'She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power' Returns With Punch In Season Two

The She-Ra is back! As a forward-forged reboot of the 1980s Filmation cartoon, Noelle Stevenson's fantasy-adventure She-Ra and the Princesses of Power launches season two with high spirits.Last we left off in season one, the heroine and antagonist made their respective uphill climbs. Having escaped her upbringing with the evil and imperialistic Horde army, Adora (Aimee Carrero) has matured into her hero role as the Chosen One She-Ra warrior with her magic sword and acquired an ensemble of freedom fighter princesses. Adora's former friend, Catra (AJ Michalka) has usurped and detained her mentor Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint) and is now a respected Horde captain under her superior Lord Hordak (Keston John). However, Catra is fighting to keep Lord Hordak's favor from waning.While Adora remains as spunky as ever, her warrior development seems downplayed this season in favor of amplifying its supporting characters. The ensemble dynamic is fun and fiery as ever, more so when the story is sparking new relationships or invigorating existing ones. Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) and Princess Frosta (Merit Leighton) become buddies after a rocky start as Glimmer learns what it means to be a role model to the young princess. The female-to-female frenemy dynamic, with shades of romantic overtone, between Adora and Catra is still ever-present and haunting their psyches.But charmingly complimenting Catra's frenemy obsession with Adora, the claw-armed Scorpia spends her arc working for the distant Catra's affection — perhaps it's romantic pining — as she serves as Catra's perky new second-in-command. Scorpia delivers the funniest and thematic line referencing the fan appeal of Catra and Adora's amorous-tinted rivalry: "Even when you're [Adora and Catra] trying to kill each other, you can tell there's a real bond." When Scorpia manages to crack Catra's cold professionalism, it's a moment that made me go, "Yes!"Interesting developments are revealed through character history. The penultimate episode glimpses into Shadow Weaver's fall from grace and how she emotionally clings to protégés even through her coldness, with shades of tough-love affection but all in the name of self-serving ambition. Her psychological hold over Catra comes to a head, as the latter cannot admit to herself that she craves her cruel mentor's affection as much as she resents her. The heroes also face consequences, such as the accidental abandonment of the oblivious Princess Entrapta (Christine Woods), a case of fascinating amorality by nerdy ditziness, as she is so infatuated on experimental goals that she neither considers nor cares her work is now benefiting the side of evil.The spirits are high with punchy writing and comedic energy. The height of comedy arrives mid-season with the episode "Roll With It" as the rebels discuss sneaking and battle strategies with their own embellished and clashing imagine spots of rotating animation homages, paying priceless tribute to noir and mecha shows. But fans would perhaps get the biggest kicks with the dedicated shout-out to its '80s predecessor.The season finale avoids a grand showdown unlike season one and feels more like a breezy mid-season breather. But it offers an affecting family portrait for parents and kids, illustrating affectionate (but not infallible) parental figures as a relieving contrast to Shadow Weaver's callous maternal mentorship to Catra. Oh, it also exemplifies LGBTQ+ visibility — I should note with two new supporting players, as it has a long way to go in cementing explicit queerness in its central heroes — that will thrill fans with dramatic and comedic dimensions that has rarely been accentuated in cartoons.Does season two elevate the story and world-building? Not quite but it matches the humor and adventure of season one while teasing interesting direction. The second season neatly packages each of its short arcs while crawling toward a long-term plan. With only seven episodes, this season package feels satisfactory even when you wished there was more./Film Rating: 7 out of 10