Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 4: Episodes 17-20

Well, this is awkward.

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! 

Babylon 5, Season 4: Episodes 17-20

17: The Face of the Enemy
Garibaldi is clearly feeling it with his upcoming betrayal of Sheridan. Sheridan, meanwhile, discovers that the President is telling Earth Force people that they’ll all be killed and replaced by Minbari if they don’t surrender. But one of Sheridan’s allies talks some of the Earth Force down while his old ship shows up. Sheridan is too trusting, in my opinion, as he decides to go over to his old ship. Meanwhile, Franklin and Lyta go to meet up with Mars resistance forces. 

Garibaldi does ultimately seem to go the distance and tranquilizes Sheridan in the middle of a bar after he used his dad as bait to bring him in. And here we have a disturbingly poignant psuedo fight scene as Sheridan attempts to fight off those sent to apprehend him as music goes on hauntingly in the background. This scene is one of the more powerful in the show so far, as we see Garibaldi juxtaposed against Sheridan getting beaten by Earth Force brutes. Then, a news story of his capture is played over scenes of Sheridan being beaten by his captors. As Garibaldi’s betrayal ramps into high gear, he learns of Edgars’s plan to fully control telepaths by forcing them to take a drug. And then we see Garibaldi taking a tooth out that sends a signal to Bester!? 

I just need to pause for a moment and truly reflect on this! The whole plot was brought about by Bester, who set Garibaldi up as a kind of inside man, to spy for him. And then Bester, once he gets the information he needs from Girabaldi, apparently releases Garibaldi from his psychic trap. But the whole thing was set up, in a way, by the Shadows themselves, since they targeted the telepaths and tried to trap them between enemies. Bester releases Garibaldi and leaves him in abject sorrow. He’s believed to be a traitor by everyone.

18: Intersections in Real Time

Sheridan is tortured and questions in some of the more excruciating scenes in the show. It’s not terribly graphic, but since we’ve become so invested in Sheridan as a character, it becomes horrible just to not know whether he’s going to get through it alive. The lengthy sequences also remind me of the scenes with Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Chain of Command, Part II.” In fact, the whole episode is quite similar to that show. I’m not suggesting they’re copying with Babylon 5 by any means, just that that TNG episode is among the best in all of TNG, and Babylon 5 takes the idea of an episode (or two) of interrogation and moves it into one entire episode in which we watch them trying to break Sheridan down. 

“The truth is fluid,” says Sheridan’s tormentor. “My task is to make you desire to believe differently.” Going on, the episode shows this man use any number of tricks on Sheridan to torture him mentally and physically. It’s got al lkinds of shades of 1984 as well, especially when the man leaves with a track on repeat talking about how to be released. Finally, they offer Sheridan “one last chance,” to confess to his “crimes,” which he denies. He’s carried down the hall with an overlay of words from the Bible while he sees a vision of Delenn in the distance. It’s unclear where the words or vision came from. 

He gets taken to another room, but he sees a robed and masked figure, who turns out to be the alien that he saw taken away and killed. Is it a vision again? Everything is unclear as the episode ends leaving Sheridan with a new tormentor. This is one of the most visceral episodes of the entire series so far, and I was left desperately wanting to watch the next one. Of course, before I could do so, I had to go to work! 

19: Between the Darkness and the Light

[I wrote the reactions here in real time, so be ready for the twist.]

The episode begins with a scene we as viewers know immediately is wrong–Sheridan back talking to Dr. Franklin, apparently unharmed. Right away, we see that the awful people set up by the President to interrogate Sheridan have been drugging him in an attempt to get information from him. On the flip side, Garibaldi is captured by the Mars resistance forces and interrogated by them. Lyta and Franklin manage to manage to convince “Number One” of the resistance that Garibaldi is in fact telling the truth by using Lyta’s telepathic abilities. 

Also, excuse me a massive fanboy squeal here, because we have a redemption arc for Mollari! It’s not much at this point, but Mollari works with G’Kar to unite the allied worlds to agree to work together for the sake of Sheridan. Ivanova and Marcus work to try to get away from an apparent ambush set up by Earthforce [edit: I just found out it’s Earthforce, apparently, and there’s no way I’m going to go back and edit all my uses of Earth Force, so here’s where I start getting it right] destroyers while Garibaldi, Dr. Franklin, and Number One also work to try to rescue Sheridan. 

And in that rescue, we have one of the greatest one-liners in the whole series from one of the Earthforce guards: “I don’t watch TV. It’s a cultural wasteland filled with inappropriate metaphors and an unrealistic portrayal of life created by the liberal media elite.” Garibaldi: “I couldn’t agree more.” Absolutely epic. The thing that makes this even more awesome is how much it fits with our current narrative in which the alleged liberal media elite are purported to be controlling all information/media. It’s a great tongue-in-cheek moment that is probably timeless. 

Ivanova thanks Marcus for the compliment he gave her many moons ago since she’s now learned enough Minbari to know what he actually said. But the Earthforce destroyers also have Shadow technology all of a sudden, so it initially looks quite bleak. And it is… so bleak. The White Stars fleet manages to destroy the Earthforce fleet, but only with critical injuries to Ivanova. 

Delenn and Sheridan are reunited and it’s beautiful. 

Wait… wait a second. Wait!? Ivanova!? No! No! That’s not okay! Damn! Oh my gosh. I cannot believe that just happened. 

NO! NOT OKAY!

20: Endgame

Ivanova’s not dead yet. Are they toying with my feelings? And worse–those of Marcus!? 

Anyway, the final attack is being prepped, as Garibaldi (whose recovery is remarkable) leads a scout mission on Mars for the attack while the Alliance ships get ready to strike from space. Earthfroce has apparently decided to set up one of Sheridan’s old teachers as his rival for one of these final battles. Meanwhile, Marcus tries to find a way to save Ivanova. I’m also writing this episode reaction real-time and I just remembered a solution and I’m not happy about it. Remember that weird machine that could transfer life force from one person to another? I bet Marcus is going to find it and transfer his life to Ivanova, sacrificing himself for her. He’s too good! I can feel this is going to happen. Please, no! Great, and then he finds out about the alien healing device, just as I predicted. I’m… not happy about this. 

And there he goes, flying off, his vivid blue eyes foreshadowing what I’ve already guessed will happen. I knew from the beginning he’d die! I said so! 

Anyway, back on Earth, the awful President Clark kills himself, but only after deciding to go down in flames, arming the defense grid and taking whatever casualties he can with him, specifically, though, he’s turned the defensive systems towards Earth in order to take as much of Earth as possible with himself. Sheridan pushes the fleet to the limit in order to try to save as many people of Earth as he can. Sheridan’s old commander saves his life, destroying the last platform just before Sheridan’s ship would have rammed it to destroy it. 

After a beautiful scene with ISN coming back online, we have… the scene I’ve been dreading for more than an entire season. I didn’t know it was going to happen, but I did know. Marcus looks at Ivanova’s body and says “I love you,” as he closes his eyes. 

Damn.

Links

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

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.

Watching Babylon 5 for the first time- Season 2: Episodes 12-22

My Feels Exactly

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. I wrote already about Season 1, but I wanted to break season 2 into a couple posts, because there’s so much to talk about! Here, we’ll discuss season 2, episodes 12-22. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

Acts of Sacrifice- “When you have been crushed beneath the wheel for as long as we have, revenge occupies your every waking thought” = G’Kar. That’s a powerful moment in the show, and indeed in the series, so far. Contrasted with Mollari, who is clearly becoming lonely as his actions and those of his people ostracize many others on Babylon 5, the plight of G’Kar is even more pronounced. But is it possible–I don’t know, having never seen the series before–that Mollari will see redemption at some point? The title, could it hint at a future act of sacrifice Mollari must make to abandon the horrors of his people, or at least the hawklike faction that has taken over? Perhaps the title also pokes fun at Ivanova’s own act of sacrifice as she is relentlessly pursued by a creepy alien who sees humans as an ‘inferior’ race but nevertheless wants to mate with one. That side-story was the comedic value for what is otherwise a deeply serious and even disturbing central thread.

Hunter, Prey- Here we see some intrigue on the Earth Alliance front as it turns out the VP wasn’t on the President’s ship when it blew up. Of course, that’s the big reveal here, though we learn some more about the Vorlon (they have weird ships that are alive?) than we did before as well. Sneaking out the fugitive on the ambassador’s ship was fun, though somewhat predictable even from early on in the episode. 

 There All the Honor Lies- Sheridan is accused of murder, and seeing how they clear him is interesting. I especially enjoyed the scene with Kosh and the “one moment of perfect beauty.” Otherwise, establishing that the Minbari are more complex than they have been presented so far was a big win for the episode and series. I loved the merchandising side-story and the thing at the end with the Sheridan bear was just perfect.

And Now for a Word- I think this might be my favorite episode so far, largely because they so cleverly use the format. The ad with the subliminal messaging “Trust the Psi Corps; The Psi Corps is Your Friend” was so on-point for the series so far and just contributed to the overall cheesiness–intentional–of the episode. You can tell everyone had a ton of fun with this episode, but that doesn’t do justice to just how serious the core plot is, as the Centauri/Narn conflict continues to escalate, centered around Babylon 5. Definitely among the great episodes of the excellent series.

In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum- Sheridan is a bit more hot-headed than our previous commander, as this episode shows. He imprisons a man with very little cause (definitely illegally, at that) because he finds that he may have information about his late wife. Of course, that man happens to also be the weird guy with attachments to the Shadows that Mollari has had so much success–and trouble–with. Morden, the man, is also a danger to everyone, and so many try to intervene, ultimately leading to Sheridan (and we, the viewers) learning more about the history of the universe and the First Ones. The Nightwatch seems like clear scum, but we see Zack, a minor side character, has joined them for some extra money. I don’t imagine that will go well. This episode feels more like set up than anything else. Also, Sheridan saying Girabaldi was right and he was wrong seems like a lie from Sheridan, which makes the latter even more interesting.

Knives- I adored the opening of this one with the Centauri opera. Most of this episode seems like a one-off, but the twist of Mollari taking out his compatriot in order to save his honor was a good twist. Mollari as heel is becoming more and more compelling. 

Confessions and Lamentations- Watching this episode in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic was tough. The scene with the Minbari meal and Sheridan was fantastic and funny. I was very unprepared for the fact that they basically just blow away an entire civilization in this episode, however. I mean seriously, we just see these Markab just here and there, and suddenly this disease wipes their civilization out. Boom, gone. It’s just a stunning moment in the show. And its overlaid with some idiots at the bar talking about conspiracy theories, which hit so close to home right now as well. “Nothing changes.” That’s right.

Just a well-adjusted, normal family!

Divided Loyalties- Winters is a plant, and I couldn’t believe it. After we saw her betray the Psi Corps in the last round, it turns out she was an agent the whole time and this spells all kinds of nefariousness about the Psi Corps. I loved it. 

The Long, Twilight Struggle- Babylon 5 is an unparalleled epic. This episode proves that yet again as we have a totally awesome space battle. Then, we see Mollari, who has continued a dark journey, looking out from the side of a Centuari ship as he oversees the bombardment of the Narn homeworld, blasting it to oblivion. It’s a horrible moment for a character I adored in the first season. Is it possible to have redemption from this? Then, following that, we get a speech from G’Kar that is absolutely fantastic: “No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand. The Centauri learned this lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years . . . we will be free.” Wow

Comes the Inquisitor- I felt this episode was mostly setup. One of those episodes I may look back on and think it was extremely important, but in the moment it was merely okay. The stakes weren’t super high because it seems a given that our mains will survive the encounter with this random guy from the 1800s. It’s a fine episode but nothing too special.

The Fall of Night- I knew the Nightwatch was garbage! And Zack pays for his alliance with them in guilt, big time. Sheridan gives a Narn vessel sanctuary on Babylon 5 and does what he wants with legal precedence to get away with it, in the end. Sheridan survives an assassination attempt because apparently the Vorlon are angels. The Centauri-Earth alliance begins, somehow, and this seems like an obviously awful thing going forward into the next season. And, at last, we see the Shadows get revealed to the broader galaxy.

Links

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

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.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- Season 2: Episodes 1-11

It’s new guy!

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. I wrote already about Season 1, but I wanted to break season 2 into a couple posts, because there’s so much to talk about! Here, we’ll discuss season 2, episodes 1-11. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

Season 2, part 1

Points of Departure: I honestly did not at all expect that we’d be getting an actual replacement for Sinclair. Sure, they said he was getting moved, but I figured something would happen that would bring him back. At first, I assumed Sheridan would be a placeholder for an episode or, at most, three episodes. But as this first episode went along, it was clear how much development they were squeezing into Sheridan’s character already, complete with a stirring introductory speech and several other moments with the established characters. It became clear he wouldn’t be a temporary member of the cast. It would be really annoying to have such a pivotal character replaced, normally, but the writing for this episode sold Sheridan for me right away. He seems great, and I look forward to seeing the depth they give him. 

Revelations: There’s some scary ships out in unknown space, which I suspect are the darkness that all of the hints in the first season have been hinting about. G’Kar is somehow turning out to not be the worst–he seemed very one-dimensional/bad guy for basically all of the first season but is becoming much more sympathetic now as Londo Mollari is turning out to be much worse than suggested by his initial blustering personality. Londo is probably still my favorite character, though. More plot development for Sheridan, with his sister showing up and talking about his late wife.

The Geometry of Shadows: Okay this was a very silly episode but had some moments. Loved the green/purple thing throughout. Is it silly? Yes, but I especially liked the reaction of the leader when Ivanova tries to calm them down (you’re just doing it for a flag?) “You do same thing for flag for honor!” (something like that). Definitely hinted at the way many people today hold an almost worshipful stance towards the flag. Not trying to get too off track here but it really bothers me that people are more upset by perceived mistreatment of the flag than they are by the fact that people are starving to death or dying because they can’t afford healthcare in our country. The technomages are actually way cooler than I thought they’d be, and the shenanigans with Mollari trying to get in touch with them was fun. What an ominous note, towards the end: Technomage Elric: “The sound of billions of people calling your name” Mollari: “My followers?” Elric: “Your victims.” 

A Distant Star: The most memorable part of this episode for me was Sheridan’s rant where he talks about how opposable thumbs are overrated because if our primate ancestors would have known about politicians, they would have stayed up in the trees. Funny moment for Sheridan there, though I can’t tell if they were trying to play it off as serious. Otherwise the episode dragged a bit for me. The Minbari are worried about Delenn’s change to being a human, but I don’t know why this is a surprise: if some human turned into a cocoon and came out an alien I’d be pretty concerned. Is this a normal thing for Minbari? They don’t really say. 

The Long Dark: Some creepy creature is released on Babylon 5 which turns out to be a reality even though initially it seemed like the ravings of a madman. A few nods to the problems of PTSD and our lack of care for those who go through such situations were appreciated, but this episode is one that felt more like setup than anything else.

A Spider in the Web: Loved this one. I guess I’d kind of thought the Mars thing was just throwing some worldbuilding out there into the void, but it turns out it may have a much bigger impact. Mind control, murder, cover ups, plots, wider intra-human conflict! Everything about this episode hinted at bigger things to come. 

Soul Mates: Mollari tries to figure out which wife he is going to keep, and some hilarity ensues. I definitely called the standoffish one right at the beginning, though. I loved the conclusion from Mollari: “I’ll always know where I stand with you.” I was touched. Delenn’s interactions with Ivanova were kind of fun, too.

A Race Through Dark Places: Babylon 5 as a hub for getting rogue/unknown psychics away from Psi Corps was a cool idea. I’d be sure of all kinds of black market type stuff happening at such a station, and it was fun to see one aspect of this. I also loved the way they thwarted Bester from Psi Corps with the mass deception featuring Talia. Talia’s decision to side with the rogues was great, especially after they made it seem for just a second that she’d gone with Psi Corps. 

The Coming of Shadows: The Cenauri Republic’s Emperor comes to Babylon 5 over G’Kar’s protests. Sheridan pointed out that it wasn’t this Emperor that did all the wrongs to G’Kar’s people, but G’Kar cannot relent. He plans to assassinate the Emperor, only to be thwarted when the Emperor has a heart attack or something similar as he’s at an official event. Then, G’Kar is told the Emperor’s last words to himself about how he wanted to say he was sorry in order to try to stop future conflict. G’Kar is touched by it to the point that he seeks out Mollari for a drink. Unbeknownst to him, Mollari has partnered with the mysterious people who have enabled some serious attacks on the Narn before, and even as G’Kar tries to celebrate a new friendship with Mollari, news comes that the Narn have lost millions of lives in an apparent attack from the Centauri Republic, itself now coalescing around hawklike leadership. G’Kar has to be restrained from physically assaulting Mollari and finally collapses, weeping for his people. The Centauri Republic experiences a kind of coup as well. Fantastic episode.  

GROPOS: Babylon 5 becomes a staging area for Earth Alliance soldiers on their way for a secret attack on rebels. Garibaldi falls for one of the soldiers and after some convolutions, it is clear it is very mutual. Meanwhile, the commander of the forces is Stephen’s (the doctor’s) father, and they have some serious issues to work out. I was not ready for the incredible emotional weight of the scenes between Stephen and his father, including the part about how the thing Stephen always needed to say was that he loved his father. It ripped my guts out and tears were streaming down my face. It was a real emotional hit. The end of the episode was also tough, as we see the side characters we grew to like through the episode–the Ground Pounders (GROPOS), end up dead in the battle. Ouch.

All Alone in the Night: I thought this was by far the slowest moving episode of the season so far. Delenn struggles to find her path among her people, now as an outcast, while Sheridan is abducted and forced to fight. It’s a fine enough episode, with some possible steps setting things up for later, but it just doesn’t move along very much. It was fine, but nothing super special. 

Links

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

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.