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If there is one thing I can say about She-Ra is that it REALLY highlights the shortcomings of TDST in a way that no other series, even the amazing Thrawn Trilogy (who Stevenson also seems to be a fan of) couldn't do. She-Ra shares many of the same ideas and themes that TDST does but puts those ideas front & center while avoiding all the issues I have with TDST.
To go over all the similarities and how one succeeds where the other falls short is rather impossible when one only has 3,000 characters to work with in a review so here's the short version.
1: She-Ra actually takes the time to flesh out it's ideas and examine the fallout of each action the characters take. One of the problems with TDST is that it refuses to actually have Any consequences for it's actions. The Empire is destroyed, Finn is a Storm Trooper, Rey's is a Nobody, Rey is a Palpatine, Han is killed by his own son? None of that matters, these ideas are never explored even a little bit and as a result the story has no real narrative weight.
By contrast Catra banishing Angella to another dimension had a huge impact on Catra, Adora and Glimmer's character arc is is a driving force behind all three character's arcs and the plot in Season 4. Adora destroying the Sword of Protection plays a MAJOR role in her character arc in Season 5, even Catra's mistreatment of her loved ones and the abuse she receives from Shadow Weaver and Hordak is explored in depth and has a massive impact on the plot throughout the series.
2: The villains are allowed to be competent and the heroes are allowed to be flawed. In the years to come Rey will likely be seen as one the weakest characters in Star Wars due to her lack of development, flaws and never being allowed to Ever lose a fight with anyone. Adora, on the other hand, will likely be seen as one of the best lead characters in Western Animation due to her VERY deep and complex character arc, her personal flaws and the fact that she was allowed to lose a fight every so often.
Kylo Ren will likely always be seen as a whiny twat who lost every major fight he was ever in and just be seen as a poor mans Vader. Catra, on the other hand, will likely be seen as one of the best Villain Turn Heroes along with Zuko who, despite her Feat Of Clay was an effective adversary who manages to score a number of victories against the heroes. And like Adora she is also bolstered by a complex and deep character arc, personal flaws that help to shape her into an amazing character.
3: Catradora is what Reylo Tried to be. At the end of the day, at the heart of both these series is the relationship between both stories respective Protagonists and Antagonist which ultimately boils down to, hero tries to redeem villain with love. However, where Rey had every reason to hate Kylo and no reason to want to see him redeemed as all he did from the moment they met was hurt her and the people she cared about Catra and Adora have known each other since they were kids and are Obviously in Love with One another.
Catra had save Glimmer and with her the galaxy, willingly sacrifice herself to Prime's Mercy and tell Adora that she was sorry for all she had put her through for Adora to even consider letting her back in her life. All Kylo had to do after killing Han, putting Finn in a coma and harassing Rey throughout the Trilogy was be generally nice to her for her to decide that he was worth not only redeeming but outright kissing. She knows next to nothing about him and what she does know doesn't exactly paint him in the best light.
Adora and Catra know each other likely better then they know themselves and have a bond that is deep and compelling and on par with some of the best romance stories ever.
Long story short, if TDST was more like this show it would likely be seen as a classic on par with the Original Trilogy. With great ideas, two amazing leads, an equally supporting cast and a amazing finally that leaves you wanting more vs. a Trilogy that squanders its potential, has characters that are just copies of more interesting characters and a supporting cast that, for me, gets worse with every entry.
I love this show and it's given me so much joy and helps to show why I find TDST so disappointing.
I heard a lot of good about this series, and a lot of people on the internet saying that people needed to see it. So I binged it, and I canít deny it is great. Do I think itís an absolute masterpiece? WellÖ. There will be some degree of spoilers in this for Season 5, but not the finale itself.
First off, it looks great. Though I didnít grow up with the original series from the 80s (honestly Iíd be surprised if a lot of people who watched this series did), I can say that the character designs do harken back to the originals, while still being their own thing. The world of Etheria is also pretty to look at, with a lot of different colors without getting to the point of being garish. The animation also allows for some great shots, and some good fight scenes.
Next, the characters are very well defined, with clear personalities and traits that make them memorable, and fun to watch. The two best characters are certainly Adora and Catra, with their relationships forming one of the core elements of the series. The other characters are fun, and no one can deny the representation they offer is important and valuable. A trap some series have a tendency to fall into is making a characterís LGBT status the only definable trait of the character, to the point they have no identity beyond being LGBT. Thankfully, thatís not the case here, though.
The villains are good, but not great; actually let me rephrase that, some are great, but others not so much, because while Catra and Shadow Weaver are functional as villains, Hordak isnít as good. Heís not bad by any means, but by choosing to focus on the latter two, this guy whoís nominally the Big Bad, comes across more as a Greater-Scope Villain, whoís only tangentially involved in the story. Horde Prime suffers from a similar issue; compare Fire Lord Ozai from A:TLA, who also wasnít properly introduced into the last season. He was built up heavily throughout the whole show, not just talked about, but also shown through flashbacks, with just enough left untold to make him mysterious. Horde Prime was established in the third season, and only really shown through a brief flashback scene (not including his cameo). He does prove a real threat in the final season, but he never really had the great presence needed to be the big final boss of a long running series.
(Sidebar: I think Double Troubleís a good antagonist, but Iím personally not a fan of their constant smug, mocking demeanor.)
As for the story, well, it has a similar problem to what I mentioned earlier, in that they there are clear plot points and characters they prioritize, such as Catra and Adoraís relationship, which is done very well, but the problem there is that some elements (important ones at that) begin to take the backseat. For example, Cartraís redemption arc comes a bit too quickly in Season 5; of ra point of comparison, Zukoís redemption arc consisted of him being an antagonist in the first season, but we get a clear set of motivations of him, which makes his struggles in the second season more meaningful, and his ultimate redemption in the third more dynamic. Catra remains an antagonist all the way up to the last season, and her primary struggles are just with dealing with Adora being on the opposite side. That all said, her motivations are still believable, as is her redemption, but itís definitely not one of the great arcs Iíve seen characters go through. In addition, the romances with the other characters arenít given the proper attention to really flourish, and not all confessions seem entirely earned at the end.
In the end, I think She-Ra sits comfortably as one of the great animated shows, in spite of a few issues. Iíd definitely recommend it.
The first four seasons of She-Ra, making up 75% of the show due to the second season being split into seasons 2 and 3 by Netflix, are excellent. It handles complex topics well, the ensemble cast is amazing, the art, animation, acting, and writing are all very good, and it's got a good balance of humour and seriousness. I'd hold seasons 1-4 up as really good TV.
Unfortunately, the final season is deeply underwhelming, to the point where I would describe the midpoint as the last good episode of the show.
The biggest issue is that it's built around a relationship that spends the entire show with huge issues of tone, structure, theme and pacing: they spend much of the show trying to portray it as both a fun enemies-to-lovers arc where actions don't have huge consequences, and an abusive mess where Catra is extremely cruel to Adora in an attempt to punish her for caring about anyone but her, which does have consequences...and then making the latter much better written and having it take up a larger portion of the show, so you can hear the gears grinding as it tries to shift to the former in season 5.
These issues with writing and pacing then leads to knock-on effects in S5. The show's compelling themes about moving on from abusive relationships and toxic friendships are ditched in favour of instant forgiveness as a panacea, a theme which is totally out of place given the show's prior focus on abuse and the obvious red flags surrounding Catra's actions specifically.
Nor do the characters feel like themselves. Adora picks up a mile-wide forgiving streak that she didn't have in S4 and the show was stronger for it; Catra gets a rushed redemption arc that doesn't address her resentment or her unhealthy fixation on Adora, or have her meaningfully deal with the consequences of her actions. Moreover, the ensemble cast is neglected to the point of irrelevance; the show's beating heart, the Best Friends Squad, barely gets to do anything because Adora suddenly only cares about Catra, the Princesses of Power get it even worse, and I don't even know why they brought back Micah if they didn't have any ideas about what to actually do with him. It's just a mess.
That being said, it's nice that we live in a world where a children's cartoon can end in a lesbian kiss, even if the actual process of getting there from the S4 finale felt less like an organic outgrowth of the show's events and more like checking items off a to-do list with limited time while frantically drawing heart outlines on the red flags. It's a pity, too, because I actually love enemies-to-lovers arcs and LBGT rep in kid's shows; I just think it was terribly written in this case, and it not only ruined the final season, it retroactively harmed the good bits by having a lot of the good buildup from earlier in the show ultimately go nowhere and mean nothing.
It was just a big letdown from a show that had seemed to be going from strength to strength.
After following this series since when it was first announced, I have to say this is truly one of the most interesting TV series that I've seen in a long time. I find the plot and pacing to be solid and interesting. I hope that each subsequent season will be more interesting than the last.
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