Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Netflix’s Voltron Season 5 in its entirety.
Voltron Legendary Defender may have just given us the best season yet with the recently arrived Season 5. Though we’re getting the Netflix series in smaller chunks thanks to the decision to break up 13-episode seasons into two smaller seasons (which are released more frequently, thank you very much), what we’re also getting is story arcs that feel more focused, character development that is honest and engaging, and layers upon layers of mythology that just keep going deeper. With Season 5, we also got family-focused drama and all-out action that is the best the show has presented so far. It’s a high bar to set, especially since Voltron still has 33 episodes (at least) left in the tank, but even if they just maintain this level of quality from here on out it’s going to be a heck of a ride.
In the six episodes of Season 5–this is your last chance to bail if you’re not caught up, by the way–Voltron gave us the next chapter in the ongoing battle between the Galra Empire and the coalition of rebels united to fight against it. On the side of those rebels is the mighty Voltron and its five pilots, or Paladins, which includes Princess Allura of the ancient Altean race. But as the end of Season 4 suggested, the Voltron Force formed an unlikely alliance with a powerful entity: the treacherous Prince Lotor, son of the vile Emperor Zarkon. Would the charismatic leader eventually betray the Paladins once he achieved his goal, or could they actually work together after centuries of Galra atrocities?
Season 5 doesn’t exactly answer this question since it’s all about laying the foundation for this uneasy alliance. For what it’s worth, Lotor’s intel has assisted the rebels in racking up numerous small victories against the empire without any loss of life in their ranks or collateral damage. How wise it is to bring Lotor into the fold and trust him completely is a worthwhile question that extends into the next season, at least, but the banished prince is at the heart of all of the action in Season 5.
And what fantastic action that is! We get to see a thrilling rescue attempt in which the Paladins liberate scientists from a Galra prison, a battle to the death between Zarkon and Lotor, an attack on a planet by an evolved version of a Robeast, and a bloody battle for ascension to the vacant Galra Empire’s throne which triggers a civil war. And all that in just six episodes! Lotor’s central role in all of this is no mistake; he is cooperating with the rebels in order to, in his words, find a peaceful way of supplying the empire with quintessence, but he’s also manipulating both sides’ leadership into doing exactly what he wants them to do. It’s on Lotor’s intel that Pidge and Matt attempt to rescue their father (and eventually do so); it’s with Lotor’s urging that Shiro–who acts rather out of character in this season …–pulls rank and opts to accompany the prince to the Galra’s ritual ascension ceremony, the “Kral Zera”, despite the team’s resistance; and it’s on Lotor’s hunch that he and Allura enter into an incredibly dangerous portal in space that takes them on a journey into discovering the secrets of Altean alchemy. Without Lotor and his duplicitous nature, Season 5 would lose most of its driving force.
That’s not to say the rest of the major players don’t have anything else to do; far from it. Pidge and Matt manage to rescue their long-lost scientist father and they spend some time with him before he heads to Earth to help establish their own defense system. Lance struggles with not being taken seriously by Shiro, but also unleashes a brand new ability with his bayard that even the Princess hasn’t seen in 10,000 years. And the team of Pidge and Hunk (Team Punk) along with Lance have some fun reprogramming a Galra robot sentry in order to go on an episode-long fun-fest; these scenes were absolutely delightful. And Keith, now with the Blade of Marmora, finally gets some closure as to his parentage when he discovers that the Galra operative Krolia is actually his mother! (The jury is still out on whether or not Acxa is Keith’s sister … or something else entirely, but their on-screen interactions are quite engaging!)