This Voltron Legendary Defender review contains spoilers. We have a spoiler free version here.
Voltron Legendary Defender continues its streak as my favorite series on television (streaming or otherwise) with a moment that I dare any other series to top this year.
In the seventh episode of the season, “Space Mall”, there is a high speed chase sequence where the main characters ride a floating cow to escape an enemy mall cop on a space segway. Yes, you read that right.
Look, I could end the review right there. What other series on TV does that? What other series does that and have it make logical sense? Voltron Legendary Defender season 2 is a gift that we as a society don’t deserve.
Voltron season 2 works so well not just because it contains hilarious moments like that, but it’s able to have those moments coexist with riveting drama. At various points in the season you’re on the edge of your seat (that finale, amirite?). In the same episode you’ll also get tons of hilarious jokes. Never does the comedy undercut the drama nor does the show ever get too serious. It has the perfect balance and, as I mentioned in my season one review, a lot of television could learn from it.
There were two main goals for this season of Voltron. Give Keith way more to do then he had in season one and WORLD BUILD. It accomplishes both of those with stunning efficiency.
One could argue this season is actually defined by Keith. Most of the big character arcs revolve around him and all hinge on his development.
I won’t lie, Keith was my least favorite character in season one. He wasn’t bad; he just didn’t get much to do compared with everyone else. Here? Man, I really like this guy now! He’s got a fascinating back-story that still hasn’t been totally revealed but it’s enough to get me invested in him. The show also laid just enough clues in season one that the reveal totally works. In a stroke of brilliance, the reveal comes half way through the season and the back half deals with the fallout of it.
I am here for characters that you love showing a darker and meaner side. As much as we want all our heroes to get along, good character driven conflict gives the show that extra edge. The tension between Keith and Allura where she’s taking her Galra Empire baggage out on him was a little hard to watch but made perfect sense.
One could accuse Allura of straight up… speciesism? It makes her feel, hilariously enough, more human as a character. She isn’t perfect. She’s got flaws. This isn’t just a personality conflict amongst the group, this is straight up ingrained bigotry and I love that Voltron went there. It never comes off as a preachy message; it’s deeply rooted in Allura needing to move on from what’s happened in the past.
It’s a testament to the shows quality that some of her points about hating the Galra make perfect sense. Why didn’t anyone try to take down Zarkon in the past thousand years? Why have they only waited until now? It gives you pause.
While Shiro has a lot of time to himself, he’s already grooming Keith to lead the team. This is set up right from the start of the season where Keith pilots the Black Lion (a nice reference to the old series) through to the revelation of his Galra heritage. Shiro’s whole arc in season two is to get him out of the way for Keith to (probably) take up the mantle of leader in season three.
Shiro’s story in the show is pretty much done for now. Yeah I guess there could have been more that happened in his captivity but we got all the major points. Keith on the other hand still has a ton of ground to cover so it’s smart the show decided to sideline Shiro so Keith can get the lion’s share (I’ve used that joke before and I don’t care) of the focus.
Speaking of, I adore that they didn’t kill Shiro. Yeah, he died in the original show but that doesn’t mean he has to die here. Having him mysteriously vanish offers up some great storyline potential down the road. Fans can hope for his return and if he does, it’ll be big.
I’m so glad they also switched up the character pairings this season. It’s nice to see Pidge hanging with Lance and Shiro or Keith getting some chill time in space with Allura or Hunk. It’s easy to fall into the pairings that worked well in season one and it’s a treat that season two mixes it up. No shocker, they’re all great. I especially loved Hunk and Keith’s episode because it not only demonstrated Keith’s growing capabilities as a leader but also contained quite possibly the greatest line in TV history.
“It needs to fart me out of its butt.”
The fact this line makes total sense in context is just one of the numerous reasons Voltron is amazing.
Another of those reasons is of course this season’s commitment to fill out the universe. That’s right, world building baby!
My god, this is everything I want in television. EVERYTHING. We get multiple new alien races, nearly all of which are set up to help in the final conflict of the season. Even the Balmerans from season one make an appearance! It’s a subtle way of continuing the series’ core theme of teamwork without beating you over the head with it.
I give all the praise to the shows artists, design teams, and actors for making each and every one of these races memorable and distinct. Everything from mer-people to tree people and their worlds are gorgeous. These aren’t your Star Trek “aw screw it let’s just shoot at Vasquez Rocks” planets. These are truly alien.
I know animation is able to get away with way more than live action, but even that medium doesn’t always take advantage of it. You can see with these alien races a lot of thought and care went into their designs. Even giving them slightly different sounding voices, as they did for the Taujeer people, is a nice touch.
With every episode of the season we get a bigger and broader look at the universe, making the Voltron of this series more of a defender of the universe then its original series counterpart ever was. The more we learn about the people inhabiting this universe, the more invested we are in Voltron’s campaign to take down Zarkon.
We also get some hints to how the wider universe sees Zarkon and quite a few people love him. A restaurant in episode seven is even named Vrepit Sal’s. I love when a show can disguise a bit of world building with a great joke. Zarkon even has some fanboys with posters of the guy adorning that previously mentioned mall cop’s office.
So with the season heavily focusing on Keith and the world building, how does everyone else come out? Well therein lies perhaps my one complaint about the series.
Half the cast doesn’t get much character development.
Fellow Den of Geek reviewer Michael Mammano pointed this out after we binge watched the season and he’s right on the money. It’s not a big complaint for me because I enjoy the characters we have. I love seeing Lance be a smartass, Hunk making food, or Pidge flipping out over a video game. Season one did a lot to make me love these characters so I adore getting more time to spend with them.
Sadly season two is so concerned with Keith’s development (and how it effects Allura and Shiro) that it leaves Lance, Pidge, and Hunk a little to the sidelines. I know it’s tough to balance all of these characters but I do wish we got a little time with them to check in with how they’re processing this whole thing.
Lance got a brief arc about not knowing his place in the team but that was quickly resolved. I hope the show comes back to it because it would help play up some of Lance’s self confidence issues.
Hunk, while he’s still my favorite character, is more relegated to comedic bits then getting anything substantial. I get that Hunk is a simple guy but let’s dive a little into what makes him tick. The master chef segment in episode seven was a nice start but let’s see more.
Pidge learned to love nature and one brief moment that I might be reading too much into. In the “Space Mall” episode (can you tell that’s my favorite?) Pidge can’t decide what restroom to use. The way the scene was played I can’t tell if it was meant to be that Pidge legit couldn’t figure out which one was supposed to be for men or women or that Pidge herself couldn’t decide which one to use. It’s played more for laughs with the big alien coming out of one, so I’m not sure. If it’s about how Pidge self-identities that would be an amazing arc. Please come back to this, Voltron.
Coran is also relegated to comedic sidekick once again but I’m totally fine with him being there. He’s been that way since the start so I don’t need too much of the guy’s back-story.
Zarkon and Haggar come out much better this season. While Zarkon got to lay the smack down at the end of season one, here we get some brief glimpses into his history with the lions. He worked with King Alfor and they were Paladins together? Was Zarkon working for Alfor? He mentioned the other Paladins ran away? Are they still possibly out there?
Also, Haggar is Altean! I know the easiest theory ever is “ZOMG SHE’S ALLURA’S MOM” but hopefully there’s more to her character than that. Why would she join up with Zarkon? Did they meet during his time working with Alfor? Voltron season two layers in so many new mysteries without it feeling cheap. It answers just enough questions but in those answers lie more questions.
Speaking of villains, I love that some more of Zarkon’s soldiers get humanized. Sure we had that one officer at the end of season one who talked about he was only kinda bloodthirsty but here? The prison warden, who’s big and scary and nearly kills Shiro and Lance, loves his pet! One of the generals just really wants to impress Zarkon. See, all Galra aren’t so evil. It’s a nice mix up from your usual generic evil generals. Giving them a bit of comedy makes them far more engaging as little one off characters.
Skipping ahead to the finale just… Damn. That’s how you build up to a climax (the music really helped as well). Hell, the final two episodes of the season are all building to Shiro taking the bayard from Zarkon and using it. This is the culmination of Shiro’s character. He finally takes control of himself back from the Galra and does it with the greatest reference to the original Voltron so far.
That’s right people, the blazing sword is here. They don’t call it that, yeah, but come on. It’s a sword on fire. It’s the blazing sword. As much as Legendary Defender doesn’t need these references to the old show it’s nice that they keep doing them.
Oh yeah, since I mentioned references, did anyone catch the mention of “samoflange” in episode four? For all of you not in the know, there’s a somewhat infamous Thundercats outtake reel where they make fun of that word being in the script. Just goes to show the Voltron writers draw inspiration not just from the original series but ’80s cartoons in general.
Also, the outfits Coran made the team wear to the space mall were so chocked full of anime references I can’t even list them all. If you know what they all are, feel free to leave a comment below!
As much as I could go on for another thousand words about the space mall alone I think I’ll leave the review here. The show made me love Keith, gave us a ton of aliens, and was hysterical. What more could you ask for?
This season was another triumph and I can’t wait to see what Lotor has for us in season three. Yep, that’s right. Lotor. The classic baddie is coming back! What will he be like? Will he still be the glorious asshole? Will he still want to marry Allura cause she looks like his mom? Season three can’t come soon enough.
For all you Voltron fans out there, what did you think of season two? I know there’s a lot to unpack about what went down so feel free to talk with fellow fans in the comments. I’d love to know what you thought!
Shamus Kelley needs some RCA cables now. Follow him on Twitter!