Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender, a reboot of the classic ’90s cartoon, wears Star Wars on its sleeve as a source for inspiration. Not just in how Voltron‘s core premise is about a group of scrappy, diverse rebels against an empire of fascists that rose to power based on a lie and involves a powerful galactic superweapon, but also in its characters.
Shiro, the Black Paladin, is more or less Luke Skywalker down to the robotic arm, Allura is Princess Leia with pointy ears, and respective Green and Yellow Paladins Pidge Holt and Hunk Garrett are basically R2D2 and C-3PO, in personalities and character dynamics if nothing else. Even Lotor, the ostensible villain of the previous two seasons, has become something of the series’ Kylo Ren, minus the temper. With that logic in mind, the animated series is in need of a Han Solo-type character, and that’s provided by the Blue-turned-Red Paladin, Lance McClain.
Since Harrison Ford’s portrayal of the charming scoundrel back in 1977, numerous other media properties have tried to introduce and develop Solo-type characters of their own. Sometimes it works, but more often than not… it simply doesn’t. The Solo-esque characters wear out their welcome very quickly, as evidenced by the mixed reactions to some of them like Uncharted‘s Nathan Drake and Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Star-Lord. Those characters have their appeal, most certainly, but they’re both cut from the cloth of Ford’s black vest in one way or another.
As the series opens, Lance certainly has some of that Solo DNA in him, along with that of Avatar’s Sokka: a vain, flirty goof who believes that he is “the best” and full of quips. Largely, the majority of the first two seasons don’t really dispute this notion; he hits on nearly every women that Team Voltron meets as they travel the galaxy, frequently shows off whenever possible, antagonizes then-Red Paladin Keith Kogane, and at one point literally walks into the mission room face glowing with fancy slippers on because he overslept. He sleeps with a face mask on, for crying out loud. By no means is Lance not pulling his weight in the heroics department, but he’s very clearly someone taken in by the spectacle of space and being part of something so grandiose and wants to enjoy himself while being a part of it.
Just being the comic relief can’t sustain a character, and Lance was always due to grow beyond that. That evolution finally came in full force with Voltron’s third season; following Shiro’s disappearance, Keith was made into the Black Paladin, and Allura took Lance’s place as Blue Paladin. Lance had to become the Red Paladin, and as Allura explains, being the pilot of the Red Lion means to be the right hand to whoever pilots the Black Lion. Instead of constantly throwing shade at Keith and starting fights, Lance matured and helped Keith mellow out and act like the leader the team needed while Shiro had disappeared. Most notably, and to the appreciation of many, the relationship between him and Allura changed, instead taking on a more brother-sister dynamic. It was a welcome change, considering how frequently she didn’t seem to take to his romantic gestures, and in doing so has allowed for Allura to further explore her own abilities now that she’s a Paladin.
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