While everyone’s getting hyped for Netflix Originals like The Defenders, I’m a little more interested in what kind of animation we can see (paired with good storytelling, of course). For that, if it’s not some new anime or another season of Bojack Horseman, then it’s getting a look at the newest season of Voltron: Legendary Defender.
As a caveat, some slight spoilers will follow in this review.
With Zarkon out of comission, his son and heir Prince Lotor takes over the Galra Empire, consolidating power with deadly aim. He and his team of elite soldiers move on the worlds liberated by the Paladins, reclaiming them and setting traps aplenty. Meanwhile, the Paladins seek a new leader in Shiro’s absence, putting Keith in command and letting Allura fill in where needed. But as the battle against Lotor’s rise goes on, new twists and turns are added to the mix, hinting at something far larger about the nature of the universe and about the power behind Voltron itself.
One way that I would describe this new season is the emphasis on politics. I don’t mean politics in the way you might see it on a show like House of Cards or Game of Thrones, where everyone’s making deals or betraying each other for power. On Voltron, the politics of the war against the Galra is pretty black-and-white. But there’s intrigue and debate within the ranks on both sides. We see how Lotor and his grand vision for the empire pits him against the druid Haggar and the senior figures in the military. Meanwhile, with Shiro missing in action, Keith has to take over, putting him at odds with Lance as de facto second-in-command and with Allura, who is trying to do more as a fighter than as a diplomat.
Within 7 episodes, at least, we get to see a glimpse of what’s to come and a little more insight into the major players. Midway through, we get a glimpse of alternate realities and histories, and how Allura’s people, the Alteans, might have fared under different circumstances. And the finale goes for a big climax not in the present, but in the past, as Coran reveals what happened with King Alfor, his former friend Zarkon, and the source of the ancient feud with the Galra.
Shiro’s fate, meanwhile, gets revealed in a heartwrenching way this season. We see more of the struggle he faces to escape the Galra, not only physically, but in overcoming his emotional scars, too. As a slight detour, there was a section where we see him braving the wilderness of a remote planet, trying to sort out what’s happened and how to find his team. It’s a sequence that reminds me a lot of my one favorite episodes of the Justice League animated series from 2003, “Hereafter,” where we watch Superman, presumed dead and powerless, survive in the wild of the distant future as a mere mortal with the skills he already has. It’s become something of a favorite subgenre of mine: the De-Powered and Friendless Hero Braving the Wild Story (on that note, I’d also recommend “Ludo in the Wild” from Season 2 of Star Vs. The Forces of Evil).
If I have only one complaint about this season, it’s that instead of 12 or 13 episodes, we only get a 7-episode run. Granted, the finale ends on a spectacular cliffhanger, and maybe there was some behind-the-scenes issue that led to this production schedule, it feels like a bit of a rush if we still have to wait for the wrap-up to this new story arc. I’d have preferred to wait a little longer if it meant getting a longer and more action-packed season to enjoy. As it is, Voltron is still Voltron, and this show has an energy that’ll always leave me coming back for more.
The third season of Voltron: Legendary Defender is available to watch on Netflix.
Bibliography: Voltron: Legendary Defender (Season 3). Based on Beast King GoLion by Toei Animation and Voltron: Defender of the Universe by World Events Productions. Produced by Joaquim Dos Santos, Lauren Montgomery, Yoo Jae Myung, Ted Koplar, Bob Koplar, Choi Goun, Kim Young Hyun, Kim Seul Ki, and Lee Soo Kyung. DreamWorks Animation; World Events Productions; Studio Mir. Netflix (distributor). Original release date: June 10, 2016 – present.