If you’re the head of a production company who has been tasked to revive a franchise from the 80s of 90s in the hopes of cashing in on millennials’ nostalgia, and you want a template for how to do it right, look to Voltron: Legendary Defender.
The reboot done in collaboration between Netflix and Dreamworks was a resounding success last year because it contained all of the fantastic elements that kids loved about the original concept, but added new depth to the characterizations and story that never existed, previously.
Season Two came out in a hurry, barely half a year since the first, but there’s no need to worry about a slapdash product. Voltron: Legendary Defender’s second batch of episodes accomplishes everything that the first did, while bringing even further developments to our heroes’ war against the tyrannical Galra Empire.
For all of the gags, all of the colorful visuals, and all of the cool robots with super-powered attacks that could lay waste to entire countryside, this is a war story. The Paladins of Voltron and their many allies are embroiled in a bloody conflict with a ruthless, militaristic empire. While the series may not dive into the most gruesome aspects of war, it doesn’t shy away from the ugly ramifications, and it readily focuses on plenty of realistic dilemmas that occur.
The highlight of Season Two comes with the introduction of the Blade of Marmora–a faction of rogue Galra who are actively working to disrupt Emperor Zarkon’s campaign of terror. They add a much needed wrinkle to the Galra race, which was almost exclusively portrayed as being a population of evil killers in Season One. It’s not believable that every last member of a race would be so callous. The Blade of Marmora members bring depth to their race and keep them from being a contrived foe for our heroes.
These noble Galra also stir up some compelling tension between themselves and the Paladins of Voltron. Naturally, the Paladins are reluctant to join forces with a group comprised of the same beings who they’re at war with, and up to this point have seen nothing but the very worst from. A foundation of trust is gradually built over the course of the season–a task that is easier for some than it is for others.
Princess Allura understandably has the most difficult time accepting the Blade of Marmora as allies. Her distrust runs deep after seeing her family, friends, and her entire world destroyed by the Galra. The idea of working in union with members of the people who shattered her life tests her empathy more than any other character, including when it comes to light that one of the Paladins has a unique relationship with the Galra.
While Allura must grapple with that uncertainty, it’s Shiro and Keith who take up much of the remaining limelight. Finding commonality between one another in their equally mysterious and tumultuous pasts, the two Paladins develop a brotherly bond between one another as the episodes roll by. Perhaps even more so than Allura, these two see significant growth over the course of Season Two, as both come to accept the strange hands that fate has dealt them.
It’s a shame that the other Paladins aren’t given the same chance to develop. Pidge has one episode mostly to herself, but it amounts to her just realizing that she’s not as averse to the outdoors as she originally thought.
Lance has only a fleeting instance where he begins to question his importance to the group before the issue is tossed aside. What could have been a great internal conflict for the Paladin’s jokester is resolved with disappointing haste.
Hunk just stays…Hunk.
Perhaps these characters, and others, will get their moments in the spotlight during future seasons. But, for now, they remain a little one-dimensional.
At least they’re able to provide the same great humor they possessed in the first season. Altogether, the humor actually feels scaled back a bit this season, as the heavier themes consume some of the levity, but it’s still very prevalent as the Paladins banter away. If you found it too hokey in Season One, you’ll find it to be too hokey, again, but if you enjoyed it, you’re in for some serious laughs this time.
The two biggest sources of comedy come from a genius, but incredibly eccentric alien named Slav who the Paladins recruit later in the season (and manages to annoy the living heck out of the normally calm and composed Shiro), and an episode in the middle of the season where the crew visits a high-end shopping mall. Their trip to this galactic galleria is easily the funniest episode to date, as it’s loaded with cultural references and all of the time honored shopping mall gags. Some of these jokes may go over a younger viewer’s head, but children of the 80s and 90s–who would have grown up watching the original Voltron–are in for gut busting laughs for how much they’ll identify with the real world tropes.
An area where Season Two hasn’t taken any steps back is in its awesome visuals. At this point, there’s nothing left to be said about the animation other than obligatory praise. The CGI for the mechs are just about indistinguishable from the traditional animation by now.
Voltron: Legendary Defender has perhaps done its best work in its world design. Whether the episodes take the Paladins out into the farthest depths of space or onto one of the galaxies innumerable planets, this series continues to drop our heroes into some truly enchanting and vibrant settings. Like in Season One, there’s no need to worry about slapped in the face with convoluted, hard science; Season Two has the same doses of wonder that add some magic to this sci-fi adventure.
With 24 episodes under its belt so far, Voltron: Legendary Defender has masterfully put together a series that a tween and a 30 year old can enjoy equally. It’s the perfect show for adolescents to see mature themes without being bombarded by gratuitous profanity, violence, gore, or other explicit content. Voltron: Legendary Defender gets its emotion across without shock value, tackling grim themes with temperance so that viewers of all ages can take them in.
+ An action-packed finale with a mech battle for the ages
+ Effectively handles grim themes of war for a wide audience
+ The Blade of Marmora are really cool characters who add depth to the Paladins’ relationship with their cross-galactic allies
+ Features some of the most memorable bits of humor in the series to date
— Some of the characters are proving slow to develop
— The buildup to this season’s climax feels a little familiar to the first season’s
— A dreaded cliffhanger in the final episode returns
Voltron: Legendary Defender Season Two is available exclusively on Netflix NOW
Jeff Pawlak is the animation buff on the Geekiverse. He’s watched plenty of anime in his time, and he’s glad to see that American studios have started churning a string of animated epics in recent years. While he eagerly waits for Season Three of Voltron: Legendary Defender, he points his attention to Nintendo video games, giant monster flicks, and other animated shows and movies. Find him on Twitter @JeffreyPavs
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