Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 1.9: "Crystal Venom"

The series progresses towards the end of the first season, and its medievalism seems to move a bit further back...

1.9. "Crystal Venom"

Written by May Chan
Directed by Eugene Lee

Synopsis

In the wake of the previous episode, Allura reflects on lost Altea and confers with the holographic vestiges of her late father, King Alfor--returning to an idea not seen since the first episode of the series. Coran intrudes upon her reverie to see to her recovery before meeting with the Paladins where Sendak is held captive in stasis. They purpose to use the same technology that allows for the holographic Alfor to plumb Sendak's memories for vital intelligence. Shiro watches intently as the process proceeds; the other Paladins wander off, attending to various tasks about the Castle of Lions.

As they do so, Castle systems begin to malfunction. The malfunctions are humorous enough at first, involving food sprays and a harmless restraint, but they soon turn dangerous, threatening decompression and dismemberment.

Allura finds herself summoned by the holographic image of Alfor and follows him as the malfunctions continue. Shiro, meanwhile, begins to hear the voice of Sendak in his head, taunting him and pressing upon him to leave off the fight against Zarkon. Echoes of the earlier traumas that must have befallen him afflict him.

Allura begins to believe that Altea is restored and moves to direct the Castle of Lions there as the Paladins begin to puzzle out what has happened. They race to where Shiro had been watching Sendak, finding that the Black Lion's pilot had ejected the Galra commander into space. They are there when Allura begins to pilot the Castle of Lions towards its doom, and they race to intercede--but to no avail.

Coran, however, is able to break the illusion under which Allura as been placed. She tries to redirect the Castle, but she is rebuffed by the holographic Alfor, exposed as having been corrupted by Galra infiltration--a result of the earlier Galra seizure of the Castle. While the Lions and Coran work to slow the Castle's approach to its certain destruction, Allura makes her way to and destroys the information storage unit that allows her communion with her millennia-dead father--and the Castle and its occupants are saved.

Discussion

Some of the medievalisms at work in the series continue unchanged in "Crystal Venom." Alfor's armor continues to appear modeled after the Gothic shining armor of the stereotypical (although inaccurate) knight, and the various symbols embedded in the five Paladins themselves remain present. What emerges particularly forcefully, though, is a sense of longing for home or unease in exile much like that found in The Wanderer and The Seafarer. Both adopt deeply elegiac stances, bespeaking a loss of home and an unending removal from it--and such are the attitudes Allura expresses, perhaps heightened by the partial images of her home available. She can converse with a simulacrum of her father, and she can touch seeming flowers of her homeworld, but their smell is gone, as is the warmth of her father's embrace.

Perhaps, however, Deor, with its refrain of "Ðæs ofereode; ðisses swa mæg," is a better fit. After all, at the end of the episode, Allura returns to a message of hope. And there is a certain hope embedded in the typically medieval; even if there is not necessarily expectation that all will be right in the world, there is among the European medieval a certainty that a better world is to come--just as there is a certainty among the Paladins and the remaining Alteans that they will, in the end, be victorious.

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