Thursday, April 5, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 3.6, "Tailing a Comet"

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

The ramifications of a once and future leader returning begin to play out as the Paladins continue their fight against the Galra Empire.

3.6, "Tailing a Comet"

Written by Mitch Iverson
Directed by Chris Palmer


The Paladins launch an assault of a Galra facility. Allura proves herself remarkably adept as they clear the facility for the Blade of Marmora. Later, aboard the Castle of Lions, Shiro debriefs to Keith; the two try to suss out recent events, making their chronologies align. Recovery for Shiro is slow, however, although he does return to the bridge of the Castle and resumes command. Pidge reports on ways to track Lotor, both through tracing his recent appearances and through developing a detector to scan for the comet Lotor had previously acquired.

Shortly afterward, Lance confers with Keith about how to proceed in the wake of Shiro's return. He offers to step aside, citing the superior skills of the other Paladins; Keith reassures him that that will not be needed, at least not in the moment.

Not much later, Pidge's detector goes online, and the Paladins follow a signal to what they believe is Lotor's location. As they advance on it, leadership conflicts emerge between Shiro and Keith, and, as the Paladins move into action--springing a trap--the Black Lion refuses Shiro. He remains on the Castle as Keith leads the operation.

In the event, the Paladins find themselves counter-raiding a Galra installation that is already under attack--by another faction of Galra. The installation stores part of the teleportation device the Paladins had used to thwart Zarkon, and its commander is being used--hard--as a patsy by Lotor, the theft meant to cover Lotor's appropriation of the device. And, to make matters worse, the comet Lotor had stolen has been incorporated into a ship of substantial capability--which is deployed against the Paladins and Voltron. The ship deploys to force a choice for the Paladins: allow the teleporter to escape by engaging the ship, or suffer from the ship while taking out the teleporter. Keith and Shiro come into conflict over the matter as Shiro commands the Castle into the fray. In a moment of clarity, Keith destroys the teleporter--but Lotor's ship and the lieutenants piloting it are able to escape.

In the wake of the battle, the Paladins confer about how they will proceed. And the hapless commander of the Galra facility that was raided suffers for his failures.


Of particular note in the episode is the way in which Shiro's foreshadowed return is thwarted. Instead of returning to command of the Paladins in Voltron, he is relegated to the same kind of support and coordination role that Corran has carried throughout the series and that Allura was able to leave behind earlier in the season. While it does make some sense--Shiro is still recovering from his travails, and his seniority means that positioning him outside the main battle affords him the advantages of greater perspective--it also marks another blow to the character and subverts what would otherwise have been the expected course of the narrative. After all, the introductory sequence to each episode continues to show Shiro as pilot of the Black Lion, and children's shows (of which it must be admitted Voltron: Legendary Defender is one) prize the status quo; it would make sense that Shiro return to his former position without trouble.

That he is not able to do so--at least, not at this point--suggests that the promised return of Arthurian figures would be similarly problematic, something conveniently ignored by much of the medieval material that informs popular culture. (It also foreshadows a similarly problematic return to power by Zarkon.) Arthur may be the once and future king, but a future that he could rule well seems a strange place and an inhospitable one; if Shiro could not return to command after the span of a year or less, how much less could the mighty leaders of old to now--or even later? While the problem presented is something that other works have considered, to see it appear in a show directed at the audience Voltron addresses is an interesting shift and one that reminds us that, even though we may well prize what has gone before, we do not well to cleave too closely to it.

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