Warning! SPOILERS for Voltron: Legendary Defender season 5 ahead!
Voltron: Legendary Defender returns to Netflix with a brand new season that sees the Paladins of Voltron continue their fight to free the universe from Emperor Zarkon's stranglehold. Much has changed since their last battle with Zarkon: their coalition has grown as more planets are freed from the Galra Empire; Shiro is again piloting the Black Lion while Keith works with the Blades of Marmora; and Prince Lotor - Zarkon's son and Team Voltron's most recent adversary - is now their prisoner, held in a cell within the Castle of Lions.
Season 5 is a short season with only six episodes, but having fewer episodes doesn't hurt Voltron's momentum. This season continues to evolve the series in fascinating ways, providing some characters closure while teasing new arcs for others to explore. There is a lot of new information in these six episodes and the lore of Voltron is expanded on more than ever before. Voltron: Legendary Defender season 5 is a new chapter for the series with higher stakes and, in the end, even greater rewards.
Due to the length of this article - and to avoid spoilers for those not fully caught up - we've broken the review into three pages, with two per episode.
This Page: Voltron Season 4 Episodes 1 & 2
Episode 1 - The Prisoner
After ending season 4 with Lotor proposing an alliance with Team Voltron, season 5 finds the Paladins running missions off the intel he provides. They remain suspicious of their prisoner, and rightly so, but his help has led to many successful missions. Lotor's latest tip concerns the whereabouts of Pidge and Matt's father, Sam, sending them to a Galra prison with the hopes they'll finally reunite their family. Unfortunately, Lotor's former generals - Acza, Ezor, and Zethrid, now trying to get back in Zarkon's good graces - arrive first, and though Matt and Pidge are successful in freeing the other prisoners, their father is nowhere to be found.
Lotor as a potential ally is an idea that is explored throughout season 5, but in this first episode, it's still being met with suspicion - mostly from Allura. It's hard to fault her given the past, but Lotor is quick to call out her prejudice, asking to be "judged by my actions instead of your preconceived notions of my race." This isn't so unlike how Allura needed to be checked when she began treating Keith differently after learning he was part-Galra, and it's an interesting parallel for the show to make. This moment, along with Lotor's declaration that he is seeking a peaceful means to gather more Quintessence, makes it hard to disregard Lotor outright. It also creates a point of contention around whether Team Voltron should work with Lotor and risk being betrayed, or choose not to work with him and risk losing the war.
As a premiere, "The Prisoner" does well to establish the new status quo and lay the groundwork for the major ideas season 5 will explore. And in addition to the question of whether or not Lotor can be trusted, there's also an ongoing theme of family reunification. It's revealed in the episode's final moments that Zarkon has captured Sam and is proposing a trade for Lotor, teasing not only the family reunion Pidge and Matt so desperately want but an impending showdown between Zarkon and his son.
Episode 2 - Blood Duel
While "The Prisoner" was a fairly straightforward episode that outlined where season 5 will go, "Blood Duel" is where the action kicks into high gear. Not only that, but it's possibly the most cleverly plotted episode of Voltron to date, revealing as little as possible about what's really happening until absolutely necessary.
"Blood Duel" begins with the trade Zarkon put forward already in motion. Shiro, Pidge, and Matt escort Lotor to the agreed-upon meeting site, while everyone else remains behind in the castle, observing from above as Sam and Lotor slowly walk towards their waiting parties. Right from the start, the scene clues us in that something is about to happen with a few interestingly framed shots - like a dutch angle shot through Lotor's legs as he walks or a curious glance between him and Sam as they pass each other. This works really well to build up tension, as do the flashbacks which slowly explain how Team Voltron came to an agreement about how to approach this prisoner exchange.
Of course, Zarkon double-crosses them and the Sam he's trading is actually a hologram while the real Sam is still his prisoner. Pidge is furious, but before she or her brother can lash out, Lotor attacks! Everyone is caught unaware - everyone but Shiro, who along with Lotor, secretly planned for this eventuality by arming him with the black Bayard. What follows is without question one of the most thrilling and exciting fight scenes Voltron has ever produced, with Lotor and Zarkon engaging in a brutal duel while Shiro, Pidge, and Matt fight the remaining Galra. The duel between Lotor and Zarkon is intense as the two hold nothing back, letting the rage they feel towards each other power their attacks. Inside the fleeing ship where Sam is a prisoner, the fight is more chaotic and even a bit comedic; especially when the artificial gravity is switched off and characters are floating this way and that.
In the end, Sam is rescued and Zarkon is killed - at least, that's how it appears. The other Lions show up at the last minute to provide some cover fire for Lotor, and while Zarkon is distracted, he stabs his father through the chest. The final shot of the episode shows Zarkon's dead body as Lotor stands nearby, victorious in not only defeating his father but in securing the trust of his new allies. So, is Zarkon really dead? That's what "Blood Duel" wants us to believe, but then again, it could have been anyone inside that armor, so maybe it's wise to hold on to at least a little doubt.