Voltron returns for a sixth season and from the start, it’s clearly the strongest yet. This latest run manages to walk the line perfectly between character development, action and narrative exposition.
Season 6 starts with the Paladins maintaining their now, much easier alliance with Lotor and the Galra empire. But something’s rotten in the state of Galra, because not everyone’s pleased with the Prince’s new foreign policy. One of these people is Sendak, the robot-armed Galra general who challenged Lotor for the throne last season. His plan to defeat the Paladins creates a first episode that feels like a delicious blend of Jerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds and Apollo 13. There’s some really good interplay between characters, some interesting foreshadowing of events to come and, all in all, it’s a very sophisticated episode.
This is a recurring theme for the entire season. In Episode 2, the narrative goes from grand to granular as the action picks up with Keith from last season. The entire episode focuses mainly on two characters, Keith and his mother. The writers find one of the best narrative conceits for Keith to learn his entire lineage without resorting to needless exposition. This is the thing with this season: the writing team are so talented that Voltron stops being an homage to a bygone era of Saturday morning cartoons and becomes an outstanding drama that, despite being animated and full of bombastic action, tells a story that is as engaging as the vast majority of Netflix’s live-action offerings. This is perfectly illustrated in the way the second episode ends on an out-of-nowhere cliff-hanger that will leave you staring at the ‘next episode’ prompt, unable to look away.
Then, like a freight train, along comes a bottle episode. But before you roll your eyes, consider this: the cell animation of Voltron’s characters and environments – not to mention the 3D animation on the ships, Lions and the big man himself – are so elegantly rendered that the amount of work the animation team must put in entitles them to a break. The third instalment is a genuinely amusing and insightful ode to all things nerd. With a show like Voltron what better way to dwell on a pause than a fun send-up of the show that will resonate with its audience? It also feels like a fun creative expression for the whole crew. Unlike with a lot of bottle episodes, it’s a great piece of pacing to have a break from the intense narrative arc, because otherwise, the pace doesn’t let up until season’s end.
From the cliffhanger’s efficient resolution, the taps really open to deliver some of the most fantastic spectacle delivered at least from the entire series, if not of any animated series on Netflix. There’s a compelling, moving and touching emotional moment for almost every character, one of which takes place during possibly one of the best fight scenes ever committed to cell animation. The music, animation, voice acting and exceptional writing combine in a whirlwind of glorious texture that, when it ends, leaves a feeling of absolute elation that something so gloriously fun exists and genuine frustration that there isn’t another season.
This latest run would be perfect were it not for the same issue that plagues every season of Voltron. By this point, we know how the Lions assemble to become Voltron – we don’t need to see the assembly scene, in full, every time the Paladins form Voltron. Do the animators have something on the directors that’s forcing them to include this every single time? It breaks the immersion when it’s used and it’s poorly implemented.
That being said, Season 6 of Voltron deserves to be talked about as one of this year’s television highlights. The reverence shown to this world and the way plot threads, some of which were set up in the first season, are tied up, shows a level of sophistication in the writing that pushes Voltron beyond its original premise. Over its six-season arc Voltron has evolved into an animated epic that has an exciting future. Legendary Defender will undoubtedly be remembered as nothing short of legendary.
Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1 to 6 are now available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.