Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- Season 4: Episodes 5-8

“This episode seems like a series finale.”
“Yeah, I’m confused, too.”

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 4: Episodes 5-8

5: The Long Night 

Londo’s planning is apparently accelerating as he’s gathered a bunch of Centauri together plainly voicing his plan to rid them of Emperor Cartagia while he’s vulnerable outside of court.  Sheridan exhorts Ivanova to find more of the First Ones in order to help fight the battle/stop the Shadow/Vorlon war. She reveals her own innermost fears in a touching moment, and Sheridan gives her backing that she asks for.

I just want to pause here and say I didn’t expect this. Yeah, the Shadows were fore, er, -shadowed as a major enemy even in season 1, but the Vorlon always seemed some powerful, probably protectorate type of people who, at worst, wouldn’t back the humans in the war. Now they’re major players, but not on the side of the humans nor with the Shadows but as a major antagonist themselves. It’s a surprising development. It shows, too, how deep the show is. A generic space opera, this is not. It’s got far more depth than I ever expected. 

Mollari runs to G’Kar to make last-minute adjustments to the plan and this makes me realize there’s a lot more going on here, because Mollari tells G’Kar not to directly harm the Emperor because otherwise he won’t be free and his family will be harmed. Mollari insists his people will take care of things. So what is G’Kar supposed to do? Again, layers of subtlety that aren’t expected in a show like this on the surface. Moving on, the plan goes somewhat differently from planned. Did G’Kar actually break super reinforced chains? Vir ends up killing the Emperor because the Emperor was fighting with Mollari. 

The council of allied worlds decides to send a suicide mission into Shadow space to try to set a trap. It’s kind of a strange moment as Sheridan asks the captain if he’s married. One wonders about all the rest of the crew of the 5 total ships being sent in. The Narn try to make G’Kar into a new emperor, which he roundly refuses. Instead, he tries to lead the people towards renewal. But other voices of the Narn demand vengeance and war. Seems like this is another major plot that may unfold. 

6: Into the Fire

Ivanova works to continue to get the First Ones in order to try to fight the war against the Shadows and/or Vorlons. Meanwhile, Sheridan and Delenn work with Lennier to lead a huge strike force against the baddies. Marcus and Lyta, meanwhile, set up some nukes around on asteroids, presumably as some kind of minefield?. Back on Centauri, chaos reigns but the newly minted Prime Minister Mollari seems to be establishing order.

Lorien and Ivanova’s conversation about the First Ones, particularly his variety of First Ones, is revealing. He talks about the universe making short lived peoples. His own people nourished and helped other races of peoples. But he also talks about how his people as a group have lived so long that they’ve left behind joy, hope, and love because of how transitory it is. Humans and other peoples whose lives are brief “can imagine that love is eternal.” He tells Ivanova to embrace that illusion as a gift. I can’t decide if this is horrifically ominous or simply cynical.

Finally getting the truth behind Mollari’s love’s murder. Morden killed his love, and Mollari went to Morden. Mollari absolutely loses it. It’s a startlingly genuine and well-acted scene as Mollari comes to grips with the fact that he went down the path he embarked on due to a vile deception. He was played, as he says. And he does not wait around to exact his vengeance. He has his guards kill the shadows that accompany Morden. Morden says Mollari is insane, and Mollari responds: “On any other day, you would be wrong. Today? Today is a very different day.” OMG HE BLEW UP AN ISLAND! OMG. That was EPIC! I admit I was extraordinarily surprised that Mollari didn’t have Morden killed. But I was even more surprised when, later, he  has Vir go check on the last of the Shdow’s influence. His head is on a pike, and Vir is able to wave at Morden’s lifeless eyes, just as he said earlier. Mollari is definitely climbing back into my favorites on the series.

I’m trying to figure out why Sheridan used the nukes to blow up the Shadows and Vorlon instead of just letting them blow each other to pieces. Why not just mop up whoever was left? Apparently it’s because he’s acting in dfense of a planet of innocents that the Vorlon are planning to destroy due to Shadow influences. Sheridan calls in the First Ones, against Delenn’s advice, because he thinks with his heart instead of his head at times. 

The scene with both Sheridan and Delenn being tested by the Vorlons and Shadows independently is fantastic. The Shadows see themselves as pushing evolution–and Delenn calls them on their ideology. The Shadows happily grant that it’s about ideology. Meanwhile, the Vorlons try to claim a moral high ground, attempting to manipulate without revealing their own deceptions. Both Sheridan and Delenn reject the reasoning of these First Ones and their false dichotomies. I have to admit I’m shocked by the revelations here, that the Vorlons were basically using everyone else for their proxy war against the Shadows. In a way, the Shadows have been telling the truth the whole time. And now the Shadows and Vorlon just… leave? 

Lorien leaves Delenn and Sheridan with words that they must guide others to greatness and to move “beyond the rim” in some sort of higher plane of existence. Vir and Mollari celebrate a brief, wonderful moment of success. Delenn and Sheridan reflect on the apparent end of a terrible war. Delenn suggests they can make their own legends and future, and it’s a simply fantastic moment. It feels like the end of the series, to be honest, and yet there’s still 1 2/3 seasons left!?

Literally my face watching this.

7: Epiphanies

Somehow I knew it would be the awful Earth government that would be causing trouble after the Shadow War was ended. I wonder what the Earthers were doing during the time Babylon 5 was out there, I don’t know, uniting multiple alien species into an alliance that defeated the First Ones. The surprises keep coming at a breakneck pace in this episode, though. Bester seemingly gets sent to destroy B5; Mollari’s back on station; Garibaldi resigns after some weird light show thing appears to activate some memory buried in him, and Elvis impersonators are still a thing in the future. The speed with which some of these developments play out is surprising, as it is in the most of the season so far. However, the writing is so good and the acting is well done enough to maintain the sense of reality it all has, such that even at a seemingly rushed pace, it is enjoyable. 

Bester: “Haven’t we learned by now to trust each other?” Sheridan: “No. Sit down.” I loved this confrontation over Lyta. It had elements of humor to it, along with a sense of possibly bigger things going on. I don’t think Lyta’s done being developed, especially after the early comment she makes about no one being interested in hanging out with her. After a disastrous attempt to check out Z’ha’dum which apparently sets off a trap that blows up the planet, he checks in on his love in the cryo chamber. Sheridan outs Lyta as a pretty powerful telepath who apparently set off the trap herself. Zach enters immediately after Sheridan leaves and in what is possibly his best moment on the show so far, offers Lyta a pizza and help. 

Wait, what the HELL is that eye on the court person’s shoulder doing there!? What!?

8: The Illusion of Truth

I started this episode with the thought that “I better find out what the heck is that eye on that court guy’s shoulder.” Keep that in mind.

There’s a renegade news agency come to Babylon 5 to try to tell the “real story” of what’s going on. Lennier gets roped into showing them around the station. Shortly into the episode, though, it appears there may be something more nefarious going on with these news folks. Not only do we seem to see the cameras taking pictures at somewhat odd moments, but also the way the reporter guy pushes questions on Sheridan/Delenn. They’re questions that are structured to drive wedges between people. 

Garibaldi is out and about causing trouble still. We also get some insights into his flashbacks when he sees a picture of a creepy alien and has a flashback with a voice saying “You work for no one but us.” 

And then we get the actual news story. A remarkable example of disinformation. That seems an understatement, but the way this is done in the show is masterful. Calling in the expert psychologist to analyze Sheridan and others. The painting of everything in a nefarious light seems 100% on brand for what’s going on on Earth. They use Garibaldi to play up fears about Sheridan. Along with that, they play on the cryogenic chambers to create a completely fabricated storyline about what’s happening on Babylon 5. The whole thing is pretty awful and honestly raises some questions about how easy it was to create a compelling counter-narrative painting Babylon 5 as some kind of alien factory for producing weapons. What does this mean about some of our own news? How careful should we be of disinformation ourselves? These are questions worth asking, especially in this age of information. Track down your sources, see who’s telling you what, try to discern why they might spin stories that way. Most importantly: never reduce yourself to one outlet for news/media consumption. 

I’m left wondering one thing above basically everything else, though. What the hell is that eye doing on that guy’s shoulder!? 

Link

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 3: Episodes 5-8

Not as such…. no.

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 5-8

5: Voices of Authority
Marcus Cole has a great voice. I could listen to his character talking all the time. I hope he gets a bigger place in the series going forward. Anyway, it’s becoming more and more clear the Earth government is trying to butt in on the running of Babylon 5 more than it seems they did before. And Zack Allan continues to spy half-heartedly for the Night Watch, a group that just seems scummier every time they show up. Ivanova sees proof positive that the former VP–now President–had the President assassinated, which seems like enormous news. I was surprised how quickly it managed to get leaked to everyone. I kind of expected this thread to be drawn out more as characters collected evidence, so I’m curious to see how this will play out. The notion of “ideological purity” being pushed by this horrible person from Earth is almost fearfully easy to see happening in real life. 
Contact with the “First Ones” was fascinating as Ivanova goes to talk to some terrifying burning mask people who answer merely “Zog” when she asks if they’ll help fight the Shadows. “Zog yes or Zog no?” was a great line! Ivanova still hasn’t fully developed as a character for me, but I enjoyed her frustration here. Her play to get these First Ones to join was also a great moment. 
There were many, many things that happened in this episode, and so many of them also seem to be forward-thinking. I enjoyed it, even though it watches as a kind of set up episode.

6: Dust to Dust
Vir is back! I was wondering if we’d ever see him again after he got sent away. I hope this means some more back and forth with Mollari, because he was my favorite in season 1, and having him turn into a serious villain has been rough. I want some more lighthearted moments with Mollari! I also hope there’s a redemption ark for him at some point, because he has really dug himself in deep. Anyway, can we talk about how Ivanova was going to blow up Bester to stop him from coming on board? She does not mess around. I loved how the way to fight back at Bester was getting more psi users around. 
I have to admit that there was no way I would have guessed G’Kar getting some Dust to try to turn himself into a psionic user would be a plot point. Yet somehow it works, because he goes straight for Mollari and forces the Centauri to reveal his awful past and plans. And, of course, humans are garbage again as the Psi Corps is a terrifying monstrosity of non-caring idiocy. 

7: Exogenesis
We have an “Aliens” moment right at the beginning of this episode, and I have to admit I was worried it was going to devolve into a kind of creature-of-the-week scenario. Yet Babylon 5 once again did not let me down. I love Star Trek, so take the following with that in mind: Babylon 5 has yet to disappoint me in the way Star Trek does time and again with some awful monster thing being a one-off that never shows up again. I don’t know if these parasite memory things ever show up again, but the way this plot played out worked super well and turned my fear of “Not again!” (thinking so many Star Trek episodes) into a delight for the great plot. Making the parasites into a kind of sympathetic creature that also is taken in by choice was not the twist I expected.
Marcus Cole… seriously, I adore him. His voice is amazing, and when Dr. Franklin asks him about whether he told anyone (for real) about them going to check on the possibility of horrible aliens, he delivered my favorite one-liner of the show so far: “Not as such, no.” It was a wonderful, hilarious moment in what is an otherwise intensely serious and even heart-rending episode. The sad part is especially felt by Marcus Cole as he basically undercut his friend’s desires without even intending to, forcing him to be separated from what he wanted–unity with some alien hive mind. Not sure the ethics of this strange situation, but that is just another thing that makes Babylon 5 so good.
Ivanova and the flowers–I thought this was hilarious too, and when she throws them at Marcus and he’s all like “She likes me!”–delightful. I don’t know if this episode is well-liked by fans or not, but I loved it.

8: Messages from Earth
I love archaeology in my sci-fi, but this episode did not scratch that itch as much as I initially hoped it would. I kinda thought we might see some epic journey of discovery and archaeology related to the Shadows, but instead we basically just get some woman saying she found one and then boom, there they are. Sheridan and the Minbari go to stop humans from taking over a shadow, certainly with ill-intent. I enjoyed Sheridan’s story about his dad on the rain. I recently lost my dad, and it just really reminded me of how gentle and kind my dad always was. Delenn playing rain on the ship was also a great character moment. 
Using Jupiter to crush the Shadow was pretty predictable, but I enjoyed the special effects and the intensity of it. Marcus Cole showing up with a flow chart to explain to Ivanova where everyone fits–including his parents–was also a truly fun moment. He’s quickly becoming my favorite character. 
Earth is also under martial law, now, apparently. Using the thwarting of evil plans as a stepping stone to more power is par for the course for awful people, and we again see the leadership of Earth is perhaps irreparably corrupt. It will be fascinating to see how this develops.

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.