I’m an avid fan of Voltron: Legendary Defender, if my past reviews of a few of the seasons isn’t any indication. Recently, seasons 6 and 7 dropped rather close together: Season 6 on June 15, and season 7 on August 10. Now usually I write reviews about each season, but for these past 2 I didn’t (I had my computer out of commission for season 6, but that’s beside the point). I held off reviewing both seasons because honestly, there wouldn’t be much else I’d say about it that I haven’t already said. I enjoyed it, plot points met their assumed conclusion, and new ones came up…only to be resolved rather quickly.
For me, this has been an ongoing issue with VLD. There’s a lot of good character work, and the plot is interesting, with lulls here and there. But it always brings itself back to being what it started as at its core: a space opera, with drama, character development, and awesome mecha action scenes.
But can the show evolve past this point? I’ve found myself asking this, especially with the last 2 seasons. Season 7 was a full 13 episode season as well, and I feel like we’ve just gone back to status quo, as far as the characters are concerned. Can the writing get past the basic premise of Form Voltron, save the universe?
I’m going to be talking about plot and character specific stuff beyond this point, so if you’re not caught up with Voltron: The Legendary Defender, don’t read past this point.
Spoilers! Spoilers! Proceed at your Own Risk!!!
So the biggest plot points I’d like to address as far as the issue of not taking risks when writing are the Pidge’s search for her Dad plot, the Evil/Clone Shiro Plot, and the Lotor’s deception Plots. All three of these aren’t the only plots I feel like the writing could have been better with, but they’re the biggest ones that I think had the most missed opportunities’ with them.
The Search For Pidge’s Family
I forget which season Pidge actually finds her Father, but there was such a big build up to this plot point. We find out Pidge’s brother and Father went missing a few years before in season 1, and her entire story arc for the first half of the series is her drive to find them, wherever they are. Through intel from Lotor, she finds out their location, goes on a hunt to find them, and ultimately does find them. Her Father has been captive in the Galra Empire for the past few years, building tech for them. In the end there was a skirmish that resulted in saving Papa Pidge, but like…to me it would have been a lot more interesting if perhaps, there were more stakes than saving him?
What if it turned out that Sam had been indoctrinated into the Galra Empire, and used as a sleeper agent or mole? Then they send him back to Pidge, and he’s secretly sending them intel from the other side of the war. Pidge finds out, and has to make a tough choice of what to do with her Father. She has to re-evaluate whether or not looking for him was the right choice. Maybe she should have never gone down this path? But instead, Sam is just instantly good, he’s saved, and no harm no fowl for our heroes.
Along with that plot, why couldn’t Matt, Pidge’s brother actually be dead? There were so many red herrings that pointed to just that, but ultimately, once again, oh wait Matt is alive and all is well, he’s ready to help Voltron! I’m not saying every plot has to end in doom and gloom, but making some of the characters morally gray, or not what they seem would make the Voltron Paladin’s have to rethink and refocus, growing more as characters, and reacting differently to situations in a way that isn’t just them being the heroes of the story. This constant cycle of the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad doesn’t work all of the time and it feels like the writers just want to keep it that way, with scarce reasons to throw a wrench in the main characters plans by shaking it up a bit with supporting characters that are actually close to them.
And on that note…
The Shiro Clone Saga
Voltron likes to build up multi season long arcs, and end them almost instantly as soon as the actual details are revealed. We had this plot thread of what’s up with Shiro? For 2 to 3 seasons and as soon as the cat came out of the bag, the thread was wrapped up in a matter of three episodes. We found out Shiro is a clone, oh no! That’s fine, cuz Kieth fought him and brought him back. After that, we find out Shiro’s soul has been hanging out in the Black Lion, how will we get him out? Oh Allura is magicXmachina, it’s fine. She got him out literally in the last five minutes of the final episode of season 6. Then in the first episode of season 7, he wakes up and is back to normal, all be it his soul is now in the clone body because his is missing…or something.
And all I have to say about this is, why couldn’t evil clone Shiro have been a full or half season arc? After all of that build up, why was this story resolved in four episodes? In season 7 after Shiro wakes up, all we get from it is a few jokes here and there but nothing more. Real Shiro is back, it’s fine! Don’t stop watching the show fans, it’s ok. I mean I’m only half kidding here, with how they rush things that is indeed how some of these plots feel. The characters don’t have time to react to their trauma, or plot developments, and the audience is just left wondering how they feel. It’s sloppy writing, and makes the show a bit confusing as far as it’s themes go: Does it want to be an ensemble character piece, showing these characters fighting through a centuries long universal war and growing and dealing with it? Or does it just want to use its characters as the engine for the plot. Either thing is fine, but trying to do both and only do both halfway is a bit jarring.
This leads into my next and final point. The characters, when faced with a problem, never react in a way you wouldn’t expect them to. There is never any sort of second guessing, never any doubt. Allura, after being shown that Lotor was using and lying to her, instantly went gasp! How dare you! I’m totally on the side of my friends!
Lotor and Allura had a teased romantic relationship, to the point where the two have them shared the first on scene kiss. So why, when confronted with the information that Lotor was lying to her, didn’t she ask Lotor to explain? Why wasn’t she like wait guys, I have an emotional attachment to this character, why don’t we slow down and figure out what’s going on before turning on him. She finds out this information right after the kiss too, so I feel like she would be a little more cloudy with her judgement. But, we need to get to the season finale, so she just instantly believes her friends and turns on Lotor. All in all some interesting character growth that could have been stretched a bit longer, but wasn’t. It was rather disappointing, and even though I still adore Allura, why can’t she grow as a character through events in the plot happening to her?
And that is my main problem with the overall writing in Voltron: Legendary Defender. It isn’t willing to take risks. Why can’t we have dynamic character moments not linked to forming Voltron. Why can’t our characters grow, and learn from their mistakes? It just shows that our characters never had anything to learn, and overall this plot is about saving the universe, not them evolving into better people while saving the universe.
I won’t say that no character has grown: Lance, Keith, and Hunk especially have grown as far as outward character traits. But there’s no internal character growth there we see through them reacting to external plot events, every character who started out good remains good, and every evil character stays evil. I didn’t mention this, but why couldn’t Lotor also be morally gray? It seemed like they were going to go that route with him, but then they decided not to and make him the typical power hungry evil person. Which, we already had with Zarcon, so why have more of the same? Sure Lotor was different in their motivations, but ultimately they both ended the same way: their narrow minded focus on getting what they want, when they want it.
That also is a problem with the show. There’s a lot of flip flopping with our characters motivations, that doesn’t feel like it’s as much a fault with the characters, but a fault with the writing. Or perhaps the format of the show? Maybe the six to seven episode format has hindered the story telling, because I really don’t feel like this was a problem in seasons 1 and 2. But who knows, maybe if I went back to those seasons I’d see those problems there.
Voltron: The Legendary Defender is still my favorite modern animated series, but it’s lack of willing to take risks with its plot twists and characters is a problem I’m always going to have with the show. For what it is, it’s enjoyable, but I just really wish the show would do a little more to be engaging.
What do you think though? If you watch the show, do you have these problems with it as well? Would you like the writing to take a bit more risks, or are you fine with how the show is progressing?