There are so many series to watch on Netflix and so little time. But one that has probably slipped under your radar is Voltron: Legendary Defender, the little animated series that could. Now on its third season, airing only eight months after the second season dropped its episodes on the streaming service, Voltron has released an action-packed, angsty trailer for its newest batch of episodes.
While the first and second season were fairly easy entryways into the animated reboot of the ’80s mecha-fighter series, the third season relies heavily on the story and character development built up for the last 20-some episodes. But seriously, they’re only half-hour episodes, you can catch up in a day and see the new season ASAP.
The team is splintered after the events of Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 2, temporarily incapacitating the Big Bad Zarkon, but losing their leader Shiro (Josh Keaton) in the process. But remember, this is still a children’s show, so he’s not dead…just missing. The third season will have the Paladins struggling with his absence and Princess Allura (Kimberly Brooks) insisting that they find a new Paladin for the Black Lion. But hothead loner Keith (Steven Yeun) insists on finding Shiro, while the others do their best to uphold their mission as defenders of the universe while the oppressive Galra Empire bears down and hunts them.
And now, without a leader to man the Black Lion, the team is no longer able to join forces and create Voltron, which puts them at a huge disadvantage against their new villain.
A new Big Bad, Prince Lotor (A.J. Locascio), is introduced this season — previously only mentioned by name. He features so prominently in this trailer that I was briefly confused and wondered if I had skipped the second season, but that’s not the case. He will be the charismatic, devious antagonist to Team Voltron, with a diverse team that can match the Paladins’ every ability.
Despite the confusing — and probably spoiler-filled — trailer, the third season of Voltron: Legendary Defender still looks to offer everything I love about the show: the quirky ensemble of misfits whose great chemistry and rapport make Voltron infinitely watchable. Look at Hunk (Tyler Labine) freaking out! It’s great!
But here’s why it looks like an anime and the reason you should watch it: the reboot is created by Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos, who both came from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. And it shows.
The team of Paladins who pilot the robotic Lions that become Voltron are almost carbon copies of the character types you see in Avatar and Korra – you can find shades of Zuko in the hotheaded Keith, and Hunk is a total Sokka. While drawing the parallels between the character types are fun, it’s recreating a team dynamic that made Avatar and Korra so successful, and that lends Voltron its thematic power. Sure, the narrative is out of this world and fun, but it’s also a little rote — which is why the idiosyncratic characters are so important.
Having seen none of the original series, I can’t say how much of this is a new creation from Montgomery and Dos Santos or based in the original show. But I love the characters and the fact that one of the Paladins, Pidge (Bex Taylor-Klaus), was reimagined as a girl makes me very happy. I’m also a sucker for brooding, angsty characters in the vein of Zuko, one of my favorite characters of all time, so naturally I love Keith (and Steven Yeun!). Voltron remains a fun, silly show with excellent character work and ensemble building, and a bright spot in the midst of dark Netflix prestige shows.
Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3 premieres on Netflix August 4.