If you would have told me back in the beginning of 2016 that Voltron of all things would be rebooted on Netflix and be one of the best animated shows around I’d of laughed in your face. Thankfully Doc Brown and the Doctor are busy with other stuff otherwise someone could go back and deliver a nice helping of crow for me to chow on as Voltron: Legendary Defender became as smash hit last summer and just dropped its second season on January 20th. So, were the creators at DreamWorks Animation, World Events Productions, and Studio Mir able to deliver the goods for a second time in a row or did they already use up their good ideas and give us a clunker instead of a classic? Guess you’ll just have to keep reading to find out!
Just a quick note before we dive on in, to properly look at season two I’m going to need to bring up what happened in season one. If you haven’t seen the show but don’t want any spoilers I suggest heading on over to Netflix and get up to speed before coming back. In fact, I would go as far as to say while you can jump into the second season without seeing the first, you are doing yourself a big disservice.
Ready now? Cool!
First, a little background. Voltron: Legendary Defender is the spiritual successor to Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra as executive producers Joaquim Dos Santos, Lauren Montgomery, and Yoo Jae Myung (who worked as a storyboard artist and animation director for The Last Airbender before founding Studio Mir, which was behind animating Korra) as well as several of the writers all worked to bring the Avatar franchise to life. Also we have the legendary Andrea Romano, who did both Avatar series and too many other great thing to list, on voice direction. What this all boils down to is if you liked the comedy, character work, and animation style of those shows you can be pretty sure Voltron: Legendary Defender is right up your alley.
When we last left our heroes, Kieth (Steven Yeun), Lance (Jeremy Shada), Pidge (revealed to be a girl in this incarnation) (Bex Taylor-Klaus), Hunk (Tyler Labine), and Shiro (the Sven of the group, this time using the name of the character from Beast King GoLion, the anime that was adapted into Voltron: Defender of the Universe) (Josh Keaton) they along with Coran (Rhys Darby) were escaping from a deadly encounter with the Evil Emperor Zarkon (Neil Kaplan) and his super powerful command ship after just barely managing to rescue the kidnapped Princess Allura (Kimberly Brooks). As they are entering into a wormhole and get to safety, Witch Haggar (Cree Summer) blasts the portal causing it to destabilize and scatters the team across space.
The second season opens replaying the final moments of season one before launching into the individual stories of the team finding their way back to each other. Kieth and Shiro are on some crazy wasteland, Lance and Hunk are on a water planet, and Pidge finds herself floating in a field of space junk.
The group is soon able to reunite and wants to put together a coalition to take on Zarkon, but things are harder than ever as it appears Zarkon and his fleet can track the team wherever they go. Thus begins a deadly game of cat and mouse.
The first season was about getting the Paladins from this…
Season 2 is about the Paladins developing a deeper bond with their lions, which nets some sweet upgrades, learning how be more proactive instead of reactive, and the challenges of dealing with prejudice and mistrust when trying to build bridges between groups.
This season also moves from giving the big character beats to Pidge and Hunk like last season to focusing more on Keith and Shiro. This doesn’t mean that the rest of the team is forgotten, as they all get moments to shine and advance their own individual plotlines. All the Paladins get to grow and mature, save Hunk, who for the sake of the comedy seems to have actually regressed as a person.
The comedy continues to be a highlight. The show is littered with witty dialogue and fun visual gags around every turn that help build the story and characters instead of detracting from it. I would have never thought that an episode of the group visiting a mall would be as hilarious and entertaining as it was but it was my favorite out of this batch of episodes even though it has the least to do with the overall plot.
The animation, in particular the 2D stuff is top tier stuff. The 3D is great as well, for a TV show anyways, but it can be a little stilted at times and never meshes as well as one would hope with the 2D work. There is a lot more diversity in locations and character designs as team Voltron visits places all over the universe, this along with the fact the battles are bigger and more elaborate it is impressive that the animation doesn’t look to dip at any point. Be it action, comedy, or anything else, the animation team not only met, but exceeded the high standard set by season one.
That all said, can we PLEASE get some variation in the transformation animation, or if we can’t do that at least sometimes skip it?! I know that it is a staple of the franchise to do it every episode and the classic series reused the same animation as well, but this is 2017 for crying out loud and audiences both kid an adult are more savvy and are less tolerant of this kind of thing. Change it up a little already!
The biggest problems of this season aren’t Zarkon and Haggar, it’s the show’s own ambition and the time it has to execute said ambition. The first season threw a lot at the audience sure, especially at the beginning, but then things slowed down a bit and the series slowed down to ease the audience and the Paladins into things. The second season hits hard and fast. New ideas, worlds, groups, and peoples are introduce in lightning fast succession as the season sprints towards its end.
The pace keeps the show exciting, but it also means that the show blazes past great potential storylines because the clock is ticking and they have to get to that big ending. For example, when the season started I thought the it would be about the team slowly finding their way back together, the time apart being a chance for each character to grow and develop so that they would be even stronger when they eventually reunited. Instead, the separation is quickly introduced and resolved and we’re off to the races towards the finish. Some elements get no explanation at all and are dropped into the show right as the season is wrapping up making them feel forced and contrived. I have no issue with the overall story this season told, but I do think they should have had either more episodes this season to tell it or have broken this story across two seasons as their were several natural stopping points presented.
You don’t have to have watched the original Voltron: Defender of the Universe series to understand the show, but it does help. Many of the newly added twists and turns won’t hit as hard if the viewer isn’t familiar with the old show and newcomers might find some choices odd without the knowledge that they are holdovers from a previous incarnation. The full impact and importance of things like Pidge being revealed in the first season as female is this version and why the creators went about that revelation the way they did is going to be lost on newbies. The best way to enjoy this show if you aren’t old like me and remember the classic series is to either go do some research on the internet as the series goes on to see what they kept and changed or if possible watch the show with somebody familiar with the classic series so that they can provide background for you. Again, you don’t need to know the old show to get the new one, but it will enhance the experience.
Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 2 is bigger and crazier than Season 1, but I wouldn’t call it better. Season 1 had better character development and moments, and the story progression flowed better. This sophomore season doesn’t hit the same mark the first did, but it was not far off, and Voltron: Legendary Defender remains an incredible achievement on every level. Don’t miss out on the adventure!