Ria is an avid anime and sci-fi fan who loves gushing about her latest favorite shows.
Netflix and Dreamworks Animation have teamed up to bring us one of the greatest animated reboots of all time, but Voltron: Legendary Defender hasn't been without controversy. After fan reactions to season 7, many were wondering just what kind of ending the showrunners would pull off.
Unfortunately, season 8 misses the mark. While pulling off a good ending to a show is always difficult, VLD's writers somehow managed to do many things right while getting just as many elements horribly wrong. The resulting show is pretty good from episodes 2-12, but the messes created in the first and last episodes will leave most fans disappointed.
Starting Off With a Bang
Heads-up: a hotly-contested fan pairing becomes suddenly canon early in this season. The emotional impact of it would’ve been much stronger if there would’ve been more buildup to it in season 7. Fans of the pairing will probably be thrilled, but the scene in question would have been much more believable to everyone else if it took place later in the season. As a result, the pair’s interactions feel more than a little forced, and it could leave a bad taste in viewers' mouths for the rest of the season.
Episode 2 spends some amount of time on exploring what the villains are up to both before and after the start of the season. Folks who haven’t re-watched season 7 recently may be a little lost, and the writers jump around from scene to scene abruptly, shifting between key moments in Honerva’s past without adequate transition or context clues. Fans may want to brush up on season 6 and 7’s lore before plunging into season 8.
Luckily, fans who don’t care for flashbacks and romance don’t have to wait long for the action to start. Episode 3 charges right into the usual antics that make Voltron so good, and with solid writing and action, the next several episodes are a really rewarding watch.
An Enjoyable Ride
Though the season occasionally gets bogged down in minor villains' arcs and forgotten details from previous seasons, most of the middle episodes are solid. As usual, even the more lighthearted and funny episodes help propel the plot forward, and are punctuated with truly poignant moments that are reminiscent of earlier seasons. The action is great, too, especially when the Paladins end up outside of their lions for one reason or another.
The voice acting in this season continues to be stellar, with Pidge in particular standing out thanks to Bex Taylor-Klaus’ talents. The animation is usually fantastic, though there are a few scenes where Dreamworks cut corners and the characters end up far less life-like than usual. (One particular shot of the Paladins yelling in their lions had multiple characters with their mouths barely open - not a very believable yell at all!)
The Quality Declines
Unfortunately, some surprisingly poor directorial choices mar the later episodes. For example, there’s a scene where time and space are in danger of being torn about thanks to Honerva’s scheming. The revelation is abruptly and clumsily revealed, with questionable editing choices surrounding Pidge’s explanation of the situation. While ultimately the scene ends up being an incredible turning point in the series, it falls far short of its potential with regards to tension and pacing.
The writing also gets sloppy, as some newly-invented magic and hand-waving are thrown in to move the plot along. The two "Knights of Light" episodes are a great extension of the universe's magic and lore in theory, but the resulting minor deus ex machinas are annoying.
The Characters Lose Their Shine
There are certainly a few strong character development moments in Season 8, but there's a ton of lost potential. Acxa, for example, takes center stage in several scenes, but her lines are mostly limited to angst and spurring other minor characters' development. The cadets introduced in season 7 get some great scenes, but are ultimately forgotten by the series’ conclusion. Honerva’s whiny screentime would’ve been better spent giving the cadets more development. Even Shiro is mostly forgotten, and has few lines other than battle orders and situation room briefings.
The Paladins naturally have more screentime than the supporting cast, but their development is fairly flat this season. One could argue that this is only natural for the final season of a space adventure; after all, there's little time for character development when the team is charging across the galaxy trying to tie up loose plot threads in the span of 13 episodes. However, some slightly more forward-thinking writing could have avoided this problem. At the very least, some more conflict between the Paladins could have helped the show maintain the tension that made it so good in seasons 6 and 7.
While her romantic subplot leaves something to be desired and her ending is nothing short of terrible, Allura’s moments of frustration make her a refreshing female lead. She doesn’t magically fix problems; she wrestles with them and sometimes lets her anger get the better of her. It’s hard to explain without spoiling anything, but her ruthless streak midway through the season is believable in part because of how gradually her anger built up. She's the highlight of the season - which unfortunately isn't saying much, with how cheaply the other characters were written.
Still a Great Show, But...
Of course, all of the above critiques don’t mean that season 8 isn’t worth watching. It’s the grand finale to a fantastic series, and fans will be literally on the edge of their seats during some of the key battle scenes. The strengths of season 8 were more than great - they were stunning.
Just don’t go in expecting something anywhere near as good as previous seasons. The showrunners upset the delicate balance of robot fighting antics and character relationships that made previous seasons so good, and completely botched a blatant attempt to make the fans happy. This will probably go down as one of the most disappointing endings in animated television history, thanks to the clumsy writing and contrived plot points.