It’s undeniable that “Monsters & Mana” was the most popular episode in season six of Voltron: Legendary Defender, and for good reason. The episode gave us a lighthearted look at our favorite defenders of the universe getting creative and silly in an Altean version of Dungeons & Dragons, so we knew it would be hilarious and just an all-around great episode. But if we look closer at the writing, we can see that the episode not only parallels the lives of the paladins but also offers a look into the future of the team. And because it’s such a popular episode, I’ve taken it upon myself to storm into the fandom and points these things out.
But before I do that, I think we need to give credit to the showrunners who put a whole damn meme into this opening scene. If you’ve never seen this video, take caution. You won’t be able to unsee Hunk and Pidge doing this back on Earth and it will make you insanely happy.
But I digress. For you to hear me out on my predictions from this episode, I’m gonna need you to believe that there are about 10 million parallels and foreshadowing moments in it. So here’s a quick list of the things I noticed immediately:
- I think it’s obvious that the characters each paladin chose reflected a part of themselves they wish others would see in them.
- Pidge, a scrawny thing with a huge brain, chooses a character who is tough, sturdy and can grow to massive proportions.
- Hunk, who has muscles for DAYS but is really a big teddy bear, chooses a character who uses non-violent fighting methods.
- Lance always wants people to think he’s cool and suave, which is reflected in the fact that he chose to be a thief.
- Shiro finds a “blazing sword,” which almost immediately kills him because he can’t wield its power yet, which parallels his last fight with Zarkon.
- Hunk talks about saving his village that was turned to stone. Sounds an awful lot like the time he convinced the team to go back and save the Balmera!
- Hunk and Pidge pick up a unique crystal dropped by the ogre they defeat. This imagery is repeated after the destruction of the Castle.
- Everyone picks up a unique piece of treasure. Pidge finds gloves of transmutation (science geek), Hunk gets a bowl of food that is never empty (hungry boi), Allura finds a creature summoning arrow (space mice!) and Lance is excited to find an invisibility cloak. You can interpret Lance’s item as a metaphor for his stealth and sharpshooting abilities, or you can take the lan-gsty route and say it’s foreshadowing the fact that he feels neglected and invisible when it comes to Allura.
- Shiro dropped a “rare item” when he died in battle. This parallels when he left the Black bayard behind after his fight with Zarkon.
Up to this point, the episode has been a lot of parallels. Now the real fun begins!
Something picked up on by a lot of fans is the fact that Shiro is indignant about being a paladin in the game. He’s almost childish about it…which is honestly so deserved, but it’s also strange to see him like that. He chooses to come back as a paladin twice throughout the game, and picks that character again when Coran suggests playing again. It’s difficult to not question why he wants to be a paladin so badly, but after finishing the season is almost seems to parallel what the original Shiro must be feeling as he’s trapped inside the Black Lion. To watch your family fight alongside your clone and suffer at that clone’s hands must be unbearable torture, and he probably wants nothing more than to be a paladin again. So there’s that, and here’s some art by the always-amazing Zillabean to emphasize the emotional impact this has had on all of us.
The first foreshadowing moment comes when Coran transforms from the innkeeper to the Coranic Dragon. This figure who the other characters trusted reveals himself to be a villainous creature intent on destroying them with its power. After watching the entire season, it’s clear this moment reflects the moment Lotor’s true motives are revealed in episode 4. And, honestly, that made me more uncomfortable than anything else this season because it’s so odd to see Coran in a villainous position.
Then, of course, we have Shiro — or, Gyro, Shiro’s “twin brother.” The lot of us that were behind the clone theory from the get-go saw this and immediately knew what was going on, but during the first watch, it almost seemed as though the showrunners were just screwing with us. (Because let’s be honest, they’re not above that and that’s why we love them.)
Now, at first, I was thrown off the “twin brother” thing because it just seemed a little strange to consider a clone a sibling (case in point: Roy Harper is not a happy camper after finding out he has a clone in Young Justice). But after watching how Shiro is brought back at the end of the season and realizing that he is now occupying the body of his own clone, it makes sense. Shiro is going to need to think of his clone’s body as an extension of his own, as a twin of sorts, in order to cope with the enormous trauma he’s undergone. I can’t say that was an intentional move on the creators’ parts, but it’s heartbreaking nonetheless.
I think this line, albeit hilarious, carries a lot of weight for the future. So far in the game, Shiro has died twice and come back both time as a paladin. In reality, his long absence led Keith to take his place as the Black Paladin, ultimately displacing him from his position with Voltron. He regained that position once, but many people believe he will have a difficult time doing so again. But I’m seeing a pattern here, so, really, who’s to say that he won’t pilot the Black Lion after his second “absence” from the team? In theory, he has a stronger bond with the Black Lion now than ever before, so I’m going to prepare myself to lose my mind when it happens.
When the Coranic Dragon is revealed to be Dakin, the wizard the team is looking for in the game, things get even more interesting. Dakin proclaims that “it’s too late” to save Hunk’s village because he has already “siphoned off their life force” and the only way to save them now is to “permanently defeat” him. During the first watch this appeared to be a normal, villainous thing to do, but after finishing the season it mirrors Lotor’s actions pretty well. Lotor has been considered villainous in the past, his show of good faith could be considered a win for Voltron and he was ultimately revealed to be a deceptive man who has been draining the quintessence, or life force, of Alteans.
What gets me is the fact that Dakin has to be “permanently” defeated. If Dakin’s actions mimic Lotor’s, does this imply that Lotor has not been permanently taken out of the picture?
Then there’s this. First of all, Shiro’s headache dissipated after playing a game which allowed him to live out the fantasy of being a paladin, both as himself and someone else. While it is possible that just having something fun to focus on and relax with is responsible for this, it seems as though something about the story in particular helped him out. It’s especially curious that Shiro tells Coran that he “made it all up” when Coran suggests that in the next round he may be able to avenge his fallen master. Coran also says he made up his story in the game, but we’ve already seen the parallels that story held in relation to the situation the paladins are getting themselves into. So, really, we have to wonder how much truth there is behind Shiro’s “made up” story and how it applies, or can be applied later, to his life.
Finally, Coran delivers a line that is going to haunt me for weeks: “Wait until you find out who Dakin is working for.” Because we’ve seen that Dakin parallels Lotor’s character, this line is sinister. Thus far, Lotor has shown that he works tirelessly to pursue his own goals, but this line makes me believe that there may be greater forces at work. Is it possible that Lotor has been working for someone else in his pursuit to attain unlimited quintessence? Who could it be, and when will we find out?
I honestly feel like this is just scratching the surface of the episode, but it’s clear that “Monsters & Mana” is loaded with textual parallels and foreshadowing. I’ve always had a feeling that Lotor might make another appearance in the show, but after looking closely at this episode I can’t stop myself from getting excited about the possibility! And, as much as I would love to see that happen as well as Shiro piloting the Black Lion again, the thought does make me worry because we know the paladins’ next destination is Earth. Showdown on the paladins’ home planet, anyone?
If you have any thoughts about “Monsters & Mana” or Voltron in general, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to drop a comment below or follow me on Twitter to scream about your theories!
Stay tuned for more Voltron content and updates regarding the cast and crew’s appearance at San Diego Comic Con 2018!