She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has consistently been one of the most enjoyable animated series currently being produced, melding strong character work with a colorful and epic fantasy world. That's why it's so impressive just how much Season 4 improves on everything that came before it. The new episodes ratchet up the epic scale of the universe while zeroing in on and adding new complexities to the main cast.
Following the events of the previous season, the Princess-led rebellion is in dire straits. Glimmer has been forced to step into the role her mother once filled and become Queen of Bright Moon. Tensions grow between her and Adora, who spends much of the season fighting an increasingly losing battle against the forces of the Horde. Adding fuel to the fire is the presence of Shadow-Weaver in Bright Moon, especially when Adora finds out her former mother figure has been mentoring Glimmer in the use of her magic. Exasperating things even further are Catra and Hordak, who recruit a shapeshifter known as Double Trouble to infiltrate the kingdom and spread more seeds of discord.
On a whole, the new season is far more dramatic than the previous three batches of episodes. The various setbacks suffered by the Princesses force them to consider questions about ethics in wartime and their own trust in each other over their capabilities. The cast adjusts well to the more complex material, and the animation remains as strong as ever. This is a darker season and there are some changes to the looks of certain characters and settings to reflect that, but overall, the show maintains its bright and distinctive color palette. The action also flows better, particularly a mid-season fight that may be among the best animated action sequences in the entire show.
She-Ra use the discord between the main characters to set up a version of the "but friendship comes through in the end!" cliche. But the season continues to introduce interesting wrinkles and twists to the disputes between the leads, keeping it believable and heartbreaking by refusing to let things be fixed that easily. It works very well as a strong, overarching season-long story, refusing to go for empty platitudes and instead showcasing an achingly real friendship starting to fall apart.
Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara and Marcus Scribner all do incredibly well with the material, as does the rest of the cast. But the main trio really gets a lot of good material to play off each other in compelling new ways thanks to scripts that aren't willing to pull punches when it comes to tough situations.
The villains are just as much of a draw in She-Ra as the heroes, although Catra in particular isn't given much to do this season. Having transitioned into a leadership position alongside Hordak, Catra spends less time in the field than in previous seasons. Instead, her story focuses on her deteriorating mental state, especially as Scorpia's attempts at friendship finally reach a breaking point.
It's a compelling place to take Catra, pushing her to the edge of sanity. It just means her story doesn't advance nearly as much as other characters, like Scorpia. The lovable Horde captain has been quietly one of the show's MVP's since she was introduced, and the newest season sees Scorpia taking center stage for a year-long quest for self-discovery that is the right amount of both tragic and triumphant.
Joining the cast (and acquainting themselves well) is Jacob Tobia as Double Trouble. The non-binary spy is a campy delight, with Tobia playing the character up as a particularly melodramatic but intimidating theater kid.
Double Trouble steals every scene they're in with a mix of confidence and charm, introducing shades of grey to a year that features more than its fair share of tricky questions and moral quandaries. Questions about the past and the future are brought up (with a season-best episode teasing out the mystery of what happened to Mara, the first She-Ra) and, if not completely answered, then at least teased out into more impressive material for down the line.
The season ends on a major plot shift, transitioning the direction of the show in a way that should immensely excite fans. It helps that the season goes out on a high-note that radically changes the universe and many of the characters in it as well as teasing a potentially perfect team-up for next season.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has found its stride in its fourth season, improving from a genuinely good series into a truly impressive animated epic. If it can stick the landing in the upcoming seasons, then it might even go down as one of the all-time greats. As it stands now, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is better than ever and has become the most bingeable show on Netflix in ages.
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. Season 4 debuts on Nov. 5.
KEEP READING: NYCC: She-Ra Panel Teases What's To Come In Season 4