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Following a brief third season, the series begins to take on a more somber tone, and there are hints of the dirty work that must be done to overthrow a multi-millennial empire.
4.1, "Code of Honor"Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Eugene Lee
SynopsisGalra forces descend on an aquatic world, coming to berth beneath the waves to make a high-level delivery. The Blade of Marmora has infiltrated the facility and reconnoiters the facility; the Galra have access to more energy reserves than expected, and the Blade investigates. They are revealed and exfiltrate under fire, escaping narrowly--with Keith drawing rebuke despite his performance.
The intelligence collected by the Blade is delivered as Keith returns to the Castle and is dispatched by Shiro--under some protest. His tardiness with the mission is noted by the other Paladins, who also rebuke him. Shiro and Keith confer about how matters stand, Keith still having difficulty with Shiro's having stepped aside and trying to work as both part of the Blade and the Paladins. Morale-building missions are treated, with the Blade summoning aid to investigate an oddity in the Galra movements; Keith is dispatched to aid the Blade--and to return in haste.
The morale-building mission ensues, hindered somewhat by the absence of Keith. Complaints are noted--but Keith's mission proceeds apace, with a daring mission to plant a tracker on a Galra ship turning out to be a trap. One of the Blade falls to the trap, and Keith is cast adrift with a compromised environment suit. As the Paladins parade, Keith strives to recover, again narrowly escaping harm.
When Keith returns to the Castle, Allura confronts him. She seeks to force him to choose: the Blade, or the Legendary Defender. Keith's tension between the two groups continues, with him evidently preferring the work of the Blade to that of the Paladins.
Lotor, meanwhile, is rebuked by Haggar. He rejects her bluntly.
The division of Keith's attention becomes a problem as the Galra attack a convoy and the Paladins move to intercept--without Keith. The attack quickly becomes a trap for the Lions. Shiro approaches the Black Lion again to try to intervene. At length, the Black Lion accepts him again, and battle is joined. Voltron returns, and victory is achieved in short order.
After, Keith returns to face censure. He resigns from the Paladins, noting the progress of the Blade in their investigations and pursuit of Lotor. Shiro accepts it gracefully and asserts his continued friendship.
DiscussionThe new season seems to mark a shift in the tone of the narrative, one that seems to go into a darker and less happy place than previous seasons of the series. This is not unexpected, of course; any ongoing narrative arc must at least consider doing so, both in response to outside events and to the presumed development of its primary audience. (The tonal shifts in the Harry Potter books come to mind as a recent predecessor.) And a medievalist work such as Voltron: Legendary Defender often is should be expected to do so, as well; the Arthuran legend from which it borrows extensively does so repeatedly, particularly in Malory as the narrative moves through and past the Grail Quest--although not seldom elsewhere.
Indeed, the present episode seems to borrow the fragmentary nature of the Malorian narrative for a bit, focusing largely on the exploits of one character--the redoubtable Keith--as he grows apart from his comrades, even as they increasingly serve more as symbols than as front-line fighters. There is some parallel to the development and aging of the Round Table Knights in Malory; while some of the more notable continue to go out on their own adventures, not always happily, the group as a whole seems to become more an emblem than a largely active force for good. This does not mean in either case that the group becomes inert or ineffectual, but it does mean that there is less a sense of unified drive as matters progress--and more of individuals striking out from the still-gleaming core to do work that remains needed.
It must be noted that this marks the end of my rewatching in favor of watching. It's not the first time this has happened with series write-ups in this webspace, though my break-off reasons aren't nearly so visceral as Shiloh's (about which more here, and if you've not read her treatment of Game of Thrones, you're missing out). No, with me, it's a matter of having a young daughter and two jobs; finding the time for this is not as easy as I would hope. But I mean to press on, in any event, and what I see in the present season gives me hope that I'll enjoy the ride. I hope y'all will, too.