Thursday, September 15, 2016

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 1.10: "Collection & Extraction"

The first season of Voltron: Legendary Defender draws towards a close as problems arise for the Paladins and their Princess...

1.10. "Collection & Extraction"

Written by Tim Hedrick
Directed by Steve In Chang Anh

Synopsis

Princess Allura, the Paladins, and Coran review what intelligence they were able to recover from Sendak before Shiro ejected him into the ether during the previous episode. Coran raises questions about the ethics of doing so, of ransacking the forcibly extracted memories of a captive, and Pidge notes that the information was partial, in any event. Referencing it against what data had been recovered from Sendak's crashed ship on Arus, Pidge is able to piece together references to a strategically important site as debates about the best tactics to use in the fight against the Galra are. The decision is made to pursue the information, and the Castle of Lions moves toward the indicated location.

Upon arrival, a shipping hub is revealed in what serves as a covert location. Allura and the Paladins determine to investigate further, with Allura asserting her right to accompany the Paladins. Shiro concurs with her assertion, and the group infiltrates the Galra base. Pidge begins to ransack local data stores, and Allura determines to pursue further investigations based on preliminary findings--revealing shapeshifitng abilities inherent to the Alteans. Shiro resists the idea of allowing her to go alone, and Pidge convinces Allura that she should take the Black Lion's pilot along. As they head off, both Pidge and Keith determine to conduct their own investigations, with Pidge delving into other data sources and Keith searching through more of the facility.

During his infiltration of a docked ship alongside Allura, Shiro has a flashback to his imprisonment on another Galra ship and uses the sudden recall to proceed further into the ship. They are able to begin pulling out more data, and Allura manages to bluff past a potential threat of discovery. Meanwhile, Keith finds a Druid and follows the figure, sending along intelligence about the energy-collection operations in progress at the facility; he determines to steal some of the available resources. As he is spotted and begins to fight--badly--against the Druid whose rituals convert the acquired energy into useful form, Shiro and Allura are themselves spotted and begin to flee--and Allura's prodigious strength emerges. Pidge oversees extractions, rescuing both Keith and Shiro--but not Allura, who allows herself to be captured to ensure the Black Lion's pilot can escape. Shiro reports his failure to his comrades, and that there will soon be a direct assault on Zarkon's holdings becomes clear.

Discussion

Once again, the "standard" medievalisms at work in the series are on display in the current episode; nothing much new is added in that regard. Something else that does seem to present itself, however, or to reassert itself is a focus on the carceral experience. That is, much is made of Shiro's imprisonment--indeed, his being fugitive from the Galra legal system is a plot point, as it is the recognition thereof by Galra automated systems that forces him and Allura to flee. Given the association of the Paladins with chivalric romance--and with Arthuriana more specifically--the Tristram incarceration narrative and the Malorian carceral metanarrative come to mind as either possible antecedents or as iterations of tropes evoked. Chivalric knights end up imprisoned fairly frequently, and the idea of the captured damsel in distress is a commonplace (and although Allura is far from helpless--and may well have allowed herself to be captured with another purpose in mind, per clues in the episode--being taken by an avowedly hostile force is distressing). For a princess to be taken prisoner, then, with the clear implication that knights will rush to her rescue is very much a medievalist motion for the series to make.

Something else that seems to reassert itself is the powerful mystery of the Druids in the series. Although a dedicated fighter who demonstrably attends to his training, Keith is easily overmatched by the single Druid--and it can be inferred that the Druid, assigned to the seemingly menial task of fuel refining, is not mighty among the Druids. They are fearsome, arcane foes to face, much as the various sorcerers and other magically-empowered figures of neomedievalist fantasy tend to be. While there is no small mysticism associated with Allura, her mystical abilities seem much less overt--and they receive much less attention than do those of her opponents; magic is much more a force for ill than for good in the series, it seems, and that is another correspondence with the medieval to be found in Voltron: Legendary Defender.

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