Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 3 Review
Change is the name of the game in Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3, with paladin switches, alternate realities, a new leader of the Galra, and more. There is no denying that this was an action-packed season, but there are still so many burning questions!
I only got into this show a few weeks before San Diego Comic-Con. I binge-watched the first two seasons in about a day and a half (and multiple times since). I was really excited for Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3, so that I could experience the episodes with everyone else rather than coming in late and struggling to keep up.
Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3, as a whole, is just as good as the first two seasons. The animation is still top-notch, and the action sequences are great. The pacing is a little off, and much of the season felt too rushed, but I suspect that’s because of the last-minute decision to split the season in two. Rather than stick with the traditional 13-episode format, as seasons 1 and 2 did, TPTB chose to split up the seasons. Less episodes at a time, but also less of a wait between episodes. Seven episodes dropped yesterday, and another six will be released on October 13th. A consequence of this decision is that season 3 definitely only feels like half a of season. A lot of details are introduced and then drop off, presumably to come back in season 4, or what would have been the second half of season 3.
I think a lot of fans would agree with me when I say that I would rather have a longer wait and get to view a complete story than see something that’s only half-finished. Perhaps, now that they seem to be set on the decision for shorter seasons, they can adjust the pacing accordingly so that story details feel more fully fleshed-out.
Still, even with the shorter season, there is a lot that is great about Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3. A new crop of characters have tipped the balance a little bit so that it feels slightly more equal (translation: more ladies!), and our a few of our current characters went through some excellent growth and development. Without being too spoilery (I’ll save that for below), there is an event that shows just how big this universe can be, and how much story there is to tell.
Spoiler alert: The following paragraphs contain spoilers for ALL episodes of Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3, so don’t read unless you’ve watched the entire season!
The biggest change, of course, is that with Shiro gone, the Black Lion needs a new pilot. Rather than introducing a new character, which would be time-consuming in an already full (and short) season, there is just a shift in current personnel. Even this is done rather quickly, but again, with only seven episodes in the season, we need to move quickly in order to get back to the main plot. (And, it can be argued, that this was expedited because it won’t be permanent, but that still remains to be seen.) A reluctant Keith – still desperately searching for the missing Shiro – is chosen by Black to be its new pilot. The vacancy in Red is filled by Lance, who is saddened to lose his connection to Blue but eager to see what his new lion is capable of. That leaves Blue without a paladin, until it lowers its shield for Allura.
This new team is a callback to the original cartoon, right down to the colors of their flight suits. Inexplicably, the original Voltron paladins’ flight suits did not match the colors of their lions. VLD fixed that…until Shiro went missing. While Allura offers a reason for her pink suit (an Altean tradition to honor fallen soldiers), Lance and Keith remain in their original suits. This is perhaps another indication that this switch is only temporary, or maybe it’s a simple explanation like the other suits don’t fit.
Listen, I cannot squeal enough about badass Blue Paladin Allura with her pink flight suit and her bayard!whip. Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. Allura piloting a Lion is some really great character development, especially when you hear the reasoning she gives when trying to convince the Black Lion. Allura is one of the last Alteans; her father built Voltron and failed in his mission to defeat the Galra, and Allura is tired of basically hiding in the castle while other people risk their lives. There is a bit of a learning curve for her, but it’s handled quite well, and it shows that she is allowed to develop her own style rather than just having to copy Lance’s. (Although her flirting with Blue was brilliant.)
There is some great development with Lance and Keith as well. Keith struggles to lead the team because he’s still so hot-headed and reckless; he makes decisions in the heat of the moment rather than considering what is best for the team. And the team itself is fractured – with three of the lions being piloted by new paladins, they lack the cohesion that they’ve had since the beginning. Shiro’s return further increases Keith’s doubts about his ability to lead, even if Black chooses Keith over Shiro in the end. Lance is also unsure about his place on the team; he assumes that when Shiro comes back, everyone will go back to their original lion, and he doesn’t want to take Blue away from Allura. This isn’t the first instance of Lance doubting himself; it isn’t even the first in season 3.
Hunk and Pidge were sadly left on the back-burner this season. With only seven episodes, a lot of the advancements felt rushed, but that is probably due to the split. Once we have the “rest” of the season, it will be easier to examine how the pacing was supposed to play out. For now, though, Hunk and Pidge are sadly lacking some solid character progression. While episode 1 of Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3 shows that Pidge has made a little progress in tracking down her brother, that’s the last we hear about Matt for the rest of the season. And Hunk got to do a little more science this season, but he was mostly relegated to quips in the background.
Who’s That Guy?
We have a new bad guy and a new leader of the Galra empire in Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3: Lotor, Zarkon’s son. He has a different ruling style than his father and a different outlook on how to run things, but it seems that he may have the same intentions. Even after seven episodes, we’re still a little bit in the dark on what Lotor ultimately wants. At the moment, it seems that he wants to venture into alternate realities. In the season 3 finale, “The Legend Begins”, Coran tells the story of the original Voltron paladins and what happened, and we learn that Zarkon was corrupted by the quintessence that came out of the rift. (Also, we learn that he was married to Haggar, whose name was originally Honerva, so that’s a thing that happened. Still unclear as to whether or not Haggar is Lotor’s mother.) Whatever happened to Zarkon made him seemingly immortal, but it also made him pure evil.
So now Lotor is trying to get to other realities? He and his generals attempted to steal a portion of the teladuv (which, did they get it? Or was it destroyed by the blast from the ship?), and they stole the comet in order to make a ship of the same material as Voltron. The question is, why is Lotor doing this? Is it something to do with his father, or is it for another purpose entirely?
Now, let’s take a minute to talk about Lotor’s generals, shall we? Because honestly, I could take or leave Lotor, regardless of how charismatic and how good at strategy he is. For me, it’s his generals that stole the show. Ezor, Zethrid, Narti, and Auxia are amazing, and they remind me a lot of the firebenders from Avatar: The Last Airbender – specifically Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai. First of all, his generals are all female. In a show that only has two female main characters, that’s a big step up in the representation department. Second, all of his generals are only half Galra, and I would love to learn more about the alien species that make up their other halves. I would love to learn more about them in general, and how they came to be working under Lotor. Third, Auxia is the Galra that Keith met in the belly of the weblum. There is some speculation that they could be related; Auxia is the most human-looking of Lotor’s generals, and we’re not sure where the Galra is in Keith’s family. Some people suspect that Auxia could be Keith’s sister, or even his mother. One thing is for sure, that connection is going to come back later. I don’t see how they could just let that drop.
Where’s Shiro? There He Is! …Maybe?
Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3 episode 5, “The Journey”, revealed what happened to Shiro after he disappeared from the battle at the end of season 2. It seems that he was somehow teleported to a Galra ship, which he then escaped and crashed onto an alien planet where he was found by two rebel fighters, who loaned him their ship so that he could go find Voltron. He just misses Voltron after their battle with Lotor and ends up drifting in space for a week. Keith and the Black Lion find him just in time. So Shiro’s back! …Or is he?
There are a lot of theories about what’s going on with Shiro, because it’s obvious that something is, but they have a lot in common; namely, that isn’t the real Shiro.
It’s not hard to arrive at that conclusion. He looks different – his hair is different, his clothes are different, and there is even a glitch in the Matrix that leaves Shiro without his facial scar at one point. How did his hair get so long? What happened to his flight suit? He’s acting out of character; in season 2 he told Keith that if anything happened to him, Keith should lead the team, but when he returns he won’t let Keith be a leader. Even “Shiro’s” actions as a leader are out of character from decisions he would have made in the first two seasons. Not to mention his weird flashbacks, the visions he has of himself in the Galra ship, and his odd, persistent headache. All of these point to one thing: this is not Shiro.
There is only one real solid piece of evidence that it is the real Shiro, and that’s the fact that the Black Lion found him.
A few of the more popular theories include clones, look-a-likes, brainwashing, mind control, and sleeper agents. Most fans have settled on the clone theory, primarily because the Galra referred to something called “Operation Kuron”, and “kuron” sounds very close to the Japanese word for “clone”. But which Shiro is the clone? Is it the one that they just found? Is that why Black wouldn’t respond when Shiro tried to take the controls again? Or is the Shiro that we met at the beginning the clone, and this Shiro is the real one? It’s been pointed out that all of the memories S3!Shiro has of the team are from season 1, and he specifically asks about the lions, which get scattered across the galaxy at the end of the first season.
The One Where AU Fic Is Real
Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3 also featured several other shoutouts to the original cartoon, such as when the team journeyed to an alternate reality and met Sven in “Hole in the Sky”. In the original cartoon, Sven piloted the Blue Lion until he was stabbed (in the Japanese cartoon he was killed) and taken to “space hospital”. In this version, he is shot protecting Lance and requests to be taken to space hospital.
Another thing that this alternate reality had: Alteans. In this universe, Allura took charge after her father’s death and led the Alteans to victory over the Galra. Allura is immediately drawn into this idea of a peaceful galaxy, but the paladins sense that something is wrong. The more we learn about this reality, the more we learn that the Alteans have instituted a different form of slavery. The Alteans created a device that overrides a person’s freewill; the AU!Alteans think that it’s a small price to pay for “peace”, but the paladins disagree. It’s the idea of the Alteans using the comet to cross into every reality and override freewill that convinces Allura to steal the comet.
Slav brought up the concept of alternate realities in season 2, so this isn’t something that just popped out of nowhere. The introduction of alternate realities in Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3 indicates that this could be part of a much larger story. Voltron is the defender of the universe. Now it’s a possibility that Voltron could become the defender of ALL universes.
The alternate reality we journey to in “Hole in the Sky” also introduces the idea that there are no “good guys”. We view the Alteans as the good guys in the war against the Galra because of Allura and Coran, but the mirror-Alteans could not be considered clear-cut “good guys”. We can sit down and have a debate over whether it’s better to lose your freewill or to just die, but the fact that a debate exists indicates that one is not necessarily better than the other. “The Legend Begins” also showed us a Zarkon who was good and wanted to do right by his people. It wasn’t until Honerva/Haggar died that he really went off the deep end, and in the end, the Galra followed him because he is their leader. They seemed to be peaceful before that, which means they have the capability for peace – and “good” – now. Just look at the Blades of Marmora.
There’s a lot to mull over after Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3. I’m sure the threads that were introduced – like the freed planets not trusting the Blades of Marmora – will return in season 4, but there is no reason we couldn’t get answers to some of our questions. If TPTB wanted to split the seasons, they could, but I feel like they could at least give us one complete arc in each group. As it is, the only thing that was really resolved in Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3 is that they found Shiro, and no one is 100% convinced that they actually did find Shiro. There is still so much left open, and while the episodes were great individually, as a season it feels incomplete.
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from THE Ohio State University. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, and conventions in the NYC area.
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