It’s been over two years since I did the first “Writer Watching” for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. While rereading it, I had a bunch of nervous laugh moments whenever I’d said shit like, “I’ll talk about that next time!”
Yeah, I have no idea what “that” was.
What I do know is that it was always weird for me that I just never came back to finish the series.
In one part, it was because it just felt weird–I was voicing really reactionary opinions on the first and second episodes of a TV show; it felt like I should finish the season and then comment.
But, on the other hand . . . it just felt like watching it while nitpicking was making me like the show less. Like, significantly less.
And, finally, it felt like the feminist angle of the show actually required more patience than a 30-something man, writing on his blog, could give it. Basically, I reached Seahawk, initially hated how he was handled, and decided to back away instead of writing a whole thing about how much I didn’t like him.
Well, I’m still in lockdown. It’s 2020 now, and, seeing as all of my time is spent in the one room, working or watching things on Netflix, I figured it was the perfect time to actually return to the series and finish what I started.
Instead of being absolutely insane and commenting on specific things, however, I’m going to try something new.
As I’ve said on this site before, I am a really intense self-editor; I will mercilessly edit and rewrite my own work, which is a double-edged sword because A) there’s always going to be room for improvement and, B) the new additions I make will always have grammatical errors of their own (it’s a thing).
A vent for that reflex (or maybe a result of it), is that I love imagining edits for existing works that I think can improve with a few tweaks (or, in the case of Episodes VII – IX, a ton of tweaks).
So, considering that She-Ra and the Princesses of Power triggered that reflex, I figured, “Why not write a whole post about it?” A post that I’m making the first in a new series: Edited in Post.
To be clear, my goal here isn’t to “improve” on the story as a whole; I am not conceited enough to think my edit of She-Ra would be better. All that I can say objectively is that A) it would be different from the end product we got and B) it would be how I would’ve edited the end product if I was in the writer’s room. Ultimately, this is just an editing exercise and a way for me to consider my identity as a writer.
All of that said, let’s start by establishing a really healthy baseline with . . .
What I Liked
Of all the things I didn’t think I would like in this show, Adora herself was probably number one. In my original post, I talked about how much I disliked the White Savior vibe I was getting from the pilot two-parter. I was super glad to see that problem didn’t persist because the show spends a lot of time with Glimmer, Bow, and other non-white characters.
Beyond that, however, I still didn’t think I’d like the no frills protagonist of any Fantasy show that much; I have become hard-wired to expect the typical batch of issues a protagonist has (like trying to understand their powers, trying to figure out a mystery left for them by an ancient race, etc.). For sure, Adora has that same batch.But . . . she still manages to be incredibly likable on her own. She’s funny, a terrible actress, cocky in a dorky way that’s super fun to watch, and–more interesting than anything, else in my opinion–she’s su-u-u-uper prone to making mistakes (which is probably the freshest breath of fresh air). Like, I often consider protagonist fatigue; whether they’re men or not, the lamest thing in the world is the no frills protagonist who just does everything right. Adora is not that character.
And, because it needs to be acknowledged, she is not that character in massive part due to Aimee Carrero’s performance.
There were . . . so many moments where I laughed out loud just because Carrero’s delivery was so good.
“I’m a triple may-zhor, and I also teach, unless that’s not a thing students do. Is it hot in here?”
“Ah ha ha ha ha. Is that a good laugh or a bad laugh? Ha ha ha . . . Well, the longer it goes on, the more I think it’s a bad laugh.”
Really early on in my watch, I started getting super excited for Adora dialogue in fun situations.
The greatest failure of my life is that Scorpia isn’t real and she isn’t my best friend.
I’m not kidding; I’m actually sad that I can’t be woken up by Scorpia every morning, rushing into my room to ask if I’ve breathed in the new day yet (which I would absolutely hate coming from anyone else).
I think that in the great array of strong female protagonists, ranging from Super Sexualized to Tough and Angry, Scorpia is something completely different. She’s this extremely hug-able, determined, compassionate woman who’s also always the strongest non-She-Ra person in the room, and she has the freedom to be all of those things because her character is not her charging into a room, tackling the nearest man and flexing like, “I am Scorpia! I am strongest in the world!” Like . . . she’s just a character and her being a buff giant just adds to that character. I just love it. I’m here for Scorpia. I stan her and I want to see way more characters like her.
3. Basically the Rest of the Cast (and their Fun Drama)
I really enjoyed the majority of the Princesses and other characters (some more than others naturally; it is a cartoon show after all).
Mermista was the real standout for me, and she’s the one who made me realize why I liked the cast so much; they all had some low stakes drama with each other on occasion, and every instance of that was extremely fun and fresh to me (i.e. Mermista deciding that she was Sea-Ra, just straight up jacking Adora’s alter-ego for her character in the D&D episode). I really lived for those moments–those brief, beautiful nuggets of petty that really gave the characters life.
Those dynamics, and the show’s ability to showcase that drama, were great.
Okay. There’s a lot more I liked, but I have to start trying to shorten these posts. Suffice it to say I liked the show a bunch, but to get into the edit, here’s . . .
What I Didn’t Like / What I Would Change
1. The Not-So-Fun Drama
Unfortunately, in my opinion, the show wasn’t able to handle more complicated friendship drama later on. I felt Season 5’s Adora/Glimmer beef was a little exhausting–especially after it seemed to be solved by the end of an episode . . . but was still there in the next episode. I’m definitely not saying I didn’t want to see those characters fight; I just got incredibly tired of watching them voice the same issues, over and over, without working on them, which even the show points out is strange.
2. The Pacing on Catra’s Arc (and thus, for a while, Catra)
It must be reverse day, because of all the things I thought I’d love for the entirety of the series, Catra was number one.
When I first watched the show, I absolutely loved her. I enjoyed her attitude, her design, how her situation was understandable, so you wind up feeling for her.
But then the show shoots way past the point where she’s understandable . . . and the plot just keeps supporting her, for way too long.
It isn’t until Season 4, Episode 10 where she actually starts losing, and, as a person who’s experienced the full spectrum of gaslighters, it feels like it took way too long for her to be redeemable. Like, she opens a portal that almost destroys all of reality because she’s a jealous brat, and it is pretty impossible to forgive that.
It doesn’t help that the plot support came in ways that seemed over-the-top and devalued other characters.
Scorpia and Seahawk share an episode where they vent about the treatment they’re getting from their special someones. Seahawk leaves that episode triumphantly proclaiming that, fuck it, he doesn’t care about what Mermista thinks of him. Scorpia left that episode . . . determined to devote herself to Catra’s bullshit no matter what?
Hordak also, weirdly, winds up bowing to Catra because she rips out a gem powering his new exoskeleton . . . but then gives it back to him? So, like, he’s in charge, but really she’s in charge? The thing is, I wouldn’t have even minded her just straight up becoming the leader of the Horde, but it was done in this weird way where she still gets to be angry about being subservient . . . while also calling the shots? Why didn’t she just kill Hordak? Why didn’t the show just shift her into Queen Catra mode and give her a dope new outfit?
In the end, I just got tired of it. She stopped being relatable, the drama between her and Adora stopped moving, and her drama with almost every other character stopped feeling logical.
3. The Rest of the Pacing Too, Actually / Why Did They Save the Good Part?
This is not my first rodeo when it comes to Netflix Originals from Dreamworks. They usually have pacing issues. And weird half-seasons. I get it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem that needs fixing.
Particularly because . . . the last season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is fucking awesome.
If you’re not aware, the last season is actually the season that most resembles the intense, desperate-rebellion energy of the original show. The stakes are insanely high and it absolutely rocks.
The fact that it’s only the last fifth of the show will always feel like a weird mistake to me. Especially because the middle seasons just spun wheels on a lore-based plot twist that just didn’t feel unique (basically a perfect example of the “mystery left for protagonist by an ancient race” plot line that’s already deep into trope town).
The Edit in Post
Okay. So, how would I have reorganized all of this?
- Delete a lot of the plot mystery: I liked Mara and thought some of the lore episodes with her were amazing. But I would completely cut the Heart of Etheria plot line. By the end, it got super convoluted, and the plot twist that the Princess’s energy was meant to power a weapon that would destroy the planet was weirdly antithetical to the message of the entire show. Other details, like the planet being in another dimension, are such weird, late-game additions that it just felt like the writers were hitting points on a checklist of “Things We Have to Do Because the Original Show Did Them.”
- Move up Horde Prime–and thus the stakes–by, like, 2 seasons.
- Move up Catra being exiled from the Horde and make it permanent.
- And I mean move her exile up to Season 2 so Catra and Scorpia take over the Crimson Wastes. Catra builds her gang by stealing Horde tech, or maybe finding a new character to enlist. This results in a new faction that fights both the Princesses and the Horde. Would actually be way cooler to see Catra build a stronger army than the Horde, come back, and beat Hordak.
- Move up Double Trouble’s intro. Absolutely introduce her in Season 2, in the Crimson Wastes, and have her work for Catra. Give the audience a slower, better burn on the mystery of who she is among them and let her work more subtly on putting a wedge in the gang. It would be . . . such good drama.
- Give us a full season at least of Entrapta and Hordak. Just bolster the idea that Entrapta would actually, logically decide to stay with the Horde because she and Hordak are the most adorable friends ever.
- Pad out everything with new episodes of good filler that explore character relationships and drama (i.e. gimme that Bow and Glimmer flashback solo adventure!).
So, to be clear, my changes would’ve looked like this:
Season 1: Introduce main characters and setting. Establish stakes early early with Entrapta getting captured way sooner. Use remaining episodes to establish Entrapta / Hordak friendship via B plots. End season with Catra beating the gang, who narrowly escape, and then she takes over for Shadow Weaver.
Season 2: Establish early in the season that Catra is tired of Hordak. She miscalculates a first attempt to manipulate him (or maybe trying to fight him), gets banished to the Crimson Waste. Catra, Scorpia create a new faction via B plot, gaining power with Double Trouble’s help. Plot A remains the cast fighting the Horde, but maybe also getting infiltrated by Catra’s faction? Establish that there’s some super powerful Old One’s weapon (basically, the Heart of Etheria minus a bunch of lore episodes), and the season ends with all three factions fighting for it. Hordak is defeated by Catra, but he hints heavily at Horde Prime’s arrival.
Season 3: Catra as Queen of the Horde, fighting She-Ra for the season with Shadow Weaver drama and question of how to get the weapon to work. Full season of peak Catra / Adora drama via “Catra, why the fuck are you fighting us when Horde Prime is on his way!? Goddamn!” but worded differently. Also peak Entrapta drama as she joins Catra to “keep working on tech,” but is really trying to figure out how to free Hordak. Peak season for the drama. I imagine that right as Entrapta is freeing Hordak, Horde Prime shows up and handily defeats everybody. Hordak goes to Prime, his mind gets erased, and Horde Prime captures both Glimmer and Catra.
Season 4: Basically the same as the Season 5 we got, only with Catra ingratiating herself to Prime at the beginning. I’d love to write her being frustrated at having to be subservient to Hordak again. But, more than anything, I’d love to write the argument where Glimmer tells her, “If you had just helped us fight him, none of this would’ve happened.”
Again, this outcome would’ve been different (not necessarily better), but I can say that I absolutely would’ve loved to write it and watch it.
It was weird to write this out (this is usually just an exercise I perform in my head for a week after watching something), but I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please consider Following the House of Error; the field to do so is to the left side of your screen on desktop, or in the drop down menu (i.e. the hamburger icon) on the top right on mobile.
Next week is going to be a post about my writing process–the ways in which it’s similar to and differs from Brandon Sanderson’s. Until then, stay safe, everyone!