Thursday, July 5, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 5.6, "White Lion"

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As the fifth season of Voltron: Legendary Defender ends, Allura seems to have found what she has needed--even as another threat looms.

5.6, "White Lion"

Written by Tim Hedrick
Directed by Steve In Chang Ahn


The Castle of Lions is again in transit through space, carrying Lotor along with it as the group seeks to follow the compass stone--found previously amid Haggar's apparatus--to Oriande, the legendary font of Altean alchemy. Some doubts are raised as to the veracity of the information involved, but Allura sets them aside. Lotor lays out the general idea of Allura traveling to Oriande to master Altean alchemy so that she can enable his ships to tap raw quintessence--his plan to stave off conflict amind the Galra and between them and others.

It does seem to fit in nicely.
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.
Allura activates the compass stone in coordination with the Castle's star charts to plot a course. Coran notes the dangers of the surrounding space, and Allura orders a cautious approach--to Coran's chagrin. As they do so, they find a plethora of ruined, wrecked ships, the Castle threading its way among them to a massive upswelling of power--a white hole, the inverse of a black hole, that makes the surrounding space dangerous. Lotor quotes from an old Altean poem, explicating it as their current route--and that the course sends them into the white hole. Amid more expressions of doubt, Allura bids them continue in, taking Voltron as the sole means of being able to enter with any sense of safety.

They clearly need it.
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.
Entry is difficult, taxing Voltron's systems and the Paladins themselves, but they are able to make some progress--until an ethereal white lion assails them. Battle is joined, to no avail--and Lotor recognizes that the lion is a guardian, inhibiting the progress of non-Alteans. Voltron retreats and is broken into the component Lions, powerless and set adrift with the Castle. Shiro calls for a manual evacuation back to the Castle to regroup and confer. Coran restores power temporarily, and changes to Lotor's appearance are noted--as are those to Allura. They share the "mark of the chosen," bespeaking a peculiar Altean ancestry that should allow them access to Oriande. The two proceed alone via the Castle's personal craft--despite objections.

It's pretty...
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.
Their progress is easier, and the ethereal lion appears again. They are allowed to pass and emerge into something like a pocket dimension. They survey it, marveling at its beauty, and make landfall.

Meanwhile, the Paladins and Coran seek to restore full power to the Castle. Work proceeds slowly, and Lance frets about Allura. Shiro takes him into another room, confessing that he recalls little from an earlier experience. Lance reports what he can, expressing concern about Shiro; Shiro himself notes feeling confused and distracted.

Among the Galra, Lotor's former lieutenants explicate circumstances and discuss the possibility of carving out a piece of Galra space for themselves. Exor and Zethrid stalk off to amuse themselves, while Acxa ponders.

Clearly, a site to investigate.
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.
Allura and Lotor proceed, conferring about their fathers as they go. Lotor notes his regrets and some of Zarkon's atrocities, as well as his own heritage. Allura commends him, the two seeming to bond over the experience as they come upon a shining beacon in the wilderness. They make their way there, finding it a massive pyramid--guarded by another ethereal white lion. It leads them in, guiding them towards their intended goal and through images of their mighty forebears--that prove to be another test for them. Allura holds them at bay, and they are allowed to proceed yet further. Another test greets them, and Allura passes it. Lotor finds himself alone, confronted by the white lion. Allura does, as well. Both are obliged to fight, and Lotor is beaten, while Allura succeeds; his pride overtakes him, while Allura's humility prevails.

This seems to be something of a trope this episode.
Image taken from the episode, used for critique.

Following the test, Allura finds herself in yet another alternate realm. A voice speaks to her, saying she is home and knows what she needs to know; she is embraced by the power.

Outside, the Castle remains depowered and adrift. Pidge and Hunk falter, and Lance marks the return of Allura and Lotor to the Castle. She reeengages the ship's systems, and she commends a slightly embittered Lotor. Shiro looks on, Haggar looking on through him before ordering her own ship to the Paladins' location.


Some of the Edenic implications of the previous episode are realized in the present one; a guardian wielding something not unlike flame bars entry to a largely empty paradise from which a people claim an origin. Similarly, as a passage into a place not unlike "the Orient" and in which mystical power inheres, entry into Oriande seems to align with the medieval European (and later) tropes of a hidden magical kingdom; that the entry is associate both with racial purity and particular class status serves to deepen the unfortunate overtones thereof, however, even if it does seem to align with medieval/ist ideas about who gets to get shiny magical objects. Malory's Galahad, as a virginal descendant of Joseph of Arimathea, is the one to achieve the Grail, after all, just as Allura, the virginal, pure-blooded descendant of the Altean royal line is able to achieve the knowledge in Oriande.

There is also something of an inversion of Dante to be found in the episode. In Dante's Purgatorio, Beatrice leads the protagonist Dante through the eponymous corporeal-but-otherworldly region to a paradise on high; in the episode, Lotor leads Allura though a corporeal-but-otherworldly region to a paradise that, being in space, has to be considered on high--but the guide cannot go the whole way with the protagonist, as is the case in Dante. Still, through trials that display the allaying of putative sins, Allura is able to advance much as those who labor in dante's Purgatory are, and there is reward at the end, so there is some connection to be found, for those who would look. There is, then, another link to the medieval European in the episode and the series--one of many to be found.

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