She-Ra: In Defense of Entrapta

She-Ra Season 5 finally gives Entrapta the space as a character to grow.

Entrapta on Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Photo: Netflix/Dreamworks Animation

This article contains She-Ra season 5 spoilers. We have a spoiler free review here.

Science above all. In fantasy/science fiction stories, this philosophy tends to be the domain of evil masterminds, people who don’t understand or don’t care about the people who might be hurt when dangerous experiments go wrong. She-Ra’s “geek princess” Entrapta embraces this trope at times, joining the evil Horde out of curiosity more than malice, but also has an important role to play in the show’s emphasis on friendship and connection. Strong storytelling in She-Ra Season 5 shows how her enthusiasm and ambition are both her strengths and her weaknesses. 

Here are the keys to Entrapta’s character and how she changes in She-Ra Season 5…

First, some background information. Throughout season four, the tech geek Entrapta lives among ancient ruins on Beast Island. Her main conflict in this season was between her isolation and obsession and her desire to re-join her friends. Her interest in the island was as much about forcing herself into unhappy isolation as it was about her fascination with science: she misses people and says she’s afraid her friends will inevitably abandon her. Beast Island itself also exerts a magical brainwashing influence that increases Entrapta’s desire to live alone. While it’s fun to imagine her living as an eccentric hermit, the story insists she’s not truly happy in that role.

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In retrospect, this looks like foreshadowing. Season five features a major brainwashing plot that also equates a character’s worst impulses with outside influence. Catra is brainwashed by the evil Horde Prime, which similarly illustrates a character’s worst impulses by letting the big bad take control of them. Like Entrapta, Catra tends to isolate when she’s at her worst. If this was a show meant solely for adults, these moments might feel cheap: instead of being driven by their personal obsessions, negative emotions are instead re-assigned to a super-villain. But She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is ultimately for the younger set, and it might help kids to have an example of how to set destructive emotions at a good distance. Both arcs show how people can escape cycles of isolation, whether those are self-inflicted or part of the influence of an evil being, through reaching out to and being honest with loved ones. 

In season five episode two, “Launch,” Entrapta’s conflict with other princesses comes to a boiling point. She puts other people in danger while trying to find a signal that will disable Horde Prime’s forces. The scene shows she’s clearly in the wrong: her actions are extremely, comically risky and don’t take her friends’ feelings and concerns into account. She wants to win the battle for the good guys, but it’s also clear how disruptive her behavior is, how she doesn’t listen to other people. She wants to win no matter the cost, and, as we’ve seen previously, the really important part for her here is that she wants to learn no matter the cost. She could have reached a point of no return here, where her friends abandoned her because she was going farther than they could follow. Instead, the episode gets to the emotional heart of her motivation. 

Specifically, Mermista accuses Entrapta of not caring about any of her friends, and not being trustworthy because of it. Entrapta reveals she didn’t realize they were mad. “I’m not good at people, but I am good at tech,” she says. “I thought maybe if I could use tech to help you, you’d like me. But I messed that up, too.” She retreats into apologizing, a defense mechanism disguised as acquiescence. Entrapta thinks apologizing enough will clear the slate, but it won’t. Instead, she needs to articulate her feelings again. Mermista is finally convinced when Entrapta says “Glimmer needs us!” and shows that she is willing to throw herself into danger as much as she is anyone else.  

There isn’t really a material change here. Entrapta’s action (charging toward the Horde tower) is still the same, as is her tendency to drive people away from her. But what changes is she demonstrates the capacity to explain why and how she feels and acts the way she does. It’s also important that she has friends who will prioritize protecting her from their common enemy. 

Being the “geek princess” isn’t just about Entrapta’s interests: it’s also about her misunderstandings. She has trouble reading people, and that isn’t magically cured throughout this season. It’s okay that her flaws are still a part of her. At the same time, knowing why she does things may not make them less annoying. As an adult viewer who values change and growth, and a fan of shows for children that encourage being true to one’s own beliefs and behaviors, I think Entrapta lives in a pleasantly complicated middle ground. 

On one hand, it would have been nice to see Entrapta really feel the consequences of her dangerous actions. If she committed to science above all else, like she almost did in season four, the decision would be heart-wrenching but true to her character. In a show all about friendship, there would have been something nuanced in showing a well-intentioned person who actually doesn’t value other people above all. Where, Entrapta’s story asks, is the line between independence and coldness? Between following your interests and following your heart? But that also would have been a cold move in a show all about light. Entrapta doesn’t just care about science: she just knows how to show that care the best. Turning her into a character who values science above all would have undermined the show’s emotional heart, something season five clearly didn’t want to do. So, as much as I’m daydreaming about an Entrapta who happily works on projects on Beast Island forever, it’s sweeter to see her pursue science and friendship. She needs to in order to grow. 

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Let’s face it, Entrapta can be annoying. But She-Ra and the Princesses of Power showcases a wide variety of female characters, and she’s an important component. The “amoral scientist” trope isn’t portrayed by a woman nearly often enough. She ends the season surrounded by friends, including Wrong Hordak, a mix of friend and science experiment if there ever was one. Entrapta learns not to let her loner tendencies turn into complete isolation, but nor does she have to completely change who she is.