[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for Voltron: Legendary Defender season 2, episode 1.]
Netflix's Voltron: Legendary Defender was a fantastic revival in its first season, reinvigorating the property with a dose of humor and superbly animated action. The classic tale of five robot lions who join together to form a giant robot warrior was given a new lease on life, instantly becoming a hit with fans both new and old.
During its finale, the five Paladins of Voltron - Keith, pilot of the Red Lion, Lance, pilot of the Blue Lion, Hunk, Yellow Lion, Pidge, Green Lion, and their leader, Shiro in the Black Lion - engaged with Zarkon's forces directly and found themselves severely outmatched. Narrowly escaping capture, Team Voltron - along with Princess Allura and her advisor, Coran - were separated, scattered to different corners of the universe. The season 2 premiere, "Across the Universe", picks up directly where season 1 left off, revealing that Shiro and Keith have crashed landed on the same planet; Pidge is stranded in some weird trash nebula; inside the Castle of Lions (which doubles as a starship), Allura and Coran are trapped in a time loop; while the whereabouts of Lance and Hunk remain unknown. Within the Galra Empire, dissension is stirring and Zarkon suspects there are spies amidst his ranks.
From the get-go, Voltron: Legendary Defender season 2 makes sure to feature the series' hallmark comedy and action (elements which are heavily inspired by exec producers, Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery's previous work on series like The Legend of Korra). Though "Across the Universe" is limited in scope, dealing only with the immediate fallout of their fight with Zarkon, the premiere makes sure to remind viewers why it was they so enjoyed its first season: a heavy focus on characters and regular injections of humor and heart.
With two pilots M.I A., this episode zeroes in on core traits for Keith, Shiro, and Pidge, reminding us of their value to the team and each other. Shiro and Keith, especially, have their bond deepened and explored, and it's hard to ignore the heavy sense of foreshadowing around Keith's brief moment piloting the Black Lion. This even comes to a head in a later scene where Shiro outright tells Keith he wants him to lead Team Voltron were anything to happen to him - a scene that again just drips with foreboding as Shiro is still badly injured from his fight with Witch Hagar. Josh Keaton and Steven Yeun bring a lot of emotion to these brothers in arms, and it's their performances which sells the camaraderie and respect between their characters.
With Lance and Hunk absent, the real bulk of the laughs (of which there are many) come from Allura and Coran's repeated trips through the vortex; where with every subsequent trip, Coran gets younger and younger while Allura's tiny mice friends transform into one kind of creature then another. It's a ludicrous scenario that just keeps building and building until eventually, the Castle receives a transmission from Pidge - who had been cleverly devising her own way to relay a message - and are able to lock on, breaking free of the vortex's time loop. Allura's growing frustration at Coran's increasingly younger and more rebellious selves is great, but it's Coran's hilarious transformation, wildly animated and perfectly delivered by actor Rhys Darby, that makes these scenes such a hoot.
Starting off in media res, it's clear that season 1 and season 2 of Voltron: Legendary Defender are one big story, only carved in half to better suit the schedule for animation and release. Dos Santos and Montgomery even confirmed this ahead of the season 2, sharing that they've "known about season 2 for a long time" and to them the it "feels like a giant season." This certainly plays into the binging nature of consuming a Netflix series, but it will hopefully also help Voltron avoid becoming too stale or too wildly different in its second season.
The animation for Voltron: Legendary Defender remains just as crisp and fluid from one season to the next. There may not be a whole lot of action during "Across the Universe", but the episode more than makes up for that with the outbursts from Coran. The nebula Pidge arrives in is richly detailed and oddly beautiful, not to mention populated by adorable fuzzballs; the planet on which Shiro and Keith land is fittingly sparse and drab, matching the bleak outlook of their situation; and even with Allura's absurd scenario in the time loop, the Castle of Lions and the vortex are still beautifully rendered, merging 2D and 3D animation better than even some animated features.
Those who thoroughly enjoyed Voltron: Legendary Defender season 1 will find that its season 2 premiere promises only more of the same from its sophomore effort. There's more than enough reason to keep watching, even without the lingering question over Lance and Hunk's fates - though that is certainly the most pressing question to come out of its first episode. Just where season 2 goes from here isn't clear, but recalling the beating they took in the season 1 finale, it's obvious that simply reuniting Team Voltron won't be enough to defeat Zarkon.
Voltron: Legendary Defender season 2 is now available to stream on Netflix.