SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read this until you’ve finished all of Voltron: Legendary Defenders season 2 lest the Galran empire sense and come after you.
Voltron: Legendary Defender season 2 has finally touched down on Netflix, bringing viewers equal parts joy and angst as all the heroes jump back in action to once again to go up against Zarkon and the Galran Empire.
The season kicked off with the reveal that Shiro had indeed survived. As Voltron’s Paladins’ once again reunited they quickly discovered the Blade of Marmora, a group of Galran rebels who’d been working within the Empire — with one specific member directly under Zarkon — granting them new allies in their battle against the evil ruler. But as the team formulated and carried out their new plan to take the head of the Galran Empire, Zarkon surprised them with the fact that he had a robot of his very own. After an intense battle that saw Shiro, Keith, Lance, Pidge, and Hunk finally take him out, viewers learned that not all the Paladins had made it back to the Castle Ship and that the fate of Shiro (who’s now gone missing sans his newly retrieved bayard) once again hangs in the balance.
Elsewhere in the season Keith discovers he’s part Galra, and Allura finds that not only does she have magical abilities, but that Haggar is Altean.
With so much happening in the span of 13 episodes, EW once again caught up with EPs Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery to discuss all the big goings-on of the season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Once again Shiro’s fate is left unanswered. What can you tease about what’s coming up for him?
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: We’re not really sure, and the team is not really sure what happened to him. Nobody necessarily saw him get ejected. But they know he’s not in the Black Lion. So where did he go? That would be a big question moving forward: Where’s their buddy?
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: We intentionally did a misdirect with some of the press leading up to the season, teasing that Shiro might not have made it through the encounter at the end of season 1. And then we pulled that back and showed that he would be there. But ultimately, his future is in question. It just wasn’t in question then.
We learn that Zarkon has his own Voltron-like robot. Considering how powerful it is, what made him still so obsessed with getting back the Black Lion?
DOS SANTOS: Ultimately that it wasn’t Voltron. As you can see even from when Haggar was pleading with him, [when] it hadn’t been tested yet, and hadn’t really lived up to any of the stuff. Voltron had already been put through its paces and proved to be the most powerful thing in the universe.
MONTGOMERY: There’s more that we hope to tell about Voltron that we’ll deep dive into: what Voltron is, and why nothing that Zarkon can create will match up. Because as we’ve seen, it’s an incredible balance of magic and technology and it evolves with the characters. Whereas Zarkon may have been able to make a really powerful robot, but it’s never going to have that ability to think on its own like the lions do.
DOS SANTOS: It’s almost like he and the Galra are forcing it.
You mentioned magic, and we see that Allura discovers these abilities in the finale. What made this the right time for her to tap into those abilities?
DOS SANTOS: We always knew that she was going to be the character that evolved and grew more powerful. With streaming and Netflix, we’re allowed to do a slow burn on some of these character arcs, which is nice because it doesn’t feel forced.
MONTGOMERY: One of the reasons why we wanted to give Allura that magical ability is because her people really tie into the creation of Voltron and that combination of science and magic. Even the Castle Ship has some abilities that seem really magical. But also the fact that we didn’t necessarily want her to be this warrior princess from Day 1, where she was just out of her 1000-year sleep and she’s an expert martial artist. She had no reason to do that. So instead of just making her basically “Princess Batman,” we made her more like “Princess Superman” where she just has these abilities that are more innate to her people to allow her to be a little more powerful and allow her to contribute in that way.
DOS SANTOS: And the cool thing is that she’s discovering all this as we go along as well. While those abilities are innate to her, she doesn’t necessarily know how to wield them or just how powerful she is.
MONTGOMERY: It’s our way of trying to make her feel as real a version as an alien fictional character can feel. She needs a reason to step up and evolve into these things. It’s just taken a few episodes for her to get there. So we didn’t want to force it in any sort of unnatural way.
One of the other big things we learned this season is that Keith is of Galran descent. What made you want to explore that particular storyline this particular season?
DOS SANTOS: Interestingly that was a storyline we had come up with in one of the earliest versions of the pitch doc for Voltron.
MONTGOMERY: From Day 1 we knew that we wanted someone from this team to be tied into this thing in a way that they didn’t know. And giving Keith the backstory that we gave him, it seemed appropriate for him to be that guy.
DOS SANTOS: And it’s cool because from a character perspective we’re playing this version of Keith as way more prone to being emotional and having a temper. So that plays into that aspect of his character as well.
MONTGOMERY: But also something that we didn’t necessarily see upfront that we definitely realized through the show was that having that aspect of him allowed us to explore that aspect of Allura where she has this very black-and-white view of the Galra, and what’s good and what’s bad. In finding out that this trusted Paladin is of Galran descent, the fact that a Lion in this day and age would choose someone Galra versus back when the Black Lion chose Zarkon, it was probably a very different time. Zarkon was probably a very different guy. So she has to face one of her personal issues and overcome that. That was just a beautiful thing that came about because of it and really evolved both their characters in a certain way.
NEXT: The Blade of Marmora, Prince Lotor, and that fart joke
This season also digs into the Galrans a little bit more with the Blade of Marmora. How did you decide this was something you wanted to do in season 2?
DOS SANTOS: It just felt appropriate. It’s something that we’ve planted pretty early on. Even the knife that Keith uses to break Shiro free from his straps, it’s wrapped up for a reason. Planting those little visual cues is something that we had in mind from Day 1.
MONTGOMERY: And the fact that we’ve worked on shows that have such deep lore to their worlds, it just seemed like the right way to go. We knew we were starting out with a story that had a bad guy and this bad Galra empire and it seemed very black and white at first. We had to establish that these guys are bad, these guys are good, and you set that pace. Now that that pace has been set, we can now dive a little deeper into the world and show that “Oh wait, not all of them are bad. Everything is gray.” That’s the crazy thing about making a show feel real and deep. Everyone has their motivation and that has to seem real to them whether they’re right or wrong to us. So just showing that not everyone supports Zarkon and is on his side just adds to the depth and hopefully makes it a more interesting world to dive into.
DOS SANTOS: For us, it was a pretty big revelation in the room that the Galran people at one point may not have been evil, and were a thriving race that did good throughout the galaxy. But at some point things pivoted and went sour, and as a result, you got a rift. It just paints a much deeper canvas for us to play in.
And it’s interesting because we discover that Haggar is Altean which seems like a flip of that because now they’re capable of evil.
DOS SANTOS: Right! Evil and corruptible.
MONTGOMERY: Again, it super huge to Alurra. She’s learned in this season, there’s plenty of Galra that are good and are fighting against Zarkon, [and] one of the worst people in the universe is Altean. So it’s a complete revelation for her, but ultimately it helps her grow. And it shows just how far back and how intertwined the histories of the Galra and the Alteans are because we’ve painted this picture of Alfor versus Zarkon, but it wasn’t always the case… Maybe in the future we’ll get to see how Haggar and Zarkon met and how did she come to want to support this character that’s basically destroyed her whole planet. It just opens up more questions that I hope people will want to see the answers to.
DOS SANTOS: That’s the thing for us. Not that these secondary characters were throwaways in the originals, but they were pretty standard, moustache-twirling bad guys. We’ve gone to depths to try and make every character interesting, and every backstory explorable and something the audience will want to sink their teeth into.
You also have a great fart joke this season with Hunk trying to escape the belly of the weblum. Did that come about as you were developing the script and realized this would be a great time to make a fart joke?
DOS SANTOS: As we were coming up with a plot device for how Hunk was going to get out of there, somebody at some point said, “It’s just farting.”
MONTGOMERY: [Laughs.] He was going to get himself out of there and it was going to happen one way or another. And if you could add a little bit of fun to it, why not?
DOS SANTOS: And the fact that Hunk as a character would realize that and laugh at it while his life was in danger? That’s just funny.
MONTGOMERY: He and Lance would really appreciate that fart joke.
The season ends referencing Prince Lotor. What can you tease about him?
MONTGOMERY: We definitely want to bring him into this world. He’s one of those characters that we always enjoyed in the original series. There were aspects of him that seemed almost honorable at times, and others where he was a super creeper. But when he first shows up in GoLion, he shows up and challenges Keith to a duel. And it seemed like this crazy thing. This guy having so much confidence, just coming up and not even outright attacking and saying, “Let’s settle this like men.” It was an interesting dynamic that was so different from Zarkon.
DOS SANTOS: Lotor is the character we’ve been most asked about. It’s fun to be able to let people know that he will be doing cool stuff in the world and that he exists. He’s definitely not his dad… The hot shot prince who shows up and he’s filling in for his dad, who’s on his deathbed at this point is just a cool character to have.
Obviously, a lot of viewers do ‘ship characters within the show. But in two seasons you haven’t really touched on romance. Is that intentional or is it just that these characters don’t have time, with the Galrans always about to attack?
DOS SANTOS: We don’t really shy away from it necessarily. We’re not against it. But there’s business at hand that they have to attend to. When you really think about it, they’re on a ship with each other, but they haven’t really had time to do a ton of socializing and really get to know each other. Our relationships build just like our backstories do. We like to let it happen over time.
MONTGOMERY: Ultimately the big thing is, these characters have a lot on their plate and had we had a situation where the world was not at stake and they were just allowed to hang out more, we would have gone more heavily into that romance realm. But right now anyone in that situation would be like, “All right, maybe my personal love life’s going to be on the backburner. This thing is pretty important.” That’s how we treat the characters and how we feel that they would actually react in that situation.
At the end, the Paladins do have a win against Zarkon, but also a loss in terms of Shiro’s disappearance. How do you decide when to give them a win?
DOS SANTOS: We’ve had, like, a mandate that we wanted the bad guys to feel like a genuine threat from the beginning. We wanted to make sure it was a legitimate threat and that our guys weren’t always going to get out of situations unscathed. There was always going to be consequences. That was our overall mandate when dealing with the interactions with the bad guys.
MONTGOMERY: The Galra Empire needs to feel super large and super powerful. So even if it seems like they’ve won, you can take out Zarkon, but that doesn’t mean that everyone that’s under his rule is going to step down. So even if they do seem like they’ve had a win, there’s still so much out there to do.
DOS SANTOS: There’s an entire 10,000 years of oppression [to deal with].
MONTGOMERY: It really does come down to the stakes of the world that you’re trying to build. And we’re trying to build an extremely daunting task for these characters. So there’s never going to be an ultimate win maybe until the show is over, and even then who knows if it’ll be a perfectly happy ending or bittersweet. As long as there are always bad people in the world, there’s always work to be done.
DOS SANTOS: The most important thing for us is that there’s character resolution. It’s more about seeing how individual character arcs come to an end or wrap up or move forward into their next evolution.
Voltron: Legendary Defender season 2 is currently available to stream on Netflix.