I think it’s pretty clear that my relationship with She-Ra: Princess of Power isn’t so rosy as my relationship with He-Man. The main problem is, of course, that He-Man is an impossibly high standard to hold anything else to, but there’s also some serious issues that I’d have with She-Ra even if it were a completely standalone entity.
Primary among these issues is She-Ra herself, and Adora to a lesser degree. I just simply don’t like her, and I often actively want her to fail. She’s patronising most of the time, and is presented as simply unbeatable. Even He-Man had a few moments where he nearly lost; She-Ra, on the other hand, rarely seems to break a sweat. It’s a matter of opinion, obviously, but for my money, the leading light of this cartoon is just unlikeable.
With an unlikeable heroine, redemption could come from the antagonist. Unfortunately, here too the cartoon falls down, as Hordak is generally pretty bland, or – if he’s snorting like a prize porker – irritating. Sometimes, he does develop a little bit of character, and on those rare occasions, he can be genuinely great, but by and large, he’s dull. (I’m struggling to get through a paragraph about Hordak without mentioning how he pales in comparison to Skeletor, and I think I’ve managed to do so. Oh. Curses.)
We also have a pretty boring supporting cast. With very few exceptions, Glimmer suffers from a lack of character, and other individuals such as Castaspella and Frosta haven’t fared any better. The best that can be said for Madame Razz is that she isn’t as infuriating as I first thought she would be. I do like Bow and Kowl, the latter because he’s got a right gob on him, and the former because he’s a complete fuckwit.
The baddies are better, marginally. Starting at the top, Catra is absolutely awesome, with a spiteful, jealous, scheming personality which is great fun to watch. Shadow Weaver is also an entertaining presence, and conveys a greater air of danger and threat than Evil-Lyn ever really managed. Mantenna can be a decent source of comic relief, when Hordak’s bullying him, but Leech and Grizzlor are dull. Scorpia sounds thick as bricks in a vaguely off-putting way, while right down at the bottom of the rostra is Imp, who’s really, really annoying. I know he’s meant to be, but that doesn’t make it any better.
Anyway, I’m sure the reason you’ve clicked on this entry is to read my by-now traditional list of highlights and lowlights. I recall complaining somewhere in the middle of the season that She-Ra was mostly mediocre, with few masterpieces or trainwrecks, but I have still managed to pick out some classics and duds. And here they are:
5. Horde Prime Takes a Holiday. Skeletor always manages to elevate an episode to the realms of the insane, and this instalment lives up to its promise, with him taking on Hordak, He-Man and She-Ra to steal a spaceship. This one was especially welcome, as it came quite early on, after a run of about 10 uninspiring episodes in a row. Very funny, and very entertaining.
4. Book Burning. This is the only episode to make the highlights list that’s primarily serious, rather than amusing. It’s a pretty hard-hitting moral tale about the dangers of allowing a state to control the dissemination of information to its populace, and makes a sound case for freedom. The need for the Rebellion’s presence on Etheria has never been better demonstrated than in this rather dark tale.
3. Flowers for Hordak. You’ll recall this one, of course, because it was only a few weeks ago, and it was outstandingly insane. Featuring Horde Troopers waltzing and the Fright Zone covered in flowers, it was completely crazy and great fun to watch.
2. For Want of a Horse. And, sticking with the silly theme, this episode centred around Hordak’s efforts to get Horde Prime a decent birthday present. It took the approach of a pretty standard kidnap plot, but fizzed along with great energy and some very funny jokes, as well as finding time to really showcase Hordak’s evil side.
1. Of Shadows and Skulls. Well, yes, I think it was inevitable really that this one would get the top spot. This is perhaps the closest Skeletor has ever come to winning outright, and it was great to see him kicking Hordak out of power and defeating She-Ra. His dialogue was brilliantly funny and verged on ominous as well, and the plot was great fun.
In all honesty, though, any of these top 5 episodes could have taken the top spot – they really are all very good.
It was also pretty easy to choose the worst episodes of the season, though (with the exception of the top position) it was difficult to determine what order they should be in. Still, here they are, so you know what to avoid:
5. Darksmoke and Fire. This episode centres around an unnecessary and slightly confused return for Granamyr. The plot has She-Ra falling back in time to Eternia’s past, where she meets Granamyr of 1000 years ago, but he seems no different from the dragon we met in He-Man. We don’t learn anything new about him or Eternia’s past, and the whole thing is pretty dull and seems somehow pointless.
4. The Missing Axe. This one’s also pointless and dull, and rather forgettable too. It follows the same storyline seen many times in He-Man, and doesn’t manage anything of interest throughout. I haven’t got a lot more to say about it, really.
3. The Red Knight. Oh yes, the episode that introduced the odd concept of a rebels’ fair, as well as giving us the pleasure of seeing Bow feeling sorry for himself and running away, after being really boring for about 15 minutes. It also introduced a mysterious character called the Red Knight, who has not yet revealed his identity or even appeared again, and I have a suspicion that he’s never going to.
2. The Greatest Magic. Perhaps I’m being unduly harsh on this because it’s so fresh in my mind, but Christ it was annoying. I don’t like Orko, I don’t like Dree Elle, I don’t like Uncle Montork and I don’t like trips to Trolla where we have to watch drivel about magic going awry in ostensibly amusing ways. Essentially, I don’t like this episode.
1. The Wizard. Was there really any doubt in anyone’s mind that this would get the top spot? I think I detailed its myriad problems quite extensively in my review of the episode, but just to recap – it involves a plot about people running away, which is a guaranteed way of getting my goat. It also involves a really weird and terrifying baddy, and overall, it’s massively infuriating. Oh yes, and I still haven’t figured out why it’s called The Wizard.
Onward and upward
She-Ra’s second season consists of only 28 episodes, rather than the standard 65, so we haven’t got far to go. Let’s see if She-Ra and Hordak can stop being annoying, if Glimmer or any other rebels can develop a character, and if Skeletor might grace us with another visit or two!