She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Review (Spoiler-Free)
Netflix's new She-Ra series is one you wished you had as a kid. It's empowering, inclusive, and a delight.
I am both happy She-Ra and the Princesses of Power exists and deeply jealous I didn’t have it as a kid. Not just because it’s a delightful show from start to finish, bright, cheerful, deep, and bold, but also because it’s mere existence would have made the world around me a much better place.
What struck me most in watching the series is just how different it is from anything else on TV. The sheer amount of women on screen and how different they all are shouldn’t feel so unique but it is. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially watching so many action adventure series that might only have one or two women in a cast of mostly guys. Here that is switched, with the guys being the side characters and all the women taking charge.
It gives the series a fresh perspective and a different feel. It’s not that nothing like this has been done before (Sailor Moon and the original She-Ra before it set the standard for women being amazing in action animation) but it’s the way it’s done. You can feel the excitement of every person working on this show that they’re doing something special. That they’re getting the chance to create something that’s been all too rare in television.
Right from the jump She-Ra and the Princesses of Power sheds anything that held the original series back. It’s serialized. Its characters have a ton of depth. The animation is gorgeous. It’s incredibly inclusive. It ditches any connection to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe franchise and stands on its own (though there are enough easter eggs to send hardcore fans into a frenzy). She-Ra is a character that doesn’t need to be the twin sister of He-Man, she’s powerful in her own right.
It’s the strength of Adora, the characters around her, and their relationships that make this series shine. The most important of these being the slowly fracturing friendship between Adora and Catra. The two start as best friends working for the Horde but when Adora discovers the horrors they’ve caused, she decides to join the rebellion.
This angers Catra and much of the arc of the first season is devoted to the back and forth between these two. Adora desperately tries to get Catra to come to her senses while Catra can’t understand why her best friend would leave her. It’s gripping stuff and forms the backbone of the season’s best episodes.
The series puts an incredible emphasis on the powerful emotions that come with deep friendship. Where other series might default to love stories to mine these depths of feelings, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is keenly aware the pain of losing your best friend can hurt even more than a breakup.
further reading: What to Expect from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
It also celebrates friendship as well, with the main trio of Adora, Glimmer, and Bow a main focus of the season. How these three come together and learn to love each other is what gives them more power than any magic sword.
The season’s main plot arc is our trio trying to rebuild the Princess Alliance, a once great group of magical women who kept Etheria safe. These journeys not only gives the series a chance to do some excellent world building but also introduce its colorful extended cast. Each of the characters you’ll meet throughout these episodes is incredibly diverse both in appearance and personality. You’ll love them all, I promise.
The series does take a little time to get going and a few character introductions are done quicker than I would have liked, but by the second half of the season the story really starts to get gripping. The world of Etheria comes into sharp focus and you see just how wide and open the universe of She-Ra can be.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power easily steps out of the pop culture shadow of not only the original She-Ra but He-Man as well. This isn’t a series that’s stuck in the past, trying to recapture that franchise’s old glory. It’s taking the building blocks of OG She-Ra and making it something fresh and new for the audiences of today.
It’s an empowering and affirming series not just for girls but anyone who watches, young or old. It shows girls and women they can be and look like whatever they want and still be strong. It shows boys and men the amazing things women can be and that they can be along for the ride. It shows everyone you don’t have to fit into societal norms. You can dress how you want, act how you want, and be with whomever you want. For that alone, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is going to change a lot of lives for the better.
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter! Read more articles by him here!