Members of Pokemon's Elite Four are dichotomous creatures. In their own reality, they are superstars. The best of the best. The creme de la Alcremie. In a world where everyone wants to be the very best, like no one ever was, they already are. In popular culture though, their stature is decidedly lower. While we frequently talk about gym leaders of each region, the Elite Four is often overlooked. Gym leaders are frequently involved in plot points, and have whole towns built around them. Preparing for, and then beating, gym leaders is also a significant part of the game, whereas with Elite Four members, they're just part of a boss rush situation where you'll only really remember them if they're difficult, meaning you'll resent them. The Elite Four might be a thing of the past, so I want to remember the first, and still best, Elite Four member: Mommylei. I mean, Lorelei.
Sword & Shield cut the Elite Four entirely, instead opting for a knockout tournament between gym leaders and challenging trainers. This was a great idea, and perfectly played into the culture of sport in Britain, on which Galar was based. Iberia, the real-life region Scarlet & Violet is based on, has a similar love for sport, so the tournament may return. This allows for the extra storytelling Elite Four members rarely bring, allows weaker gym leaders to shine with a full strength team, and, if the game was able to randomise which AI opponent won, could offer a multitude of routes to the final battle. This last one was not the case in Galar, but Pokemon has made a surprising amount of progress recently for a series that has so often risked stagnation, so we can hope.
But enough about the future. Now is the time to turn to the past. Way back in Pokemon Red & Blue, Lorelei was the first Elite Four member you faced. While veteran players these days know how to get the best of her, she felt like a huge step up in class the first time I played it. I had survived Victory Road. I had caught all three Legendary birds. I had swept the gym leaders aside with ease. This was my destiny. Then I got my ass kicked.
Lorelei uses Rest to heal, and the Water/Ice combo, though it has four weaknesses, is tricky to figure out when you're a kid enjoying their first experience of Pokemon. Worse, the game didn't telegraph typings then, so you weren't sure if the Pokemon were Water, Ice, or Water/Ice. I say worse, but I mean 'better'. Pokemon games should definitely hold our hands less. Lorelei can be defeated, of course, as can the three Elite Four members after her, and then your final rival, who you probably named Fart Face or something. The Elite Four itself was a mighty challenge back then, and while Lorelei is not the toughest member of the roster, she holds a special place in history as the first one ever to do it.
Let's Go gives Lorelei the respect she deserves. While, like most Elite Four members, Lorelei has no narrative arc and simply appears as a trainer to be defeated. However, in Let's Go, Lorelei gets a minor appearance riding on her Lapras in one of the game's blander areas, brightening it up and bringing her into the picture more. That's still not enough though, as – fun fact! – Lorelei deserves the world.
I don't know what the future holds for the Elite Four, and part of me wants Pokemon to move on from them. But even as the Elite Four are consistently overlooked in Pokemon discussions, Lorelei will always be number one in my heart.
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