Voltron Analysis (but it mostly ended up being about Lance)
So I just got done kind of re-watching Voltron in preparation for season 3, and I’ve come away with a few notes on the matter -
One: I’m still annoyed with how Lance and Hunk were treated the whole of season 2, but mostly Lance because Hunk got some important character developement in season 1. And while this may seem like the age-old complaint that people have about season 2, I have a few more significant reasons I’d like to ponder which don’t include bashing on the characters that did get developement (because this seems to be a theme in the Voltron fandom–pitting characters (and none-existent ships) against one another. But, fyi, that’s not how writing works. Moving on). Mostly, I want to point out the fact that what little character development Lance has had, has been irrelevant to the larger plot. Hunk got some big character moments in season 1 with the Balmera, showing a significant arc during which he went from apprehensive to having a true investment in what Voltron was trying to do. Though he does not have the personal ties to the Galra and the conflict that Shiro, Keith, and Pidge do, he has developed his own reasons for being invested. Lance, on the other hand, has not. At the beginning of season 2, he got his own episode, but it was not handled with the grace or gravity of Hunk’s Balmera situation. People look at Hunk and assume he’s the comic relief character because of how he was treated in season 2, but Lance is even more so this character archetype. His whole episode in season 2 was irrelevant and did nothing to showcase him as a developing character, let alone even a likable character for anything outside his comedic timing. Rather, it was as though the whole episode was written as a way of saying “hey, this character(s) (Hunk included) aren’t going to get any attention this season, so here’s an episode about them that’s fun and has mermaids, but doesn’t impact the story or their characters, enjoy!” (which isn’t great writing, fyi).
Now, this could mean one of two things. Either they’re saving both Hunk and Lance’s characters for future development in later seasons (which we’ve been told is the case, but I don’t consider anything we’re told by the creators as credible. Not because I have anything against these creators, but because past experience with shows has taught me that nothing in trailers or that we’re told is to be taken seriously), or they don’t know how to write these characters in a way that revolves around the main conflict. Now, you may say “Skay, you’re being a bit harsh–these writers are professionals and they certainly know how to write characters into a story, c’mon now.” Well, that’s an optimistic viewpoint, but not always the case. As a writer myself, I will say that of all the characters that are difficult to make relevant to a main story, comedic characters are the most difficult. Keith and Shiro characters are easy to write–they’re dramatic, they have stories flowing out of them naturally. Lance and Hunk characters are not. You have to very consciously create stories around them. Sokka, for example, is a comedic character that was handled quite well (Avatar), while Bolin (Korra) was… not so much, not until they had to completely reinvent his situation to make him relevant again, but then Mako suffered as a character (like they couldn’t balance the characters appropriately).
My point is, we all look at Voltron and expect it to be as great at storytelling as Avatar, but the fact of the matter is that it’s already not. Now, some of you will say “well the seasons are short and they just don’t have enough time to focus on all the characters, they even said so!” Well, sorry to break it to you, but that’s not an excuse. Well-written movies can give you a plethora of characters and make them relevant, memorable, and able to tell their own important stories in only a few hours. There was no reason that season 2 of Voltron was written as one-sided as it was. And yes, it is a story-telling technique to focus on a few characters per installment, but not usually for a full season.
It would have been easy, in my opinion and from my own personal experience, to have written season 2 in a way that gave all the characters some development and still have told the story that they did. And so while this does not make the writers of Voltron “bad” writers (far from it), it does make me question the kind of faith I have in what they’re doing, unlike in Avatar where that was never an issue. While Voltron is not displaying the choppiness of a show like Korra, it is not at all close to the storytelling level of Avatar. And I’m not saying this because I don’t want anyone to not enjoy Voltron, but simply because this does make me somewhat apprehensive about Hunk and Lance.
I’m not as worried about Hunk because his development in season 1 will easily allow him to slip into a position of value in season 3 (or any season whenever they decide to use his character more effectively). Lance, on the other hand, has been almost completely static, aside from a few personal revelations. He stopped being quite as nasty to Keith, but that could have less to do with him being a better person and more due to the fact that he just didn’t have enough lines in season 2 to do it. And then there was, of course, the Slav episode where we learned that Lance isn’t, in fact, the arrogant ass he’s painted himself as, but actually someone who’s insecure and doubts his value. We’ve also had small snippets of Lance claiming that he’s going to cover/protect another character and generally failing, as well as the self-sacrificing moment with Coran and how worried he was about Keith during the Marmora trials. This gives us a few hints about his character, mostly that he feels inadequate and likely has a self-sacrificing streak should the oppurtunity arise/he not fail in the protecting he wants to accomplish.
These few moments that we get give me not “hope,” but the expectation that they have much more planned for his character. That, and the fact that unlike the other paladins, he was not given a summary of why he was valuable in episode one (when Allura explained why each paladin would pilot each lion). I would expect that this means his character is going to get a different kind of arc than we’ve seen. Keith and Shiro’s arcs have been connected to Galra via circumstance, and thus the conflict, in many ways. Hunk and Pidge have had deeply personal arcs that tied them to the conflict. And Allura has had both. And so when I look at Lance and what little has been done with him, yet how subtly his character has been outlined, I would expect that his arc will deal with him getting drawn into the conflict in a way that will make his relevance personal in a somewhat… backwards way than what we’ve seen. For example, all the paladins have had a personal reason that allowed their arcs to open up into the general conflict. Even Hunk–he visited the Balmera, saw what was happening, developed a personal connection, and used that as a reason to get involved in the conflict. Though the conflict was what inspired this personal involvement, it wasn’t the turning point. Whereas with Lance, I think it’s going to have to be the conflict coming in and forcing him to have a personal connection. Whether that conflict is the war itself or the other characters (I’m betting on the other characters, tbh, but this isn’t about my personal headcanons, so I won’t discuss those here).
BUT… while this is the best case scenario, I don’t exactly have complete faith in the writing team. While there are a plethora of ways to elevate the importance of Lance’s (and Hunk’s) character to the story, it comes down to a question of whether the people behind Voltron are willing to do it. We don’t know how long Voltron will be nor how pressured the writers are to get the story out. If their timetable is limited, the storylines that have already been deemed “The Important Shit” may override Hunk and Lance becoming true equals on the storytelling board with characters like Keith, Shiro, and Allura (Pidge is kinda in the middle). It is possible to write them to have just as big of arcs as Keith, Shiro, Allura, and Pidge (whose story is still in the potential stages). It’s just a question of whether they’ll do it or not, or if, instead, they’ll hand us very obvious development so they can “spell out literally” these characters in favor of focusing on characters like Keith and Allura. A kind of “telling” instead of “showing” deal, if you understand that metaphor. Which is why it is important that they should have developed Lance and Hunk on more equal terms in season 2, because ya never know how much time ya have (but I’ll stop complaining about that).
I mean, obviously we’ll have to wait and see (there’s nothing else to do), but… yeah, anyway, those were some thoughts I had watching season 2 on Lance.
Secondly: I have thoughts on Shiro and the black lion. Obviously we’ll see Shiro in season 3, but I find it very hard to believe that Keith will remain the pilot of the black lion for the entirety of the rest of the series (or at least while Zarkon is involved). Mostly due to the level of development Shiro has had with the black lion as well as the fact that he’s been framed as a foil to Zarkon. Of all the paladins, Shiro’s connection with the black lion has been framed the most fully and fleshed out. Some of the sheer imagery they use when he’s doing intense stuff shows a certain degree of permanence in his position, otherwise all the bonding he did and all that character development would have been pointless. And I don’t mean pointless in a way that implies Shiro shouldn’t have had that kind of development if he was eventually going to be replaced, but rather that the way that developement was shaped was in a way that would imply that he is the black paladin and that his position as such is vital to the story. Shiro has often mirrored Zarkon, and so if Zarkon is out of commission at the moment, it makes sense that Shiro would be as well (which also means that I’m assuming Keith will be a foil to Lotor). But I’m betting Shiro will return to being the black paladin. Especially since Keith’s connection with Red has also been blatantly highlighted. Of the paladins, these two have solidified their positions most securely in a symbolic and narrative sense.
Which does bring me back to Lance. There seems to be this headcanon in the fandom that Blue and Lance are super close, best buds forever, despite the fact that we’ve seen very little evidence of this. Lance claims this to be the truth, but Lance claims a lot of things to be true that could actually stem from insecurity or pettiness. And it’s already been made apparent that he fears someone else trying to steal his lion (Keith). I would bet that Lance’s bond with Blue is not nearly as strong as Keith’s with Red or Shiro’s with Black. Or even Pidge’s with Green. Though we don’t see Pidge interacting with Green the same way Keith does Red or Shiro Black, it is implied contextually that she spends a lot of time with Green. Of all the paladins, I’m betting that Lance and Hunk have the weakest bonds with their lions. Which means that Allura coming in and flying Blue might spell out an interesting development when, in my opinion, the pilots inevitably switch back.
I want Allura to be a paladin as much as everyone–the team needs more female representation. And while Lance is a good blue paladin, his attitude (at the moment) is more suited to Red (or an arm in general. After all, he’s always trying to show off in Blue and screwing things up, as if he doesn’t quite fit his position). But he’s not as suited to Red as Keith. I’m betting Lance will do very well in the red lion, and that Allura will, eventually, do well in Blue as she and Hunk share some similar traits in how they carry themselves, making them better “supports” for the team as a whole (unless Lance’s “understanding” nature (this is mostly a fandom headcanon, tbh), as has been hinted at, is more fully developed and showcased more often than with one conversation with Keith about Shiro disappearing).
So this is where the story could kind of go quite a few directions–Shiro doesn’t take back up the black lion (though that would seem odd given his development) and things remain with Keith as leader and Lance as his right-hand man/Shiro does return and because of her development elsewhere, Allura gives up her blue paladin position (I don’t see this happening? I hope not? Unless her magic powers story arc makes her a boss is a way that makes paladin stuff irrelevant to her narrative)/Shiro comes back to pilot black, Allura proves to have bonded more with Blue, and Lance gets ousted (either consciously or by accident or disappearing or dying)/they… share lions?
Lance being ousted, while it doesn’t tie in to the original 80s Voltron, would give his character some significance/oppurtunity in development. It would play on all his insecurities and “prove” (to him) that he really is as irrelevant to the team as he personally fears and, honestly, as the actual show itself has shown him to be to the audience. I don’t know what would happen after this–that’s too far ahead to ponder–but, if I was writing it, this is where I would put his character to get the most out of it. My opinion, obviously, isn’t the only one out there and I’m clearly missing pieces that would contradict all of this, but given how short the seasons are and how unbalanced season 2 was, this would make it easier to tell his story in the format they’re kind of going for.
But who knows. I could be wrong about everything (I usually am).