The eighth season of Dreamworks TV and Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender, more so than the typical hyped TV finale, was going to spark controversy. The series, though a critically acclaimed reboot of the original ‘80s franchise, has been mired in fan disputes for the greater portion of its run. Debates over character choices and plot twists have ultimately characterized Voltron’s fandom as vitriolic to the extent that many are deterred from engaging with the series due to the fandom’s reputation. It was clear no amount of vivid animation, action or fantasy storytelling — the bedrock of the series from Avatar: The Last Airbender veterans Lauren montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos — was going to calm the storm.
However, Voltron’s finale still merits viewing for past and present fans of the series, skillfully weaving in inside jokes, plotlines and characters into its final season that promise the harrowing conclusion the series has been building to for the past seven seasons. If the Voltron discourse sent you off course, there’s reason to reboard the mecha and enjoy the final stretch of episodes.
[Warning: Major spoilers for season eight of Voltron: Legendary Defender ahead.]
In Voltron’s final season, Honerva, the Galra-aligned Altean first introduced to us as Zarkon’s witch, Haggar, in season one, finally takes center stage as Voltron’s final “big bad.” Although her motivations to find a reality where she can live peacefully with her son and husband make her more morally gray than Zarkon, though not quite as compelling as the charismatic Lotor, Honerva is a fitting final villain for the series as she puts every reality at stake in pursuit of her goal.
This final season also brought resolution to some of the series’ culminating relationship arcs, particularly between Allura and Lance (the hinted romance between Keith and Acxa didn’t bear fruit). More mature and experienced than when their journey began, both Allura and Lance have reached a point by the final season where they’re comfortable together, respect each others’ boundaries and decisions, and are willing to put their full trust in each other. Bringing the two officially together in the season’s first episode allowed us to see their relationship flourish in a way that felt natural for both parties across the season.
Voltron managed to maintain much of its distinctive spirit in the final season by reveling in the quotidian. Small moments and references back to beloved jokes (like the entire setup for “Clear Day” or Coran’s bad video connection while giving Weblum advice) that keep this season in line with the spirit of the series. Episode seven, “Day Forty-Seven,” is a season standout for its vlog-esque peek into life on the Atlas through the eyes of MFE pilots Kinkade and Rizavi. Slav, a genius character known for annoying the hell out of anyone he talks to, has plenty of funny quips and rewarding moments in the final season as well.
The final moments of the series leave challenge everything. After Honerva’s reality-destroying rampage, Allura manages to change her heart by invoking memories of a joyful life on Altea. However, in order to repair the damage caused by Honerva, Allura is forced to sacrifice herself in order to restore the destroyed realities. While her goodbyes with the paladins (especially Lance, who she bestows with Altean markings through a kiss) are indubitably the emotional high point of the series, her sacrifice feels abrupt after such a rich development arc.
Allura’s death is one salient point of fan outrage given the fact that she was one of the series’ few women of color. Her relationship with Lance promised some resolution in addition to a found family; in “Launch Date,” Lance promises that she will always have a place with him and his family after she expresses fear over the conclusion of the rebellion. On an emotional level, her death feels particularly tragic after the paladins discover that her homeland, Altea, was restored following her sacrifice. Despite the fact that Allura is reunited with her deceased father and the original paladins during her sacrifice, it does little to ease the painful loss of her found family.
The final sequence of the series, like any button on a series finale, was a mixed bag. It was a relief to see Lance reunited with his family; Hunk’s establishing a diplomatic culinary empire is nothing short of a perfect arc. However, Shiro’s nuptials feel abrupt given that we’ve barely seen him and his husband Curtis, a member of the Atlas bridge crew, interact in any meaningful capacity over the course of the season. Following Voltron’s queerbaiting controversy following the death of Shiro’s ex-boyfriend, Adam, the ending felt neutrally affective at best and disingenuous at worst, despite being a groundbreaking moment for LGBTQ representation in all-ages programming.
However, even if these points of contention — in particular, Allura and Lance’s relationship, Allura’s death, and Shiro’s endgame — had panned out differently in the final season, Voltron still would have been met with cheers over the mere fact that it was over. Much of Voltron’s early fandom conflicts can be traced back to debates over ships; in particular, “Klance” (Keith and Lance) and “Sheith” shippers were constantly at war with each other, sparking the pedophelia discourse that plagued the fandom in its early days (which voice actor Josh Keaton addressed on Twitter).
Voice actors have reported receiving death threats from fans of the series over ships. One fan even attempted to blackmail Studio Mir, which animates Voltron, in an attempt to make Klance canon. Ultimately, the Voltron fandom staged itself in constant conflict to the creative staff of the series, drawing outrage from moments in which they felt that they were teased with ships that would never happen or characters were treated in ways they considered unacceptable.
This friction between fans and staff blazed into an inferno when Shiro’s ex-boyfriend Adam died during the early stages of Garla invasion on Earth. While calls for LGBTQ representation shouldn’t be trivialized, fans went into Voltron’s final season with impossible expectations for characters like Keith and Lance to get together at the last minute or for Adam to be brought back to life.
Sentiments resulting from these impossible demands and feelings of entitlement over characters overwhelmed the final season. Calls for corrective fanfiction were swift to follow the finale, unsourced rumors about staff changes and internal conflicts were tossed around the fandom (there’s even a petition calling for a finale free of “executive meddling”), and fans have taken to referring to Voltron as the “v slur” to avoid directly referencing the series and distance themselves from it.
For a show already characterized as “problematic” by fans for its treatment of issues such as queer representation and racial identity, the finale’s inability to provide the endings fans believed characters deserved (in addition to the endings that fans thought that they deserved) was ultimately why Voltron’s conclusion generated massive fandom uproar.
Ultimately, Voltron, the vision and artistic pursuit of its creators, was never going to quell the concerns of its fanbase. But taken on its own storytelling merits, the final season remained true to the ideas of found family, collective spirit, and empathetic connection. Voltron: Legendary Defender was an honor to follow, and it’s certain that the series will be remembered both for its compelling narrative and spirited fandom for years to come.
Palmer Haasch is a freelance writer based out of Minneapolis, MN. She has written about cartoons, anime and internet culture for Polygon, the Minnesota Daily, and GLAAD, and is currently working on her undergraduate thesis on real person fanfiction. Find more of her work at palmerhaasch.com.