WARNING: The following contains spoilers for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3, streaming now on Netflix.
One of the most compelling aspects of Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is the empathetic villains. Catra is among the more complex members of the cast, while Entrapta and Scorpia are lovably desperate but determined to help. Hordak has proved to be a more nuanced antagonist than one would expect from his earlier appearances.
Executive producer Noelle Stevenson spoke with CBR about Season 3, and how the new settings and relationships help to flesh out the villains and make them nearly as sympathetic as the heroes.
Much of the season takes place in the Red Waste, a dark desert that pulls the characters out of their element and gradually reveals who they are.
"Yeah, I think the desert serves a couple of purposes," Stevenson said. "Not only are we bringing our heroes there, we’re bringing our villains there. It’s so inhospitable and so wild and desolate that it strips away all the trappings of who our heroes are. Adora is so defined by the rebellion and Bright Moon, by Glimmer and Angella and Light Hope. Catra is so defined by the Fright Zone and Hordak and Shadow-Weaver and her mission, and sending them to the Crimson Waste strips all of that away. For Catra, it becomes about survival. And for Adora, she has to go to this really inhospitable place to find answers about herself and where she came from. So I think it gave us the chance to really dive deeply into these characters when they’re not on this controlled ground.
"What does it mean for them, when their paths cross again?" she continued. "What choices are they going to make when they’re not on their home turf, where they’re less comfortable and less supported in. This desert contains secrets, it contains buried messages … why is the Crimson Waste so dead? What happened here? How did the ship end up here? I think that’s why it’s a place with so many buried secrets, that’s the other advantage it gives us. It gives us another chance to uncover more about that lore."
One of the most surprising aspects of the season is the friendship that grows between Hordak and Entrapta.
“I think it’s so great," Stevenson said, "because when we set Hordak up in the first seasons, he’s kind of … if Shadow-Weaver is our Darth Vader, he’s the Emperor. He’s always lurking in the shadows; he’s pure fear. He has so much power over everyone else while he’s just, he has all of these vulnerabilities as well. What we find about him this season is that he’s dealing with his own insecurities. He’s not this, above it all tyrant that we thought he was.
"He’s struggling to exert his own independence, his own destiny. That’s something I think, it’s really interesting for him and Entrapta to see themselves in one another. Entrapta is someone who has a special interest, who feels she’s been abandoned by the other princesses, that they don’t understand her, that they don’t like her. And here’s this person who shares this special interest. Not only that, he’s empathetic with her feelings. There two people who surprisingly strike up this friendship. They have this bond between them that the viewers definitely don’t expect.
"It brings empathy to Hordak that we definitely don’t expect. There’s more to him. There’s more to where he came from. He’s not the one calling the shots, even though he’s trying to be on Etheria. There’s someone worse than him. Even on this show, even with our biggest villain, we want to be chipping away at that."
While Entrapta finds a surprisingly easy friendship, her fellow Horde member Scorpia has a tougher time of it this season in her attempts to befriend Catra.
“Scorpia is someone who never made a choice to be a part of the Horde. But she’s there," Stevenson said. "And she wants to be your best friend. She’s so loyal, she’s so loyal to Entrapta and she’s especially loyal to Catra. She’s someone who also never really felt like she fit.
"But she has so much love to give, and she sees Catra as this person who’s just hurting. Someone who’s closed herself off and she thinks she can save Catra, she can fix Catra. And if she gives Catra that love, eventually Catra will be able to become someone capable of returning that love back. But as we see, Catra is so much farther gone than I think Scorpia is willing to admit. Sometimes you care as much as you hope you can and you give as many chances as you can to someone, but sometimes they’re just not good for you.
"I think Scorpia is starting to figure out how… she gives Catra a way out, and I think that’s the first time Catra really has a way out. That someone is like ‘yo, you don’t have to do this, why don’t you choose happiness?’ And for the first time, Catra doesn’t have a retort, because she’s right. But Catra can’t do it. She just can’t choose happiness for herself, and that’s all Scorpia wants. Scorpia has so much more character development to come, she’s someone who has always defined herself as being helpful to other people as this caretaker. What I think she really needs to learn is how to make herself happy. What does she want to be. Right now, Catra isn’t able to make that same decision."
Now streaming on Netflix, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power stars Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, AJ Michalka, Marcus Scribner, Reshma Shetty, Lorraine Toussaint, Keston John, Lauren Ash, Christine Woods, Genesis Rodriguez, Jordan Fisher, Vella Lovell, Merit Leighton, Sandra Oh and Krystal Joy Brown.