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The second season of Voltron: Legendary Defender continues--and it seems to engage (inadvertently?) with some of what is happening in the medievalist world.
2.3. "Shiro's Escape"Written by Tim Hedrick
Directed by Chris Palmer
SynopsisAfter the Paladins and the Castle of Lions are reunited, Shiro convalesces while his comrades look on with concern. As he heals, he dreams of his torment at the hands of the Galra and his escape from their capture--aided by a saboteur, Ulaz, who warns him of Zarkon's plans and offers him information, including a call to meet with the Blade of Marmora. Shiro wakes from the dream and reports its content to his comrades.
Meanwhile, the commander who was framed by Thrace in an earlier episode, Prorok, finds himself being tormented by the witch Haggar. He protests his innocence to no avail, and he is bound to a new Robeast.
Data from Shiro's mechanical arm is analyzed and yields coordinates--to which the group travels despite Allura's objections that no Galra can be trusted. Shiro questions her earlier decision not to reveal to them that Zarkon had been the Black Paladin previously, and she attempts to defend it--although without much success--and he urges them all to look for a promised ally. When they arrive at the coordinates, though, they find it a natural minefield, space strewn with explosive minerals.
Zarkon, empowered by Haggar's magic, also finds the coordinates. He dispatches the Robeast Prorok thence.
An intruder arrives on the Castle of Lions, and Allura proclaims it a trap. The intruder manages to evade capture until confronted by Shiro, with whom a standoff ensues--but only briefly. The intruder reveals himself as Ulaz and accepts capture, leading the Paladins into a hidden pocket in space where an outpost of the Blade of Marmora is hidden. As they confer about matters, the Robeast attacks, and Voltron is hard put to defend itself and the Castle of Lions. Ultimately, Ulaz sacrifices himself so that Voltron can escape; in the aftermath of it, tension driven by Allura's hatred of the Galra reemerges, but Shiro determines that they will press on--and Keith finds himself considering intently the strange knife he has long carried.
DiscussionIn this episode, the bigotry's the thing. Allura's barely-temperate hatred for the Galra, although justified in the milieu, rings oddly not only to the other Paladins, but also to viewers; she is supposed to be on the side of good, and the good are not supposed to be bigoted. (This will be an issue later.) There are medieval antecedents, to be sure; the Arthurian Sir Palimodes comes to mind as an example of a member of a perceived enemy population who nonetheless aligns with the "good guys" (yes, I know the Round Table Knights are hardly "good", but they are the usual protagonists), and his membership in that population is a point of contention about him. But, given the cultural moment surrounding this writing--and that of the episode's initial release--I have to think of the broader context and to note that Allura's fantastic racism echoes the all-too-real racism embedded in far too many places--including in medievalist communities, as recent events have starkly shown. She is one of the protagonists, and she should be above such attitudes, but she is not. That she is not frustrates the portrayal of "good" usually expected in children's programming and reminds the viewers that the pernicious evil of racism can be found growing even in the most blessed of soils.
We need to weed our gardens more thoroughly.