Monday, January 23, 2017

Quick Thoughts: Voltron (Season Two)

The girls and I are ten or eleven episodes into the new season of Voltron: Legendary Defender.  To say the very least, we are enjoying it quite a bit.

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Dreamworks & Netflix)
A few quick thoughts are below, hopefully without too many spoilers:
1. Season One focused on introducing the paladins as characters and setting up the kinds of story situations and character pairings that we expected coming into the series.  We got a lot of Pidge-&-Hunk, Pidge-Hunk-&-Lance, and Pidge-&-Shiro.  This was great, but it left Keith, team leader in the original Voltron: Defender of the Universe and ace-pilot in the current iteration, as the least developed character.

Thankfully, Season Two reverses this dynamic in some really creative ways.  The character pairings are almost universally offbeat.  Sure, there's a Keith-&-Shiro episode that hits home in some expected ways, but there's also Hunk-&-Lance, Hunk-&-Keith (and it's actually awkward, showing that those two don't really hang out off-duty), Keith-&-Alura (also awkward), and Lance-&-Pidge (who are very close).  Keith gets the most screen time this season, and it's welcome because until the start of the new season, we knew almost nothing about him.

2.  The bad guys realize early on that they have a traitor on board their command ship.  At first I thought this was Prince Lotor, who became the primary enemy tactical commander in the original series.  That's not it.  Instead, we see Emperor Zarkon and Hagar go completely paranoid, with delightful results.  Their paranoia makes them more dangerous because they are slowly becoming more and more unhinged.  I love it!

3.  As with Season One, watching the paladins using their lions is the most interesting part of the show.  The show's creators are therefore wise not to over-use Voltron himself, and they keep the plot line going about how each paladin has to bond with his lion in order to use all of its powers.  

We still haven't seen everything.  At least as of Episode Ten, we haven't seen Pidge or Lance use their bayards yet to form a mega-weapon for Voltron, nor have we seen the Black Lion at full power on its own.  That stuff is clearly coming, but they're not in any hurry with it, which is probably the right way to go with this story.

4.  Though the stakes in this season are higher than ever, there is a lot of comedy here.  It's terrific.  Keith and Shiro aren't particularly funny, but everyone else has moments of absolute hilarity.

5.  I love that the castle is both incredibly powerful and an ancient relic.  There are a lot of similarities here to Star Wars; one of them is this idea of technology-as-magic.  Star Wars is a fantasy story set in a sci fi universe.  Voltron is as well.

6.  One theme I'd like to see explored a little more is loneliness.  They do a single Alura standalone episode that is explicitly about her loneliness, but it's something that ought to affect everyone. Alura and Coran have lost their planet.  The paladins are all a zillion miles from home.  Lance, Pidge, and Hunk have been friends for awhile at the start of Season One, and Keith and Shiro are close, but even so, all of these guys have reasons to pine for home.  I'd like to see that played out a bit more.

7.  They keep teasing the idea that Shiro is going to die and that Keith will take his place as the leader of Team Voltron.  This started with the trailer for Season Two and gained immediate resonance because it's an obvious allusion to Sven's fate in the original series.  I still find it a little off-putting, though, because Shiro has become a fully-formed character within the new series whose quest to bond with the Black Lion is his defining character arch.   Also, Keith has the closest bond of anyone on the team with his own lion, the Red Lion, it is incredibly hard to imagine how he would abandon Red in order to bond a new lion.  Red is notably fickle, and it's weird to think of a robot lion as jealous, but this seems the most likely outcome.

I'm not sure we're going to get this version of Alura
in Legendary Defender.
So.  Will we ever see Alura as a paladin, per her role in the original series?  Fans seem to want that, but personally, I like the role that she has as the team's strategic leader in the castle, working alongside Shiro's tactical combat commander.  I think it works.  However, as Season Two has worn on, it's true that Alura's role has diminished as Shiro's has increased.  She was a ass-kicking badass in Season One.  We've not seen that--at all--in Season Two.  I doubt this can continue, though, especially given that Alura herself is the most immediately affected by loneliness.

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That's all I've got.  Have a happy Monday!

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