Spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t caught up on Voltron Legendary Defender.
Netflix’s Voltron Legendary Defender recently launched Season 4 of its fantastic modern take on the 80s anime classic. It was pretty short at only six episodes, giving viewers the opportunity to binge faster than ever before. But those episodes were packed with some surprising twists and turns that many a fan wouldn’t see coming, yours truly included. Some of those shocking moments were self-explanatory, though if you need a refresher, you can check out my Season 4 review here. Others, however, need a little bit more discussion to suss out exactly what’s going on.
The story of Voltron Legendary Defender can be broadly summed up like this: Five heroes were recruited as Paladins to pilot robot Lions that combine to form the mighty Voltron. Together, they were able to temporarily defeat Emperor Zarkon and part the clouds of the galactic Galra Empire’s millennia of oppression. However, a new enemy has risen within the ranks of the Galra in the form of Prince Lotor, who challenges the Paladins and their growing ranks of rebellious allies. But while the Voltron Coalition prepares to amass their first large-scale attack on the empire, the Galra find adversaries within their own borders when Zarkon returns to power once more. Things are getting complicated at the end of Season 4, so let’s sort them out.
Again, here’s your spoiler warning if you haven’t watched the Voltron Legendary Defender Season 4 finale.
In the fifth episode of the season, “Begin the Blitz”, Shiro lays out the plan of attack for Voltron, the Blades of Marmora, and the coalition forces: Pidge and Hunk will take out an orbiting Galra communication hub, after which the mighty robot heads to the Galra stronghold on the planet Naxzela while the Blades and rebel fighters take out two Galra battle cruisers mounted with incredibly destructive Zaiforge cannons. If the rebellion can hold the line here, they’ll be in control of fully a third of the empire, a significant achievement to say the least.
On the other side of the battlefield is the witch Haggar, who has assumed command now that Lotor has been branded an enemy of the state even as he flees from his father’s pursuit. With Lotor and Zarkon out of the picture, it falls to Haggar to defeat the rebels or at least not give up any more territory to them. Things don’t exactly go according to plan for either side. A third of the coalition fighters attacking the Zaiforge cannon are wiped out once the weapon becomes active and it’s only when Keith and the Blades of Marmora are able to secure the second cannon that the rebels are able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
With the heavy cannons down, Voltron takes out the artillery on Naxzela’s surface … but they quickly find that they’re trapped in an invisible minefield, hemmed in by the remaining battleships. Luckily, Princess Allura is able to freeze the mines with her Blue Lion and keep them from exploding long enough to form Voltron and finish the job. It looks like the coalition has taken over Naxzela … and this news pleases Haggar.
This was quite the surprising turn of events here, but you can always rely on the crafty witch to have a nasty trick or two up her flowing sleeves. In the season finale, “A New Defender”, Haggar’s plan looks like it’s going to take out Voltron as well as the entirety of the coalition in one massive blast. But first thing’s first, she has to activate and power up hundreds of quintessence-powered shield generators/gravity amplifiers that wait beneath the surface of Naxzela. Haggar’s able to do this from a remote location on her distant battle cruiser, but the effects impact Voltron directly. Allura feels an approaching “wave of darkness”, which translates into an impenetrable shield spreading across the planet surface and an inescapable gravity which draws Voltron down towards the core of the planet itself. The Paladins try to force Voltron into action, but to no avail.
A quick excursion sans Lions into the belly of Naxzela reveals that not only is the soil composed of explosive compound hexamite, but that the planet is home to a decommissioned Altean terraforming machine, presumably tasked with making it habitable for the advanced alien race. However, Haggar has co-opted it into a planet-sized bomb capable of vaporizing everything within 10 solar systems once it goes boom. So not only is Voltron incapable of escaping, they’re also unable to communicate the danger to their comrades. A dire situation indeed. How ever will they escape?
In a subtle but sweet moment, Lance encourages Allura to use her Altean powers to tap into the quintessence energy to power up Voltron in the same way she used to power the Castle Ship. A nice thought, but it’s Lance calling Allura “the heart of Voltron” that really does the trick. Sufficiently powered up, Voltron manages to fight through the gravity well and blast through the shield. But while the Paladins were able to warn their comrades about the impending multi-planetary system explosion that was imminent, there wasn’t enough time to get everyone to safety. They’d have to either shut down Haggar’s ritual or die trying.
And die trying is exactly what Keith was willing to do. The defenses on Haggar’s battleship proved too strong for the coalition to pierce, so Keith soon takes it upon himself to kamikaze his own ship through the shields in order to take them down. I was honestly worried that Keith was going to be written out of the show completely here, especially considering that he opted out of the Voltron Force earlier on. But what happened next was doubly surprising.
In Season 4, Prince Lotor’s plan to build so-called Sincline ships (named after his Japanese anime character) out of the comet material, powered by trans-reality quintessence was revealed. He’s already got two ships with enough material left over for a third, but in order to get enough quintessence, he tried to trip into another reality by entering the portal on the ruined planet Daibazaal in order to harvest the energy source. He failed. And seeing this–along with the fact that Zarkon had labeled Lotor an enemy of the state, and the fact that Lotor had killed one of their fellow compatriots in cold blood once it was revealed that she had been compromised–Lotor’s generals turn on him and capture him, planning to use him as a bargaining chip when they return to Zarkon and Haggar. However, Lotor manages to escape (by dislocating his own shoulders, no less), putting the generals in a tight spot. Acxa, their de facto leader, says that they have another option …
Which is exactly why I thought they’d show up to join the coalition at the season’s end, but nope! It’s Lotor himself, returned with a vengeance to blast a hole through Haggar’s shields and disrupt the ritual, preventing the explosion of Naxzela. As Haggar flees, Lotor parlays with the Paladins, asking to have a discussion. And that’s where we end the season!
That’s a pretty bold storytelling maneuver, but it’s got some roots in the previous Voltron series. Lotor has long been at odds with his father and has double-crossed both Zarkon and the Voltron Force numerous times. Once, he even saved the team only to betray them and lead them to a false version of his home planet that was rigged as a giant bomb; sound familiar? Clearly Voltron Legendary Defender is anxious to explore the conflict and friction between this charismatic leader and the Paladin protagonists, but one wonders just how the interaction between Prince Lotor and Princess Allura will be received. Will the half-Altean prince fall for the the princess in the same manner that Lance and Matt Holt have before him? Will his affections be well-received or spurned? And how will those discussions and decisions effect the coalition on the cusp of victory and an empire on the verge of collapse? Time will tell, but Season 5 of Voltron Legendary Defender is shaping up to be quite the complex political thriller!
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!