The first seven episodes of Voltron: Legendary Defenders Season Three were released on August 8th, starting the new arc for the members of Team Voltron. In the aftermath of the final battle with Zarkon, both the Voltron Paladins and the Galra empire are left leaderless, with Shiro missing and Zarkon near-death. Season Three sets the stage for new conflict and growth, with new faces and some old ones in new light. WARNING: Spoilers for Voltron: Legendary Defenders Season Three ahead.
Season Three, though truncated, had some good moments. After the final battle against Zarkon, Team Voltron is seen freeing planets and working towards forming a coalition to stand against what remains of the Galra Empire. Not all is well, however, as Shiro’s continued absence weighs heavily on the team, even as they decide how to move forward, and decide who should pilot the Black Lion in his stead. A new villain also joins the cast in Zarkon’s son, Lotor–charismatic and wholly unlike his father in his views on the Empire and its policies. These seven episodes set the stage for what’s to come, and reveals a mere taste of what the future of the series has to offer.
This season had a lot of growing pains as the team adjusts to Shiro’s absence and struggles with the realization that roles are changing, for better or for worse. The character development is seen most clearly in Lance and Keith, with a few poignant moments for Hunk. When Keith is chosen to be the Black Lion’s new Paladin and tries to reject the change, Lance is the first one to step up and tell him to do it, that he supports the Black Lion’s decision, even though it was clear Lance was hoping for the role himself. This is a huge shift from Lance of Season One, who saw every interaction with Keith as a competition, and whom had made it his personal goal to excel against Keith as a pilot and a Paladin. This growth hits home again, with Shiro’s return and the resurgence of Lance’s concerns regarding his role with the team. Of all people, he turns to Keith for reassurance, and Keith offers it to him with a quip about how Lance should, “…leave the math to Pidge.” Keith also grows himself, pushing beyond his grief and hot-headedness to bring the team together as the Black Lion’s Paladin. He demonstrates the leadership skills Shiro saw in him, to the point that he and Shiro begin to butt heads upon the older pilot’s return. These moments run home how much both of these characters have grown: Keith is growing into the leader Shiro hoped he would be, and Lance is coming to terms with his place on the team, and in the wider universe. Even Hunk has these moments, as we are again reminded how smart he is as he tag-teams with Pidge to help track one of Alfor’s comets. He’s not just a food-loving support character, and I hope more of this growth continues in the back-half of the season.
Lotor’s addition to the cast is a much needed shift in the wake of Zarkon’s single-minded drive. Where Zarkon was flat, Lotor is dynamic, demonstrating an intelligence and charisma that outstrips his father’s. He also seems to have a great deal of compassion, which is not something we’ve seen out of a Voltron villain yet, and holds council with a team of purely female-presenting Generals–also the first we’ve seen in the series. I found myself liking his outlook out the gate, and wondering how Team Voltron intended to counteract his offers of co-leadership with his vision for the Galra Empire, which promises to make things interesting as the series progresses. Lotor brings a grey morality to the previously ‘evil’ Empire, and adds a depth that has been lacking previously. It promises to shake things up for both the Galra and Team Voltron, and the outcome may not be what we expect.
After two seasons and many times forming Voltron, the history of the mech was finally revealed in this season’s seventh episode. Though a bit clunkily inserted, the history of Voltron added some much overdue context about Voltron itself, its paladins, and how Zarkon ultimately came to be. It also explains Hagar’s origins, and reveals how an Altean woman came to be at the Galra Emperor’s side. Though the timing was off, the episode was much needed, and explained much of the mystery of Voltron, and it’s history regarding King Alfor and Zarkon.
Seven episodes is a very small window in which the show runners attempted to pack a great deal of information. This hinders more than helps Season Three, as many of the emotional moments feel rushed, and some of the overarching conflicts get lost in the shuffle. Though Season Three sets the stage, it feels as though the information is dumped in the viewer’s lap, rather than shown in narrative, and highlights some of the continued flaws of the series as a whole.
Much of Season Three’s problems seem to stem from the half-season, seven episode format adopted for this release. The seven episodes cover everything from Team Voltron’s internal shifts, introducing a new villain, reintroducing Shrio into the new Team dynamic, dealing with a new, galactic coalition to fight the Galra (who are also not comfortable with the Blade of Marmora as allies); the introduction of a new, Voltron-style weapon; and Zarkon’s re-awakening. And that’s not all of it. There was a lot crammed into a very short amount of time, which left emotional beats feeling glossed over and lessening the impact overall. The wider picture got lost as this season progressed and caught in details that, though important, felt hurried and sometimes vague. I’m excited for what these seven episodes have hinted at, but they’ve left more questions than answers, and could have benefited from taking more time with the stories these episodes had to share.
Another pitfall of Season Three is the continued lack of depth seen around the conflict with the Galra. So far, the series has been fairly black and white: Voltron good, Galra bad. This started to shift in Season Two, with the introduction of the Blade of Marmora and their resistance efforts, but Voltron has failed to address the lingering suspicion aimed at the group. The first episode made reference to it, as Team Voltron freed another planet with the help of the Blades. Rather than celebrate the Galra insurgents alongside their Team Voltron allies, the Blades were treated with anger and suspicion, accused of wearing the faces of their oppressors. This is the only moment we see with the Blades, even though they do get a mention later on. Additionally, Lotor introduces some radically new ideas as he takes the throne–he wants a Roman Empire-like structure, where conquered planets are able to rule themselves under the supervision of the Galra, but we don’t see much of his plan in action. Season Three set up opportunities to examine the grey areas in morality presented by Lotor, alongside the blatant racism faced by the Blade of Marmora, but failed to discuss either. Both are huge topics, most likely lost due to the limited episode count. My hope is, now that the stage has been set, they’ll examine some of these story points more closely, and embellish on how each will impact both Team Voltron and the Galra Empire down the line.
Overall, Season Three holds promise. It sets the stage for what’s to come, even though it feels rushed and overfull at times. The promise of new conflict, of growth and of development both on a micro and macro scale makes me hopeful for what is to come, and I can’t wait for the rest of the season coming out on October 13th.