Spoilers ahead if you aren’t caught up with the final season of Voltron Legendary Defender.
With seven seasons of intense, high-flying, space-based action already on the books, DreamWorks Animation’s Netflix series Voltron Legendary Defender had a tough task ahead of it going into the eighth and final season. Granted, showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery have proven themselves up to the challenge throughout their careers and over the series’ run, but iconic antagonists like the Galra’s generals, Emperors Zarkon and Lotor, and the witch Haggar and her Robeasts would presumably be hard to top. Plus, this last batch of 13 episodes had to wrap up the story of the space-faring Paladins from Earth and their alien allies as they attempt to establish peace in the known universe (and some unknown ones).
Somehow, the final season of Voltron Legendary Defender managed to deliver the series’ biggest bad to date while tying up the overall story in a satisfying fashion with jaw-dropping surprises and shocking moments along the way, all while leaving just a few breadcrumbs for a potential future for the series. That’s an incredible feat. So how did it all come together?
First, some background, just by way of catching up. Over the course of seven seasons, the Paladins of Voltron and their Altean allies managed to defeat Emperor Zarkon and Emperor Lotor on multiple occasions, break up the dominion of the Galra Empire, and form a Galactic Coalition composed of all sorts of alien races and diverse planets. The only thing left to disrupt the peace across the universe was the late seventh-season arrival of a mysterious Altean woman who piloted a powerful mech that rivaled the abilities of Voltron and necessitated the transformation of the mighty Atlas ship in order to defeat it.
The mysterious Altean by the name of Luca was an acolyte of Honerva, also known as the wife of Emperor Zarkon, mother of Emperor Lotor, and the alias of the witch, Haggar. It’s on Honerva that this final season’s villainy leans on, and it does so heavily. But Honerva is made from incredibly stern stuff and Cree Summer is a force of nature in this final outing. This season, quite solid on its own, featured the kind of powerful storytelling that sheds a new light on the series overall. I’m very much looking forward to revisiting the entire 76-episode run with the insight of Honerva’s true backstory, her ultimate desire, and the lengths to which she goes to achieve them, because these revelations color her earlier appearances throughout the series.
In a tear-jerking series of flashbacks that were as painful as they were prophetic for what would become of the Galran Zarkon and the Altean Honerva, viewers learn that it was the discovery of quintessence and the powerful abilities that came with it that ultimately corrupted the main villains of Voltron Legendary Defender. We’ve seen this theme play out before, but never told in quite so personal a way. Like an addictive drug, Zarkon and Honerva become slaves to the quintessence itself, losing track of reality, drifting off in a haze of quintessence-induced stupor and confusion. (Honerva’s own pseudonym Haggar is even pulled from an attending doctor whom she killed while undergoing treatment, which is pretty messed up for a kids show…) And like an addiction, the only thing that seems to work in the moment of withdrawal is more of that drug.
So it’s out of a misguided sense of love and affection, and to a lesser extent a desire to reconnect with and take care of his wife, that Zarkon engages in a universe-wide quest for more quintessence by any means possible. But the drug also addled his own mind. When Lotor, his own son born of a drug-addicted mother, sourced the quintessence from an inhabited planet in a peaceful way that was anything but the Galran show of force, Zarkon destroyed the planet and Lotor was banished, partially for disobeying orders, partially for reminding Zarkon of the people he and Honerva used to be, untouched by the powerful substance.
Lotor didn’t remain untouched for long, however, and his inherited obsession with quintessence ultimately proved his undoing. But this is where Honerva and her motherly instincts kicked in. We learn that her heart’s desire in her purest of days was to live a life full of love and free of pain with Zarkon and Lotor. Their addiction to quintessence ruined that, but it became far easier to blame Voltron, the Alteans, the Galactic Coalition, and reality itself for the loss of her husband, her son, and her dream. In Season 8, we see Honerva go off the deep end to become not only the most powerful character in the entire series, becoming a goddess after defeating the White Lion Guardian and draining the entity of its quintessence, but to end up nearly destroying everything in existence. That’s farther than even most comic book villains will go. Having successfully forced her way into an alternate reality where her husband and son lived peacefully, only to be rejected by them due to her alien presence, Honverva, understandably, loses all care for life and reality after that.
But it wouldn’t be Voltron Legendary Defender without a chance for redemption, even for the genocidal Honerva. Make no mistake, she’s so powerful that she lays waste to her allies and antagonists alike all season long, never suffering even the most trivial of defeats. In the end, however, her salvation lies in a fellow Altean: Allura. The Paladin Princess, who has an inborn ability to alter quintessence which she learned about from Lotor himself, sacrifices herself along with Honerva in order to reset reality (along with some little touches along the way like restoring the planets Altea and Daibazaal … not sure if Olkarion was as lucky). It’s fascinating that these two Altean women, both fierce fighters in their own right, sacrificed both their lifetimes and their very lives to protect their friends, family, and loved ones; they just went about it in drastically different ways. Watching the whole series beginning to end with that idea in mind is going to be a fascinating experiment.
Now just because the ultimate conflict throughout Voltron Legendary Defender was resolved by the sacrifice of two powerful women instead of a big ol’ battle between robots and spaceships doesn’t mean that Season 8 was slacking in the action department. Far from it. This season features some of the most insane, incredible, jaw-dropping moments and shocking storytelling decisions in the whole series. There’s the reveal that Honerva has laid waste to the existing Galran generals and their soldiers with but a fraction of her power, only to turn to the Altean refugee colonies and recruit them in a battle against Voltron for the glory of their fallen hero and savior, Lotor. Then, there’s the reveal that Honerva has not just the one but six Acolytes at her command. And then there’s the completely bonkers episode 8.6 “Genesis” that sees Honerva revive Lotor through a completely insane plan (which works well within Voltron‘s established lore) and sees the fallen half-breed arise as a Robeast. And on the heroic side of things, I don’t know if it gets better than seeing the transformed Atlas slide between Voltron and an Acolyte like a protective big brother, except of course when a convuldrum (“a convergence of Balmeras”) grants enough energy to transform Voltron into Atlas-armored Voltron with Shiro aboard as a sixth pilot! (I love this show.)
But Voltron has long been a story that takes time to focus on the small, quiet, slow moments of characters’ relationships, like Hunk making region-specific delicacies to placate hostile guests, or Lance and the other Paladins shopping at a local mall in preparation for his long-awaited dinner date with Allura, or Kinkade and the Galaxy Garrison team appearing in a sort of documentary story of life behind the scenes of their military service. This season may be more tilted towards the action side of things, but there’s plenty of balance throughout.
The final season of Voltron Legendary Defender rarely stumbles; the same can be said of the series’ story overall. Honestly the only shortcoming in the storytelling has to do with the way the narrative has handled romantic relationships; that trend continues here. Overall, Season 8 manages to do the seemingly impossible by ramping up the stakes to the utmost, delivering the most powerful emotional resonance between our heroes and villains yet, and wrapping everything up in a tearful, bittersweet, and fully satisfying way. It’s not perfect, but it’s as close to perfection as we’re going to get in this reality.
Season Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
Series Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
For more on all things Voltron Legendary Defender, be sure to keep an eye out for new stories and get caught up with recent write-ups linked below:
- Final ‘Voltron Legendary Defender’ Trailer Teases the Series’ Finale
- Best Animated TV Series on Netflix Right Now
- First Trailer for ‘Voltron Legendary Defender’s Final Season Brings Audiences Up to Speed
- ‘Voltron’ Season 7 Finale Explained: One Epic Victory, One Major Misstep
- ‘Voltron’ Season 7 Review: A Last Stand Heralds the Beginning of the End