***There may be SPOILERS for Season 1 of Voltron: Legendary Defender ahead.***
As part of their ongoing effort to pull crazy stunts that normal television simply cannot, Netflix recently revived the 80s classic Voltron and gave the show an animation budget big enough to purchase Texas. The result wasn’t quite a deep, emotional exploration of the human soul and triumph through adversity – if that’s what you’re after, then that’s The Walking Dead down the hall – but instead a stunning piece of animation with all the space battles and combining-mecha sequences you could hope for.
Naturally, the one season of Voltron: Legendary Defender we’ve seen so far has plenty of awesome moments. Here are ten of the best.
10. The First Voltron Formation
Just to spear the low-hanging fruit first, one of the greatest moments in the entire series has to be the first formation of Voltron. The animators were clearly aware that this was kind of a big moment, as well as a bit of stock footage that would be rolled out on an almost episodic basis, so they poured a good chunk of effort into showing just how incredible and intricate a combining mecha can be.
It helped that the team was in dire straits, with a Galra ship looming over the Castle of Lions about to end the series before it even began. Then the lions start to glow, the team finds themselves working in perfect sync and the formation starts up, ending with the most powerful weapon ever created standing ready to kick all of the PG-13 butt. Voltron’s first official battle of the series has the team utterly annihilating a Galra warship by way of ripping off its cannon, annihilating its insides with laser blasts and finally ramming straight through the ship, accompanied by a dramatic five-way split-screen. Get used to those, because they’ll be showing up a lot.
9. The Blue Lion vs the Galra Ship
“Be careful, man! This isn’t a simulator!”
“Oh, that’s good, I always wreck the simulator…”
It’s a short scene, but it really hammered home the power of these weapons that are now going to be controlled by a bunch of novices. After Lance bonds with the blue lion, it whisks them all off into space where a Galra ship is waiting. This ship is about fifty times the size of the lion, but it doesn’t matter as Lance gains some degree of control, unleashing powerful bursts of laser fire that decimate the enemy vessel.
Taking advantage of its small size, the lion manages to land on the shop and tear into it as if it were one giant, metal gazelle, once again blowing up a large section as if the ship were made of dynamite. This is something else to get used to, but the scene shows the viewers in no uncertain terms that the lions are truly incredible machines capable of taking down an empire if used right. And then, it was also enough to show us both the animation skill and budget.
8. Shiro Goes Into Warrior Mode
Again, this one is a pretty short scene, but it has no less impact. Shiro is consistently one of the show’s biggest mysteries, with us pretty much never finding out exactly what went down while he was a prisoner of the Galra – at least, not yet. What we do know is that his fellow prisoners regarded him as a champion, and his captors wanted to use him as a weapon.
It’s all up in the air, but on a rescue mission inside a Galra cruiser, we see exactly why Shiro gained his reputation. Set upon by armed robot guards, he starts to convulse as his hand glows purple, a hallmark of Galra technology. We then get the pleasure of seeing Shiro go into full warrior mode, deflecting laser blasts with his glowy purple hand, slicing through solid metal and punching through robot torsos hard enough that they explode. It comes completely out of nowhere and shows us exactly why Shiro is the leader of the team, even though he isn’t even aware of how he’d even doing these things. The plot thickens when the cluster of aliens he and Pidge saved refer to him by name, and as a champion. What exactly went down in those gladiator arenas? Stay tuned…until season 2 at least, probably.
7. Keith vs the Galra Priest
Voltron has always been touch-and-go on the subject of actual magic, but it does have technology so advanced that it might as well be. The Galra Priests are shown to be able to draw Quintessence from a planet, an energy source greater than any in the known universe. This is just great for when it comes to powering ships and weapons, but it goes deeper when Keith finds himself in a pitched battle against one of the priests and we see first-hand their abilities. Keith is completely unable to land a single hit on his opponent, who uses a combination of teleportation, energy shields and destructive purple lightning to smack the young paladin around like a ragdoll.
It’s an unexpected and fantastical display of power in a show that- up to that point- had mostly been about lion robots and flying castles. So okay, maybe it’s not completely out of left field, but the scene definitely drives home the sinister power of Galra technology in that it can literally make someone appear to have OP magical abilities. Plus it was nice to see Keith on the back foot for a change.
6. Voltron Takes Down the Gladiator
The Gladiator was your typical video game boss: invincible except for a very brief window where it has to recharge. Just the fact that Shiro was able to kill one of these things with only his wits and a rusty sword was incredible enough, but the enormous and upgraded version was proving to be more than a match even for Voltron.
Even with Shiro’s memories of the gladiator battle returning, Voltron wasn’t able to damage its enemy- at least, not with its fists. Cue the moment that’s practically compulsory in every piece of media featuring a giant mecha: when they get the big sword. In this case, it was the first time anyone figured out that their bayards could be used in conjunction with their giant robot, with Keith using his to give Voltron a massive energy sword. Thus armed, the team were able to make quick work of the Gladiator, slicing it right down the middle and ending in a post-battle pose while the thing exploded behind them. And of course, they don’t look at the explosion.
5. Pidge Fights Her Way Through the Castle
More of a collection of moments, but “Fall of the Castle of the Lions” has Pidge trapped inside the castle while Shiro and Keith have been captured. For someone who was just about to leave the team, Pidge steps up surprisingly well and pretty much saves the day all by herself; this involves shutting down a reactor with all the instructions in Altean, running a gauntlet of security robots, outsmarting said robots using the Castle’s training programs and taking on a veteran Galra soldier with only the resident cute helper drone as an ally.
She eventually manages to find her way to the main control room, throwing herself into the fight alongside her fellow paladins and destroying Sendak’s weapon, allowing him to finally be defeated and the castle to be liberated. The other paladins have their moments to shine, but Pidge’s combination of skills and guts gives her two straight episodes filled with nothing but awesome moments.
4. Allura Heals the Balmera
The entire climax of “Rebirth” could qualify as an epic moment, or at least a decent collection: Allura’s speech to the downtrodden Balmerans, Hunk using his bayard to turn Voltron into a laser dakka machine and the Balmera itself crystallizing the monster into an interesting art piece to finish off the battle. However, one of the crowning moments is one that shifts the focus away from the titanic battle for a few moments and onto the princess of Altera.
Despite not forming part of Voltron (not yet, at least), Allura is never shown to be anything other than an invaluable asset to the team, often taking a leadership role and competently piloting their humongous castle ship. Basically, she’s far from the designated girly-girl.
As if all this wasn’t enough, this episode has her using her Alteran heritage to connect with the planet-creature Balmera and perform a ritual to heal the planet from all that harmful mining. Previously only attempted by her father on a small scale, Allura chooses to disregard all of that and heal the entire creature in one fell swoop, despite the chances that it could drain all her Quintessence and kill her. The result is a massive healing wave sweeping across the vast expanse, leaving the princess severely weakened but revitalizing the entire planet- which then allows it to crystallize the monster, save everyone from certain death and give an entire race of people a new start.
3. Allura Deletes Her Father’s AI
In a slightly sinister episode featuring minimal robot action (and no Voltron), Allura makes a heart-rending sacrifice that saves the entire ship. ‘Malfunctioning ship on a crash course with a sun’ isn’t exactly the most original plot in all of sci-fi, but the root cause of the problem stands out as far more unique: their Galra prisoner has become a ghost in the system, trying his best to suck people out of airlocks and murder them with training robots.
This in turn has caused the AI of Allura’s father to go full-HAL, hence the ship careening into the heart of a star. The only way out is for Allura to delete all of her father’s stored memories, which would erase him from the system and mean she could never talk to him again. Despite the literal image of her dead dad urging her not to do it, Allura still finds the strength to delete the memories, embracing the hologram one last time as he shatters and fades away. It’s one of the few resolutions not solved by Voltron punching/stabbing/shooting something to death, and for a show that doesn’t often delve into emotional nuance, it’s really a bittersweet moment that highlights both Allura’s loss and strength of character.
2. Voltron vs the Galra Fleet
In case you were wondering if they blew all the budget on the rest of the extremely expensive fights throughout the season…no. They did not do that. The finale is practically one long fight scene, and animators obviously threw everything they had into making it as visually-stunning as possible.
Voltron itself doesn’t get much screen-time, but it makes up for it by charging straight at the Galra fleet head on. All throughout the season, the team had faced either single ships or enemies that were a match for Voltron, making all this ‘strongest warrior in the universe’ business seem like overblown gossip. Then we actually see Voltron pitted against an entire fleet surrounding Zargon’s main ship, and it becomes pretty obvious why all the villains want this thing so badly. We also get to see how the team have learned to use the tools they have, as we witness Voltron go from punching a ship to slicing along the edge with its sword, jousting its way through three ships in a row and causing a triple explosion. Then we kick things up a notch with the shoulder cannon, which takes out a handful of ships in a glorious conflagration of destruction. Aren’t explosions in space impossible? How do the lasers twist and turn like that? Doesn’t matter, nobody cares, rule of cool.
1. Keith and the Red Lion vs Zarkon
Keith may have received a demotion in this series down to red lion, but he proves himself multiple times as one of the team’s best fighters and still capable of being a leader. It’s perhaps a bit of a bone toss to the older crowd that the finale has him taking on Zarkon himself, the true main bad guy who apparently earned his position by being absolutely, terrifyingly powerful.
The lions have shown themselves easily capable of taking down huge warships and are pretty much unmatched except against Voltron-level giant robots. Then Zarkon just casually strolls out into space, probably royally ticked off that Keith interrupted him in the process of stealing back the black lion but not showing it. Keith takes his chance to end the Galra Empire once and for all, while Zarkon shows himself to be all but invincible, transforming his own bayard into an indestructible shield, an energy-blasting sword and an impractically-large blaster cannon that scythes off a portion of his own warship.
Keith manages to fight back with the new discovery of a transforming wave-motion gun that pushes Zarkon back, but not for long. The emperor uses an oversized mace to smack the red lion right back down, forcing him to retreat and ending the fight. It’s both the first time we see a lion taken down by a human-sized opponent and the Zarkon’s first fight. He definitely makes a good first impression.
Any more awesome moments that belong on the list? Let us know in the comments!