For the past few truncated seasons, Netflix and Dreamworks' Voltron: Legendary Defender has, for better or worse, danced around resolving some of the biggest questions the show has put forth. But its newly-released sixth season not only finally delivers some resolution, it does so while setting the stage for an explosive climax to the series at large.
Voltron's new season is one of its best in a while.
Voltron's fifth season brought the show into a weirder and very interesting place - not only had the show's overarching conflict with Galra seemingly dissipated thanks to an uncertain alliance with Prince Lotor, but the show was starting to delve into more of a science-fantasy vibe as Allura and Lotor explored their shared lineage and the depths of the magical forces that helped forge Voltron in the first place.
Where the sixth season picks up, it seems as though most of that exploration has happened off screen, and a new normal for our Paladins has been established. Lotor and Allura are working to enhance their alchemical abilities and explore the mystical quintessence field that fuelled both Voltron's creation and the early Galra empire, and the rest of the team are starting to get used to the idea of treating the Galra as allies rather than enemies.
After seasons of conflict, it's still kind of weird to see Voltron and the Galra working together.
But season six throws this new status quo out the window almost as quickly as season five built it up, with a reveal whose level of shock is in tandem with how cynical you are about bad-guys-turned-good in fiction at large. Because yes, it turns out Lotor has been playing Allura and the team in an attempt to gain access to Altean alchemy and the mystical powers of quintessence, so he can forge his own twisted version of an Altean Empire.
While it's a shame the show goes for this twist so quickly, we've spent enough time with Lotor at this point to establish that, even at his most amicable, he isn't to be trusted. And his brief flirtation with being a good guy makes him an infinitely more interesting villainous foil for the team (and for Allura particularly, who has steadily become one of the show's most crucial characters) than Zarkon and Haggar ever were.
So while the show is back to the "Paladins vs Galra" status quo, this time it's being done with a cast of much more developed and intriguing characters.
And those characters are in turn made more interesting by getting some major development this season, in the form of some much-needed closure on some of the Legendary Defender's biggest lingering questions.
This season is focused in a way Voltron rarely has been recently, on a singular path of finally giving closure on some mysteries that have skulked in the background of the past three seasons. What's Lotor's real deal? What's really been up with Shiro ever since his disappearance at the end of season two? What's the deal with Keith's Galra heritage? This season answers all of these questions with an extremely satisfying level of payoff.
Keith and his long-estranged mother Krolia get a lot of time together this season, thanks to a gorgeous, but also trippy as hell space-time distortion.
And while not every lingering subplot on the show is addressed here (Haggar still remains frustratingly underused and cryptic, for example), and addressing so many of these questions does come at the expense of not really giving Lance, Hunk and Pidge things to do (Lance admittedly does get a quasi-arc about his romantic feelings for Allura, but it feels awkwardly sudden and is left half-formed), overall it is refreshing to finally see Voltron deliver payoff on these storylines.
And it really does so in a grand fashion, creating moments of spectacle that stand as some of the most visually dazzling sequences the show has ever done.
While most of the seven episodes of season six are in service to this singular focus on resolution, the show still finds time to have some fun, lighthearted moments along the way - mainly in the third episode, "Monsters and Mana", which might be the most delightfully funny episode Voltron has ever done.
As you might have guessed from the name, it's a love letter to Dungeons & Dragons, in which Coran uses some downtime for the team to coax them into a fantastical tabletop game, and it is an absolute blast, playfully poking at the conventions of RPGs (of both the pen and paper and Warcraft-ian MMO variety) while letting the team loosen up in a way they can't elsewhere in the show's currently dense plot.
Voltron Force gets fantastical in "Monsters and Mana," a hilarious love letter to D&D.
In past seasons, especially the recent abbreviated ones, this episode might have felt wildly out of place, given its tonal and narrative distance from the rest of the season's plot.
But it comes early enough into the flow of the season that it doesn't feel like a wild shift of gears, and is so hilariously executed - there are some cracking running gags, as well as some loving references to the 1984 Voltron that will put a smile on your face - that it doesn't feel as much like an awkward distraction, especially when the rest of the season keeps such a laser focus on the conflict with Lotor.
But as good as this one-off jolt of fun is, the real strength of Legendary Defender's latest season is the amplification of its personal scale.
Past seasons have built on Voltron's place in the wider universe, establishing the scope of the series' worldbuilding as the team slowly became figureheads for a grand rebel alliance on a galactic scale.
This season peels that back a bit to focus singularly on what the main cast is going through, and while the stakes are still massive, it feels like they matter all the more given the personal investment of characters such as Keith, Shiro and Allura in particular. The resolution brought about by closing the book on so many individual strands of development for these characters, and Lotor alongside them as an excellent foil, has a sense of finality to it.
These characters have gone on a journey and are, at long last, ready to bring it to a close.
Allura goes through hell in this season and comes out of it stronger and more capable than ever.
The end of the season makes it clear that Voltron: Legendary Defender is heading into its final chapters. The team is truly reunited, and heading back to Earth. Lotor's plans for domination are clear, and despite his seeming defeat this season, it's all but guaranteed he'll be back for Round Two with the Paladins. And of course, Haggar is still out there with the potential to maybe do something interesting, for once.
But above all, so many of the lingering mysteries that were laid out over the last few seasons of the series have now been resolved, clearing the board for some final showdowns. And if season six is anything to go by, the show is now on course to deliver something truly exhilarating as it barrels to that conclusion.