WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER

Earlier this month, Netflix released the third season of VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER (VLD). The show continues to be an inclusive adaptation of its predecessors, tweaking characters here and there. One of these characters is Prince Lotor, Emperor Zarkon’s son. He appeared this season to act as Emperor while his father continued to recover from his fight in the Season 2 finale. Lotor proved to be a charming and open-minded thinker, granting mercy to his enemies where his tyrannical father would have done otherwise. However, this incarnation of Lotor is vastly different from his previous ones. Let’s see how the writers of VOLTRON adapted his character for this version of the story!

Previous Incarnations

In the 1984 series VOLTRON: DEFENDER OF THE UNIVERSE (DOtU), Prince Lotor appears earlier in the series. He fights under Zarkon against the Voltron Lion Force. In the 2016 version of the series, Lotor only appears after having been exiled. DOtU also focuses more on royal politics. Lotor is ordered to marry a character named Princess Corral to strengthen the alliance between their planets. He also dislikes his father immensely, going so far as to duel him for the crown.

Lotor carrying a passed-out Allura

DOtU Lotor also has an unhealthy obsession with Allura. Initially, he wants her for his harem. However, he becomes so attached to her that he wants her to become his queen. At one point, he even attempts to kidnap her by faking her death and stealing her body during the funeral. When that fails, he tries to marry Allura’s cousin, Princess Romelle, since she looks a lot like Allura.

READ: Look back on what made Season 1 of VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER great!

In VOLTRON FORCE, the 2011 version of the series, Lotor is the main antagonist. VOLTRON FORCE takes place after Zarkon has been defeated. A character named Maahox revives him using Haggarium, a kind of dark energy. This incarnation of Lotor is much more Zarkon-like and is primarily driven by revenge. In this version, he is pretty much just a Zarkon 2.0.

Lotor’s Harem Becomes Lotor’s Generals

Lotor and his generals (From left to right: Zethrid, Acxa, Narti, Ezor, Lotor)

One way that the writers of VLD changed Lotor (and the show) for the better was by getting rid of his harem. Instead, the group of women surrounding him is his military. In fact, the way Lotor interacts with his generals almost parallels the group dynamic between the paladins of Voltron. Lotor works together with his generals in a team. He is clearly the leader, but in the way that Shiro was clearly the leader of the paladins. Lotor’s generals still have input and are considered equals in the team.

By removing Lotor’s sexual obsessions, like his relentless pursuit of Allura and his harem, the writers have crafted a more mature antagonist. In fact, it makes Lotor a more dangerous antagonist. He is not driven by prejudice, emotion, or impulse. He isn’t a silly cartoon villain throwing a tantrum because he wants something. Plus, the way his team operates rivals the way the paladins of Voltron operate. In fact, sometimes Lotor’s team does better, which makes him a significant threat.

Prince Lotor Now

As the paladins struggled in this season to collect themselves after losing Shiro, Lotor achieved victory after victory. While we usually cheer for the protagonist, Lotor is a disarmingly likable character. When his authority was questioned, he managed to sway public opinion his way in minutes. He didn’t do this by proving himself to be like his father, but by convincing the people he ruled to believe in his understanding of Galran values.

Charming Lotor

When Throk, a Galran commander, tried to quietly gain supporters to take the throne, Lotor called him out at the arena. He then appealed to Galran values of power by saying, “True Galra do not take the throne by stirring up insurrection in darkened chambers. They rise through honorable rite of combat.” The Galra are proud people who prize their best warriors. “Best” in this case usually means the warriors who are the biggest, baddest, and strongest.

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However, moments before this scene, Lotor defeated a large, hulking enemy. This imagery already implies that Lotor is different; he will change what the Galra believe true strength is. Unsurprisingly, he defeats Throk, proving his abilities as a warrior. Then, he does something unexpected (at least to the Galra). He spares Throk. Unlike his father, Lotor believes that the key to maintaining the Galra empire is to inspire loyalty, not fear. He won’t kill his enemies, he will persuade them to follow him.

Crowd supporting Lotor as he defeats Throk

The Galra are very ethnocentric. They believe that they are the best, which is why they should rule. This kind of ideology is why the empire enslaves other cultures. This is why Lotor’s ideology is a huge shift from traditional Galran values. He wants to inspire other people to be part of the Galra Empire. The fact that all his generals are half-Galra supports this fact, which is what Throk was lamenting just before Lotor called him out. In the end, Lotor is easily able to sway everyone to his side with his charisma.

Cunning Lotor

Lotor is also an incredible strategist. He takes a completely different approach to ruling and battling than his father or even the paladins. He takes back the planet Puig right after the paladins liberated it from the Galra. However, he doesn’t take it back by force. He goes in with only his generals and talks to the leader. The leader fully expects Lotor, as the Prince of the Galra Empire, to obliterate his people for rebelling. However, Lotor surprises him (like he surprised Throk) with mercy. He also adds some very convincing words about who Puig should choose. Should they follow their savior who is in a dubious state, or should they join the Galra who is an established power?

Lotor, Zethrid, and Ezor fighting the paladins

Lotor also understands the value of information. When he first confronts the paladins, it’s clear his goals are not to take any of them out. He wants to figure out how many people he is fighting and how strong they are. Once he confirms that all five lions are operational, he retreats. The paladins rejoice, but they have no idea that Lotor was in control of the whole situation. They gave Lotor exactly what he wanted.

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Similarly, in “Hole in the Sky,” Lotor sets up a trap for the paladins that is a “win either way” for him. By using an Altean distress signal, he lures the paladins into a wormhole that sends them to another reality. The ship caught in the wormhole has a comet made of the same material Voltron is made out of. So, on the one hand, if the paladins bring out the comet, Lotor and his crew waiting nearby get to steal it. If the paladins are trapped in the other reality, there is no one left standing in the way of the Galra Empire.

Lotor and his generals taking the comet

Lotor consistently uses his careful, observant strategies to stay a step ahead of the paladins. Somehow, he is able to set up situations in which he emerges victorious, one way or another. Of course, he isn’t infallible, as seen in “Tailing a Comet,” but he is one of the most interesting and clever characters in the show so far.

Permanent Villain or Potential Ally?

While Lotor definitely wants to guide the Galra Empire to glory, his true motivations aren’t entirely clear. Unlike his DOtU counterpart, VLD Lotor doesn’t necessarily want to usurp the throne. He cares about changing the tyrannical nature of the Galra Empire in order to perpetuate its existence. At least, that’s what he says in the first episode.

The season left off on a confusing note with his actions in “Tailing a Comet.” For some reason, Lotor and his generals open fire on a Galran base to retrieve a ship supposedly made out of the comet material they retrieved earlier. It’s not clear why they would have to attack a Galra base when Lotor is acting Emperor. It would be too simple to chalk it up to him getting his petty revenge on Throk, who he assigned to the distant base. It may be another one of Lotor’s cunning strategies or the mark of a future break with the Empire.

Lotor arguing with Hagar

In DOtU, Lotor tries to assassinate Zarkon at one point. After being imprisoned for the attempt, he escapes and saves Voltron Force from Zarkon in “Lotor – My Hero?” He then declares war on Zarkon and his homeworld. Afterward, Voltron pays him back by rescuing him from Zarkon after he gets captured again. Unfortunately, Lotor reconciles with his father in DOtU and attacks Voltron Force again.

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Lotor’s mysterious motivations make him a wild card. It is entirely possible that Lotor will ally himself with the paladins at some point in the future. However, he might turn on them like his predecessor did in DOtU. Although it is worth noting, the Lotor in VLD is not as capricious as the one in DOtU. If he does ally himself with the paladins and then turn on them later, it will probably be because he intended to do so from the beginning.

Final Thoughts

Even though VOLTRON Season 3 was shorter than usual, it was full of character and plot development. Prince Lotor is definitely one of the show’s most interesting characters. He is the kind of character that will keep viewers guessing. His hidden motivations are a refreshing twist on the black and white nature of “good versus evil.” Season 3 overall had viewers wondering what makes either side of the battle “good” or “bad.” Could the Galra Empire be good for the universe under Lotor’s leadership? Would the Altean Empire have been just as bad if they had done anything to survive? All we know for sure is that this series continues to be an impressive adaptation with every season that airs!

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One Comment

  1. meiray

    August 18, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Lotor is interesting, and his murky motivations are a welcome relief from Zarkon’s rather one-dimensional revenge bent. And while I like the idea of his harem being turned into generals, they are all thinly characterized and their voices oddly-cast. Hopefully that improves in the second part of the season (I don’t see the point of calling it season 4, Netflix should just be plain about it!)

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