The second season of Voltron: Legendary Defender came out on Jan 20th, the same day as Inauguration Day here in the States, and like many others, I wanted to watch it in lieu of watching the inauguration. But I ended up watching the ceremony with my family, and then I made the decision to go get drunk instead of binge-watching Netflix. (Note: We at LGG&F do not formally advocate getting drunk as a coping mechanism, even if one’s country is crumbling into a pile of orange Cheeto dust.) However, I’ve now finished the series, and I’m happy to report that I liked it a great deal more than I thought I would, given my lukewarm review of the first season.
Massive spoilers below!
Voltron: Legendary Defender started its season off slow; the first two episodes of its 13-ep season dealt with reuniting the Voltron Paladins after they were separated at the end of the first season. The rest of the season quickly picked up speed, launching the Paladins right back into the war against Zarkon. The first season had laid out the groundwork for the war, but only in the broadest of terms—Zarkon and the Galra were Bad; everyone else was Good—and the second season set out to explore nuance within this black-and-white definition of the war. The Paladins find out that a group of Galra called the Blade of Marmora have been fighting against Zarkon for generations, Shiro learns more about Zarkon’s past as a previous Paladin of the Black Lion, and most importantly, we find out that Keith, the Red Lion’s Paladin, is actually part-Galra, and Haggar, Zarkon’s henchwoman, is Altean.
The Haggar reveal happens at the very end of the season, so we don’t have much information on it yet; nevertheless, it brings up an enormous number of questions. Are all Alteans capable of the kind of magic that Haggar is capable of, or only the royal family? Was Haggar part of the Altean royal family? Why did Haggar turn from her fellow Alteans and start working with Zarkon, the person who blew up Altea? But learning that Haggar is Altean had the greatest effect on Princess Allura and was a wonderful culmination to her character arc.
From the very first episode of Season 1, Allura has hated the Galran Empire for destroying her entire planet—so, for good reason. But Allura doesn’t interrogate her own hatred at all, choosing to believe that all Galrans are evil and must be killed. When Shiro insists that a Galra saved his life, she doesn’t believe him, and when the group later finds the Blade of Marmora, she thinks it’s a trap. Finally, when Keith discovers his Galran heritage, she turns from trusting in him as a Paladin to ignoring him entirely. It takes Allura the better part of the season to overcome her own biases, apologize to Keith, and fight alongside the leaders of the Blade of Marmora in the final battle. Allura is that rare Black leader with an actual character arc, and discovering that Haggar is Altean is going to further Allura’s character development tremendously—she’s come to terms with there being some good Galrans, but now there are Alteans working with her sworn enemy? It’s going to be a fascinating part of a potential Season 3.
The reveal of Keith’s heritage was handled a little more poorly. There were hints to it scattered throughout the first season—Keith had his Galra blade, though we didn’t know it was Galran, from the first episode, and he’s always had a problem with his temper. But does that mean that the whole of the Galran race has an anger management problem? It’s a little racially suspect. Add that to the fact that we don’t really get to see Keith respond to learning about his heritage, but we do get his fellow Paladin, Hunk, asking him racially insensitive questions like “do you know that Galra?” and insisting that Galran Keith is different from the Keith he used to know. At least Hunk’s questions can be passed off as Hunk asking dumb questions, because he tends to do that, but it’s still reducing Keith’s identity to a part of himself he didn’t know about and didn’t ask for. It would help if we knew more about how this war started: we learn from Shiro that Zarkon and Allura’s father, King Alfor, used to fight alongside each other, so it speaks to some previous understanding between the two races,and it would imply that the Galrans aren’t inherently angry planet-destroyers. But we don’t know anything that would help explain how Keith’s Galran heritage is reflected in him; we’re just kind of told that he’s part-Galran so that we can have a discussion about the nuances of war.
Finally, my personal pet peeve: all the main characters got some significant development, except for Lance and Hunk. Lance remains focused on girls and flirting with girls—he’s basically space!Sokka, except without the family issues and the leadership skills to flesh him out. Hunk remains our only plus-sized character, so of course he talks constantly about eating and it’s revealed that he has a secret talent for cooking. Coincidentally, Lance and Hunk are also two of the darker-skinned Paladins, but the show doesn’t delve into their family histories as a way of teaching us more about them. (Which is a shame, because they’re doing such a great job with Allura.) Neither does the show look more closely at Pidge’s gender aside from one scene where Pidge is trying to pick a bathroom to use.
Despite these minor grievances, though, the show leaves us with a lot to chew over as we wait to see if there will be a Season 3. At the end of the final battle, Shiro’s disappeared, and the group is going to possibly have to rely on Keith for leadership. Zarkon may be dying, and Haggar calls in a “Prince Lotor”, who will presumably become our next villain. I’d love to find out more about the Blade of Marmora and how it was formed, as well as Keith’s Galran heritage beyond his Galran blade and his anger management problems. And of course, I now desperately want to know if Haggar’s gang of druids are all Altean, and if Allura can someday attain that same level of power. So bring on the third season!