Thursday, June 7, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Re)Watch 5.2, "Blood Duel"

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Concerns of family loom large as the fifth season of Voltron: Legendary Defender carries on.

5.2, "Blood Duel"

Written by Joshua Hamilton
Directed by Eugene Lee


The Castle of Lions hangs in orbit over a rocky planet, sending a shuttle down to it. Shiro and Pidge bring Matt to a pre-arranged location to meet with Zarkon, who had offered to trade Lotor for Pidge and Matt's father--though there is no trust for Zarkon on the part of the Paladins. Shortly after, a Galra shuttle arrives, delivering Zarkon--and earlier comments from Lotor are presented, in which Lotor offers to ally with the Paladins, and they (pushed by Pidge) express doubt of his sincerity as he presses upon Allura and reminds them of Zarkon's perfidy.

Lotor makes his case to the Paladins.
Image take from the episode, used for commentary.
Zarkon demands Lotor, only to be countered by a demand for Pidge and Matt's father. The latter is presented, and Lotor demanded again.

Elsewhere, Haggar works a strange ritual, recalling the difficulty of her pregnancy with Lotor and moments from his infancy and youth. The visions recall her maternity to her, even as a bound Lotor is produced to Zarkon.

As the Paladins watch from the Castle, they fret about circumstances as the prisoner exchange commences. Shiro remains wary, as well, as the exchanging prisoners pass one another. Pidge cannot restrain herself and rushes forward--only to find a hologram where her father should be. He remains in Galra captivity--which prevents the Paladins from acting against Zarkon.

Haggar questions Zarkon's motives and moves to interdict him as Zarkon tries to press his advantage--and Lotor attacks. A melee ensues between the two, and the Paladins attempt to retrieve Pidge and Matt's father while it goes on. The Galra attempt to flee, and a broader fight begins to develop. Shiro, Pidge, and Matt confront Lotor's erstwhile lieutenants as Lotor and Zarkon continue to fight, and the two trade barbs and hateful words amid their fight. Lotor fares worse than the others as the rescue attempt continues.

Lotor is able to land a telling blow, however, staggering Zarkon. The rescue attempt succeeds, leaving Lotor's former lieutenants stranded and Pidge and Matt's father with the Paladins--and Lotor defeats his father.


There is something of Mordred in Lotor. Both present themselves as representing advancement and forward thinking--Mordred's followers are condemned by Malory for being "new fangill," and Lotor is decried for trying to change the patterns Galra society had followed for millennia. Both are products of illicit unions (although Mordred's origin is far less savory than Lotor's, which only became illicit later), both are elevated to their father's positions while their fathers yet live (though Lotor always refers to himself as a regent while in power, rather than as the outright ruler), both are born of users of unpleasant magics--and both run their fathers through in battle, leaving them gravely wounded but not yet dead.

As the Paladins are moderations and modernizations of their chivalric romantic forebears, though, so is Lotor one of Mordred. As noted, his origins are less sordid than Mordred's; Arthur's nephew-son was conceived outside marriage and, in Malory, by machinations of his mother (admittedly, with problems inherent to the transmission of the story through Malory), while Lotor emerged from what had been an evidently loving marriage and, presumably, a consensual and knowing intimate encounter. Too, his thirst for power is not as pronounced as his antecedent's; Mordred falsifies reports of Arthur's death in Malory and attempts to take Guinevere as his own queen, while Lotor retains at least the fiction of Zarkon's overlordship and makes no marital overtures toward Haggar. And, at least on the surface of things, Lotor's governance is more inclusive and gentler than Zarkon's, while Mordred but replicated the power structures of his own father--with all of the problems thereto appertaining.

There are other points of interest in the episode, to be sure: the flashback structure and Haggar's sudden recollection of maternity are examples. The latter, particularly, invites attention--though I am not a specialist in such things and so not the person to give that attention; I welcome it from others. And how each develops in the succeeding episodes, as well as Lotor's own Arthurian overtones, will be worth examining.

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