The last season of Dreamworks’ eighth and last season of Voltron: Legendary Defender came out in Dec. 14, 2018. Since Voltron ended, there’s been heavy backlash about the direction that the show went in.
Warning: There will be spoilers!
One of the first things I saw online the day the eighth season dropped was huge spoilers concerning the finale followed by an out-pour of disappointment from viewers. While there was some positivity being spread around, needless to say, it was definitely hard to form an opinion that was uninfluenced by the many critiques of the show. Now that some of the hype surrounding the series has simmered down, I took another look at the series as a whole to talk about what Voltron did well and where some fans believe it came up short especially in regards to the show’s ending.
Showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery created a Netflix adaptation of Beast King GoLion — a reboot that definitely sparked a newfound love in many for the Voltron franchise. VLD draws from its predecessor while also providing new spins on its characters and storyline. Since its inception, VLD has had a phenomenal array of voice actors and visually stunning animation.
The story follows an unlikely group of people — Shiro (Josh Keaton), Keith (Steven Yeun), Lance (Jeremy Shada), Hunk (Tyler Labine) and Pidge (Bex Taylor-Klaus) — that are throw in the middle of an intergalactic space battle. Princess Allura (Kimberly Brooks) and Coran (Rhys Darby) round off team Voltron in a battle against the fearsome Galra empire that has ruled a majority of the galaxy for 10,000 years.
There’s a lot the series as whole has done well. The characters are all really different so throwing them together makes for some incredibly hilarious moments like “snowball” fights, trips to the space mall, the MFE pilots vlogging and seeing Pidge use her influence to get free stuff. These differences however often collide in various ways that allow for growth in these characters.
Keith and Lance
For example, Keith and Lance certainly started out being what seemed to be polar opposites that were only concerned with getting one up on each other but that grew into a strong bond of respect and trust. The scene in season 8 where Lance seeks out Keith and the two converse on the last day before their mission begins is a being signifier of this.
Shiro and Keith
Shiro and Keith’s relationship has always been a close one but we witness how crucial it really is when the two are forced to fight one another in a violent and heartbreaking battle. The paladins come into themselves and that’s noteworthy. Shiro is shown to have vulnerabilities but manages to not only know when to step down but to step up as well when he became captain of the atlas.
Keith when from being content behind the scenes to leader of Voltron and paladin of the black lion. Lance goes from playful to serious about his crush and also manages to show and address his homesickness and concerns about his own fighting abilities. Hunk goes to being scared of most situations to exhibiting great bravery and uses one of his passions to facilitate understanding between people. Pidge goes from wanting to immediately separate from Voltron to standing by them along with her family.
In this season specifically, the Voltron paladins and their allies finally face off against their greatest enemy yet. Honerva, also known as Haggar (Cree Summer), was a villain that took a backseat in the previous seasons. In this season, however, she’s put into the forefront. Her realization that she’s lost herself and her family to the promise of power prompts her to be one of the most interesting and complex characters in the show.
She is a mesh of her son Lotor (A. J. Locascio) and her husband Zarkon (Neil Kaplan) as she exhibits a penchant for calculating and manipulativeness while also being wildly chaotic. Her goal is to find a reality where she can be reunited with her husband and son and live happily with them no matter the cost. She destroys countless universes and realities to achieve this. It’s a heavy price to pay but she is largely unconcerned with the destruction left in her wake.
Other good stuff!
Bringing back the first paladins of Voltron was also incredible to see. We not only got to see how they compare with the current paladins but also get a reunion between Allura and her late father. Zarkon having to face and accept his actions and domination of the universe in front the people he betrayed was another compelling watch.
As mentioned before, the animation and voice acting as a whole are also superb. At the core of it all, Voltron is a show about a fighting robot and it delivers heavily in that aspect. The fight scenes are always very well crafted and it takes you through the ups and downs that the characters themselves are feeling. You can see and well as hear when the paladins are downtrodden and then gain back sparks of hope.
In regards to the voice acting, we have some really powerful moments that truly invoke the essence and gravity of the situations that these characters are roped into. The scene were Pidge believes her brother to be dead will always be heart wrenching. The fight between Keith and Shiro and the rawness invoked there throw the voice actors is also another amazing scene. Honerva meeting her husband and son in an alternate universe only to be rejected is another. There are many more moments like these where the show really shines in how it connects to the audience and their emotions.
The fight scenes are always very well-crafted and it takes you through the ups and downs that the characters themselves are feeling. You can see and well as hear when the paladins are downtrodden and then gain back sparks of hope. In regards to the voice acting, we have some really powerful moments that truly invoke the essence and gravity of the situations that these characters are roped into. The scene were Pidge believes her brother to be dead will always be heart wrenching. The fight between Keith and Shiro and the rawness invoked there throw the voice actors is also another amazing scene. Honerva meeting her husband and son in an alternate universe only to be rejected is another. There are many more moments like these where the show really shines in how it connects to the audience and their emotions.
The Bad (Complaints)
Whether or not you liked the series or not, it’s not hard to see that many people have negative feelings towards it. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has an audience score of 94% but season 8 has a score of 8%. Ouch. There are even multiple petitions like this one that calls for a re-release of the show that falls in line with “the original plan that the showrunners had for season 8” since it’s a popular belief that there was a level of “executive meddling” throughout the series.
Lance and Allura’s relationship
One of the very first complaints lodged against the finale was the development of Lance and Allura’s relationship. This is no surprise since the show in notorious for it shipping wars with one of the most popular ships being Keith and Lance. However, as someone who wasn’t really invested in the shipping aspect of the show, I will admit that the way their romance was presented in this season was a bit frustrating. The two definitely had some heartwarming moments but the pair was noticeably dejected. Previous seasons showcased the ability to balance serious matters with lightheartedness but that didn’t seem to carry over into the couple. Allura understandably has a lot of her shoulders with her concerns about defeating Honerva and saving the remaining Alteans. Lance sort of mirrors that sadness in a way that seems like a big shift to his overall character.
The controversy with how Shiro’s story was presented
In the same vein, Shiro gets married to a character named Curtis. Shiro being gay was a big reveal for the show but it did manage to stir controversy. Shiro’s ex-fiance, Adam, was shown for a short moment in a flashback and we later find out that he died in the fight against the Galra. While many people were happy with Shiro’s sexuality, they also felt that Adam’s death fell in line with the bury your gays trope. Joaquim Dos Santos ended up addressing the response on twitter. The introduction of Curtis and the wedding was met with another wave of criticism as fans felt that it was done to win back points after messing up with Adam’s situation.
It’s easy to see why some may be disappointed with this development since we only see Curtis in the background of a few episodes. Since the audience knows little to nothing about him, the relationship is less satisfying to see. Nevertheless, Shiro’s character is revolutionary in its own way since he’s a gay Asian man with a disability that doesn’t take away from his strength and ability to lead. His interracial marriage is amazing to think about and witness since it’s a huge step in animation. The show just seems to have missed the mark they may have been going for with viewers. It’s valid for LGBTQ fans of the series to want representation in a way that is empowering.
Last but not least, we have the subject of Allura’s death. She gives her life to bring back all the realities that Honerva destroyed. Since the start of the series, Allura has lost and given up a lot.
She lost her family and believed herself to be one of the last Alteans along with Coran. She lost her entire planet to Zarkon who then proceeded to wreak havoc on the universe for another 10,000 years. She lost the hologram of her father and then later has to give up the entire castle — a direct link to her home besides Coran. She loses her relationship with Lotor, someone who helped her connect to her Altean roots, through his betrayal. She loses her crown which was another link to her home, royal status and family overall. Then, in the end, she loses her life.
It’s no secret that among the numerous themes that Voltron focuses on that sacrifice is one of them. When considering the slow take away of many of the things that connected her to Altea, her death being a means to bring back every reality destroyed and restore Altea is both a surprise and it isn’t.
However, it’s clear to see that Allura has given up so much and deserved to be alive and well in that epilogue too. It’s also important to note that one of Allura’s biggest flaws is that she puts way to much pressure on herself and sort internalizes that burden (think the episode where she breaks down when the black lion doesn’t accept her). She even talks to Lance about the crushing amount of responsibility she puts on herself to save the Alteans and beat Honerva. To see her, in the end, die still holding on to that isn’t satisfying and it didn’t feel justifiable.
Honerva sacrifices herself along with Allura to bring back all realities. Her easy turnaround and abandonment of her goals when Allura reminds her of the happiness she once had in her life was a bit strange. This is someone who destroyed all life in countless dimensions and didn’t look back once. When an alternate version of Zarkon and Lotor rejected her, she destroyed them too. She was so focused on the belief that if she couldn’t exist happily in a universe, there should be no universe at all. It’s kind of hard to believe that all they had to do was point out that she once was content with her life for her to stop her tirade.
Voltron: Legendary Defender is a show that brought interesting, fun and new things to its genre. The show was wildly popular and well liked for a reason and this season does embody some of the reasons why that’s so even if perception may have have changed in the end. It’s a show I followed closely from the beginning so the ending is really bittersweet. I have a lot of love for the series even though I definitely didn’t like everything about the ending.
The fan’s reactions have leaned more towards the negatives, which is fair, but those who liked the ending are valid too. The show delivered powerful performances, a compelling story and is definitely going to be remembered.
Featured image credit: Netflix and Dreamworks