Thursday, November 15, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 7.12, "Lion's Pride, Part 1"

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The penultimate episode of Legendary Defender's seventh season puts one threat to rest--only to show another coming all too soon.

7.12, "Lion's Pride, Part 1"

Written by Mitch Iverson
Directed by Rie Koga

Synopsis

Amid the ongoing fracas, Voltron is formed. Shiro welcomes the Paladins back to the fight for Earth and queries the fighting forces for their current status. The cadet pilots rendezvous with the Atlas and prepare to sally forth again. The Galra, meanwhile, regroup, assessing their situation; the siege weapons are moving into position, and all fire is to be directed at Voltron and the Atlas.

The new volleys begin.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
As the Galra assault resumes, so does the Earth forces' counterattack. Bolstered by Voltron, matters seem to go better for Earth. But the siege weapons are converging to kill the planet, so Voltron redirects to take out Sendak. Artillery fire from the planet, however, interdicts them, and they are hard put to it. The Atlas is not doing much better, either, and the cadet pilots re-deploy to run further interference for the Atlas and Voltron. The latter is tasked with destroying the siege weapons; the Paladins formulate a plan and work on it as the fracas continues. Shiro and the cadet pilots continue along their work as they do.

Risky, indeed.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
The Paladins experience some success; they are able to interdict the siege weapons' beams, though they cannot long do so. Shiro improvises a new plan, putting Coran in command of the Atlas and working to infiltrate Sendak's ship as the Galra assault continues.

Time to enact their plans grows ever shorter as they do so, and the interdiction fails--only to be succeeded by the Atlas interposing herself in the path of the siege weapons' beams. More time bought, the fight continues, and Shiro succeeds at his infiltration, making himself the agent of infiltration and disabling one of the siege weapons--as well as de-powering Sendak's ship.

Meanwhile, the Paldins begin to recover from their exertions, and Lance moves to assail the siege weapons. Allura joins him, followed by the other Paladins. The cadet pilots are also successful, and Sendak's ship is in free-fall towards Earth. Shiro attempts to flee but is confronted by Sendak; a melee begins, and the Paladins work to guide the ship towards an empty area. They succeed, and Shiro and Sendak's duel continues until Keith decisively intervenes, and Sendak falls.

After, Keith tends to Shiro, and the Paladins come to believe that Earth is safe--briefly. An incoming fireball puts the lie to that belief as the episode ends.

Discussion

As a culmination of what has gone before, the episode introduces little if any new medievalism. It does, however, neatly deal with the dark mirror relationship between Shiro and Sendak that has received comment before, doing so in a way that could easily be read either as mimicking Arthuriana or as the kind of theological parallel which medieval minds, by report, would have appreciated.

Sendak is defeated in his person not by Shiro but by Keith, Shiro's clear favorite. As such, the battle mimics the Arthurian chivalric in that it is only through carefully cultivated fellowship that one side prevails, Keith serving Shiro as Lancelot serves Arthur; the parallel is admittedly incomplete, given the character names involved (although the case can be made that the Paladin Lance is more like Gawain than Lancelot), but it is nonetheless close enough to be seen readily.

Keith's entrance into the battle, descending from the very heavens with sword in hand to vanquish a  foe clearly demoniac in both appearance and attitude, is also similar to the intervention of divine might into the human struggle against sin, both in medieval Christian concept and, not uncommonly, more recent ideas. Shiro is unable to defeat his evil counterpart without aid; it is only with assistance from on high that his foe is undone. The reading is similar to some interpretations of the third part of Beowulf, wherein the eponymous hero finds victory only through the aid of his kinsman, Wiglaf, and which has been likened to the need for outside agency to defeat sin.

In both cases, the parallels are not exclusively to the medieval, although they do certainly connect to medieval ideas. Given how much the series has done to connect back to the medieval, however, looking to it for antecedents seems still to be a way to understand better what is going on in the series and why it matters.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 7.11, "Trial by Fire"

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The fight to save the Earth continues as the seventh season of Legendary Defender comes closer to its end.

7.11, "Trial by Fire"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Michael Chang

Synopsis

The attack with which the previous episode ends leaves Voltron forcibly disarticulated, its component Lions adrift and their Paladins unconscious. The Galra do not relent in their assault, and Earth's forces look on in horror as they begin to realize the treachery that has been perpetrated on them. Shiro begins to plot a retrieval mission.

Not the best thing to wake up to.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Keith, captured by the Galra along with the other Paladins, wakes briefly and sees the traitor admiral exhorting Sendak to release the Paladins to her and depart Earth. He refuses and imprisons the admiral along with them, ordering the assault on the planet to resume as Keith loses consciousness again.

Back on Earth, Shiro and Coran try to activate Earth's defense ship, the Atlas, as the Galra siege weapons align themselves to assail the redoubt. Knowing that their defenses will not hold against the coming assault, the Earth forces decide to reroute power from the defenses to the Atlas, and they rush to enact their plans. The four cadet pilots are dispatched as the last defensive line as the Atlas is brought online.

The cadets are understandably concerned.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Keith wakes aboard the Galra ship again. He is alone in a cell, left isolated from the other Paladins and stripped of his weapons. The other Paladins make radio contact and assess their situation. The traitor admiral is imprisoned nearby and, overhearing, confesses her sins. She relates what she knows of Sendak's plan; the Galra leader means to destroy the planet.

Work to launch the Atlas continues. The Galra note the shifts in power distribution and attack the redoubt, hindering the launch efforts. A counterattack ensues, and the Atlas attempts to launch--unsuccessfully. Holt despairs, and Coran has a sudden realization. Taking the remains of the Castle of Lions, he is able to power the Atlas fully, and the ship successfully launches on her second attempt. Shiro is startled to find himself in command without thinking, the others deferring to him.

Sendak joins the battle as the Atlas launches, seeking to interdict her. The attempt is unsuccessful, and the Atlas joins the fray. Matters improve rapidly for the Earth forces. The Paladins begin to enact escape, exhorted by Hunk. The Lions activate, piloted remotely, and Sendak orders the Paladins killed. The traitor admiral appears to try to buy her life again, using it as a ruse to hinder the execution as the fight continues. She dies from the attempt, but she is successful in allowing enough time to pass for the Paladins to escape. Keith hears her last words and recovers her body.

Discussion

Much of the episode deals with the effects of the admiral's treason against Earth, and it will come as little or no surprise to the audience that the admiral dies as a direct result of her actual and expected betrayal of her home planet. And, though it is hardly unique to the period, the medieval was preoccupied with treason; any time perceived as being as concerned with social strata and "divine" order as the medieval could hardly help but be. Certainly, treason--with admittedly varying definitions--pervades chivalric literature and its surrounding history; Malory is a prime example of it, with his work featuring several cases of treason in several forms and his own life marked by accusations of and denied pardons for treason. As such, the focus of the present episode on treason does not make a definitive link between the series and the medieval, but it does add to links already present by emphasizing something that is emphasized in the earlier materials--a useful reminder as matters progress in the series.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 7.10, "Heart of the Lion"

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Matters grow more dire for Earth and its defenders as the seventh season of Voltron: Legenday Defender continues.

7.10, "Heart of the Lion"

Written by Rocco Pucillo
Directed by Eugene Lee

Synopsis

It's something of a pattern for Shiro.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Shiro wakes once again on a table under bright lights. This time, however, it is because of a medical procedure he has agreed to and which is being conducted by friendly personnel. The procedure is the installation of his new arm; its capabilities are described to him, and he tests it briefly before matters deteriorate. Allura intervenes, restraining the arm and replacing its power source with one of her own. Shiro is eased by the procedure and enriched.

After, Pidge and Allura explicate Sendak's methods. The Galra commander has installed six massive emplacements around the globe, intending them to serve as deterrents and control points. How to proceed against them is debated, and an infiltration mission is decided upon and planned. Teams are assigned, and the mission begins.

The sniper team--consisting of Lance, Hunk, Veronica, and Kincaid--proceeds to its assigned location. The members confer with one another, learning something about each other along the way. They set up in position, overwatching the infiltration team as they proceed into the Galra facility. Infiltration proceeds smoothly at first, using Cosmos' teleportation abilities to enter and evade detection. At length, though, they are detected, and combat ensues, although Keith and Pidge achieve their objective. They find that the bases are, in fact, planetary siege cannons like those they've encountered before.
This does not bode well.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

Outside, the fight continues. The Earth forces handle themselves ably, but the numerical superiority of the Galra forces begins to tell. The Earth forces enact their exfiltration plan, departing in haste but with no casualties--and their objective achieved. Debriefing, they report on the circumstances, and a plan to take out the weapons is hatched. A simultaneous strike on all the weapons is called for, and motion to make it happen begins.

The Paladins proceed to their assigned locations and summon their Lions to them. Their unity of purpose allows for the summons to be answered--save for the red Lion, which does not heed Lance before he and Veronica come under Galra attack. Four of the Paladins enter their Lions, and the attack begins--but Lance is taken out of the fight before it can do so.

Convenient.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
He wakes in pain and finds his sister injured. They are still under fire, however, and Lance fights valiantly. The Red Lion belatedly answers his summons, saving him and his sister. So armed, they add themselves to the attack, and the operation proceeds as planned. Battle is joined, although the Galra defenses are more powerful than expected. And the weapons launch, despite the efforts of the Paladins; it is clear that the Galra knew an assault was coming. What is less clear, though not for long, is that the commander of Earth's military is the one responsible for the Galra having that knowledge. Voltron is formed and an attack on Sendak begun as Sendak turns the weapons towards Voltron, forcibly disarticulating the robot.

Discussion

Something of the appeasement noted in the discussion of the previous episode appears to have happened in the present one. What effects it will have are speculative--but not likely to be better than those appeasement had in the audience's world.

Of more immediate moment to the work of the Society, perhaps, is the manner in which Shiro and Sendak more and more closely mirror one another--with Sendak being the darker reflection. The prosthesis Shiro receives in the present episode resembles Sendak's in overall outward form; rather than being a continuous physical object, it is composed of separate pieces joined together by energy, rather than matter. Sendak's remains brutish and belligerent, while Shiro's remains seemingly elegant, and the color schemes of the two push Shiro more obviously to the side of good. So does the fact that it is Shiro's right hand that is replaced (again); he is gifted with the work of others' hands, combining them in himself and so representing the whole in each of his actions. Given his death and return, it makes him something of a messianic figure, one laden also with medievalist parallels (Allura's attire when helping him with the new arm is reminiscent of the Lady of the Lake who awards Excalibur, for instance); he is more and more clearly the white knight who will ride to the rescue of all in the end.