Voltron: Legendary Defender season two ended on a major cliffhanger. After finally getting his black bayard, Shiro was able to activate one of the hidden powers of the Black Lion. Zarkon seemed defeated and the Paladins raced back to the Castle Ship…. Only to find Shiro was gone. He wasn’t dead just… gone.
In the hiatus between seasons two and three fans speculated what happened to him. Was he somehow fused with the Black Lion? Was he really truly dead? Did he somehow bond with Zarkon’s Quintessence? How long would it take before Shiro was brought back? How would the team deal with his absence?
The opening episodes of the season began to answer that last question. Keith struggled with taking on the mantle of leader. The team was in disarray. They needed someone to pilot Black Lion. Everyone tried but eventually Keith had to take on responsibility. Lance moved into Red Lion and Allura into Blue Lion.
Not only had the team reverted to the classic Voltron line up from the original series but they were also beginning to find their way in this new configuration. The third episode featured everyone struggling with Keith’s leadership and Allura doing her best to work with the Blue Lion. While they made it out of that adventure mostly unscathed, they still had a lot of work to do to bond as a team again.
It seemed like the new status quo for much of season three would be the Paladins learning to work together, particularly focusing on Keith’s reluctance as leader and eventually embracing the role he had in original Voltron as the confident leader.
Then Shiro came back in episode five. After only two episodes with the new team in place, we cut to an episode that was totally focused on Shiro escaping from the Galra. After meeting up with some rebels Shiro eventually made his way back to the team, although he didn’t resume command or pilot the Black Lion.
Why was he brought back so soon? Sure, there’s probably something up with him since it looked like the Galra let him escape but bringing him back so soon did a huge disservice to the arcs of the other paladins, particularly Keith. Even Allura, who was the brand new Paladin, had some of her fire stolen.
It felt very strange and out of place for a show that had been so well paced up to that point. Why couldn’t have Shiro come back later on, perhaps a season or two down the line? Executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos has a fairly blunt answer.
“We weren’t allowed to from the executives. That’s it. He had to come back. That’s pretty much it. We wanted him to be gone for a much longer period of time and we weren’t allowed to.”
Co executive producer Lauren Montgomery adds, “Shiro’s gotta sell toys.”
With the action figures of the Paladins hitting stores around the time season three debuted, Shiro included, this makes sense.
Montgomery elaborates on the thought process of this decision, lamenting “there’s a lot of give and take when you’re working on a show. It’s a very nice happy thing to think we have carte blanche when making this show and everything we do is our choice but that’s just not always the case. Sometimes we have people we need to please.”
Montgomery lays out the original third season they had planned, back when it was originally going to be thirteen episodes instead of seven.
“I think in our wildest dream we had a season planned out where Shiro just wasn’t a part of it and our guys got to be the original Voltron lineup and be a mess and learn on their own and learn together and evolve. But when it comes down to it sometimes we don’t get out way. Things are required of us so we do those things and we have to make it work with the story.”
Montgomery does point out that there are some fans out there that are very happy that Shiro is back and they were upset he was gone the first place, but “you can’t please everyone. We just have to do what we gotta do to make the show and we try to make it the best show we can.”
“That’s the politically correct answer” interjects Dos Santos, “Creatively, we aren’t gonna lie, it’s frustrating to deal with some of those things when we had creative ideas that we wanted to extend a bit further. Like Lauren said, there’s a lot of moving parts to an IP this big. Concessions have to be made and we’re still happy with where the story has gone, it just wasn’t our original idea.”
So did they already have the outline of the season planned and it was vetoed? Had they already written the episodes and had to change them at the last minute?
Dos Santos worries they’ve said too much already but that there was a “a certain amount that we pitched early on. It’s an organic system, things change along the way and you just have to be able to adapt. Different people chime in. Different departments chime in. There’s a lot of moving parts. That’s kinda how that works.”
While it’s a shame that the Paladins weren’t allowed to develop in Shiro’s absence, we’re intrigued by how the Voltron team will adapt to Shiro’s forced presence in the storyline in the fourth season and beyond.
Shamus Kelley is glad we at least got Sven out of this. Follow him on Twitter!
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