Voltron Season 7 Episode 9 Review: Know Your Enemy

We examine Shiro's character moving forward along with the delightful return of the Hunk and Keith friendship.

This Voltron Legendary Defender review contains spoilers.

Voltron Season 7 Episode 9

Let’s get this out of the way.

It’s a shame we aren’t going to see more of Adam. 

There’s a rich history between him and Shiro I would have loved to see explored. Not just through flashbacks but a possible reunion. I don’t mean them resuming their relationship, I’m more thinking of Shiro being directly confronted with what he lost and what that says about him. Was all of this worth losing his love? It’s a fascinating question the show could have really played with.

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But Adam’s dead. 

When I first saw it I was disappointed. Why would you take away the only other confirmed queer character on the show? I’m sure many fans will feel understandably hurt by the idea that Shiro won’t happily end up with another man.

But does that need to be the be all end all? Does Shiro not ending up with Adam hurt the show? Does Adam’s death mean we should turn our backs on the series we love?

No, it doesn’t.

Now again, if you think Adam’s death was the wrong move for the series I totally understand. However I want to examine how Adam’s death not only figures into the bigger arc of not just Shiro but Voltron as a whole and what’s it’s trying to say about its characters.

With Adam’s death Shiro has to face something he’s probably buried deep down. That he cared about the mission more than someone he loved. Was that wrong? Was Shiro right for going out into space? He was able to save so many people and even seemingly cured his disease but if he’d stayed …would Adam be alive?

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It’s a testament to Josh Keaton’s acting that, in the very brief scene where we learn of Adam’s death, he packs so much emotion into one simple line.

“Adam… I’m sorry.”

Like the main team had to do in episode six of this season, Shiro now has to question his own reasons for being on this mission. His place on the team. It could be a set up for him stepping aside and allowing the main Paladins to fully take charge. Perhaps he’ll step back. Or maybe, even after deep reflection, he’ll still have his heart in this mission. Even with Adan’s death he can’t stop doing what he’s always felt called to.

Plus, even if Adam died he was ready to do so. Adam was a member of the Galaxy Garrison and I’m sure each and every member knew they could die at some point.

It’s war and no one is safe. As mentioned in the previous review, the Voltron showrunners were heavily inspired by an 80’s series called Robotech. In that series several of the main characters died and the fallout of that in the main cast was huge. In an interview with Den of Geek about Robotech and its influence on Voltron in 2017, executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos talked about how that series handled death.

“People died and stayed dead. That was really important. It sounds cheesy, almost hokey now, but that was a life lesson for me as a kid. That was something I had to absorb and deal with and come to terms with.” 

Shiro may have to come to terms with what Adam’s death means as well. Maybe we’ll see it later on in the series, maybe we won’t, but even that one scene where Shiro mourns for Adam shows this isn’t just a throwaway death. It has meaning to Shiro and the world of Voltron. They can’t mess up… or more people will die. 

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Now some fans will understandably say that Shiro won’t end up with anyone and therefore can’t be happy. Why not though? As much as Adam’s death clearly had an impact on Shiro it can’t stay with him forever. He can’t be moping around the base for the rest of the season. Plus… their relationship was a long time ago.

While some may have imagined a big reunion between the two, we saw their relationship was pretty much over in the premiere flashback. This was not something that was going to be rekindled. As much as Shiro had his moment in this episode, he’ll move on. He has to.

So does that mean the series doesn’t deserve all the praise it’s gotten for queer representation? No. It still deserves so much. Shiro is still incredible representation even if he doesn’t have a love interest. He’s a disabled queer man of color. Shiro is still so important.

(And let’s also keep in mind that while Shiro being queer may have been allowed? Anything more than that, including a deeper realtionship with Adam, may not have been.)

And Shiro does still have love in his life.

Throughout the series we’ve been shown there’s all kinds of love between these characters, not just romantic. There’s familial, friendship, and just deep bonds that extend beyond words. Episode six demonstrated these characters all mean more to each other than anything. As long as these friendships remains intact? That will make them happy. That will bring them joy.

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All characters, queer ones included, don’t NEED love interests to be happy or count as “good” characters. They’re incredibly empowering to be sure, do not misunderstand me. As a pansexual man seeing queer characters of all kinds in realationships mean the world to me. But I also don’t want to discount queer characters that aren’t in relationships either. 

Shiro had a fulfilling relationship with Adam in the past. It clearly meant a lot but it didn’t end up working out. Even without Adam in his life, Shiro can still find happiness. Maybe it’ll be with another guy. Maybe he’ll just go it alone and rely on the deep bonds with his friends. Both are valid.

I’m glad we’re getting to see not only that but deep platonic bonds between other male characters as well, like Hunk and Keith.

Their bond, barely touched on since all the way back in season two, comes roaring to the forefront and it’s so incredibly sweet.

Hunk is incredibly broken up about his family being captured and, almost by accident; he ends up venting to Keith in an award worthy performance from Tyler Labine. Labine is often given comedic roles but he proves in this scene and throughout the season he’s extremely capable of much more range. He can play funny sure, but the range of hurt, jealousy, fear, sadness, anger, and hope portrayad here? Labine is a talent more series should be utilizing, before in front of and behind the camera.

It seems like an odd choice for Hunk to be venting to Keith. Why not Pidge or Lance? But then Keith drops something he’s been keeping inside because hey, he’s Keith.

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Out of everyone on the team he’s most impressed by Hunk. Hunk has never backed down even when he’s scared. He’s brave because he goes on in spite of fear. Keith reminds Hunk of all his best qualities and that’s exactly what Hunk needed to hear.

I’m delighted to find that Hunk is secretly the main focus of this season and it all ties into the kind of love that’s most important in this show. Friendship. The sort of deep bonds that form between friends and how they’re all stronger because of it. They’re all better people because of these friendships. Hunk’s better for it. Keith’s better for it. Shiro’s better for it.

This team’s friendship brings them all strength, hope, and love. That’s what will defeat the Galra, a group who preys on that “weakness” in every race it tries to conquer.

But they’ve never seen a bond of friendship and love stronger than our team. A team that includes a queer man who’s going to get a new arm and kick some ass. 

You go get ‘em you beautiful queer lion of a man.

Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter! He also runs a Robotech podcast if you want to learn more about that series!

Rating:

5 out of 5