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The third season of Voltron: Legendary Defender focuses on concerns of leadership--with the Paladins learning a lesson their foe already knows.
3.3, "The Hunted"Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Eugene Lee
SynopsisFollowing Keith, the Paladins pursue Lotor. The approach is uncertain, as some Paladins are yet familiarizing themselves with their Lions. Hunk observes as such, seconded by Lance; Keith determines that they must press on. Lotor, however, is pressing for time and information; he goes out personally to test them; the unfamiliarity of the Paladins with their Lions shows, as Lotor easily surpasses their abilities, Allura's pronounced determination, and Keith's bravado. An attempt to form Voltron fails laughably, and Lotor withdraws. Keith determines to continue pursuit, and Lotor plots to lead them into a trap, sussing out that the Paladins are in disarray.
The Paladins follow into Lotor's prepared trap, faring as poorly as might be expected as they lose sensor capacity and are forced to navigate blindly amid Keith's blind determination. The Lions are separated amid the strange environs, and Lotor attacks them. Lance manages to convince Keith to work to rejoin the group, despite his mission focus--but he still presses on, forcing the others to follow despite their misgivings and the environmental problems. Lotor follows them, and his lieutenants summon assistance as he leads them on a merry chase into the full trap. Hunk realizes that it is a trap, and the Lions assume a defensive posture to no avail.
Lotor then engages Allura, chasing her as she panics. At length, she evades him--and Lance confronts Keith, who is experiencing a crisis of faith in himself. Lance cajoles Keith into action, and they collect the other isolated Paladins. Allura tries to call out while Lotor searches for her, the stress of it forcing her into connection with the Blue Lion--just in time to fall under attack again. She has more success evading this time, the Lion giving her guidance about how to proceed. Following it, she successfully defends herself against Lotor, who withdraws. She then collects her colleagues, and the group finds itself faced by Galra forces. They successfully form Voltron and effect their escape; Keith allows Lotor to escape, in turn, and Lotor plots his next moves.
DiscussionAs I watched the episode again, it occurred to me that the pilots of the left side of Voltron, Pidge and Hunk in the Green and Yellow Lions, respectively, are the most stable and reliable of the Paladins. They do not shift around as the others do, and they reliably fulfill their non-pilot roles without much strife or angst. It seems an interesting inversion of the long association of the left and the unpleasant.
More overtly medievalist is the episode's musing on the nature of leadership. Throughout, Keith fares poorly as a leader, while Lotor does quite well--although there are common points between them. Both engage their foes directly and personally, not asking others to do what they are not willing to do. And both do acknowledge that there are times when leadership must give way, although the revelation comes relatively late for the Red Paladin. (Of course, that he is impetuous makes Keith more like Arthur, who is depicted in the words of the Gawain-poet as "sumquat childgered" and described in many other sources as often being rash.)
But Lotor does not push his lieutenants in the episode, restraining them, rather--and Keith does exactly the opposite, forcing his fellow Paladins into battle before they are ready. And they need not join a fight so soon, though his comments about needing to track Lotor closely carry some merit; they could follow in the Castle and use the time to practice rather than charging in without looking, as Keith has them do.
It is easy to read Keith's failure as an indictment of too much marital aggression, a comment that the right hand that holds the sword should not govern the head--and it is not wrong to do so. Just as it is easy to read Lance's actions in the episode--disagreeing with and outright rebuking Keith--as being something of a perfected version of Lancelot's relationship with Arthur. For Lancelot served most often as Arthur's enforcer--when he did not cuckold him--but Lance serves as a useful foil for Keith, not undermining him but ultimately pushing him to be a better leader. It makes of him an excellent right-hand man (I do not apologize for the pun), and, along with Keith and Lotor make the episode a study in effective leadership, the which was a preoccupation of many medieval European writers no less than among their contemporary American counterparts.