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She-Ra and Huntara face off. She-Ra is tall, with flowing blonde hair, a winged crown atop her head. She looms over Huntara, brow furrowed in a glare. Huntara, meanwhile, is purple-skinned, with a half-shaved head and a high ponytail. She snarls. DreamWorks Animation

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She-Ra showrunner digs into the heart-wrenching season finale

Noelle Stevenson weighs in on Catra, Scorpia, and the future of Etheria

This season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power didn’t hold back when it came to the big plot reveals and drastic character decisions. Adora, Glimmer, and Bow set off to find some lost First Ones tech in the middle of the desolate Crimson Waste, where they encounter Catra and Scorpia, who are more or less there for the same thing. Meanwhile, Entrapta and Hordak work on a portal opening device that could change the fate of Etheria.

At the end of season 3, the world has, indeed, changed, with dire consequences for some characters and eye-opening repercussions for the greater world.

Showrunner Noelle Stevenson talked to Polygon about putting the beloved characters through the wringer, the growth that they’ll still need to do, and what we can expect the next time we return to Etheria.

[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for season 3 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.]

Three best friends stand in a desolate canyon. Bow is the tallest, dark-skinned, wearing a crop top with a heart, and has a quiver of arrows slung on his shoulder. He looks annoyed. Adora is middle height, pale skin, blonde hair in a ponytail, wearing a p DreamWorks Animation

Polygon: Compared to last season, season 3 felt faster and more action-heavy. What was the rationale behind the decision to break into six- and seven-episode seasons?

Noelle Stevenson: We weren’t sure that it was going to be divided into two smaller seasons. That was a little bit out of our hands, but the rationale was that we would be able to bring the seasons to our audience a little bit more quickly with less of a hiatus between seasons. See the season as part two of season 2; when watched together, it starts out a little bit more episodic the way season 1 does — a little bit more fun and games — and then gets a little bit more serialized as it goes. So this is a little bit more of the serialized aspect of the season.

This season starts and ends with a bunch of big reveals about the world — how deep does the world go? Is this just the beginning?

The first 26 episodes have solely focused on Etheria. They’re in a completely empty dimension. There aren’t many stars. They have the remnants of this lost civilization, but they don’t fully know. All its history is lost and they don’t know why the First Ones were there, what they were doing. They don’t know what the rest of the Universe is even like at this point because they’re alone. At the very end of the season, we see that little glimpse that there is this bigger universe out there and that the world the characters inhabit is just going to keep getting bigger.

In the last few episodes, Catra makes some pretty drastic choices that further alienate her from Adora. It almost feels like she’s hit a point of no return. Can she come back from this?

Right now she has crossed a line in the sand that she can’t come easily back from. Her story, our story, and her role in this story is far from over. She’s going to have a lot more choices to make as the show wears on. But at this point she has, she’s made a choice that — I don’t think she’s fully ready to deal with what she’s done yet. It’s not an accident that the first false reality that they get thrown back into sort of centers around them [Catra and Adora]. For Adora, she’s looking for some kind of solution, like, at what point could I have fixed things in the past? Because that’s how she sees things. For Catra, it’s hiding. It’s sort of an escape to the last time things made sense to her, the last time things were simple and the last time she was happy. She’s sort of hiding from what she did. I don’t think she’s ready to face that yet. She hasn’t come to terms with it yet. She’s dug her hole and she has keeps taking it deeper. That’s where we are this season.

In a purple chamber, Catra looms over Adora. This version of Catra is distorted, half her body glitched and black. Her yellow eyes are frenzied, a maniacal smile on her face. Adora is on the floor, her hair in a ponytail. We do not see her face. DreamWorks Animation

Let’s dig a bit into that altered reality that the characters find themselves in during this season. What is it supposed to represent — not just for Catra and Adora, but for the rest of the cast?

Catra and Adora being the closest to the portal when it went off is not an accident. They’ve reached this point in their relationship where it’s just like, how did it get this bad? What happened to make it get this bad and go this far? By throwing them back and realizing how much they’ve changed since the beginning of the show and how far they’ve come, both in good and bad ways, we realized that there’s no hiding from this. There’s no returning to a simpler time. This won’t be an easy problem to fix. We see all the characters deal with this where it’s like this is their perfect version of the world. Right?

But it’s not real. They can’t escape from their problems this way. They have to stand up and fight it. I think we all feel this way sometimes — like everything is just totally screwed up. If you look back and you just want to return to a time when it’s like, maybe I could have made a different choice and maybe things would have gone differently. It’s just always sort of this just losing game because there is no going back. All you can do is deal with what’s happened and move forward from there. All the characters are finding ways to deal with that.

This season, we see Shadow Weaver join with the good guys. What’s her motive? Can we trust her?

Shadow Weaver is one of our biggest villains, but I think that part of her power is that she serves the Horde, but mostly, she serves herself. She’s always been looking for power. She’s always been looking for prestige and however she needs to get it, everything else sort of falls by the wayside for her. We see that like she’s been cast aside by the Horde. She goes to the only place that she thinks she can. But even though she’s offering to help the good guys, we see that it is still for selfish reasons in so many ways because she’s angry because she wants revenge.

What’s most interesting about her is that I think that she really does think that she’s a good guy now. That’s really what pushes Catra over the edge, just realizing that suddenly Shadow Weaver is on the side of good and she’s in the right and like, it’s this almost like, oh my, she’s like a born-again good guy. And it’s infuriating. No matter what side Shadow Weaver is in, it always feels like she has a plan and it always feels like she’s in service of her own agenda. She continues to just be a character who is really, really fun to play with. Just every room that she’s in, she complicates those dynamics so much. She’s just, for me, one of my favorite characters to write.

Shadow Weaver lounges in a plush armchair. She holds a book in her right hand, legs crossed. She wears a long red gown, her face shielded by a red mask, a lick of dark hair falling slightly over her eyes. She looks deeply and utterly bored. DreamWorks Animation

Going back to another villain — Scorpia was really a standout this season. How do you maintain the balance between having such a sweet, good character that’s technically a bad guy?

Scorpia defines herself by her loyalty. She is someone who is on the side of evil but she’ll do anything for her friends. She doesn’t see it as evil really. We’ve seen her do bad things. You’ve seen her hurt the good guys. But all of it has been because she’s defending her friends and defending Catra more often than not. This is the season where we challenged that with her, where she sort of realizes that she’s always trying to protect her friends and keeps her from getting hurt ... what happens when her friends are hurting each other? For her, I think it’s really big moment because she would have done anything for Catra. She would — and did — follow [Catra] to the ends of the earth to prove how much she cared about her. She’s always trying to take care of other people, but she really has to figure out who she is and how to be happy for herself. I think that there’s a lot more growing that she needs to do and there’s a lot more in the future for her.

On the hero side, Glimmer probably makes the biggest strides this season, as she taps into her full magical potential and then deals with her mother’s sacrifice. How will she move forward?

Glimmer is frustrated by the constraints of her magic, by the constraints of being a princess, the daughter, of this immortal queen — her mother is this kind of immortal, untouchable angel and her father was the best sorcerer that Mystacor has ever seen. And she’s in the shadow of that. Ever since we’ve met her, she’s been trying to exert her independence, her own agency, her own self-individuation. It’s always been this kind of like losing battle for her. She’s the only princess who has to recharge her powers. We see her get really frustrated about that this season. Everywhere they go, she keeps running out of power and she can’t help anybody because she’s only got so much power to draw on. So when someone comes to her and offers her more power and the ability to actually really save the day and prove her words, she takes it. Glimmer’s also sorta crossed the line in the sand this season. In some ways I think she’s a little bit of a mirror to Catra, although neither of them would ever admit it.

She also does feel that she’s always put in second place and that people don’t respect her. I also think that she’s always assumed her mother will always be there. Her mother will always be there for her to be sort of rebelling against, to be sort of trying to distinguish herself from and suddenly ... the way this season ends has major repercussions for Glimmer. It throws her into a world that she never expected to be in.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power season 3 is currently available to stream on Netflix.