Watching Babylon 5 for the first time- Season 3: Episodes 1-4

A fragile human moment.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

Season 3: Episodes 1-4

Matters of Honor
I loved the new intro but I stopped looking at it because it looked spoiler-filled to me for the season. The Vorlon ambassador remains delightfully aloof. Mollari trying to be rid of the guy who’s so closely tied to the Shadows is interesting. I wonder how that will play out. I loved Mollari in the first season, but he became a heel in the second. How will he ultimately turn out? I don’t know, but I cant wait to find out. I especially liked the part of the episode where Mollari and Morden–that’s the guy’s name!–split up the galaxy. That random planet is totally not going to be important, right? Mollari also says he’s seen the Shadow type ship when asked about it, and he appears almost haunted by a dreamlike vision of them over his homeworld. I loved when G’Kar is finally asked by the Earth intelligence guy about the Shadows, and he just opens his holy book, eager to finally have someone to listen: Yes, let me tell you about the coming evils! It’s chilling and a great character moment for G’Kar all at once.

Convictions
Some random bombings are occurring all over the station, and as the crew races to stop them, G’Kar and Mollari get stuck in an elevator after one of the bombs traps them. Their air is running out, and we finally see a serious face-to-face with these two. G’Kar has the perfect opportunity to kill Mollari, and I was initially shocked he didn’t do it and try to frame it on the bombing. But, the depth of this show goes much farther than you might think, and I’d forgotten they’d already given an answer for why G’Kar wouldn’t do that: G’Kar himself reasons that 500 of his people would be killed, including his relatives, should he even be suspected of harming Mollari. Instead, he laughs, delighted that the bomber will kill Mollari for him as they run out of air. It’s a poignant scene that reveals the intensity of G’Kar’s hatred, the way Mollari is conflicted himself, and the thoughtfulness of G’Kar all at once. It’s so good. The only downside for me is the slang thrown in there from the time of the show, when G’Kar says ‘”up yours!” to Mollari. It’s funny, but a comedic moment that wasn’t hugely necessary. Anyway, Sheridan goes in and saves the day, of course, with the help of several others. This episode felt like a building one but had enough action and intensity in it to not drag at any point.

A Day in the Strife
I hadn’t realized until this episode how refreshing it can be to not have to deal with anything even approximating a “Prime Directive” type of orders in Babylon 5. There’s not concern here from humanity about how they might impact other species across the galaxy. This is the real world, not some idealistic fantasy-land. I love Star Trek, so I’m mostly saying that previous bit tongue-in-cheek. One can only hope that by the time humanity encounters other intelligent life, we will have learned not to destroy everything we touch. But Babylon 5’s vision of future humanity is unrelenting in an almost cynical way: humanity would put its own interests first, and people would not magically stop yearning for power. Anyway, the thing that brought this up for me was Sheridan basically flat out saying “no” to G’Kar being recalled. In Star Trek, there’d be some huge sequence about the Prime Directive, etc. Here, Sheridan just denies the request. “Nah.” It’s a cool moment, though we later see Sheridan makes it conditioned upon G’Kar’s own desires. And those desires are placed at the center of this episode, along with a second plot featuring some probe that comes offering humanity all its desires if it can pass an intelligence test. Anyway, G’Kar ultimately decides to stay after many of his people come to him basically saying he must stay and continue his resistance. The moment that convinced him: when he asked whether anything is more important than their families’ safety, and his people responded: “Yes, our freedom!” The probe–I loved how this hearkened to being a Berserker type entity and that the writer(s) specifically put that in the episode by using the word. The Berserkers I’m referring to are the pretty fantastic series of short stories and books by Fred Saberhagen (I linked the first book there) which feature Berserkers as the main antagonist–some awful AI things going out and clearing all intelligent life from the universe. It’s a cool nod to older sci-fi in the show. I definitely distrusted the probe immediately, but I thought it might have been sent to steal intelligence. I hadn’t thought of it as a way to destroy competition, and I absolutely loved that twist. 

Passing Through Gethsemane
There are moments when you’re watching something on TV or a movie when you realize it’s a transcendent time. Something about what’s happening on the show clicked; one of those moments where everything aligned. And “Passing Through Gethsemane” was one of those episodes for me. Look, I already love this show. It’s my first time through and I’ve already gone looking for novels, companion books, etc. to read for the second time. But this episode had so much that I love. Near the beginning when we see Brother Edward talking about the Garden of Gethsemane. He says that there, Jesus could have chosen to leave, postponing the inevitable. It was a “very fragile human moment” that resonates so deeply with Brother Edward. But then we see Edward has been mind wiped and is, in fact, a notorious killer. He himself starts to discover this as a telepath reawakens his memories, apparently as a step of a plot to get revenge from families of the victims. Edward finds himself in a kind of broken psyche, realizing who he was, but also that his entire life and outlook on the universe has changed. He asks whether there is “enough forgiveness for what I’ve done” and the answer, provided by Brother Theo of the Trappist Monks, is simple: “Always. Always.” He’s killed by the families of his victims, but he chooses to go to his death, knowing what they will do. He sees it as his own “passing through Gethsemane” and the fragility of the human condition one finds there. He apparently saw justice and forgiveness align and chose that path.
Theo and Sheridan have a conversation about “Where does revenge end and justice begin?” and Sheridan makes a point that forgiveness is a “hard thing”–likely himself thinking about his wife. But then, we discover one of his killers has also been mind wiped, and now Malcolm–one of the men who committed the vigilante act against Edward–is mind wiped and himself one of the Trappists. And Theo turns Sheridan’s words back on him. Knowing Sheridan is enraged by this vigilante killing, Brother Theo says that Sheridan himself just made a comment about forgiveness being a hard thing. Sheridan pauses in his rage and shock, and finally shakes the new Brother Malcolm’s hand. 
Wow. I loved everything about this, and I didn’t even mention bringing back the rogue Psi person. This is a fantastic piece of television storytelling, one that will be bouncing around in my head for quite a while. I liked it so much that I even wrote an extended review and look at the themes in the episode.

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

“Passing Through Gethsemane”- Babylon 5 and the Fragility of Humanity– I discuss the episode in much more detail. Needless to say, I loved it. 

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

3 thoughts on “Watching Babylon 5 for the first time- Season 3: Episodes 1-4

  1. socrates17 says:

    The interaction between G’Kar & Londo while they’re trapped is one of the best written and best acted character sequences that I have ever seen on television. I immediately compared it in my mind to the scenes between Augustus and Livia in I, Claudius, the previous standard bearer.

  2. […] Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- Season 3: Episodes 1-4– One of my all-time favorite episodes of any television series was in this list. There’s also no small amount of character building throughout and ramping up of the action.  […]

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