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!?
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!?
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