A By-The-Numbers Look At The Disaster That Was ‘Voltron’ Season 8

Voltron Season 8 courtesy of DreamworksWhat happened to Voltron Season 8? How did the final release become something barely recognizable to longtime fans? What was the deal with those leaks? Read on for a warts-and-all review of the whole situation from our Special Guest Contributor, Taylor Hardman. Fair warning- there are spoilers for Voltron: Legendary Defender ahead.

The eighth and final season of Voltron: Legendary Defender was released on December 14, 2018. Like many other fans, I stayed up with friends to binge the whole season at midnight as soon as it came out. Also, like many in the fandom, I came away from Voltron Season 8 stunned & sad, rather than enjoying a satisfactory conclusion to what had so far been a truly wonderful series.

Rather than the epic final season I had hoped to see, I watched a season full of odd pacing and characterization culminating in a finale that left me in a state of shock – and not the good kind. Voltron Season 8 didn’t feel like the show that I fell in love with. I felt an emptiness in my heart at seeing it conclude so unsatisfactorily. I watched it again, thinking there was something I must have missed. But the more I watched, the more it felt like things really weren’t adding up.

I will admit I was wary of Voltron when I first heard of it. Mech shows have never been my thing, but I gave it a chance. I was so glad I did. Truly, this show did some remarkable and groundbreaking things with characterization and representation. I (like many fans) fell in love with these characters so quickly that I surprised myself.

Shiro in particular was such an incredible, stand out character to me. A gay Japanese amputee whose struggle with PTSD was portrayed as realistically as his doubts about leadership- that kind of well written and nuanced character in fiction is few and far between. He was complimented with a diverse cast that was each amazing in their own right.

  • Keith: an orphan looking for somewhere to belong, who struggles on a path of self acceptance while dealing with species-based racism after finding out half of his heritage is the same aliens who have been committing mass genocide across the universe for over ten thousand years, and goes from being a sharp-edged juvenile delinquent to a caring and brave leader over the course of 7 seasons.
  • Lance, a child of a large family, whom we meet as a immature jokester more likely to spout a pick up line than a plan, wholeheartedly dedicated to a lifetime rivalry with Keith, has a really great journey of self-realization and becomes a huge part of the team’s heart. He keeps his humor without being over the top, loyally willing to put himself in between any of the other paladins and danger, the first to offer up comfort in hard times.
  • Pidge, the resident tech genius, portrayed as female for the first time in Voltron’s history (while also being heavily non-binary coded, which I could write an entire separate 12k word analysis about, but for the purposes of this will use they/them pronouns), who pretends to be someone else in order to join the Garrison and find out the truth behind the disappearance of their brother and is constantly lauded as the voice of logic and reason on the team.
  • Hunk, whose character could have easily boiled down to “the big guy that’s always making food jokes”, you find out is so much more than that. Truly, the man could bring together the universe with his kindness and soft heart that makes you fall in love with him immediately.
  • Allura, a super powerful woman of color who deals with the weight of a ten thousand year old war in spite of the grief of losing her father, her home planet, and the rest of her species, who overcomes her own prejudices, becomes one with her team, and truly becomes one of the most powerful characters in the show while maintaining kindness and good sense of leadership.

This is an incredible, diverse, relatable group of characters who until now have been shining examples of good writing for both kids and adults. Voltron Season 8 seems bent on changing that.

A Short Recent History of the Voltron Fandom

In order to understand factors that are believed to have influenced the final season, there’s two major events in Voltron’s recent fandom history I’d like to touch on.

In July at San Diego Comic Con 2018, shortly before the release of Voltron’s penultimate seventh season, the character of Shiro was confirmed to be gay. Congoers saw the first episode of the season which featured a flashback breakup scene between Shiro and his then-boyfriend Adam, long before the events of the show began.

Later in that same season, Adam dies in battle along with the rest of his squadron while defending Earth from the invading Galra. His death sparked fan outrage. Some of the fandom accused the show of abusing the “Bury Your Gays” trope. There was enough backlash that showrunner Joaquim Dos Santos publicly apologized via Twitter and said that it was not their intention to do so.

In their defense, TV Tropes defines “Bury Your Gays” as LGBT characters being killed because they are viewed as more expendable than their heteronormative counterparts. Adam dies alongside his entire squadron of elite pilots. It’s presented as a casualty of war and not because of his orientation.

Voltron Season 8 leaks
The leaked images of Shiro’s wedding which sent the fandom into an uproar

Near the end of October, leaked images purporting to be from Voltron Season 8 started to make their way onto the internet from multiple sources: an individual claiming to be a part of a Malay subtitling company and dubbing companies BTI and Vivid Studios, Inc (VSI).

The leaks depicted Shiro getting married to a random man who resembled Roy from the Macross franchise; the paladins posing in front of a statue of a (presumably deceased) Allura, both at their current ages and older versions of themselves; Lance and Allura sharing a tender moment where both are crying (presumably right before her death); Keith helping the Blade of Marmora become a humanitarian relief organization.

Fans immediately began to attempt to debunk the leaks. They had solid logic for believing these leaks were fake. Some of the most compelling reasons:

  • Watermarks were different on different leaks, meaning there were multiple leaking sources of an incredibly important franchise nearly two months before its release. One leaker is rare- several is almost unheard of.
  • The leaks were full of grammatical errors.
  • The individual who posted the Malay leaks was reportedly only a freelance translator. Such an important job rarely goes to freelancers.
  • There were multiple artistic errors.
  • The story put forward by the leaks went against everything the showrunners had been saying about how the show would end. For example, they swore they wouldn’t stick in a romance randomly, that it would instead be built up over time.
  • In this interview, Kimberly Brooks (Allura’s voice actor) speaks excitedly about Allura appearing in a post-show spin-off- something that wouldn’t be possible if her character died.

The best evidence that the Voltron Season 8 leaks were fake came directly from Keith’s voice actor, Steven Yeun. A fan showed him the leaks and he said that they were fake. As a voice actor, he should be trusted to know about his character’s end.

Reassured, fans began to relax.

The Release of Voltron Season 8

The morning of December 14th came, and we were all stunned to find out the leaks were real.

Well, mostly – the Roy Macross cameo Shiro had been marrying in the leaks was replaced with Curtis, a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” bridge technician on the Atlas. He was a character whose name you only know if you watch with subtitles.

I went into the season “spoiled”. A friend uninvolved in Voltron and unconcerned with spoiling themselves looked at the end for me before I watched, with instructions to tell me only if the leaks were true or false. I wholeheartedly believed the leaks to be fake, but I wanted to set my mind at ease before watching so it wouldn’t be on my mind the whole season.

The surprise I felt at seeing that text message pop up “True”… I can’t describe it. Nevertheless, I resolved to give the season a chance. Maybe there was a reasonable way that the showrunners arrived at the future depicted in the leaks.

But the more I watched Voltron Season 8, the more wrong things felt, the more “off” things I noticed. I started to get suspicious- then outright convinced – that something had happened to this story. This wasn’t Voltron Season 8 in its original form. It became more and more obvious as the season went on that there had been major edits in post-production.

There were three main categories of of issues that I’m going to talk about:

  • Weird pacing issues, editing mistakes, and mischaracterizations all over the place
  • A complete scrub of anything resembling a friendship between the characters of Shiro and Keith. A friendship that had been heavily featured in previous seasons hardly even appeared in this season. Keith and Shiro were like strangers to each other. It felt like there were scenes missing where they should have interacted in several episodes.
  • The awkward and suspicious addition of Curtis, Shiro’s “husband”. It was almost like he’d been intentionally dropped in so that showrunners could say, “See, he isn’t a COMPLETE stranger!”

Pacing, Editing, and Mischaracterizations

The first episode of Voltron Season 8, “Launch Date”, starts by setting off a stick of dynamite on the Fourth Wall. The very first shot is of Pidge watching – and critiquing – an episode of 80’s Voltron. It’s explained away in the episode that 80’s Voltron is “based off” the Legendary Defender paladins. It crops up again later in the season and every time it’s brought up, it just feels so incredibly meta that it prevents the suspension of disbelief.

One of the best things about Voltron was that it understood the audience of young boys it aimed for was not the audience it ended up attracting. After Season 2, each season got progressively darker and more mature to reflect its older fanbase. “Launch Date” felt like a return to the slapstick comedy of early seasons.

Voltron Season 8 also deals with Lance’s feelings for Allura, which have been maturing and changing over the course of several seasons. It was obvious at the end of Season 7 that “Allurance” was going to happen, but it was expected to come at the very end of the series.

Instead, writers surprised audiences by pairing up the couple in the first episode. It feels like too sudden of a jump after such a long “will they/ won’t they” build-up. As sweet as the moment tries to feel, its suddenness also makes the moment feel foreboding. If the writers are having the characters get together now, what lies ahead for Allura? (Death. The answer is death). Knowing that Allura dies in the end, it makes this moment that should be sweet feel like it’s only used to heighten the emotional stakes for Allura’s upcoming death.

The second episode, “Shadows”, feels like the missing B-plot from Season 7. It’s essentially a retelling of what Honerva has been up to since disappearing in the Season 6 episode “Black Paladins”. Honerva was suspiciously absent from Season 7. Only her Altean mech makes an appearance in the very last episode of the season.

“Shadows” mixes catch-up of Honerva’s plans with flashbacks to her past in a way that’s honestly difficult to follow the timeline of because the jumps back and forth in time feel so random. This feels like a plotline that we should have been following for most of season 7, condensed into one episode of Voltron Season 8 in order to allow the latter half of Season 7 to focus solely on the Galra occupation of Earth.

The episode also gives some insight into the memories of a young Lotor, painting the power-crazed genocidal heir to the Galra empire as a sympathetic victim of his father’s abuse – promoting the unsettling theme that victims of abuse are predestined to repeat the cycle. Lotor’s presence in this season is… strange, to put it lightly. “Shadows” makes it seem like the show is preparing us for Lotor’s return from the Quintessence field, that he might be a major player in Voltron Season 8. Later the season takes a sharp left turn and an adult Lotor only shows up as a corpse and as a hallucination. It’s an odd feeling that lead fans to believe Lotor might have had a more pivotal role in the season (not just in flashbacks, but in person) which was later removed to focus on Honerva’s storyline.

The third episode, “The Prisoner’s Dilemma”, does a good job of wrapping up some plot threads I didn’t think would be touched on again, like the “superweapon” Krolia released in the end of season 5 so that she and Keith could escape a base unharmed. It brings back a character from “Omega Shield” in season 6.

However, it feels like a regression for some characters. Lance gets painted again as “the dumb one” by misunderstanding Voltron’s funky words for time, despite showing multiple times that he’s had them down since season 2.

This also feels like the beginning of a season-long regression for Shiro’s character. Shiro, throughout the last 7 seasons, has always been someone who leads from the front lines, always the first to jump into action or volunteer for a mission. The Shiro we see in Voltron Season 8 feels much more like a “Boss”. It seems like he’s been sidelined from the action, reduced to shouting orders at others rather than jumping into the fray himself despite the awesome combat capabilities of his new arm we saw in Season 7. Seeing Shiro go from volunteering to single-handedly sabotage Sendak’s cruiser in the end of the seventh season (proving Atlas is completely able to function without him, though possibly not transform), to not doing much more than shouting orders this season definitely felt like a huge regression for his character.

The whole point of going back to Earth in season 7 is to get a replacement for the Castle of Lions which was destroyed in the Season 6 finale. However, 3 episodes into having a new “space base”, Voltron and Atlas decide to split ways, with Atlas continuing on its mission of assembling the Voltron Coalition and Voltron pursuing Honerva. It feels like an odd choice in-universe. It would be much more prudent to defeat the imminent danger of Honerva before traveling around for galactic diplomacy. The story in this episode is by no means a bad one- it just seems like more filler than plot, which is weird for a final season with only 13 episodes..

The fourth episode, “Battle Scars” is when I really started to become confused by Voltron Season 8’s pacing. It’s another episode that feels like it should be connected to the main season arc but is really filler that reiterates things we already knew. The basic takeaway of the episode is “Pidge figures out how to track robeasts”, which could have been explained as part of a different episode to make room for the overpacked second half of this season. Pidge develops an ability to see into Olkarion’s past which is barely explained and never used again. The paladins figure out that Honerva is using wormholes to move the mechs around, but since they’ve known about her ability to create them since “Black Paladins” this felt like an incredibly confusing revelation. I enjoyed seeing the Olkarions again but felt like this wasn’t the best use of them.

“The Grudge” was where it really becomes obvious how big the cast had become- and also how much trouble the writers are having balancing everyone. The episode doesn’t use the opportunities it has to teach us about these newer characters. They talk to each other, but it doesn’t feel like we actually learn much about them. It also casts some doubt on the closeness of the paladins and the rest of the “old team” like Shiro and Coran. An alien sends fake messages sounding like the paladins to the Atlas, and neither of them recognize that there’s anything odd about very stilted sounding transmissions from friends they’ve known for years, while newcomers Veronica and Axca do.

Keith also magically has his mother’s blade back in only this episode with no explanation, despite giving it back to her at the end of Season 7. It seems like a scene of her giving it to him was omitted from Voltron Season 8, or maybe the showrunners forgot he wasn’t supposed to have it.

It’s also not well explained why Zethrid targets and blames Keith specifically for the loss of Ezor. The argument she has with Axca at the volcano feels choppy, like we’re not hearing the full conversation. Keith and Zethrid are also beautifully well rendered in this scene, as well as Griffin. When Axca removes her helmet, though, she appears to be much less rendered. Her parts of the scene might have been quickly redone later.

The audio description at this point says Zethrid points her gun at Shiro, despite the fact that he hasn’t said a word and she’s been arguing with Axca only. Some fans have hypothesized that Shiro might have originally been part of the discussion but had his lines removed for an unknown reason. Zethrid is then shot in the left arm. Editing leads the viewer to believe that this was done by Veronica, but her position way off to the right prevents her from having this angle of attack at all. However, Shiro’s gun is partly raised, like he might have possibly been the one to shoot Zethrid originally but it was changed to Veronica in a later edit.

To be honest, seeing Shiro holding a gun at all is pretty baffling. I believe this is one of the first times in the whole show we ever see it, as he’s only used direct hand-to-hand combat for the past 7 seasons. Melee combat been his forte since fighting in the arena.

The sixth episode, “Genesis”, kickstarts Voltron Season 8’s big plot arc. That’s pretty late, and it really makes the latter half of the season feel cluttered with a convoluted story that could have invoked the same emotions with a much simpler explanation.

While part of the plot concerning Honerva’s plan suffers from over-complication, there are aspects which could actually use much more explanation. What was up with the Alteans’ unwavering and almost god-like worship of Honerva just because she’s Lotor’s mother?

There were some sloppy moments this episode. Ezor’s only line this episode was discovered by fans to be just a pitched-up copy of one of Kimberly Brooks’ (Allura’s voice actor) lines from another season, instead of Ezor’s actual voice actor. Also, when the bridge is tracking the movements of Zethrid, Ezor, and the Olkari hacker after they escape the prison cell, only Zethrid and the Olkari show up in the security footage on the screen.

The showrunners have talked at length about the care and precision they put into their ship’s user interfaces to make them look as wonderful as they do, so these mistakes (on top of other characters never actually acknowledging Ezor) leads fans to believe Ezor was originally written as dead in Voltron Season 8. The theory is that she was brought back in an attempt to counteract the “bury your gays” accusations the show suffered back when Zethrid and Ezor were revealed to be in a lesbian relationship.

Shiro again pulls a gun this episode when Zethrid is attempting to break into the bridge, and it feels no more in character this episode than it did the episode before.

Lotor’s Sincline mech is returned with very little explanation as to how and in possibly the most confusing manner. Is Lotor in there? Is he not? Why does he suddenly start attacking the Altean mechs? Why does Honerva have control over him? This is another place where it feels like significant chunks of story are missing. The gap leads fans to believe Lotor might have been originally slated to return as himself.

While “Day Forty-Seven” is a really cool exploration into a different method of storytelling, it brings the huge plot arc started in the last episode to a screeching halt. The episode feels like it belongs earlier in the season. It’s another filler episode that could have kept its format but still helped to move the plot forward. It gives us more time with the supporting cast, but like “The Grudge”, it doesn’t feel like their dialogue helps us to learn about their characters as much as it should.

Additionally, it continues the trend of Shiro only referring to the paladins in battle as “paladins” or “Voltron”, and not by their individual names as he always used to. It could be an attempt to be more official now that they have the Atlas. If that was the intent, it failed. It just contributes to the widening gap between Shiro and the other paladins this season that feels entirely out of character. While he may no longer pilot a lion Shiro will always be a paladin, and this season he really feels cut off from the rest of his team.

The episode finally picks up a bit of the main season plot arc towards the very end of the episode. Allura and Romelle attempt to communicate with the Alteans they’ve captured, but it feels like they make very little effort to communicate or even attempt to explain that Lotor was siphoning off the Quintessence of their friends and family. Allura states in this episode that Lotor is back when he’s really not. That seems like it might be another sign pointing to a deleted presence of Lotor in Voltron Season 8.

Episode eight, “Clear Day”, is a yo yo of emotions. The A plot line is feel-good filler, and the B-plot is the more sober main season plot arc. It makes the tone swing wildly between ridiculous and very serious. By this point in the season, it’s jarring to push the imminent threat posed by Honerva into the “b-plot” place. That contributes to an overall feeling of disorganization encompassing the whole season. It lends support to the theory that there were major post-production edits, and what is left is what they were able to salvage with as little re-animation as possible.

Lotor shows up again as a dream or hallucination of Allura’s in an attempt to convince her to bond with the dark entity they extracted from an Altean. It’s not clear why Lotor specifically is chosen to try and make this argument. It doesn’t seem to be Honerva’s doing as it encourages Allura to use the entity to defeat Honerva. It casts more confusion about whether or not Lotor was supposed to be in the season originally – possibly as a secondary antagonist who is also against Honerva and as part of an Allura/Lotor/Lance love triangle.

It also begins what I truly felt like was a heartbreaking assassination of Allura’s character for the second half of Voltron Season 8. Allura has always been a beacon of light and symbol of good, and to see her so suddenly willing to take on this dark entity to defeat Honerva is jarring. To be honest, it feels like the story is attempting to sabotage Allura’s character so that it’s “easier” emotionally to kill her at the end of the arc.

I enjoyed finally seeing the lighter side of Shiro’s personality again this episode, but I disliked the whole concept of the arm wrestling contest. In the very first episode of Voltron, Shiro was captured and forced to fight for his life in a gladiator arena for several months to a year. There he lost his arm and was experimented on daily. This was incredibly traumatic for him, and the show has done a good job of depicting his PTSD concerning those events ever since. I remember saying to my friend at this part, “Did nobody in charge think that making Shiro fight a Galra in a darkened arena with thousands of people screaming at him might be slightly triggering for him?”, but the issue is never addressed.

This episode was where I also started to notice some dubbing issues that continue through the rest of Voltron Season 8, which- in a show where animation is done to the voice acting- has always been basically non-existent in the past. Now, especially while Hunk and Keith are stuck on the ride, some lines sound like they’re on fast forward. Possibly the story was rearranged, and the showrunners needed to make some scenes go by faster.

“Knights of Light, Part 1” kicks the main season plot into high gear. The paladins enter Honerva’s mind via the infinite void – also not very well explained. Again, they refer to Lotor as if he’s actually back, another piece of evidence he might once have had a bigger role. This episode gave us a good brief glimpse into how Keith has really developed as a leader, but left me wanting to see more.

Having the new paladins fight the old ones was a cool way to bring the narrative full circle, but it continued Allura’s descent into darkness in an unsettling way. There’s a moral that follows Allura through the second half of Voltron Season 8 that any power, even evil power, is good if used to defeat evil. That’s more than a little unnerving. It feels like the gap between good and evil has disappeared, and raises a serious question: if both sides are doing wrong, are the good guys still good? Should you take on some evil in order to defeat a worse one?

I did, however, enjoy the bridge’s lighthearted teasing of whether or not Shiro using his mech arm was cheating in the arm-wrestling competition from the previous episode. It creates conversation between newer characters in a way that teaches us something about their personalities and helps the audience connect with them more.

“Knights of Light, Part 2” continues the journey into Honerva’s mind. Despite her father and Lance begging her to do otherwise, Allura continues to rely on and deepen her bond with the dark entity’s power.

This episode also shows Lotor’s disfigured, melted body which had hardwired itself into the controls of the Sincline mech while stuck in the quintessence field. It’s unclear if he’s meant to still be alive or not and just creates more confusion about his role in the season. Was he meant to be in Voltron Season 8 before it was edited, and this shot was put in later to explain away his absence? It’s an incredibly unsettling shot, and not one I feel is appropriate for the “Y7” rating that Voltron has.

The paladins jump between a few locations before finally landing on ‘Altea’ within Honerva’s mind. They’re confronted by a mech that looks like Zarkon, which allows another sorely needed glimpse into Keith’s leadership growth. The moment is almost immediately overshadowed by Allura’s extremely out of character torture of Zarkon’s mind. Nobody attempts to stop her, which is also strange.

The episode concludes with the team destroying a moon they conveniently didn’t notice didn’t belong above Altea until Zarkon points it out. It’s unbelievable that Allura and Alfor wouldn’t notice a moon that doesn’t belong above their home planet.

This is where I began to notice art pieces being reused in this and other episodes of Voltron Season 8. The shot of Voltron using the sword to break out of Honerva’s mind is a direct copy of a shot of Voltron using the sword to enter the quintessence field from Season 6. In a show that’s usually so well and beautifully animated it was strange to notice mistakes like this. Possibly in light of changes to the season they needed to try and save some money?

“Uncharted Regions” gives us the first look at the mech that Honerva has been creating to pierce through realities in action. It was built incredibly quickly, given that the Sincline mech took a good part of four seasons to build.

During the Atlas strategy meeting, it’s stated that Honerva is using the Sincline mech to do what she’s doing with her own mech. That’s another clue that Lotor and Sincline might have once had a bigger role in Voltron Season 8. Honerva also ‘activates’ the sleeper protocol she’d apparently installed in the Alteans to have them siphon the energy from Atlas’ crystal. That would have been useful earlier on in the season. Everyone on the bridge weirdly just watches them do this and nobody tries to stop them.

Honerva uses this power and more from a convenient Balmera that shows up to combine her mech with the Sincline. That starts a trend of combining and making bigger and more powerful mechs for the rest of Voltron Season 8. It’s not really explained why these mechs need to be combined at all or what the purpose of bringing Sincline back from the Quintessence field was if not to bring back Lotor.

The penultimate episode, “The Zenith”, spends most of its time in battle between Voltron and Atlas against Honerva’s mech and her robeasts. The B-plot of Coran and Sam just “figuring out” how to stop the collapse of realities feels a little bit too convenient, but frankly the episode doesn’t have time to focus on more due to the importance of the main storyline. It winds up making the episode confusing and convoluted rather than helping the plot.

In a deus ex machina move, a bunch of Balmera show up and give Voltron and Atlas the ability to merge into a new mech, “Voltatlas”. To be honest it seems more concerned with looking cool and selling toys than any concept of practicality.

Though I enjoyed seeing Shiro as a paladin again even if only for a couple episodes, he appears alone in whatever space the new mech has created for him. What happened to the rest of the crew? Are they still on the Atlas? Voltatlas chases Honerva through multiple realities, before seemingly getting caught in a reality that ends before they can leave.

Honerva finds her “perfect reality”- but fittingly, after all she’s sacrificed and the universes she’s destroyed to get there, the child version of Lotor won’t accept her. Voltatlas appears again with no explanation as to how it got out of the destroyed reality where we saw it last.

“The End is the Beginning” is the series’ final episode. Sadly, it’s also one of the most fraught with issues. Voltron’s strength has always been its ability to humanize giant mech battles, and this episode doesn’t accomplish that as well as the show usually does. It feels like a robot toy commercial.

The characters end up in a place where all realities converge with no explanation as to how they got there. Honerva attempts to destroy all realities, which seems like incredibly high stakes with bare explanation.

Voltatlas grows some wings fifty times its size we’ve never seen before- and that’s about where I threw up my hands in defeat. There’s just no sense of rules or dramatic tension or anything for this battle because new abilities get pulled out of nowhere every few seconds.

The six heroes and Honerva end up inside “the connected consciousness of all of existence”. Honerva, with surprisingly little persuasion from the paladins considering all the bad she’s done, decides to sacrifice her life along with Allura to save all realities. It tries to be a heartwrenching scene, but due to the way the rest of the episode and the battle immediately preceding it come across, it falls flat. When you don’t stop to explain what’s going on, your audience loses their connection to the story because there’s no sense of stakes, or of accomplishment.

The sacrifice scene feels meaningless and unconnected to the entire rest of Voltron Season 8, which is incredibly sad because it depicts the death of a major character. A scene that’s so important and has such a big loss should mean a lot, but the writing leans too heavily on the audience’s existing love for the characters to generate that sadness rather than supporting it with plot.

None of the other paladins make more than a perfunctory attempt to stop Allura from giving her life. Because the audience doesn’t really understand the situation, it feels like they just give up when they could have tried to figure out another way. Allura kisses Lance, and suddenly he just gets Altean markings. Then she and Honerva walk into the light where the old paladins and Lotor are waiting.

It seems like Honerva has a happy reunion with Lotor there. At this point it kind of feels like she won, because the paladins lost Allura but Honerva still got to be happy.

There’s a serious question here: was Allura always meant to die? All signs point to “no”. Kimberly Brooks was incredibly excited about Allura appearing in a post-show spin off. Plus, Allura’s dialogue only infers that there’s danger, not that she will outright die like is depicted in the show. She says “I know the risks”, not “I know the cost” or anything insinuating she knows she will die. Neither Allura nor Kimberly seem to know Allura was going to die. That’s weird for a self-sacrifice ending.

Is it possible that in an earlier edit the scene was much more ambiguous? The lions leaving in the last shot of of Voltron Season 8 to find her would have felt much more hopeful because she might actually be alive. That makes more sense than the sloppy ending we got.

The restoration of realities brings back Altea and Daibazaal, which comes as a huge slap in the face. Allura lost her home and her entire race. Now it’s back and she doesn’t even get to appreciate it.

The episode jumps to one year later, with Keith speaking at the Kral Zera, obviously in a position of high power within the Galra Empire. That was one of the few things I liked about the episode (also Kosmo is HUGE now and giving me definite Mononoke vibes). It really shows how much Keith has matured and become an incredible leader.

Hunk is the first chef/diplomat I’ve ever seen, but the role suits him and he’s clearly still working on the Atlas, which suits his character.

Shiro looks like he’s gained a rank and become Admiral of Earth’s forces, while still remaining Atlas’ captain. That suits his character as well; he’s always looking to do better for the universe.

Pidge and Matt are working on a sentient AI robot named Chip, which is apparently a reference to 80’s Voltron. The loss of Matt’s long hair is truly a tragedy deserving of its own episode, but seeing the two of them work together on something is heartwarming.

Coran seems to be in charge on this new version of Altea. It’s a heartbreaking reminder that he’s the only of the original characters who didn’t get to say goodbye to Allura before she died despite being like a second father figure to her.

Lance gives a sweet speech about Allura to what looks like a class field trip, before revealing he works on a farm now. It honestly feels like it should be accompanied by a record scratch and film tearing animation. Lance went to the garrison because he wanted to be a pilot. While the show is obviously trying to give him a happy “simple life” end, it feels like a disservice to his character. Did someone in charge go, “Hey, Lance is Cuban, right? They work on farms there? Go make him work on a farm!” It would have been better to come up with a way forward for the character that deals with his grief without counteracting who he’s been for eight seasons. It truly makes you realize that Lance’s character in Voltron Season 8 was “the guy who’s worried about Allura”. He doesn’t get much development outside of that, and it stings to see that happen to such a great character.

The show ends with the lions leaving Altea. It’s inferred that they’re off to join Allura, wherever she may be.

Honestly, you’ll get a much better experience if you stop the episode there- but there’s more. Even after giving us the first epilogue, the series tacks on end cards that tell us what the paladins do for the rest of their lives:

  • The Holts go on to establish the next generation of Legendary Defenders, which I’m fine with.
  • Hunk creates a culinary empire? This is a man who was so happy to be an Aeronautical Engineer. Cooking was his de-stress hobby. Serving as chef on the Atlas in a diplomacy role suited him, but giving up adventuring entirely? Not so much.
  • I spoke a bit about my unhappiness with Lance’s end already, and his end card just continues that.
  • Keith helps transition the Blade of Marmora into a humanitarian relief organization. That’s like saying an Elite Navy Seals Squadron have decided to just make cookies now. It’s such an absurd change to the mission of the organization that it shouldn’t even carry the same name.
  • Shiro gets married to a random Atlas crewmember whose name isn’t even mentioned in the show. In an effort to score points for LGBT representation by showing the first male/male wedding in western animation, the show manages to do so as poorly as possible. It’s tacked on to the very end of the show, with no explanation and without any romantic tension built up between the two characters. What should be a happy historical moment ends up being an incredibly sour and bitter note to end the entire show on.

That leads me to my next point- and it’s a big one.

What happened to Keith & Shiro’s friendship?

The friendship between Keith and Shiro, explored at length in multiple episodes preceding this season, is practically absent in season 8. The characters behave like they barely know each other, and there are moments in the season where the lack of interaction between the two stops feeling unsettling and starts becoming outright suspicious.

These two characters have sacrificed everything to try and save the other. They put each other in front of saving the entire universe. Let’s take a look at how much the show built this up before Voltron Season 8 :

  • Shiro nearly sabotages an important alliance with the Blade of Marmora in season 2 because Keith is in danger.
  • When Shiro dies in the episode “Blackout”, the show makes effort at length to show how much more affected that Keith is by Shiro’s death than the other paladins. His grief is a driving force for him to attempt to defeat Lotor in the beginning of Season 3.
  • When Shiro returns, the show comments that Keith has been the only person allowed into Shiro’s room while he recovers.
  • Honerva utilizes Keith’s feelings for Shiro against him when Shiro is possessed in the Season 6 episode “Black Paladins”. When the clone factory is destroyed at the end of the episode and Keith and Shiro are at risk of falling to their deaths, Keith has to make a choice: let the clone of Shiro that tried to kill him fall and save himself or try to save Shiro and die with him. Keith chooses the latter. Moments before this he confessed that he loves Shiro, so this action makes sense.
  • While Keith waits for Shiro to wake from the healing pod in the beginning of Season 7, he’s again painted as the most affected of the entire team. He’s unable to stop touching the pod for the entire episode, and nearly loses it and breaks down into tears when it seems like Shiro may not survive.
  • Shiro dreams about past memories of his and Keith’s friendship while he’s on the brink of death.
  • Season 7 ends with Keith descending out of the sky like an avenging angel to cut down Sendak, who is about to kill Shiro.

These are only a few times the show firmly and consistently established that one of Keith’s main character motivations is his dedication to Shiro. If executives wanted Shiro to marry an already established character, Keith would be the natural choice based on the nature of their friendship.

Now the warmth they shared is gone. A few points where this removal of their friendship is glaringly obvious:

  • Launch Date – Shiro tells everyone to spend the afternoon before the launch with the people they love. Everyone else goes home to their families. It feels like the scene should lead to the two of them spending time together, as Shiro has no family we know of. However, Keith is shown sitting on the Black Lion alone with only Kosmo, watching the sun set. The music that begins playing underneath this scene is a well known ‘cue’ from the soundtrack song “Catch Up” that has underlied emotional scenes between Shiro and Keith in the past, and sunsets had become something of a trope for them- but Shiro doesn’t show. If this scene was not originally slated to include Shiro, Keith would have spent the afternoon with his mom, but he doesn’t. It’s strange.
  • The Prisoner’s Dilemma – Keith is called a ‘half-breed’ by Lahn with Shiro standing right there. There’s an awkward silence and Shiro says nothing. The same Shiro who was first to support Keith’s Galra lineage says nothing about species-based racism against his best friend happening right in front of him. What?
  • The Grudge – Shiro doesn’t notice that the incredibly stilted and formal conversation coming from “fake Keith” is not really Keith. When the pirate they capture says that Zethrid is hunting “the paladin you call Keith”, it’s a pointed comment towards Shiro that should garner a reaction from him given his overprotectiveness of Keith. Shiro’s reaction is not even shown.
    • Shiro lands on the volcano and has zero reaction to his best friend being held at gunpoint about to die. In fact, he’s suspiciously silent the entire conversation despite his purpose of being there to mirror Keith, as Axca is there to mirror Zethrid.
    • During Zethrid’s argument with Axca, Zethrid screams “Now you will feel what I felt”, in reference to loving Ezor and losing her. It makes no sense for her to say this line to Axca. However, if Shiro had been a part of the argument in an earlier edit of this scene, it would make more sense directed at him. As it stands it feels oddly out of place.
  • Clear Day – Shiro and Keith’s discussion at the carnival feels like a precursor to them spending the carnival together- and then they each awkwardly go their separate ways.
  • The End is the Beginning – When Shiro and Keith run out to see the lions leaving Altea there’s a pan from Shiro to Keith. Where the right half of Shiro’s body should be is missing entirely. Fans have speculated the show originally had an implied or ambiguous ending between the two characters and that his missing hand was originally on Keith’s shoulder since Keith is standing right in front of him. Now his entire shoulder and hand is just missing. In the next shot, it’s shown everyone is in their “paladin pajamas” except Keith and Shiro. They’re also the only ones not standing in line with the colors of their original lions, like their positions were edited after the fact.
    • During Shiro’s wedding, Keith is hidden behind Shiro out of sight while the entire rest of the team is in full view, almost like they knew they couldn’t convincingly draw him being happy to see someone he canonically confessed to love marry a random person.
  • Overall there’s a general feeling of separation between Keith and Shiro throughout Voltron Season 8. They refer to each other very formally on comms when they never have in the past. A constant trope of Shiro putting his hand on Keith’s shoulder during discussions is also absent.

The past closeness of Keith and Shiro, combined with the suspicious absence of conversation between them in Voltron Season 8, fuels the prevailing theory that the season was “scrubbed” of their friendship when the showrunners decided to have Shiro marry Curtis instead. It would normally seem weird to have Shiro marry a stranger with his best friend right there, but if they try to push Keith and Shiro apart in the last season, then possibly it might not come off as jarring.

This tactic fails. It’s still incredibly jarring. Who even is that guy?

It’s a mystery why the showrunners would go this direction with Voltron Season 8. If Keith and Shiro were possibly intended to be ambiguous, at least, why was this plotline scrapped for the more explicit Shiro/Curtis wedding?

The prevailing theory is that Dreamworks executives panicked after the accusations from fandom following Adam’s death but still wanted the ‘brownie points’ of having LGBT representation. Adventure Time’s “Bubbline” and Steven Universe’s “Rupphire” were lauded for their LGBT rep, and those shows got a lot of favorable press from the storylines.

Following this line of thought, fans theorize that showrunners decided one gay character in the show would probably fly with more conservative higher ups as long as he wasn’t too outwardly flamboyant. Two of the main characters being gay and in a relationship with each other is a lot more for them to swallow. Scrapping a hypothetical Shiro/Keith ending for Shiro/Curtis could give them the LGBT representation to get good reviews for their final season without having to “sacrifice” two of their main characters to being LGBT.

Unfortunately for them, LGBT fans were not satisfied to see a character they cared so deeply about marry a random character with zero buildup. Given the strangely large amount of filler this season for a final season, it feels like introducing the character of Curtis to the audience at all was less of a priority than simply scoring representation points, which brings me to my next point.

Curtis Who?

If you didn’t recognize the random dude Shiro marries in the final shot of Voltron Season 8, you can easily be forgiven. While Curtis has been hanging around in the background since Season 7, he’s never introduced like the entire rest of the supporting cast was in Season 7’s “The Last Stand, Parts 1 and 2”. The only reason the fandom even knows the character’s name is that it’s written once or twice in the subtitles. It’s never once spoken in the show.

Voltron Season 8
We put as much effort into this edit as Dreamworks put into adding Curtis. Maybe more.

Curtis shows up for the first time in the Season 7 episode “The Last Stand”. He’s shown to be the communications officer responsible for attempting to contact the Paladins and Matt. Matt later on says that it’s this uncloaked signal that draws the Galra’s attention to Earth. This brings up a rather troubling implication. Indirectly, by his incompetence in cloaking messages, Curtis is responsible for the Galra invasion of Earth, which causes the death of Shiro’s ex-boyfriend, Adam. Talk about an awkward conversation starter.

Curtis appears to have a much bigger role in Voltron Season 8 – maybe more than originally intended. There are multiple instances where he appears or has lines that feel like possibly they were dropped in after these hypothesized edits to Season 8 took place in order to make it seem like his appearance at the wedding wasn’t entirely random. These include:

  • Launch Date – Curtis doesn’t appear in the Atlas-wide meeting before launch. He does appear in later, more important meetings where he’s the only person who’s not a well established named character.
  • The Prisoner’s Dilemma – There’s a different officer in Curtis’ seat in the beginning of the battle during the first part of the episode, who suddenly switches to Curtis once we get a better vantage point on the seat. During another important discussion later in the episode about Honerva’s plans, there’s nobody sitting in the seat in one shot. Curtis is magically sitting there a few seconds later.
  • The Grudge – Curtis abruptly appears in a scene with Veronica, Iverson, and Axca without being introduced. He’s the only unnamed character with lines in the scene and it leaves the audience wondering who this guy is supposed to be. He’s also the one who later discovers he didn’t notice they’ve been getting false transmissions from the paladins. Between this and leading the Galra to Earth he’s got a stellar track record as a communications officer.
  • Genesis – Curtis is the only unnamed character in the very important strategy meeting.
  • Day Forty Seven – Lines that were supposed to be said by Coran according to the subtitles are instead said by Curtis. This also happens later on in Voltron Season 8 with Keith, like they were possibly trying to find more lines for Curtis.
  • Clear Day – Audio description describes Curtis only as “young brown haired man” instead of by name. Curtis was clearly spending the Clear Day Festival with the MFE pilots. Somehow he’s mysteriously also cheering on Shiro at the arm wrestling competition at the same time, but only in close up shots. He doesn’t appear in any overhead shots, like he was edited in during post-production. Audio description does not acknowledge he is there like it does the Paladins.
  • Uncharted Regions – Curtis is given a line that the audio description says should have been Keith. Curtis is again the only unnamed person in an incredibly important strategy meeting. There’s also a point where it cuts to Curtis about halfway through the episode and the change in music cue was so abrupt I thought my stream was lagging the first time I watched the episode.
  • The End is The Beginning – Audio description during the wedding shot misidentifies Curtis as Adam, Shiro’s dead ex-boyfriend.

All in all, it’s pretty obvious that Curtis’ presence was beefed up at some point, and not very neatly at that.

Implications of the Leaks Being Real

So, what can we infer about production from finding out that the Voltron Season 8 leaks were, in fact, real? Quite a bit, actually.

Voltron Season 8 was originally scheduled to be released in November. It was later pushed back to a December 14 release. On September 12th, Kihyun Ryu, a supervising producer, episode director, and animator for the show posted a photo of an in-progress Shiro piece he was working on, stating it was the last work he was doing for Voltron. This work ends up being Shiro’s wedding scene.

In the wedding scene that leaked, it should be noted that Shiro’s husband is different (a man resembling Roy from Macross), and Curtis is a guest at the wedding. Otherwise, the animation is nearly identical to what ends up in the final draft.

On the leaked images of the wedding, the file name says LOCKED_UPDATED 2018-10-01. Picture lock is the point of editing where no more changes will be done to the video editing of the show. This is so timing and effects can be locked down. Picture lock was obviously completed at some point before this date (given normal television show timelines, likely long before this). But the picture lock was updated on October 1st, which is incredibly rare so close to release.

Given that animation for the wedding scene was done so late in production, it is hypothesized that the leaked photos spoiling the last episode are at least some of the content added when the picture lock was updated on October 1st. This would imply that all of the end cards and the scene containing Allura’s death included in the leaked scenes were added or changed for an unknown reason very close to release. Then picture lock would have needed to be updated yet again even closer to release to substitute the Roy Macross cameo in for Curtis and erase Curtis as a guest at his own wedding. But why? Why all these changes to the picture lock at the last minute? Why the musical chairs for Shiro’s husband?

Also, in the context of the rest of the episode and the other end cards, the wedding doesn’t make a lot of visual sense. At the dinner for Allura’s memorial Shiro is still happily working on the Atlas. In the end cards, his “look” is updated as all the paladins get older. Then at the wedding, all the other paladins keep their older look except Shiro. He looks like he did when he was younger, but it says he’s retired. The timeline of when all this is supposed to occur is exceptionally confusing and it’s not clear when the wedding took place. Did Shiro take a break from aging to fall in love with an incompetent background character?

The current theory is that, before the edits we now know took place late in production, that Shiro and Keith may have possibly been ambiguously, if not implied, a couple. Dreamworks even ordered a shirt that appears to be romantic in nature to be produced by Hot Topic which immediately sold out although it wasn’t promoted – possibly because the story had since changed since it was ordered.

Then, after the backlash the show faced concerning the death of Adam and the successes of other “kids” shows depicting LGBT couples like Steven Universe and Adventure Time, executives at Dreamworks asked for the season to be changed in order to achieve those same positive headlines. However, those shows succeeded where Voltron failed because they dedicated screen time and storylines to their LGBT relationships rather than having them show up last second.

The irony of all of this is that if the original ending had been implied to be Shiro and Keith, Voltron Season 8 probably would have achieved those headlines even without a wedding.

What was the original Voltron Season 8 like before these last minute edits? We have a few breadcrumbs found in the episode by episode analysis near the beginning. We also have two main voice actors, Steven Yeun and Kimberly Brooks, making statements prior to release that directly contradict what ends up happening. Steven was shown the photos of the leaks directly by a fan and stated that they were fake, that the show would be much “safer” with its ending than the ending depicted by the leaks. We also had Kimberly Brooks excited about the prospect of Allura appearing specifically in a post-show spin off, which wouldn’t be possible if her character is dead.

And, interestingly enough, we have the reactions of crew who worked on Voltron (I will not be linking to any of their tweets directly to protect their identities). Voltron Season 8 was screened for staff over the summer, before the updates were made. There are multiple instances of happy and excited tweets from members of the animation team and crew who couldn’t wait for us to see the final season.

December 14th changed that. Those excited tweets became confused, upset, and sad, with multiple people outright saying this was not what they had seen in screenings. Multiple members of the animation team that had worked so hard on this final season made posts absolving themselves of having worked on or knowing at all about the edits. The utter devastation witnessed from multiple staff members begs the question of how different the season they saw was, and how the show was able to be changed so drastically without them knowing.

Most of the cast has been pretty quiet so far, but Tyler Labine – Hunk’s Voice Actor – has already come out and said there were aspects of Voltron Season 8 he was unhappy with. Showrunner Lauren Montgomery made comments in an interview about hers and Joaquim’s vision not being able to be the only vision that went into the season, implying that Dreamworks had a heavy hand in how this season played out.

If everyone was happy with the ending, there should be celebration abound right now. Instead a normally exuberant cast and crew is eerily quiet and it feels like a funeral. I would have rather seen the season that everyone was so excited to share with us.

What Does it All Mean?

With Voltron Season 8 as it stands, what does Voltron as a whole amount to? An amazing show with a rough last season? It used to have such great lessons about unity and friendship helping us to achieve impossible odds, overcoming adversity, about believing and achieving your dreams. The importance of learning to trust others and of family, both found and blood. We had a cautionary tale about how easily power can corrupt.

And then we come to season 8. The morals it tries to leave with us are grim, which is sad as it was originally intended to be a kids show. Victims of abuse are doomed to repeat the cycle forever. It’s ok to use dark power if in the end you defeat a worse power. If you’re a woman of color, you’re expected to give everything of yourself to save everyone else, up to and including your life and your happiness. If you come out as LGBT like Shiro, you’ll lose your close friends and your dreams, and you don’t even get a well thought out love story because queer love stories aren’t important. And the end of the show, after all the messages about found family, finds all of the paladins separated, barely speaking except once a year at Allura’s memorial.

They don’t feel like a family anymore, and that’s the heartbreaking note that the show ends on.

I loved Voltron. I loved it a lot and I still do, and Voltron Season 8 doesn’t change that. But this final season has left an emptiness and sadness in my heart. This is the last content we’ll ever get for this iteration of these characters, until a reboot comes along. This wasn’t the way any of us wanted to say goodbye to these characters. There’s always fandom content to help try and heal those wounds, but it would have been better to have ended the show in a more happy place.

It feels like the people in charge were so concerned with making sure nobody could continue their story that they forgot to give the characters satisfactory, well written endings. If anything, we should have all learned from Harry Potter that epilogues are never a good idea.

Fandom is attempting to make a stand to find out what the original vision for Voltron Season 8 was. Whether that’s a release of the season pre-picture lock update, or just any kind of explanation from the showrunners as to what happened and why things went so disastrously wrong, remains to be see. A petition to find out the original vision of the season was created and has has approximately 25,000 signatures as of time of writing and is counting quickly.

There’s hope that there might be something out there to ease the pain of a rough ending of what was truly an incredible show.

What did you think of Voltron Season 8? Has it changed how you as a fan feel about the show? Share your thoughts with us!

Author: Taylor

Taylor is a multimedia designer, photographer, video editor, and writer. She has been involved in fandom and producing fan content since she was old enough to read and write.
Twitter: @IAmSizzlebutt


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About the author

Taylor is a multimedia designer, photographer, video editor, and writer. She has been involved in fandom and producing fan content since she was old enough to read and write.
Twitter: @IAmSizzlebutt

Comments

  1. This whole season was a massive disappointment. The worst pay-off which regressed characters & destroyed its own previous build-ups. Personally I don’t blame the showrunners because it no longer felt like their show. Perhaps toy money is what rly interfered, since its usually them who don’t care abt plot satisfaction. Cool robot fights & deus ex machina only!

  2. Thank you … thank you for this. This explains in proper words everything that I feel after seeing s8. With more details on interviews and comments I didn’t know (Kimberly’s excitement, but more specifically steven saying those were fake leaks… this … makes me hope).

    Yes I am a fervent shipper of Sheith, but this is not about ship. All that has been done to the characters have been a disservice to the whole cast of characters, the crew who worked on the real show and to all the fandom in many ways.

    Voltron has been a light of hope for many people, especially the lgbtq community, but also people with handicaps, people of color as well. Never has there been a show with a m/m relationship that is pure, normal. We are always characterized (if ever represented) with characters that are in the background, or at least one of the 2 in the pairing, with characters that cheat on their partner with just anyone, that are goofy or stereotyped to the extreme. Shiro and Keith (even if you do not see it as romantic) showed how two men could be that close, respect each other, be kind and caring but also without being feminized or drag queens or any other stereotyped clichés you can think of. That is why I fell in love with Voltron in most part.

    The other part being Shiro. With shiro … I saw a character that resonated with me, that felt like the same as me in oh so many ways. And with Shiro I learned that I have PTSD. Seeing his reactions, his behaviors, everything. Shiro gave me the courage to face the truth I had been avoiding for years and fight for my life instead, but still continue to love and protect people, just not at the expense and servitude of my entire being anymore. Seeing how they have treated him in the end of the series breaks my heart, as much as his relationship with Keith that has been forcibly erased because higher ups at DW didn’t want their two main characters to be in love with each other … because they are both men. Having been a man and a woman, this would have never been even discussed or doubted.

    Voltron was on its way to make history but execs decided to ruin it all. It is not too late however. They still have the real footages and will hopefully release them instead of the season we have been given. Thank you again for this article that I hope will reach them and that they will read.

    I think about the impacts on all the people it has and will have with the decisions they made with s8. With adults that looked up to the series thinking ‘hey finally a good rep that will make people understand and also the kids’. But no, the fandom is crying, the kids are crying and angry as well as us. I have seen many testimonies of parents that do not know how to explain to their kids why Shiro was cast aside because he was shown to be gay, or Keith and him not talking anymore because he told him he love him (them being scared to tell their friends they love them now), kids that do not understand why the pretty and kind lady got all evil and died while they were looking so much to her. And I am skipping those parents who saw the season and don’t know what they are going to do because they do not want to let their kids watch the last season.

    Voltron was about to open doors never opened before and make history. I can just pray that they will do what is right. That the silence is just because they are discussions right now or that the higherups are still in vacations for the holidays.

    1. Is it possible for two men to say I love you but not be in love? Is it possible for two men to become close and develop a strong bond, capable of driving each of them to extremes for the other, risking their lives and livelihood? Yeah, it’s possible. And they don’t have to be in a romantic/sexual relationship to do so. Sheith would’ve been disgusting, not because theyret both main characters, but because they’re so close and because shiro raised this boy, Keith is like a son to him.

      1. Where did you get the impression that Keith was like a son to Shiro? They’re best friends and if people want to see their relationship as closer than that (platonic or otherwise) then they’re going to see it that way.

        Why does it matter to you how people interpret the relationship between two fictional characters?

  3. Wow what a well written article. S8 confused me so much. The magic and the characters I grew to love weren’t there anymore they felt like strangers and “the Curtís shitshow ” was like an unnecesary slap on the face.

  4. Thank you so much for this breakdown. I hate that the DW executives barged in and wrecked what was shaping up to be one of the best series this decade.

  5. Thank you for putting in the work to do such a thorough, exhaustive breakdown of how this final season failed everything the previous seasons established.

    My only suggestion/criticism–and I’m saying this as a sheith shipper–is that speculation about whether the nature of Shiro and Keith’s friendship was meant to be romantic or even just open to interpretation at the end doesn’t fit here.

    This breakdown would be stronger (and less susceptible to being written off as fans just being mad about this ship or that ship) if instead the focus stayed on how even the platonic, brotherly relationship between Shiro and Keith was removed/censored once Shiro was revealed to be gay.

    I think that the homophobic underlying message there–that two men who were best friends and “like brothers” can’t even be that once one of them is shown to be gay–is evident enough without bringing shipping preferences into the mix.

    Thank you for detailing all the sad, hamfisted attempts at including Curtis after the fact. Instead of just accepting criticisms of season 7 they actively made things worse by making lazy, empty overtures to “fix” things. All it ended up doing was exposing how little they thought or cared about their LGBT fans to begin with. Or that whatever good intentions the creative team may or may not have had was screwed over by higher ups.

    It’s a shame. I loved VLD since the season 1 premiere, but I can’t even enjoy the first six or seven seasons on their own now, because all they do is remind me of what season 8 destroyed.

  6. Oh man, there’s so much wrong with this season from a strictly narrative standpoint with bad editing it’s not even funny. The botched redemption arc with very obviously missing narrative pieces leading to the “big reveal” of Lotor’s corpse is hamfisted enough but I’ll go into some really bad messaging that seems to result from something being edited out of the end product.

    The protagonist, Allura, is relentlessly pursued by a male character, Lance, whom she has repeatedly indicated she is not interested in romantically for the prior 7 seasons until the tail end of 7. During his pursuit of her, Lance has fantasies of Allura clinging to his leg as he holds a flag that says “winner” with his picture on it. Lance is also portrayed as girl crazy, constantly flirting with alien girls. After her ex-boyfriend Lotor’s violent death, Lance again asks Allura on a date and after her friends pressure her, she says yes. Lance is portrayed as having to get her male guardian’s permission to date her, depicted in the setting of a 1950’s style Reading Room, a traditional place for the patriarch of the household to relax. After her male guardian grills Lance and gives his permission, they go on a date. During the date, Lance’s mother comments that Lance’s talk about being a womanizer is something he “gets from his father” but it’s “all talk” and “he’s really a sweet boy with a big heart”. Lance declares his love for Allura on their first date.
    In a later episode, Lance goes to a carnival while Allura stays in her room to rest. Before he leaves, Lance states that “winning prizes is his specialty” textually referring to winning her a prize at the carnival but suggesting he believes he has won her as a prize. Allura’s ex-boyfriend Lotor shows up as a ghostlike figure who tempts her into allowing a “dark entity” inside her. The scene suggests there are still romantic feelings between the characters. After this scene, Lance, her male guardian Coran, and eventually her real father Alfor all express distaste, disappointment, and even outright hostility on the part of Lance that Allura has “allowed the dark entity inside her”. Lance becomes angry and jealous any time the “dark entity” comes up, and this is never resolved. These men repeatedly tell her this decision is “too dangerous” and insist on protecting her. At the end of the show, Allura kisses Lance goodbye, telling him she will always love him, and joining her ex-boyfriend and their families in the afterlife.
    The story appears to set up a conscientiously sexist narrative for the purpose of an eventual subversion in which Allura claims her power and the male characters learn that she and her instincts are right. However, although the mission proceeds, this moment never happens, so rather than a subversion taking place and the characters demonstrating a learning moment regarding a woman’s autonomy and ability, the narrative is played straight, contributing to multiple damaging messages in a Y-7 series: 1. If boys badger girls long enough, girls will give in to their demands for romantic attention. 2. It is acceptable for patriarchal figures to control a woman’s life, including her dating life. 3. It is acceptable for boys to talk about girls inappropriately and as sex objects because it is “just talk”. 4. If a woman has feelings of longing for an ex-boyfriend it is acceptable to shame her and display jealousy and outright hostility toward her feelings. 5. It is acceptable for a woman’s autonomy and ability to be questioned repeatedly by the men in her life.

    1. It seemed that all the sexists remarks were intended to be taken ironically. At this point it’s been well established that Allura is capable of making her own choices. She did choose to take in the entity, and accepted Lance’s advances. In fact the team has had to rely on her insights, whether substantiated or not, to find Honerva. And her ultimate decision of martyrdom was of her own free will. Coran certainly didn’t have the chance to invoke his patriarchal rights and intercept her fatal decision. Might we have a different end if he did intervene.

      So there were definitely subversions, but those examples weren’t great. Whatever decisions she makes are solely meant to propel action and solve all problems, seemingly at the expense of her personality and further characterizations. She has been built by her strength, knowledge, and compassion. However, the unexplainable insights that she gains, and resulting decisions she makes as the show went on, render her only as a deux ex machina.

  7. One thing I would like to point out is that if you watch the wedding scene with english descriptive audio it will say “Shiro and Adam” instead of “Shiro and Curtis” giving us yet another reason to believe the wedding was just damage control and they really didn’t care about proper LGTB rep.

  8. I feel like the writer of this article is a bit biased in the end. But it’s okay, I know the feeling. Even if I stay as objective as possible, the last season still feel weird.

    I have one theory; what if those leaks came out straight from staffs? So they know how fan react, also as a warning. I remember how it went; most of people got mad, and some anti-shippers are happy. Shiro/Keith shippers reacted interestingly; many said ‘Who is this Roy Fokker guy, it would be much better if Shiro ended up with this cutie!’ And they pointed at Curtis. What if staffs saw that and decide to edit the wedding leak – from Roy to Curtis? It would be an irony if it is, not to mention dirty coming from the staffs. Again, this is just a guess.

  9. The problem with s8 was this: social media. They went into it with a story to tell, and lost their way when pandering to the various elements of their fanbase. They reached season 8, knew it was going to be climactic and amazing and… oh. If they do this, these people are going to be upset. But if they do that, these people are going to blow a gasket. In the end, they went back to the purpose of the show initially (to tell a story) and finished it as best they could knowing they were going to catch hell for it.

    The story was fine. The fanbase needs to understand they are passengers and quit making demands of people who already have a plan. If you want to drive, write your own story. If you don’t like the story, don’t watch/read it.

    I don’t understand how an army of people from across Tumblr, DeviantArt, and half a dozen other variations on the “express yourself” part of the Internet can be such demons to other creators. Is there anyone here who appreciates others standing over them screaming “NO! DO IT THIS WAY! YOUR WAY IS WRONG!” for eight years?

    1. My question would be that if they leak it deliberately to see how fans reacted, why would they do that if they weren’t going to change it if fans hated it? I think it was not a semi-intentional studio leak.

      I think some people working on it realized fans were going to hate some changes and hoped the studio would undo those if there was enough fan pressure.

  10. I noticed it was choppy and the pacing was bananas, i just thought dreamworks was rushing a series out to end it because netflix was going to cancel it or something,or theyd gotten rid of the writers because it wasnt the normal cartoon fare for story endings and they wanted to make it “safer”

    But with every peice of evidence that it was seriously edited and there was a totally different season 8 somewhere under there thats even more disgusting than a rushed bad season, its a possibly good season that was already mostly done and then RUINED after the fact

    But of course the higher ups that pushed for this shit wont lose their jobs, theyll get huge bonuses instead

  11. I liked season 8. The series ended exactly as it should have ended:

    1. Allura was ethereal and it wouldn’t have made much sense if she had settled down, happily married on Earth;
    2. So Shiro finds a new partner. Excuse the guy for having a life beyond the Atlas;
    3. Lance settles down on his family’s farm. It’s no secret that he always missed his family. True, he wanted to be a pilot and he did become a pilot (and Palladin of Voltron). But now the universe is safe. What’s so wrong with him wanting a quiet life? Besides, Allura is a pretty hard act to follow and his going out with anyone else would have diminished their relationship;
    4. Hunk using food as a means to bring people together? Cool. Plus Shay is with him;
    5. Pidge and Matt doing tech stuff. Normal;
    6. Keith and Shiro? Shiro did a great job in turning Keith into the leader he became. That was his job and he did it well.

    Who’s to say Allura died? Seems like she’s in a different reality and the lions flying off in the end are joining her. They might even bring her back one day.

    I loved the series and nothing anyone says will change that.

    1. Yeah, see, that’s the problem. Yes, Lance wanted to stay on Earth and Allura was meant to be with her people. That does not warrant her dying. They can break up instead of giving Lance the ultimate heartbreak and an end that doesn’t exactly fit his character (yeah, he might have wanted the quiet life, but being an instructor at the Garrison works just as well). It’s why a lot of us didn’t like this ship, they really had nothing in common, especially their end goals. But, again, dying isn’t the only way out of a less-than-ideal romance. They could have come to terms that it wasn’t going to work out between them. Lance especially needed to come to terms with that, hence the entire thing about “Lance ends up with who he needs, not who he wants”, and we’ve all known he’s always wanted Allura.

  12. Thank you for this article/review. It properlyand eloquently articulates what the majority of the fandom feels. About the plot holes, the treatment of important and pivotal characters like Shiro, Keith, Allura, Lotor and even Lance…there are OBVIOUS reasons this season is a disaster. Somehow there are some fans who don’t get it. They were apparently not watching the same show. The evidence is in the nearly 25k signatures on a petition, and an EMBARRASSING 13% rotten tomatoes rating, after each previous season ranking with 75-95%. I am pretty damn sure everyone involved in this show realizes how badly they mucked up what had been 65 episodes of wonderful storytelling and truly a outstanding series. I hope DW execs and their team (the ones who kept the creators from telling their originally-intended story) realize that they didn’t just shoot themselves in the foot, they bazooka’d off their legs. I sincerely hope, just like fans of “How I Met Your Mother” were able to appeal to the show creators, that we the VLD fans will be able to do the same. Otherwise, In the words of Zarkon, Season 8 will remain “their darkest shame.”

  13. I agree that parts of season 8 were messed up. But I disagree with a lot of the conspiracy. Shiro and Keith fans have been doing the same stuff they harassed Keith and Lance fans for doing, and looking for things that just aren’t there. I will say with 100% certainty that Keith and Shiro were never meant to be a couple. And I called Allura dying in season 1. The Bulmera Episode foreshadowed it to the extreme – I was more shocked that I appear to have been the only one who saw it coming so her sacrifice did not come as shock to me (I didn’t like HOW they did it, but I wasn’t surprised they did it). The whole Lance developing feelings for Allura plot made me sad only because I knew she was going to die and it would hurt the kid.

    The showrunners used the anime Escaflowne as one of it’s influences (Van and Folken/Keith and Clone/Shiro). And this anime had a bittersweet ending to the romance as well (I don’t read Allura as dead. I read her as transcended)

    Season 8 was rushed. Season 8 wasn’t great. Season 8 disappointed a lot of people. But Shiro and Keith were never romantic. They weren’t supposed to be. Close. Yes. The show exemplifies Found Family being just as important or in some cases (Keith) more important. I’m upset that Shiro became the side character, but he also embodied the soul of the White Lion.

    Remember – Shiro was meant to DIE in season 2. Like the original Shiro/Sven. Shiro was to come back and be taken out again by Keith later on in the series. Money and Corporation is what saved Shiro’s life. The crew had to scramble to put Shiro BACK in the story and did so with a Clone Plot. Due to scheduling conflicts they couldn’t get Steven back in to rerecord lines and scenes in the rush this created, so Keith was written off for a few episodes. They had a whole thing planned with Keith and Lotor but it had to scrapped because of this.

    How about also showing the world that two leading men who follow quite a few typical masculine tropes (Shiro and Keith) with the exception of one being gay, and one sexually ambiguous, can actually be friends and have a close relationship without it being romantic. I know this article talks about their friendship but it reads as a coded message for ‘a romance I wanted but didn’t get’. It brings up good points but the shipping goggles are so strong they don’t see the good about what WAS shown about Keith and Shiro’s relationship. Our media (to this day) still shows a predatory nature to older gay males. Which is very upsetting. Shiro and Keith’s relationship started when Keith was young. The showrunners themselves have stated this fact. Yes they aged Keith up, but that does not take away the foundation of their relationship. Maybe it’s because I have a hard time being romantically interested in my teachers/mentors but I found more comfort in the fact that, Keith a sexually ambiguous character could have a close relationship with a gay man and not have it be romantic. That sends a message to a high octane masculine society that “Yes. You can befriends with gay people and they won’t try to sleep with you.”

    I grew up in rural area. I can’t tell you how many cruelties I witnessed when a guy bravely came out. He was shunned. He was left alone. He was bullied. I was a child but I knew it was wrong. When I asked “Why aren’t you friends any more” I heard

    “People will think I’m gay if I hang out with him.”
    “He’ll hit on me if I hang out with him”
    “He’ll try something.”

    So to see Keith and Shiro in a close platonic relationship does way more than any of you are giving it credit for.

    Yes there were many mistakes, and yes there were many issues, but good god watch it again from the view point of that gay man who didn’t have a Keith in his life but would have loved to have had one close friend.

    1. The difference is that Lance and Keith were never friends the way Shiro and Keith were. And the whole “klance shippers stalked, harassed, and threatened the cast, crew, and other fans for two and a half years” thing. That’s, uh, a really big difference to just downplay.

      I grew up in a rural homophobic area and have the same experiences you do. But what I think you misunderstood about this article and season 8 is that the friendship Shiro and Keith had in earlier seasons was completely removed in season 8. Suddenly Shiro having a one-on-one talk about emotions with another man or putting a hand on his shoulder is a problem AFTER he was revealed as gay.

      Shiro used to be allowed to hug Keith and Matt. He used to be allowed to touch Pidge and Allura. He was shown to be a very physically affectionate person with his friends. And that was all okay until season 8.

      I didn’t expect Shiro and Keith to be a couple at the end. But I did expect them to still be friends. Most people did. But season 7 and especially season 8 gutted what made that friendship feel so special and real in the first place. Shiro burned Keiths face and Keith cut off Shiro’s arm in season 6, but suddenly there’s no follow up for it because suddenly two guys talking about their feelings after we learn one of them is gay is Inappropriate.

      I’m a gay man. What am I supposed to take away from Voltron’s ending when a friendship between two men was allowed to be close and supportive BEFORE one of them was revealed to be gay, and then even that brotherly bond gets removed? If they were only ever like brothers, why is even that brotherly bond erased so deliberately *after* Shiro’s sexuality was revealed?

      It’s homophobic. That doesn’t mean “it’s homophobic because they didn’t end up as a couple” it means that the message “two men can be close friends and hug each other and say I love you UNTIL one of them is revealed to be gay” is like a bad no homo joke played out on-screen. They could still do those things after the audience learned Shiro was gay and still just be friends or like brothers.

      I would have been happy if they stayed friends and Shiro’s husband was given some sort of development or even a personality, but neither of those things happened. And as a gay man who used to be inspired by Shiro, I feel betrayed and used. The wedding is just a front by Dreamworks to try and cover up homophobic intentions.

      I don’t give a shit about ships. I care that my identity became the final nail in the coffin of Shiro’s character arc and personality.

      1. For the record the Sheith fans are harassing the cast and threatening their families. So theres no difference there… it’s sick.

        Shiro’s reveal was at the beginning of season 7. He had a few moments with the crew after that, and season 8 was done and in the bag before season 7 aired. It’s probably been done for months and the did a bandaid job to update what they could. And let’s not forget that DreamWorks gave the team the OK for Shiro to be gay at the LAST minute. So last minute the Netflix’s subs still called Adam his Roommate. They had prerecorded lines ready to go at the last second. Season 8 was already animated by then.

        I didnt watch the show the way you did. And I saw their relationship from a different perspective, but I respect your point of view.

        I didn’t see their relationship as dead, Shiro was still the one telling Keith to have fun on Clear Day. But, their earlier bonding was also based on the fact that Keith only had Shiro. The story progresses and the paladins get closer to each other. Keith spent a lot air time away, they had to expand on his relationships more. He’s shown guiding Lance, opening up to Hunk, trusting Allura, relying on Pidge. His world wasn’t JUST Shiro any more. Shiro is very much a part of him but Keith’s family exapanded and they wanted to show how all these people love him and he loved them. Voltron wasn’t the “Shiro show.” It’s about all of them and how they work together.

        I agree they could have and should have done more, but how much more did they have to show us so we knew Keith and Shiro were close? The weren’t strangers in S8 they didn’t gut them… my issuse is theres no factual evidence in this article to back it up. It’s misinformation, hearsay, and speculations. Show me the citations. Show me the facts. I don’t jump on bandwagons just because I’m pissed or feel slighted. I do my own research. And words from a person who knew a person who worked on the show as an intern is not fact. That person was just looking for followers on their blog and made up some plausible statements. If anything it was rushed. The ending was a bandaid. I would have LOVED to see Shiro and Curtis courting.

        Shiro meant a lot to me too, as did Keith for many personal reasons, the show wasn’t perfect but the show did give us an amazing cast too feel this bond with. Shiro could have been so much more, but he was what the studio/creators allowed him to be.

        What if the studio did say no and Adam and Shiro were just roommates? Maybe none of us would be feeling what we’re feeling now, but we also would have never had the concept of what Shiro really means.

      2. You’re totally right about how problematic the treatment of Shiro is.

        Though, it’s also totally wrong to lump Klance shipper together; the ones that harassed and threatened were a tiny, universally-condemned minority within the fandom.

        And while you’re right that Shiro and Keith’s relationship was consistently deeper than Keith and Lance’s, that’s only because Shiro and Keith were, quite explicitly, indicated to be analogous to brothers, to the extent that Keith outright said “Shiro, you’re my brother.” Not to mention, Keith and Lance had an absolute plethora of relationship development and reason to believe they would end up together.

        But, that aside, I completely agree with you. All queer people were given short shrift by VLD.

    2. Season 8 is an example of “Why aren’t you friends any more”. Shiro and Keith went from seven seasons of being good friends to barely speaking to each other. Whether someone sees them as friends or possibly more doesn’t change this inconsistency. Shiro came out as gay, now he and Keith aren’t the friends they used to be.

  14. Well… I can agree that s8 was a much weaker season. But this article is overtly shipping biased with Shiro and Keith. This article is deliberately framed in a way that is too hopeful to replace Curtis with Keith. I’m not denying that there is indeed subtext in Shiro’s and Keith’s development which the viewer can form their own interpretations of, but it just seems hard to take the critique seriously when it feels in the back of my mind this is just about a ship.

    I will say that I side with you in that ending was underwhelming at best, though I believe it did logically follow up on some character’s stories. Pidge is the science genius, Hunk is the food guru, Keith using his leadership to herald a humanitarian initiative which, contrary to what the author said I think is still a thoughtful end for him and shouldn’t be whittled down to simply baking cookies.

    I believe Alluras sacrifice makes sense given she was always selfless to the point of disregarding her own wellbeing. With all that was taken from her it makes sense (even if brutally tragic and unfair) that she would give her life as well. However, the execution was poor; the scene was rushed and not nearly given enough gravity in the moment when you consider how critical her role was in the series. She wasn’t given justice in her sacrifice scene. On top of that they inserted a one-year time skip after her sacrifice so the viewers have absolutely no time to soak in the moment or the fact that the main arc of the series had finally just culminated…

    I think everyone’s epilogue end was passable maybe except for Lance’s… and definitely Shiro’s. It seemed like Lance mellowed out substantially from the first season, which is reasonable character growth especially in a wartorn galaxy sometimes the stakes being too high affect your spirits. However the transition from crass, rambunctious wild-child to Pope of Allura was a bit of a strange shift for me to digest. I’m not disagreeing with this choice, but it seems a little awkward to me, perhaps because of the pacing of their relationship.

    I do agree Shiro’s was obviously the most disappointing as it felt like a complete reversal of his established character. We have had no prior indication he was even interested in settling down. It seemed like being a paladin and especially piloting the Atlas was his prime and and he was in his element, further exemplifying his “Shiro the hero” catchphrase. While it would have been nice to include some kind of romantic arc for him, the showrunners have stated in regards to this that Voltron isn’t really one to expand on that theme. Perhaps Allura and Lance was their “romance” quota for the series. The most disheartening blow to me is his lack of presence in season 8, but if you really dig deep you can feel it after S7E1 after his gay reveal. It feels as if after his sexuality was established he was sidelined so as to keep him ambiguous enough not to aggravate the conservative viewerbase and probably international versions of the show. Hence the “scrubbing” of his relationship with not only Keith but everyone in the main cast. It was deeply saddening to see our beloved “Shiro the Hero” lose his importance in the final season as well as his character, knowing he made shockwaves on twitter and became a little bit of a gay icon in the genre after his reveal.

    I want to say though that I am still thankful for the cast and production crew and rest of the vld team who made an amazing series with an amazing cast of characters whom the fanbase are–for better or worse–extremely emotionally invested in. Whether it was part of the showrunner’s vision or truly due to this alleged meddling of executive powers in the end, I still respect all who put effort into the show to make it what it is. I understand that people are heartbroken and devastated by the ending, especially the LGBT folks, but I also don’t believe it’s fair to place the burden of perfect LGBT representation on Voltron when the IP has several stakeholders deciding what limits and barriers there can be for the creative direction. A societal change needs to occur first, and I think what this ending at the very least helps with is forwarding the discussion on LGBT rep for the future.

  15. As a sheith shipper I can understand my ship is canonicaly dead at an odd point where shiro is also supposed to be dead. Which leads me to this article that by all means has great points but is overshadowed by the desperation of a fellow sheith shipper and it’s frankly reaching a point where it’s embarrassing to ship them due to that fervent but honestly almost all consuming need to find a way to make sheith canon.

    1. I ship Sheith too, and I actually went in excited for season 8 despite knowing full well Sheith was never going to be canon. What really threw me was that they weren’t even friends anymore in season 8. It was such an odd choice and it really had me wondering if the creators revealing that Shiro is gay had anything to do with it. Of course, that was pure conjecture on my part and I certainly hope that wasn’t the case. It was kind of a bummer though.

      The fact is, despite have some nice moments and some interesting developments, season 8 was a bit of mess. However, the show is over now so I think people should try to move on.

      I’m all for people criticising the show for the genuine issues this season had but I don’t think bugging the voice actors on social media or starting petitions will do anything.

      That’s just my take.

  16. You raised a really good point regarding the arm wrestling tournament scene! I love that scene because it shows Shiro genuinely having fun while being cheered on by his teammates and I could see a parallel between that tournament and the arena and how Shiro has overcome part of his trauma. However, all of this is implicit, not explicitly stated in the show and it would have been a perfect opportunity to address Shiro’s PTSD, especially now that he has a Coran and the paladins as mental support. But atlas, season 8’s main goal is to tear down everything that the last seven seasons have built so I am not surprise Shiro’s struggles got sidelined.

  17. Wow… ultimately this article was needlessly long-winded and beating on something that for what it was I think wrapped it up as well as they could being told ” Hey, You guys have 1 season to wrap this up” Netflix didn’t treat it well and rushing it killed what ended up being good but could have been legendary.

    -Shuff

  18. Such a great overview of this disappointing s8. I love sheith, from the beginning it seems like they were building up to a sheith end game, but like someone else said, it wasn’t just about ships. This entire season was disappointing on so many levels due to a lot of the points you already brought up. I love Voltron and s8 was such a disservice to the show that I rather pretend it never even happened. You can tell it was a rushed mess that DW pretty much made them put out. It’s painfully obvious a lot of content was cut and drastically changed and I personally never felt so let down by a show before.

  19. This is an excellent, thorough layout of some of the most prominent problems in Season 8, and that it’s clearly written by someone who loved Voltron lends credence to how egregious these problems are. I agree with almost everything you say here, but my only issues with this are:

    1) The notion that Sheith was ever going to happen. Between the age gap, Shiro having raised Keith since Keith was ~12, and Keith literally saying “Shiro, you’re my brother,” it’s extremely clear that their relationship is, and was always meant to be, brotherly. The prospect of Klance remained viable, even plausible, until about Season 7, and information coming out indicates that that, at least, was shuffled on and off the table throughout the show’s development, with a good number of the storyboarders and writers supporting it (revealing that the seeming set-up for that romance that people picked up on was indeed intentional, but never committed to). Sheith, however, has consistently been a brotherly relationship, to an explicitly clear degree.

    2) Adam’s death was 100% an example of ‘Bury Your Gays’; that he didn’t die because he was gay doesn’t mean a thing. ‘Bury Your Gays’ isn’t defined by deaths that are homophobic in-universe, but simply queer characters dying to a significantly higher degree than straight characters. That his death technically ‘makes sense’ in-universe (it still doesn’t, because Adam was explicitly introduced as a teacher, not a pilot) doesn’t change him being one of the only queer characters in the show, and the only named character to die in the Galra invasion of Earth (leaving Shiro the only Paladin who had to come home to a dead loved one).

    2.5) There’s also the matter of Shiro and Adam’s relationship not being developed before it was broken apart, and with no explicit indication given within the show that they were even gay. Not to mention, no focus on Shiro’s grief after learning of Adam’s death, despite the rationale parroted by the showrunners being that Adam died because the show is supposed to be ‘dark’ and ‘real’ and ‘serious’; Pidge (much as I love her/them) got an entire, dramatic episode devoted to her connection with her family, and her anguish when she thought Matt was dead. Shiro got a few seconds of vague sadness.

    3) Which leads to my last issue with this article: the notion that Season 8 began Voltron’s issues. This show has been having problems for several seasons now (the handling of Adam, Ezor, and Zethrid chief among them, but certainly not alone). Lotor’s treatment disappointing those who hoped for good representation of abuse victims didn’t originate in Season 8, but Season 6. Lance’s character development falling to the wayside for his relationship with Allura has been going on almost the whole show, and especially the last few seasons Remember Lance’s sword? The writer’s sure didn’t, and although it was clearly set up that Lance could not only turn his Bayard into a sword, but needed training, looking back on that now paints that scene as nothing more than a tool to further Allurance. Hunk’s character being reduced to ‘kind and likes food’ has been a major complaint of many for a long time as well. And that’s not including issues people have had with the pacing and overarching narrative choices prior to Season 8.

    All that said, this article is still fantastic, and has a number of insights I didn’t think about or know (that the contest should’ve been triggering for Shiro, and that Lance settling on a farm has some seriously bad optics, are both angles that hadn’t occurred to me, but are 100% true), and it’s one of the best post-mortems I’ve seen of V:LD since Season 8’s release.

    1. “The notion that Sheith was ever going to happen. Between the age gap, Shiro having raised Keith since Keith was ~12, and Keith literally saying “Shiro, you’re my brother,” it’s extremely clear that their relationship is, and was always meant to be, brotherly. The prospect of Klance remained viable, even plausible, until about Season 7, and information coming out indicates that that, at least, was shuffled on and off the table throughout the show’s development, with a good number of the storyboarders and writers supporting it (revealing that the seeming set-up for that romance that people picked up on was indeed intentional, but never committed to). Sheith, however, has consistently been a brotherly relationship, to an explicitly clear degree.”

      Well, for one we do not know the ages which Keith and Shiro first met, and you can’t trust the art’s depiction when there is some subjective interpretation to animation when it comes to ages. We do know they were 7 years apart initially though. Regarding the brother lines, I think you’re missing the idea of nuance in language; while Keith had called Shiro his brother, it does not need to be taken so literally. They are not biologically related and only shows that they had a very close bond. It does not disqualify the possibility of something more (even though personally I adamantly believed that the show would keep them as brothers in the end). In fact it’s a not-so-uncommon occurrence in a romantic arc for the two involved to acknowledge each other as brother or sister when they are still working through feelings. There was undeniable subtext in the Black Paladins episode as well as the Little Adventure which viewers could have interpreted something more than a brotherhood.

      I also would like to know where you get this information about storyboarders and writers supporting Klance when there is absolutely no solid evidence of this anywhere. It’s only hearsay, which everyone should be skeptical of in the first place. Keith and Lance also had a brotherly relationship, akin to a sibling rivalry, but when push comes to shove they were there for each other. I think it could have bloomed into something more, but it became obvious very early on that they were not going that route; with several of Keith’s lines being rudely dismissive or indifferent toward Lance, and even the show runners explicitly shutting the ship down. I would like to know where this information comes from but it seems like hopeful speculation at this point.

      1. Sorry meant to write that I don’t agree with every point. I don’t know or really care about any Klance stuff, that was clearly not ever going to be a thing on the show and doesn’t make much sense. Makes as mucm sense as Allura x Shiro.

        As for Sheith,yeah you make some good points. I don’t know much about that. I personally don’t quite see it because of the way the story is out together but it could’ve happejed.

        Clearly the wedding in the epilogue was a last minute thing as the subtitles and audio descriptions call his fiance Curtis, Man and… Adam?! Respectively

  20. Couldn’t agree more on the rushed corporate meddling on this season was. voltron was never perfect but this season was beyond the pale. The higher ups at DW clearly got cold feet on Sheith, or even just being too gay seeming even if they just ended up as really good friends

    As for Allura using that dark entity, as the season stands you’re justified in seeing the really negative implications however like you pointed out there is a lot missing or just disappeared material, I don’t believe that’s what the writers were going for at all.

    It’s very clear that Lotor was supposed to return and Allura using this dark entity was related to her self actualization among other things.

    It also explains why Allura and Lance looked so miserable when they supposedly loved each other, no Allura and Lotor’s relationship, like Shiro and Keith’s, were clearly meant to be part of the over all narrative. Lotor Is clearly supposed to be in the constellation with Allura, adding credence to Allura surviving and ascending.

    This in-depth analysis hits on many of the same points but goes further into how these changes break the show’s narrative structure.
    https://leakinghate.tumblr.com/post/181235921503/chasing-the-ghosts-of-season-8

  21. I agree with many of the arguments expressed in this article, and a lot of things written here help me understand the season better, but I just wanted to interject one thing. You said here that Keith would have been a better romantic partner because he said he loves Shiro when he was fighting the clone, but, in context, he said that he loved Shiro as a BROTHER, making any future romantic relationship between them kind of creepy to me.

    1. Oh I forgot to write, I don’t agree with everything on the blog, just the broad strokes. The season has clearly been tampered in a way we’ve never really seen before.

      As for Sheith, I don’t have a dog in that fight since I’m not a shipper so I don’t really care about ships, I only care for narrative structure.

      One curious thing a commenter brought up elsewhere is the strange homophobic way that Shiro was distanced from everyone. Now that Shiro is canonically gay he can’t even Ben close friends with Keith. Even if you don’t ship them having them not even talk at all after all that’s happened is bizarre and clearly some big shot honcho up top got real uncomfortable and ordered changes.

      Here’s a master post on the evidence for a lot of the changes, to be updated once the cast and crew starts to talk more. Some are probably animation errors but others… It’s susoicisus.

      I mean why would Allura’s VA be existed for a spin-off if she knew her character ended like this?

      https://web.archive.org/web/20181219234130/https://freevlds8.tumblr.com/post/181249037547/was-season-8-of-voltron-changed

  22. The mention of the soundtrack used in Keith’s scene in “Launch Date” knocked me off my feet. Wow. Just wow.

  23. Why does Keith have to be gay? Why is it that wherever I look, people don’t understand that men can love each other and those feelings not be sexual. Shiro was able to marry someone else “with his best friend right there” because 1: best friends attend weddings all the time. 2: Keith was like a son to shiro. The man was already an established veteran when Keith was hitting pueberty. If you’re wanting shiro to have sexual romantic feelings for keith, you’re asking a character that “you love” to take advantage of someone who looks up to them, someone who would do anything shiro says.

  24. Here is what bothers me that no one is mentioning. Curtis seems to be about the same age as the other members of the Atlas (one of which was at the Garrison when Keith and Lance and them were there, I forget his name, but isn’t he the one that Keith punched way back when?) AND is a subordinate of Shiro’s. That seems much more inappropriate as a partner than Keith who he knew for a little bit when he was younger, but grew enormously close to after he crashed on Earth. And Keith by the end of the show is his equal as the leader of Voltron. It just seems hypocritical for people to get upset about the “moral ambiguity” of Shiro and Keith, but no one is calling out that Curtis is not a morally superior choice. Hell, Iverson would be better if we are strictly trying to focus on Shiro not being with anyone younger than himself.

  25. I’m not even really a Sheith shipper, in fact I still prefer most of the fanwork for Klance, but compared to like Pidge and Matt, their relationship didn’t read as all that brotherly to me. I don’t think I would gaze passionately at my family members or put my face like two inches from theirs, no matter how much I love them…but I guess some people think that’s normal? Personally, I think it would be interesting if Keith were in love with Shiro but Shiro didn’t see him that way, but that’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t be depicted in an animated action show.

    Also, they didn’t HAVE to kill Adam off either, so that makes two characters that have more chemistry with Shiro than some complete rando.

    It seemed like they just killed Allura because they figured she’s the least popular paladin, but still an important enough character for her death to be a big deal. I’m sick of this whole philosophy that there has to be a sacrifice or someone has to die in order for a battle to have any weight, because writers (cough JK Rowling cough) seem to cynically pick characters that they think are expendable. Kill characters or don’t kill characters but there should be some reason for it other than shock value or “raising the stakes”.

    At least the Allurance relationship developed nicely and their love was convincing by the end, but I couldn’t help but feel like I’m just sick of this type of relationship. I’m sick of seeing a guy pursuing a girl relentlessly until he learns to respect her as a human (figuratively speaking in this case) and then she finally falls for him. Why is it never the reverse? I like Lance’s character development throughout the show, but this trope was played out by the eighties!

    I laughed out loud at your totally legitimate point about how absurd it is to transform The Blade of Marmora into a humanitarian aid organization. Like are the ~members~ of Blade really suited for that line of work?

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