Thursday, January 25, 2018

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

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

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.

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