Thursday, October 11, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 7.7, "The Last Stand, Part 1"

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The Paladins return home to find that home is not so homely.

7.7, "The Last Stand, Part 1"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Rie Koga

Synopsis

The Paladins make their approach to Earth. Pidge attempts to make contact with her father, finding only an automated message calling for help from Voltron against a Galra force that has besieged Earth.

No, it's not good.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

Four years prior, when Sam Holt had returned to Earth, he had been subjected to testing and investigation by the Earth military before being allowed to see his wife, Colleen, and asked to report. Contact with the Paladins is restricted against the concern for Earth's safety. Sam's freedom is curtailed, as well.

Sam's report is presented to the higher military. There are some troubles accepting the report, given its nature and the audience, but it is given, nonetheless, recapping many of the events of the first several seasons of the series and integrating them into the broader context of events. Sam calls for fortification of Earth, which is rejected against a lack of specifics. Sam tries to make contact with Pidge and cannot. The decision is made to keep matters quiet--and to prepare some defenses. Work to that end is demonstrated as in progress, and the potential linchpins of that defense introduced.

Four bright and promising stars...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

Work on Earth's defenses continues, assisted greatly by Sam's involvement. His experiences pay off as Earth builds its new fighters, and the four promising officers train. Attempts to contact Voltron also continue, albeit with less success throughout a passing year. but contact comes from Matt, who reports the disappearance of Voltron in the wake of the fight against Lotor. Matt warns him to stop broadcasting against the Galra's efforts to eradicate the allied forces.

Sam calls for an increase in efforts to defend Earth against the Galra, only to have his proposal rejected. Sam and Colleen reveal the truth to the world, imperiling themselves but successfully marshaling the world to the effort against the Galra--who arrive all too soon and begin laying siege to the planet.

Discussion

Given the long-standing Arthurian overtones present in the series, the parallel that suggests itself is Arthur's return to Logres after the abortive siege against Lancelot. In Malory, Arthur, having left Guinevere and Mordred to rule in his absence, is declared dead and his kingdom suborned; he returns to find it in disarray, havoc having been wrought through it. While the parallel is not exact, there is much the same at work in the present episode; the Paladins return to Earth to find what had been a peaceful place in disarray after having been wracked by hardship in their absence. The scale and scope are grander, of course, and the complications of the life left behind less unsavory--but that is not unexpected from what remains a program aimed at a younger United States audience. (Indeed, there are some motions toward dystopic tropes that seem calculated to resonate with such an audience; the military leader verges on an unhealthy despotism.) How matters will play out will be well worth seeing...

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 7.6, "The Journey Within"

Read the previous entry here!
Read the next entry here!

Matters seem to improve for the Paladins as they progress through the seventh season of Legendary Defender.

7.6, "The Journey Within"

Written by Tim Hedrick
Directed by Eugene Lee

Synopsis

The Paladins, Coran, Romelle, and Cosmo continue their journey through space, strain clear upon them. Efforts led by Shiro and Pidge continue to try to make contact with others, unsuccessfully, and the estimated remaining time of travel becomes a contested issue--again. Shiro calls for calm, Keith for discipline, and Lance for a backhanded optimism.

You can just barely see them there...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
At length, the Lions enter a darker area of space. Shiro advances an idea for how to re-power the Lions, calling back to the fight against Zarkon. Allura expresses self-doubt, which Shiro sets aside. Emboldened, the Paladins are about to proceed when Pidge spots a strange phenomenon in and lightening of the surrounding darkness. The Lions are enveloped in a radiant energy field and seek unsuccessfully to flee it. They are rendered powerless and adrift once again, waking only later and in some confusion--with their companions frozen. And they are drifting apart.

Keith decides that keeping the group together is their priority; Allura moves to that end, joined by the others. Coordinated action is needed and begins--when the energy emerges again, knocking them further apart. They manage to come together in their persons--but far adrift and out of view from the Lions. Lance's backhanded optimism resumes.

Much easier to see than the Lions.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Some time passes with the Paladins adrift. Keith does what he can to keep the others focused and sharp as more lights appear--luminous space creatures, in the event. The Paladins make to follow--only to have the creatures vanish, calling the Paladins' sanity into question as their ordeal continues. Hunk voices reservations about his worth as a Paladin.Another energy envelops them, actively tearing them away from one another. Keith fights it, experiencing his own break; it was not real.

The isolation tells on them as it continues. Lance, somehow, remains the most optimistic as talk of fathers and old grievances emerges. Hunk works as a peacekeeper, with Keith acting out in anger as another light--a planet--appears. It seems to be Earth, and the Paladins rush toward it--until Hunk voices reservations and tries to stop the others, dispelling the illusion--evidently caused by a massive, hungry space creature.
This might not be in good taste...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

The creature attacks, and the Paladins evade as they can. Hunk's manifestation of his weapon is questioned, and he puts it to good use; the extravagance of his display evokes its power. Their team identity is reaffirmed and apologies made for words spoken in anger. And with that, their powers return; the fight goes better for them in the wake thereof. The reactivation and return of the Lions helps, as well, and the re-formation of Voltron enables the Paladins to face another energy wave with aplomb.

After they pass through, their companions awaken--and they find themselves near the Sol system at last and proceed towards home.

Discussion

The idea of visions appearing to the Paladins as an artifact of encroaching insanity voiced in the episode harkens back, if somewhat obliquely and unhappily, to the dream-visions of "The Feud." There is thus a bit more than usual of the continuity of the series's medievalism in the present episode, which is to the good for the kind of work the Society does. After all, if the property will continue to do such a thing, it means that the work of identifying and explicating that medievalism can also continue, giving those of us on this side of things more to do. Working through such puzzles as sources and antecedents present is a source of joy in addition to aiding understanding of the continual construction and reinterpretation of cultural touchstones.

Something else medievalist evoked in the episode is the hellmouth, the gaping opening to the netherworld that appears in much medieval art--suggested in the episode by the maw of the gigantic, illusion-inducing space creature. The use of lures to deceive prey is a natural phenomenon--note the anglerfish--and one commonly deployed by people--as witness fishing tackle sales. But it is also something traditionally associated with medieval conceptions of the underworld; foul spirits seek to lure nobles to their doom through deceit. Indeed, the deliberately medievalist Faerie Queene presents such things assailing the Redcrosse Knight, and Arthurian knights in more traditionally Arthruain works get similar treatment. While there are other possible antecedents for the imagery, the fact of the medieval and medievalist predecessors for the presentation does help to secure the long-established medievalism of Voltron: Legendary Defender as a whole.