Klance is the slash ship between Keith and Lance in the Voltron: Legendary Defender series. This ship existed before Legendary Defender even began, existing in some form at least since the 1984 "Voltron: Defender of the Universe" cartoon, and even in the 1981 Japanese anime Beast King GoLion.
Regardless, the ship has only really taken off for modern audiences in the last year. This is thanks to the 2016 Netflix release of Voltron: Legendary Defender, produced by Studio Mir (The Legend of Korra). A lot of the writers and directors for Voltron migrated from Korra, famed for it's bisexual ending, and have made comments concerning possible LGBT+ content.
Voltron, unlike Avatar, is a Netflix original series backed by DreamWorks rather than Nickelodeon. Joaquim Dos Santos has said that this enables show-runners to "explore areas that may be considered controversial for standard cartoon series on major broadcasters, including sexuality."
These elements, among others, have fostered a genuine hope among fans that Klance might lead to some meaningful and obvious LGBT+ representation.
Despite this, the creators highly implied (but never explicitly stated) that the ship won't be happening as the story was already planned with a stated enemies to friends relationship and there's no possible way they can rewrite it. But the creators also stressed that "All ships are valid" and that there is no wrong ship, and encouraged fans to continues shipping their ships whether or not they occurred in canon.
Lance and Keith weren't always friends, and they tease and bicker with each other almost constantly. Keith isn't used to being around someone as cocky and easy-going as Lance, being more broody and practical, whilst Lance is deeply insecure and jealous of Keith's seemingly effortless talent. Despite their differences, they come together when it counts, and there are a lot of ways in which their personalities and backgrounds compliment one another.
The first time we see Lance, his blasé attitude and overconfidence leads to him bombing out of a simulator test at the Galaxy Garrison, a school that trains humans to become "elite astro-explorers". Whilst reprimanding Lance, Commander Iverson references Keith:"I hope I don't need to remind you, that the only reason you're here, is that the best pilot in your class had a discipline issue, and flunked out. Don't follow in his footsteps." A flashback from episode 5 illustrates that Lance has always been well-aware of this fact, as after checking the Garrison rosta he exclaims "I made it! I'm a fighter pilot! Hasta la later, Keith!". There's a disparity between Iverson's description of Lance as being little more than a replacement for a hot-headed top student, and Lance's vision of Keith as his equal and rival. The second time Keith comes up in episode 1 is in Lance's own words, as he spots him breaking Shiro out of quarantine.
From his perch on top of a cliff with Hunk and Pidge, Lance recognises Keith and says, "No way! Oh he is not going to beat us in there. That guy is always trying to one-up me!" When Hunk expresses doubts that it could be Keith, who had been expelled from the Garrison over a year ago, Lance yells "Oh I'd recognise that mullet anywhere."
The situation becomes clearer when they get inside, and Keith doesn't remember who Lance is. With a bit of prompting, "We were like rivals, you know Lance and Keith, neck and neck", Keith says "Oh wait I remember you... you're a cargo pilot." From the get-go it's clear that they have an antagonistic history, hinging around Keith's position as a top fighter pilot while Lance strives to outdo him. This imbalance is addressed again when Lance quips, "I'm fighter class now, thanks to you washing out." "Well, congratulations.." Keith's sarcasm and Lance's constant self-aggrandizement demonstrate a key difference between the two: The Garrison remains an important measure of self-worth for Lance, but Keith is more interested in the failed Kerberos mission than his own future as a fighter pilot.
Keith may not seem overly interested in their Garrison "rivalry", but he continues to treat Lance as an annoyance throughout the first episode; "We could toss out some non-essential weight", "Shut up and trust me", "You're the worst pilot ever", "I don't know if you noticed but we're in an alien warship."Their interactions in the first episode are exclusively bickering, Keith usually throwing sarcastic comments while Lance prefers mocking one-liners. Whenever Lance slips up Keith is there to correct him, whether for Lance's terrible math skills or his misuse of the word "quiznak". It isn't uncommon for Lance to call Keith a "drop-out", although it's unlikely that he linked Keith's expulsion to Shiro's disappearance. Even at this early, rocky stage of their relationship, it's unclear whether or not Lance would bring it up as an insult if he knew the roots of Keith's discipline issues. Despite their tumultuous early relationship, the two are often paired together visually, and cast aside their differences when it comes to forming Voltron and saving the universe. This takes work, however, with episode 2 devoted to the paladins working on "team bonding" exercises. Lance spends a lot of his time trying to get Keith's attention, "you still going, Keith?", and Keith rises to the bait every single time. Often with disastrous results, as when they ended up racing their lions into solid ground.
Keith claims not to care about the taunts, often attempting to take the moral high-ground, but when it comes down to it a single line from Lance is enough for him to cast aside his common sense. Their relationship forces Keith to lighten up, and equally it encourages Lance to stay focused in order to "win". By the end of the episode, after a glamorous food fight against Allura and Coran, the paladins learn to work together as one. When Allura points this out, Keith turns to Lance with a smile and says "Hey.. she's right", to which Lance replies "I... actually don't hate you right now."Episode 2, as well as bringing Keith and Lance closer together and teaching them to work as a team, also highlights another major difference between the pair. When given "mind melding" helmets to enable them to work together, Lance's visual is that of his family back in Cuba. He's used to being surrounded by a large network of people that love and support him, and being taken away from that suddenly is the cause of a lot of home sickness. This is highlighted in episode 4 when Lance speaks with Coran, who has lost his home planet entirely. "I know we're supposed to be brave paladins, or defenders of the universe or whatever... but honestly? I just want to go home."
Keith's mental visual of his desert shack, isolated and devoid of other people, is a stark contrast with all this. When Pidge tries to leave the group in episode 4, Keith gets angry, unable to comprehend the idea that they could prioritise "the lives of two people over the lives of everyone else in the entire galaxy!" The show-runners have stated that Keith is an orphan, and even though we know that Shiro helped him out in the past, for the moment it appears that he has no living blood-relatives. Unlike Lance, Keith has no family of his own to visualise. He is therefore unable to understand the concept of loving someone so much that you'd put them above the whole universe.
At the end of episode 4, Lance gets heavily injured protecting Coran from a Galra bomb explosion. He regains consciousness long enough to fire a shot at Sendak, before groaning and drifting out again. After a successful fight that leaves Sendak imprisoned, Keith kneels to hold Lance's hand and asks him if he's okay. Lance turns to him and says "we did it, we are a good team", before smiling fondly. Keith smiles back, and seems to interpret it as an important turning point in their relationship because he brings it up in the following episode.
Episode 6 begins with Lance still recovering in a healing pod,
and Keith is more impatient than the rest to see him recovered. He taps on the glass, saying "oh come on" and moodily asking Allura "how much better do you think he's going to get in a few more ticks?"
He's also the last to leave the healing pod when the others begin squabbling over the difference between 'seconds' and 'ticks' as units of time. When Lance comes to, the first thing he does is to flirt with Allura, to which Keith remarks "classic", frowning and looking away.
Over breakfast, Lance thanks everybody for their help in saving his life. He can't resist making fun of Keith, however, turning to him and saying "sounds like the mice did more than you though." Keith appears visibly shaken at the idea that his relationship with Lance is going to continue as before, his voice cracking as he exclaims "We had a bonding moment, I cradled you in my arms!" Lance denies everything, saying "nope, don't remember, didn't happen."
At this point in the series it's fair to say that Keith would be fine with putting their rivalry behind them and becoming friends that bicker sometimes, but Lance is dead-set on keeping things as they were.
Later in episode 6 Lance strikes out with Nyma, a humanoid alien girl who steals his lion and leaves him tied to a tree. The only reason Lance ignores his bad feeling and takes Nyma for a spin is that she says "maybe Keith would give me a ride..", prompting Lance to get jealous. Lance never really clarifies why the thought of Keith and Nyma annoys him so much, and the language seems intentionally ambiguous.
Being the only pilot capable of navigating an asteroid field without getting turned into human scrambled eggs, Keith flies in to save Lance from where he's stranded. He smiles, telling Lance that he got his lion back from Rolo and Nyma. Lance thanks him, and asks if he can "come and unchain" him. Keith takes the opportunity to tease him, saying "what's that? I uh, you're cutting out I can't, I can't hear you". Lance proves that he does remember the night before by saying, "Oh come on! I thought we bonded? Keith? Buddy? My man?"
Episode 7 sees Lance and Keith pairing up for a mission, showcasing the good that they can achieve if they work together. Keith is extremely talented but also impulsive, and Lance holds him back from "blowing things up" on the Balmera "like a psycho". Instead, he offers an alternative plan, which Keith accepts is "actually... a better idea."
Together they go to the control room in order to shut the bay doors, but Lance is unable to understand the Galra technology. Although neither are aware of it at the time, Keith is able to get the hand print to activate due to the presence of Galra DNA in his blood.
A series of 5 comics have been released, set in canon, directly after the events of the Balmera arc but before season 1 episode 9.
Lance using a new nickname that isn't derogatory or to do with Keith's hair, "Samurai", in issue 1 is interesting. More interesting is his blush when he compliments Keith's skills. It's the first time we see him directly appreciating Keith's abilities, with Keith there to hear it, and demonstrates the level of respect Lance has built up for him.
Issue 2 sees the pair returning to their characteristic squabbling, with Lance provoking Keith on multiple occasions and Keith rising to the bait. Lance seems more determined than ever to prove himself in comparison to Keith, and is irritated that Keith continues to doubt his skills. When Lance messes up Keith sarcastically says "Great job, Lance", twice. One of those times Lance claims that his bayard upgrade is "way better than Keith's", but it doesn't unlock, Pidge noting that perhaps Lance isn't ready for it.
When Lance successfully keeps their side of Voltron stable, Keith changes tack, complimenting Lance in earnest. He also goes on to back Lance up concerning Hunk's plan, saying "I'm with Lance, I don't know if I buy that". At the end of issue 2, Lance says that saving a princess sounds like his kind of job, and Keith again looks unimpressed at Lance's flirtiness. Keith is a pragmatic character, so Lance constantly getting side-tracked by girls is something he begrudgingly accepts.
Issue 3 of the comics is notable because it's narrated by Lance himself, and presented from his perspective. At the start, he describes all of the paladins and their respective strengths in detail, before reaching Keith and simply referring to him as "the other one". Throughout the comic he exaggerates his achievements to the point that they're the opposite of what is really happening, such as when he narrates that "he never got scared even a little bit", contrary to the clear visual of him screaming. This makes you wonder about his reasoning for choosing not to flatter Keith as he did the other paladins.
Later he hits on Allura again, and at first Keith facepalms, smiling, before quickly becoming irritated with Lance's antics. In response Lance narrates, "jealousy, thy name is Keith." Much like episode 1x06 with Nyma, the language of this scene feels purposefully vague. It seems that Lance thinks Keith is jealous of him, being able to so 'smoothly' charm Allura, but it could also go the other way. Read out of context, Keith could just as easily be jealous of Allura herself and Lance's attentions towards her.
The issue ends with Lance saying to the dragon princess that he saves, "this isn't the first time an enraged princess has screamed at me". Keith looks on with a fond smile, saying "and it won't be the last."
In issue 5, narrated by Pidge, Keith and Lance argue about love. Lance says, "My heart is stronger than ever, despite it being broken many times." Keith replies, "Isn't that love, like Hunk says?" to which Lance says "Oh, be quiet before I break you and see if you reform stronger". It's a weird conversation because Lance is looking for a fight but at the same time if Keith is correct and that is what love is, then that's effectively what Lance is asking for.
The first interaction between the two in episode 9, predictably, comes when Keith insults Lance's intelligence. Lance says, "When I go, I want all the information in my brain to be stored in a giant ship", to which Keith retorts, "the amount of information in your brain could be stored in a paper airplane."
When the castle becomes infected and Lance gets trapped in the airlock, his screams for help bring Keith, who is also running from a malfunctioning training bot. He yells "what are you doing in there?" but before Lance can answer properly the airlock opens, and he's almost torn out into deep space and certain death. Luckily, Keith fights harder and manages to get the training bot through the airlock, before pulling Lance to safety.
When their breathing has calmed down Keith cries again, "what were you doing out there?" to which Lance asks "who was that guy?" For all of their arguing, Keith and Lance are a team, and neither wants to see the other get hurt.
The season 1 finale again draws attention to Keith's practical outlook and his tendency to put the mission above personal feelings. When Allura is captured by the Galra he says, "Maybe we shouldn't go on this mission at all. Think about it, we'll be delivering the universe's only hope to the universe's biggest enemy... I'm not saying I like the idea, I'm just thinking like a paladin." Lance reacts badly, saying "No, you're thinking of yourself, because you're too scared to do what's right."
When it comes down to it, Lance and Keith are a part of team Voltron for different reasons. Lance isn't there because he wants to be, he's there because if he doesn't stay everything he loves on Earth will be at risk. By contrast, Keith has nothing left for him on Earth and so prioritises his duty as a paladin of Voltron above all else. Having spent a year alone in the desert, he has trouble empathising with others, but this doesn't mean that he doesn't care about them. Contrary to how Lance sees him, this isn't truly a product of selfishness, and Keith fears being perceived as such. He just finds it difficult to balance personal emotions with the greater purpose of Voltron, he doesn't have any reason to hide beneath false bravado, and thus never hesistates to share his opinion even if it's controversial. Lance, on the other hand, repeatedly hides his true feelings. Considering himself a spare part, he suppresses the sad and insecure side of himself in order to project the kind of false confidence he wishes was real.
Shiro's second disappearance at the end of Season 3 will be a turning point, as we'll see whether or not Keith will continue to prioritise the mission over his friends and personal feelings. The absence of a team leader will also force Lance to take on more responsibility, and we'll see whether or not he'll be willing to cast aside old jealousies to accept Keith as a leader. But more on that later.
When the lions become separated in the wormhole jump following the final battle of Season 1, Shiro and Keith land on a planet together. During their time there, we discover barely anything more on their backstory, other than that Keith's life would have turned out "a lot different" if they hadn't met.
Additionally, Shiro is heavily injured and tells Keith that if anything happens to him, he wants Keith to become the new black paladin and lead Voltron. Keith brushes it off to start with, but it will continue to be a central theme throughout the season.
When the group reunites in episode 3, Keith and Lance keep their arguments to a minimum. The situation is deadly serious, and when Keith expresses doubts about the collective of Galra who helped Shiro escape imprisonment Lance says "you know I hate to agree with Keith... but it's a big fat ditto for me."
Episode 4 begins with Lance trying to get Keith's attention again, this time by throwing a goo-spore-thing at his head. His aim is off and he hits Shiro, but as he's apologising, "Sorry Shiro, I was trying to hit Keith", Keith lands a hit directly to his face. Smirking, Keith chuckles under his breath and teases, "like that?"
Once they've returned to the castle and been decontaminated, Keith asks Coran whether the Galra had ever visited Earth, or whether one could have piloted the blue lion. Seemingly out of nowhere, the doors to Lance's bedroom open behind them. "Hey, why are you asking about my lion? How many Lions do you need?" Lance is used to Keith one-upping him at everything, so the concept of his rival piloting Blue as well unnerves him.
Keith is pretty taken aback by Lance's accusation and stutters a bit, denying it, but Lance goes on to say "you've had your eye on the blue lion from day one!" Whatever rivalry they had at the Garrison is still very fresh in Lance's mind, even if Keith seems more confused than anything.
The episode continues with a battle, and the two work in sync thanks to their respective lion powers of fire and ice. When Lance's lion get's iced, Keith jumps in to shoot it with magma, and Lance thanks him.
In episode 5, Lance and Keith are tasked with fending off some Galra ships with remote controlled drones. When Lance doesn't shoot a ship fast enough and Keith jumps in, they end up bickering again and crashing their drones into one another, ignoring the imminent threat. The battle is won, and the paladins are all so exhausted from evading Zarkon that Shiro tells them to get some rest.Lance decides to go to the pool, and Keith independently does the same. While Lance is waiting for the elevator to go down, Keith's hand appears and he forcibly jams it open. They're less than happy to see each other, with Lance asking "what the heck do you think you're doing?"
Keith is very insistent that they keep their distance. When the elevator doors close he glances at Lance and says "Look. You stay on one side of the pool, and I'll stay on the other, and we'll be far far away from each other. Very. Far. Away."
Unluckily for Keith, soon after he says this the elevator breaks down, and they're trapped there. They manage to create an opening in the top of the lift, and climb up back-to-back, "The Emperor's New Groove" style. After a bit of complaining they find a ventilator shaft and manage to dive through, Lance screaming while Keith remains expressionless. Miraculously they survive the fall without breaking any limbs, only to find that Altean pools are upside down and fixed to the ceiling so they couldn't have swum there anyway.
Zarkon finds them again so the paladins regroup, and their ability to work together when faced with a serious threat is demonstrated once again. Keith warns Lance of a fighter advancing on his nine, and Lance thanks him for the heads up. He says "and you got one going for the lower barrier", to which Keith compliments "good eye". When Lance loses control of his defense drone, Keith says "I've got you covered", although he also loses control of his drone shortly afterwards.
When Keith and Allura both start to suspect that they're being tracked by the Galra in episode 6 and sneak away in an escape pod, Lance reacts badly. "Wait a minute.. Keith and Allura? In the middle of the night? You don't think they're... sitting in a tree?" When Shiro says "contact the pod" Lance chimes in more assertively, saying "Yes, contact that pod!" It's a similarly ambiguous situation to season 1 episode 6, in which Lance gets defensive of the idea that Nyma might hook up with Keith. He doesn't really give a reason for it, but seems fixated on the idea that Allura and Keith might be hiding something.
It comes up again when Keith and Allura return to the group, and Lance asks Keith, "Is the princess with you?" "Yes." "Like, with you, with you, or...?"
On the one hand, both of these instances can easily be attributed to Lance not wanting Keith to "one-up" him concerning Allura's affections. On the other, it's Keith that Lance asks, not Allura, and that's four instances (including the comics) in which Lance's jealousy is just as easily applied to winning Keith's affections as to the girl. Little things like this, and especially the rainbow and bisexual flag colouring of the scene with Nyma in 1x06, have led people to supsect something deeper might be at play here. Similar use of colouring and subtle hints were used by the same show-runners when exploring Korra's feelings for Asami in the Legend of Korra, so it's less of a stretch than may first appear.
When Keith was orphaned, the only thing he had left to him was a knife, which he later recognised as being similar to those carried by a group of Galra called the Blade of Marmora. (The same group who saved Shiro's life.) This leads to him going on a mission in episode 8 with Shiro. At the Marmora base he goes through a series of trials, ultimately culminating in the discovery that he does have Galra heritage. We also get a glimpse of Keith's father, who represents the conflict inside him that is so central to his character: The battle between his personal feelings and his duty to the galaxy.During these trials, before Keith awakens the knife and discovers his true heritage, he gets beaten up to within an inch of his life. It's a relatively rare occurrence, as Keith is a reckless but skilled fighter. This prompts Red to leave her post, rushing to save her paladin who's in danger. When the other paladins back on the ship realise that Keith must be in trouble, Lance is visibly concerned. He says Allura's name questioningly, and continues to look at her with a stressed expression until Keith and Shiro return.Unfortunately, we don't actually get to see Keith, or Shiro, telling the rest of the group that he's Galra upon their return. We also don't see Lance's expression when they arrive back, so we can only assume that he's relieved to see them both safe.
Season 2 is fundamentally dedicated to Keith discovering and coming to terms with his heritage, and so it's difficult to ascertain how this season influences his relationship with Lance when we haven't been able to see Lance's initial reaction to him being Galra. He doesn't seem to treat Keith any differently post episode 8, he doesn't refer to him as "the only half-alien team member" or "Galra Keith" like Hunk, nor is he outwardly racist like Allura. However, they don't spend any significant amount of time together in the last few episodes so it's yet to be seen whether this time-skip will be addressed in Season 3.
At Beta Traz in episode 10, Lance describes his teammates to a yupper. It's an interesting contrast with issue 3 of the comics, where Lance simply regards Keith as "the other one". In this case, he says: "Keith is always doing things like flying into asteroid fields and black holes and cool junk like that."
The huge contrast between how Lance describes Keith to complete strangers and how he treats him in person suggests there's some interesting stuff going on in his head. Taken with the Garrison rivalry he constructed, it appears that the jealousy and admiration he feels for Keith as a fighter have outweighed his usual light-hearted tendency to befriend anyone and everyone he meets. It's difficult to judge whether or not this is because of feelings he can't admit or if it's all entirely platonic - we simply don't have enough development or screentime for Lance yet to tell. However, there are similarities in the way he teases Keith and his face around girls, which is particularly interesting because Montgomery and Dos Santos stressed at Wondercon 2017 that each expression is carefully chosen.
Other than Lance teasing Keith about his behaviour towards the Arusians before their "final fight" with Zarkon, the two don't interact again outside of battle. Shiro's disappearance looks set to illuminate his history with Keith, and we might get more of an exploration considering Lance's life at the garrison/back on Earth. With a 6-season contract agreed, there's a lot left still to come.
Part of the reason that Klance has shot to popularity so quickly is that it fits in with a lot of established ship tropes. The red/blue colour combo, love/hate antagonism, fire/ice, and loud/quiet personalities are all hallmarks of many popular canon heterosexual romances in media as well as LGBT ones.
In addition to this, the recently canonized "Korrasami" in the Legend of Korra series/comics are visually similar to Klance, as well as being animated by the same studio and produced by the same show-runners. There's a hope that Klance could "succeed", so to speak, where Legend of Korra struggled to get the okay for obvious same-sex romance from its networks.
These factors and just the sheer volume of interaction time the pair got in season 1 led to thousands of fanfictions being written on Archive of Our Own within months, the most famous being "Dirty Laundry". As of May 2017 it has 419,302 hits, and over 29,000 kudos. As of September 2017, the ship has 12,363 fanfictions on Archive of Our Own.
For a that started in June 2016, the overwhelming popularity is quite impressive, and a testament to how quickly the show has gained traction. Dirty Laundry is one of many AU college fics, but there are an equally large number of works set in canon. This is largely because of plot holes in the original storyline, such as Keith revealing himself to be Galra or the team's reunion after Season 1, a common aspect to any show that knows that it has 6 seasons in the bag to develop its characters.
A lot of fanfictions are based around their separation following 1x11, with some speculating that Lance and/or Keith could have landed together or died in that period, whilst others detail Keith's Galra heritage (even before it was revealed to be true in Season 2, there were a lot of hints before that, such as his hand turning purple in the presence of quintessence).
In addition, there is a very active cosplay community, artists who often release their own fanzines or make manips and a collection of youtubers making AMV.
In 2017, "Klance Week" occurred on May 17–23.
- Beginning in the week beginning May 1, 2017 and beyond, Klance has been the most popular ship on Tumblr according to the fandometrics blog, despite the series only existing a bit more than a year.
- Keith and Lance have neighbouring rooms in the castle ship.
- Even though Lance is the blue paladin and they're inseparable, Keith was the first one to find the blue lion, and to feel her mental connection.
- Even though Lance proclaims they're rivals, Keith and Lance can be seen standing beside each other often in the series.
- Keith is a cowboy, and Lance once worked part time on a farm.