And so we come to the end of the rebooted She-Ra series, which means I have to come up with something incisive and clever to say about it as a whole. And that’s difficult – I’m really not too sure what to make of it. I don’t want to go through the motions of comparing it favourably or unfavourably to its parent series, because in all honesty it’s an almost entirely different beast, sharing little beyond the characters and the basic setup. Instead, it’s probably better to consider this series for what it is and what it does.
So – what is it, and what does it do? I think at its heart, this is a coming-of-age story, showing the journey of a group of friends through difficult times to eventually gain the freedom to do what they want to do. This is told through a long-running storyline, with twists, turns, alliances, betrayals, peril, and lots and lots of frantic emotive shouting.
That last is perhaps my main problem with the series – it’s very, very emotional. It wants to make us feel, and perhaps because I’m a miserable guy fast approaching 40, it did make me feel, but primarily what it made me feel was irritated. When the series went for all-out action or humour, it usually succeeded, but when it was going for the feels, it missed its mark as far as I’m concerned – although I am entirely prepared to acknowledge that I’m probably not the target audience.
The other issue I had was that, increasingly, I found it very difficult to keep track of what was actually going on, and consequently it became much harder to care. The storyline seemed to repeatedly go through the motions of needing to stop some magic thing doing some kind of magic thing, and this would involve She-Ra doing something incomprehensible, which would make Catra cross and the two of them would have one of their epic arguments. I ultimately lost the plot around the point where the Heart of Etheria got involved, and never quite understood any of it from then on.
But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the series – I very much did, especially the earlier episodes. There were a lot of great action set pieces, and some excellent character work which really set this series apart from the original. Compared to Filmation (which I know I said I wouldn’t do), everybody here has a discernible personality, which I can’t say they did in the 1980s. It’s pretty criminal they didn’t involve Kowl though.
Anyway, I’m sure that what we’re all really here for is my rundown of favourite and least favourite episodes. So, without further ado, here’s the best and the worst…
It was really hard to pick my top 5 episodes – there’s a lot of good ones in this series, and narrowing it down to the best was pretty tricky. Efforts that didn’t quite hit the top spots include The Sea Gate, Once Upon a Time in the Waste, Princess Scorpia, The Perils of Peekablue, and the Destiny two-parter.
Coming at a point when the series’ mythology was building up, but before it got unwieldy with all that Heart of Etheria stuff, this episode was both a great adventure romp and a fun way of learning some back story, even succeeding in making Hordak more sympathetic. Nothing particularly special story-wise, but enjoyable from start to finish.
4. Roll With It
This one wasn’t special story-wise either – not in the least – but it more than made up for that by just taking its foot off the gas and spending 20 minutes being a bit silly. Let’s face it, this one was always going to make it into my favourites by virtue of its overt tips of the hat to Filmation, but even without that, it genuinely is a hilarious effort. (Apart from Bow, who began his decline into being massively annoying around here.)
The aftermath of the excellent Princess Prom sees the Rebellion at a low point: things have gone very wrong, and it’s up to the Princesses to fix them. And for a while, it seems they’re going to succeed, which makes the final reversal in their fortunes all the more unexpected. An exciting – and very funny – episode, punctuated by moments of high drama.
This episode spends its runtime ratcheting up the tension around the need to avoid opening the portal, and does so utterly engrossingly. It kept me glued to the screen and is probably the best episode of the series measured in terms of riveting storyline. It’s only kept off the top spot by…
When I reviewed this one, I said that it was one of the most flat-out enjoyable episodes of anything I’d seen in a long time, and who am I to disagree with me? Princess Prom is, as far as I’m concerned, the episode that best shows off this series’ strengths – adventure, humour, snappy dialogue, Buffy-esque teen angst, and a nice reminder of the importance of inclusion. And, of course, a bloody fantastic cliffhanger.
There were considerably fewer contenders for the bottom position – I didn’t actively enjoy many episodes towards the tail end of the series, but most were mediocre rather than enraging. Still, there were enough for a countdown, and a couple to spare, including System Failure, White Out and The Valley of the Lost.
By no means as problematic as some of the other entries here, Ties That Bind gets on the list simply for being a bit dull. It’s got two storylines, one of which doesn’t work at all, while the other is slightly better but somehow unconvincing. Still miles better than the other offenders here, though.
Stranded is another episode which is just boring, but it’s got a higher place on the list because it somehow manages to suck all the momentum out of the ongoing storyline going on prior to it. Add to this the introduction of the Star Siblings, who aren’t interesting and serve no plot purpose whatsoever, and you’ve got a really tedious instalment.
Another dull entry, Hero is one of those episodes that gives us an infodump which is supposed to explain what the hell’s going on. Sometimes these work, but this one really doesn’t, thanks in part to Madame Razz being an actively infuriating character, but mostly because even after watching it, I still didn’t really understand or care about the Heart of Etheria, a feeling which only grew as the series went on.
2. The Portal
As the second season’s grand finale, you’d hope The Portal would actually be really exciting, but as it turned out, it was an odd episode which spent ages messing about in an obviously alternate reality that had no apparent purpose, after which it moved into a tedious screaming match between Adora and Catra, and then somehow failed to make Queen Angela’s death scene hit home. This was perhaps the first time I felt troubled about the series, and I’d classify it as the turning point – by and large, everything preceding it was good, but everything thereafter was rather less so.
Coming just before the end of the entire series, Failsafe was clearly supposed to get all the wheels turning for the finale, but it just came across as a stunning example of literally everything that doesn’t work in this series. Tedious and obvious dialogue, weirdly hollow fight scenes, an unimaginative plot, nonsensical yammering about the Heart of Etheria … it all added up to a thoroughly unenjoyable experience.
Okay – that’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which I think I’d best summarise as a missed opportunity. It had so much potential in its early days, but overall I can’t say it worked for me, and I won’t be rushing to watch it again. Let’s see how Masters of the Universe: Revelation does.