The Black Lion, a symbol of majesty, hope, and guidance, is but an empty mech without its pilot, Shiro. Team Voltron, too, is a hollow shell of its former self, as they are struggling to cope with the loss of their leader. But of course, during this time of fragility and taut nerves, a new foe has come to crack Voltron’s armor further.
This foe is none other than Prince Lotor, son of season one and two villain Zarkon, and he is unlike anyone team Voltron has ever faced. Fans and the Paladins receive a glimpse of Lotor’s power in the first two episodes of season three, which kick off what’s sure to be the most game-changing season of Voltron: Legendary Defender yet.
S03E01 – “Changing of the Guard”
I must begin by saying that these characters were cast perfectly, as each actor breathes such life into their roles. I can’t imagine anyone else providing the pipes for these Paladins. Going on to the actual episode, it seemed to go by so quickly for me. Perhaps it was because I was so invested and kept wondering what was going to transpire next. A battle sequence between the Galra and Lance, Hunk, and the Blade of Marmora takes place early in the episode, and Hunk displays some of the combat ability fans were promised at the show’s San Diego Comic Con panel. Also, the Blade of Marmora are skilled and efficient fighters, and it’s exhilarating to see them swiftly take out enemies. Despite the Blade’s prowess and allegiance to Voltron, we see they are still not trusted by many due to their Galra ethnicity, and I’m sure this will impact team Voltron’s mission of ally recruitment throughout the season.
I deeply sympathized with Keith in this episode, as he is taking the loss of Shiro harder than anyone, and understandably so. Keith has known Shiro the longest, and they’ve been through many trials and tribulations together. As Keith himself said in season two, they are like brothers. At least with Pidge’s search for her brother, Matt – which we see she is still hard at work on – she has some leads. Keith has nothing, and the Red Paladin’s grief occasionally bubbles up and pops in a wave of anger, such as when he yells at a group of alien leaders over their requests to see the fully-formed Voltron. While heartbreaking, it’s nice to see this reserved character show deep concern and care for his friend.
Perhaps the best moments of the episode come when the focus is shifted to the Galra side of the galaxy. Prince Lotor has arrived – luscious hair and all – to assume Zarkon’s place as ruler of the empire, but some generals, such as Commander Throk, are not so eager to take orders from him. Commander Throk ends up battling Lotor for the throne and looses, but Lotor shows him mercy and preaches to the onlookers. Lotor surprised me by saying that the old ways of the empire must change, and they must inspire devotion, not fear, in their subjects. This, along with his appointment of female, Galra-hybrid generals and allowance of conquered planets to govern themselves, almost redeem the villain. I thought perhaps there was some hope for this new foe. Perhaps he wasn’t so bad. But then, once he’s out of the spotlight, he orders his generals to exile Throk and nonchalantly says, “The masses are easily manipulated.”
Prince Lotor reminds me of Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Grand Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars Rebels, so I already love him. The way he speaks to the crowd in supposed sincerity and then turns on a dime is intriguing and shows he is a much more deceitful, sneaky villain than his big, bad father. He presents himself to potential allies as an upstanding guy, as well, which fans see in the next episode. I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays with team Voltron.
S03E02 – “The Red Paladin”
Given the title, I thought Keith would be the focus, but Lance and Allura steal the show. In this episode, Keith begrudgingly assumes Shiro’s position as pilot of the Black Lion, Lance switches to the Red Lion, and Allura steps in to fill Lance’s place as pilot of the Blue Lion. The transitions aren’t easy, however. Lance is fiercely opposed to Keith becoming leader, and everyone on the team has to enter the Black Lion and see if it will respond to them. This makes for a scene that’s both humorous and heartfelt – poor Pidge can’t reach the handles, and Keith tells the lion he just can’t take Shiro’s place. Still, the Black Lion responds to Keith. I love how this moment is supposed to be triumphant, as Voltron now has a leader, but instead turns sorrowful upon Keith’s whisper of, “Please, no.”
When Keith exits the Black Lion, he announces that he won’t accept its choice, and a touching moment between Keith and Lance, which illustrates how Lance is maturing as a character, is presented. Lance, though previously against the idea, says he respects the lion’s choice of Keith as the new leader and encourages him to do the same.
With Keith in command, the Red Lion must be given a new pilot, so Allura tries to connect with it. This scene gives more insight into Allura’s drive to protect the universe because she tells the lion she can no longer watch while others risk everything to fight the Galra. On top of that, she says she wants to continue her father’s legacy. This seems to confirm that her father was the Red Paladin. Unfortunately, the Red Lion does not respond, and Allura is left in tears. It’s moments like these that allow me to connect further with the princess, as I admire her desire to do all she can to help those in need.
Later, team Voltron is lured into a trap by Lotor, but Lance cannot join the fight because the Blue Lion will not let down its energy field. Lance brings the comedy we know and love into this scene by attempting to sweet talk the lion – he says, among other things, “I’m sorry for wanting to fly the Black Lion, it was just a phase.” The scene soon turns morbid, however, when Lance tells Allura that perhaps the Blue Lion’s rejection means he is not supposed to be a Paladin.
Fortunately, the Red Lion steps in – or roars, I should say – just in time, signaling that Lance is to take over as its pilot. Allura says it chose him because he set his pride and “need for glory” aside when he put the team first and agreed to Keith becoming leader. This is a major turning point for Lance, who is quite self-absorbed and even thought of the chance to pilot the Black Lion as his big break. The Lance scenes that tug on the heart strings continue toward the end of the episode when Lance says good-bye to the Blue Lion and tells Allura, who enters in her new Pink Paladin armor, “If I had to loose Blue to someone, I’m glad it was you.”
I was overjoyed to see Lance shine in this episode, for I, like many other fans, feel Lance didn’t get the screen time and development he deserved last season. That is certainly not the case this time around, and I hope we will continue to see more of him facing his insecurities and flaws throughout the remaining episodes. While I enjoy his comedic moments, he is so much more than, as Pidge labels him early on, “the goofball.”
Also, we see more of Lotor’s Galra-hybrid generals, and the one with the colorful tail-like appendage coming from her head and the one with no eyes are my favorites. The colorful one’s appearance mirrors her youthful, smiley personality, and it’s refreshing to see a Galra Empire soldier who strays from the serious, stone cold demeanor of the other troops. She even calls the lions of Voltron “kitties.” The one with no eyes is intriguing because she uses her cat to see the world, and it’s revealed she can also control minds. She uses this ability upon direct contact with someone, but if she can use it at a distance, like during close combat, it could be catastrophic. She could potentially control one of the Paladins like a puppet and turn them against the rest of the team. In one of the season three trailers, the Yellow Lion appears to be blasting the Blue Lion – could this be her handiwork? Could she take control of Hunk?
The episode ends with Keith leaving the castle to pursue Lotor, as he put a tracking device on the prince’s ship. This more aggressive method of leadership will surely shake up team Voltron.
These episodes were simply fantastic and I had so many fangirl moments, from Lotor making his grand debut to Allura finally becoming a Paladin. While the lion changes make me a little sad because I love the close bond Keith and Lance had with their respective lions, I cannot wait to see what’s in store for our heroes. This season is going to be quite the adventure!
Season three of DreamWorks’ Voltron: Legendary Defender premieres August 4 on Netflix.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes