She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season Two

29 Aug

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season Two

It is politically incorrect, in this day and age, to say that boys and girls are attracted to different kinds of TV shows (and books, comics, etc) but it is true.  At one extreme, a boys show features action and adventure; at the other, a girls show is effectively a light soap opera, focusing on romance and personal interaction.  It is also true that girls will watch a boys show, but it is rarer for boys to watch a girls show.  Works that appeal to both genders try to find a balance between action and soap opera (and leave plenty of room for fan works focused on both, such as Harry Potter.)  The original She-Ra largely managed to avoid being treated as a girls show because, despite featuring a largely female cast, it remained focused on action and adventure.

The first season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power found its balance quite nicely.  On one hand, there was the constant war against the Horde; on the other, there was the complex relationship between Adora, Catra and their abusive (adoptive) mother, Shadow Weaver.  Both Adora and Catra won free of their mother: the former by finding the sword that allowed her to transform into She-Ra and realise that the Horde was evil; the latter by besting Shadow Weaver at her own game and rendering her (seemingly) powerless.  By the end of the season, the situation had changed remarkably: Adora had managed to reform the Princess Alliance, while Catra had become Hordak’s right-hand-cat (a pun no one seems to make.) 

However, in season two, the balancing act started to go off the rails.  Instead of thirteen episodes we get seven, ranging from the brilliant Roll With It to the rather tedious Signals and Reunion.  The overall plot inches forward slowly – with a little regression in places – while some episodes are hampered by their soap opera focus on the characters rather than the action.  It’s nice to see Scorpia and Sea Hawk bond, despite being on opposite sides, but it isn’t what I want to watch.

This isn’t to say that the season is bad – there are a lot of brilliant moments – but they don’t go together as well as they should.  In some ways, there is a slight lack of serialisation; this would be a strength, under some circumstances, but here it’s a weakness.  A couple of episodes switch back and forth between both sets of characters, instead of focusing on the main adventure.  Others stay focused and reward their viewers. 

The core of the series lies, as before, in character development … and here, the villains come out ahead.  Catra is a wonderfully-conflicted character, although – as she grows into her new role – I find myself having less sympathy for her.  This works out quite well in The Ties That Bind, where Glimmer (after finding that Catra makes a nightmarish prisoner) slaps her down by snapping “Adora didn’t run away from the Horde, she ran away from you!”  It doesn’t work out so well in White Out, where Catra is ready to let herself be killed rather than see Adora win.  Scorpia is a curious mixture of likable girl, heroic (if only for the wrong side) warrior and teenager with a crush on Catra.  Entrapta comes across as far more interested in scientific research than morality, joining the Horde and befriending Hordak rather than remaining true to the Princess Alliance.

That said, the villains do have weaknesses too.  Hordak degrades as a character – switching his favour from Catra to Entrapta – as he grows more desperate to get home (or bring in a new army – it isn’t clear which).  It also isn’t clear just how much he cares about conquering the world.  To some extent, he leaves fighting the war in Catra’s hands while working on his own projects – a mistake, as Catra isn’t ready for the post.  Shadow Weaver is given a more sympathetic backstory that degrades the original character, to the point of practically having her driven to do something incredibly stupid by her former superiors.  It seems that people are prepared to try to humanise someone who is, at base, the most despicable character in the series.

The princesses definitely come off worst in the character development stakes.  In some ways, they go backwards.  Glimmer finds herself treating Frosta like an irritating kid sister (how her mother treated her), while Frosta herself shifts from super-mature to kid heroine. None of the others really grow … and Swift Wind is a joke that’s no longer funny. 

First prize for funniest episode probably goes to Roll With It, which is based around the premise of the main characters trying to plot out an attack on an enemy fortress.  Adora’s planning session promptly degrades into an RPG game, with imagine-spots of various versions of the characters; Glimmer portrays herself as a super-spy, Bow envisages the main cast as their 80s incarnations, etc.  What sounds like a daft idea actually works quite well, with the cast actually noting the cringe-worthy humour that would otherwise let the story down considerably.  (Bonus points for Adora fretting over how Catra would defend the fortress, only to discover – when the attack is actually launched – that Catra is nowhere near.)

There are also odder moments as the scale continues to veer between relatively small-scale operations and adventures that take place all around the globe.  It’s hard to tell just how quickly the action can move from one place to the other, suggesting the planet is smaller than Earth.  A flicker of reality pops up in one episode, where the Horde is starting to grind to a halt … not because of She-Ra, but because Catra has been neglecting the ‘minor’ logistics issues of running a large army.  It’s odd, though; Shadow Weaver solves Catra’s problem, but surely she should have had a staff?  One logistics officer, no matter how brilliant, could not keep an army running.  Hordak should have a whole army of people dedicated to keeping the Horde functioning.  (Although, that said, it wouldn’t be out of character for Shadow Weaver to keep all the power in her hands.)

Overall, the second season is something of a mixed bag.  Individually, most of the episodes are great (particularly if you tune out the digressions from the main plot.)  Collectively, however, the season doesn’t have the punch of the first season.  The increased focus on characters weakens the series and, while it does have some nice moments, it makes it harder to enjoy the action.  YMMV, of course.

4 Responses to “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season Two”

  1. Daniel August 29, 2019 at 9:23 pm #

    Third season works a lot better. Still has its weak spots and it’s highs. We really get a better look at Hordak and what’s going on with him in season 3

  2. Hanno Frerichs August 30, 2019 at 8:55 pm #

    I watched She-Ra as a kid, And also a bit of the new show the first season a bit after your review of it.
    Personally I think the show aged well but now I’m kinda out of the target demographic and it shows. And even when the show still works, I sometimes think that some newer shows or comics that are original and meant for this age feel actually a bit better.

    Personally I think that the overall series plot for such series is while not unimportant of only secondary importance when compared to the episodes.As most people get exposed to them over TV and watch only a single episode their, and hardly binge watch it.
    But I think that few shows such as these that are made often for free TV, and the like .

    On a second note I recently watched “the boys”,and it had a good number of similarities to your own superhero book (also it was really good if dark.)

  3. George Phillies August 31, 2019 at 5:27 am #

    Certainyl a novel choice for a review.

  4. kell September 6, 2019 at 9:31 pm #

    You should defiantly review the third season. Although shorter the plot really moves and hordak finally gets development.

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