but it’s the thought of losing one of her friends and fellow warriors that often cripples her into indecision. (There’s a D&D-like episode that illuminates this inner struggle wonderfully well.) And while Adora’s story takes a bit of a backseat to some powerful moments between Catra, Shadow Weaver, and others, the final moment of the final episode of the season suggest that there’s much more to her tale than meets the eye.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is back in a big way in Season 2, with plenty of action, humor, vibrant animation, and a colorful array of characters of all sorts. It’s only shortcoming is in Netflix’s decision to cut the season down to a too-short 7 episodes.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
The ensemble cast includes Aimee Carrero (Young & Hungry) as Adora/She-Ra, along with AJ Michalka (The Goldbergs), Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad), Lauren Ash (Superstore), Marcus Scribner (black-ish), Lorraine Toussaint (Orange is the New Black) Vella Lovell (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Reshma Shetty (Royal Pains), Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), Christine Woods (Hello Ladies), Jordan Fisher (Grease: Live), Merit Leighton (Alexa and Katie), and Krystal Joy Brown (Motown: The Musical).
All 7 half-hour episodes of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’s second season will become available to Netflix members worldwide on April 26, 2019.