Home Entertainment Cartoons REVIEW: SHE-RA S4 stirs up new character dynamics & some serious angst

REVIEW: SHE-RA S4 stirs up new character dynamics & some serious angst

This season completely recalibrates Etheria


Get the tissues ready, everyone. Following the devastating conclusion to the last season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, S4 presents an all-new Etheria, where power dynamics have completely shifted and nothing will ever be the same. As promised by showrunner Noelle Stevenson, there’s more conflict this season than ever before, and the characters have to take on new challenges while also adjusting to new roles that will test them in ways no one could have predicted.

As Queen Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) attempts to adapt to her new role and a life without her mom, Catra (AJ Michalka) and Hordak (Keston John) continue to relentlessly pursue their goal of conquering Etheria. Meanwhile, the looming threat of Horde Prime casts a long and frightening shadow over this ongoing war, and no one quite seems to know what will happen when he inevitably arrives.

From She-Ra S4E1, “The Coronation.” Photo: Netflix.

She-Ra S4 is the longest season since the series’ 2018 debut, with a tightly composed 13 episodes that completely recalibrate the story so far. Glimmer and Catra have both risen to power, which of course creates new dynamics in their respective relationships, including with each other. While Adora (Aimee Carrero) is still a central point in both of their lives, her role as She-Ra drastically affects how they each cope with their newfound levels of power; it also, of course, affects how Adora herself grapples with what’s to come, especially as she continues to uncover the truth of her history, Mara, She-Ra, the First Ones, and Etheria itself.

Absolutely nothing this season is easy. Friendships are tested, loyalty is called into question, and the concepts of good and evil are turned upside-down and inside-out. The scope of the plot is also expanded, as we learn more about the broader universe. There are so many moments this season that feel like an electric shock right to the heart, from deeply emotional beats involving fan-favorite characters to intense, plot-driven moments that quite literally change everything.

From She-Ra S4E4, “Pulse.” Photo: Netflix.

Much of that comes from the number of characters whose impact this season can only be understood through watching the episodes unfold. In addition to highly anticipated new characters, including non-binary, shapeshifting spy Double Trouble (Jacob Tobia), we also see old favorites return, like Netossa (Krystal Joy Brown) and Spinnerella (Diane Pershing). There are some truly unexpected encounters that will surely inspire strong emotions among the fandom, whether they be good, bad, or ugly.

It’s all hands on deck for the growing war with the Horde, although there are plenty of fun moments: a lads’ night out with Bow (Marcus Scribner), Sea Hawk (Jordan Fisher), and Swift Wind (Adam Ray) quickly goes awry, and mystery-solving with Mermista (Vella Lovell) reveals clever character details. This is still She-Ra, after all, and the characters are as likely to get caught up in a tabletop roleplay game while strategizing as they are to jump into battle without a plan and suffer severe consequences for their recklessness. That’s what makes this show flow so beautifully, and it hasn’t lost any of that spark — even as the writers pile on the angst.

From She-Ra S4E4, “Pulse.” Photo: Netflix.

I am very, very serious about having tissues on hand for this season. Dramatic irony aside, characters go through such intense emotional upheaval in S4 that even in moments where we know there’s been a misunderstanding or similar, it’s impossible not to feel for them. In the first episode alone, I found myself reaching for the Kleenex at least three times. Later in the season, I had to pause and regroup before I could keep watching. Maybe that’s because I’ve grown so deeply attached to these characters, or maybe it’s because the writing and animation are simply that evocative; my best guess is that it’s a strong combination of the two.

And that ending? Whew. Season 5 can’t come soon enough.

As She-Ra and the Princesses of Power continues, it will be both everything and nothing like the series fans have come to know and love over the course of the last year. Stevenson and the writing team have been planting seeds since the pilot that are now beginning to sprout and grow, but not in predictable ways. She-Ra S4 is a heart-stopping thrill ride that forces readers to reconsider biases and examine the core of the show — friendship — through new eyes.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power returns to Netflix Tuesday, Nov. 5. For updates on the series, follow @DreamWorksSheRa on Twitter.

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