Season 4 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power ended with Adora shattering the sword that transformed her into the heroic She-Ra.
At the start of the fifth and final season, now on Netflix, Adora struggles with navigating her new, superpower-less soldier role within the Rebellion. But there are hints that the She-Ra form isn’t totally gone, as wise woman Madame Razz alluded to in season 4, She-Ra isn’t bound to the sword. The hero is part of Etheria and therefore existed before the First Ones controlled her. Magical horse Swift Wind can feel She-Ra’s presence even without a transformation. Adora knows She-Ra is just out of reach.
What winds up happening, as showrunner Noelle Stevenson told Polygon, was an attempt at reinventing Chosen One archetypes, and a continuation of the show’s core theme: defining one’s own fate.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for the fifth season She-Ra and the Princesses of Power]
In the fifth episode of season 5, in the midst of a rescue mission about to go wrong, Adora musters all her strength and transforms into She-Ra, though not the one who emerged from the sword’s power. This She-Ra is made of pure emotion and magic, a being who, as Stevenson said, comes from a place of overwhelming love.
While the staples of She-Ra’s costume are still there, like the white and gold motif, and the pattern on the shirt, this version of the hero wears pants, puts her hair back in a ponytail, and, instead of a dainty tiara, dons a heavier, helmet-like crown. Stevenson said that the difference between the two costumes was deliberately designed to reflect Adora’s arc.
“So much about the [original] She-Ra form is a little bit of a merging between Adora’s militaristic upbringing, but also a specific femininity that she’s not comfortable with,” explained Stevenson. “Things like the skirt and the tiara and the glitter, all of those are things that Adora hasn’t ever personally related to. She-Ra has always been a little bit of an uncomfortable costume for her. It’s something that she’s been trying to embody and has been failing at embodying throughout seasons one through four.”
The new She-Ra form is completely born from Adora’s person, with no First Ones tech controlling the transformation. Over the course of four seasons, Adora has also forged her own sense of identity, away from the Horde and the future she thought she’d have.
“This She-Ra comes from pure love. That is the part of Adora that is the strongest, that is the purest,” said Stevenson. “Not only is this She-Ra a little bit more of a combination between Adora’s personal style, the way that she presents what she’s comfortable with — with the ponytail, with the pants with the boots — but it also has aspects of pure magic and pure love as well.”
The new She-Ra costume also contains little Easter-egg homages to Adora’s friends. The golden gorget around her collarbone now boosts a heart as a nod to Bow’s costume. Her boots have wings on them for feisty Glimmer. And the shape of her crown — now more masklike and grand instead of a dainty tiara — comes from Catra’s mask.
The new She-Ra form isn’t an intimidating destiny thrust upon Adora nor is it controlled by an ancient race bent on mining the planet for magic. It comes purely from Adora carving out her own destiny and doing it for the people she loves.