There’s so much to discuss about this episode! “Pulse” gives us the long-awaited fight between Glimmer and Catra, Spinetossa cuteness, and Double Trouble’s continued antics. It ties its storylines together perfectly and feels so much longer than twenty minutes (in a good way). “Pulse” had me engaged from start to finish, and I’d consider it one of my personal favorites of the season.
The cold open begins with She-Ra, Bow, Netossa, Spinerella, and a few civilian soldiers intercepting a horde transport vehicle in the Whispering Woods. Surprisingly, when She-Ra looks inside the transport, there’s nothing to be found. Apparently the Rebellion has been dealing with a lot of misleading intel lately, confusing and frustrating those in command. Of course we know that the Horde-aligned shapeshifter Double Trouble, currently posing as Flutterina, is the one giving faulty information. The Horde follows up with a robot ambush, because why not throw salt in the wound, as we cut to the theme song.
The Rebellion fighters meet up with Glimmer at camp, tending to their wounds and describing the failed mission. Glimmer is guilty that she can’t go fight herself, especially since everyone she sends ends up getting hurt by the Horde. Swift Wind enters the conversation, claiming to have found the location of the Horde’s big weapon: a mountain on the far side of the Bright Moon. Adora, Bow, and Netossa volunteer to destroy it, but Spinerella is apprehensive. Her wife (this is canon) encourages her competitive spirit, and the four of them set off for the mountain. Glimmer, meanwhile, encounters Flutterina, who makes her feel even worse about staying behind.
We follow Flutterina to a cave in the Whispering Woods—the Horde’s true outpost. Catra pounces from above, for the drama, and Flutterina shifts to Double Trouble’s default form. They inform Catra that the rebels are super demoralized, and that the Horde is likely to win the long game if they keep on with this plan. DT mocks Glimmer specifically, but Catra doesn’t really care—she’s predictably focused on She-Ra. DT discourages Catra’s all-business attitude and insists that war can be fun, proceeding to tell her the Rebellion’s current plans.
The rebel team sets out, leaving Glimmer at Bright Moon Castle. Bored and restless, the new queen flexes her magical capabilities to the courtyard. She’s embarrassed, though, when she realizes she’s being watched. Shadow Weaver, still a guarded “prisoner,” tends to the most evil-looking garden imaginable. Glimmer approaches her apprehensively and the sorceress immediately starts praising her power, recalling the time she spent training her father. Shadow Weaver acknowledges the pressure Glimmer must feel with a talented magician for a father and an angelic being as a (former) mother, but insists that Glimmer can be better than them both. She asks Glimmer to consider merging their magic again, as they had during the Horde rescue, becoming more powerful in the process. Glimmer hasn’t forgotten the way Shadow Weaver “drained her” during this experience, and quickly rejects the sorceress’ help. Shadow Weaver tells Glimmer that she doesn’t have to be the same kind of queen as her mother, stroking her cheek in the same way she had touched Micah, Adora, and Catra in the past. Conflicted, Glimmer teleports away.
The four rebellion fighters arrive at the weapon’s supposed location, already on guard for Horde activity. Spinerella and Netossa begin to bicker competitively, but they’re interrupted by another ambush. The fighters manage to defeat the normal Horde bots, but a new kind of Horde bot approaches them next. It sinks a drill into the ground and releases a massive pulse (roll credits) of energy. Woozy and injured, She-Ra sees that Bow took the most damage from the bot’s attack.
Back in Bright Moon, Adora and Glimmer anxiously wait for Bow to awaken. Eventually Adora does her Avatar State healing thing to bring Bow back to “life,” granting him consciousness despite his not-awesome physical condition. Glimmer asks how the Horde keeps anticipating their plans, and the Bright Moon General conveniently suggests that they could be tracking She-Ra. Adora begins to blame herself, but Glimmer cuts her off and insists that it’s Catra’s fault. Glimmer also blames herself for sending her friends out to get hurt while she stayed safely behind. Bow tells them both not to worry, because that’s his job, which is concerning. Newly determined, Adora says she’s going back to confront the bots. Glimmer says she’ll take care of it as queen. We cut back to the Rebellion General, who reveals herself to actually be Double Trouble wearing her form. Well-played.
Back in Flutterina’s ridiculously pink and plush tent, Double Trouble FaceTimes Catra as Bow. They dramatically re-enact the attack, then become a sobbing Glimmer, and then shift to She-Ra, making a dumb face and blowing a raspberry towards the camera. Catra bursts out laughing, because of course she does, and asks to see She-Ra again, because of course she does. DT is glad that Catra sees the fun in “seeding destruction and chaos,” prompting her to hastily regain her composure. After a full briefing, Catra scoffs at the “typical Adora plan” of taking out all the bots herself. She delays the shipment so they’re exactly where Adora wants them, and admits she’s having a good time.
Glimmer dismisses Shadow Weaver’s guards so they can speak privately. She demands the sorceress’ insight on Catra, since she watched the now-villain grow up from early childhood. Shadow Weaver strokes Glimmer’s ego, insisting that she doesn’t have to think like Catra to win—she already has power. Glimmer is Shadow Weaver’s impromptu student, casting a location spell with the sorceress’ guidance, encouragement, and magical plants that she’s been cultivating undetected. The spell shows Glimmer the Horde’s outpost as Catra commands the pulse bots to confront Adora. Shadow Weaver comments that all of Catra’s firepower will be fixated on Adora, and advises that Glimmer goes to the outpost to confront her one-on-one. Glimmer likes the idea, but realizes warily that it basically means using Adora as bait.
Back in the Whispering Woods, Netossa and Spinerella squabble again (this time about game night), making Adora laughably uncomfortable. The fun times cease, however, when another pulse bot confronts the four fighters (Swift Wind subbed in for Bow). She-Ra manages to save the fighters from the first strike, but things look pretty dire when four more pulse bots start to close in.
Glimmer teleports outside the cave, effortlessly eliminating the Horde guards. She bursts into the outpost and immediately goes for Catra, her new fight theme on blast as the two trash-talk each other mid-combat. As she evades Glimmer’s magic, Catra calls Glimmer out for using her friends as a pawn, because even in this life-threatening situation she has to be petty. She shoves Glimmer over a ledge and then snags her with her whip (I wonder if she’s named it, kind of how Buffy named her stake). As Glimmer flies through the air, her magic accidentally hits the outpost’s structures, causing it to explode and collapse. When the two hit the ground Glimmer tackles Catra, who just straight-up-bites her (???) and says that she tastes like sparkles (???). When Catra launches the whip at Glimmer again, she’s ready, and uses Shadow Weaver’s approach from the Horde rescue to electrocute Catra. Catra books it, actually intimidated—and in this moment, Karen Fukuhara’s voice acting actually intimidates me a little bit, too.
Catra shows Glimmer the Horde’s weapon-in-development, a gigantic Pulse Bot that can level half of the Whispering Woods. She activates it and begins to flee, doubting that Glimmer would choose to pursue her over saving Etheria from the bot’s damage. Shockingly, Glimmer chases Catra, only to see her pinned to the ground by a fallen structure. Glimmer returns to the bot, teleports it above the woods, and lets it explode harmlessly mid-air. Back at the outpost, Double Trouble rescues Catra, who seems genuinely grateful before making a snarky comment. DT supports her as they both exit the cave, which closes in behind them.
Glimmer teleports to the mountains to help Adora, Netossa, and Spinerella fight the pulse bots. Riding her battle high, she takes the bots out in an impressive and stylish display. She misses only one, which Spinerella pushes Netossa back to pursue. The pulse bot strikes, and Spinerella falls to the ground. Netossa runs to her wife’s side, but doesn’t worry for long—Spinerella opens her eyes and congratulates herself faintly for winning their competition. Netossa kisses her on the forehead and calls Spinerella “her girl,” establishing Spinetossa as Wife Goals. We get a shot of She-Ra/Adora watching this happen, her face attentive, thoughtful, and a little confused. Do with that what you will.
Post-battle in Bright Moon, Adora and Glimmer tell Bow about the day’s events. Glimmer announces that she’s not the same leader as her mom (someone’s developing a complex), and that she wants to fight by her friends’ sides. Adora isn’t happy with Glimmer, though, still concerned about the tracking issue and calling her out for using She-Ra as a decoy. Glimmer makes matters worse by mentioning her encounter with Shadow Weaver, but deflects and teleports away before Adora can go full rage-mode.
Catra actually shows some vulnerability back in the Fright Zone, genuinely thanking Double Trouble for their help. DT’s aloof response and outstretched hand fully demonstrate the transactional nature of their friendship, reminding us how lonely Catra really is. She passes the mercenary their pay and stares at the ground, hurt but trying not to show it. She recovers quickly, though, and shifts to her other go-to besides being sad: being petty. Catra recounts Glimmer’s decoy plan and comments that her friendship with Adora might be more flawed than Catra thought. She commands DT to exploit their growing conflict, merging an act of war with something far more personal.
“Pulse” does so much within its twenty-minute run time—most main characters (and side characters like Spinerella and Netossa) demonstrate their wants, needs, and priorities within Season 4’s overall arc. The Glimmer-Catra battle was one of the show’s best, and so different from the fights we see between Adora and Catra or Glimmer and generic Horde soldiers. We get the sense of something very personal and specific when they’re in direct conflict, and I have no doubt the show will continue to explore their dynamic in the future. We also get a painful glance at the “friendship” between Catra and Double Trouble, and how it contributes to the former’s downward spiral. Lastly, I can’t overlook the Glimmer-befriending-Adora’s-abuser-and-blowing-off-her-concerns subplot, which I also expect to escalate and develop during future episodes. In terms of characterization and dynamic exploration, “Pulse” does some of She-Ra‘s best work so far.