Voltron: Legendary Defender (VLD) took the internet by storm in the summer of 2016. It felt like it came out of nowhere and then suddenly, it was everywhere. Gaining critical acclaim and brandishing some beautiful animation, it revitalized the franchise for a new generation and gave way to quality Netflix animated shows.
With 76 episodes in all, the show is bound to have some lackluster moments. But overall, the quality stayed consistently good and it’s hard to narrow down the best of the best. After careful consideration, here are the 10 best episodes of Voltron: Legendary Defender.
10 The Black Paladin (Season 1, Episode 11)
Voltron’s first season finale left little to be desired. Season 1 played out at a much slower pace and the 90-minute long intro makes for a somewhat tough entry into the show. But “The Black Paladin” contains the show’s first major plot twist, left us with a massive cliffhanger after really getting to love these characters, and spurred interest in the original series (if only so we could predict Shiro’s fate).
It was such a strong finale, it drew the rest of us into the next season right away. We’ll give props to the entire first season as well. It’s rare for a show to have such a good first season and such likeable, relatable characters that early on.
9 Defender of All Universes (Season 6, Episode 7)
Season 6 brought a massive conclusion to the Lotor arc and wow, we needed it. Lotor’s character kept shifting between “ok, maybe he’s a good guy,” to “wow, he’s the scum of the universe.” Having that character dichotomy gave a new depth to the story and its characters, showing us that super charismatic people can be the most dangerous, but also the potential reasons why they act the way they do.
Again, the payoffs in this season finale were stellar. Seeing Lotor’s descent into madness, along with watching another superpowered giant mecha fight, was truly an experience. But more impressively, got us really excited to go home to Earth.
8 The Legend Begins (Season 3, Episode 7)
One of the biggest mysteries of the series revolves around where the lions come from and what makes them so special. The answer was underwhelming for a lot of fans, but nobody can really complain about the flashback episodes detailing the rise and fall of the first paladins and Zarkon’s descent into madness.
We see parallels between the old Paladins and the ones who took up the mantel. This episode also helps renew the efforts of the Voltron Alliance and gives importance to those that don’t make up the giant mystical robot. Every Paladin came from a different civilization and expanded the universe in a way that still felt familiar.
7 Blood Duel (Season 5, Episode 2)
If you needed a demonstration of power and family heartbreak, it’s here. We finally get to see Sam Holt alive and well-ish (as well as he can be, all things considered) and the Holt family finally together again. As a clever juxtaposition, Zarkon’s falls apart. The flashback sequences work far better than we should, considering that most of us assumed Lotor was half-Altean and half-Galra, but seeing Honerva return for even a moment just hurts.
But the major props go to the fight scene between Zarkon and Lotor. There’s something more behind that battle while also somewhat tricking us into cheering for Lotor, despite everything he’s done. And Zarkon’s death does not disappoint. We’re sad he’s gone, but it was done so well that we can’t be that angry.
6 Razor’s Edge (Season 6, Episode 2)
Obviously, the most important part of this episode is the introduction of the space dog Cosmo, the bestest boy in the universe. That, and the interaction between Krolia and Keith. We needed those questions answered. The episode is well-paced and tends to tug at the heartstrings.
And the creative use of black holes is something to commend. While spending two years inside the quantum abyss, Krolia and Keith learn more about each others’ lives and kind of makeup for lost time. Overall, it’s a touching story with a twist ending, helping us lead up to some great finale payoff.
5 Blackout (Season 2, Episode 13)
If anything, this is truly the season finale that left everyone wanting more. The stakes were adequately upped from Season 1, including planting the seeds of the Voltron Alliance via the introduction of the Blade of Marmora. We also got some fantastic reveals, like Allura arguably being the most powerful character in the series, the Black Lion’s full wingspan, and of course, Shiro going missing.
The payoff of everyone’s efforts and the final battle itself are enough to earn this episode a spot on the list. And, if you were somewhat involved in the fandom at the time, it was something to appreciate and bond over.
4 The Black Paladins (Season 6, Episode 5)
Yeah, ok, only had to wait six seasons to see Shiro and Keith’s backstory play out. No big deal. As soon as you saw this episode’s title, you knew something was up. The show had been building up to this moment. Between Shiro’s erratic and out of character behavior, two Paladins for the Black Lion, and the fact that Keith is the team leader in the original series, we were all waiting for the fallout.
And wow, the fallout did not disappoint. Thanks to Keith being aged up a bit, he comes back to the team more mature and slightly less impulsive. The fight between Keith and Shiro hits you in the heart, now knowing that Shiro was a brother/stand-in father figure to Keith during his time at the Garrison.
3 Space Mall (Season 2, Episode 7)
Ok, nobody dislikes this episode. It’s too funny. The last thing any of us were expecting was a mall outing. Filled with visual gags, the Galra version of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and Coran being Coran, we could all find something to enjoy. It’s one of the best examples of the show, and characters, being goofy but also planting seeds for the plot. In fact, we get more information about Shiro’s connection with the Black Lion as well as Keith’s knife hinting towards the Blade of Marmora.
In early versions of the script, Shiro was supposed to be driving around the mall’s parking lot the entire episode. But Shiro can never catch a break, so instead, he got an astral projection throwdown with Zarkon.
The cow’s name is Kaltenecker.
2 Reunion (Season 4, Episode 2)
You have a heart of stone if this episode didn’t make you tear up at least a little bit. This is really where Pidge’s story finally gets its first resolution. After learning her brother was rescued from the Galra by a group of rebels, Pidge sets off on her own again to find him. And in the right way this time, in that she has an understanding of her place on the team and undertakes the journey during a lull in the action.
We get to see how much Pidge has changed, going out of her way to assist others within the Voltron Alliance along her way. But by far, the highlight of the episode is the graveyard scene. Everything down to the environment, the design reminiscent of military cemeteries, the sheer emotion in those few minutes - it’s perfect. And then we finally get to meet Matt, the biggest dork on the show.
1 Lions’ Pride, Part 2 (Season 7, Episode 13)
Finally, after teasing it since the beginning, the fight comes to Earth. Everything about this finale built up on aspects from past episodes, truly showing us how strong the bonds between the team are without alienating the new additions. We see how much the Paladins changed from Season 1, how much they rely on each other. Even with Shiro on the sidelines, he is still essential to Voltron’s overall victory.
This episode easily has the best fight scene in the entire show. Well, pretty much all of the episode is a fight, but are we really complaining with an all-out brawl between not two, but three giant space robots? Yes, please! The storytelling, the characters, the robots...it hits every sweet spot that makes Voltron an excellent, compelling reboot. We never stopped caring about these characters and seeing them almost fail but ultimately overcome and persevere? It was the dose of hope we all needed.