Exclusive: She-Ra showrunner Noelle Stevenson reveals season 5 will be its last
All good things, as they say, must come to an end. Since She-Ra and the Princesses of Power first launched on Netflix in 2018, the animated fantasy epic has produced four seasons of fascinating friendships, twisty mythology, and colorful princesses. But anyone who’s seen season 4's epic, game-changing finale knows the She-Ra story can’t go on forever. So EW can exclusively announce that when season 5 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power hits Netflix this spring, it will also be the show's last.
Don’t worry, fans! There’s nothing premature or before-its-time about this end date. Showrunner Noelle Stevenson tells EW that she and her team knew their total episode order right from the beginning, so they’ve been able to precisely plan out their planned plot beats over the course of five seasons (which helps explain why so many “seasons” kept landing in such a relatively quick time frame). This was really apparent in season 4, when long-simmering storylines like Scorpia’s princess heritage, the mystery of what happened to Adora’s She-Ra predecessor Mara, and tension in the show’s core friendships culminated in incredibly gripping ways.
The fifth and final season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power hits Netflix on May 15. To whet your appetite, EW caught up with Stevenson to talk about where all the characters are going into the show’s final act, and why She-Ra could make a great quarantine binge. Check that out below, along with two exclusive posters that really illustrate the unique situation heading into this final act.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Season 5 will be the final season of She-Ra. How do you feel about that? Has everything gone according to plan? Is this how you expected things to end up?
NOELLE STEVENSON: It has been such an incredible journey so far just getting to share these seasons that are already out and seeing the reactions. I do feel very lucky because we knew from the very beginning what our episode order was, so we got to tailor the story very specifically to how long the show was gonna be. It was tailored to be 52 episodes, the length that it is, and that’s a real blessing for a storyteller because it means everything happens when it’s meant to happen. The story definitely evolved along the way, from people who worked on it and following the story threads that seemed right and where the characters led us. We set out with a plan, we executed that plan, so it’s very satisfying to see it wrap up like this. I’m very happy with where we got to with this story. I’m really excited for people to see it. I hope they’ll be as happy as I am.
What are you proudest of from season 4?
Season 4 was when we really hit our stride as a crew. With the stories that we were telling, everything started falling into place towards the beginning of season 4. These are the stories we want to be telling: How can we work in a world full of magical princesses and rainbows, and tell stories that feel relevant and powerful to the people who are gonna watch it while still being escapist and being fun? I felt we managed to find that in that season. It became this sort of story about, while still being this escapist sci-fi fantasy world, the struggles that women and young leaders deal with. That was something really personal to us. So I’m really happy with season 4 and I’m happy with the response to it. That’s when it really came together. I love all the seasons so much, but setting up where we’re going to go in season 5 from season 4, some of my favorite episodes are still coming up but season 4 was when we learned to make the show we wanted to be making.
I think what was cool about season 4 is we started out telling the beats of this heroic journey, but once you cement that, once you know who the characters are and what they’re about, you get to dig into what it means. Adora’s the hero, Catra’s the villain, but what does that mean? How do they see themselves? What happens when what they thought was true gets flipped on its head? Those are the stories I got really excited about telling, and in season 4 everything we thought was true, what both the characters and viewers thought was true, got flipped around. It creates a different kind of story which is really exciting.
A lot of big, epic stuff happened at the end of season 4, but the two biggest takeaways seem to be that the She-Ra sword is broken and Horde Prime is here. How would you describe Adora’s mindset going into season 5?
Going into season 5, our board has been wiped clean a little bit. It has been a self-contained world in a self-contained struggle, where the sides of dark and light seemed well-defined at the beginning. But immediately those lines started getting blurred: Characters switched sides, characters who you thought were evil became good and good became evil, and then we started questioning what good and evil even means here. But it was personal for them. They’re fighting people they know, and for people like Adora and Catra they know each other very intimately. Now suddenly they have a villain who they don’t know. They’re getting exposed to the wider universe. Even people who had been fighting for world domination are suddenly realizing how high the stakes are.
For a lot of them, I think that what they thought they were fighting for has become a little bit irrelevant at this point, including Adora. She assumed that she was this hero, that this was her destiny to balance the planet and save Etheria, and then she finds out her actual purpose is to be the trigger of a gun, and now she’s lost that destiny. But there’s still this huge threat looming, and she has to do something; she has no idea what, she just knows she has to do something. For her and for all of their characters, they’ve been reset a little bit — some of them literally, like Hordak. From all their goals and motivations, a lot of them are left with nothing at this point. All the pretenses and personas that they cultivated for themselves that were false in some ways, that’s all been stripped away. Our characters are gonna have to actually look at themselves, ask hard questions of themselves, and figure it out from there.
A lot of that applies to several characters, but since I asked about Adora, I wanted to ask specifically about Catra too. You mentioned earlier that the show is kind of about the challenges that young leaders face, especially young women, and that has always been the most sympathetic part of Catra’s story. Even as we’re angered by her twisting the knife on people or being devious, it’s impressive to see her climb the ladder and not be intimidated by anyone above her. Now that she’s face to face with the real Horde, is she finally out of her depth?
Going into season 5, Catra is kind of a wild card. She has been spiraling and struggling for control the entire time we’ve known her in the show. With Adora being the hero and Catra feeling abandoned, she took the other route she could find: “I will ascend to the top of the Horde, I will conquer Etheria and I will be this villain because that’s all I've been told I'm good for.” She got so close to that! She seemed like she was gonna win. But at the end of season 4, she’s lost everything. Every single person who’s ever been kind or sympathetic to her no longer is. They’re gone, and it’s her fault, she pushed them away. The thing she’s fighting for, control of Etheria and the highest position in the Horde, is suddenly meaningless because Horde Prime is here and it’s a whole new game. What is she gonna do? She’s always been a survivor, so how is she even going to play the field? Does she even want to play the field anymore? Who is she now that this one singular goal she had has sort of slipped through her fingers? I think that’s a big question going forward: What is she gonna do? I don’t think even she knows yet.
We are talking to each other in the midst of this coronavirus crisis. With lots of people stuck at home right now and looking for entertainment, I personally think She-Ra makes an excellent quarantine binge. Do you agree? What would you tell people to sell them on the show right now?
When we started production on She-Ra in earnest, it was at a very chaotic time in mid-to-late 2016. It was a time when a lot of people felt that what we understood about the world had been flipped on its head. What we expected to happen didn’t happen, and the world we thought we were in was proved to be false. This was our comfort in that time, making this story where we could explore those feelings, but at the same time I think it is a great balance between escapism and actually dealing with the messy, complicated feelings that come from being a citizen of the world and part of a community. I think it’s a great show to watch to both deal with your own feelings about the world, and appreciate them through a world that is very optimistic and does believe in redemption, forgiveness, and love. We try to be as sincere about that stuff as possible without letting it ever be cheesy or provide easy solutions. For us it is trying to look at our role in the world and how to be good, be strong, be brave like the characters are? I think it’s a great watch for anyone who needs to watch some magical princesses fight each for awhile, and also for people who are struggling with confusion, fear, and those messy feelings. Hopefully you find an outlet for those feelings here, and some comfort from them.