It’s April 26, 2019. I don’t always bother with a date for these Retroactive Continuity posts, but this time it matters, because today is Lesbian Visibility Day, and Netflix just happens to suddenly drop several episodes of She-Ra–a show the central relationships of which are all, to put it in sober, clinical terms, gay as fuck.
And actually, that would be completely believable as a coincidence, if not for three facts: first, this is much faster than new seasons of Netflix shows typically drop, barely six months since Season 1. Second, the episode count is much lower, a mere seven to Season 1’s thirteen. And third, this doesn’t feel like a complete season, but more like half of one.
Fully unpacking that statement is easier now that Season 3 has dropped–four months after Season 2, meaning that the two together came out 10 months after Season 1, a much more reasonable time span between Netflix seasons. In addition, Season 3 is six episodes, meaning the two seasons combined have the same episode count as Season 1. And finally, Season 2 has a premiere, but then just sort of… stops, not ending with any kind of final spectacle but simply a cliffhanger on an otherwise cute-but-inconsequential episode. Season 3, by contrast, doesn’t so much have a premiere as just start, but it ends in a massive spectacle.
In other words, despite statements to the contrary from showrunner Noelle Stevenson, it seems very likely that Seasons 2 and 3 were planned and written as a single season that was later divided in two–and finishing in time to release on Lesbian Visibility Day seems as likely an explanation as any. Of course, Netflix also seems to be moving toward more frequent releases with smaller episode counts, so it’s plausible the split was made for that reason–but even so, the release’s timing is probably not coincidental.
In “The Frozen Forest,” the focus is on cleaning up after the finale, in a couple of senses. Most literally, the magic forest that protects Bright Moon was severely damaged by Entrapta’s hacking of the Black Garnet Runestone and the Horde army led by Catra, so the titular Princesses of Power (plus Bow) are holding off Horde robots while seeking a way to restore the forest. At the same time, individual characters deal with the repercussions of the events of and around the finale, most notably Adora training alone to better control the powers of She-Ra while the Princesses deal with interpersonal conflicts in their still-new team. Most overtly, this involves Glimmer adapting to a leadership role and dealing with Frosta, who behaves (as Glimmer eventually acknowledges) much like Glimmer did in the first season. However, the team as a whole also show issues coordinating, stepping on each other’s attacks and sniping at one another verbally.
Once they put these issues aside and fight cooperatively, however, the rainbow glow they shared at the climax of “The Battle of Bright Moon” returns and restores the forest to life. As in the finale, this is a manifestation of that cartoon classic, the “power of friendship.” But much of what these two episodes are doing is exploring exactly what that means, and perhaps just as importantly, what it doesn’t. In “The Frozen Forest,” the initial conflict, followed by cooperation, of the largely egalitarian rebels is contrasted with the hierarchy and enforced unity of the Horde. Even though Catra, Scorpia, and Entrapta are developing into a parallel trio to the “Best Friends Squad” of Adora, Glimmer, and Bow, they remain at odds, each too wrapped up in their own concerns to notice the others. Even Scorpia is oblivious to Catra’s indifference and hostility, while Entrapta is too wrapped up in her work to really acknowledge others, and Catra is, well, indifferent and hostile. What holds the Horde together is obedience to hierarchy and discipline that keeps everyone working to the same goals, which is not friendship at all.
By contrast, the two examples of the power of friendship we get in these episodes–the aforementioned rainbow glow and the “sacred bond” of She-Ra and Swift Wind–are both examples of people initially at loggerheads (Glimmer and Frosta, She-Ra and Swift Wind) recognizing both the common traits that make empathizing and connecting with one another possible, and the differences that make it worthwhile. They see each other, including where they are different, and choose to embrace that difference rather than being annoyed by it or seeking to stamp it out.
That last–dealing with being annoyed by others–is a recurring theme throughout the episodes. Already mentioned are Glimmer’s frustration with Frosta’s overeagerness and tendency to act without thinking, and Adora’s frustration with Swift Wind seemingly not taking their mission seriously. But there are also two other instances of characters having to deal with a nuisance, and how they play out is telling. First, in “The Frozen Forest,” Catra is exasperated by Entrapta and Scorpia as usual, most notably when they treat the fight between the ELS bots and the Princesses as a game or show; second, when Glitter and Bow capture Catra in “The Ties That Bind,” Catra spends their entire journey needling Glitter and trying to get her to exhaust her powers.
Neither of these conflicts is resolved by characters talking it out and coming to an understanding, which is how both the Glimmer/Frosta and Adora/Swift Wind conflicts play out. Instead, Catra remains exasperated with Scorpia and Entrapta while they remain oblivious to her exasperation, while Glimmer and Catra ultimately fight, inconclusively (though Glimmer does demonstrate she is not as easily manipulated as Catra thinks). Notably, it is the conflicts in which Catra is involved that do not end well, because, as Adora and Light Hope discuss early in “The Frozen Forest,” Catra is “mean”: she doesn’t accept the foibles of others, their difference, as anything other than levers by which they can be manipulated, and therefore she cannot connect with anyone, and no conflict with her can ever truly be resolved.
The final bit of “cleanup” from the finale is the loose end that the Rebellion don’t know Entrapta has defected to the Horde. By the end of “The Ties That Bind,” Bow and Glimmer learn the truth, and the episode closes with them about to reveal that Entrapta has “fallen,” as it were. Unlike them, we saw the circumstances of Entrapta’s fall, and understand that, ultimately, it was because she felt (rightly or wrongly) that there were things she needed to do that were worth the risk of destabilizing the planet. In this, she serves as foreshadowing for the other “fallen” woman in “The Ties That Bind,” Mara, who (as we are reminded) cared about “the wrong things” in Light Hope’s view and attacked Etheria. Like Entrapta, as we will learn, she did what seemed right to her, and seriously damaged the planet–and understanding what she did and why will drive much of the rest of this and the next season.
Current status of the Patreon:
- Latest gaming or reaction video ($1+/mo patrons can view): Let’s Play Deltarune Ep 3
- Latest panel video ($1+/mo patrons can view): Panel Video: Lesbians, Flowers, and Free Will: The Anime of Kunihiko Ikuhara
- Latest Near-Apocalypse article ($2+/mo patrons can view): Retroactive Continuity: The Ballad of Black Tom
- Latest vlog ($5+/mo patrons can view): Vlog Review: Stop! Hibari-kun! Episode 1
- Latest Milestone: N/A (I just restructured the milestones)
- Next Milestone: $150/mo (only $11 away!): Panel videos! (That’s right, my Patreon dropped a lot and I’m going to have to pause on the panel videos after this month unless it goes back up.)