Thursday, February 15, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender 2.12, "Best Laid Plans"

Read the previous entry in the series here!
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The Paladins' plans hasten toward their conclusion in the penultimate episode of the season.

2.12, "Best Laid Plans"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Chris Palmer

Synopsis

Following a motivational speech that re-explains the plan against Zarkon, and as Thace endures more interrogation, the Paladins and their allies set out to enact that plan. Shiro offers himself as bait; Zarkon enlists Haggar's aid in his search and takes that bait, and, despite the Blade or Marmora's recommendation that the mission be aborted in the absence of communication from Thace, the plan proceeds.

Keith offers himself as an infiltrator to spur the plan ahead; Allura takes a moment to apologize to him for her treatment of him. He launches, and the mission continues, with Shiro cutting a path through the Galra onslaught to allow Keith access to Zarkon's own ship. Meanwhile, Thace makes an escape and proceeds along his part of the mission, long since assigned him.

Shiro begins to falter in his lone battle, but receives aid from the other Paladins as Thace is pursued and Keith rendezvous with him. Struggles to keep the Galra at bay and enact the plan to disable Zarkon's ship ensue, but, with a self-sacrifice by Thace, the plan succeeds. The Galra are thwarted, Zarkon's ship sent far away--and the Castle follows, with Voltron forming to enact a final end to the Galra Emperor.

Discussion

The episode, focusing on a daring strike against the Galra leader, is primarily taken up with intense action. But this is not discordant with medieval chivalric literature--or its own predecessors, such as the Classical epics. Individual and group combats receive substantial attention in such works as Malory's, as witness such occasions as Gawain's first fight after being knighted, or the battles in which Arthur consolidates his kingship, Lancelot's judicial combats on Guinevere's behalf, or the final battle between Arthur and his nephew-son, Mordred. Neither, however, is it necessarily so restricted, although whether because of the strength of tradition or from some underlying other cause is not clear, at least to my eye. So, while what happens in the episode is not, in overall form, out of line with what the medieval the series largely evokes does, neither is it straitly bound to it--but the medieval is polyvalent, so it makes sense that the medievalist would be, as well, and there may well be more to see in the episode.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Bit Less TaT at Kalamazoo 2018

In a bit of unfortunate news, both panelists for the 2018 Tales after Tolkien Society paper session at the International Congress on Medieval Studies have withdrawn; unforeseen complications seem to have afflicted both. As such, there will be no paper session for us this time around--although the business meeting is, at this time, slated to proceed as normal. So if you're in the area at the appropriate time, come on by and see us!

Thank you for your continued support.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.11, "Stayin' Alive"

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The Paladins' plans approach their enactment in a straightforward episode of the series.

2.11, "Stayin' Alive"

Written by May Chan
Directed by Steve In Cheng Ahn

Synopsis

Allura proceeds to the Balmera to collect a particularly large crystal with which to enact the plan to defeat Zarkon. As she does, Coran contacts her, and they exchange updates on their progress. Allura also confesses some of her concerns, which Coran allays. And when she arrives at the Balmera, she is welcomed by the locals, although the Robeast that had been defeated there receives some attention.

Meanwhile, a druid reports continues espionage to Haggar. She orders specific surveillance.

At the Balmera, Allura is able to retrieve the crystal and get it to the Castle of Lions. Not long after, however, the beaten Robeast re-emerges and attacks; a fight ensues, and the Castle of Lions is hard put to defend itself.

Haggar's orders yield results. Thace, retrieving stolen data, is taken and sent to Haggar for her special attentions.

Allura, under attack, calls for the Paladins to return to the Castle. They do so, form Voltron, and defeat the Robeast. In the wake of the victory, they reunite again, with Allura continuing to hold her hatred for all Galra--including Keith--and the rest looking ahead to the fight to come. Coran confers with Allura about the coming events, as do the Paladins; all look forward to a universe in which Zarkon is no longer a threat--all while Haggar interrogates Thace, upon whom their plans depend.

Discussion

The episode is fairly straightforward, seeming more to serve as notice of what Allura and Coran are about than as offering any particular character development (as the preceding episode does for Lance) or making much of any given trope. There is something of the magical princess about Allura yet, although that had already been treated at some length in the earlier Balmera episodes, and her racism remains as problematic as it had previously been.

One thing it does well, however, is to remind viewers that Allura is not the kind of princess depicted in much chivalric literature; she is active and engaged, and if she is not the fearsome combatant that, say, Shiro or Keith is, she is nonetheless capable in her own right. And even if she has some less fortunate aspects to her character, she is, at least, an equal character, rather than merely an object of veneration, in whose name deeds are done.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Tales after Tolkien at Kalamazoo 2018

As many of you will know, the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has opened registration and published its "sneak peek" schedule. The Society has two functions on the schedule this time:
  • Business Meeting, Friday, 11 May 2018, 5:15p local time, Bernhard 213
  • Panel, Reclaiming the Dead and the Undead, Saturday, 12 May 2018, 10:00a local time, Schneider 1140
Most of the business meeting will be taken up with the election of new officers, following the Society Constitution 4.2.2. As a reminder, this means we'll be voting for the following:
  • President, 2018-2021
  • Vice-President (At-large), 2018-2020
  • Vice-President (USA), 2018-2019
  • Secretary, 2018-2020
Both the Vice-President (USA) and Social Media Officer will be up for election at the 2019 AGM. And we'll be working out some logistics for the election, so stay tuned for details.

We'll also be setting the agenda for the Society for the next year, particularly what sessions we mean to propose for the 2019 Congress and other conferences. Again, logistics are forthcoming, so check back for details.

The panel has two participants, both of which have awesome-looking papers. If you're at the Congress, please attend. I look forward to seeing all of you there.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.10, "Escape from Beta Traz"

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The Paladins of Voltron enact a prison break, hearkening back to one of the more prevalent tropes of chivlaric literature and helping one of their own find his place.

2.10, "Escape from Beta Traz"

Written by Mitch Iverson
Directed by Eugene Lee

Synopsis

In the Blue Lion, Lance, Pidge, and Shiro approach the prison site that is their assigned objective--and from which they are to free the scientist, Slav. That he is a high-priority target is indicated by their explication of the prison as they infiltrate it with some difficulty and begin to reconnoiter it.

Meanwhile, Zarkon continues his psychic search for the Black Lion--without success. His obsession with the matter attracts comment as it continues.

The Paladins identify two holding cells in the prison and split up to find their target. As they do, Slav is tortured, his mind ransacked for information about weapons and other military and related technologies. Pidge, operating as something like mission control, also searches out data on her missing brother as Shiro and Lance advance.

Shiro achieves his objective, reaching Slav and beginning to extract him. He is confronted by the excessive strangeness of Slav's personality, however, and they proceed only with difficulty. Lance, meanwhile, reaches what he thinks, wrongly, is his objective, and frees from confinement a large creature that soon proves remarkably combat-capable. Lance also begins to puzzle over his place among the Paladins, becoming dispirited as he does so--and Shiro continues to struggle with Slav.

Both Lance and Pidge find themselves discovered, and prison defenses begin to activate as Lance and Shiro reunite and race to the Blue Lion for extraction. They are interdicted by the prison's warden, who personally intervenes in their escape, augmenting his abilities to do so. Lance shows himself to be of value and to have a particular role on the team, making a skilled shot to enable their escape--and in its wake, the Galra warden shows himself to have something of a soft side, as Lance's putative objective was, in fact, the warden's pet.

All the while, Zarkon continues his search to no avail, and hints of a weapon to come are offered.

Discussion

The episode centers on the carceral, on imprisonment and the prospect of release from it. That it is is highlighted in the very name of the episode and the eponymous facility. "Beta Traz" evokes Alcatraz, one of the archetypes of The Prison in the American imagination toward which the series seems to be directed--and suggests that the facility is impregnable save for the peculiar circumstances represented by the Legendary Defender.

The carceral factors mightily into chivalric literature. One of the most poignant passages in Malory, for example, centers on Tristan's imprisonment and Malory's self-insertion into the narrative, giving an editorial aside that likely stems from his comments at the very end of the text, bewailing his own imprisonment. And Shiro and Allura have both been prisoners of the Galra, so it is not as if the carceral is previously unknown in the series, offering a point of correspondence between the two. And if it is not the case that the present episode bemoans imprisonment the way Malory does, editorially or directly in the text, Shiro's repeated instances of PTSD and the torture scenes--slightly elided against the rating of the series--that do appear, as well as possibly Slav's own fragmented perception, all speak to the horrors of being a prisoner, something with which the chivlaric engages and with which contemporary viewership would do well to be concerned.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.9, "The Belly of the Weblum"

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As the Voltron Force, now with allies, prepares to assault Zarkon again, two of the Paladins undertake a mission with Biblical overtones.

2.9. "The Belly of the Weblum"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Chris Palmer

Synopsis

As the Paladins and the Blade of Marmora plan a coordinated attack against Zarkon's forces (which plan is explicated by Lance), Allura remains skeptical of the Galra fighters, and Keith sadly contemplates his own situation. Of importance will be a large wormhole device, components for which have to be harvested; Keith and Hunk are dispatched to that end, while the other Paladins, Coran, and the Blade head off to enact their own parts of the plan. Allura is left alone on the Castle of Lions again.

Meanwhile, Zarkon continues to try to scry out the Black Lion, empowered by Haggar and the druids. He is unsuccessful, but he persists in the attempt.

As they progress to their stated goal, Hunk broaches the issue of Keith's mixed ancestry, noting Allura's hatred of the Galra. Keith tries to deflect the questions with a focus on old recordings provided as part of their mission briefing. The recordings are corrupted with time, however, so the scope of the Paladins' task is clear, although the details are anything but. This becomes an issue as Keith and Hunk encounter their target, a planet-eating beast called a weblum. After several close approaches to death, they manage to land upon and enter the beast.

As they do, Thace, working within the Galra command structure, continues his activities with difficulty. Haggar has assigned him security, which inhibits his freedom of movement.

Hunk and Keith proceed through the beast, navigating its strange, gargantuan biology with difficulty. They are separated in its gullet, with Hunk being pulled into the creature's bloodstream and Keith proceeding along the digestive tract. The latter encounters a Galra pilot and rescues the same; the two fare well as they approach the end of the weblum's alimentary canal, where Hunk rejoins them. Hunk puzzles out how to provoke the weblum into generating the materials needed for the Paladins' mission and acts on that revelation; Keith retrieves most of the material, although the Galra he freed turns on him and absconds with a supply of the material.

Discussion

While it may be the case that the Biblical Jonah narrative is the most obvious literary precedent for the episode, there is something of Jörmungandr about the weblum. A world-destroying serpentine creature (although one that seems more grub-like than snake-like) can hardly but invite the comparison (acknowledging again that Scripture offers another precedent: Leviathan). Framing the episode in such terms presents Keith as something of a Jesus-figure, as well; entry into the whale is often understood as a descent into hell--and the conditions inside the weblum are hardly hospitable to the Paladins--and Keith effects the rescue of one trapped within, mimicking the Harrowing detailed in the Gospel of Nicodemus and refigured abundantly in such Old and Middle English sources as Cynewulf, Ælfric of Eynsham, and the Auchinleck MS. And, in rescuing the Galra caught in the weblum, Keith reiterates part of the Paladins' code of behavior, long since identified as mimetic of the Malorian Round Table.

The medievalism is perhaps oblique in the episode, but it remains in place and worth consideration.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.8: "The Blade of Marmora"

Read the previous entry in the series here!
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Plots thicken around the Paladins and the Blade of Marmora as they meet at last, and Keith shows something of his own history and his title's.

2.8. "The Blade of Marmora"

Written by Mark Bermesderfer
Directed by Steve In Chang Anh

Synopsis

As Keith contemplates matters, Shiro asks Coran about their approach to the base of the Blade of Marmora, coordinates to which had been given the Paladins before. They arrive amid the exclamations of delight by the other Paladins, while Keith grows angry at their flippancy, and Allura warns of a trap after seeing that the base is cleverly situated amid cosmic phenomena.

The base queries the Paladins and, after Shiro responds, admits two; Shiro and Keith enter. As they approach, Shiro chides Keith for his earlier outburst and reconfirms him as his successor. After a difficult passage, they enter the Blade's base.

Meanwhile, Haggar interrogates a Galra in the matter of the Paladins' earlier escape.

In the base, the Blade test both Shiro and Keith, focusing their attention on the latter for having a knife they claim belongs to them. He challenges their assertions and begins combat trials to prove his right to it. Contemporaneously, Allura grows impatient and tasks Hunk with finding out what has transpired--and the Galra spy, Thace, continues to act clandestinely until summoned to Haggar.

At length, Keith figures out an end to the combat trials, only to collapse into a series of visions that promise him knowledge but do not deliver. Shiro seeks to intervene in his ordeal, and the Red Lion acts of its own accord to save him.

Meanwhile, Haggar interrogates Thace, who manages to deflect her attentions. She tasks him with the continued pursuit of the infiltration into Galra ranks.

Shiro reaches Keith as the Paladins make to enact their own approach. A brief fight ensues, only to be ended when Keith offers to surrender his knife. As he does, it awakens, and Keith is confirmed as having Galra ancestry. In the wake of the revelation, negotiations between the Blade and the Paladins commence.

Discussion

The obvious bits of the medievalist in the episode are in the trials by combat and the awakening of the magic weapon--although, to be fair, both tropes extend far further back. Both are inextricably bound to typical conceptions of knighthood, however, so they bear some mention and attention.

Knights--or paladins, as the case may be--are often tested by ritual combat, both in the jousts that pervade such works as Malory's or, in some iterations, in their ascent to the dignity of knighthood. Indeed, the dubbing evokes a fight endured and survived, being a non-lethal contact from a blade. That Keith undergoes such is therefore to be expected; indeed, it is to be wondered at that more of the Paladins do not endure such testing. (Shiro's gladiatorial experience would seem to do for him, to be sure--and, as he is senior to Keith, it is sensible that his trial would take a seemingly older form than Keith's, with the gladiators associated with Rome and the knights with the later medieval.) There is a bit of a subversion in the test, however, since Keith does not succeed through force of arms, but through circumventing the obvious terms of the test--albeit after a fair bit of knightly stubbornness in pursuing those terms.

Keith's knife has been a key point throughout the second season of Voltron: Legendary Defender, so its central position in the current episode is not a surprise. Nor, truly, is it a surprise that it would awaken in his hands; alone of the Paladins, he wields a sword as his "special" weapon, and his hand has been what has produced Voltron's sword. Too, the Voltron of decades past was noted most for its deployment of the Blazing Sword, so the idea of a particularly eminent bladed weapon wielded by the right hand of Voltron--or its Paladin--is not at all far-fetched.

And it coincides neatly with the reassertion that Keith is Shiro's chosen successor. The wielder of a magic weapon--usually a sword--is most frequently figured as a sort of chosen one, an heir to the mighty powers that are available to wield. Arthur is one such, of course, as are any number of others. Again, the trope is one that extends far back into the past, but that Keith--the designated leader-to-be, right hand of the leader, indeed the one who was the leader in older versions of the narrative--wields a sword that only someone of his blood can awaken does just a bit more to tie Legendary Defender to the medieval and medievalist past.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.7: "Space Mall"

Read the previous entry in the series here!
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Most of the Voltron Force gets a break from the action, while Shiro works out some problems--and less fortunate overtones emerge.

2.7. "Space Mall"

Written by Tim Hedrick
Directed by Eugene Lee

Synopsis

The episode opens with Shiro's note that he and the Black Lion are what draw Zarkon's attention and pursuit, so he commits to forging a deeper bond with the machine. As he does so, Coran and the other Paladins make for a nearby trade center to acquire the necessary materials to repair the Castle of Lions. Allura is left alone on the Castle--under protest--and the mice with whom she had been in stasis entertain her throughout much of the episode.

Coran, Keith, Lance, Pidge, and Hunk make for the trade station. Coran briefs them--incorrectly, in the event--on what to expect and provides them disguises; the Paladins set the costumes aside, but they attract the attention of local low-level security in doing so. The security officer pursues them haphazardly throughout their stay in the station--and the Paladins find themselves drawn into hijinks. Hunk, for example, mistakes sold plates for samples and is forced to work off his debt--but he shows himself a gourmand master chef and impresses the locals. Keith investigates his strange knife, drawing attention to himself in the process. Pidge finds problems with toilet facilities before being drawn away by Lance to a shop selling Earth products; they make a notable purchase. Coran, meanwhile, after some bumbling succeeds in the central mission of the day, acquiring the materials to repair the Castle. The security guard pursues the lot of them unsuccessfully, and they escape back to the Castle of Lions.

As the episode progresses, Shiro is shown some of the history of Voltron, the Black Lion, and the Galra. As he learns of them, he attracts the attention of Zarkon, who assails him psychically. They fight for control of the Black Lion; Zarkon claims that dominance is needed, and Shiro that mutual trust and respect are key. The Lion chooses Shiro and rejects Zarkon with some force, striking him astrally on his command ship.

At the end of the episode, with the Paladins, Coran, and Allura gathered together on the Castle, Shiro purposes to approach the Blade of Marmora. The Voltron Force proceeds with a new sense of purpose and confidence into what will soon come.

Discussion

The episode is for the most part a lighter one, a largely humorous side-story that serves to break narrative tension. As part of that, "Space Mall" makes a number of references to pop culture properties likely to be familiar to the expected audience; Dragon Ball Z and other anime receive attention, and an oblique reference to the first episode of South Park appears--along with a joke involving the name of the episode's writer. So that much is to the good.

Additionally, several of the medievalist motifs continue from previous episodes, such as the interleaving of narratives and the cycles of departure and return. Too, Shiro's psychic battle with Zarkon seems in some ways to partake of the medieval dream-vision, evoking the visions had by the Round Table Knights during the Grail Quest. That much is also to the good.

Less fortunate are some of the racist overtones that emerge in the episode. Race has been an issue in other episodes, to be sure, with Allura's vehement rejection of the idea that any Galra can be other than evil--and that matter does receive some attention in Shiro's dream-vision, in which even Zarkon receives some gesture towards sympathetic characterization. Yet the presentation of the Unilu in the episode, both in Coran's recollection and in the characters of multiple vendors, comes off as even more problematic. (Allura has at least the excuse of having seen her people destroyed by the Galra and being actively engaged in a fight against their dictatorial majority government.) Their description by Coran echoes those derogatorily applied to the Romani beginning in the late medieval and early modern periods (as typically construed). The depiction of two of them--the knife vendor and shopkeeper in the mall--also contribute to the negative depiction, the latter overtly, the former through association with the (admittedly modern) sleazy figure of the television huckster. While there are for less helpful overtones that could have been invoked--at least the episode avoids motion toward the blood libel--that the series does make the references it does in the current episode is not to its credit.

Perpetuating the wrong-headed ideas that previous eras have held and that too many still hold is not to be praised.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.6: "The Ark of Taujeer"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here!

As the Voltron Force continues its quest across the cosmos, they return to one vision of the Arthurian chivalric, saving a forlorn people.

2.6. "The Ark of Taujeer"

Written by Mark Bemesderfer
Directed by Chris Palmer

Synopsis

The Galra have stripped a planet of its resources and forced the full population to retreat to a single ship with a single engine, described as an ark by the natives. Meanwhile, Allura asserts that Zarkon is tracking the Paladins through her; Keith retorts that he is the tracking agency. Pidge claims that the Black Lion itself is the issue, and Shiro asserts that the Paladins will be going on the attack.

Pidge presents a mechanistic means of finding targets, noting Taujeer is the nearest likely target. After, Keith and Shiro talk briefly; Keith makes to rest, but considers his strange dagger until interrupted by a seeming call to arms. The Red Lion rejects him, and he finds himself among the Galra--but only in dream.

Keith makes to leave, but is happened upon by Allura about the same business. They confer about the need to isolate tracking factors and decide to leave together. The other Paladins note the absence of Keith and Allura. Lance jumps to romantic conclusions, and Allura and Keith note their plan. Shiro rejects the plan, but Keith and Allura assert their continued intent--as the Castle of Lions enters a debris field emanating from Taujeer.

The Paladins deploy to investigate, and the Taujeer natives relate their plight. The Paladins agree to help as the gravity of the situation becomes clear. The lack of one Paladin and the accompanying Lion is noted, and work to assist proceeds apace.

Meanwhile, Keith and Allura confer about their own situation, and Keith broaches the idea of some few Galra, at least, as allies. Allura rejects the idea--and Zarkon continues his search, dispatching the nearest Galra commander back to Taujeer under duress.

Work to save the Taujeerians proceeds, and progress is made. Keith and Allura continue to confer. The situation on Taujeer becomes more urgent--for the Galra attack. The Paladins make to interdict the attack and support the Taujeerians. Keith and Allura make to return to action, but their small craft explodes, stranding them in space as the fight against the Galra continues.

The Red Lion launches itself to retrieve Keith and Allura amid the ongoing battle. The Yellow Lion manifests a new power, keeping the Taujeerians from falling to their doom. The Red Lion returns in time to save the lot. The Galra are repulsed and the Taujeerians saved--and Keith and Allura apologize for their departure, so Shiro puzzles out that the Black Lion is attracting the Galra.

Discussion

Early in the episode, the Galra commander comments that if the natives "are strong enough to survive, they will; that is the Galra way." The comment, an iteration of ad baculum or "might makes right," is an easy shorthand for evil or badness. It is also the kind of ethic that Arthurian knighthood, as often conceived by Victorian and later thinkers, explicitly rejects; White's take on the Round Table, underpinning many people's conceptions of chivalry, offers one example. While more formal students of Arthuriana will be aware that the Round Table Knights are not quite so noble--as modern thought conceives of the noble--as all that, the Pentecostal Oath to which the Round Table swears annually does at least move away from a flatly might-makes-right dynamic. And, again, more prevalent ideas of knighthood as a motion towards sainthood--the kind of ethos that Tolkien's knight-like protagonists display and against which Martin poses most of his own knighthood--align against force-as-justification.

Or they do so nominally. In the event, of course, the "good guys" do have more military might on their side than their opposition. Lancelot wins his fights because he is stronger and more skilled. Aragorn has a divine lineage, decades of experience, and a motley assortment of peculiarly capable companions. The Paladins have Voltron, described repeatedly as the ultimate weapon in the cosmos. Their rejection of might-makes-right becomes ironic or hypocritical in the event--but they are not the less correspondent to their medieval and medievalist forebears in being so.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.5: "Eye of the Storm"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here!
 
The continuing adventures of the Voltron force put the Paladins in increasing peril as Zarkon's threat grows more pervasive and tightly focused.

2.5. "Eye of the Storm"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Steve In Cheng Ahn

Synopsis

A Galra armada, led by Zarkon, attacks, and the Paladins flee. The fatigue of making a fighting retreat swiftly after the completion of the Alcarian mission tells on the Paladins, and mechanical fatigue on the Castle of Lions means that the escape route followed is unstable. It collapses, and Allura follows, while Coran finds himself ill with a disease typical of older Alteans.

Believing themselves away from the threat of Zarkon for a time, the Paladins take the opportunity to rest. Keith and Lance spar a bit over access to a pool. Pidge and Hunk confer as the latter bakes--badly, given ingredients available--and Pidge subsequently makes to study Altean.

As Shiro and Allura themselves confer, Zarkon's armada appears again and renews its attack. The Paladins again scramble to flee, puzzling over how Zarkon manages to continue pursuing them. They are able to escape again, but only haltingly and at the cost of substantial damage to one of the Castle of Lions' main drive systems.

At the end of the most recent escape, the Castle emerges into something of a hellscape and hides amid a cosmic storm to effect repairs. The Paladins give more thought to how Zarkon is able to track them, and a cut-scene displays again how Zarkon manages the trick as the Galra armada emerges and attacks again.

Voltron sallies to face the threat, and Zarkon reaches out to seize control of the Black Lion. The Castle emerges from the storm and breaks Zarkon's hold, and the Lions return to it. The bad products of Hunk's earlier baking find themselves used as makeshift components for the damaged drive system, and the Castle narrowly escapes as Zarkon rages.

Discussion

It may seem something of a stretch to find the medieval in the current episode, aside from the long-standing tropes of the Paladins already identified. Part of that, though, may come from the relative lopsidedness of depiction; such medieval works as receive substantial attention focus on the deeds and doings of victors rather than those over whom they gain victory. They attend to the hunter far more than the hunted, and, in the present episode, the Paladins are the hunted, with Zarkon--the magic-supported undying lord of an expanding empire, wielding an ancient, magical weapon and seeking to secure another--taking on the role of the hunter.

As such, in other times and places, Zarkon might well be the protagonist of the narrative. Back-story concerns that emerge in later episodes do more to explain it, and they may receive some attention when the episodes are treated, but he is a conqueror who imposes (martial) order over a diverse realm. Many medieval and medievalist works make such figures their heroes--the more so when, like Zarkon, they are seeking to reclaim something that was once theirs and which was taken and hidden away. So it could be that the medievalism that comes about in the episode is an inversion of the usual tropes, with the putative protagonists occupying a role more like the Arthurian Questing Beast and the antagonists serving as the relentless hunters who are lionized and commended. And if that is the case, it forces certain questions about the medieval/ist narratives from which the series (at times) works.

What many of those questions are will have to wait, of course.

What the answers are, I do not yet know.