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Commentary TV and Movies

Voltron is the Netflix hidden gem you should be watching

Adults may dismiss Voltron as simply a kid's show. It's so much more.

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Voltron is back for its seventh season on August 10. 

Dreamworks

Voltron was one of the cornerstones of my childhood. I vividly remember feeling the rush of excitement as I watched the five colorful lions combine to form a giant evil-thwarting robot. It was footage the animators recycled over and over again to save time and money, yet it never got old.

So I felt a pang of dread after Netflix and Dreamworks announced Voltron: Legendary Defender back in 2016. We've had plenty of reboots, and few are actually worth watching. Do you remember the remake of Melrose Place or Charlie's Angels? Yeah, me neither.

But then I watched the show.

The new Voltron took the core of the original show and elevated it with rich characters, an epic story arc and complex villains. Despite the weightier material, it never stopped being a show that mixed in silly humor that appeals to kids. The fact that Voltron on the surface seems like a childish cartoon makes it easily skipable.

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The five Lions take to the stars. 

Dreamworks

It's worth a shot. While kids may know of the show -- I see those little toy lions on a frequent-enough basis -- adults will get a lot out of it too. It's a show I recommend to my friends, often eliciting eye rolls or blank stares. It's also the show I'm most excited to rewatch with my two-year-old son. Well, once he gets a little bigger.

Executive producers Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery and a few of the voice actors held a panel at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday, dropping some big revelations. They aired the first episode of the upcoming seventh season, confirming that lead character is gay, a moment that drew vocal cheers from the crowd. DeSantos also said that the show would end later this year with its eighth season.

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If you're still not on board, here's Dos Santos' pitch: "Four teens and one adult brought into an intergalactic conflict that will see them grow and evole and mature throughout the series in very dramatic, emotional and comedic ways.

"And crazy aliens."

Need a few more reasons? Here's why you need to tune into Voltron.  

Message of inclusion

The reboot drew some early criticism that the show didn't do enough to diversify its five pilots (known in the show as Paladins). But as the show has progressed over the last two years, it's clear that those concerns were unfounded. There's a nice season one twist that plays off your expectations of the original series that directly addresses.

Confirming that the leader of the Paladins, Shiro, is gay is the latest and strongest example of Voltron's commitment to inclusion.

"Obviously, it's a big deal," Montgomery said. "It's something that is not always done out of certain fears and acceptance in certain areas."

Beyond the pilots themselves, the show has consistently pushed the idea of different alien specifics working together and utilizing their respective strengths to overcome obstacle. It's a theme anyone can get behind.

Giant robot action

Okay, so this first reason is for all the kids and kids at heart out there. Who doesn't love a giant robot swooping in to save the day? But unlike the original show, which often featured Voltron vanquishing a different monster each episode, the showrunners have smartly changed up the kinds of entanglements it gets into.

While they do keep the same trademark transformation scene, there's a lot less repetition.

Epic world building

Voltron goes well beyond the original in setting up a massive backdrop of different races, conflicts and history spanning 10,000 years. None of it feels tacked on, with information organically introduced over time.

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The Paladins and their allies are preparing to return to Earth in the latest season. 

Dreamworks

But as you progress through the show, you learn more about the Alteans, who built Voltron, as well as the Galra, the show's antagonistic race. By the fifth season, the intergalactic war spans multiple races and battlefronts.

Setups and payoffs

Voltron isn't afraid to set things up that pay off far down the line. Dos Santos and Montgomery said the show was conceived as a complete story, which is why it will end with the eighth season. Elements like Pidge's lost brother and father, Keith's heritage and Haggar's true identity saw little breadcrumbs throughout the early seasons, only to have dramatic payoffs down the line.

Focus on the characters

Despite the epic storyline, Voltron pays close attention to the characters and their relationships with each other.

"Not every character has the same arc," Montgomery said. "Not every character can be handled the same way."

Indeed, each character has their own distinctive personalities that serve to fuel their own growth in a way that seems natural.

Silly humor that somehow works

There's an episode based in a Space Mall (yes, that's a thing), when the team finds itself in the crosshairs of the mall cops. The ensuring chase features the team riding a bored-looking cow soaring in the air on a hoverboard as the theme from Chariots of Fire plays.

It's madness. Yet it's amazing.

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Rhys Darby, who voices the character Coran on Voltron, is a fan favorite since he's typically a go-to source for humor. 

Dreamworks

"It's a show that has a giant robot that's made of lions that form together," Dos Santo said. "It's a ridiculous concept, and we have to embrace that."

The humor isn't just for the kids, Montgomery said, noting that it's a way to show the various connections between the characters. Also, it'd be boring if they were all just stoic heroes.

"We just created a world where the ridiculous can harmonize with the incredibly dramatic," Dos Santo said.

Voltron's seventh season will air on Aug. 10 on Netflix. 

First published July 23 at 5 a.m. PT.
Correction at 10:50 a.m. PT: The original story misspelled Joaquim Dos Santos' first name.

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