Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defenders launched their fourth season last friday, packing a lot of content into just six episodes. It’s a little rushed and not without its flaws, but the twists and turns are worth the ride. The new season is satisfying in content, if not in mode of delivery, and certainly leaves us wanting more. WARNING: Spoilers for season four below!
The content of what Netflix has labeled as Voltron’s fourth season (we all know it’s season 3.5) is on point, tying in some loose threads, adding a few more to keep us on the edge of our seats, and adding in those heart wrenching character moments that keep us coming back for more. Team Voltron focuses on building the Voltron Coalition: a group of allies from all over the galaxy that band together to fight against Lotor, Zarkon, and the Galra Empire. The conflict heats up as they try to take a good third of the Empire’s territory and the series ties in some old and new allies while it examines the broader scope of the fight against the Galra. Season four moves the series in an exciting direction, and has been worth the wait.
Keith and Pidge are the two characters with the most personal growth this season, as Keith faces a hard choice and Pidge follows the info trail to find their brother. Keith ultimately leaves team Voltron to assist the Blade of Marmora, feeling himself unfit to lead Voltron (especially now that Shiro has returned, and the Black Lion has acknowledged their bond). This particular moment is heartbreaking, as Keith spends the entire episode struggling to balance the good he’s doing with the Blades with the time spent as the symbol Voltron is becoming. Keith’s self-esteem has been a topic in prior seasons, but truly comes to a head here, as he prioritizes being a soldier over being a symbol. Shrio gently reminds him that he and the other Paladins will always be there for Keith, but it’s clear upon his departure that he didn’t want to go, even if it was what he thought was best for the whole. Keith’s arc continues to tug and speak to the struggles of being caught between two worlds, and spurs empathy from the viewer. Keith will always be a part of Voltron, but his step away creates a distance that grows harder to bridge as the series progresses.
Pidge’s brother is another highlight of the season, as he joins the Voltron Coalition with the band of rebels that freed him from his Galra captors. Matt is as nerdy as his Paladin sibling, and meshes seamlessly with Pidge and Hunk as they set about improving their information gathering on the Galra and their movements. His relationship with his younger sibling is also heartwarming, as it could have turned into a sibling rivalry, but settles comfortably into something between pride and excitement. Matt is over the moon to discover Pidge is a Paladin of Voltron, and dives right into helping them and the team however he can.
The narrative content of the season is also very strong, as the focus broadens to galactic warfare and the acquisition of allies. Voltron treads the delicate balance between active combat and ‘selling’ the Coalition, growing further into the symbol other rebels flock to. The conflict also comes to a head in this season, as the Coalition makes their decisive move against the Galra. With Zarkon’s revival, Lotor is ultimately left ally-less after killing one of his Generals without explanation (Hagar was using her to spy on them, but only Lotor knew that, and he loses the trust of his remaining followers), and ends up saving the Coalition and their allies with a last second assist against Hagar. This puts both Lotor and team Voltron in an awkward position, as they’d been hunting each other as Lotor tried to reform the Galra Empire. The awkward is doubled as well, given Lotor’s last second appearance also spared Keith’s life, who had readied himself to destroy the shield around Hagar’s attack ship with his own fighter. Tensions run high in the last two episodes and leave the season on a cliffhanger, eagerly awaiting the fallout between the Voltron Coalition, and their potential new ally.
There’s a lot for six episodes, and it keeps viewers wanting more. The content is the best part of this season, and makes my hopes for season five that much higher.
Though the overall narrative and story of this new season was on point, season four left much to be desired. Many things felt rushed, and some of the character management felt off target compared to previous seasons. Though the plot continues to develop, finishing this season left many frustrated with its poor delivery.
Labeled as season four, this season was simply the second half of the season three, released in August. There is much speculation as to why the series has switched from 12-13 episode seasons to 6-7 episodes, but the shorter format only proves to highlight the structural shortcomings of the writing as a whole. The shorter seasons don’t leave enough time to fully develop the story as complexly as it needs to be, and leads to certain arcs feeling rushed or underwritten. Lotor in particular suffered from this, as his fall happened across the span of three episodes, with little-to-no explanation to his motivations, or the motivations of his former allies. Voltron has also struggled with pacing from the beginning, and the shorter format only serves to exacerbate those issues further. Their exposition-heavy front half continues to be present, leaving the final few episodes laden with the weight of furthering the broader narrative arcs. When there is so little time already available, it leaves little room for excess exposition: something this particular series has struggled with. This season is no exception, and the short-season format is truly hurting its delivery.
As the narrative scope grows wider, there are more questions that need to be answered as the story progresses. Why is Lotor building a ship from the asteroid they found in season three? Why did Zarkon awaken when he did? How will he respond to this new Coalition? This season answered or continued a few of these threads, but also opened more narrative doors for reasons that are unclear. Though the thread of Lotor’s new ships is continued in this new season, there was also the introduction of an interdimensional gate, built on the fault that Zarkon and Hagar studied on the Galra homeworld. The timing of this sudden revelation makes little sense, as Lotor was just banished and killed one of his comrades in the process. There are no other connections beyond the explanatory episode that illuminated how Zarkon rose to power in season three, and the existence of such a gate is a cause for great concern. However, it appears only once, then nothing more is said about it, leaving us to wonder why it was mentioned at all. This is just one of many narrative question marks that occurred this season, leaving us wondering why they were mentioned at all.
There was a lot to criticize this season, even though the content was thrilling. Had they given the season a full 12-13 episode treatment, it may have been easier to overlook some of the pacing foibles and loose plot threads. In it’s current state, however, Voltron: Legendary Defenders season four disappoints in mode of delivery, though we’re still very invested in the content, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for team Voltron.