Like its previous season, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3 is short, this time with only six episodes. Netflix and DreamWorks must be taking that entertainment adage of leaving audiences wanting more seriously, because these seasons are never long enough. Whereas Season 1 established the core characters and the conflict between the Rebellion and the Horde, and Season 2 fleshed out more of the characters, Season 3 expands the universe as we know it.
We’ve seen the dangers of what could happen when a project tries to expand too quickly. Without the proper investment in the characters, viewers won’t care whether the bigger picture becomes more interesting. However, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’s creative team timed the growth just right. While there's definitely less time with the princesses as a squad, the new episodes are still strong, because the creators focus on the growth of the characters and the universe they inhabit.
It’s been difficult for Adora to take the mantle of She-Ra, and her struggle with becoming the perfect hero is one of the through lines of the new season. It requires her to confront the two most significant people in her life growing up: Shadow Weaver and Catra.
Last time we saw Shadow Weaver in Season 2, she was looming over a sleeping Adora, so it’s not a spoiler to say they’re going to talk. Shadow Weaver could either be remorseful or vengeful toward Adora; her intentions are always surprising and complex.
It’s easy to paint Shadow Weaver as one of the villains of the series. After all, she wasn’t a great parent figure to Adora and Catra (especially Catra), and we saw the ramifications of that in the previous seasons. Shadow Weaver has unfairly favored Adora for their entire lives, and that’s has to be difficult to deal with without access to a therapist.
Adora finally gets her moment with Shadow Weaver, and with it comes a deluge of new information. It’s enough to affect Adora’s sense of self and belonging. It also serves as the expansion of the series’ universe. Adora is irrevocably tied to what exists outside of Etheria, and because the viewer has spent so much time with her journey, it keeps us interested in the broader picture.
Adora was constantly worried about being perfect in the Season 2, and at some point in Season 3, Catra gives her an opportunity to explore a “perfect world” — perfect according to Catra, anyway. However, this is both fleeting and unstable, and Adora and Catra once again confront each other about what is the right thing to do. One of the issues that’s been holding Adora back from being a fully realized She-Ra is her guilt over leaving Catra.
On the other hand, viewers have cared for Catra, though she plays a “villain-lite” role on the show, because she’s obviously suffered so much. She’s lost her best friend, who was her sole emotional support system, and she’s been demoted in a job to which she’s dedicated her entire life. Despite being on the wrong side of the fight, Catra is a sympathetic character and so dang likable; her “Hey, Adora” line kills every single time. One of the keys to keeping viewers engaged in a story is to make the villains just as human as their heroes. That doesn’t only apply to Catra, but also to the overarching villain, Lord Hordak.
In Season 3, we're no longer limited to Etheria, as details emerge about Hordak’s backstory and his ultimate plan. It's a great move on the part of the creative team, because limiting the action toEtheria would’ve gotten stale. The stakes needed to keep rising in Season 3, and the writers have done just that.
But the genius part of this expansion is how they have tied that expansion to the growth of the characters. As Entrapta and Hordak spend more time together, viewers begin to understand why he is so intent on opening a portal. Hero or villain, it seems like everyone is trying to prove themselves. It’s just a matter of method and perspective that deems them a good person or a bad person. Had Hordak’s backstory been applied to a princess, it would be just as easy to see him as the hero of this story.
The only problem She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has is we’ve started caring about every single character. Even Kyle. While getting answers to pressing questions set up in the previous season is great, viewers will also want more time with the other princesses and more shanties from Sea Hawk (who, regrettably, is not in Season 3).
Streaming now on Netflix, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3 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.