Voltron: Legendary defender returns with a fun but predictable third season. There are a few meaningful character developments and we’re introduced to some new characters, but much of the action that takes place won’t shock anyone who’s familiar with basic narrative conventions.
The action picks up pretty much where things left off at the end of the second season: Shiro is missing and Zarkon is bed-ridden. Unsurprisingly, Keith, who has been left in charge of the Paladins, is having doubts about his leadership skills. While this is an organic direction for the character, as Keith has traditionally been a solo act, it’s a shame that his origin story, which was a central plot point of Season 2, isn’t explored or really touched upon for the duration.
There’s a few references to the other Paladins’ story arcs from previous seasons, apart from Hunk, whose sole purpose is to provide comic relief and nothing else. Allura gets more of a look in, building on her bad-ass-ness that was shown off at the end of last season, but we also see that she still has many personal challenges to face.
Possibly the most compelling new element to the story of Voltron is Prince Lotor, Zarkon’s son. This apple is miles from the tree in the way that he rules his subject -, he’s very much reminiscent of Allucard from Netflix’s Castlevania series. He also brings a team of exotic and loyal acolytes that help him carry out his objectives.
Lotor is an interesting addition to the series, voiced by A.J. LoCascio who, like the rest of Voltron’s excellent cast, is a seasoned voice actor and adds to the quality of the performances. It is a shame that one of the most notable performers, Rhys Darby, who voices Coran, is largely underused – hopefully, this will be rectified in the equally short Season 4, due to drop in a few months.
By the end of this run of episodes, the world of Voltron has been satisfactorily fleshed out and we’re given a crucial look into the history of this universe. Shiro’s fate is also explored and this opens up some interesting questions about his absence. Unfortunately, the rest of the story plays out much as might be expected: battles are fought, adventures are had, and space is explored.
Thankfully, proceedings are still engaging, thanks to the quality animation, music and sound design. The technicolour palette of Voltron is so vibrant and compelling, that it makes every scene a spectacle, especially when a new world or location is introduced. This feeds into the character design, which is still sophisticated and detailed. Whether it’s the Paladin’s new allies or Lotor and his team of hardened warriors, each character is thought out and looks great on screen, particularly in motion. The music is still a sumptuous mix of orchestra and electronica, which builds to the fast action and thoughtfully lingers in the quieter moments. The sound of thrusters flaring, swords clashing and airlocks shuddering open are so well engineered that the soundscape remains a feast of sci-fi audio goodness.
The result is a season that’s enjoyable for many of the same reasons that made the previous seasons such a success. But with the commencement of a third run the story needs to offer more than the predictable arc that these seven episodes bring. To capitalise on the premise of what is meant to be a space epic – from the guys who made Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, no less – the story needs to match up to those series. Spectacle will only go so far, if not combined with a compelling and surprising narrative – without that, the show is like Voltron sans legs. This is a story about individual elements forming to become more than sum of their parts. However, much like Keith, the writers seem to be struggling to form the Voltron narrative. Get it together writers. (Sorry, Keith.)
Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1 to 4 are now available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.