Thursday, January 18, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.8: "The Blade of Marmora"

Read the previous entry in the series here!
Read the next entry in the series here!

Plots thicken around the Paladins and the Blade of Marmora as they meet at last, and Keith shows something of his own history and his title's.

2.8. "The Blade of Marmora"

Written by Mark Bermesderfer
Directed by Steve In Chang Anh


As Keith contemplates matters, Shiro asks Coran about their approach to the base of the Blade of Marmora, coordinates to which had been given the Paladins before. They arrive amid the exclamations of delight by the other Paladins, while Keith grows angry at their flippancy, and Allura warns of a trap after seeing that the base is cleverly situated amid cosmic phenomena.

The base queries the Paladins and, after Shiro responds, admits two; Shiro and Keith enter. As they approach, Shiro chides Keith for his earlier outburst and reconfirms him as his successor. After a difficult passage, they enter the Blade's base.

Meanwhile, Haggar interrogates a Galra in the matter of the Paladins' earlier escape.

In the base, the Blade test both Shiro and Keith, focusing their attention on the latter for having a knife they claim belongs to them. He challenges their assertions and begins combat trials to prove his right to it. Contemporaneously, Allura grows impatient and tasks Hunk with finding out what has transpired--and the Galra spy, Thace, continues to act clandestinely until summoned to Haggar.

At length, Keith figures out an end to the combat trials, only to collapse into a series of visions that promise him knowledge but do not deliver. Shiro seeks to intervene in his ordeal, and the Red Lion acts of its own accord to save him.

Meanwhile, Haggar interrogates Thace, who manages to deflect her attentions. She tasks him with the continued pursuit of the infiltration into Galra ranks.

Shiro reaches Keith as the Paladins make to enact their own approach. A brief fight ensues, only to be ended when Keith offers to surrender his knife. As he does, it awakens, and Keith is confirmed as having Galra ancestry. In the wake of the revelation, negotiations between the Blade and the Paladins commence.


The obvious bits of the medievalist in the episode are in the trials by combat and the awakening of the magic weapon--although, to be fair, both tropes extend far further back. Both are inextricably bound to typical conceptions of knighthood, however, so they bear some mention and attention.

Knights--or paladins, as the case may be--are often tested by ritual combat, both in the jousts that pervade such works as Malory's or, in some iterations, in their ascent to the dignity of knighthood. Indeed, the dubbing evokes a fight endured and survived, being a non-lethal contact from a blade. That Keith undergoes such is therefore to be expected; indeed, it is to be wondered at that more of the Paladins do not endure such testing. (Shiro's gladiatorial experience would seem to do for him, to be sure--and, as he is senior to Keith, it is sensible that his trial would take a seemingly older form than Keith's, with the gladiators associated with Rome and the knights with the later medieval.) There is a bit of a subversion in the test, however, since Keith does not succeed through force of arms, but through circumventing the obvious terms of the test--albeit after a fair bit of knightly stubbornness in pursuing those terms.

Keith's knife has been a key point throughout the second season of Voltron: Legendary Defender, so its central position in the current episode is not a surprise. Nor, truly, is it a surprise that it would awaken in his hands; alone of the Paladins, he wields a sword as his "special" weapon, and his hand has been what has produced Voltron's sword. Too, the Voltron of decades past was noted most for its deployment of the Blazing Sword, so the idea of a particularly eminent bladed weapon wielded by the right hand of Voltron--or its Paladin--is not at all far-fetched.

And it coincides neatly with the reassertion that Keith is Shiro's chosen successor. The wielder of a magic weapon--usually a sword--is most frequently figured as a sort of chosen one, an heir to the mighty powers that are available to wield. Arthur is one such, of course, as are any number of others. Again, the trope is one that extends far back into the past, but that Keith--the designated leader-to-be, right hand of the leader, indeed the one who was the leader in older versions of the narrative--wields a sword that only someone of his blood can awaken does just a bit more to tie Legendary Defender to the medieval and medievalist past.

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