Season 3 Finale Plot Summary:
The Paladins convince Coran (Rhys Darby) to reveal the full story of Voltron’s creation, including the history of the first Paladins and the Lions’ connection to the mysterious comet stolen by Lotor (A.J. Locascio). Back on the Galra flagship, Haggar (Cree Summer) makes a desperate attempt to revive Zarkon (Neil Kaplan).
Even after dozens of episodes and several seasons, many television shows find reason to flashback to events that took place long before the focus of the show. Typically these episodes look at the mythology of the series for the sake of world building and/or solving lingering mysteries. While these mythology episodes can be quite entertaining (the Legend of Korra episode “Beginnings” comes to mind), they rarely push the ongoing narrative forward. Therein lies the primary issue with this third season finale: the episode is a fun look at the Lions’ origin, but it doesn’t deliver the kind of climactic action viewers expect from season finales. As such, the latest season of Voltron: Legendary Defender continues the high quality fans expect from the series yet ends on a rather abrupt, unsatisfying note.
Unsurprisingly, the greatest strength of “The Legend Begins” is that the episode fleshes out much of the overarching conflict and universe. Many of these answers are compelling and intriguing. After discovering that Zarkon was the original pilot of the Black Lion, one of the most fascinating questions was how a Paladin of Voltron could become the most evil force in the universe. Seeing Zarkon back in his days as a Paladin is a treat, giving viewers a clear look at his strong leaderships skills and rigid sense of class superiority. Unfortunately, the show’s attempt to explain Zarkon’s turn to the dark side is not entirely satisfying; while the reason may lead to some dramatic dynamics next season, the explanation also strips Zarkon of some of his agency and eliminates much of the character development that takes place in the episode. Overall, though, the episode manages to shine a more tragic light on Zarkon that should make him a more interesting character going forward.
The exploration of Voltron’s creation is likewise welcome but somewhat problematic. By having Princess Allura’s father, King Alfor (Keith Ferguson), build the Lions without fully understanding their powers and psychic links to their Paladins, the show essentially tries to have its cake and eat the cake too. The episode tries to give Voltron a concrete origin while also maintaining the Lions’ mystique, and the result is a sense of revelation followed by more questions. As is the case with most fictional mythologies, you can only ask so many questions before you have to accept the answers as final and not indicative of further trips down the rabbit hole. Whether the trans-reality comet is that final answer remains to be seen, but I am willing to consider the revelations from this episode as sufficient if the showrunners are. For now, I’m more interested in what the Paladins do with the Lions than how the beasts were created.
In and of itself, then, “The Legend Begins” is a strong but flawed episode. Seeing the interactions between the original Paladins is delightful, and the ways in which the original Voltron pilots mirror the current team are humorous and fun to dissect. Now that some of the season’s mysteries have been addressed, the fourth season should have more time to explore the mythology’s impact on the larger narrative. However, when judging this episode as a season finale, “The Legend Begins” leaves much to be desired. The episode simply feels more like a mid-season episode than a finale. But perhaps there is reason for that.
Clocking in at just seven episodes, the third season is only half as long as the first two seasons. And in a recent interview, the showrunners revealed that the season was initially supposed to just as long as its predecessors, but they later decided to split the season in half so that the first batch of episodes could be released sooner. So the reason “The Legend Begins” doesn’t feel like a season finale is that the episode wasn’t intended to be one. Give that knowledge, I don’t want to be overly critical of season’s conclusion, but I am nonetheless somewhat underwhelmed.
The good news is that fans won’t have to wait long for the next season. Scheduled for an October 13, 2017 release, Season 4 will hopefully pick up full-steam ahead from where this season left off. The show’s third season was full of neat callbacks to the original series and engaging shifts in status quo, so fans still have plenty of reason to hope that the best animated action show produced in America will continue to provide plenty of thrills, laughs, and giant robot goodness.