The following contains spoilers for Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 8, on Netflix now.
Voltron: Legendary Defender's seventh season was heavily criticized for its LGBT representation in the form of Shiro's romance with Adam, a fellow member of Earth's Garrison. Specifically, the way the series killed Adam off-screen after breaking up with Shiro due to the latter's commitment to the cause. The result was a disappointingly lackluster end to something the showrunners touted up so much.
Fans expected something more than a single, fleeting flashback, but rather than being a celebrated moment in Voltron history, Shiro and Adam's relationship was never really explored. This led to the show apologizing for how the romance played out, and despite their initial disappointment, fans let the issue go in hopes that the final season would set things right. But while the show attempted to make amends, in doing so, it messes things up even more.
em>Legendary Defender tries to give Shiro a happy ending by having him retire from duty when galactic peace is finally achieved. There's no issue with having him ride off into the sunset as he faced so much torment as a brainwashed clone who lost an arm, but in the closing moments of the series, a title card indicates he started a relationship with Curtis, a member on his Atlas ship, and they got married. The show ends with them kissing at their wedding, a moment that comes off as a fairly weak attempt to pacify fans who lashed out at the "Bury Your Gays" trope Adam's demise embodied. Oddly enough, Netflix's audio voiceover even refers to Curtis as Adam during this scene.
Whether that was simply a mistake or an indication that the narrative was changed somewhere along the line is mostly irrelevant. The bottom line is, there's no substance to this marriage at all; it feels cheap and tacked on. Curtis, barely seen over the last two seasons, is a minor character at best, and one who never interacted much with Shiro. Most people didn't know Shiro was gay in the first place, resulting in a revelation that comes off feeling rushed, as though the Voltron writers never really valued LGBT representation in the first place. They rely way too much on the audience's affection for Shiro to give the moment some sort of resonance, rather than earning an emotional response via genuine storytelling and character development.
Shiro's sexuality has never been a focus on the show, so it's frustrating to see it once more glossed over like this, partnering him with some ancillary male character with whom he had zero romantic development or chemistry beforehand. Handling queer representation in such a trivial manner feels disingenuous, making the five-second blip of the wedding at the end come off as a publicity stunt.
Season 8 also attempts to appease those upset by S7's story by shoehorning in another queer romance involving Lotor's generals, Zethrid and Ezor. With the Galra Empire splintered, Ezor has parted ways, leaving Zethrid on a rampage as a mercenary. It turns out she wants the Paladins dead because they drove Ezor away from her, and as she divulges more, it's apparent she loves and cares for Ezor more than a friend. It comes full-circle when Ezor returns for her, bringing Zethrid back to the light. Sadly, just like Shiro, this wasn't developed in earlier seasons, and even after they get back together, they're treating each other like soldiers again.
There's no love or warmth here, and it feels like the series retroactively tried to pony up a relationship in apology for the Shiro drama. But it's another debacle that feels fake, forced and patronizing. Putting the generals together like this once again shows the writers' inconsistent handling of queer relationships. Instead of being progressive, these moments simply come off like disrespectful, lazy patch jobs. Despite some attempts to the contrary, whatever Legendary Defender tried to do ended up being superficial and totally upended the social impact intended.
Now streaming on Netflix, Season 8 of Voltron: Legendary Defender stars Tyler Labine as Hunk, Jeremy Shada as Lance, Bex Taylor-Klaus as Pidge, Kimberly Brooks as Allura, Rhys Darby as Coran, Josh Keaton as Shiro, and Steven Yeun as Keith.