The first half of Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3 deals with rebuilding the team and reforming Votron, all the while a new adversary schemes.
Warning: SPOILERS for Voltron: Legendary Defender season 3 ahead!
Voltron: Legendary Defender has been a big success, captivating fans both new and old with its version of Voltron defending the universe from the Galra Empire. Not at all a continuation of the classic 1980s cartoon but more of a straight reboot, Legendary Defender manages to update the source material while staying true to its roots, weaving the Voltron saga in with the more personal hurdles each Paladin must face.
And after two seasons, there have been more than few hurdles: the team as a whole has had to come together and learned to fight as one as each Paladin also learned to truly bond with their Lion in order to unlock its full potential. Learning to form Voltron was only ever one step, to really cut it as the legendary defender, everyone - not just the Paladins, but Princess Allura and Coran, too - had to learn trust in each other and their abilities.
Now, in the aftermath of the season 2 finale, Team Volton will basically need to do that all over again. With Shiro's abrupt and unexplained disappearance, season 3 is very much a period of adjustment. And not just to being down one Paladin, but to being faced with a whole new kind of villain.
Episode 1 - Changing of the Guard
With Zarkon's defeat, planets across the universe are beginning to fight back and declare their independence. There to help them, as always, are the Paladins of Voltron, pushing back against the forces of the Galra Empire. What's not been there, however, is Voltron. The giant robot hasn't appeared anywhere since its battle with Zarkon, and those civilizations that have placed all their hopes in Voltron to keep them safe and defended are beginning to take notice.
The growing questions about Voltron's absence aren't lost on the Paladins or Allura, but to them it's so much bigger than losing Voltron - they've lost their team leader and friend, Shiro. And his absence even more so than Voltron's weighs heavily over this first episode, affecting each character and influencing how they're reacting to the growing rebellion and their responsibility to it. For Keith, it's even more than losing a friend and mentor, it's a realization that his time to lead the team has come much sooner than he expected. Unsurprisingly, he isn't handling it well, acting more distant than usual and becoming hostile whenever someone suggests finding a new pilot for the Black Lion. And while Keith's becoming the leader has been telegraphed for some time - not to mention it's how it plays out in the original cartoon - having him grapple with that responsibility is a necessary step in his journey, requiring him to accept the role rather than it being simply thrust upon him.
Not all of 'Changing the Guard' is filled with such heavy contemplation, however, and the lighthearted spirit fans love about the show and its characters remains. Coran has a great bit about what percentage hors d'oeuvres play in diplomacy, Lance and Hunk show off what skilled pilots they've become when helping to free the planet Puiga, and the later dinner scene, though emblematic of the struggles their growing alliance will face, still includes some funny moments to cut the tension. ("I'll have a pizza roll.")
This beginning to season 3 is all about change and how its characters react to it, and nowhere is there a bigger change than with the introduction of a new villain. Longtime Voltron fans have been waiting for Prince Lotor to appear, and hopefully, they aren't disappointed because his arrival signals a real shake-up in how the show will operate. Where Zarkon - who isn't necessarily gone, but severely injured enough that he isn't in any position to lead let alone antagonize - was hell-bent on capturing Voltron, Lotor has a more insidious agenda. He's pleasant, charming, and understands that by assimilating your enemies rather than destroying them, it's easier to hold on to power. It's a vastly different strategy and one that Team Voltron may not be equipped to counter.