Voltron: Legendary Defender | S1
Voltron: Legendary Defender is finally out on Netflix, and it's a show I've been enjoying a lot more than I probably should (mostly - because I'm old). I'm finding it's the perfect cocktail of comedy, action and charm. It's basically everything awesome you remember about 1980's Saturday morning cartoons. And to top it off I think there is something in here for young and old alike.
For the uninitiated, Voltron is a giant robot that's formed from five smaller robotic lions. As the saying goes - 'Voltron is loved by good and feared by evil'. Each robotic lion is piloted by its own Paladin, who in turn, forms a sacred bond with their lion.
This tale of Voltron (yes, it's a reboot) is an origin story about five people making a team where there wasn’t one, learning to trust each other and work together. We’re no longer asked to just accept that these characters know each other and are instantly ready to take on King Zarkon’s Galran army the second they step into these lion bots.
Instead, we get to meet each member of Voltron force throughout the series, getting some insight into why they’re part of the team and why they stay on the team despite some very believable doubts.
Each character is given time to grow, though Pidge the green pilot, and Hunk the yellow, are given their own clearer arcs. Shiro, Keith, and Lance all have their own stuff going on. Hunk is the scaredy-cat of the group. He’s strong and noble, but he has to figure out how to put his fear on the back burner so that his more heroic characteristics can come forward. Pidge lost family to Zarkon’s army and has been through just about every struggle you can imagine to find out what happened to them, including taking on a new identity after being kicked out of the army while digging for secrets.
Shiro, though, gets some time as well. I don’t want to spoil too much if you’re new to the series, but this character is one of the biggest links to the original Voltron and GoLion. As the black pilot, Shiro shares his name with the original black pilot from GoLion, Shirogane, and likely a similar future. We find out in the show’s first minutes that Shiro was one of the first humans to come into contact with Zarkon’s army and subsequently escaped. We start to learn about his terrifying year in captivity, and hints at the future that likely awaits him.
Even characters like Coran, the royal advisor, and King Zarkon, the primary antagonist, are given some room to grow. Coran is goofy, but that’s not all there is to him. It seems like a façade he puts up to mask how he feels when faced with the concept of taking on an intergalactic military force with the help of five earth kids.
Each episode has Team Voltron going through the same chant, activating interlocks, connecting dynotherms, and going the megathrusters. Each time, they’d get beaten up as pilots, then as lions, before finally forming Voltron. Then they’d get beat up again and unleash the Blazing Sword on the robeast. Even if you haven’t seen Voltron, you know the drill from Power Rangers or something else.
While Legendary Defender acknowledges the history with some great winks, the formulaic element is all but gone. When things happen, it’s not because we’ve reached the part of the episode where the team forms Voltron or the part where they would normally form blazing sword because the episode is over in a few minutes and they need to get that out of the way.
Instead, it’s because it makes sense that it should happen. So if the sword isn’t the right tool for the job, the team might discover they have other weapons at their disposal, or that Voltron has some more power hidden inside that they hadn’t yet unlocked. The thing doesn’t come with a manual, after all, and neither does the show.
When the epic space battles come, they feel earned instead of obligatory, as do the victories, which are deferred as often as they are awarded.
Voltron: Legendary Defender is an easy watch with plenty of action and laughs. It's even more enjoyable if you know someone else that's watching it as you can share some of the classic inside jokes!
Though the season is relatively short with only 11 episode it's the perfect entry point back into the world of Voltron. The episodes are nicely timed at about 23 minutes each (except for the first episode which is 68 minutes). Which makes it the perfect lighthearted and enjoyable show to watch when you're winding down for the day.
I for one definitely look forward to more Voltron on Netflix!