The fifth and final season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has finally landed on Netflix. But is this reboot of the classic 80’s Filmation cartoon worth watching in the 21st century?
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power follows the same basic premise as the original 80s animated series. Adora is an orphan girl raised by the Horde, iron-fisted rulers of the planet Etheria.
One day, after getting lost in the Whispering Forest, Adora discovers a magic sword that gives her the power to transform into the powerful warrior She-Ra.
Along with her new powers, Adora discovers that the Horde is not a peacekeeping force, as she had been led to believe, but rather a conquering and invading force. This leads Adora to join the rebellion led by the Princesses of Power.
This new version of She-Ra’s adventures is produced by the DreamWorks Animation studio and run by illustrator and screenwriter Noelle Stevenson, famed creator of the Nimona and Lumberjane comics.
The Same Legend For A New Generation
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power tries to be a fairly respectful adaptation in its approach to the conception of the original show. One of its principal strengths is its recovery of the original myths of the 80s and updating them with a more elaborate narrative structure.
In other words, the new version of She-Ra’s adventures, while maintaining the original setting and story beats, occur across a narrative arc that is far more complex than the 80s kids ever saw.
In this sense, the show is able to take the characters and locations of the classic original drawings, including some elements that were previously only seen in Mattel’s line of toys, and update them in ways that give them greater dimensionality.
The stories of friendship and identity that are told within are not self-contained, but rather connect in elegant ways that make up a much larger tapestry.
Adora and her set of companions, and some villainous characters as well, evolve and demonstrate complex and nuanced personalities. The resulting show is one that, although meant for a younger audience, exists in a dynamic and nuanced universe.
A Flawed Production
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has always been an excellent creative and artistic work. The character and environment designs have been generally well accepted. Additionally, rather than go for idealized bodies and sculptural physiques typical of the animated series of the 80s and 90s the new She-Ra accommodates a variety of body types and forms not limited to traditional sexualized superheroes.
However, animation has been inconsistent since season one. Although action scenes have gotten more fluid and characters seem more expressive with each new season, the show still has some issues. For example, some character’s height and weight will change between episodes and sometimes even between scenes.
Grown Beyond The Source Material
Over its first four seasons, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has grown beyond its cheesy 80s morning cartoon source material.
Admittedly, there was some initial backlash when the show first deviated from Filmation’s vision. However, showrunner Noelle Stevenson has taken inspiration from groundbreaking shows like Steven Universe and The Legend of Korra and made a She-Ra that is both unique and respectful of its origins.
She-Ra has matured and become a product with its own identity, which pays tribute to the classic mythology of the character while continuing to rework and modernize themes and concepts typical of the original series and its world.
The ending of season 4, with Adora shattering her magical sword and becoming essentially powerless, upended our expectations and set the stage for what could be an amazing ending to the show.
Reboots generally get a bad rep, but this one is elegant, intelligent, and oozing with charisma and good-natured characters. This is what any cartoon about heroes and villains should aspire to be.