WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the fourth season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, now streaming on Netflix.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has always had a touch of music in it, largely thanks to Sea Hawk. Mermista's love interest is one of the goofier aspects of the show, always bringing the cast into musical numbers whenever he appears on screen -- that and setting ships on fire. His largest appearance in the newly released fourth season of the show sees him trying to bring an element of fun back to the conflicted Rebellion. Along the way, the producers of She-Ra use it as an excuse to create a compelling musical episode that is many ways similar to -- and perhaps even better than -- the gold standard of musical television episodes: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6 episode "Once More with Feeling."
BOYS NIGHT OUT
Divisions amongst the various members of the Princess Alliance grow over the course of the season, particularly between Adora and Glimmer, who are at each other's throats over their tactics and plans in the war against the Horde following the capture of Mermista's kingdom (which has also left Mermista an emotional wreck). Exhausted, Sea Hawk convinces Bow and Swiftwind to go on a "boy's night out" with him. While at a tavern, the already pretty musically minded Sea Hawk leads them into a musical number about friendship.
He also reveals to the pair that to get the princesses working together again, he's arranged for an old friend of his to "kidnap" them. This will force the heroines into action to save them. But when the group is actually kidnapped by pirates with a grudge against Sea Hawk, they find themselves in genuinely dire straits and with no easy way to call for help. It's a purposefully cheesy plot that gets the heroes into more trouble than they were expecting.
Eventually, Mermista is able to get a message from Sea Hawk (thanks to a seagull he spoke with because this series is the best kind of ridiculous) and brings Adora and Glimmer along to rescue them. Mermista is immediately back in the zone, even singing a reprise of Sea Hawk's song from earlier in the episode while she helps bring down a boat full of Horde soldiers. But while the lesson seems to have been learned by most of the group, Adora and Glimmer still don't see eye to eye. The episode ends with the pair refusing to bury the hatchet.
ONCE MORE WITH FEELING
The musical episode of She-Ra is actually not too dissimilar from the themes of "Once More With Feeling," the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The episode approached similar ideas, exploring the fractured relationships of the Scoobies as they tried to wrestle with their own dramas. When a demon named Sweet is summoned to Sunnydale, he causes people to forcibly sing their emotions and innermost thoughts in song and dance numbers. This tends to make tense situations worse, although it does force the characters to actually confront their own hang-ups and concerns. This all builds to a big finale where Buffy reveals her darkest secret at the time (after having been resurrected by her friends, she was actually torn from Heaven instead of Hell).
Like "Boys Night Out," "Once More With Feeling" doesn't necessarily end on a happy note. All the singing and dancing in the world isn't going to be enough to magically make things better. There's still work to be done. Both episodes also confront the lie that can be at the core of putting on a happy face, as the cheery musical numbers end up hinting at the more tragic emotions that are at the core of them. But while Buffy uses the episode to push forward a number of separate plotlines from across the season forward (such as the anxiety in Xander and Anya, as well as the romantic troubles of Willow and Tara,) She-Ra uses the episode in a much more focused manner.
THE FAILURE OF FRIENDSHIP
The thing is, the She-Ra episode might actually be better than the Buffy one. It goes into many of the same ideas, but because of the reduced cast it's better able to zero in on the situation and character drama. Adora and Glimmer's fight is given plenty of room to be the painful background to the extended musical nature of the episode. Bow especially benefits from this attention, as the show actually takes time look at his own doubts and fears about the usually optimistic Best Friend Squad. Instead, he reflects on how difficult it is to be the glue that holds a group together.
Buffy (which admittedly had a larger number of songs in its episode) used the musical to push along multiple storylines. She-Ra did that, but also took the chance to really take some characters to their deepest levels. At the very least, the She-Ra musical episode is on the same level as the other famous musical episodes, especially in terms of building character depth.
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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