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Monday, 23 October 2017

Voltron: Legendary Defender S4

Voltron: Legendary Defender
Series 4.

It must be exhausting being one of Voltron's production team, given what the fandom is like. Honestly, while a lot of groups of fans have been rightly mocked for their excess, I do struggle to think of any fandom quite as bad as Voltron's.

Arguably, the current release schedule, where a small smattering of episodes are released at a time, but much closer together, only amplifies that by leading to a situation where by the time the fans have calmed down from the hype of the previous series, they're getting hyped for the next one, with all the excitement, charged emotions, and attempts to blackmail the writing staff that that involves.

When series three left off, the team had tangled with Lotor a few times, and we'd discovered that Zarkon and Haggar were a married couple, with the two of them having been victims of (or somehow possessed by) creatures from the void between universes.

As this series picks up, a dissatisfied Keith leaves the group when Shiro is accepted by the Black Lion again, joining the Blade of Marmora full time. Meanwhile, Pidge tracks down and finds her brother, who joins the Castle of Lions as one of their tech experts. Elsewhere, Lotor is declared a traitor by Zarkon and goes on the run. Everything comes to a head during a mission to create a defensive line that will let the Coalition conquer a third of Galra territory, during which the team comes head to head with Haggar and her magic.

And her sick magic circle.

Okay, let's deal with the elephant in the room: This is  not a full series. It's no secret by now that series three, four, five, and possibly six are all chunks of a single series rather than actual series in their own right, and while that was very overt and in-your-face in series three, it's even more obnoxious in series four, because really, all it is in an arc.

The six episodes effectively all act as build-up towards the big battle in episode six, and the result is that there isn't really any sense of character arcs, and the connection to the wider story is tenuous at best. Keith and Pidge both get their focus episodes, but Keith follows that by then being absent for almost the entire series, and Lance, Hunk, Shiro, and Allura barely get a look in on the character development angle. This is particularly jarring in Shiro's case, as we know that something's up with him -- whether it be that he's a sleeper agent, brainwashed, or just not actually Shiro at all -- but the show seems to entirely forget about it for the span of a series.

The structure also means that big, meaningful moments feel oddly underplayed. Zarkon's return (now with some kind of life support suit) feels like an afterthought, even though it drastically alters the dynamic of the Galra Empire, and Keith's departure to the Blade of Marmora feels all but forgotten about after it happens.

Pidge and Matt.

(Keith, of course, will definitely be returning before long -- and given that two of Lotor's three planned meteor-ships look, respectively, like a torso and arms, and a pelvis and legs, it's fair to say that sooner or later there's going to be a second mech in the mix: Lotor, Shiro, and one other person piloting Predator Robeast, perhaps?)

That having been said, I did mostly enjoy this series. It had its high points -- the episode about Pidge finding her brother, which managed to have some deeply emotional moments, and some striking visuals -- and some low points -- the slightly oddly pitched 'Coran becomes a showbusiness fanatic' episode -- but it was always entertaining, even if it lacked the sense of weight and drama that series two and three both had to one extent or another.

Also, Narti dies, so that's, like, a thing.

The sixth episode, meanwhile, was astounding, splitting the action between four disparate groups with a significant amount of skill, creating a story that was both tense and a surprising amount of fun. It partly serves as an instigating event for Lotor to approach the paladins with an offer of an alliance, and partly as a way to have the Coalition score a genuine big win over the Galra Empire (possibly spelling the beginning of the end for the Galra as the main villains, with those interdimensional aliens maybe set to take their place as the primary antagonists). It means that the series does, at least, finish on a strong note, setting us up well for the fifth series to start sometime next year (with rumours being that it'll be airing sometime around February or March.)

So, hopes and dreams for the next series: I really want to see Keith rejoin the group, and I'd like to see some kind of movement on the something-is-up-with-Shiro plotline. I'm not hugely jazzed about a Lotor alliance, but it could yield some interesting plots, and maybe we'll even see Lotor finish his combining mech (since that's totally what he's making).

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