Thursday, February 1, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.10, "Escape from Beta Traz"

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

The Paladins of Voltron enact a prison break, hearkening back to one of the more prevalent tropes of chivlaric literature and helping one of their own find his place.

2.10, "Escape from Beta Traz"

Written by Mitch Iverson
Directed by Eugene Lee

Synopsis

In the Blue Lion, Lance, Pidge, and Shiro approach the prison site that is their assigned objective--and from which they are to free the scientist, Slav. That he is a high-priority target is indicated by their explication of the prison as they infiltrate it with some difficulty and begin to reconnoiter it.

Meanwhile, Zarkon continues his psychic search for the Black Lion--without success. His obsession with the matter attracts comment as it continues.

The Paladins identify two holding cells in the prison and split up to find their target. As they do, Slav is tortured, his mind ransacked for information about weapons and other military and related technologies. Pidge, operating as something like mission control, also searches out data on her missing brother as Shiro and Lance advance.

Shiro achieves his objective, reaching Slav and beginning to extract him. He is confronted by the excessive strangeness of Slav's personality, however, and they proceed only with difficulty. Lance, meanwhile, reaches what he thinks, wrongly, is his objective, and frees from confinement a large creature that soon proves remarkably combat-capable. Lance also begins to puzzle over his place among the Paladins, becoming dispirited as he does so--and Shiro continues to struggle with Slav.

Both Lance and Pidge find themselves discovered, and prison defenses begin to activate as Lance and Shiro reunite and race to the Blue Lion for extraction. They are interdicted by the prison's warden, who personally intervenes in their escape, augmenting his abilities to do so. Lance shows himself to be of value and to have a particular role on the team, making a skilled shot to enable their escape--and in its wake, the Galra warden shows himself to have something of a soft side, as Lance's putative objective was, in fact, the warden's pet.

All the while, Zarkon continues his search to no avail, and hints of a weapon to come are offered.

Discussion

The episode centers on the carceral, on imprisonment and the prospect of release from it. That it is is highlighted in the very name of the episode and the eponymous facility. "Beta Traz" evokes Alcatraz, one of the archetypes of The Prison in the American imagination toward which the series seems to be directed--and suggests that the facility is impregnable save for the peculiar circumstances represented by the Legendary Defender.

The carceral factors mightily into chivalric literature. One of the most poignant passages in Malory, for example, centers on Tristan's imprisonment and Malory's self-insertion into the narrative, giving an editorial aside that likely stems from his comments at the very end of the text, bewailing his own imprisonment. And Shiro and Allura have both been prisoners of the Galra, so it is not as if the carceral is previously unknown in the series, offering a point of correspondence between the two. And if it is not the case that the present episode bemoans imprisonment the way Malory does, editorially or directly in the text, Shiro's repeated instances of PTSD and the torture scenes--slightly elided against the rating of the series--that do appear, as well as possibly Slav's own fragmented perception, all speak to the horrors of being a prisoner, something with which the chivlaric engages and with which contemporary viewership would do well to be concerned.

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