Thursday, July 28, 2016

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 1.4: "Fall of the Castle of Lions"

Netflix's series, Votron: Legendary Defender, sees less medievalism in its fourth episode, "Fall of the Castle of Lions," than in earlier episodes.

1.4. "Fall of the Castle of Lions"

Written by Tim Hedrick
Directed by Steve In Cheng Ahn

Synopsis

Following the defeat of Robeast Myzax, the Alteans and Arusians celebrate. Allura announces that the Castle of Lions will soon depart and gives the Arusians a communications device. Shiro, though, is oddly suspicious of the quiet and moves to survey the surrounding area. Lance, Keith, and Hunk indulge in strange liquors and harmless antics, and Pidge's secret begins to emerge; Pidge also declares an intent to leave the others and search for the family captured alongside Shiro. Meanwhile, the Galra commander Sendak commences covert operations, setting up a trap and arranging for a bomb to infiltrate the Castle of Lions; it detonates, disabling castle systems and injuring Lance. Coran and Hunk venture out to secure a new power supply for the castle, finding a living planet occupied by Galra forces and making an emergency landing thereupon. Keith and Allura move to investigate reports that the Arusians have come under attack, finding the attack a distraction away from the castle. Shiro makes to take Lance to safety but is interdicted by the invading Sendak and taken prisoner. Pidge is left alone as an internal operative and sabotages the Galra's escape plans--but they remain in possession of the Castle of Lions.

Discussion

There is less overtly medieval in "Fall of the Castle of Lions" than in previous episodes of the series. One thing that does stand out as medievalist, though, is the association of sacredness with the Paladin station--although it reads as potentially more a reference to a reference than as a reference to the thing itself. In popular conception, Christian knighthood--of which the Carolingian paladins are exemplars--has a decidedly sacred aspect; knighting is a religious ceremony, and symbols of faith pervade formalized knighthood. The idea appears in Malory, notably in the Grail Quest and in Lancelot's healing of Urre. In one major means of medieval transmission, fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, there are often player classes that reflect the idea; Dungeons & Dragons even calls its idealized noble warrior the paladin, one combining priestly and martial functions. There is a clear current of making the paladin sacred, one stretching back into the medieval, and it presents itself in "Fall of the Castle of Lions" in the repeated assertion that the call to be a Paladin of Voltron is a sacred, holy duty, one not lightly set aside.

A less clear ideation of the medieval, one echoing older portions of the medieval than the chivalric evoked by the Paladins, appears in the repeated musings by many of the protagonist characters on their lost homes. Allura and Coran both express sadness at the loss of Altea; several of the Paladins express homesickness for people and places on now-faraway Earth. The Wanderer and The Seafarer come to mind as antecedents--although they may well do so as a result of my looking for connections rather than on the actual strength of those connections. Homesickness is hardly unique to the Anglo-Saxon world, after all, and there are deliberate efforts evident on the part of the show staff to be more inclusive than many more "traditional" medievalist pieces are. How that inclusiveness manifests deserves explication; I welcome comments that move towards that work.

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