She-Ra and the Princesses of Power proved in its first season that reinvention can lead to some pretty marvelous deeds. While there were some pacing issues, the charming cast of characters more than made up for them.
With its second season, She-Ra brings that same boundless energy and those easy friendship fueled moments between the cast. It also, however, lacks a bit of a direction. The 13-episode first season had a complete story. The path from Point A to B was easily followed and there was a logical story progression. Season two, however, feels half complete. This could be due to a reduced episode count, seven episodes. It feels like just as the plot was really getting into gear, then it was over.
That’s not to say the seven episodes aren’t good. Noelle Stevenson and her writing staff have grown comfortable with these updated versions of the characters. Season two does a lot of excellent character work. Adora (Aimee Carrero) struggles with the responsibility of being a hero while feeling the taint of her predecessor on the She-Ra legacy. She puts the pressure on herself to be better, very much like many of us do. It snaps during one of the best episodes of the second season, “Roll With It” (a D&D inspired romp that casts Adora as a very exasperated gamemaster of sorts).
The other members of the Best Friend Squad, Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) and Bow (Marcus Scribner), are also as excellent as ever. Some of the funniest and sweetest moments are when Glimmer, Bow, and Adora are together. Doubly perfect if they’re joined by Adora’s magic horse, Swift Wind (Adam Ray), who gets a larger and more fun role in season two.
While Glimmer’s character arc was more focused in season one, we get an episode focusing on Bow’s backstory, the finale “Reunion”. It also introduces us to his dads, who want him to take over the family business. It’s a great ride, sweet LGBT representation, and gives the consistently amazing Scribner some of his best work of the series.
With the Evil Horde, we get the relentlessly determined Catra (AJ Michalka) attempting to remain in Lord Hordak’s (Keston John) good graces after her successes in season one. Catra continues to be an excellent foil and foe to Adora along with having some truly excellent plans of her own. When Carrero and Michalka share screentime together, it’s still as electrifying to watch as ever. It remains the show’s secret weapon, which is a shame (and a little frustrating) that they don’t share much screentime during season two.
Though making up for the lack of Catra and Adora moments is Scorpia (Lauren Ash), who has grown into an amazing character. She wants to be Catra’s brand new best friend, acting like a schoolgirl with a crush. Even though she works for the Horde, Scorpia is just a bright ball of a sunshine. Ash’s performance never loses that sunniness, even when things seem to be at their most bleak. Plus how she cares for Catra, even though she is rebuffed? It just shows a deeply caring heart. She exemplifies the excellent lengths Stevenson and her team went to show that the people on opposite sides of the conflict are just that: people.
But talking of the Horde brings us back to season one standout with Shadow Weaver (Lorrain Toussaint), who gets her own origin episode in “Light Spinner”. It’s hard to describe what is so drawing about Toussaint’s performance, though it probably goes into the complexity of Shadow Weaver’s character and her lovely voice. There’s something so… tempting about it. Like you can see how, even without magic, she manipulates people to her whim, her quest for power. Shadow Weaver is as close to unequivocally “bad” as someone can get on this series. She’s abusive, manipulative, craves power and acclaim. She wants to be, well, adored. And it’s in that twisted pride that continually leads to her own downfall time and again.
There are ambitious ideas in this season, which is rooted in character. Screenwriting professors tell you that, yes, plot is important, but character is where you need to thrive. With the Alliance of the Horde, we’re in no supply of unique, interesting characters who always have something going on underneath. She-Ra should be a study in how to do characters well. The show’s strength, its characters, only grow stronger in season two.
So the second season has a meandering plot, we can deal with that. Honestly, this show could just be about the characters hanging out and talking about life, the universe, and everything. So long as the characters are written this well? We find that we don’t care much at all.
Season Two Grade: B
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