Although, I suppose I should make one thing clear right away; season 3 of She-Ra is basically season 2.5. It delivers on all the setup and foreshadowing established in the second season. Combined, their episode count matches the 13 episodes which made up the first season. It’s hard to judge the third season on its own when it is so clearly meant as the climax of the second.
That being said, it leaves season 3 in a very good place. This season is pure delivery. Episode after episode delivers action, answers, character growth, and each new episode builds upon the tension of the previous one. By the time this tension snaps and everything falls apart, She-Ra has earned the result and then some. It’s a truly terrific season. One full of triumphs, tragedy, downfalls, redemption, and enough new lore to chew on for months. She-Ra has never been better than it is in season 3.
As the second half of the story season 2 began, things focus on the cliffhangers ending season 2; Adora and the Best Friends Squad following the trail of clues to find out more about Mara, Shadow Weaver’s escape from the Fright Zone, and Catra’s punishment for allowing her to escape. Thankfully these plot threads all converge quickly as Shadow Weaver arrives at Bright Moon to help take down Hordak. She immediately explains Hordak’s plans, giving the plot an urgency that never really lets up. Meanwhile, Catra’s punishment involves traveling to the Crimson Waste, a hostile desert inhabited by criminals and outlaws on the fringe of society. Yep, the same Crimson Waste we heard about in the season 2 finale, where Adora, Glimmer, and Bow will travel in search of further hints about Mara.
Along the way, we meet a new character named Huntara, voiced by Geena Davis, who is the biggest tough in the Crimson Waste. If you’re wondering about season 3’s queer content, Adora’s immediate crush and Huntara’s bartender flirting should answer your question.
These characters all converge on Mara’s crashed ship in the Waste. The story basically never slows down from that point on.
To say this season moves the plot and lore forward is an understatement making She-Ra’s shoulders look small. We get huge revelations about Hordak, his intentions with his portal, his origins, Mara, the event that took her life, her reasons for doing so, the nature of Etheria, and the larger galactic state of this world. Many fans predicted a lot of this, but to see it confirmed and expanded on feels refreshing after 2 seasons of teases. Season 3 doesn’t just answer long-awaited questions, it sets up all the right new ones.
The season also does things with all this new lore, as it is central to the plot of these 6 episodes. Discovering the details of Mara’s disappearance and stranding of Etheria in a new dimension drives both Adora and Catra. Hordak’s portal directly correlates to Mara, as well. By the fourth episode, the two plots converge, setting up a maelstrom of action and plot and characterization sure to leave any fan of the show glued to whatever screen you watch.
To call these last two episodes climactic understates things. They shake the series to its very core. They are masterpieces of time-twisting, alternate-dimension exploring, character-splitting, status-quo-busting madness. I almost didn’t feel like writing that much about them. Best to explore these episodes as unspoiled as you can manage.
Let me stress that the heavy amount of plot and lore in no way takes away from the characters. The character arcs really hit their peak in season 3. In some cases, I’d say that this is going to be the defining season where they are forced to change forever.
I will say that this season is heavy on the mains of the show, and the princesses take a considerable backseat. Those hoping for more Mermista, Perfuma, Frost, Seahawk, and the like might be disappointed. It was necessary to sideline them, though, if just for these 6 episodes. This season belongs to Adora and Catra, with Glimmer, Scorpia, Entrapta, and Hordak trailing slightly behind.
Mainly, it belongs to Adora and Catra.
Two seasons of struggles over the reparation of their friendship falls apart in utterly spectacular fashion. All of Catra’s fear, loneliness, jealousy, insecurity, and abuse drive her down a dark, self-destructive path. Shadow Weaver’s escape and the resulting punishment from Hordak steal what confidence she had in herself and her relationships. When she finds out Shadow Weaver fled to Bright Moon and Adora, Catra makes a series of bad decisions that result in the chaos of the last couple of episodes.
It’s a dark path that especially hurts because Catra comes so close to genuine happiness. Her time in the Crimson Waste sees her find a place and friendship we haven’t seen since She-Ra began. Then she throws it all away in a desperate, angry attempt to one-up Adora.
The end result forces Adora to give up on her former friend with a finality that will be hard to recover from. Not just for Adora, but for the audience. I haven’t given up on the idea of Catra coming back from her mistakes. To do it believably, though, will take a character arc rivaling any character redemption I’ve ever seen.
Meanwhile, Adora herself continues to understand her destiny as She-Ra and Mara’s final decisions. Like any good story, there are many parallels to be found between Adora and Catra this season, with both struggling to find confidence in their place in the world. Adora discovers some foundation-shaking revelations about her origin. It leaves her somewhat adrift for much of the season, not unlike Catra. However, Adora chooses progress where her old friend chooses regression. Nowhere is this more evident than the final two episodes.
Much of season 3 of She-Ra focuses on pairings, with Adora and Catra, Catra and Scorpia, Entrapta and Hordak, and Glimmer and Angella all featuring prominently.
The biggest surprise of the season, at least for me, was easily Entrapta and Hordak. Season 2 introduced their dynamic as Entrapta began helping build Hordak’s portal. I was tentative about their relationship, and more so when it continued into season 3, but by the end of it was I was sold. There has been a lot of…debate about the nature of their relationship. Some ship it romantically, while others consider it a more parental vibe. Whatever your preference, it’s a fascinating relationship that adds much-needed layers to both characters.
Hordak becomes a surprisingly deep and sympathetic character and I can’t wait to see where he goes. Who would have guessed that going in?
Season 3 is a tough watch, though, mainly because of how all these relationships fracture and, in some cases, end. I won’t spoil the how of it, but I’m not sure there’s a single relationship that survives the season unscathed. Even those still friendly towards each other face a harsh new reality moving forward. A reality threatening things the way they have been and the friendships everyone has relied on. Season 4 will be a struggle for many reasons, but most of all because it will force our characters to face new things. Things are definitely moving forward, into a new place for the characters and Etheria.
She-Ra spent its first two seasons building to this batch of episodes. While I certainly enjoyed the show so far, I wouldn’t have said I absolutely loved it. I wouldn’t have considered She-Ra on the same level as the animation juggernauts. Season 3 changed that. It ended one phase of its story with emotional, skilled storytelling that caught me off-guard. My expectations have raised considerably moving forward and I’m eagerly awaiting She-Ra’s next season.
And if nothing else, I’ll be on my guard moving forward. I’m prepared for She-Ra to hurt me now. Although I’m not sure it will help with characters this good and storytelling this strong.