Listen / download here:
Spoilers ahead for Season 5 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
If you haven’t caught up with the latest (and final) season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix, you might want to do so before listening to our latest chat with showrunner Noelle Stevenson. We recently brought you a Season 5 interview with Stevenson to tease the adventures of Adora & co. in this final batch of episodes, along with high praise for star Keston John as the many voices of The Horde. But now, in our continuing series of interviews through our animation-focused podcast Saturday Mourning Cartoons, we chat with Stevenson one last time to break down spoilers from the excellent and emotionally satisfying Season 5.
In this all-too-brief conversation, Stevenson talked about the very special tattoo that she and members of the crew got as a memento of their time on the show and what it means within the lore of She-Ra. We also discussed the many complicated relationships between the characters, be they parent-child dynamics, teacher-student pairings, or romantic entanglements. There’s a lot of emotional payoff at the end of She-Ra, something that all five seasons have been building towards, but the crowning achievement of all of this strife and drama is the final resolution for CatrAdora, which plays out beautifully in the finale. Stevenson addresses all of that and more, so we invite you to listen and read along!
First of all, have you slept at all since Season 5 premiered?
Noelle Stevenson: I got a couple of hours of sleep, but no, not really.
I was going to say, I saw a lot of activity on Twitter, which is great. It’s like a big celebration, I’m sure.
Noelle Stevenson: I could not tear my eyes off of it.
The first thing I want to ask then, spoiler related. I believe you, and some of the crew, literally have a piece of She-Ra lore as a tattoo, but where did that design for the Failsafe originally come from?
Noelle Stevenson: It was something that as soon as we developed the idea of the Heart of Etheria, I think the idea of different kinds of meaning for the word heart, it was becoming a bigger part of our writing process. And the crew had been talking about getting First Ones writing tattoos for a long time. And then one day we were just like, “We have to do this.” And it actually had a lot of meaning for me because that was… I don’t remember exactly. I think that might’ve been the day that I actually heard that I was going to be able to have this ending with and Catra and Adora. So getting the word Heart tattooed was really meaningful to me, because it’s a bigger… It’s about love and it’s about the heart of the show, which is these two characters. But that’s also the Failsafe; the fail safe is also the word Heart. And so it just became a word that was really meaningful, to me especially. And I just wanted to have a little memorial for it on my skin.
Very cool. And I’m sure you won’t be alone out there. I’m sure a lot of people… You’ll be seeing that a lot at conventions for years to come I’m sure.
I found it interesting that the series started with “The Sword” Part One and Part Two, ended with “Heart” Part One and Part Two. And I believe you scripted both of those bookending episodes. So why was it important for you to not only start off your version of She-Ra, but also to end it?
Noelle Stevenson: The relationship between Catra and Adora has always been really, really close to my heart and I always sort of claim those episodes for myself. It was something that I found really interesting and I really wanted to explore. I mean it’s a journey that I’ve taken with our entire amazing writing staff, but it is also one that I just really wanted to just have the ability to just be the one to tie all those threads back. And really there are a lot of parallels to episodes from Season 1 and part of it was just out of selfishness, honestly, just being like, I have to be the one to do this. But it was also really meaningful for me to be able to sort of both be able to begin and end their story in this show.
Absolutely. And yeah, in watching those early episodes, too, having just watched the finale, there are a lot of narrative parallels. There are a lot of visual parallels that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on, because I couldn’t remember watching 18 months ago when the first episodes came out. But it’s been a really cool experience to go back and watch it from the beginning now that we know the whole story.
Noelle Stevenson: Yeah, it definitely [changes] the way you look at it.
Yeah. Before we get to obviously the relationships that kind of have great payoff in this final season, I want to focus a little bit on… We’ve spent this series watching the young heroes kind of struggle as they grow up, but the final episodes have time carved out to see them kind of rise to the challenges interestingly imposed by their parents or their mentors. So figures like Micah or Shadow Weaver. Can you talk a little bit about the differences between those two characters and how you wanted them to play out in these final episodes?
Noelle Stevenson: I think that our characters, every single one of them deals with different kind of pressure from the people who kind of shaped them. Shadow Weaver] was a huge one, because she sort of had a effect on so many of our characters. And there’s a whole episode about all the people that she has kind of damaged with her manipulation. Like Glimmer’s entire family and Catra and Adora. But the whole show is about… even for characters who like have a positive relationship with their parents, like I think Glimmer’s relationship with Angella and Micah is positive, but it’s still her striving to be her own person and to step out of their shadow because everyone is always looking at her as the daughter of the queen who’s not as powerful or as the daughter of a sorcerer.
And having her claim her own future… All of the characters claim their own future. And that means even if they continue to have a positive relationship with those figures, they take that important step. That is like, this is who I am. This is who I am going to be. This is maybe who you wanted me to be or who you thought I was going to be or who I thought I had to be, but this is who I really am. And so all of those characters sort of deal with that. I mean, Bow as well, like he’s had that story in his life with his dads, even though again, he has a positive relationship with them. It’s still like these characters are really setting out on their own, they’re truly adults at this point, they’re deciding who they want to be for the rest of their lives.
And I think for Adora and Catra, they’ve had such a toxic relationship with Shadow Weaver and she has like messed them up so deeply for years. And it’s something that I think is going to be a little controversial, but I really don’t consider Shadow Weaver as having been redeemed, even though she sort of goes out on this one good action. I don’t think that that erased everything that she did to these two people. But I think that she gave them what they needed to move forward and to continue their lives without her in it. Which I felt that we needed to do in a way that was somewhat affirming for both of them. And so it is just the theme of the show, I think, which is like all of these characters are inheriting some kind of mantle from somebody, in lots of different ways. But really they have to figure out how to be different from those people that they’re inheriting the mantle from. And it’s one of the central themes of the show.
That’s really well said. But speaking of relationship stuff… Huge, huge payoffs and dividends in this final season here for everybody who’s been waiting for everybody to pair up for five seasons. So we’ve got Bow and Glimmer, we’ve got Sea Hawk and Mermista, we’ve even got kind of an interesting relationship with Entrapta and Hordak, and then obviously CatrAdora. But did you know from the beginning how everybody was going to pair off or is that something that kind of developed over time?
Noelle Stevenson: That was something I think that it was… Starting the show, there was definitely… Catra and Adora, I think was the sort of our OG pairing. And then I think I knew which direction I wanted it to go in, but I also wanted to be sensitive and make sure that it’s really… I don’t think you can really try and force those relationships if it’s not working or if it’s not really hitting. And so I wanted to keep it open-ended enough, where if it felt more natural for them to go in a different direction or for them to end up with someone else that they were sort of free to do that. But we did… I think all of the couples that you listed, we knew pretty early on. I think that’s how it tends to work with stories, but sort of the one that you like latch onto the earliest, this is definitely not a hard and fast rule, but it does tend to be the one that you kind of like hold a little closer to your heart.
So yeah, there were a few things that developed sort of naturally or as a result of conversations with the crew. I think Scorpia and Perfuma, even though that was a little more subtle, it was one that… It wasn’t a plan earlier on, but it kind of developed through the course of the show. And then Bow and Glimmer, I think that their friendship, and this is what I love about it honestly, they’re so close and it’s always just been kind of wobbling on that line between romantic and platonic. They have this very close, very touchy-feely relationship where it’s clear that they mean the world to each other, but it was never clear what that love actually was for them. And I don’t think they knew because that’s kind of, when you’re best friends with someone, it’s hard to define those feelings sometimes. And so it really wasn’t until I think that second-to-last episode where they tell each other that they love each other, and that was in the script, but we hadn’t really decided if it was going to be a romantic moment or not.
And it wasn’t until Karen [Fukuhara] was actually recording that line. And she just asked me, she was like, “Is this romantic? Should I read this romantically?” And it was like the moment where it’s just like you have a choice to make. And I was just like, “Yeah, do it. We’re going for it.” And it came out so beautifully. Again, I think that they’re sort of a mirror to Catra and Adora. Where it’s two people who have been each other’s person for as long as they can remember, but needed to grow apart, needed to grow in their own ways, apart from each other, and then come back together and repair a relationship that always had issues with it, or a friendship that wasn’t always equal. And now Glimmer has put a lot of work into making sure that Bow is being taken care of as well, because I think she always kind of took him for granted in that way. And they’ve made huge strides and seeing them be able to end up together, it just felt right. And it seemed like the time, you know?
Where do you even begin with Adora and Catra? I definitely want to leave on that note because we get to a future for the Best Friend Squad, even if it’s just a possible future or a vision. What’s a message from you to the fans of Catra and Adora about being able to bring this friendship, this contested relationship, and now this romance finally full circle. What would you like to say to the fans of that particular relationship?
Noelle Stevenson: I think I’d like to start by just thanking everybody who believed in it this whole way. Because I really wasn’t sure if they would. There’s a lot of seasons where things get really rough between them and there’s not a lot of positive interaction to go on. And it’s something that it’s like… it was a risk, I think, to put them through the amount of angst that they been through and still have that romance feel earned and believable. But I really felt that we had to.
I mean, like I said, it’s the sort of more angsty version of Bow and Glimmer. It’s like two people who meant the world to each other, but really were also kind of codependent in a way that was not very healthy for them. And Catra, just her entire world was centered around Adora. And then that was really the cause of this fracture in their relationship, was Adora leaving and expressing to Catra that Catra was not the center of Adora’s world. That is what has basically caused all the conflict in the show. And they needed to get worse before they got better. They needed to get farther apart before they could come back together. And the ability to actually bring it through in the end and get all of those moments and get that final climax with them that I have been vibrating just like waiting to be able to unleash. It is so rewarding. And to know that people never lost faith in their ability to heal, even after everything that they’ve been through…
And for me, it’s just really, really huge to have a character who makes so many mistakes, like Catra has, and has done so many things wrong and then have her to try and change and to try and become a better person and to try and really repair these relationships in her life. And it’s really satisfying, I think, to be here at the end and have it all out there. And I’m really, really glad that the fans have been responding to it positively. And yeah, it’s a little piece of my heart.
It was absolutely satisfying and very rewarding to see that payoff at the end and even more so to be able to go back to the beginning and watch it again, knowing how everything ends up. All of those things kind of line up and it’s been a fantastic experience. So thank you once again, and please go enjoy your well earned celebration this weekend, now that She-Ra‘s out for everybody to see.
Noelle Stevenson: Thank you.
Dave Trumbore is Collider’s Senior Editor overseeing Streaming Content, Animation, Video Games, and all those weird Saturday-morning cartoons no one else remembers. Test his trivia IQ on Twitter @DrClawMD