Voltron Legendary Defender Season 5- Uncharted Territory and Well-Worn Pacing Problems
Voltron: Legendary Defender is barreling ahead as always and now the fifth season has made its Netflix debut. The show delivers another solid story-line across six seasons with some new developments and the same old narrative problems.
The focus of this season is undeniably on Prince Lotor, who turned himself over to Team Voltron last season. He wants to ally with them to take down his father and the team is understandably reluctant to do so. But when Lotor kills his father, he gets in good with them. This also marks a big shake-up for the show, as with the main villain out of the picture, so now the question becomes who will replace him. It’s kind of hilarious how easily Zarkon was disposed of, but it was a good move on the show’s part since he wasn’t very interesting. He had a lot of potential to be more of a character than he was- he had a backstory that tied deeply to the rest of the cast- but the narrative just never seemed to want to give him a personality beyond “rar evil”.
This did rob his demise of the impact it should have had. We never saw Zarkon and Lotor interact much or got a sense of what their relationship was like when Lotor was younger, so it’s hard to really feel anything about Lotor killing his own dad. But at least with Zarkon out of the way, Lotor can truly take center stage as the more compelling family member.
Lotor remains a fairly ambiguous character throughout the season. I’m still not sure whether he can fully be trusted. He certainly acts like an ally (and seems to be bonding with Allura in particular) and shows hints of real complexity. Yet some of his actions seem to contradict what came before- he talks a big game about believing conquest is bad, but we saw in earlier seasons he’s said similar things as a cover-up for nefarious activities. The uncertainty about his motives and true personality gives the show a good sense of tension and mystery, but it also makes it pretty hard to care about Lotor as a person- he’s yet to show any real vulnerability or foibles, remaining confident and serious at all times. But fandom’s natural love for a bad boy will probably be enough to make him a favorite regardless.
While the overall narrative is going in a compelling direction, Voltron’s pacing problems are more noticeable than ever. The narrative rarely gives itself room to breathe before jumping to the next big twist. Probably the most amusing demonstraton of this is when Allura expresses despair and starts crying over how she can’t do something…and then is suddenly able to do it immediately after she says this. That sure was a short a pointless crisis! The pacing also hurts the revelation of who Keith’s mom really is. The character appears out of nowhere with zero buildup and we’re given no real reason to care about her before the big reveal, so what should have been an exciting moment is just a big “so?”
The series seems to realize the characters haven’t gotten much time to hang out and be fun, so one episode awkwardly inserts a comedy subplot that has no bearing on anything else and just feels out of place. This series has always had problems with its comedy feeling forced and it’s sad this issue seems to be getting worse rather than better.
As far as character development goes, Allura’s newfound connection with Lotor is intriguing and Lance continues to mature in a satisfying way. Haggar seems to be stepping up as a more complex antagonist (though her complete lack of reaction to the death of her former husband is weird). Shiro, meanwhile, is acting more and more erratic and it’s pretty obvious he’s not the real Shiro and is actually a clone or something. While I wish Voltron would slow down in other areas, this plot is one I wouldn’t mind seeing move faster. I’m eager to see what’s going on with the real Shiro and the longer this whole thing drags on, the more unbelievable it seems that the rest of the crew aren’t putting it together- especially with painfully on the nose lines like “I don’t feel like myself.”
This season sees all of Pidge’s problems being neatly and quickly resolved, so I’m left wondering what the show will do with her from now on- hopefully they have something else in store. Keith is barely in the season, as is Coran. But Hunk takes the prize for the most painfully neglected character once again. The show just refuses to give him any love at all- ever since the end of the first season he’s been relegated to awkward comic relief and nothing more.
The action scenes and animation remain nice as always, though there aren’t as many spectacular standout moments like previous seasons. Overall, Voltron continues to be an entertaining space opera with a lot to offer. I just wish it didn’t feel the need to do everything at lightspeed.