Thursday, December 7, 2017

Voltron: Legendary Defender Rewatch 2.2: "The Depths"

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

The second season of Voltron: Legendary Defender continues--and it continues to make medievalist motions as it does.

2.2. "The Depths"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Eugene Lee


Occurring contemporaneously with the previous episode, "Across the Universe," "The Depths" opens with Lance and Hunk, the pilots of the Blue and Yellow Lions--Voltron's legs--falling out of the destabilized wormhole generated by the Castle of Lions. The two crash through a sheet of ice and into an ocean planet, sinking in their inoperable Lions. Lance chastises Hunk for his reaction to events, needling him somewhat as his Lion, elementally attuned to water, reactivates.

As it does, Lance espies a mermaid, Florona, and makes to pursue her. Hunk is drawn along reluctantly, and the two soon catch up to Florona--at the entrance to a magnificent underwater kingdom fueled by the Baku Garden, the source of warmth and life for the area. They are introduced to the ruling Queen Luxia, who welcomes them warmly and hosts them at a dinner where they soon find themselves ensorcelled by fine food and pleasing entertainment.

That night, Lance is abducted; Hunk, due to his greater bulk, cannot be taken, and while Lance is away, he sees Luxia and Florella confer about retaking the Blue Lion's pilot from forces they describe as terroristic. Luxia also punishes Florella for her perceived failure, bidding her return to the Baku. As this happens, Lance is awakened and released from his ensorcellment; his presumed captors reveal themselves as the last remnant of an opposition force fighting against the mind-controlling tyranny of Luxia, and they enlist Lance's help in overthrowing her.

As Lance advances to retrieve his Lion, part of the plan the opposition forces have made around him, he is captured--and he is forced to fight the still-controlled Hunk. After some time of the two being reasonably evenly matched, Lance is able to break the mental hold on Hunk, and the two Paladins capture Queen Luxia. In her captivity, she reveals that she has also been mind-controlled--by the Baku itself, an eldritch horror that Lance, with some assistance, defeats.

In the wake of the battle, with the undersea civilization beginning to stabilize, Lance and Hunk are able to make contact with Pidge and, presumably, to rejoin the other Paladins and the Castle of Lions.


As I watched the episode again--admittedly, after far too long a time--I was struck by two major medievalist threads. The first is that Lance seems to partake not only of Lancelot--obvious from the name and obvious from his being driven by lust--but also of Kay. Like Arthur's Seneschal, he is a braggart whose mouth promises far more than his body can deliver, but he does display substantial martial prowess from time to time. (Lance, however, spreads his moments of excellence out further than Kay does his, and his antics are funnier than Kay's usually mean-spirited attacks.)

The other is more an invocation of medievalism than an instantiation of it, for the manner in which the undersea kingdom under control of the Baku presents itself suggested Spenser's Faerie Queene to me more than anything. As I watched, I kept finding myself in mind of the Bower of Bliss and the corrupting pleasures there to be found. While it is likely that the cartoon is responding to the deeper trope of the poisoned flower that Spenser himself responds to, the heavily chivalric overtones of the series as a whole invite comparisons to other chivalric works, and Spenser's Faerie Queene is explicitly Arthurian, neo-chivalric, and ostentatiously medievalist in itself. More careful viewing and a return to Spenser's cantos (for which I should apologize to some of my graduate professors) suggest themselves as needed to confirm the comparison, but I have to think that there is something there to which I or others might attend.

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