Thursday, April 12, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 3.7, "The Legend Begins"

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In what amounts to a simultaneous flashback, much of Voltron's early history, the history of the Galra belligerence, is revealed.

3.7, "The Legend Begins"

Written by Tim Hedrick
Directed by Eugene Lee


Haggar attends upon Zarkon, using magic to enter his mind. When she does, she sees a series of images from his history--and her own.

Meanwhile, the Paladins confer regarding Lotor's location and activities. They encounter difficulties in doing so and ask Corran for background information. He begins to relate the history of Voltron.

The original Paladins were leaders of their respective peoples, entered initially into formal alliance and soon into friendship. Their combined efforts resulted in a spreading peace across their space, and they are meeting to celebrate that peace when the initial comet--the material from which Voltron was made--strikes the Galra homeworld. Investigation of the comet ensues, albeit with some difficulty; initial reports note the emergence of quintessence, and the Altean king, Alfor, summons Honerva to aid in the research.

The research proceeds, and the Paladins grow closer as they continue to work in concert, spreading peace further. Additionally, Zarkon and Honerva wed, and progress on the research continues. Quintessence is revealed as a mighty energy source, and the implications for peace and war are examined. As the research continues, however, Honerva inadvertently summons quintessence beasts; they are contained, although the containment is recognized as temporary. The Lions are built as a response to the threat, and the Paladins assume their roles.

In time, the expected breach of containment happens, and Voltron forms for the first time to defeat it. In the aftermath of the battle, Zarkon and Honerva purpose to press on with research despite Alfor's objections, and Alfor relents. Voltron is used to expand the peace even as Zarkon's world suffers from exposure to the quintessence--and its unnatural effects on life are noted.

Honerva falls ill, and Zarkon engages the Paladins in an attempt to cure her--deceitfully, claiming that they will seal the interdimensional rift through which quintessence is entering their reality. Passing inside the rift, Zarkon exposes himself and Honerva to the quintessence directly, attracting the attention of more quintessence beasts. The latter empower and taint Zarkon and Honerva; Alfor retrieves them and escapes, sealing the rift with the destruction of the Galra homeworld and mourning his friends as evidently dead.

They are not, however, or they return from death, and Zarkon orders war against his former comrades in an attempt to seize control of Voltron and return to the interdimensional space whence quintessence comes. In that revelation, Lotor's plan is made evident--and Haggar remembers who she is.

She calls to her husband, and he wakes...


Much is made clear in the in medias res episode, which lays out the underlying tension that informs the series. Zarkon and Haggar are made somewhat sympathetic along the way; Zarkon emerges as a husband who goes too far saving his wife and corrupted by forces he cannot control, while Haggar is a researcher gone too far in what is otherwise a worthy quest. And there are implications that 1) the stuff of which Voltron is made is necessarily related to the terrors of the quintessence beasts and their eldritch-abomination existence and 2) quintessence itself is actually an infernal energy, which would make "life itself," to which Honerva equates it, similarly evil. In all, the episode works well to convey the fraught beginnings of the current conflict, as well as the stakes involved in its resolution.

What is less clear is how the episode makes manifest the medieval, other than the standing tropes of the Paladins and the Druids that Haggar/Honerva leads. Perhaps the subtle yoking of life to inherent evil is such a manifestation, given the typical medieval conceit of the fallen world, but that seems tenuous at best. Too, it is not the case that a series which employs the medieval as source and reference material always remain embedded in that material; the present episode seems to do so less than many other places in the narrative (although I would welcome other opinions on the matter; I would be happy to have my own understanding expanded). It does enough else that the series seems to need that its general separation from the medieval--although not the fantastic, since the "we have to fight evil spirits invading from another realm" plot is a commonplace in medievalist literature--is of no great moment or concern.

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