Netflix is flush with great animation lately. It ranges from Bojack Horseman to Blame! to Castlevania. After two seasons, Voltron Legendary Defender definitely belongs on that list. The third season is here, and I had a chance to check out a couple episodes before the upcoming August 4 premiere. The season puts the final member of Team Voltron in place and introduces one of its most classic villains.
The first season of Voltron brought the original team together – Keith, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, and Shiro – and got them into their color-coordinated lions. But fans of the original show know it doesn’t stay that way. Called Shirogane in the Japanese show GoLion and Sven in the hacked-together show we know as Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Shiro is the guy who pilots the black lion, the head and body of the beast, and the second season of the show follows the general path of the original, separating Shiro from his black lion and forcing the team to find a new pilot – and that’s where the third season starts off.
While Voltron hews more closely to something like Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra than the other, more adult-oriented shows I listed above, I never feel like a child when I watch that. No, I save that for when I tune into My Hero Academia every Saturday morning on Crunchyroll. Voltron Legendary Defender has done a great job of treating its characters and viewers both like thinking, feeling beings instead of demographics to be sold toys to.
Season 3 returns to Team Voltron in the aftermath of a big battle and an even bigger loss. The black paladin, Shiro is gone, and the remaining four don’t know what to do. They’ve been continuing to fly their own lion-bots, but right from the get-go it feels like something is missing in every scene. They’re working, they know their machines better than ever, but they’re not quite unified the way they should be.
It feels like grieving. These characters experienced a heartbreaking loss, and have been marinating in it. Instead of dwelling on it for too long, though, the show uses it as a way to help the characters grow in meaningful ways. Even just a couple episodes in, there’s some satisfying changes happening to the character interactions.
Of Man and Ro-beast
But this isn’t just a warm-fuzzy healing show. It’s Voltron. There have to be space battles and giant beasts and evil villains. With Emperor Zarkon knocked out of commission at the end of season 2, it’s time for a new villain to step in – Prince Lotor. After literal millennia of rule at Zarkon’s hand, Lotor steps in and immediately sets about fixing the empire’s PR problem.
Instead of taking the standard “iron-fisted ruler” approach, Lotor seems to be taking a page of out of Dunder-Mifflin manager Michael Scott’s book – if Lotor has his way, subjects of the Galran empire are going to be afraid of how much they love him. That sets up an interesting dynamic for Team Voltron to face off against. Thus far they’ve met oppressed people who are very willing to rebel against the violent empire they’ve lived under. Now, the team may begin to encounter people who aren’t so interested in rebellion. Voltron could even begin to look like a menace, and that’s where I suspect the season will go.
Both of these elements – the new team, and the new villain – promise to change things up. Voltron Legendary Defender has stayed interesting so far by keeping the team from getting comfortable. Season 3 seems like it’ll keep that up and give us plenty more to look forward to.
Only seven episodes?!
Voltron season 3 is a bit different from the first two not just in that Zarkon and Shiro are both gone, but also in that we only get seven episodes instead of 13. But there’s a good reason for that. The fourth season is currently set to air in October 2017. Instead of getting all 13 episodes at once, we’re getting smaller doses throughout the year. Assuming this works, that means we’ll be seeing more Voltron, more often. Alright, that’s a compromise I can live with.
Voltron season 3 premieres on Netflix on August 4.
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