At last, we’ve made it. After about two and a half years, the evil is defeated, the end is here.
At last, I am free.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Voltron: Legendary Defender just released and wrapped its final season, and while I would have been thrilled to hear the words “eight seasons” back in June of 2016, at this point, I’m just glad it’s over for so many reasons. It has been a roller coaster of joy and disgust, especially after season seven, when the plot began to drag and the writers actually tried to defend their choice to lean into the bury your gays trope while also skirting around any real attempt at representation.
It wasn’t good. In fact, it was bad. Horrific, even.
And now that it’s over, I’m inclined to say that season eight has only made it worse. Spoilers abound ahead for those of you interested in learning why.
Pardon my French, but this was an absolute shitshow. And a shit show, too. Looking back, I wished I’d dropped it early on, but I was so desperate for it to live up to the potential I saw that I stuck around.
Back in the first season, I was so hopeful, and moreover, I was impressed. Voltron: Legendary Defender had the makings of an incredible show, setting up a number of threads that hinted at exciting arcs, backed by the beautiful animation of Studio Mir and a phenomenal score. Seriously, the animation and the music have been truly beautiful from day one. I can’t fault the show for that whatsoever.
But eight seasons in two years has its cost, and in this case, it was coherency. By the time we get to season eight, so many threads have been dropped. The team barely interacts as a team outside of their lions. Shiro and Keith’s brotherhood and any indication that they even know each other vanishes. Keith and Lance’s rivalry fades out, failing to deliver any sort of real resolution (or proper understanding of why they were rivals and what made them maintain that as long as they did). Axca’s story line is so nebulous you could probably cut her from the show completely without suffering for it. Suddenly Ezor and Zethrid are alive even though I’m pretty sure they were blown up along with their ship last season (possibly a retcon to avoid further accusations of the bury your gays trope?). Allura makes some choices based on power over compassion and mercy, and it was like watching a completely different character rather than one who’s changed. Lance and his antics and vibrancy were dulled out completely. He and Allura are in love despite her rebuffing him for an entire seven seasons.
The worst part is that I could go on, and that’s incredibly disappointing. When a show ends, I feel like there should be satisfaction. It should end where it’s supposed to, and if it can’t do that, it should attempt to end well at the very least. Voltron failed to do this by leaving too many loose ends.
It also killed its only main WOC, and I’m certainly not done being furious about that. Allura was killed in the final episode as a sacrifice to restore the stability of the universe, and while her making the choice to save and protect makes sense, the fact that the burden was on her rubs me the wrong way, as does the fact that the show’s final villain had a change of heart in literally less than two minutes, finding the goodness deep down that allowed her to help Allura make that sacrifice. After she was responsible for destroying Allura’s home planet and home people all those years ago.
Yeah, you read that right. The genocidal villain gets to play the hero at the side of the selfless WOC who has lost everything and doesn’t even get to live to experience a new life, a new family, a new peace without the threat of genocide still hanging over her.
In the final scenes, too, there’s a lighthearted air that seems so jarring after the team just lost someone so dear to them. Coran, who didn’t even get to say goodbye to Allura despite being closer to her than anyone else, is whirring along like nothing’s wrong, and meanwhile, Lance has been reduced to the role of prophet, spreading the word about how amazing Allura was, and then becoming a farmer to keep her memory close (tip: maybe don’t relegate your only Latinx character to this role). Also, he has Altean cheek marks now that he kissed Allura, which is a weird thread to open up so late in the game, and it goes completely unexplained except by tentative and very uncertain fan theories.
Meanwhile, Hunk is an intergalactic chef (hey, anyone remember when he was the team hardware engineer and his brain was more important than relating everything he does to food?), Keith splits away from everyone to turn the Blade of Marmora into a humanitarian aid organization (okay, I personally don’t mind this decision so much, because I like the idea that Keith changed the Blade from a cautious secret sect to a relief organization), and the Holt show runs everything on Earth, as usual. As much as I love Pidge, the last two seasons have put the Holts in the spotlight far too much, and it reminds me of the episode centered on the Beifong family in The Legend of Korra: it’s too much, it’s unnecessary, and it gets too far away from the core dynamics of the show.
And like Korra, they shoehorned in queer representation at the last minute. In an uncharacteristically poorly animated sequence, Shiro is shown to be married to a character who has all of two lines in the season (and honestly? I didn’t even catch his name, that’s how unimportant he is), and they kiss. While I appreciate that an mlm kiss was shown, it’s telling that it was in the literal last three seconds of the show, and not to a character who could have had greater emotional significance. Imagine if in season seven, the showrunners hadn’t killed Adam, Shiro’s fiance before the events of season one. Imagine the emotional payoff and satisfaction of taking that route rather than pairing Shiro off with a character who holds no real significance to the show or the viewers.
To me, that’s indicative of wanting to have the brownie points for diversity without making the heartfelt effort to include representation. The choices made this season concerning Shiro being gay and regarding the other POC of the show make it very clear that there was not a particularly strong effort to do right by these characters, and by extension, do right by the viewers. It is surface level at best, and even then, it spends most of its time hitting new lows.
The bar was on the ground for this season, and somehow, the show whipped out a shovel and began digging their way down, all the way to rock bottom. I’m frustrated that I spent so much of my time invested in this show, frustrated that I was holding out for the potential that was there, only to see it go untapped. Voltron could have been truly stellar (space pun fully intended; even in a post like this, we have to have some fun, right?), and there could have been phenomenally complex character arcs to add real substance to the show. It was rushed, though, pushed through production far too fast, and with too little care for making it a cohesive, satisfactory whole. There were too many characters introduced, too many threads set up only to be discarded in the same breath, too many attempts to do well grounded in total unawareness of the consequences.
It’s rare on this blog that I recommend that someone NOT try a book/show/game, but this is one of those occasions. Support media from creators who make a real effort to represent minorities. Support media that doesn’t rush through, but tells its story deliberately. Support media that will leave you feeling fulfilled or thoughtful or literally anything except disappointed and frustrated. It’s out there, I promise, and it’s more worth your time, better for your creative well, more satisfying even just to watch for fun.
Voltron could have been that media, once upon a time, but it’s not. Not now.
And it’s time to put it away and move on to better things.
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My fiancee lives Voltron.