Quotorium Reviews: She-Ra S5

After being on board with She-Ra’s 2018 reboot from the beginning and writing about it this blog a few times, I’m excited to review the final installment in this show that packs a sparkly punch! I’ll discuss a lot of spoilers here since this is the show’s final installment, so be warned.

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Horde Prime uses his hive mind network of clones and bots to invade Etheria.

S5 picks up a short time after the game-changing final episode of S4, with Horde Prime taking over as the big bad in the series and kidnapping Glimmer while Catra tries to sneak her way up the Horde’s ranks. On Etheria, Adora’s link to She-Ra was fractured after breaking her sword in S4, making the rebellion’s fight against the Horde impossible to win. From here, characters break off and converge to regain control of Etheria and discovering new worrying truths about its Heart. S5 delivers on a lot of its earlier beats, but tends to get weighed down in the sudden introduction of new threats.

Resolving Dynamics

Every time I write about She-Ra I always bring up how central its character dynamics are. This review is no different, and here is where we really see the fruit of the past 4 seasons! There are so many dynamics at play here that it would be too much to write, so I’ll be as concise as possible. She-Ra has this ability to mix and match characters and create endlessly entertaining and revealing stories with them. Even characters like Frosta and Swift Wind (who get the least development overall) contribute to the dynamics of any team they’re put into.

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Catra, Adora, and Shadow Weaver have baggage that leads to distrust despite them all being on the same side.

S4 left many dynamics fractured by betrayals and uprootings, so it follows that S5 would make good on these and properly resolve hard feelings. Glimmer’s actions in S4 stand out in particular here, though of course, every single character had new circumstances and old wounds to adjust to. Horde Prime was S5’s main villain after S4 kicked out Catra and Hordak, leaving them without clear roles after theirs were ripped out from under their feet. Catra, Hordak, and Shadow Weaver in particular were handled brilliantly, leaving nuance in their relationships with the rebellion and with each other. This wiggle room allowed the characters to resolve tensions even when they are all working towards the same goal, and gives us breathing room to see their stories properly conclude.

A Love Letter to Entrapta ❤

Entrapta is the unsung hero of She-Ra. 90% of the show’s story beats wouldn’t work without her. I remember having a moment in S4 where I realized that the entire plot hinged on Entrapta, and I was stunned! As a secondary character, Entrapta was introduced as part of the Princess Alliance entourage, but her unwavering loyalty to tech meant that her loyalty to people was less clear cut. Entrapta spent a significant amount of time in the Fright Zone without ever being a villain, and even influenced change in the Horde without realizing it. Her rise to importance came way out of left field, and it was so welcome.

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Entrapta’s love of tech finally works alongside saving her friends in S5.

Entrapta’s mannerisms, her skill set, and her curiosity make her very entertaining to watch, but also make her valuable to whichever side she’s on. Plot points often required finding Entrapta and getting her to come up with a solution. Not only is Entrapta the linchpin of most plot points, she’s also an emotional touchstone for key antagonists like Hordak and Catra, which complicates how both sides relate to each other. All this is to say that even in S5, Entrapta links the Horde to Etheria, similar to Adora. She wants to go to space, she cracks the mind control chip code, she searches for Hordak, and she has emotional growth all the while. For her importance to be on par with She-Ra, her character needs a little shout out!

Ships and Payoff

She-Ra had a mix of subtle and overt ships, and most of them end up happening, which surprised me. It tied arcs off well and emphasized the Etherian strengths of love and magic. There were a ton of confessions and exchanges in S5, including but not limited to: Catra x Adora, Bow x Glimmer, Seahawk x Mermista, Entrapta x Hordak, Kyle x Rogelio, the list goes on. Ships ranged from fan musings to completely obvious. Catra x Adora in particular was the star of the show, turning Catra from a scorned ex-friend into a mellowed and redeemed loyal partner that her character desperately needed following her callout with Double Trouble in S4. Adora and Catra’s stories were always intertwined, intimately tying Catra’s redemption to Adora’s triumph over the Horde as She-Ra.

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Catra’s confession leads to Adora saving the day with the Heart of Etheria, a heart which works literally and metaphorically.

While part of me felt that not all of the ships needed to be explicit, I also got hit with the realization that these ships happening in the first place was a rare moment where pairings could be graciously paid off without bending over backwards for fans –which is impressive for a show with such intricate dynamics. She-Ra’s ships are largely what make S5 such a refreshing experience in an age rife with baiting and a growing disregard for telling one coherent story. She-Ra understood its core message, getting right down to the Heart of Etheria to reflect the heart of its characters, and this includes endgame relationships. At its heart, She-Ra is about relationships of all kinds, and its strength in the character department gave the show great stuff to work with. It truly feels like the show had an ending.

Stakes and Structure

Up until this point, She-Ra was a pretty self-contained story working through character problems within (literal) closed space. Once the portal opened and Horde Prime was introduced, the world of She-Ra became a much larger can of worms. S5 did a good job establishing the Horde’s impact on other planets, however some parts felt too contrived: the sibling trio that never appears again, Melog (cute as he is), and Double Trouble’s cameo all seemed to be shoehorned in for convenience. The time on Horde Prime’s ship felt too rushed. Glimmer and Catra’s rescue was a large part of that pacing issue, along with Adora’s sudden reactivation of She-Ra (complete with a new sword and outfit!). It felt too touch-and-go for a show that had developed its stakes fairly slowly until now.

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Adora accepts the Heart of Etheria failsafe, set up by Mara in secret.

The Heart of Etheria’s failsafe and Horde Prime’s chip-controlled hive mind worked well together for their challenges to relationships and identity. In order to beat the Horde and the First One’s meddling with Etheria, the cast of She-Ra had to rely on their bonds with each other, which was definitely on-brand for the show. However, I was never convinced of the revelation that Horde Prime’s weakness was magic, and this was doubly odd given the First Ones’ reveal as exploitative in past seasons. It felt like there was still more to learn more about the First Ones and their impact, something I think could have been solved if Horde Prime had been a First One…although I don’t like putting ‘what if’ statements into reviews, S5 really got me thinking about how things could’ve been done differently.

Visuals and Quality

As a final season should, S5 of She-Ra displayed some impressive animation over the course of its many fight sequences, larger settings, and the emphasis on Etheria’s magic. She-Ra’s animation has been scrutinized by many, usually negatively, for being simple or a bit choppy. I’ve defended the animation in the past and this season is no exception. While She-Ra’s animation style doesn’t involve crazy perspectives and camera movements, its flat look was improved through lighting. While the animation quality stayed more or less the same, lighting worked overtime to deliver stunning shots and gorgeous scenery that made me rewatch the season many times to soak it up.

S5 packed some gorgeous shots into its 13 episodes, including this one from the finale.

S5 also surprisingly delivered excellent cinematography. She-Ra isn’t a show that I usually peg as being interesting from a technical standpoint, but there were plenty of moments in this season that used thoughtful shots and editing, which I never thought I’d see. There were many noteworthy uses of match cuts, artistic framing in a shot and camera placement, and some great colour palettes to boot. It gave S5 an iconic quality that signaled the show’s end, and gave me a really hard time choosing screencaps for this review!

Strong and Brave

Watching She-Ra has been an absolute pleasure, and despite all of the controversy it had before it even started airing with its redesigns and themes, it came out on top. Creators are finally recognizing that good stories must not only have endings, but wrap up what was in the show in the first place. It’ll be quite a treat to go back and watch She-Ra from the beginning. S5 felt a little out of place for its sudden changes in the overall villains and its underexplained First Ones lore (especially with Adora’s past), so I hesitate to praise this season in particular. She-Ra’s characters saved the day in most areas where the plot was lacking, which helped the show end on a positive note.

Catra and Adora share a moment in the finale.

She-Ra’s characters and whimsical design are what originally got me hooked, and I’m so glad I stuck around to see the end. The show went in some unexpected, deserved, and gracious directions that fleshed out these “characters that all end in -a” in delightfully human ways. Seeing hurt and triumph through identity in Catra, Adora, Bow, and even the underdogs like Hordak or Perfuma made each episode a goldmine of dialogue and interactions that I’ll continue to rewatch and analyze. Who knows, I might write more about She-Ra in the future!

Thanks so much for everything, Noelle! This show taught so much and I hope that others are as strong and brave with their stories in the future ❤

Feel like going back to the beginning? Read my review of S1 here.

I still don’t really like Glimmer. Here’s a thing I wrote about that.

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