Seek Truth in Darkness

This is an expansion and continuation of many of the ideas expressed in my previous meta ‘Chasing the Ghosts of Season 8.’ You may wish to read that first if you haven’t already, though it is not necessary to understand this meta.

Herein is contained all the actual textual evidence  I’ve gathered of Voltron Legendary Defender, Season 8 having been edited post-production, as well as a handful of circumstantial conclusions I feel have strong enough textual evidence supporting them to stand up to scrutiny. This is as ship-neutral as I can make it, given a number of the most highly edited scenes are ones that in the edited version of s8 are played as distinctly romantic in nature.

This article is designed to be something that can be used as a concrete baseline to build arguments off of, regardless of shipping discourse. Its purpose is to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that Season 8 was drastically edited at the last minute in order to alter the story it was telling in the original cut, and that the changes were made after the animation was completed. The article is focused on the post-completion edits to season 8. I won’t be covering simple animation errors, such as Allura missing her markings for several shots during the scene in front of the tree in s8e1. I will, however, attempt to address any animation errors that might be mistaken for edits.

First, it’s surprising how little actual changes were made. The new animation created for this edit is nearly non-existent, with most alterations being clever re-arranging of clips, dialogue changes that only require the mouth movements to be altered, or tracing over one character to make them into another. It’s truly phenomenal how last minute this must have been, as the re-drawn characters are rarely even on-model.

It follows from this, that most alterations were completed via the removal of content; we are missing, at minimum, two episodes worth of content. At maximum that number could be as high as five, though I only have concrete evidence for four.

But why are there so many episodes? If the original contract was for 78, which we have, where are we getting 4 missing episodes from?

That’s down to the prior restructuring of s7.

There were 3 major executive mandated rounds of plot changes I have identified:

Round 1 was the keeping of Shiro – this happened long before any episodes even aired, roughly circa s2’s creation, and required them to swap Keith and Shiro’s roles for s3-s6. I believe it was the clone Shiro that was intended to return with Romelle and that it was Keith who was to give Lotor the Black bayard and take him to the Kral Zera. ‘The Black Paladins’ was intended to happen later, sometime in s7.

Round 2 was the reworking of s7 to extend the Earth arc and to put more focus on the MFEs. This occurred at a much later stage of production than Round 1 had – most of the animation had already been completed, potentially the entire season. This happened circa s2-s3 airing (between January 20th 2017 and August 4th 2017), right when the show exploded in popularity, and was done to add and expand characters to base a potential sequel around.

The show managed the first two rewrites reasonably well – though s7’s pacing suffered.

Round 3, the big one, happened sometime around July-August of 2018: after s8’s completion. For as-yet-unknown reasons the season was ripped apart and hastily stitched back together.

And it shows. Badly.

We can know roughly where in production Round 2 happened because they’ve told us about it, and a key to proving it was separate from Round 3 is the episode ‘The Feud’, s7e4. We were told that that episode exists to give the poor overworked animators a break from all the extra work they had to do creating the new episodes for s7. So we know when Bob was created. And Bob is in the crowd at Shiro’s arm wrestling match in s8e8 ‘Clear Day’. Therefore ‘The Feud’, the last episode of s7 to be created, was made before episode 8 of season 8 – and any edits that occur in s8e8 or later are inarguably the result of Round 3.

So, back to our question, why was the original s8 so long? When Round 2 was ordered s7 was already so far into production, that those revisions required not just editing things, but commissioning entirely new episodes. Thus creating what will turn out to be an 82 episode run, up from 78.

Episodes that, prior to Round 2, had their plots take place in s7? They are Season 8, episodes 2, 4, and 5. So that’s ‘Shadows’ (which was originally the B-plot of the latter half of s7), ‘Battle Scars’, and ‘The Grudge’.

The s7 changes happened far enough in advance of the season airing that the actual animation and plots were able to be properly reworked to fit into s8, so there aren’t animation anomalies to piece together: the evidence is mostly there in story structure. Scenes that were re-animated to bridge the new episode order can sometimes be identified by the slightly lower than average animation quality, but not always – this is professional quality work.

Round 3 was ordered between June 28th and July 23rd. Those dates are, respectively, when JDS made a twitter post implying that there was more to come with Lotor’s story, and the posting of a video interview in which Jeremy Shada (Lance’s VA) says he’s been in recently to record additional lines. Given that this interview took place just before s7′s release, these lines can only be for the edits to s8 – it’s far too late in production for them to be for anything else.

It happened after June 28th, soon enough after that date that the new plot was planned and Lance’s new lines written and for Shada to record them before that interview was recorded which was then posted on the 23rd of July.

This article is mainly focused on the edits to s8, but, because it helps to explain s8′s odd pacing and original length, I’m going to cover s7′s original structure briefly.

Season 7 starts, as normal, with s7e1 ‘A Little Adventure’ and s7e2 ‘The Road Home’, after which, unable to make contact with the Blade, the Paladins seek out their allies on Olkarion for aid, and we get the main plot of s8e4 ‘Battle Scars’. The thing Pidge is attempting to find is what has harmed Olkarion, not how to track it. Next is s7e3 ‘The Way Forward’. Throughout these first four episodes we get pieces of s7e7 ‘The Last Stand: Part 1′ forming the B-plot. This runs right up to the reveal at the end of ‘The Way Forward’, by Acxa, that Voltron has been missing for 3 years.

After this Acxa joins the team and we get s8e5 ‘The Grudge’. Ezor isn’t dead in this version, but gravely injured, and Zethrid is hunting down the paladins for revenge on Acxa, because it’s personal. She targets Keith because she believes he is to Acxa what Ezor is to her, but is mistaken. When Acxa’s speech enrages Zethrid and she turns her blaster on her, Shiro takes the opportunity to shoot her. Because, obviously, Keith has a strong emotional bond with Shiro, not Acxa. The plot should finally resolve with Team Voltron offering the single healing pod they have left (which seems to mysteriously vanish in our s7) to Zethrid in order to save Ezor. Team V’s compassion in the face of Zethrid’s aggression should be what starts to convince her to switch allegiances. Acxa stays with them, and departs the team. The next two episodes, s7e5 ‘The Ruins’ and s7e6 ‘The Journey Within’ follow as normal.

The two-parter ‘The Last Stand’ was originally just a single episode and was everything from Sendak’s invasion of Earth to the end, excluding the extraneous supply trip with the MFEs. After that, the last five episodes follow as normal, though they were intercut with a B-plot of Honerva’s flashbacks and activities as seen in s8e2 ‘Shadows’. In the s7 we see, those scenes have been traded out for further development with the MFEs. There were probably more flashbacks planned that didn’t quite fit into the single episode they were allowed in s8, to make up for the amount of content that appears to be switched out.

It all culminates in the dramatic and horrifying reveal of our mysterious white robeast being piloted by an Altean – and revealed to be the monster that attacked Olkarion.

For clarity, S7′s original structure:

  1.    s7e1 “A Little Adventure”
  2.     s7e2 “The Road Home”
  3.     s8e4 “Battle Scars”
  4.     s7e3 “The Way Forward”
  5.     s8e5 “The Grudge”
  6.     s7e5 “The Ruins”
  7.     s7e6 “The Journey Within”
  8.     s7e7 & e8 “The Last Stand”
  9.     s7e9 “Know Your Enemy”
  10.     s7e10 “Heart of the Lion”
  11.     s7e11 “Trial By Fire”
  12.     s7e12 “Lions’ Pride: Part 1″
  13.     s7e13 “Lions’ Pride:Part 2″

But wait.

We’re still one episode short. We’ve accounted for three episodes, but I’m proposing there were four. Where is that other one coming from?

Well, the second round of edits were made to add the MFEs. In s8 we have two episodes with a lot of MFE content; the previously addressed e5 ‘The Grudge’ and e7 ‘Day Forty Seven’. This episode was added to the s8 roster at the same time that the s7 restructure was done. Without Kinkade we have no framing device for ‘Day Forty Seven’, thus it didn’t exist.

Because of this we can actually identify, down to the episode, where in production the s7 (Round 2) changes were ordered: during s8e6 ‘Genesis’. The second half of ‘Genesis’ has Zethrid breaking out of her cell to assist the Atlas, and the animation of this sequence is of high quality. Prior to Round 2 she’d have been an ally, not a prisoner. So that episode was in animation production when the order for changes came down. And the changes were completed before ‘Clear Day’ where Bob shows up in the crowd (as well as in a photograph decorating the stall where Pidge’s family get their picture taken).

From here, we can finally get into season 8, its real plot, and the absolute disservice done to it.

Before the revisions to s7 the plot should have run from e1 ‘Launch Date’ to e3 ‘The Prisoner’s Dilemma’, and straight to e6 ‘Genesis’. Once Team V realizes it is Honerva/Haggar sending the robeasts they already know that they’re traveling via wormhole and can track them to Oriande as soon as they gather enough data to tell where they’re coming from: they probably would have retrieved this data from Lahn’s scuttled fleet.

Now that we know what plot anomalies result from earlier meddling with s7, it’s much easier to locate the edits that were made in this final disastrous round. Fortunately, the s7 changes seem to have been made in the early stages of s8′s animation, and all the alterations there have been professionally corrected and smoothed over. The weirdness from the s7 changes is limited to pacing and plot choice oddities: it renders the first half of s8 relatively sedate in comparison. All the jarring visual anomalies that occur come from the s8 changes.

According to what I’ve found, s8 should have had 17 episodes worth of content – whether that was delivered in 17 separate episodes, in 13 with the final one being extra long, or somewhere in between, we can’t know. Though there is some small evidence it might have been multi-part as a bookend to the 3-part pilot episode from s1.

…a “glorious three hour finale”, if you will.

For the purposes of this article, however, we’ll be treating it as 17 separate episodes. Like the pilot, the final episode would’ve been structured to be separable if needs be.

The original s8 structure

  1.     Launch Date
  2.     Shadows
  3.     The Prisoner’s Dilemma
  4.     Battle Scars
  5.     The Grudge
  6.     Genesis
  7.     Day Forty Seven
  8.     Clear Day
  9.     Missing Episode #1, aka: ‘The Descent’
  10.     Knights of Light: Part 1
  11.     Knights of Light: Part 2
  12.     Missing Episode #2, aka: ‘Storming The Pyramid’
  13.     Missing Episode #3, aka: ‘The Purple Lion’
  14.     Missing Episode #4, aka: ‘The Beginning of the End’
  15.     Uncharted Regions*
  16.     The Zenith*
  17.     The End is the Beginning*

*while I’m confident these are the correct titles of the final three episodes, the content has been rearranged within them.

The Round 3 changes are drastic. These are the ones with sloppy art, jarring story cuts, spliced music and dialogue, and traced animation. The purpose of these is still unknown, but the effect is plain.

Come, dear reader, let us descend into executive meddling hell.

Follow me!

Minor Changes: Episodes 1-7

Episode 1: Launch Date

The first definitive edit (A) in season 8 is the ‘rainbow kiss’ scene with Lance and Allura in front of the tree. This is not animated in the same style as the rest of the show – it’s a static image being digitally morphed to bring their faces together with a gradient overlay to hide that fact. The two most obvious signs of this are that the lines of their hands never change and the smooth transition of the motion; Allura’s hair in particular has a weird ‘morph’ effect happening with no discernible keyframes.

But if this scene is new, then what is it covering up?

Seeing how the very next scene shows Beezer zooming in to obtain a flower, I suspect that that we’re missing is a shot of Pidge concealed somewhere nearby. It makes sense: ‘Launch Date’ isn’t a Lance and Allura episode, it’s a Lance, Allura, and Pidge episode. That’s why it starts with Pidge, after all. They’ve just cut out our final key Pidge scene. Arguably, ‘Launch Date’ is more of a Pidge episode than an Allura one as we see few scenes framed from Allura’s point of view, yet we see a considerable amount from Pidge.

Pidge was notably unhappy when she learned that Allura had a date with Lance, yet later sacrificed her videogame so that Allura could get a dress to wear on said date. It’s a character moment left hanging, and one that should have further follow-up throughout the season, but that has been removed.

The second edit (B) is more suspicion than anything, but this image of Admiral Sanda is a peculiar choice.

I would bet that this was originally Adam’s nameplate, as seen in s7, here. It’s an understandable change, what with the violent reaction parts of the fandom had to his death, but it sadly cuts out the emotional resonance for Shiro that should be here.

Episode 2: Shadows

There are no obvious changes to this episode. Though some may exist, at present there are no identifiable plot holes that would indicate some essential scene is missing.

As I stated above, I’m fairly certain this episode exists as a result of the Round 2 edits, and is made up of scenes that originally would have formed some of the B-plot in that season. They were amalgamated into their own episode because they were essential for the plot of the original season 8, which is how we can tell that – while this episode might have an odd flow – it likely wasn’t edited in Round 3. There’s too much in this episode that builds up the sympathy for Lotor for it to have been left in if changes were already being made to this episode.

Episode 3: The Prisoner’s Dilemma

I’ve seen some claim Blue saves Lance when the ship blows up at the end of this episode, and I initially thought that as well. Careful pausing, however, shows it is Red that saves Lance.

Curiously, we are missing a shot of both Allura and Hunk being saved by their respective Lions, so it is possible that something was cut here. What exactly that would be I cannot say, but I can say, thematically, what that would be.

This episode is about Lotor.

What, you say, that’s not possible, he’s still in the rift at this point! Are you saying he’s supposed to be here?

No, but Lahn is.

The conversations between Allura and Lahn have Lahn voicing the side of an argument that Lotor was never given opportunity to make. These lines in particular…

L: “Everything I’ve spent years fighting for, taken away in an instant.”

A: “I too have lost everything. My planet. My family. But when the Paladins arrived at the Castle of Lions–”

L: “You’ve never had to earn power. It’s always been given to you! You’re looking for something you once had: security, peace, happiness. Those things have never been part of a Galra soldier’s life.”

…apply directly to the situation surrounding the colony, and what happened in s6′s finale. It’s a perspective Allura needed to hear before she encounters Lotor again.

In this episode Lahn is our stand-in for Lotor, and its plot is the microcosm to the macrocosm that should have been s8′s plot.

Something terrible has happened to Lahn’s people, and it happened because of a mistake that Keith made. Keith thought he was doing the right thing at the time, but his lack of foresight doomed countless people. There is nothing that they can do now to save the ones who’ve already died, but they need to work together to stop the threat before it kills everyone who remains.

‘The Prisoner’s Dilemma’ refers both to Lahn’s (the titular prisoner) choice of whether or not to trust the paladins, as well as the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ a longstanding theory that describes why two individuals might not cooperate even though it benefits them both to do so.

But there’s also a third meaning. It’s a reference to s5e1 ‘The Prisoner’ – where one of two titular prisoners was Lotor – and puts into perspective exactly the dilemma that Lotor found himself in in prior seasons. It informs us why exactly Lotor chose not to trust the Paladins with the information about the Altean colony: he couldn’t risk the consequences that would befall them if the Paladins proved less than trustworthy. A realistic fear, as we now know that Haggar was spying on them and the Paladins are now suffering the consequences of her discovering the colony.

Episode 4: Battle Scars

There only seems to be a single Round 3 edit in this episode, though it was re-done extensively in Round 2 – where the changes would have included adding this scene that was later removed.

A small scene containing a conversation between Pidge and Allura is missing. It should be Pidge asking Allura if it was possible for her to heal Olkarion, which Allura won’t be able to do. It would additionally be a follow-up on the cut scene from e1, where Pidge saw Allura restore the tree in the park. But then Pidge will have to explain how she knows about that, which should further enlighten us not just on Allura’s feelings about that moment, but on Pidge’s as well. It was likely cut because, as we can still plainly see, Allura is less than enthusiastic about Lance.

It should happen right after this shot, the close up on the leaf that disintegrates.

It’s a reminder that this decay used to be a forest.

Episode 5: The Grudge

This is especially complex, an edit on top of an edit, and we need to return to Round 2 for a moment.

The original form this episode took was of Shiro saving Keith from Zethrid when Zethrid goes to shoot Acxa. When Round 2 occurred, and they were forced to kill off Ezor and to move this episode into s8, they wrote a new B-plot focusing on Acxa and Veronica. When forced to end one wlw relationship, they opted to add another in to compensate.

(And yes that is what is happening in Acxa’s half of the episode. Veronica is not being teased with Keith; the gun she’s holding at the firing range is the exact same colors that every single other Garrison-styled handgun is shown to be.)

Zethrid targets Keith because she wants to hurt Acxa, an eye for an eye. Acxa took Ezor from Zethrid, so Zethrid will take Keith from Acxa. When Acxa’s speech angers her, she changes tack and decides to shoot her directly. But Zethrid is mistaken, it’s Shiro who has the strong bond with Keith, and Veronica who has been building a bond with Acxa. Which is why it’s Veronica that takes out Zethrid when Acxa is threatened.

They changed the ending confrontation to conclude with Veronica saving Acxa, as opposed to Shiro saving Keith, to drive this new forming bond home.

Aside: I should briefly address Acxa’s relationship with Keith here. During a panel at SacAnime 2019, Acxa’s VA (Erica Luttrell) confirmed that Acxa and Keith were initially intended to become romantically involved, but that – due to fan response (to what exactly, we don’t know) – it was dropped and no lines were ever recorded.

Voice acting is usually done before the animation, so this shows that the dropping of this plot was not part of any of the major editing rounds, which happened either before anything aired or after the recording portion of s7 was over and done with. By the time that Acxa and Keith properly interacted on screen, and due to how far in advance the show production was done, it seems that the nature of their relationship must have been changed at some time around season 2 or 3′s airing (and the production of the original s7).

This makes me suspect that it wasn’t the reaction to Acxa and Keith together that caused the change, but the situation surrounding Keith’s romance options in general. The two largest fandom ships both include Keith, and both are mlm ships. It seems that the popular fandom headcanon of Keith as gay may have led to the writers deciding not to have him end up in a het relationship.

Back to the episode in question…

When Round 3 happens, they have to further change Acxa’s already altered conversation with Zethrid, because Ezor is once again alive. So while this ending sequence is heavily edited, the changes in Round 3 are limited to a few altered lines of dialogue and drawing in Ezor.

Zethrid is making eye contact with Acxa here, not Ezor. Therefore she’s actually reacting to something Acxa has said, not something she sees. In several languages, the subtitles/audio descriptions weren’t changed, and we can find the final closing scene actually has Acxa telling Zethrid that she won’t give up on her, and that they could use Zethrid’s help in the fight against Honerva. Something else about Ezor: the audio descriptions in every language never mention her in e5 or e6.

In fact, the Japanese subtitles explicitly refer to Ezor as being dead. The kanji used is 亡くwhich is not used in any other context.

This change to re-add Ezor was most likely made after the backlash post season 7 regarding Adam’s death and the accusations of invoking the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope. Interestingly, this means that re-adding Ezor was an additional change tacked on after Round 3 was already in progress.

If these were the only edits made to season 8 they would be perfectly understandable; as it is, they simply compound the disjointedness of the plot.

Episode 6: Genesis

There are small edits in multiple places throughout this episode (B & b) to insert Ezor into scenes she was not previously in, and there is actually one brief shot of the Atlas’ bridge where someone has missed adding her.

The brief moment where Zethrid turns her head to look at Ezor in their cell is, what I believe to be, the only instance of actual new animation created for R3. Of course, that is assuming the action wasn’t traced from some other as-yet-unidentified scene.

These changes are minor and have a negligible effect on the plot, but they are changes nonetheless.

But there’s also something else (A).

That right there is the Altean Colony planet, as seen in s6e2 ‘Razor’s Edge’. And there’s that same planet just hanging out behind some wormholes in ‘Genesis’.

It’s not simply a reused background, because it’s the end shot of a full pan following the ships launching from the Atlas. Throughout the sequence the red-hued starscape is visible without the planet, and when we do see it (in the screencap) the stars surrounding the planet are different. Also, VLD doesn’t just have a planet prominently in-focus if it’s not relevant, and this is far too significant a planet to just sub in as space filler.

Both in-story and from a narrative perspective it doesn’t make sense for the Paladins to detour to the Altean Colony at this point. In story the team has just learned how to track Honerva’s robeasts through their wormholes and reunited with the Atlas, they need to make a move to stop her – which they do.

Narratively, we shouldn’t be learning anything new about the colony or the Alteans until after Allura has her confrontation with Lotor in s8e8 ‘Clear Day’. The dream sequences she experiences in that episode are an allusion to the situation at the colony, as I’ll elaborate on under their proper episode section.

It is quite possible that that sequence was taken from later in the season: no one is shown talking during it, there’s only a voice over from Allura. In the previous scene Allura tells Pidge to contact Matt to send out the rebels, implying he’s not on the Atlas. But in the next few shots we see the rebels launching from the Atlas.

The only thing that stands against this coming from a later episode is that the sequence is intercut with shots of Honerva starting up her ritual in Oriande and one of them is in the NYCC trailer, complete with red sky. This contrasts with a clip from later in the trailer that is demonstrably pre-edit (see the section on e8 ‘Clear Day’). Those paired scenes must come from ‘Genesis’ as Oriande is destroyed later in the episode.

So which is it?

Well, we have two possible explanations for the presence of a clip like that in the trailer:

1) This entire sequence, including Allura’s speech was originally created as promotional material for the season. The words are especially ambiguous and don’t mention anything specific that we don’t already know at the beginning of s8 – not even that they’re attacking Oriande.

2) The NYCC trailer was created during the editing of s8, at a point where e6 ‘Genesis’ had been edited but e8 ‘Clear Day’ hadn’t. They didn’t know exactly which footage was to be changed in subsequent episodes when they made it and nobody caught that they’d changed one of the other clips before the trailer went to air.

Whatever the reason, I’m confident that this sequence of fighters launching was taken from a later episode and put in here to pad for time. Specifically, it’s taken from Missing Episode #3, just as they’re gearing up to take on Honerva in the final battle. The rebels are notably absent in that fight, but are there out of nowhere to take the Alteans to the Balmeras. So this is the rebels launching to go complete some unknown task immediately prior to the final battle.

But this raises the question: if they needed to pad for time… what did they remove?

e6 ‘Genesis’ is a fairly tight episode, with not much room to fit in a minute or so of additional events within the fight sequences, so it’s possible the scene was cut from the very end of the episode. But there is one moment of character action and time that is missing.

We’re don’t see Allura returning to Blue. The last time we see Allura she’s on her knees mere yards from Honerva, crying in frustration. Honerva, with a look towards Allura, forces Sincline to land and kneel before her.

Now Honerva has just failed to recruit Allura to her side, and we know she’d prefer avoiding a hand to hand rematch against Allura – she lost to her in s2 remember. But the next thing we see, the Pyramid is taking off, Sincline, Honerva, and Merla are nowhere in sight, and Allura is back in Blue, trying to rally her fellow Paladins to escape the collapsing white hole.

Are we supposed to believe that Honerva didn’t try to force Lotor to kill Allura right there? That she just let the greatest threat to her plans run back to the universe’s most powerful weapon? When she had all five Paladins immobile and at her mercy? With her son’s mind and mech at her command, and at least one – if not more – robeasts still functioning? With an entire army of Alteans and a fully functioning spaceship, that she just let her already weakened foe escape to plan and recover?

I don’t buy it.

I think this (C) is where the content was removed from.

If I had to guess what happened?

Lotor fought Honerva’s order to kill Allura, allowing her opportunity to escape back to Blue. We see earlier in the episode that he specifically chooses not to shoot Allura when she first exits Blue, but doesn’t give the same consideration to the Lions, Voltron, or even his own allies. Merla observes that “something is wrong” with Lotor, and the visuals seem to indicate that’s because of the violence Sincline shows. Lotor is never excessively violent or brutal, but Sincline is just beating the heck out of Voltron with its bare fists. It’s very significant that he doesn’t shoot Allura. Whatever mental state he’s in after having become a robeast, he still loves Allura and doesn’t want to hurt her.

When Lotor resists her, Honerva, exhausted from the ritual, was unable to hold him in thrall. She was forced to use her robeasts to subdue and contain him. She fled the field of battle to regain control of the situation, as she couldn’t win a battle against the Paladins when her best fighters and her magic were both required to keep Lotor from breaking free of her.

For further proof, the scene where Sincline is kneeling in front of Honerva cuts out while the mech is still in motion – as does the music, switching tracks abruptly while midway through a note.

We actually see a shot that comes later in this sequence during e10 ‘Knights of Light: Part 2′, compare for yourself:

Why this had to be cut is obvious: Lotor can’t fight Honerva’s mind control if he’s dead.

Episode 7: Day Forty Seven

There are no obvious changes to the content of this episode.

I initially suspected that this episode had been added to cover the excised plot elements, but a closer examination reveals scenes that should not be present if the episode was created during the R3 changes. Specifically, the scene where Kolivan comments on the numbers of people in mission teams: it implies that we should be seeing a team of seven at some point.

While this never happens in the edited version, it does happen during the final battle in the original s8.

Instead, I theorize that this episode was added in Round 2, as it gives a good deal of characterization to the MFEs that there wasn’t time for in the s7 additions. It also, like s7e4 ‘The Feud’ before it, appears to be another example of an easier to animate episode. The unique ‘documentary’ framing device providing a clever way to cover up the minimal action within the episode itself. While that minimal action is what initially twigged my suspicion that it was the result of an edit, the animation is a much higher quality overall than that exhibited by the R3 edits identifiable in other episodes.

Major Changes: Episodes 8 – 10

Episode 8: Clear Day

Clear Day itself doesn’t have too many changes in it, but it’s classed under the ‘Major Changes’ category because of how the change in its context renders a once plot-critical episode a filler.

The title is our biggest clue that this should be a significant episode: encapsulating the main idea of the episode and it’s thematic material. ‘Clear Day’, a day in which some things should be made clear to both the characters and us. Lance’s jealousy, Lotor’s motives, and Allura’s feelings for Lotor are all things that should have more clarity by episode’s end, and if you look closely they still do.

As I discussed at length in my previous meta, Allura’s dream sequence isn’t a non sequitur: it’s the first part of the explanation for the colony. Allura dreams that she is forced to sacrifice part of something she loves (her Mother, part of Altea) to save the whole (Altea and its people itself). She does this by piloting one of the white robeasts and draining the quintessence from her immediate surroundings in order to destroy an attacking Galra fleet. Allura is horrified when she realizes what she’s doing, but her mother’s voice echoes, telling her she is so proud of her. While she is doing this, Lotor’s leitmotif interweaves with the background music.

The flash of images we see immediately after Allura accepts the entity into herself are supposed to lead into what she experiences in the next episode, which in R3s8 has been removed.

The only two identifiable in-text changes are Curtis’ teleporting maneuver at the carnival that has him in two places at once ( the games tent with the MFEs and as a spectator watching Shiro’s arm wrestling match) and the dominant mood lighting in the scenes with the imprisoned entity.

The first of these may actually be an animation error as opposed to an edit. Again, it’s context changes brought on by the edits that have the worst affect on this episode. In the images that leaked prior to s8 Shiro is shown marrying a character that resembles Roy Fokker from Macross. I believe that once fans had publicly identified the character reference DW further required that this shot be re-drawn – forcing the promotion of an unnamed background character to be Shiro’s new husband. DW has forced the animators to remove potentially copyright infringing references in the past: post s6 it was disclosed that the treasure pile in s6e3 ‘Monsters and Mana’ had to be re-drawn when DW became alarmed over the multiple referential objects in it.

If you need to sub in a different spouse at the last moment, Curtis is the only similarly-aged semi-prominent background character present in close association to Shiro. But, prior to this promotion, he was of such minor importance that his presence at two same-time events might have slipped notice.

Our second change is so far the only piece of the unedited s8 that we have for sure. We actually have a glimpse of the unedited scene where Lotor tempts Allura to take the entity, as a clip from it was contained in the promotional trailer released at NYCC 2018 (and on the official Voltron twitter account on December 13th, the day before the season dropped).

We can see that the color has been changed from a rich purple to a sickly green. You can tell the green was added on top of the purple because the colors are markedly darker in the full season 8 hosted on Netflix. If the alteration was done to the raw art files then the saturation should be the same, but as it was laid over-top, it becomes darker. When viewed with a greyscale filter it becomes obvious, particularly noticeable in the skin tones. In the trailer version you can also see distinct color differences in the walls behind them, while in the other the addition of a second color overlay has left the background a flat green.

It’s fairly exciting, as this seems to indicate that the NYCC trailer was created to advertise the original s8. And seems to clear up two strange comments made about this trailer. Famously, when the Voltron social media accounts officially posted it, they referred to it as the “production team’s take on the upcoming final season”. Additionally, on his Instagram, after specifically saying he’s taken the trailer from the official Voltron account, JDS calls it “the NYCC trailer we cut a little ways back“.

Taken together, these seems to identify ‘the production team’ in question as the team responsible for creating the show, and to clarify that it was done a decent amount of time ago.

It would also clear up an anomaly within the trailer itself.

I previously broke down the trailer using a recording taken at NYCC (prior to s8, obviously), and in it it’s notable that one clip is repeated twice: a clip of Honerva flickering through multiple different appearances of herself (the one that just happens to be the thumbnail featured in the screengrab of JDS’s Instagram post) that we now know to be taken from s8e6 ‘Genesis’. In no other trailer has a clip ever been repeated. This was likely done to cover up a piece of animation that was removed from s8 in the edits. Apparently, someone missed that they’d also changed the mood lighting in the clip of Lotor and Allura. Bad for them, good for us.

The color was probably changed to make the scenes more sinister feeling, as even now there is heavy sensual subtext. In the original, the scenes would have been blatantly tempting as opposed to threatening.

What remains is still some of the most overtly sexual imagery I’ve ever seen in a cartoon.

Allura begs off going to the fair with her boyfriend only to have incredibly charged and impassioned dreams about her ex? Who waxes poetic about flowers and them both wanting the same things? Everything she needs is right in front of her, she need only take it. And though she pretends “You’re not real”, she can’t deny the urge, the temptation to “become one with the entity”.

Lotor appearing in her room, standing over her while she is in bed, whispering lines about ‘becoming one’ in her ear.

It’s painfully obvious what is happening here.

Technically speaking, we only have concrete proof that the lighting was changed in that one specific clip ©. But through examining shots taken from the other sequences it appears that they display the same flat green coloring that results from the color being added as an overlay filter. I’m reasonably confident that all four green-tinted scenes are edited.

Oh, yes!

We can’t forget that “Voltron doesn’t have a purple lion” line!

That’s from the original. It’s there for two reasons. One, because yes, obviously it’s referring to Lotor. Two, because just as Allura is still holding onto her affection for Lotor, Lance is still holding onto his jealousy.

Lance isn’t stupid; he knows that Allura isn’t happy. But right now he’s being selfish: he’s more concerned with his own possession of Allura as his ‘prize’ (grossgrossgross) and his own feelings than he is with hers.

It’s further emphasized in that Pidge is the one who actually takes Allura’s preferences into account when finding her a present (something sparkly), where Lance’s present literally has his name on it: it’s all about him. It’s pretty damning that Lance signs his name to the Blue lion dolls when his is the Red. Blue is Allura’s, yet Lance never questions his ownership of her, his right to label her as belonging to him.

Throughout ‘Clear Day’ several background characters are shown to have lion plush in their possession, and every single one of them is purple. Slav is even shown happily hugging four of them.

Clearly, Voltron does have a purple lion. And the fans love him.

Missing Episode 1: ‘The Descent’

The first true major plot alteration: almost an entire episode has been excised. We actually get a few small scenes from it at the beginning of e9 “Knights of Light: Part 1″, but we’ll get to those in a moment.

This was the episode where we were to learn the truth of the colony situation. After getting the first parts of this in ‘Clear Day’ during Allura’s visions, she follows Lotor and finds the full truth.

Lotor bids Allura to “Follow me!” and several images flash onto the screen. In my first meta I misidentified the shot of Voltron in front of the planets as being Earth’s solar system, but the good people at the Lotura Discord have pointed out that those ‘planets’ are most likely the Altean Colony and its moons.

Here is where we do just that.

Allura follows Lotor into his mind to find the truth. To begin to reconcile with him, and he with her.

She also learns how exactly to go about taking advantage of the opportunity the dark entity has provided her. Once she awakens she has a plan to infiltrate Honerva’s mind, but it’s never explained from where Allura gets that plan. Nor is it explained how Allura knows she can enter Honerva’s mind in the first place, especially at such great a distance.

See, she knows she can do this because she’s already had opportunity to enter someone else’s mind.

Meanwhile, Pidge and Lance bond, resolving the issue of the present they both won for Allura in the previous episode. This is going to be Lance’s turn to have a conversation with Pidge mirroring the one Allura had with her in e3 ‘Battle Scars’ (the one that was removed). It will also bring up the events of e1 ‘Launch Date’ where Pidge sacrificed her videogame to get Allura a dress.

This is a very significant thing for both Pidge and Lance as that videogame was one in a series the two of them acquired the first of way back in the s2 episode ‘Space Mall’. It’s going to be teaching Lance a lesson that Pidge knows but that Lance has yet to learn. The conversation should go something like, “but that game was really important to you, why did you give it up?” “When you care about someone you make sacrifices to help them be happy” “Wait, you care about me?” “Of course I do, doofus”. The conversation should cover the topic of “when you care about someone you make sacrifices for them to be happy”.

We should also get some personal scenes with Keith and Shiro in either this episode or one of the other missing episodes later in the season (or both). I think Shiro comes across as cold to Keith in s8 because all their close character moments were cut, and what we have left is Keith interacting with Shiro in a public, professional setting. Keith is giving Shiro the respect he deserves as commander of the Atlas and Shiro is treating Keith as a professional, the ‘Head’ of Voltron. We should have had off-duty moments with them where they were themselves and more relaxed, but they were cut.

At some point during this episode we get the brief conversation on the Altas’ bridge between Iverson, Veronica, and Curtis about Shiro’s arm wrestling match, which is interrupted when Coran and Shiro himself arrive on the bridge. Presently that scene appears in e9 ‘Knights of Light: Part 1’, but the conversation doesn’t fit as ‘Clear Day’ is three days gone by that point. Where exactly this occurs in this episode I currently cannot say, but the episode should end with the sequence that currently begins our next episode: everything from Allura waking up in the hospital bed to the paladins meeting in the boardroom.

The episode ends with the team settling on the plan to infiltrate Honerva’s mind.

Episode 9: Knights of Light Part 1

There is only one identifiable change in this episode.

The first third of this episode actually belongs to the previous, missing one. That’s three scenes: Allura floating in the dark void and waking in the hospital bay (A), the conference room scene where the paladins discuss Allura’s plan, and the small discussion between the Atlas’ bridge crew (C).

The shot where Shiro and Coran walk onto the bridge marks the change from the previous episode to where this one should properly begin: between the distance shot and the close-up of Shiro, Coran disappears. Lest you think he just walked to his seat, a shot of the Altlas’ bridge just a few minutes later shows Coran’s chair empty. The brief scenes in the lions (B) are moved out of order to bridge these shuffled clips, and should rightly occur just after the close-up of Shiro which should be the proper beginning of this episode.

The actual episode should begin with the close-up shot of Shiro walking onto the bridge.

These bits of the missing episode appear to have been added to compensate for things which were removed from the next episode. The scenes needed to be shifted forward in time, not just to include the explanation of what the paladins are doing, but to cover up time gaps for content missing from the second half of the two-parter.

The proper end of this episode is shifted forward into the next episode to cover up content that was removed there.

Episode 10: Knights of Light Part 2

The first part of this episode rightly belongs to the end of the last one (A). The proper breaking point comes between Allura falling through the floor here:

And when the Paladins are suddenly in their Lions preparing to fight the Gladiator, here:

Those shots are literally two seconds apart.

The music in the first is slower, sounding of danger and apprehension then when the second hits it abruptly switches to triumphant and heroic. Both tunes are cut in the middle and the transition between them is abrupt. The backgrounds are completely different, and Allura seems to be looking at something directly. We’re missing a longer scene with her here, clearly, probably where she encounters something frightening (The Gladiator, I’d expect) and must figure out how to summon her Lion to save herself – hence the triumphant music. This shot is probably cut out to disguise the original ending/beginning of e9/e10.

Our next edit includes that image.

A clever thing is done here (B), exactly two scenes are switched in order, and by doing that it completely disconnects the building narrative. If you watch closely, in the ‘forest’ of memories where the paladins are breaking the fibers to reveal more recent memories, the memory group containing ThE cOrPsE are the only ones with sound. The transitions between the memories are also different. The soundless ones are rapid flashes, but the ones with sound are slower and more clearly transition in and out.

Immediately after that the paladins end up in the rift-looking space. Honerva’s echoing words are all about Lotor, and as the intensity ramps up, the last thing she says before the screen whites out is “Voltron and the Galra will pay for what they did to my son.”

These two scenes have their order swapped.

The entity is pulling them towards its source… and apparently, its source is Lotor.

This is a downright fascinating example of how just a small change – swapping the order of two scenes – can completely break narrative flow and turn a narrative climax into so much of nothing.

The building intensity of the rift-space should climax in the horrifying reveal. “Voltron and the Galra will pay for what they did to my son”, says Honerva, and then we find out just what exactly has been done to Lotor.

Try this sequence, doesn’t it make more sense this way?

The first thing afterwards that comes into focus is a juniberry flower.

The scene where the paladins react to seeing what exactly has happened to Lotor has been removed. Mostly. Hunks exclaims ‘That was rough’, and Allura walks from right to left in front of him. Hunk then, looking towards where Allura has gone, sees something that frightens him. But we never get to see it. It’s played off in s8 as simply being the new location, but that’s not actually what it is.

Lotor is not actually dead. The quintessence motes rising from his body are proof enough of that, if Sincline’s actions in e6 ‘Genesis’ didn’t already make it clear.

But it seems that maybe Allura does believe Lotor is dead for a short time after seeing his ‘body’. If she believes he’s dead it helps explain why she’s so overtly aggressive to Zarkon when it appears he’s the pre-rift version. Which, speaking of Zarkon, we’re also missing any and all of his reactions to learning he not only has a son, but what exactly has become of Lotor. We learn in s2 ‘Shadows’ that pre-rift Zarkon was excited about becoming a father, to learn just what he did to his son would be shattering.

Allura can only speak with Lotor while she is unconscious, in her dreams. She must meet with him again, to see that he’s alive, to vow to rescue him. The whole reason she goes unconscious at the end of KoL is so she can have have that spirit-meeting with Lotor before waking determined to rescue him.

And wouldn’t you know it?

The episode ends on the opening notes of Lotor’s theme.

The Frankenstein’s Monster: The episode that doesn’t exist, e11 ‘Uncharted Regions’

Here’s where it gets messy.

There is nothing within this episode that isn’t edited. Minor edits, major edits, cuts, recontextualization, and literally tracing one character over another to erase their presence in a scene.

Roughly speaking, there are 160 separate ’clips’ in e11 ‘Uncharted Regions’: sections of animation that are – either visually or thematically – unable to be realistically divided into smaller segments for rearranging. Some are longer – the hospital room sequence with Allura and Lance – and some are as short as a single establishing shot. This one for example:

The final three episodes of season 8 are composed of the remnants of at least six episodes in total, and e11 ‘Uncharted Regions’ represents three of them.

It makes this episode especially difficult to talk about. While there is a general sequence of events that is followed, many of the individual clips within those sequences are out of order. Those clips in turn have occasional audio alterations that compound this difficulty.

I’m pretty sure that the titles of the final three episodes are ‘Uncharted Regions’, ‘The Zenith’, and ‘The End is the Beginning’, even though the contents of them have been substantially altered.

The titles in VLD are always highly relevant to the episodes’ content, often in more ways than one. s8e1 ‘Launch Date’ refers to both Lance and Allura’s ‘date’ as well as the literal date the Atlas launches into space. s8e3 ‘The Prisoner’s Dilemma’ refers both to Lahn’s (the titular prisoner) decision of whether or not to trust the paladins, as well as the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ a longstanding theory that describes why two individuals might not cooperate even though it benefits them both to do so. Among titles from prior seasons, my favorite is s2e13 ‘Blackout’ – which has three readings. The power blackout on the Galra command ship, Shiro’s (current Black Paladin) vanishing, and Zarkon’s (former Black Paladin) exit as prime antagonist.

The title ‘The End is the Beginning’ can be read as referring to both the stage of the final battle (the source, ie: ‘beginning’ of all realities) and that this is the final episode. ‘The Zenith’ is trickier – a ‘zenith’ is the top/peak/culmination of something – but one can argue that it’s referring to Honerva being the strongest she’s ever been and closest to getting what she desires.

But ‘Uncharted Regions’ is where this falls apart. There are no new regions, literal or metaphorical present here.

In the original s8 it made sense.

Following, I’m going to lay out the case for ‘Uncharted Regions’ being originally a reference to the heretofore unprecedented team up of all six of our Paladins plus Lotor piloting the same Atlas+Voltron supermecha, and a reference to the realities beyond the rift.

The phrase ‘uncharted regions’ comes from DOTU’s opening narration: “From days of long ago and uncharted regions of the universe comes a legend, the legend of Voltron: Defender of the universe”. While many may not realize it, season one actually has 13 episodes as opposed to 11: the first three have simply been combined into the triple-length pilot we’re all more familiar with. Those first three actually have titles of their own, and ‘From Days of Long Ago’ is the title of the second one. The one which covers Allura’s introduction and the explanation of the war. Literally, a 10k year old conflict – from days of long ago. It refers to Voltron’s origins here, so when the second half of this origin story comes up it also should be referring to Voltron’s origins – and in VLD’s canon the trans-reality comet comes from the spaces between realities. Thus, ‘Uncharted Regions’.

This episode should cover what we see now mostly in e12 ‘The Zenith’ as well as several additional scenes that were cut.

‘The Zenith’ instead refers to the final battle itself, as well as what I theorize being the name of the space it takes place in. This episode should cover the first half of e13 ‘The End is the Beginning’, which should actually be long enough for a full episode with how severely it has been chopped down and edited. The episode should end on the image of a restored Altea.

‘The End is the Beginning’ then, is entirely devoted to the aftermath, tying up loose ends, and what I suspect was an eventual reunion of the characters post timeskip.

As for the versions that we got…

Of the final three episodes, e11 ‘Uncharted Regions’ is the worst butchered here: it’s made of the remnants of three different episodes, and many of the kludged together sequences make little narrative sense. This makes the plot, such that there is, especially hard to follow. Here’s a basic summary just so we’re on the same page:

Honerva knows that the Paladins know of her plans, she powers up her fancy new mech and starts enacting those plans anyway – searching other realities for her ‘perfect’ one. Allura is unconscious and so the team cannot wormhole, they decide to collect weapons to fight Honerva with. Hunk, Coran and Romelle depart for a Balmera. Shiro sends a team of coalition fighters to perform reconnaissance on the Pyramid ship, but they’re intercepted and killed by the white robeasts. Allura wakes and the Atlas team wormholes to fight Honerva. Honerva activates the Alteans and uses them to drain the energy from the Atlas’ crystal. Merla intervenes and disrupts the procedure, allowing Allura to open a wormhole for Hunk to bring the Balmera through. Honerva recovers and immediately drains the Balmera’s energy, utilizing it to fuse her mech with Sincline.

I’ve left out a lot of small scenes in that summary: it could easily be twice as long. The episode is choppy, disjointed, and is filled with scenes that start, stop and jump around at apparently random points. There is virtually no narrative flow with the visuals or audio, and any tension is killed by how disconnected everything is. There are several scenes that flat out don’t make any sense within the narrative, and the episode itself lacks an arc. A large portion of the center of this episode is taken up by a conversation between Pidge, Sam, and Slav, where they discuss building a thorium ray: this is never referenced again.

VLD’s animation has meticulous attention to detail, and they almost always opt for showing rather than telling. Visually, it’s a masterpiece: every detail, thoroughly bent in purpose of telling this story. Each character carefully distinct. You subconsciously pick up on the details without actively realizing it. That’s why this episode flows so poorly; the visual, thematic, and narrative messages, symbols, and details are still telling the original story when the literal telling of it is now being forced to say something else.

Missing Episode 2: ‘Storming the Pyramid’

The beginning of the episode we now know as ‘Uncharted Regions’ is actually the beginning of this one. Honerva out of breath and panicked looking after having failed to stop the paladins from escaping her mind. On the bridge of the Pyramid, which is traveling through wormhole space, she orders the ship to exit the wormhole at coordinates beta-four-ex-seven and proceeds to inform Merla that the Paladins are aware of their plans. When questioned Honerva clarifies that this is in fact not a problem; it’s an advantage.

This is a deliberate callback to s3e3 ‘The Hunted’ where Lotor expresses a similar sentiment upon learning that the Paladins are able to form Voltron. Lotor would then go on to manipulate the Paladins into retrieving the trans-reality comet for him in s3e4 ‘Hole in the Sky’. We can expect, then, that Honerva is about to use the Paladins to further one of her own plans. Probably by manipulating them into doing something she is unable to do herself.

Honerva needs Allura to heal Lotor because she herself cheated the trials at Oriande and never received the Life Givers’ blessing. The paladins knowing about Honerva’s plans plays nicely into this, because Honerva now knows how to set a trap for them. Just as Lotor did to the paladins back in s4 with the trans-reality comet, Honerva plans to exploit Allura’s feelings and desire to help people.

The shot where the Pyramid exits the wormhole is not from this episode, it’s from our 4th missing episode – the one that contains the final battle amidst Altea’s remains. We can tell because every major battleground throughout VLD – and many of the minor ones – has its own unique color scheme. The one for this episode’s battleground, coordinates beta-four-ex-seven, is purple and pink: more saturated versions of Oriande’s pastels. We actually see light from this skyskape in several instances throughout e11, and we can prove that it’s the site of a major battle because of the atmospheric light it throws in some of the mid-battle interior shots of the Atlas. The actual final battle shots can be distinguished by their golden glow.

Allura ends e10 ‘Knights of Light: Part 2’ unconscious, so we should be seeing her have another meeting with Lotor here. Believing that he’s dead, this should be hugely relieving for her to find out he’s alive, and galvanize her determination to save him.

There’s a scene we now get in the middle of ‘Uncharted Regions’ that doesn’t belong. In the middle of searching alternate realities from her black mech, we suddenly have a shot of Honerva in her Altean Empress regalia inside the Pyramid. She declares that the princess is awake, and then the scene ends. It’s anomalous not just because of the visual discontinuity, but because in the s8 we get now there is no reason for Honerva to care whether Allura is awake or not. In this one, however, it fits perfectly.

Though it does raise the question: if Honerva can spy on Allura’s connection to Lotor (presumably via the same dark entity that allowed Allura to infiltrate her mental space) is she able to interfere as well? Is it limited to spying undetected, or does Allura now know that Honerva knows she’s coming?

Unfortunately we don’t find this out in the R3s8.

After Allura wakes up she and Lance have a conversation that clarifies Allura’s lack of romantic feelings for Lance and Lance vows to assist her in saving Lotor from Honerva. Most likely this scene included language about Allura’s feelings towards Lance being familial as opposed to romantic. This is immediately followed by the scene where they arrive on the bridge and Allura opening a wormhole to take them to the ‘Beta’ coordinates.

You can brush off Lance’s odd body language as just more ‘creepy and possessive’ stuff, but Allura is really bracing for something.

I theorize he’s being a good friend there, as opposed to a creepy boyfriend. Allura just spent the entirety of ‘Knights of Light’ being told everything is too dangerous, and having her every decision questioned – blah blah blah coded slut shaming. This is finally the moment Lance has his big turn around and has a Nice Guy™ redemption arc when he’s the first one who supports her decision. It brings home the lessons Lance learned from his conversations with Pidge earlier in the season: you make sacrifices for the people you care about to be happy. It’s really a beautiful turn around!

They gave Lance, in full, a redemption arc you’d expect from a villainous crush. Because Lance is Allura’s personal villain. He represents the ‘evil’ holding her back. A benevolent misogyny. Lance was the villain in Allura’s personal arc. The edits not only didn’t redeem Lotor, they cut out Lance’s redemption as well.

When you cut that out, and present Lance’s behavior prior to his redemption as correct, you affirm a truly toxic and regressive message. This is the most vile effect of the edits, and it’s so telling that few negative reviews can even detect it.

This isn’t about the ship. A romantic relationship between Allura and Lance could have been done well. Lance could have found his redemption, his knowledge of sincere selfless love through Allura. But he doesn’t. S8 instead doubles down on his creepy, possessive, controlling behavior, and the edits cut out all the intended resolutions to that.

That’s the ‘cool arc’ between Lance and Lotor, after Allura wakes up post ‘Knights of Light’ she and Lance have a talk about her just not having romantic feeling for him. And then, finally, Lance has his growth moment and vows to help her save Lotor. That’s when we get the shot of Lance and Allura arriving on the bridge of the Atlas. Lance isn’t holding onto her possessively, he’s bracing her for strength as she’s preparing to make the argument that they need to go save Lotor. He’s actually being supportive. It’s also why Allura looks so stern faced there. The change of context makes the body language completely different.

It was supposed to be clear from the beginning that Allura wasn’t interested in Lance, that’s why she looks so miserable: they cut out her being happy after Lotor is rescued.

So they do. They wormhole to the beta-four-ex-seven coordinates, where we get this shot of the Atlas’ bridge. Pay attention to the pinkish glow in these shots, it’s how we can distinguish the ones belonging to this battle as opposed to the final one.

The paladins look horrified: Pidge asks “What’s she doing?” and Shiro responds “I don’t know.” We’re never shown what it is they see – the shots outside the Atlas are replaced with clips extracted from the finale fight – but the music gives us a good clue: it’s Lotor’s theme.

We get one more internal shot with the pink lighting, it’s of Allura standing at the teleduv terminals looking tense. The voice over informs her that she needs to wait there until Hunk is ready to return, but that’s not something that happens until the final battle, so that line isn’t originally from this scene.

The next thing that needs to happen is that Allura and the paladins need to storm that pyramid and rescue Lotor.

Finally, finally, we get our Altean Alchemist vs Altean Alchemist showdown. A fight that’s foreshadowed as being inevitable since Honerva and Allura initially clashed in s2’s finale. It all comes to a head as the two last Altean alchemists clash over Lotor.

At some point during this fight Allura is able to heal Lotor and rescue him from Sincline. It’s probably a narrow escape, as Honerva is still in possession of the ship itself in the aftermath. Allura wins her battle, but not the war, and I suspect either Honerva forces the team to wormhole away, or she flees the scene after Lotor rejects her.

The line that causes Honerva to finally snap in the alternate reality is not just when little Lotor rejects her, but specifically when he says “My mother is dead!” it’s framed as though this is a callback to something, but it’s a line we’ve never heard before. It makes sense then, that this is an echo of our Lotor’s final rejection as he is being rescued.

While Allura is tackling Honerva someone else must be dealing with Merla. She’s clearly visually indicated to be playing the part of Honerva’s second in command and I think she must have originally had a much bigger part in this season, she has a legacy name after all.

With Merla we should have two things: we need to see her allegiances waver at least once before she switches sides and, because the thing that makes her switch sides is Honerva needlessly sacrificing the Alteans’ lives, we should see her being devoted not to Honerva or Lotor, but to the betterment of the Altean people. In the very finale, it looks to me like she might be the new Altean ruler or representative alongside Coran, which follows along those lines of how the ‘good’ rulers are portrayed in VLD.

During the final battle, immediately after Merla switches sides, Honerva has a line where she tells her two remaining robeast pilots that because they two alone have stayed with her they will be rewarded by going to Altea with her. When Lotor is rescued the vast majority of the Alteans defect to follow him and are taken aboard the Atlas. When Coran, Sam, and Slav take to the bridge of the Pyramid in the finale it’s notably empty – they encounter no additional Alteans aboard. This stands in stark contrast to the sizable crowd of Alteans we see occupying the pyramid in e6 ‘Genesis’.

Missing Episode 3: ‘The Purple Lion’

This is our “calm before the storm’ episode. There are several subplots that need to be tied up involving Lotor that must happen before the final battle. Chief among them being a resolution with Acxa and Zethrid. This should be the episode focused on tying up loose ends, and on preparing for the final confrontation with Honerva. There’s a decent chance that what I’m calling one is actually two episodes here, but there’s so little of it left in the edited s8 that it’s impossible to be sure. Just keep that in mind as we discuss it.

We should have that boardroom scene from the start of ‘Uncharted Regions’. Lance is visibly angry when he says that Allura is unconscious so they can’t wormhole, but it’s not the concerned kind of anger you’d expect if that’s the case. That’s absolutely not his original line. If you look at this scene as a whole, it seems like that actual problem is insufficient firepower. Remove the line from Lance about the wormhole the rest of the conversation makes it clear, and the following scenes with the Alteans and with Slav reinforce this. Keith also has a similar line, but that easily could have come from anywhere – like our first missing episode between e8 and e7 where Allura was unconscious and they couldn’t wormhole.

Immediately after the boardroom meeting there’s a conversation between Keith and Lance that sticks out as ‘odd’ to me, and has from the first time I saw s8. It was only recently I realized that it feels odd because it’s the only bit of sincere emotional interaction containing hope that was left in the season. It’s one of the few bits of the original season remaining. The scene has been moved to a place it doesn’t belong, but the conversation itself wasn’t changed. I think they might have been unable to get Keith’s VA in to re-do lines for him, so they had to mostly leave his dialogue unaltered or cut and paste lines to make new ones. So far as I can tell, only Lance, Allura, and Honerva have altered dialogue: the rest just have things moved. Even then, Allura and Honerva only have new lines in the ending sequence.

To begin the conversation between the two of them Keith says to Lance ‘She’ll be alright’ with his back to the camera. Lance then replies “I know” and the conversation starts. But the conversation is about how far they’ve come since they arrived at the castle of Lions. This is not the conversation that you have with a guy whose girlfriend is unconscious after performing risky experimental dark magic, and a sullen “I know” is not how he’d respond to assurances that she’ll be okay. Keith’s original line is probably more like “It will work out.” In the real version the conversation takes place just after they rescue Lotor, while Allura is keeping vigil at his bedside. Keith is consoling his friend after a breakup.

Somewhere after this Coran, Hunk, and Romelle depart for the Balmera and Krolia and Kolivan head out to attempt to recruit the Galra Fleet. We should be getting a scene or two with Hunk and Shay, perhaps via communicator, in either this or the next episode that explains why and how the group of Balmeras all arrive to assist Voltron in the final hour.

Now, lets tackle the hospital room scene. This is the first of many sequences where one character has been redrawn as another, and in this case it’s actually both of them.

In my previous meta I could look at this scene and could tell you something was wrong here before I had the words to tell you what. When I wrote my ‘Ghosts’ meta I could tell you what I thought happened here, I could justify how it could have been changed and what I thought it was originally, but I couldn’t present any proof of what I suspected. Now I can.

There’s one major, glaring, issue with attempting to remove Lotor by tracing over him: Lotor doesn’t have human proportions.

A collection of things that stand out in just this one image? Allura’s forearms are different lengths, the rumples in the bedsheets imply her legs are nearly twice as long as her upper body, her shoulders look as though they’ve been digitally altered to be narrower, despite being closer to the camera Lance is smaller than Allura, and Allura’s straight up has Lotor’s face.

Lance has been properly redrawn in almost all the shots of him, but there’s a brief frame where his face is on an angle and you can clearly see Allura’s features.

Check those unusually narrow shoulders.

And this is simply a recolored Lotor with Allura’s hair.

You can even see Allura’s original finger lines that have been disguised and reused as lines for Lance’s knuckles.

One more thing.

The line “Come back to me” has no personal or thematic significance to Lance, but it does to Allura and Lotor.

We first hear that line in s3e6 ‘The Legend Begins’, it’s said to Zarkon by Honerva as she uses her magic to bring him back to life. The way it’s set up, this line comes immediately after Honerva’s realization that Zarkon is her husband, and her bringing him back is framed as an action of love – such that she’s capable of – on her part.

Lotor and Allura’s relationship is written as a parallel to Zarkon and Honerva, with the couples representing selfish and selfless love respectively. They are both the Galra Emperor and the Altean Alchemist, and it’s repeatedly implied that where Zarkon and Honerva made the wrong choices, Lotor and Allura will make the right ones.

To have a line this thematically significant taken out of context and given to a completely unrelated character is almost laughable in its audacity.

Once Lotor is awake he’ll be able to provide directions to travel safely through the quantum abyss. Turns out you don’t have to spend two years in there if you know the right way to go; which Lotor does. They’ll travel to the colony to return all the Alteans (who aren’t presently harbouring dark entities) to home and safety.

This is where the sequence now seen in e6 ‘Genesis’ with the colony planet visible in the background originates from. This means that at some point the rebel fighters are dispatched from the Atlas while it’s stationed in the quantum abyss.

This is also the episode where we should be getting a resolution to Acxa’s subplot, and a peacemaking between herself, Zethrid, and Lotor. Keith is most likely also involved in this conversation, and there should be some sort of symbolic passing of the torch to him from Lotor that would explain why it is that he’s the one speaking on Feyiv in the final episode. I would also not be surprised if Lotor makes some sort of speech to his Empire, though what he’d be saying after having been missing approximately four years I can’t even begin to guess.

It’s difficult to say where this episode should end and the next begin, because we can’t say where and in what order the contents within it occur.

Missing Episode 4: ‘The Beginning of the End’

The final battle is set amidst the shattered remains of planet Altea, golden hued like a sunset.

This is where the majority of the battle from ‘Uncharted Regions’ actually takes place.

Shiro detects Honerva wormholing to a new location and sends a team of rebel combatants in to scout. The rebels are detected and being slaughtered by the white robeasts so the team on the Atlas wormholes in to rescue them. Hunk isn’t ready to return with the Balmera yet, so Allura waits at the teleduv terminals until he is.

Somewhere during this fight the thorium ray that Sam, Slav, and Pidge discussed should be used, and Matt should return from wherever it is he went, as he’s there to help ferry the Alteans to the Balmeras at the end of the fight.

The battle procedes, roughly speaking, as we see it in the edited version of ‘Uncharted Regions’, albeit in the correct order. The fight in front of the pyramid is chopped up very strangely. There are two indicators to use when attempting to place the scenes in order: the presence of the Balmera, and whether or not the lights on Sincline’s chest are lit. The shots with Sincline in particular are very helpful, as it’s present throughout the entire fight.

Honerva activates the Alteans aboard the Atlas to drain the energy from the ship’s crystal disabling Allura in the process. Merla intervenes and disrupts the procedure in order to save the lives of her people. Allura recovers and is able to bring the Balmera and Hunk through, but Honerva takes advantage of it and immediately turns her komar on the Balmera, using its energies to fuse her own black mech with Sincline.

One thing I’ve also noticed, but haven’t figured what the ‘it’ is yet: Honerva’s black mech is clearly significant in some way. There are many brief glimpses of it leading up to its actual debut in the final battle. And there’s some suspicious lines that indicate to me that there’s something very significant about it. In ‘Knights of Light: Part 2’ Pidge realizes that Honerva is going to use Sincline’s trans-reality ore to punch through realities, but only minutes later Zarkon says ‘But you still don’t know how!’. Which at the time seems… there’s gotta be something edited between those.

But what if there isn’t?

Sincline (and Voltron) could only go into the quintessence field where the rift was already in existence outside of Daibazaal. It seems that’s why Lotor was unable to escape the quintessence field with Sincline’s warping abilities: the Paladins sealed the rift properly by detonating the teleduv. That black mech is what Honerva uses to peer into other realities, yet she couldn’t start actually drilling through to her perfect reality until the mechs had fused and she had both their abilities in one machine. Whatever that mech’s wings are made out of, they allow Honerva to interact with the barrier between realities in a way nothing else we’ve seen in series is able to.

The main purpose of that machine, why it’s such a threat, has been removed. So much so that we never actually hear what the ‘it’ it represents is.

Meanwhile, aboard the Atlas, there are things happening that we didn’t get to see.

After Shiro orders the Alteans taken to the medical wing Allura goes there to try and save their lives. It’s evidently Lotor – in a scene that’s been cut out – who shows Allura how to change the destructive energy of the dark entity into constructive. This is where that happens, and where Allura is freed of Honerva’s influence over the entity – which disappears around this time in the edited s8 with no explanation.

That prompts the question, of course, how does Lotor know this to teach it to Allura in the first place? Frustratingly, most of the plot relating to the dark entity has been removed.

Once the Alteans are restored Allura and Lotor head to the Lion bay to board Blue and attempt to enact a plan to thwart the Honerva’s efforts to drill through realities. While there they cross paths with Coran, who’s disembarking from Yellow, and here we must get an emotional, intense goodbye. The characters may not know this, but it’s the last time Allura and Coran will see each other for a long time.

It appears that there’s some sort of plan to disrupt the drilling that’s been almost, but not completely, cropped out. There’s some maneuvering in Voltron to get around the two giant mechs fighting.

Merla and the two remaining robeasts clash, and we get the first of what will be many, many terribly altered splitscreens. Look at this! They were so eager to crop Lotor out of this shot that they cropped out Hunk as well. Not to mention poor Allura and Lance down there at the bottom with half their faces missing.

I made you a speculative reconstruction of the original layout. I hope you like it.

The music builds as Voltron closes in on the gate when Keith yells to Hunk “Shoulder cannon!”, and Hunk reports that he has a shot… And then the drill pierces realities just before he can take it. The plan we aren’t allowed to know existed has failed.

Honerva enters the Alternate reality and the Balmeras all appear to lend their energy into combining Atlas and Voltron into one supermech. Where do the crew of the Atlas that aren’t Shiro go? They’re probably ejected from the mech at some point, but the scene has been removed. But that’s okay, they’re not the only one who’s been removed. We have two seriously unbalanced and warped splitscreens, one of which is much easier to piece back together than the other.

Shiro is central and each of the paladins is paired with another on the other side in the size they’re depicted in the array. Keith and Allura are paired, as are Lance and Hunk, but since Lotor has been removed Pidge is missing her opposite.

But if Lotor was part of the final battle, where exactly was he?

Hmm… I wonder.

Seems we do have precedent!

Lotor wasn’t piloting himself until Voltron and Atlas combined. Prior to that he was a passenger in Blue as Matt was in Green in s4e3 ‘Black Site’. The new combo supermech gives him his own pilot controls though.

Hilariously, one of the key things I had to decide, when attempting to find places where Lotor was drawn over with other characters, was what he was wearing. When we get a glimpse of him in e10 his uniform looks to be in no better shape than his body, and as far as we’ve seen It doesn’t look like Allura has the ability to heal inanimate objects – such as clothing. In the hospital scene it’s obvious he’s dressed in garrison clothes, but what should he have on while in the Blue Lion? In-universe I’m sure it could just be handwaved to have him still wear his original outfit, but because of the symbolic re-birth that would have happened when Lotor was rescued from Sincline, it seemed appropriate for him to have changed clothing.

This might seem like a trivial question, but it’s not. Like his proportions, Lotor’s silhouette is distinct from that of the paladins – particularly with his cape – and would be a key target to look for to identify alterations. If he was in his original uniform it would also dramatically increase the workload someone would have had to shoulder to edit him out: as his entire body would need to be re-drawn, not just his face.

In working to rearrange all the split screens though, I hit upon an idea, and the more I looked into it it seemed to check out. In the final battle, many of the split screens have to be carefully balanced to accommodate Shiro being in his Atlas Commander’s uniform, as opposed to his paladin suit. Now. It would be simple to contrive a reason to have Shiro don his old outfit if they had wanted to – and it would create a neat bookend to see the whole team in their uniforms for the final battle. So why didn’t they do it?

Perhaps someone else was already wearing it.

It would be thematically appropriate for Lotor to wear the Paladin’s uniform. He is, after all, the best of both his parents: the Altean Alchemist and the Galra Paladin.

And after all, Shiro himself has been reborn, He’s reborn not as the Black Paladin, but as the White one. As per his name – Shiro. That’s why he doesn’t wear his old uniform after he completes his rebirth: from the paladin of the Black Lion to the commander of the Atlas.

And my god! suddenly it makes sense why the re-drawn faces look so off model yet I couldn’t find any telling issues to show that the bodies had been redrawn – Lotor was already wearing a paladin uniform with his helmet on. All they had to change was the face and the color patches. Of course we can still ses that it was him from his unique proportions, but you have to pause and look carefully to notice those. Watching the actual show in motion makes it so much easier to overlook.

The closing shot of this episode should be just as Voltron enters the rift, which has been removed.

Yes, that’s right, they removed Voltron actually entering the rift. And you didn’t even notice.

That’s how broken up this episode was.

Major Changes: Episodes 11-13

Episode 11: Uncharted Regions

The content that properly belongs in this episode is blessedly much easier to get through. While there are many edits to the animation, and several scenes have been cut entirely, what is here seems to all be in the proper chronological order.

The episode starts a little less than halfway through what we now know as e12 ‘The Zenith’. We’re missing the closing shot, which should be just as Voltron enters the gate. As I mentioned you might miss it the first time through, but we never actually get to see it happen. We get a look at Voltron flying towards the gate, but that’s followed up immediately by a scene with Coran and Slav aboard the rebel ships on the way to the pyramid. It appears that Voltron has already entered the gate at this point, because the next time we see it, it’s emerging into an alternate reality. The scene with Voltron has faster, more exciting music, building and growing more heroic as it goes, but it flips into a slow, sedate tune when Coran appears on screen – without ever reaching the peak it was building to.

It seems we’re missing not only the closing scene of the previous episode, but the opening of this one as well – likely removed because their purpose as ‘ending’ and ‘beginning’ was too obvious. I’m unsure which episode the Coran scene originally belonged to, but I suspect this one, as it’s too slow a scene to fit into the previous ending – which is energetic and fast paced.

There’s a lot cut out of this episode but, thank goodness, what remains appears to be in chronological order. Our first edit is a splitscreen: it’s visually balanced, but there is something very wrong with Lance here. It looks like his face has been cut out and pasted into that faceplate: not only is the angle of it wrong, but his face is too small for his head. If that’s Lance he’s also much broader across the shoulders than he is usually drawn. No, this was originally Lotor. Where Lance was I can’t say, but he wasn’t there.

Our next edit is another splitscreen I’ve unfortunately been unable to reassemble. This one does have a good clue in it though: every few frames there’s one where you can see a small line of mismatched pixels along the bottom of Allura’s frame. It turns out that these pixels match up to the ones on the bottom of Lance’s frame, once you rotate him upright. Here’s the screen:

And here’s a detail of the pixels:

They don’t run the full length of Allura’s frame, only the first two thirds.

It seems like Allura’s frame is the favorite of them to mess with. This next splitscreen is not only visually unbalanced, but it looks like Allura’s frame has been swapped out for a shot of her from somewhere else. Look at the clarity of the interface details in the background, in Allura’s frame they’re much smaller and sharper than all the rest.

This one’s a relatively easy fix, though it’s possible that in the actual screen Allura was mirrored to Hunk instead of Shiro, as we don’t know what her original pose was.

It seems neither Allura or Lotor can catch a break in these edits, as if killing them both off weren’t bad enough. We actually see quite a few images throughout this episode and the next where Lotor has been traced over and disguised as another character. Mainly Allura, as they’re both in Blue, but sometimes there’s a shot without the distinctive Lion color accents that can be disguised as another character. Such as this next edit.

Lance has been redrawn over Lotor, who is clearly in the Blue Lion. While most shots from this sequence better match Lance, the angle shot retains Lotor’s facial features – most obviously his nose. ‘Lance’ also inexplicably has fangs in some of these shots. Easier to notice is the size of the character in the chair. One of the best ways to answer ‘was this character traced over Lotor?’ is to check the proportions; longer forearms, larger hands, broad chest with comparatively slim upper arms, thicker upper thighs and a… pronounced… thigh gap. Clearly non-human proportions that look decidedly odd when passed of as Lance. That there, is definitely not Lance’s hips and legs.

Shortly after the aforementioned shot we get Keith’s motivational speech, during which he says this line: “Sendak. Zarkon. Lotor. We’ve saved the universe countless times.” But if you actually listen to it, Lotor’s name is grafted into the line in the space that should be a pause for impact after Zarkon’s name, as there is for Sendak. It’s such that the two names meld together, and is very noticeable. “Sendak. ZarkonLotor.” So noticeable that quite a good number of people have written me about it! (thank you everyone!)

But by far the most glaring edit of this episode is the removal of whatever happens to the team after the rift closes on them, and they’re left outside of reality.

Because it does. And they are.

You have to look really carefully, but the closeup on Keith’s eye just as the gate closes shows his horrified realization that they aren’t going to make it through. Here’s the images, and it brightened so his expression can be better seen.

They didn’t make it through in time, yet they show up later with no explanation.

We now get the only sequence within these six final episodes that is unaltered: the brief section we now see at the end of e12 ‘The Zenith’ where Honerva is attempting to make her home in the alternate reality. What we should be getting, what originally took up the bulk of the core of this episode, is wherever the paladins are – or aren’t, considering they’re outside of reality – now. There’s a clear split in the middle of Honerva’s plot that divides it into two separate scenes. I believe that Honerva’s story originally formed the B-plot for the episode while the removed scenes were the main one.

As the title of this episode alludes to, this should involve the origins of Voltron. Specifically, the origins of the trans-reality comet it is constructed from. This plot was most likely cut because whatever the team had to do to escape the place they’d ended up, and resume their pursuit of Honerva, Lotor was pivotal to it.

The final edit of this episode is another splitscreen. The right hand side of both Shiro and Allura’s faces are drawn slightly off, and I believe were added in to cover up the space created by removing Lotor’s frame. There’s also a small bump in the boarder on the right side of Allura’s frame that seems to indicate that line was redrawn.

Episode 12: The Zenith

The first edit that properly belongs to this episode is a splitscreen that’s actually a composite of two separate ones. You can tell because of how unbalanced it is (green line is the visual center of balance, orange is the physical center of the image), but also because Allura and Keith’s frames don’t have the ‘stress’ lines that the rest do.

The two segments shake just slightly out of sync with each other, so you can actually see the cut mark between Lance and Allura’s windows briefly every so many frames. It’s not something super easy to catch, so here’s a detail shot of the exposed separation:

Keith’s frame also appears to have an animation error in the lower half of it: it looks like his right shoulder cap has been left white instead of being colored in red. This may mean that the bottom half of his frame was drawn in in this later edit, or it may simply have been missed during the original animation – that does happen occasionally.

Ah! Another redrawn Lotor: this time as Allura. And conveniently following right on the heels of an actual shot of Allura from a very similar angle, as though to drive home just how obvious this one is. Those are Not Allura’s facial expressions. Those expressions are very similar to the ones that Lotor makes during the s6 finale.

Allura:

‘Allura’:

Most of the time we can pick these shots out, again, by proportions and size, but it’s also possible to use exactly what is visible in Blue’s cockpit to determine which character a shot originally depicted. Lotor’s position should be behind Allura. As the interior of the Lions are 3d models, the panels in the background of shots have consistent spatial relationships to both each other and to the pilot. If we see things we logically shouldn’t be able to see from where Allura’s pilot chair is positioned then we can know that the shot was originally of Lotor instead.

Look at that window. In the first cap the window ends somewhere behind the character’s chair. In the second, the window appears to end close to parallel to the pilot. We also shouldn’t be able to see that lower illuminated panel from the pilot’s chair.

Next edit, a splitscreen: this time the screen has been zoomed in slightly, creating minor cropping issues with Lance’s face being partially cut out. The right side of Lance’s frame is clearer and too bright red to match the rest of the image, so it seems this has been drawn in.

It’s easy to fit the missing panel back into this one.

Following that is another splitscreen, this one more difficult to reconstruct, but the frames on the left hand side are notably zoomed in with parts of the characters faces cropped out. Allura in particular is badly cropped. Blurry and zoomed in to such a degree that it’s difficult to discern her facial features.

But now, we have the first appearance of our new friend, the Repeating Splitscreen. Never before has a splitscreen been repeated in VLD but in this episode it happens! How exciting. I’ll show you it later, in the place it actually belongs, because right now we need to follow our heroes into the Zenith: the source of all realities. Lance asks where they are, and ‘Allura’ replies that she doesn’t know. It’s hard to tell until the splitscreen snaps into place, but this is another instance of Lotor being replaced. Again, it’s the facial expressions that are telling.

Allura herself should probably be in Hunk’s position. Hunk’s face in his frame is cropped; the way his eye and eyebrow are cut through indicates that the original image was larger. Pidge’s frame was probably split with her on the right and Hunk on the left.

The first time Honerva destroys a reality thread the images of the destroyed realities flash through Allura, but yet again, this isn’t actually Allura. In contrast to all the other paladins, who are shown from different angles, we see the same shot of Allura several times. We later on in this episode see another shot of Allura from nearly the exact same angle, allowing us to perform a neat little comparison.

Allura (on the left) and ‘Allura’ (on the right); note specifically the character’s height and the width of the chest. I scaled the images so that the chair is exactly the same size. The lion interiors are 3d models: they don’t change. The angle is very slightly different, but I think this is a strong case that the right ‘Allura’, and the one in question here, was actually Lotor.

As Honerva closes in on the final strand of reality someone who might be Allura looks up in horror before a splitscreen snaps in around them. It’s not something I can say with absolute certainty, but the facial features as well as the character’s size in relation to the chair they’re in have me suspicious.

When the two mechs clash once more Honvera stabs Voltron in the chest with her mech’s tail, and a splitscreen with truly terrible cropping issues pops up. You can barely even see Allura in the tiny triangle of space she’s been allotted, Lance is almost completely cut off at the bottom of the frame, and Keith is huge in comparison to the rest. Of course, we know why, and this one is a relatively easy one to make a speculative fix for:

Honerva’s boosters fire, pushing Voltron towards the last reality strand. Allura looks to the side and makes clear eye contact with someone who these edits would have you believe isn’t actually there. The moment is tense: the team struggling to keep Honerva from breaking this last remaining reality. They yell together and one of the most obviously edited splitscreens appears.

An array of six characters should be evenly spaced, yes? So it sticks out oddly that Keith is given a double-width section as compared to his fellows. Keith’s frame is red-black and immediately to his left is Allura, who is blue-pink. If you inserted another color section in there it would be purple-indigo; which are Lotor’s colors.

The team is struggling to hold off Honerva and is slowly losing ground. Then two quick flashes of different Lion terminals, Red’s and Yellow’s, accompanied by an electronic whirring noise. Out of nowhere Voltron manifests a set of massive booster wings which enable the paladins to turn the tide of battle and push Honerva away from the last reality.

Did you miss it?

You might have.

Immediately after those terminal shots there is a scene cut. It’s the final epic powering up shot of the series, so it should be a show-stopper – but it’s been mostly removed. Several of the segment clips from it have been retained, but they’ve been rearranged to obscure the missing pieces. You can tell the clips are rearranged because of the stress lines in the images caused by the wings powering up. Logically, the ones that occur before this happens shouldn’t have those lines, the ones after should, but this is not consistent. A splitscreen that consists of close ups of the paladins’ eyes should occur before the wings do, but it’s been moved afterwards. It’s also, of course, been edited. Allura’s eye pops onto screen by itself, central, then Keith’s appears beside her’s for no particular reason – moving her off center. A moment later and the rest of the paladins’ eyes fill in; and again we’re missing someone.

Ah! And here returns our friend the Repeating Splitscreen! Just as the paladins push Honerva over the threshold into the glowing center of realities. I suspect this should actually have come during the powering up sequence that gave Voltron its super wings, but it’s been moved here now.

We’re not missing any panels here, but once again Lotor has been edited into Allura. It’s not just the facial features to tell us this time – though those are admittedly convincing – Lotor is the only character who has ever been depicted with loose hair inside his helmet.

I suspect that Allura, being the heart of Voltron, would have had a screen either preceding or following this one to herself.

Now finally we’re into the ending; one of the most hideously butchered sequences in this mangled mess of a season.

It’s sad, and it’s terrible.

This ‘final’ ending sequence? Is dripping with so much passive aggression and salt that you can feel it. You might not know exactly what it is you’re picking up, but you can sense that what’s happening on screen is ‘wrong’ in some way. The visual, literal, and metaphorical messages are out of alignment somehow, they don’t make sense in the way they should.

The first alteration in this is the only barely detectable erasure of one of the shadows from the lineup. You can just make out the shape of a pair of legs in the jpeg artifacts that show up when you manipulate the brightness/contrast in an image editor. The shadow that’s been removed is Shiro’s, and it’s the one that spends the greatest amount of time obscured: probably why they chose to remove his and to re-shape Lotor’s into being him.

It sort-of works. They remembered to fix the arm, but seem to have forgotten that Lotor is both taller than Shiro and in possession of proportionately longer arms.

There’s an arguably hilarious shot where Allura switches from her own walk cycle to Lotor’s – and grows about two feet in the process. Here you can see her just as the walk cycles switch: her front leg is still her own, but her back is suddenly much longer:

Allura approaches Honerva, speaking to her, and this time it’s ‘Shiro’ that’s following behind her. Again, the length of his arms is the giveaway. But they also left a line from his suit-cuff on the back of the hand – Shiro is the only one not in paladin uniform.

The paladins deliver their character lessons – that’s what these are, lessons that encapsulate their personal growth arcs – and because this is a story of healing and redemption they affect Honerva enough that she allows Allura to approach her. And Allura restores Honerva’s sense of self – the person the quintessence stole from her, more than just ‘wife’ or ‘mother’. Honerva regains her ability to care about people other than herself.

And then we get the most bizarre montage. Scenes of Lotor and Allura together, while Honerva tells Allura that “He was happy. He deserved better. Better than I could give”. It’s an especially odd scene and one that’s not only clearly edited (incidentally, ‘Allura’ that is visible behind Honerva is another that isn’t her) – the blue of the inserted clips overlaps the character art in places – but cleary saying something else than what we see on the surface. Put a pin in that. I’ll address it in a moment.

Someone helps Honerva to her feet, but that’s not Allura’s face we see, and those aren’t Allura’s hands.

It’s an interesting thing: even after Honerva assumes her ‘Altean’ form she retains the Galra proportions as well as fangs and claws. This means her arms are longer and her hands are larger than regular human and Altean proportions.

But when Allura takes her hand to help her up, Allura’s hands are larger than Honerva’s.

These are not Allura’s hands:

Compare them to this image from s6e4 ‘The Colony’:

Those are Lotor’s hands.

It’s apparent that the events we see happening here are not the events that occurred in the real season 8. It looks like what actually happened is that, as Lotor predicted in s6, the end has come for the witch and he has deigned to take pity on her.

Many of the events we see are in fact part of the real ending – Allura restoring Honerva’s ‘self’, reasoning with her that redemption is possible for everyone if only they choose to change. But the impact should be so much more with Lotor there to participate in it. We’re most likely missing a majority of this sequence, it’s been so heavily edited that it strains belief to think that they just coincidentally had all the correct shots that they needed to craft what we see.

What exactly happens to Honerva it’s hard to say. She dies, yes, but when and how we don’t get to see. I think it likely that she does walk into the afterlife to meet Zarkon and the rest of the original paladins – but of course, Lotor isn’t with them. He’s still alive after all. Those spirits we see are the ones from ‘Knights of Light’, the ones that were corrupted and trapped inside Honerva’s mind. When she dies they are all finally set free. Lotor clearly does not belong to this group, and in fact the image of him that’s been inserted there is his stock photo; they just warped one leg a little bit to make it look like he’s standing level with the rest.

It then falls to Allura to say goodbye to the rest of her team and stay behind to restore all realities. The goodbye scene should take place as we see it now up until Keith. Lance should then receive his goodbye in sequence with the others, as is indicated by the framing of the other goodbyes.

Lotor is the one who gets a separate scene apart from the others. Who begs Allura not to leave, because he loves her. And who gets Altean markings. Because he’s actually Altean, and that actually makes sense.

Those images of Lance in the goodbye sequence are hardly edited at all. The ones in profile shot only sometimes have the face changed, and he retains Lotor’s proportions and height. Which, while depicted shorter than normal, is consistent with the one other instance where Lotor and Allura are drawn closer in height: the shot immediately preceding their kiss in s6 (you might notice that Lance’s head is too small for his body here).

But Allura doesn’t leave alone.

Because Lotor needs one more thing to complete his arc. He needs a second chance to pass his trial, a reprisal of his fight with the White Lion. He must come to value something more than his own life, something he’d give even that for.

And that, for Lotor, is Allura.

Where she goes he will follow her. And so they both stay behind, and restore all realities together.

This shot should be the final one of ‘The Zenith’.

There is no Lance holding onto a picture of himself and Allura forever, branded with the marks of a people he has neither connection to or respect for. There is life, there is death, and there is rebirth and healing.

Episode 13: The End is the Beginning

What’s edited in this episode? Lance doesn’t have Altean markings.

Oh, and lots of other stuff.

The Plance fandom has identified that this isn’t Matt; it’s Lance recolored as Matt. Interestingly, he also shows up in Pidge’s ending slide – meaning that it’s quite possible that some form of the slideshow featured in the original s8. But if this is Lance, and Lance later shows up watching Green arrive on Altea, it means these two scenes aren’t contiguous. More importantly, this means that Lance actually has two separate ending sequences, which doesn’t make sense. More likely, all the characters had multiple ending sequences, and what we get now as the ‘ending’ was actually a full episode.

An episode we’re missing roughly half of.

It’s especially notable that there is no sequence with Keith and Shiro. As one of the strongest emotional bonds featured in the show it’s undeniable that there should be at least one scene between them. The dinner conversation – if the dialogue is to be believed original – tells us that Keith has been spending much of his time on Daibazaal. While we’re told that Daibazaal has returned as well as Altea, we never actually see the planet. I hypothesize that this is because there is a stature of Lotor there, as prominently featured as Allura’s is on Altea. Both planets returning was symbolic of Allura and Lotor’s sacrifices.

Speaking of that statue, the two photos in front of it stand out to me: particularly the post-timeskip one. If the only reason the slideshow was there was that they didn’t have the time to re-animate proper ending sequences there would be no need – or time – to design older versions of the characters. It’s anomalous, and something that shouldn’t be there, if there weren’t originally a purpose to having a timeskip.

I suspect that this slideshow originally functioned as a montage of events happening between those two photos in front of the statue being taken. They designed older versions of the paladins not for that timeskip photo, but for the second half of the episode. There is no purpose to having that timeskip in the epilogue slideshow if we never see the after of it. Which we don’t. Therefore, one of the things removed was post-timeskip content. We should have seen a proper ending sequence, however many years in the future, where Allura and Lotor were finally able to return and reunite with everyone.

They are celestial beings, deities, gods of a restored reality – they can show up to a picnic once a year.

Miscellaneous

The poster that was given out at NYCC 2018 was cropped quite badly on one edge, removing Allura in the majority of copies. This was done intentionally. The posters run in a sequence and each one leads into the next. The official story is that this one is the last one, but while that might be the case now it wasn’t the case when it was drawn. The few posters that retained Allura forced the release of the actual image, and it was played off as an accident that she was cropped out.

Allura was cropped out because she shows that there was obviously another poster to come after this one. She’s looking backwards and up, smiling. If you take the image of Lotor from the beginning of the third poster and add him to the end of this one it turns out that he’s the perfect height to meet Allura’s eyes.

Congratulations! You Survived

Wow! That was long, eh?

Take a breather, stretch your legs, get a drink of water. We’ve got some things to cover yet.

Almost all of these moments can individually be explained away, but there gets to be a point where you have to accept that there’s just too many coincidences for this to be coincidental. When taken together they leave little room for reasonable doubt: Voltron Legendary Defender’s eighth and final season was significantly edited after its completion.

We didn’t actually need to look at all this evidence to know: several of the Korean animators have come out and said the s8 we got was almost unrecognizable as the season they created. But I guess they don’t count because they’re not in English.

Regardless, this article can lend credence to those statements.

As terrible as the s8 we got is, whoever was responsible for changing it from the original is an incredible craftsperson. They managed to, visually, almost completely remove Lotor – and make a semi-coherent story out of the remains. That would be the equivalent of removing Shiro from s1. Without the time or ability to create any new animation. And yet they did it.

With a lot of very clever cuts and a handful of traced scenes, they essentially removed half the main plot and constructed a season out of the subplots. It was a damn miracle they pulled it off, yet by its nature it’s something they will never be able to look to with pride.

My absolute loathing for this butchery cannot be overstated.

That’s mainly due to two things: Allura’s arc, and the treatment of Lotor.

Also, Lance, in general.

Shiro’s treatment also leaves much to be desired, but while I love the character, better qualified people speak for him. Meanwhile, the only mention of Allura has been in regards to her dying (which is terrible and inexcusable) and there is scarce mention of the issues surrounding Lotor at all.

Allura’s arc in s8 is that of a lonely depressed woman, pressured by her friends into a relationship she isn’t especially interested in, who ultimately chooses death as her only escape from reality.

I did not enjoy Lance prior to s8 because of how he treated Allura. His feeling entitled to her attention, his possessive jealousy, his consistently creepy and gross flirting, etc. He may not be a Nice Guy™ in personality, but he plays the role of one.

Lance sees Allura as a prize to be won, and s8 make that textually explicit with Lance’s line in s8e8 ‘Clear Day’, “I’m good at winning prizes” directed with a smirk towards Allura. It’s disgusting and skin-crawlingly gross that this was never shown to be wrong. His further lack of support for her choices, his undermining and criticizing her decisions (during the ‘dark entity’ plot), and his lack of faith in her all compound this. It creates a very misogynist message, complete with metaphorical slut shaming: all this negativity over the ‘thing’ Allura has inside her, after the very symbolically sexual scenes with Lotor where she acquired it. Allura’s two father figures are given individual scenes where they explicitly approve of Lance’s pursuit of her. Yet neither have a word to say for Allura’s feelings in the matter! Having her die at the end? Comes across as that she must die because she isn’t ‘pure’.

In a show for adults these messages would be offensive and distasteful. In a show for children? This is something abhorrent. When people boil this down to ‘salty shippers’ it does a terrible disservice for the actual importance of children’s media in shaping how cultural standards are formed. In the era of #MeToo, to have a princess stripped of her agency and given to the ‘hero’ as a prize just because he wants her is not only repulsive, but irresponsible as well.

This was in a complete 180 from previous seasons that seem to be thematically building to a point where Allura should be finally finding the confidence in herself and self-assuredness to use her own power. She even says as much herself in ‘Knights of Light’.

The other half of my hatred of s8 comes from what happened to Lotor.

Prior to s8 it was clear that whatever had actually happened at the colony, Lotor had thought he was doing the ‘right’ thing. He really thought his actions were for the salvation of the majority at the cost of a few, and he thought that cost unavoidable.

In s8 we get e2 ‘Shadows’, which shows Lotor as a neglected, physically and emotionally abused child. We see he was forced to watch as his parents blew up the planet and people he’d befriended, and how prior to that, all he’d wanted was for his father to be proud of him. Where in s5e2 ‘Blood Duel’ we saw what his father thought of him, and how Zarkon blamed Lotor’s Altean heritage for making him ‘weak’. In ‘Shadows’ we see Honerva blame his Galra half for the same. Lotor was thoroughly hated for who and what he was by everyone, and all he wanted to do was help people and be loved.

And then, after the show teases us by letting us think he’d returned, we find out that he’s been dead all along. His rotted and melting corpse being used to puppet his mech by Honerva, who then discards him as soon as she can get access to a ‘better’ version of him. The show then proceeds to redeem not just Zarkon, but Honerva as well. People who brought a ten thousand year reign of terror onto the universe and destroyed not just countless lives, but nearly all of reality itself.

But not the son they abused and neglected. Lotor dies unmourned and unredeemed, alone and screaming, when of all our antagonists, he deserved it the least.

We never even get an explanation of what actually was happening with the Alteans at the colony, the thing that apparently made it so Lotor deserved to die.

This is because of last minute meddling by a higher up executive at either DreamWorks, or WEP, the company that holds the IP rights for the Voltron brand.

I believe this comes down to a misguided idea of what would move the most merchandise. VLD was a Heroine’s Journey, a very feminist and female empowering message, and not something you’d typically see in a ‘boy’s show’. DW has consistently failed to produce merch that would sell for this show, a thing I attribute to their refusal to see it as anything more than a show for six year old boys. As well as a view of what merchandise sells to kids that is perpetually stuck somewhere back in 1996.

The glorification of Lance that was done in the edit to s8 happened because they wanted the ‘Hero’ to get the girl, and Lance was the only character who was in a narrative position to be quickly edited into that ‘designated hero’ position. Of course, this required cutting Lotor from the story and re-animating several scenes to replace him with Lance. But it was done at such short notice that they didn’t have time to make any completely new animation, thus the last half of the ending was completely removed and replaced with a slideshow.

This was an order that came down from someone higher up the chain of authority, that the crew fought against with everything they had, and that they lost. It was done because the powers that be thought the changes would appeal more to little boys and their dads.

This wasn’t about shipping, but in a way it actually was. Just not in the way that fandom usually understands it.

The average guys usually get the girl in male self-insert fantasies because it sends the message that the (presumably average) male viewer can have a girl just like that. Just for being himself and not even trying. The stories themselves are sexually chaste because the guys are physically unremarkable. The moment you show the love interest being sexually attracted to a man he becomes an actual entity for the viewer to contend with. Everything she might like about him is something that your viewer might not be, and therefore cannot self-insert.

In these stories, female sexuality is often villainized and the male antagonist becomes a sexual entity to contend with. The average dude has to ‘win’ over him, but cannot himself be shown as a sexual entity. In order to appeal to the male audience, he must be kept the blankest slate possible while also having him win for no reason. You cannot, after all, give him characteristics with which he could win.

Lotor isn’t someone every guy can be. He exists as his own physical and mental entity. He’s not someone many straight male viewers (who have never in their lives suffered a dearth of representation and often do not know how to identify with someone not them) can see themselves as. Keith is simply ‘a good guy’ in DOTU; so is Lance in VLD. They’re both very average, attainable identities.

We who are upset by the edits to season 8 are all minorities in some way; we’ve grown up having to project ourselves onto characters who are not ‘us’. But straight (white) guys have not. They’ve never had to look at a character who wasn’t them and find aspects they can relate to. So they can’t look at Lotor and self-insert as him. But Lance (and Keith) fits that role nicely.

And whoever saw s8 and decided that it was so offensive to their sensibilities that it had to change was one of these guys. I can tell you he was male, straight, and probably white. And what he didn’t like wasn’t Lotor and Allura getting together. It was that Lance, who wanted Allura so badly, didn’t get her. And he felt alienated, and was sure his audience – who were in his mind guys like him – would be just as alienated. He saw disaster coming for his brand. He’d have had to approve the basic plot from the outset, which would have included Lotura. But it was only once he saw the details of how it went down that he flipped his lid.

It’s stupid, and a dinosaur mindset, but this is hardly the first show damaged by people who hold this view.

The reason that s8 was changed, was they didn’t like Allura’s arc. They didn’t think her arc would appeal to the little boys and their dads who were, in their minds, the target audience. It was the fact that the Nice Guy™ didn’t get the girl.

Oh no! The horror! This show is empowering girls on a show meant for boys!

And that was the problem. Too much female empowerment.

It wasn’t that Lotor was the hero that they didn’t like. It was specifically the relationship dynamic subversion. That it showed paternalistic traditionalism as wrong, and empowered Allura to make her own choices. The character they found it easiest to self-insert into didn’t get what he wanted. He got what he needed. But someone isn’t happy with being told “No.“

It’s disgusting.

And it probably didn’t even occur to them that it was a problem.

Because it’s just business.

I greatly appreciate the ending shot of VLD, which clearly shows Allura and Lotor in the stars together.

Lotor is only ‘lightly’ edited out and still plainly visible. I attribute this to Lauren Montgomery, who specifically called attention to this shot on twitter, urging people to watch after the credits where this shot is found. I believe the picture was intentionally ‘sloppily’ edited as a way to sneakily insert the ending they had in the original cut of s8: there was a lot of love put into developing Lotor and Allura’s relationship and they wanted to let the fans know that wherever they are, they’re together.

Let’s get one thing straight here. While I may refer to it as ‘sloppy’ editing, that isn’t what this is: this is Grade A malicious compliance. It’s dripping with passive aggression and salt. There’s so much hatred behind it that a lot of fans picked up on it and felt it was directed at us. But it’s not, it’s a big FU to the bosses at DW who made them butcher their own passion project.

The reason the earlier chronological edits are a higher quality is that at that point the people making them were still fighting to get the original season to air. The ones up to, say, ‘Knights of Light’ are really well hidden and blend in smoothly. As time went on, and the bosses wouldn’t budge, they began to lose hope. And they began to get angry. After that the cuts become much more jarring, and the whole thing starts falling apart.

Remember that ending scene? The one where Honerva says about Lotor, ““He was happy. He deserved better. Better than I could give.” That’s the writers saying that, not Honerva.

This entire season is about Allura and Lotor.

This show was made with so much love; it was a passion project, something very personal for the people behind it. Someone forced the creators to carve out half their story with their own hands. They’re furious, and they’re heartbroken, and it shows.

The worst part of it is? They’re not even allowed to speak about it.

We the fans are the only people in a position to do anything about this. Please, if you have the ability, participate in one of the many efforts to convince DreamWorks Animation and WEP (formerly World Events Productions, the IP owners of Voltron) to release the original cut of season 8.


Thank you so much to the wonderful people who helped me write this and who generously donated their time to beta-read it: @crystal-rebellion, @felixazrael, @dragonofyang, @voltronisruiningmylife

Thank you also to my wonderful Lotura Discord Family, I couldn’t have done it without you.

8 thoughts on “Seek Truth in Darkness

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  • January 9, 2020 at 9:39 pm
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    I have no words to describe how grateful I am for your hard work to open our eyes to the truth. The amount of proof you’ve found is truly astonishing. I’m absolutely sure that you’re right, especially after noticing a few on my own as well. Have you noticed in the scene, where Allura says her final goodbye to ‘Lance’, in addition to the wrong proportions, ‘Lance”s mouth opening doesn’t move in sync with his mouth’s profile? I bet, we can still see the original Lotor’s mouth profile there. It’s appalling, how sloppy was their redrawn animation sometimes.
    Thank you very much, team Purple Lion, for all you’ve done for this fandom.

    (P.S. I’m not a native speaker, so sorry for my English. Just had to get it out of my chest.)

    Reply
    • January 19, 2020 at 9:56 pm
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      Thank you for taking the time to read this piece, and we’re so glad to know that it also helped you spot other places that we didn’t touch on in-depth. We did see Lance’s mouth motions not quite lining up with his dialogue, and that’s part of what cinched it for us that he not only was traced over someone else, but that that someone else was Lotor. The job was sloppy, but that’s because nobody who did the edits actually wanted to make them. It’s truly a tragedy to think about, but one that thankfully can be fixed with enough pressure by fans.

      And thank you for taking the time to read and lend us your support. We keep going not just because we were hurt by the final season on Netflix, but because we know thousands of others are just as hurt, including kid fans and the very staff themselves. So thank you for believing in us, and by extension believing in the creative people that made VLD. We won’t ever give up.

      Reply
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  • June 20, 2020 at 1:40 pm
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    Thank you for your amazing work! I keep coming back here, making my way through posts, and even if it’s hard for me to read long paragraphs (adhd anyone?), each and every post I’ve read so far was written in such engaging way that I gobbled it whole in one sitting. It was hard to become a fan of VLD only months before it ended. I could not even watch the last season. And being a fan of star wars too, I really feel betrayed by media lately, not feeling like getting into anything new out of fear. I am sick of seeing troubled youths sacrifising their lives, and young women being punished for wanting a man other than “mr. nice guy”, that’s why the ending where Allura and Lotor are together as gods would do probably nothing to me as well. I would like to see them being normal – living in a physical world, getting on with their lives and grow old. And it would be thrilling to see palladins admit that they were wrong, but try to make things right. Your work leaves me less bitter, and a little bit smarter, I would like to think :D. Thank you again.

    Reply
    • June 21, 2020 at 4:25 am
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      Thank you! That’s such a lovely compliment. I try to ensure my writing is both accessible and informative, I’m happy to find that it’s engaging as well!
      I totally get what you mean, feeling betrayed by media. I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to see the story VLD was telling, and I’m not letting it be stolen away now that we have a chance to get it!

      Reply
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