You're Not Going Anywhere: A Review of "Voltron: Legendary Defender" Season Six
This post was originally published for Speculative Chic on August 14, 2020. It has been updated slightly. You can read the original here.
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And so continues my review of Voltron: Legendary Defender. While this is technically a series rewatch, I’m reviewing the show with new a new set of eyes and ears to give you a spoilerific breakdown that judges the series on its own merits, season by season. As always, you can revisit the discussions for seasons One, Two, Three, Four, and Five before joining me on the deep dive into Season Six. Things are definitely heating up as we get closer to the end of our journey!
DreamWorks’ Voltron Legendary Defender picks up immediately following the events of Zarkon’s defeat as the Paladins struggle to recover with one of their own missing, leaving them unable to form Voltron. The team must quickly devise a plan as the ascension of Prince Lotor threatens to bring chaos to the entire universe. Only by coming together, not just as Paladins but with the freedom fighters liberated from Galra occupation, will they be able bring the fight to their most formidable enemies yet.
Discussion: What a season! Jam-packed, full of twists and turns, big betrayals, animation level-ups, great action, D&D homages, you name it. We left off with pretty big reveals and character moments in Season Five, and this picks right up from where it left off with some even more emotionally hefty sequences. Season Six really has outdone itself. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Story and Characters: I usually split these topics up but this season is particularly a character-based plot — everything hinges on what our characters do and how they’ve developed — so I’m going to talk about them together.
If I were to settle on a theme, I’d say Voltron: Legendary Defender was all about loyalty and betrayal this season. On the side of betrayal we’ve got Lotor as the unequivocal grand champion, with Shiro making a surprise appearance for Team Bad™, and then we’ve got Keith coming in as the MVP for unshakeable loyalty, staying true to his friendship with Shiro. While the other Paladins continue to show devotion to each other, I can’t discuss characters without mentioning Allura, who chose loyalty to Team Voltron and didn’t second guess that choice when the time came. Krolia, Keith’s mother, also gets a shout-out for reaffirming her commitment to Keith. But let’s talk about Lotor and Allura, then Shiro and Keith. Their relationships were the core of this season.
First, Lotor, my dear Prince Lotor. We all should have seen this coming. That Lotor would ultimately be a betrayer was advertised since one of his very first appearances in the series — the guy double-crosses people left and right. As Lance points out to Allura, he knows how to say and do all the right things. What makes Lotor such a compelling villain is that he believes what he is doing is right — and a lot of times when he justifies his actions, it does sound like he wants to do good things, so the audience (and his generals, and the Paladins) sympathizes with him. We’re also sympathetic to him because of his background, coming from a truly toxic family dynamic. Plus, Lotor is charismatic AF and he has moments where he is genuinely likeable! I can’t help but picture Tyra Banks in my mind screaming, “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!”
But when it comes down to it, we can’t ignore the fact that Lotor essentially committed genocide when he stole the quintessence (aka the”life itself”) of the Alteans he rescued in order to provide an alternate source of energy to power his technology. Someone who commits genocide can’t be a hero. They just can’t.
What makes Lotor so tragic is that we can see moments of goodness in him — we can see him almost take steps out of the dark tunnel — only to find him regress to the Galra way. Allura shouts at him, “You’re more like Zarkon than I ever could have imagined,” and we can see how this hurts Lotor as she says it. But kudos to Allura, who didn’t second-guess the truth when it came out. She didn’t take the time to rationalize Lotor’s behavior or try to make excuses for him because she loved him (or something close to love, anyway). She was presented the evidence and she threw Lotor across the room, knocking him out. She let him know exactly how she felt and what his betrayal meant. Allura did not sacrifice Team Voltron for her own personal feelings or conflictions, and I’m so proud of her for that.
Lotor and Allura were definitely a romantic pairing this season, no question. I don’t know if Allura was full-blown “in love” — personally I think she was just falling for him and respected him, plus, DAT KISS (Episode 4, “The Colony”) — but I strongly believe Lotor genuinely has feelings for Allura and they had true potential if it wasn’t for, you know, Lotor being a villain. Add another layer to that tragedy cake, friends.
Lotor being lost in the quintessence field is an ending for him that, while painful for the viewer, makes sense — Lotor sacrificed everything, and committed unspeakable crimes, all for the sake of quintessence. He made that bed and he must lie in it, and the series made that quite literal by having him fade off into the quintessence field. Farewell, my dear purple prince.
Continuing the theme of betrayal and loyalty, let’s talk about Shiro and Keith. It turns out Shiro is a clone that Haggar has been controlling and he goes 100% evil on the Paladins and betrays them by rescuing Lotor and essentially being Haggar’s henchman. It is only in a later reveal that we learn that back in an earlier season where Shiro and Zarkon faced off directly, Shiro died and his consciousness attached itself to the Black Lion.
Clone Shiro completely flips out on Keith and tries to kill him. Amid that ongoing battle and throughout Episode 5 (“The Black Paladins”), Keith tells Shiro, “You’re my brother. I love you.” It’s one of the most emotional moments in the episode, and we see Keith, in return for Shiro’s faith in him, likewise not give up on Shiro.
Animation: The entire fight sequence between Keith and Shiro in Episode 5 takes the cake. Not only are the characters’ facial expressions and movement leveled up, but you’ve got the destruction of the Galra ships and everything falling apart all around them in a complex and beautiful sequence. This is some of the best animation the series has to offer.
Voice Acting: Lotor’s madness. Allura’s rage. Shiro’s threats. Keith’s pleas. These were the moments that reinforced how talented this cast is. AJ Locascio (Lotor), Kimberly Brooks (Allura), Josh Keaton (Shiro), and Steven Yeun (Keith) had some of the greatest moments to shine this season.
Low Points of the Season: Move along. Nothing to see here.
High Points of the Season: I loved this season in its entirety, but the essentially fanservice-driven Episode 3 (“Monsters & Mana”) was a fun highlight as a giant shout-out to Dungeons and Dragons, with nods to RPG video games (the internet says it’s World of Warcraft, which I’ve never played), fantasy movies, and Japanese manga. It’s basically a smorgasboard of fantasy geekdom. I got all sorts of vibes while watching this episode — a shot of Shiro looking like Strider from The Fellowship of the Ring; the cuckoos from The Legend of Zelda; etc. It was tropey good fun all the way through.
Final Thoughts: This season truly was a powerhouse of storytelling, animation, action, and FEELINGS. Lotor’s ultimate betrayal and the final battle in the quintessence field; one of the best action and animated sequences tempered with emotion; a fanservicey nod to RPGs from tabletop to PC to video games; and lots of character moments and plot advancements. As always, the season ends on a big cliffhanger and a note of optimism — our Paladins are confident after defeating Lotor and are ready to head back to Earth. It’s a satisfying “let’s go home” moment that is the perfect end to a perfect season. See you next time for Season Seven’s in-depth review!