In my last post, I talked about Voltron The Legendary Defender Season 8. This post, I wanted to have a bit of a retrospective on the series. So this post, I’m going to be talking about the show’s writing, plotting, and characters, what they did right, and what they did wrong.
The biggest thing I see people say about Voltron: The Legendary Defender is “missed potential” and I have to say, I agree with that statement. There were a lot of wonderful character moments, some very good plotting and theming in the beginning of the series, say until about seasons 5 or 6. But somewhere along the line it just fell off the wagon and I’d like to try and figure out where and why that happened by dissecting the writing and themes of the show in general.
Needless to say, spoilers for all of Voltron: The Legendary Defender are going to be in this post. With all of that out of the way, let’s get into it.
My favorite part of Voltron had to be the characters. They just started out so fleshed out, and working so well individually, as well as as a team. I think both configurations of teams worked, but I will say in later seasons, they found less and less to do with Shiro, and his plots probably fell flat the most. But in the beginning, all of them had really interesting motivation’s and struggle’s, and it was just a joy to see them deal with them while growing as Team Voltron.
When the character work started to fall apart I feel, is when they finished the characters first wave arcs. Shiro was dealing with PTSD, Pidge was trying to find her family, Keith was struggling to accept himself, and was trying to learn how to work together with his team when he’d rather just stay the lone wolf he started out as. But when all of these arcs came to completion: Shiro “dies”, Pidge finds her family, Keith finds his Mother and grows, the characters just started to fall flat. It wasn’t because they weren’t still interesting, all of their core aspects that made them loveable were still there, but without having an external story for them to deal with individually, they felt like they just became one-dimensional. We went from each of them having their own hardships, and together coping with them and becoming stronger to deal with the plot happening around them, to just having them all be “Voltron Paladin’s”. When the writers wanted to focus more on the plot, is when the characters suffered. Instead of having the characters interact with the plot, the plot happened and propelled them forward. It was this weird thing, where they weren’t inactive in the plot, but at the same time, the plot stripped away what made the characters, the characters.
I’m not one of those people who think in season 8, not having character moments made it less of a season. I think by that point, they had grown their bond, so we were able to have it take a backseat to the story. But when throughout the rest of the seasons, there’s this constant battle between focusing on characters, or focusing on plot…I think there’s a major problem tonally. What I think needed to happen was there needed to be a choice made early on in the shows run. Were they going to make it primarily a character focused show, where the plot mattered, but took a backseat to developing character relationships and their stories, or was this going to be a space epic, where the plot was the foremost important thing, and the characters were going to not be a big focus. This got split in every season past season 3 I feel, and the show overall suffered for it.
I think the plotting is the weakest link in the series overall. In the first two seasons, there was a clear goal: Destroy Zarcon, take down the Empire. After that plot was finished, Lotor comes into the story and that’s interesting as well, but where it falls short is the sub plots for characters throughout the series. We have these plots dragged out for seasons on end, only to have them finally revealed, but then concluded within 3 or less episodes of the reveal. There needed to be time to tell these stories, instead of having a huge windup and resolving it so quickly that you’re not sure why it happened in the first place. I’ve addressed some of these issues in another article, so if you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on this, head over there.
This goes along with a lack of risk taking with these plots. It seems like they wanted to go there with some of them, but they just didn’t for some reason or another. It threw off some strong character beats that could have happened, and not following through with them really just made you feel like, why was this happening then? In the end a lot of plots just were never resolved, and if that were to happen, then why open them up in the first place.
The plot felt rather nonsensical in a lot of points after season 3, as well. They would try to tell this epic story that would start out making a lot of sense, and being super engaging. I feel like a lot of times however, they would get carried away with action scenes, and drawing out suspense, that when it was time to resolve the plot, they just had to figure out this really quick resolution that would make little to no sense. This is especially apparent at the ends of season 6, and season 8. They either needed more episodes, or needed to cut out the filler (there were a lot of them that were fun and really goofy, but had absolutely nothing to do with plot) so if they wanted to have some more time explaining the plot more accurately, perhaps filling out some things that would lead up to the season or series finale, the plotting dropping the ball halfway through the ladder seasons perhaps wouldn’t have happened.
I think seasons 1 through 4 were done very, very well. Season 4 was waffling a bit, but it really felt like their vision was lost from season 5 onward. I enjoyed the characters, and action in those later seasons, but the plot just started to feel like they wanted to lead into something, but weren’t quite sure what.
Biting off more than they could chew definitely feels like the theming overall with the plotting in the ladder half of the series, especially in season 8. They wanted to do something grandiose, but overall just weren’t sure how to finish up the plot, so ending it made it feel rushed, nonsensical, and forced. If only we had the plotting from the first few seasons throughout, plus the awesome character work…
And finally, we get to what in my opinion, is the biggest misstep of the series. The theming of the show completely went out the window at the end. The entire point of the series was that a group of broken people can come together, become even stronger as a unit, and overcome all obstacle’s. But halfway through the series, they decided to separate characters. Keith went off on his own multiple times, and for some seasons he wasn’t even in it for pretty much all of it. In the end, instead of the entire team working to stop Honerva, Allura is the only person who can, and does. Pidge goes off to take care of finding her family on her own, and I think Hunk and Lance are the only two who don’t have plots where they just go off on their own and do things if I’m remembering correctly. This dichotomy really does the show a disservice, as when the final battle comes for most seasons, they all come together, form Voltron, and save the day. But sometimes, this just feels so hollow, because they’ve spent entire seasons apart from each other, and doing their own things. Once again, this wasn’t prevalent in the first four seasons, but definitely was more of a thing in the 2nd half of the series.
Team Voltron is far stronger as an ensemble character piece, and not having that be the central theming throughout the series, and not just in the first half, was not wise for the writers. I feel like once Shiro stopped being the Black Paladin, they weren’t sure what to do with the team. I don’t think Allura in the blue lion was a bad move – in fact, I loved that so much – but not having much to do with Shiro at that point, and not sure how to retune the team dynamic when Allura was part of the team and just not a paladin was sort of odd. Not sure why that was the case, but they just weren’t sure what to do with the theming then and didn’t realize that they could have had Shiro be just as important in the plot outside of the Black Lion, just like Allura was when she wasn’t a paladin of Voltron.
I feel like this review sounds like I wasn’t a fan of the show, which is so far from the truth. IT’s just seeing the series finale, and how big of a misstep it was, and how much it’s literally upset every fan I’ve ran across, it just feels like “missed potential” is the perfect word to describe Voltron. A lot of plots that fell short that had tons of promise, a lot of characters that had lacking development. A lot of side characters introduced, as if they were meant for more, only to be never addressed again. Overall, the unwillingness to go with more mature themes of the show that they so obviously were setting up is strange to me – and you can say “But it’s a kids show!” but killing off one of the main characters is something that a kids show wouldn’t do unless it was trying to be more mature, so why not go all the way with said maturity, and take the risks with the plotting that were shouting at us all throughout the series?
So what went wrong? A lot of fans are theorizing that there was corporate interference, and the creative team paid the price for it. I think that’s very much the case, because it really feels like how they ended the show isn’t what they were going for at all. But those are all just theories, and we’ll never truly know unless someone in the crew or cast speaks out about it one day.
And thus ends my retrospective on Voltron: The Legendary Defender as a whole. I loved you Voltron, but you were by no means flawless. Your ending made an otherwise amazing show just be ok, and I’ll forever feel so disappointed by it.
But those thoughts are for the next, and final post in this series: Voltron: The Legendary Defender, talking about the ending. If you want to see my thoughts on the final season, you can head on over to this link.
What are your thoughts on the series as a whole? Would love to hear in the comments!