[dropcap1]J[/dropcap1]une 10th the team behind the epic Avatar: The Last Airbender and the even more awesom-er Avatar: The Legend of Korra (KorrAsami 4 Lyfe) took a new generation to Arus with Voltron: Legendary Defender. As a fan of the old dubbed series and the CGI sequel, I was pretty amped for this one. I binged all 11 episodes one Saturday and…it was…a thing that happened. 11 episodes of origin story including an hour plus for the pilot episode was three much. And tedious. And enjoyable? I don’t know, I’m still not sold on that last bit.
I’ve endured both epically bad and epically good media in this year of our Lord 2016, so I have a pretty solid internal rating system. But this show has me flummoxed. I can’t say Voltron was bad but, at the same time, I couldn’t say it was good either. Voltron: Legendary Defender has its moments of each but carries an overall sense of mediocrity. At times, I completely forgot I was watching the show and had to rewind 10 or so minutes. A fruitless precaution as I usually missed nothing of note in my moments of inattention.
Allura’s new character design is fire. She’s always been one of my favorites so I’m all the way here for making her look more like me. This version of her also looks and acts more battle-ready than her original incarnation. When Allura gets in on the action, she’s great and her featured episode is also one of the best of the season and has some truly heartbreaking moments. But she never gets to pilot a lion. Why y’all do my girl like that? And honestly, she’s super unhelpful. Like Navi “Hey! Listen!” level unhelpful. It’s obnoxious (and lazy, y’all, so lazy) to have Allura relegated to nagging Team Mom-ery.
Episode 1 at least gives a Galaxy Garrison that looks like a Benetton ad in the best way. On top of physical diversity, there seem to be a good number of female cadets in residence. They’ve clearly been getting some Inclusion Workshops going so good on you guys. Galaxy Garrison has better hiring practices than Facebook and Zuckerberg needs to get their diversity person in for a consult. Enjoy that because once we leave Galaxy Garrison we also leave behind they actually sprint in the complete opposite direction: right into the Noble Savage sun. It’s most egregious when we’re introduced to the primitive Arusians in full Friendly Natives fashion complete with a lovely “let me show you the dance of my people” and by lovely I mean would be racist if these weren’t hairless Ewoks.
Sidebar: Shout out to old girl rocking the gray side pony and plug suit in Episode 1. I don’t know who she is but I wish she had become one of the paladins. Can we trade her for Shiro?
And our Paladins, I hate them. Not all of them, but at least three of them. Shiro, Keith, and Pidge. Oof. First of all, ya boys Shiro and Keith are the character equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. You just cringed at the mere memory of the sound, didn’t you? That’s Keith and Shiro. The main issue is that Voltron hasn’t chosen a protagonist. Is it prodigy Keith? He’s constantly getting molly whopped in the red lion in the grand tradition of shounen heroes everywhere, always. Is it brooding but open-hearted leader Shiro? He broods and he’s named Shiro and…that’s all I got. Seriously which one is it? I’d prefer neither because both of them are annoying af. Although I’ll pass on curtain #3 as well.
There’s still a girl on the team. That’s what gave the original Voltron my heart. A girl got to fight with the heroes, she didn’t have to be the damsel in distress or the femme fatale. It’s nice to see that tradition continue but this Pidge/Katie storyline is extraneous. The plot acrobatics required making this deception work would have Simone Biles getting silver. Pair that with the fact that Pidge/Katie clearly went to the Clark Kent School of Inefficient Disguises and I rolled my eyes so hard I tore a hole in the time-space continuum and ended up back at the top of episode 1. It was all fairly traumatic. Her tech knowledge and clear genius are fun but I would’ve appreciated it more if you had just let her be a girl the whole time. Like dying your hair and giving yourself bangs can create a whole new you. Or she could just, you know, rock a wig.
We don’t really get a clear sense of anyone or anything at the end of the series. It’s 11 episodes of introduction and most of them feel like filler. Consider it a bland appetizer. Voltron is being hungry and having someone hand you half a sleeve of unsalted crackers. I’m hoping the follow-up season is better, but I’m completely ready to bail if it’s more of the same.