Voltron: Legendary Defender season 4 left fans with plenty of new content to mull over. I got to ask executive producers Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos some of my biggest questions.
When Voltron’s fourth outing promised to send us on a rollercoaster of emotions from the get-go, it certainly delivered that on every front all the way through to its season finale. With an undetermined amount of time before the show returns once again to Netflix, and a rather hefty cliffhanger to consider in the meantime, I got to chat with Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos about what went down, and where the show is going next.
Of course, I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t talk about the catalyst of the premiere episode, an event that has certainly been building since Shiro’s dissapearance between seasons 2 and 3. Keith, assuming a shaky position of leadership, never wanted the role, and that ultimately culminated in Shiro taking up the mantle once more, whilst Keith departed full time for the Blade of Marmora.
Montgomery and Dos Santos have discussed Lance’s insecurities with me previously, but what I wanted to know was if this was a journey that they’d always planned for Keith. Or was it something that developed as they discovered Keith’s deep-seated insecurities about his leadership abilities.
“I think it’s kind of a two-fold answer,” Dos Santos answered. “From a character perspective it makes a ton of sense. I think we always knew that it was a possibility from a character perspective that that would be something that might happen. I think as you write a story, as you craft a story, you have to make some revisions along the way. We had things happening in different places over the course of the first few drafts, and Keith dealing with this was something that was always on the plate. I don’t know that it was necessarily going to happen at this point, from the very first draft, but it evolved and it made sense for us to move it to this point. We’ve just always known that Keith was apt for that type of behavior or that type of story progression.”
As Keith continues to head out on missions with the Blade, there was a real contrast between the Blade’s single-minded completion of the mission above all else, and Keith’s desire to see everyone make it home — to the detriment of his own safety. That came to head in a near-deadly way as Keith was seconds away from crashing his ship into a Galra cruiser, in order to guarantee the lives of Team Voltron and the rest of the coalition.
But, I was curious, how did Dos Santos and Montgomery forsee that that almost suicide mission might affect not only Keith, moving forward, but the wider Voltron team should they discover what he was willing to do to save them?
Dos Santos was quick off the mark with his answer. “I think it was our way of initially showing that Keith really is, other than him being human colored on one side and purple on the other, struggling with this clash of cultures within himself. There are two very different ways about achieving goals on a mission. The way the Blade of Marmora works, it’s all about the mission, there’s a much bigger picture at hand. And Voltron, which is all about them propping up the rest of team. Essentially it’s the same thing, they just go about it with very different methods.”
He continued, “So I think that’s the really cool and interesting thing with Keith’s character right now, is that he’s sort of displaying sides of both those team dynamics. And how that shakes out is, I think, going to be the really interesting part of his character arc. Where he eventually lands, what conclusions he comes to. So, I don’t know. I don’t know that Matt didn’t immediately get on the phone with Pidge and was like, ‘Pidge, you’re not gonna believe what Keith just tried to pull off.’ But yeah, I think that single ramification of Keith’s internal clash of cultures is going to be the interesting thing to let play out over the course of the next portion of the story.”
Of course, while we were talking about the Galra, I had to mention the return of Matt Holt — a storyline that has been four seasons in the making. Much has been made of the Pidge and Matt reunion, and rightfully so, but I wanted to take a different angle. Shiro and Matt have a fairly unique connection via their shared experiences. But also, there’s the possibility that Matt might know more about Shiro’s missing Galra years in captivity than anyone else — so was that about to rear its head?
“I think Matt is kind of just at the same disadvantage that anyone is when they’re a prisoner of the Galra. He’s been out with the rebels for a while now but I think he probably, honestly, at that point just thought Shiro was dead,” Montgomery said, putting to rest the idea that Matt might have any intelligence on the truth about what happened to Shiro.
She continued, “He was like, ‘this guy saved me. He hurt my leg to get me out of there and then he went out and he died in that arena.’ And so that’s why I think it was such a warm welcome when he saw Shiro, because he was like, ‘oh my god, this guy is still alive. This guy who saved me.’ But, beyond that, he was just sent to a prison and then he was gotten out by the rebels. And I think he’s just been working towards that same goal that the rebels have been working towards, which is just ending this war and possibly finding his dad. He probably wasn’t looking for Shiro. He probably thought Shiro had died in that arena. So he had no idea. I think he was not as privy to the Galra knowledge as you might think he was. He wasn’t hearing stuff through the pipeline of like, ‘oh, this guy, he’s beaten all the people, he’s a gladiator.’ I think that stuff didn’t really get back to him.”
Dos Santos jumped back in, adding the possibility for expanding those reunion scenes in a physical format. “I will say though, that if ever there was a comic book about the conversation between Pidge and Matt on the ride to go see the rest of the team, Pidge can fill him in on all of what happened with Shiro. There was definitely a big info dump there that we didn’t see on screen.
Bringing Matt Holt back into the fold didn’t just make for some powerfully emotional scenes for Pidge and Shiro, but also threw a little focus back onto Hunk — a character that has taken a bit of a back-seat to the wider story over the last few seasons. With Matt, Pidge and Hunk on a similar wavelength, scientifically speaking, I wondered whether or not we might see that aspect of Hunk’s character come to the fore under Matt’s attention, or even with them working together as a trio.
Montgomery agreed. “For sure. I think any time you get three smart people in a room, crazy things are gonna happen. Then, as far as them becoming a trio throughout the show, I don’t think it’s going to be a hard and fast ‘now Matt is part of the team.’ He’s still got stuff he’s got to do, with the rebels and with Pidge and Matt figuring out what do they want to do from here. They’ve still got to find their Dad.”
Of course, as fans, we know that Hunk is more than just his ability to cook, but what did it mean to them to have that scene serve as a gentle reminder? “It’s always fun when we get to have those moments of Hunk showing his intelligence. I think it’s something that he doesn’t focus on a lot, because it’s not his passion. I think it’s something he’s good at, but the things that he loves are being with his friends and cooking,” Montgomery elaborated. “And then, of course, he’s got this huge mission of being part of Voltron that he feels a responsibility to be a part of. But when we get that chance to make him use his brain because he’s got to put it towards the mission, it’s fun and it’s cool. Because it’s just not something you expect from him, because of how friendly he is and how he doesn’t put it on display or hold it over people’s heads that he’s smarter than them.”
Something else that didn’t escape the notice of eagle-eyed Voltron fans — myself included — was that during the flashbacks in the second episode you can spy both Shiro and Keith lingering in the background of the Holt family photograph. When I questioned Montgomery and Dos Santos on whether that was laying the groundwork for a story they’ll revisit, or if it was just a neat little Easter egg, they came back with an answer that will more than likely get fans anticipating the upcoming season even more.
“I think that’s a storyline that we’ve always wanted to explore, and that we have every intention of learning a little bit more of what that relationship is between Keith and Shiro,” Montgomery said. “How much does Shiro mean to Keith and vice versa. And so, to see that they were friends before this is something we want to just lay in there in little ways, until we eventually get to tell that story.”
“I mean, yeah, we knew it right? We knew that Shiro meant a lot to Keith, or else Keith wouldn’t have attempted to break him out when he landed and all that,” Dos Santos added. “We were stoked when people saw that. We thought it’d be an Easter egg that would be around for a while. Day one, somebody was doing screen grabs all blown up, enhanced. It was super cool.”
After all that, there was only one real way I could close out the interview — and it was the same way the season ended. With Lotor. Swooping in at the last moment, he prevented Keith’s kamikaze dive, and saved Team Voltron… to dubious ends. With Lotor an enemy to the Galra Empire, he extended a tentative truce. But how, exactly is that going to complicate matters when Voltron returns?
“I think you kind of said it when you called him complicated, so I think the situation is complicated. It has a lot of opportunities for complication. And within that, I think, Lotor has a lot of sides to him. And some of them we might agree with morally, some of them we might be on board with morally. And the same goes for our team,” Dos Santos said. “They’re going to have to work out those situations. That’s one of the things that excited us most about a character like Lotor. There is an element to him that is extremely relatable. Hopefully that’ll come out a little more.”
Montgomery added, “There are definitely views that he has that our characters would, and could, possibly agree with and, of course, views that they’d be like ‘absolutely not.’ The fun is seeing how that pans out and do they work together well? Or ultimately are they not able to meld.”
“Ambiguity. That’s how we like to play it.”