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‘Voltron: Legendary Defender’ Season 2 is still great, but a bit overlong



As more and more animators and showrunners enter the industry who grew up during the early anime boom in North America, the influence of Japanese Animation on its North American counterpart becomes more apparent. For many, the ultimate example of this is Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it doesn’t end there. More examples of this new kind of hybridity between anime and North American animation crop up by the year, and a very strong recent example is the Dreamworks and Netflix reboot of the classic Voltron franchise. In the case of Voltron, the anime influence isn’t without precident. The original series, which aired in 1984, was a dubbed and re-cut version of the anime series Beast King Golion, though North American fans wouldn’t come to know this until much later.

Previous attempts at reviving the Voltron brand tended to eschew the anime influence, but Voltron: Legendary Defender embraces it with open arms, borrowing heavily from anime’s stable of visual tropes and packing itself full of easter eggs for sharp-eyed anime fans to spot. But rather than simply coasting on nostalgia and reference, Legendary Defender also injects the Voltron mythos with a renewed energy and humor, as well as a new focus on long-form storytelling and episodic narratives. It also goes much deeper into its characters than any previous incarnation, giving the heroes much more nuanced and interesting characterization.

The second season of Legendary Defender hit Netflix this weekend, delivering thirteen new episodes to fans new and old. For the most part, the series retains everything that made Season 1 feel exciting, interesting, and fresh. There are a few small hiccups along the way, which unfortunately keep the second season from topping its predecessor. All the same, Voltron: Legendary Defender remains one of the better North American animated series in recent years.

Voltron Legendary Defender

One of Legendary Defender‘s great strengths is its pacing, especially when it comes to the “Voltron vs giant monster” fight sequences that fans have come to expect. Rather than have a revolving door of sparring partners for the Voltron Paladins to go up against, Legendary Defender wisely spaces them out. This means that the series never succumbs to the “monster of the week” plotting that has plagued anime and tokusatsu (live action special effects dramas) working within similar stories. It also means that the fights never feel like an afterthought, reduced to the formula of “monster appears, Voltron is formed, handily defeats monster, everyone cheers.” The big fight sequences in Legendary Defender usually have the majority of an episode to play around in, giving them more room to be exciting and engaging.

However, Season 2 of Legendary Defender does show some signs that the excellent pacing might be under threat when it comes to storytelling. The series so far has been very good about balancing fairly self-contained episodes with multi-episode arcs and larger narratives. Usually, the stand-alone episodes will still make sure to introduce a new plot-point, reinforce key ideas or aid in character growth. Unfortunately, Season 2’s second episode, “The Depths,” breaks from this rather painfully. It’s an ok episode, one that sees Hunk and Lance stranded on a water planet populated by mermaids. But it’s so far removed from the rest of the series mythology that it ultimately feels disposable. The ultimate threat isn’t the Galra, the show’s usual antagonists, but a random new foe, and none of the new characters or concepts introduced return later, as happens with later episodes. “The Depths” feels like the first time that Legendary Defender has succumbed to that most dreaded of anime tropes: filler.

Voltron Legendary Defender

But when the story is on track, Legendary Defender maintains the level of good characterization and storytelling established in Season 1. Season 2 puts more focus on Keith, building on hints from season one that there’s more to the team’s resident loner than meets the eye. We also learn a bit more about Shiro’s time as a Galra prisoner, and the details of his escape. Lance, Pidge, and Hunk get some good moments, but it’s clear early on that this season is all about Shiro and Keith.

There are also more than a few hints that we may be seeing the team take on a configuration more familiar to longtime fans sometime soon. In the original series, the team’s lineup was changed when Sven, the initial pilot of Blue Lion, is gravely injured and has to be replaced by Princess Alurra. In the original Golion, he’s actually killed. Legendary Defender seems to know that much of its audience is aware of this bit of Voltron history, and continually teases the prospect of Shiro dying, leaving Keith to take his place as leader of the team. Shiro ominously chides Keith on his reckless style more than once, reminding him that if he has to take command he’ll need to straighten out. We also see hints of Alurra taking on a more active role, especially in the season finale. Whether or not Legendary Defender goes through with this remains to be seen, but hopefully they don’t start having too much fun playing with us.

Everything there was to like in the first season of Voltron: Legendary Defender is back in Season 2. The action, visuals, characterization, soundtrack and humor that made us love the first season are all still there. But while Season 1’s biggest failing was that it felt like half a season, Season 2 moves too much in the other direction. Like a lot of other Netflix series, it feels like it has more runtime than it entirely knows what to do with. Fortunately, this only really manifests to any detrimental degree in the second episode. If “The Depths” had been cut out, or given a major plot overhaul to feel less like a total non-sequiter, the season would have easily matched its predecessor. As it is, it will just have to settle for being almost as good.

Beginning as a co-host on a Concordia TV film show before moving on to chief film nerd at, Thomas is now bringing his knowledge of pop-culture nerdery to Sordid Cinema. Thomas is a Montrealer born and raised, and an avid consumer of all things pop-cultural and nerdy. While his first love is film, he has also been known to dabble in comics, videogames, television, anime and more. You can support his various works on his Patreon, at You can also like the Tom Watches Movies Facebook page to see all his work on Goombastomp and elsewhere.

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‘Mr. Robot’ Just Changed Everything with a Shocking Reveal

There have been a lot of moving parts put into place over the course of Mr. Robot’s fourth season. Several of them just came together, in devastating fashion.



Mr Robot

There have been a lot of moving parts put into place over the course of Mr. Robot‘s fourth, and final, season. On Sunday night, however, several of those pieces came together for one of the best episodes of the entire series in “Proxy Authentication Required”.

The reveal of a trauma so intense and horrific allows the character of Elliot to make so much more sense – so much so it almost warrants an entire series rewatch, to search for other hints.

Staged like a five act play, and utilizing a cinematic aspect ratio, “Proxy Authentication Required” immediately lets viewers know that it’s doing something a little different. While this may not be a huge surprise for fans (Mr. Robot just did a dialogue-free episode two weeks ago, among other experimental efforts throughout the series) the reason for it is fitting.

Essentially a bottle episode, “Proxy Authentication Required” takes place entirely in the apartment of Elliot’s former therapist, Krista. As such, the five act structure makes it even more like a play than it already is. Moreover, the episode is very dialog heavy, with almost no action.

Mr Robot
Still, with a meaty chess match between Elliot/Mr. Robot and drug dealer Fernando Vera making up the majority of the episode, the dialogue is weighty enough to justify this structure. The first round goes to Vera, who obviously has Elliot over a barrel, having kidnapped both he and Krista. However, Mr. Robot turns the tables in the second round, pointing out the lack of originality or planning in Vera’s drug-fueled, mystically-advised bid to take over New York City.

Finally, the third round comes: the tie breaker. As Fernando orders Krista to have an impromptu therapy session with Elliot, the most shocking reveal in the series is laid bare. After a tense build-up, and against the protests of both Krista and Mr. Robot, Elliot finally digs up the truth behind his alter ego. Mr. Robot wasn’t created after Elliot had an accident, he was created to protect Elliot from a series of traumas that came before it.

In an emotional moment sold gloriously by Rami Malek, Elliot accepts the truth: his father molested him throughout his childhood. In one fell swoop, so much of what we know about Elliot suddenly makes sense – and the fact that Mr. Robot looks like his dad is just the beginning. There’s also the details of the trauma that we’ve had up until now: that Elliot told Darlene to hide when he heard his dad coming; that he grabbed a bat to defend himself – and, finally, that he threw himself from the window when he feared he couldn’t best his father in the altercation.

The reveal of a trauma so intense and horrific allows the character of Elliot to make so much more sense – so much so it almost warrants an entire series rewatch, to search for other hints. Certainly it’s more logical that Mr. Robot was created out of these terrible memories rather than materializing after the injuries sustained during Elliot’s fall. It also lets the viewer know that Mr. Robot had a history of altering Elliot’s perception and memories long before the events of the series.

Even more disturbing is that the creation of false narratives and fake memories is actually a real-life coping mechanism used by survivors of sexual abuse, especially children. As such, the reveal fits naturally into the character of Elliot – but it’s a huge shock to drop on the audience a mere three episodes before the end of the show.

Of course, the reveal will no doubt ignite debates as to whether Mr. Robot creator and showrunner Sam Esmail planned this backstory from the start, or whether it was concocted as a wrench to throw in the gears at the last minute. Either way, questions remain as to how this new information will affect the remainder of the series.

Will Mr. Robot be back or is he gone for good, now that his job of protecting Elliot from the truth has become obsolete? Did/does Darlene know? Will this affect the plan to hack the Dark Army that has been building all season? All of these questions and more will be answered in the next three weeks but in the meantime, we’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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Watchmen Podcast: Breaking Down “Little Fear of Lightning”



Watchmen Podcast Episode 5

This week, Watchmen delves into Looking Glass’s past and revisits one of the biggest events from the comic: the “interdimensional” squid attack on New York that kills over three million people and psychologically damages millions more. “Little Fear of Lightning” the finest hour yet, a focused character study that connects past and present in fascinating ways. And as always, there’s a lot to digest.

Our Watchmen podcast will see Simon Howell and an assortment of guests tackle the entire series (or at least the first season). In this fifth episode, Simon Howell, Sean Colletti, and Randy Dankievitch, take a deep dive into “Little Fear of Lightning” and note some of the more astonishing facts of the episode you might have missed.

And for those of you wondering, in order to keep things simple, we’ve decided to upload each episode to the same feed as our other podcast, Before the Internet.

Listen here on iTunes or listen here on Stitcher. 

You can also catch our show on Pocketcast and on Spotify, or simply listen via the player embedded below.


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The Career of Seth Rollins: From Face to Heel at Lightning Speed



It wasn’t that long ago that The Shield debuted on Survivor Series, setting the main event careers of three talented wrestlers in motion. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins all came to the WWE through NXT. In and out of The Shield, each man has held multiple championships and has had great success.

Seth Rollins
The Shield stands together.

These days, look a lot different for the former Shield members. Dean Ambrose left the WWE for AEW to wrestle again as Jon Moxley and Roman Reigns took a step back from the spotlight after warring with cancer. Meanwhile, the career of Seth Rollins has taken a turn of its own.

Becoming Seth Rollins

Colby Lopez joined the WWE in 2010 as part of Florida Championship Wrestling under the name Seth Rollins. He was there when it was re-branded in 2012 as NXT and became their inaugural champion. Seth Rollins turned heel in epic fashion by betraying The Shield and embarking on a huge singles career after his main roster debut.

Seth Rollins heel
Rollins turns heel and betrays The Shield.

Rollins hitting his Shield brothers with a steel chair still rates as one of the most shocking turns in WWE history.

More recently, Rollins had two wars against Brock Lesnar over the Universal Championship. Rollins won the Royal Rumble, using the title shot he earned to beat Lesnar at WrestleMania. Then, Lesnar somehow won a Money in the Bank match he wasn’t technically involved in. He used that shot to get his belt back. Rollins would then reclaim the title at SummerSlam.

Rollins defeats Lesnar at WrestleMania.

It was a repetitive feud.

Rollins vs. Lesnar Into Infinity

The back and forth between Rollins and Lesnar became exhausting to fans. Not shockingly, WWE viewers were already sick of Lesnar being an absentee champion by the point that Reigns finally took him down. When he reclaimed the belt after Roman’s cancer announcement, the focus turned to Rollins hunting Lesnar.

Even when someone else like AJ Styles or Baron Corbin got in the mix, fans knew they wouldn’t win. It was always going to be about Lesnar and Rollins so fans started to turn on Rollins. His Hell in a Cell match against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt was the final nail.

Top Face or Top Heel?

There was a time long ago that fans over the age of eight cheered for John Cena when he came out to the ring. At some point, it became cooler to boo him. The same is true of Roman Reigns, who had to go through a traumatic personal experience to get fans to ease up on him. In both cases, they were the corporate champions chosen to lead the brand.

In reality, fans didn’t really care if they were good wrestlers or not. It’s just something they chafe against.

The boos echoing through the arena are growing louder and louder for Seth Rollins for similar reasons. That’s due in no small part to the long, tedious promos he’s sent out to give to personally connect with the audience. Play that card too often and the opposite becomes true. WWE was frequently guilty of the same thing with both Cena and Reigns.

Rollins cuts another promo.

Watch the video from the night when Reigns made the announcement of his hiatus to fight cancer. Fans were reflexively booing him because they figured they were in for another long promo. The mood changed quickly when Roman started talking about leukemia.

Things Go Wrong at Hell in a Cell

All of this was already building to a head when Hell in a Cell came along.

Rollins faces The Fiend.

Universal Champion Seth Rollins was set to defend his title against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt in the titular main event. Unfortunately, WWE had painted themselves into a corner. They wanted Seth to retain, which he did, but couldn’t use the traditional DQ or count out to do it. Instead, WWE went for some weird finish where Seth hurt Wyatt so much so the ref stopped the match.

Essentially, a DQ in a no DQ match.

Rollins became the focus of much of the rage for the bad finish but the feud between him and Wyatt would continue. Wyatt finally won the Universal Championship and took it back to SmackDown. The side effect of this would be Lesnar returning to Raw with the WWE Championship.

It’s inevitable that Rollins and Lesnar will cross paths for the WWE Championship. Unfortunately, fans will have to choose between the two. They’ll end up cheering Rollins on as the lesser of two evils from their perspective.

The main miscalculation that WWE made at Hell in a Cell is the same one they made with Reigns and Cena. They assumed that being the top face in a match makes you the fan-favorite. Bray Wyatt is, by far, the most over wrestler in the company. People love Firefly Fun House and they love ‘The Fiend.’ Rollins simply couldn’t compete as any ending that wasn’t Wyatt with a belt would not be satisfactory to fans.

Seth Rollins’ Next Phase

Now, Rollins is stuck in a weird limbo. The top face on Raw for management that’s morphing into a heel based on fan opinion. His heel run alongside Triple H was some of his best work and he is still a superb in-ring performer. WWE should let what’s going to happen by letting Rollins perform to his strengths.

Let Rollins burn it down as a heel one more time.

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