Thursday, June 21, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 5.4, "Kral Zera"

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Fractiousness among the Galra becomes outright war, and the Paladins find themselves pulled into intervention as Voltron: Legendary Defender continues.

5.4, "Kral Zera"

Written by Mitch Iverson
Directed by Chris Palmer

Synopsis

A Galra fleet begins to assemble, and the Blade of Marmora works against the assembly, raiding a dock. The raid moves clandestinely, infiltrating ships within cargo. An inside agent assists them, and the Blade operatives overhear talk of an archivist inhibiting the beginning of a ceremony.

It is a common tactic.
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.
At the Castle of Lions, Lotor continues to plead his case for aid in participating in the transfer of power among the Galra. He notes the imminent fracturing of the Empire in advance of the Kral Zera--upon which he expounds: it is the ascension of a new Galra to the throne, held on an early Galra conquest. More details follow, with likely candidates described and their strengths compared. Haggar's involvement is noted as likely and quiet--and she represents a continuation of Zarkon's reign. Shiro asserts the position that Lotor should be supported, citing the danger of a fracturing Empire--and Lotor suggests being escorted by Voltron. The motion is rejected, and concern about Shiro's behavior is expressed.

Galra forces continue to assemble, with the Kral Zera drawing nearer. The Blade purpose to intervene and overthrow the Empire at the event, at which the likely candidates for the throne assemble and begin to bicker. The ceremony begins, with a recitation of rulers and history preceding the call to relight a sacred flame, and candidates begin to attempt the task, to declare themselves--and to kill one another. And Haggar presents Sendak as a candidate, obviously intimidating the others.
It's understandable.
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.

A fracas ensues, during which the Blade begins to sabotage events. They are unmarked--even as, far away, Hunk and Pidge work on the local technology before noting Shiro's odd behavior. He is soon marked as absent--along with Lotor and the Black Lion.

Sabotage continues as Sendak secures his victory and makes to relight the Galra flame. More challenges come, and Sendak defeats them handily, forestalling others--until the Black Lion arrives and disgorges Lotor, who claims the throne. Keith marks the arrival and calls for a halt to the Blade's action--which cannot come.

The man who would be king, or something like that.
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.
Lotor declares his intent to rule, which Sendak rejects--and Haggar disqualifies him based on his blood, which Lotor rejects. A fight ensues as Keith works to disable the charges, and the Blade intervenes, saving Lotor from the blast that takes many other Galra. Sendak claims it as a betrayal, and the conflict expands, with Shiro taking a hand as a general melee erupts. Amid it, one of Lotor's lieutenants saves Keith, and Haggar declares the Empire fallen. The other Paladins arrive and assist Shiro, and Voltron is formed. The melee ends shortly after, with Sendak escaping Lotor at the expense of other candidates. In the end, Lotor lights the flame as Voltron observes.

Hail to the chief, because he's the chief and he needs hailing.
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.
His reign is legitimated, but it begins in ruin.

Discussion

Although it mixes and muddies some characters' resonances to make the assertion, there is something like the selection of Arthur as the "rightwys kynge borne of all Enlond" in the events of the episode. Fractious, belligerent rulers all gather at a ceremonially important location and contest with one another for the right to rule in both, and in both, the not-wholly-legitimate child of the previous ruler emerges un-looked-for and seizes power--which occasions no small amount of violence and the withdrawal of other rulers, presumably to plot their own ascensions to overall power. If the series will follow the Arthurian, then, there will be more fights among the Galra to come, with Lotor having to subdue the rest--and what the Paladins do alongside him will be of interest, as it appears to force them into a difficult ethical position. Lotor is hardly a "good" character, so by aiding him, they are aiding the wrong. Yet he is also the least bad option available--as was demonstrated in the previous episode and discussed in the current, attacking Voltron and the coalition around it serves to cement power and stature among the Galra. They will be forcibly involved in any event.

Too, the question remains about influence on Shiro. That Haggar can use him as a listening device is suggested in the previous episode; if it is the case, then Shiro's out-of-character action to deliver Lotor to the ceremony without aid or support bespeaks her more overt influence upon him. Yet she speaks against Lotor as he makes to ascend to the throne. It seems a convoluted game she plays, one reminiscent of popular depictions of Morgan le Fay (and of more "literary" ones, as well). More to trace out the relevant antecedents of her own work in the series would be welcome--as will seeing how her influence on the second Black Paladin continues to manifest.

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