Thursday, April 26, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 4.2, "Reunion"

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Amid the darkening aspect of the early fourth season, there is a spot of light and hope as one of the Paladins finds a measure of closure.

4.2, "Reunion"

Written by Mitch Iverson
Directed by Steven In Chang Ahn


In a clear flashback, Pidge sits in a classroom lecture about information storage, commenting on it and drawing the ridicule of her classmates. She later vents her frustration prior to her brother--from whom she has the nickname Pidge--entering to comfort her and to announce his acceptance into space service alongside their father.

The reminiscence ends with Pidge, saddened, tracking down her brother and father--going alone despite Shiro's objections. She arrives on and begins to search a run-down urban planet, following intelligence received earlier. Melee ensues, with Pidge winning handily and seizing the needed data, proceeding in her search. Pidge, however, is being followed by an imposing, cloaked figure.

As Pidge pursues her lead, she finds her objective under Galra attack; she intervenes triumphantly. The locals advise Pidge of events, and Pidge is about to get needed information when the Galra attack resumes--with less fortunate results. Pidge counterattacks angrily and is forced to intervene in the medical mission the locals had been undertaking. Pidge receives a connection to her brother from her objective and proceeds with the contact's mission.

The medical mission achieved and more useful contacts established, Pidge continues on her own pursuit, following her brother's presumed location. She recalls another interlude with her brother and the family encryption as she approaches the location--and finds trouble.

Investigating further, Pidge comes across a memorial and believes her brother interred within. Her search grows frantic, and she recalls her brother again--only to fall to her knees at what appears to be his grave. She bewails her brother--but recalls the earlier comments about the family encryption to reveal coordinates at which she can find him. She continues her pursuit, unaware that she is pursued, herself.

Proceeding, Pidge arrives at the established coordinates. Investigation continues, revealing a hidden installation. Pidge enters it and is attacked. The attacker is Pidge's brother, and their reunion is a happy one--until interrupted by Pidge's pursuer. Melee ensues, and the siblings fight superbly in tandem, leaving their reunion happy.


After the somber tone of the previous episode, having a clear success for one of the Paladins is decidedly welcome. And the early gesture towards the pain of nerdiness in school is a clear gesture towards the expected audiences of the series; those of us who still watch such shows (and even more, who write blogs about them!) are nerds of one stripe or another and suffered such taunts and censure as Pidge recalls--and worse.

Aside from such notes, however, the present episode is one that hearkens back to the chivalric narratives that inspire much in the series. One of the Paladins goes out on a quest alone, encountering danger and rendering aid along the way. And the Paladin does not set out to have to fight, although offered battle is joined without hesitation and with success.  In that, the episode is almost prototypical of the "traditional" concept of knight-errantry (with the "tradition" largely inherited from Victorian bowdlerizations of Arthurian and other chivalric stories), a welcome touchstone for a series that borrows from medievalist tropes.

As it does so, as it aligns with the Victorian bowdlerization and its derivatives, it thwarts what might otherwise be an expected plot development--one voiced by Malory in his recounting of Balin and Balan, brothers who, separated by circumstance and in livery unfamiliar each to the other, die at one another's hands. Given that the series does make some use of Malorian tropes and that the fourth season starts off somewhat darker in tone than the previous seasons, it would not have been out of line for such a thing to happen. And given the broader cultural contexts in which the series and its audiences exist, in which fratricide is a familiar thing, it might not have occasioned much comment--its unwittingness making the event more tragic and thus making its participants more sympathetic. But the psychological exploration that would have had to follow would likely have gone beyond the scope of what the series could permit--even Shiro's obvious PTSD is evidenced less and less as the series goes on, the show moving away from it--explaining why the "sanitized" version of the narrative arc would be deployed by the present episode rather than the older narrative that informs it.

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