Warning: The following contains spoilers for the fourth season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, now streaming on Netflix
The newest season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power pushes the show's characters in darker directions than they've ever gone before. Both the heroes and the villains are forced to confront changing power structures and internal dramas.
CBR spoke with series creator Noelle Stevenson about the surprisingly dark development that Glimmer, Catra and Scorpia go through during the show's fourth season.
In She-Ra's earlier seasons Glimmer was somewhat defined by her sparkly powers. However, that wasn't all there was to the young woman. She's the heir to a kingdom that's been at war for decades. She lost her father to this conflict, and at the end of the third season, she also lost her mother. Now the Queen of Bright Moon, she's forced to make more difficult decisions in the name of winning the war to protect her home.
For Stevenson, though, the character's new circumstances didn't come as a surprise, and neither did her ability to make hard calls. "This is something I wanted to do to the characters from the very beginning. Glimmer is a character I've always been fascinated by. I think the fandom has been treating her [lightly], which has been interesting. People have been like 'Glimmer is so pure, she's so nice, she's so soft.' But Glimmer has always been, in this show, a bit more intense than Adora or Bow. She doesn't have the same constraints of what is honorable and what is morally pure as Bow and Adora do, or even her own mother.
"We've seen her in past seasons go a little too far, want to use a little more force than Bow and Adora. I think she's always had this anger in her heart. But she's so cute and pink and sparkly and adorable, I think...people didn't picked up on it. But it's something we have been building up on."
Stevenson was quick to defend the character, though, arguing, "Glimmer is a good person. She wants to protect people, she wants to help people. After losing her mother she doesn't want to lose anyone else. But that's tough, especially when the Horde is fighting dirty. So we see that frustration. And Glimmer has employed dirty tactics in the past, especially when it comes to Catra, who just gets under her skin every time they come head to head.
"Glimmer just wants to cut loose and use all the power she has and finish off the Horde for good. And honestly, she gets so close to doing so. She really takes an approach that is pretty dark, one that's a lot darker than Bow and Adora are willing to do, and I think that's at the heart of their conflict. I think she's a character that's always sort of been fighting with that darkness in her herself, and this is the season where that really comes to the forefront."
As Stevenson said, Glimmer and Catra have developed a particularly deep dislike for each other. "They hate each other," Stevenson explained, "but I think part of the reason they hate each other is because they see so much of themselves in each other. They're actually really similar, it's just that they're on opposite sides.
"Where Glimmer is this bubble gum exterior with a dark center, Catra is this dark exterior with a bleeding heart inside. We really see this season, especially because they're at each other's throats the whole time, by the end they kind of recognize themselves in each other. They see their own broken hearts in one another. I'm very excited for people to see where we go with everything but that especially."
While Glimmer's arc pushes her into desperation, Catra spends the season in her most powerful state, leading the Horde alongside Hordak. But that doesn't mean she has an easy time. However, her conflict is more internal. "I think Catra is, she has been teetering on the edge of light and dark a lot more in previous seasons. But after the events of last season where she messed up, and she knows it, we're seeing her wrestle with that guilt, but also trying to obliterate that guilt. I think that's why she's so cruel to Scorpia this season. Because Scorpia, she looks at Scorpia and sees this terrible thing she did."
This fuels not just her interior conflicts but also plays into her relationship with Scorpia. "I think Catra is trying to crush her feelings," Stevenson explained, "trying to push them away and not deal with them and just be the biggest bad guy and getting to the top. Surely ruling Etheria will get [her] everything she wants. The respect she wants and even the love she wants and everything will be okay.
"As the season wears on... Scorpia tries so hard. But Adora had tried for so long. To pull [Catra] back from that edge and put her on the right path... she's someone everyone feels sympathy for. But Catra's not a character anyone can fix her problems for her. It has to be her. To make any progress at all, it's what she thinks she wants."
Reflecting on just how close she comes to victory over the season, Stevenson said, "She gets so close to it this season, only to find that it is ultimately unfulfilling. It's not what she thought it would be and it doesn't make her happy."
Following a massive falling out with Hordak, Catra learns that the closest thing she had to a friend the entire season, Double Trouble, betrays her for the Princess Rebellion. "Where it goes from here remains to be seen, but I think Double Trouble is the finishing move in that downward spiral of this facade that Catra had constructed of being this big bad villain and showing that, deep down beneath it all, she's still this sad little kid.
"I think this season is more of a downward spiral for her then we've ever seen before. But this is a character who is very close to my heart because there have been times in my life where I'm not handling things very well and lashing out at people. I think it's important for kids to see that you can mess up and make these mistakes and it's not the end. You still have a responsibility to try and make things better. I don't know how easy it'll be for Catra to get on that path, but it's not over for her. This season is the bottom of that spiral."
Meanwhile, the season changes things radically for Scorpia. Realizing that she can't save Catra from herself, Scorpia also ends up heading off to join the Princess Rebellion. "Scorpia is a character who's always found her worth in what she can give to other people," Stevenson revealed, "how well she can take care of other people, and she really latched onto Catra with that. She has this outlook that was like, 'Catra just needs support and a friend and I can wrap her in a blanket and take all the pain away and it'll be okay.' And that's not what happens. So she becomes the biggest target for Catra when she lashes out.
"I don't know if Scorpia has ever, she has to learn how to find worth in herself and outside of how useful she can be to other people. The moment of her very gently but very firmly saying 'you're a bad friend,' that's her turning point, that's her moment of standing up for herself and setting off to find her own path. I think her path is about accepting herself and loving herself, and that she can accept just as much love as she can give.
"Seeing that she fits in with the other princesses so much better than she expected... I'm so proud of her. It's hard stepping away from being this character who's trying to do good but ends up enabling bad behavior, setting out on a journey of self-discovery and finding out who you were. And sometimes it can feel selfish... but it's something you have to do for you and for the person that is on a self-destructive path."
Streaming now 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, Krystal Joy Brown and Jacob Tobia.
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