WARNING: The following contains spoilers for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 5, now streaming on Netflix.
The final episodes of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power bring the romance between Catra and Adora to the front and the center of the show. Here’s how She-Ra and the Princesses of Power ending on such a conclusive romantic note is so powerful and why it does what The Legend of Korra failed to do.
The Legend of Korra‘s fourth and final season focused on the campaign against Kuvira, a burgeoning dictator assembling a new Earth Empire army. After spending three years away from her friends trying to come to terms with her near-death experience at the end of the previous season, Korra found herself increasingly drawn to Asami.
Asami was the only one of Korra’s close friends she stayed in direct contact with,and was one of the first people she saw upon returning to Republic City. The pair were partnered together for much of the season. When Kuvira was defeated, Korra and Asami decided to go on a vacation together to decompress. The series ended with them looking into each other’s eyes, heavily implying that they would begin a romance.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has always featured Catra as a chief antagonist for her former best friend Adora. However, all her misdeeds and crimes only made things increasingly worse for herself. Catra spent most of Season 5 redeeming herself, helping protect Adora and her friends.
Their relationship became softer and more loving as the season progressed, building to Catra proclaiming her love for Adora when the failsafe to the Heart of Etheria seemed to be failing. She and Adora shared a passionate kiss, helping to jumpstart the She-Ra transformation and save Etheria. The series ends with the two very much in a confirmed relationship, with Glimmer and Bow even happily embracing them.
While The Legend of Korra series finale may have aired only six years ago, things have changed drastically in terms of what animation is allowed to bring to audiences.
Perhaps it’s the changing politics of the ensuing six years (including the legalization of same-sex marriage all across the United States). Maybe it’s the fact that Netflix, as a streaming service, is able to get past some of the specific standards the Nickelodeon of half a decade ago wouldn’t have allowed. It might even have something to do with the central importance Catra and Adora’s relationship has always had in She-Ra.
The producers of Legend of Korra have spoken in the past about how Asami went through multiple character changes over the course of production — at various points being considered as a potential Airbender, United Forces recruit and even villainous spy. It was only after she’d been developed further that the concept of a romance between her and Korra became a genuine concept.
In contrast, Catra and Adora have been tied together since the very beginning of the series, with their relationship becoming one of the backbones of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power overall.
The relationship between Adora and Catra — minor breakthroughs, major downfalls and finally coming back together — has always been at the center of She-Ra‘s narrative. Their first kiss literally saves the world and works so effectively because it’s been set up for five seasons. It’s the completion of one of the show’s defining arcs and it works beautifully from a storytelling perspective. It’s also a major step forward for modern animation.
She-Ra likely got this opportunity in part thanks to shows like The Legend of Korra opening the door. LGBTQ relationships have become more prevalent in animation in recent years, with shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe prominently featuring same-sex romances in their universes to great effect.
She-Ra puts that love at the very core of its story and serves as the ultimate example of the messages the show has always been preaching: To love and be loved is the best thing we can do, because it brings out the best in us. She-Ra did what no other mainstream animated show has yet done and put queer romance in the spotlight throughout its run.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power stars Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, AJ Michalka, Marcus Scribner, Reshma Shetty, Lorraine Toussaint, Keston John, Lauren Ash, Christine Woods, Genesis Rodriguez, Jordan Fisher, Vella Lovell, Merit Leighton, Sandra Oh, Krystal Joy Brown and Jacob Tobias.
By making its core queer romance an integral part of the show's climax, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power makes a vital statement.