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B5: 2.8 A Race Through Dark Places

* Doesn’t Lyta in some later episode say something along the lines that each time a telepath shares a dying person’s thoughts and doesn’t break the link in time they loose a bit of themselves, and that Bester had done this too often? Creepy, because even here you see that it isn’t so much about the information he gets, but about the mystery of that final moment.
* Delenn asking Sherian for a date without even being aware of it – absolutely brilliant. Delenn walking into the restaurant and everything just falls silent... Done with great style and in character, letting you believe that Delenn is indeed ignorant of how this could be perceived in strictly human terms. I love the chemistry they have together. And then, Sheridan and Ivanova’s late night conversation in the office... I don’t think falling in love with the Minbari ambassador would even occur to Sheridan as a conscious thought at this point, because all things considered it’s really a bad idea, but in his conversation with Susan, the way he obviously wants to talk about it, but not quite knowing how to bring it up or what to say exactly, so he’s starting with the Minbari joke, annyoing the hell out of a tired Susan wanting to sleep "Were you like this when you were married?" "Huh? Yeah." "The woman was a saint." and he comes back to the Minbari again "Well, at least I'm an intelligent life form according to the Minbari. I think I like that. I think I like that a lot.", his happiness... – it’s already happening.
* This was the first episode that I really liked Sheridan...
* The juxtaposition between the lighter plotline and the more dramatic one works nicely, even if the telepath plot in hindsight seemed a bit of an undeveloped draft of the season 5 situation with Lyta and Byron.
* Canonically, when is the Susan/Talia relationship supposed to start? Because needing to talk or not, coming to someone’s quarters at a late hour with champagne is a little intimate if you barely know that person, or, as Susan said in ‘Spider in the Web’, only chatted a few times. “Re-evaluate our relationship”?
In the end, the camera focusing on Talia’s PSI corps pin in with the blurred image of the both of them talking in the background – an indication that the corps would ultimately fuck up their relationship.


B5: 2.9 The Coming of Shadows

* Oh wow. Terrific episode, the way they captured the moment where everything stands on the knife’s edge and then goes monumentally wrong. What Londo starts there, fully aware of what he’s doing (”I understand just fine”) and for all the most wrong, petty, selfish reasons... right from the beginning, his obvious unease at being in an intrigue that goes way over his head, at the danger of ending up a mere pawn to be sacrificed in Refa’s game, his determined eagerness to remain on an equal footing. After the emperor being shown as a decent and dignified man throughout the episode, seeing Refa and Mollari at his deathbed, vulture–like, Mollari’s ready lie... and you know that betweens Refa’s hubristic ruthlessness ”It’s a small enough price to pay for immortality” and Londo’s weakness and ambition everything would be going to the worst kind of hell. I do have sympathies for Mollari, but what he did here was awful.
Does Londo indeed believe he can avoid fate by avoiding the throne?
* Touchstone episode for Sheridan – he really starts establishing his authority here with both G’Kar and Londo here.
His first conversation with G’Kar though – it’s good in showing Sheridan’s character, his directness, but in some ways he’s still kind of…not exactly naïve, but he simply doesn’t get hit, because he isn’t a man whose grudges run that deep. If he can have dinner with the Minbari ambassador and she with him, it’s only natural for him that G’Kar should at least be able to tolerate the Centauri emperor on the station. From his point of view G’Kar is acting irrational. Despite what he says (”Don’t do something we both will regret”) he obviously doesn’t imagine G’Kar would be planning an assassination, or he’d have put a guard on him.
* The emotional roller coaster G’Kar has to go through in this episode... horrific. When he invites Londo for a drink and you know that the revelation he had is all for nothing... though now it does make a lot more sense when later Londo trying to reconcile wants G’Kar to have a drink with him.
* Kosh at the Centauri emperor’s death bed ”How will this end?” “In fire”. :: shivers ::


B5: 2.10 GROPOS

* Very well done, too... creating this tension, the sense of something going wrong, even if the troops are only passing through at that time and the real tragedy is happening somewhere else. The realistic portrayal of the military, with the implication that war, interstellar or not, is going to be every bit as bloody as it used to be.
* Garibaldi and Dodger. They way they played with gender stereotypes, but so subtly that in the end it’s really only about two people needing different things at the wrong moment; and it’s about different characters rather than a statement of any sort that it’s the woman who wants ‘just’ sex and the man who brings up the emotional issues. Panics at getting too close to someone, even on a physical level.
* The sub-plot with Franklin and his father: at least not exactly one of those annoyingly clichéd father-son reconciliation plots, they’re both too complex and three-dimensional characters for that.
* Something that struck me about Sheridan when general Franklin asked him whether he felt like a murderer when he’d taken out the ‘Black Star’: Sheridan isn’t someone who broods over such problems at length on an abstract philosophical level, or is overmuch bothered by them. He doesn’t struggle with preconceived notions. There’s a kind of straight-forward innocence about him that makes him act directly from his feelings/instincts and he’s the kind of person for whom this works out, because he’s – I’m trying to avoid the word ‘good’ - decent? – man. His instincts are right, mostly.
(In ‘The Geometry of Shadows’ the technomage gives Sheridan an orange blossom, in reference to Sheridan’s childhood memory mentioned earlier. Because I’m obsessive like that I searched and found the orange blossom symbolically means purity, innocence. At the time I discarded the thought that it’d mean anything, but in some ways it really fits his character.)
* The closing scene was very well done... the sadness, the sense of foreboding.


B5: 2.11 All Alone in the Night
* The different story elements seemed a little haphazardly put together, Delenn’s story, the Sheridan variation of the ‘alien abduction’ plot, Sheridan’s prior politic involvement...
* Ramirez... so here’s me, thinking, if this were Star Trek there would be no question he’s going to die, but as this is B5... well, maybe not. Then, er, ah well... but at least he got to make a decision about it, heroic self-sacrifice and all... it was well done, though, with a kind of sad gravity.
* Delenn’s story was the best part of this episode. Right from the moment she walks into the Grey Council and speaks the ritual words and no one answers. Her insecurity, the humiliation; the isolation as the lights blink out around her. Her disappointment. What makes it more complex is that one can’t even quite blame Neroon for enjoying this, now that the tables are turned, the way she treated him before.
After she walks out, trying to protect the remnants of her pride, not wanting to admit to Lennier that she’s in fact an exile. Maybe also trying to save the council’s face, not wanting to shake Lennier’s faith in its wisdom, by covering up what in her eyes is a major mistake, maybe helping save Lennier’s face.
* My heart broke for Lennier all over this episode. So innocently proud (and rightfully so) for standing by Delenn; to think that the politic consequences would be the very least of it. He really doesn’t, cannot, know what he’s saying. Or that he would break his promise in the end. ‘Darkness and fire’ but not the kind Delenn is thinking of. Cruel.
* Sheridan with the Narn on the alien ship... well done, touching. I like it how the aspects of Sheridan's character finally come together...

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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
selenak
Jan. 18th, 2004 01:41 pm (UTC)
Here through a friends' friend list, so, hello!

Doesn’t Lyta in some later episode say something along the lines that each time a telepath shares a dying person’s thoughts and doesn’t break the link in time they loose a bit of themselves, and that Bester had done this too often? Creepy, because even here you see that it isn’t so much about the information he gets, but about the mystery of that final moment.

No, that's from the Psi Corps trilogy and an observation made by Bester himself, since two of the novels are written from his pov. Still counts as canon since JMS provided the outline.

The Coming of Shadows is one fine example of High Tragedy on TV. And yes, Londo is responsible for his decisions, which fits with the laws of tragedy. Mind you, this is one of two or three moments where G'Kar gets really, really lucky though he's unaware of it at the time. Because if Turhan hadn't had his heart attack G'Kar would have gone through with the assassination. And the Narn Ambassador killing the Centauri Emperor would have started the Narn/Centauri War just as sure as Londo's actions did. What's more, G'Kar isn't stupid, so must have been completely aware of it. (Just as Londo knows what he is doing.) If not for a stroke of luck, the ensuing blood of millions would have been on his hand instead of Londo's.

(The other two examples of G'Kar getting lucky: firstly by Morden choosing Londo instead of him. They both gave Morden an answer, and if Morden had picked G'Kar, G'Kar would have gone through with his genocidal vision. Secondly by Kosh engineering an epiphany for him in Dust to Dust, though how much of that vision was from G'Kar and how much from Kosh is debatable.)

Does Londo indeed believe he can avoid fate by avoiding the throne?

Not really, I don't think so. He does believe in the truth of his death vision, after all, and he knows what the white he's wearing signifies. This being said, at that point Londo probably still hoping against his own conviction that he can. He does ask Lady Morella a year later. After her reply, I don't think he even tries to pretend to himself he can avoid fate. For himself, that is. He never stops trying for the Centauri.

solitary_summer
Jan. 18th, 2004 02:42 pm (UTC)
No, that's from the Psi Corps trilogy and an observation made by Bester himself, since two of the novels are written from his pov. Still counts as canon since JMS provided the outline.

Seeing as I've never read any of those books, but had a rather distinct memory of the scene, I looked around a bit... season 5, 'The Paragon of Animals'

What's more, G'Kar isn't stupid, so must have been completely aware of it. .

Well, while he's blinded by his hatred and not thinking very clearly in this respect, he certainly is aware of the possibility, but obviously hopes he could prevent it by recording this message that he acted upon his own initiative and that neither his government nor Na'Toth should be held responsible. Of course most likely that wouldn't have helped any with the Centauri, but he's not consciously trying to start a war. He wants revenge, but is also willing to accept his own death to achieve it. The result might have been the same, but I think we're still meant to see the difference in motivation and character. But yes, he still got lucky.

The other two examples of G'Kar getting lucky: firstly by Morden choosing Londo instead of him.

That was more than luck IMO. G'Kar said he wanted 'justice', though it sounds more like bloody revenge, but ultimately he only wanted the safety of his homeworld assured, he doesn't have an answer to Mordens final question "And then what?" Londo wanted glory and power for himself and the Centauri empire, which is a pretty limitless wish. G'Kar's motivation is different from Londo's and that's what makes Morden decide that Londo would make the better tool for him and his 'associates' I think.

'Dust to Dust' I haven't seen yet.

Does Londo indeed believe he can avoid fate by avoiding the throne?

That was something of a rhetorical question anyway... after all he's had the vision about his death before.
selenak
Jan. 18th, 2004 11:56 pm (UTC)
"What do I want? The Centauri stripped my world. I want justice."
"What do you want?"
Paragorn of Animals would be one of two season 5 episodes I haven't seen. Sigh. Thank you, though; it's fascinating that the topic is brought up on the actual show since it's pretty important to the second volume of the trilogy.

Yes, G'Kar leaves the message (which incidentally isn't true - he acts with the full knowledge of his government), but come on - as I said, he isn't naive. He must have been aware that not only would the Centauri not believe it but in all likelihood several of the other races wouldn't either.

Morden not picking G'Kar:
That was more than luck IMO. G'Kar said he wanted 'justice', though it sounds more like bloody revenge, but ultimately he only wanted the safety of his homeworld assured:

Hm:
"To suck the marrow from their bones. To grind their skulls to powder!"
"What do you want?"
"To tear down their cities, blacken their sky, sow their ground with salt! To completely, utterly erase them!"
"And then what?"
"I don't know! As long as my homeworld's safety is guaranteed, I don't know that it matters."


While I completely agree that the decisive factor for Morden to not pick G'Kar was probably that G'Kar did not have any idea of how to progress after dealing with the Centauri, whereas Londo's wish was not focused exclusively on the Narn and thus was of much better use to the Shadows, I still think what G'Kar wanted was a little bit more than justice, to put it mildly. To completely, utterly erase them! implies just that. And do you really think G'Kar as he was back then would not have gone through with it?

IMO, one of the reasons why G'Kar ultimately comes to terms with Londo to the point of being closer to Londo than to any of his own people (or anyone else for that matter) is that he's aware of an "there but for the grace of..." element.

'Dust to Dust' I haven't seen yet.

Oh, you must! It's one of the best episodes of the third season, and not just because of the Londo and G'Kar stuff, which is essential. Hard to say just where Londo hits moral rock bottom (my three choices would be either The Long Twilight Struggle, A Day in the Strife or And the rock cried out, no hiding place - it's easier to say when he starts the road back, though), but with G'Kar, the choice is pretty clear - Dust to Dust, with what the episode itself describes as "mind rape" on Londo. (The "Dust" of the title is a drug which enables non-telepaths to do this.)

G'Kar then has his vision which the audience sees is trigged by Kosh (though G'Kar himself isn't aware of that), ensuing in his final epiphany which transforms him into the later B5 prophet figure he becomes.

It's also the first episode in which JMS uses Bester is a wild card instead of a straight villain.





solitary_summer
Jan. 19th, 2004 01:54 pm (UTC)
[You have a point & I'm not ignoring you, it's just that I'm too tired to really think this through tonight... sorry. I have this half finished reply, but am not quite sure at the moment if it makes much sense even to me... ]
solitary_summer
Jan. 20th, 2004 08:11 pm (UTC)
which incidentally isn't true - he acts with the full knowledge of his government

Ooops, true. Apparently I chose to forgot about that little detail. Sorry. The problem is, I don't have the DVD player at my place...

But either way, I'd still say it was a rash, stupid and not really thought through spur-of-the-moment decision rather than a deliberate attempt to provoke a war. From a political perspective it doesn't make a lot of sense - what would the Narn have hoped to gain? A breathing space or a convenient moment to strike while the succession wasn't settled and different factions were fighting? But if they had any kind of intelligence about the Cantauri court & government they'd have known that the pro-war fraction would emerge strengthened. The Cantauri monarchy doesn't seem to be an absolute monarchy, so it's unlikely that the succession would have weakened their government for too a long time. And public opinion would have been on the side of the Centauri, because, like you said, few would have believed that it was only an individual's action.

I still think the primary motivation is G'Kar's anger at the perceived insult and Sheridan's reaction to his protests doesn't help at all to de-escalate the situation. And then he has this moment of revelation he describes, how everything in his life suddenly became clear with this decision... not exactly a frame of mind where one considers options or consequences.

Desicions: this is the leitmotif of this episode, I think. The emperor's decision, G'Kar's and Londo's. I believe we're supposed to see the parallel between the emperor, willing to risk his health and life for the one decision he ever consciously made, and G'Kar, equally willing to die for the diametrically opposed thing, which he believes to be no less right. Then the elusive moment of reconciliation that never quite existed except for a short while in both their minds, and is already doomed before it can become reality, because the decision Londo had taken has already forestalled it.

And I think maybe we're also supposed to see the difference between G'Kar who takes his decision in ignorance, but is prepared to change his mind when he learns the truth about the emperor's plan, and Londo, who, when Vir tries to dissuade him, replies that he is perfectly aware of the consequences of his action. (Though of course even he doesn't know the full scope of what he's about to bring about upon himself and his homeworld.)

While 'Coming of the Shadows' is about decisions, I believe you're right, 'Signs and Portents' is about luck, or maybe rather about personality, character. It's not about choosing something willingly, it's nothing either could influence at this moment. (Though of course the question of free will is something of a moot point anyway when characters are written to suit an artistic need). Morden doesn't look for a considerate answer, he digs right into the subconscious mind and subconscious desires, because of course everyone's easier to manipulate on that level. (This seems to be a recurring theme, though: I've just watched 'Comes the Inquisitor' and it's the same thing there: it's not a conscious decision that proves Delenn or Sheridan worthy, it's the instinctive, emotional reaction to protect each other, even at the cost of their own lives; it's what they are. They never chose to love each other.)

So yes, it's also about the decisions we're spared to make... (How far G'Kar would have gone - honestly, I don't know. Perhaps you're right and I'm letting the knowledge of his later development influence my perspective.)
.
selenak
Jan. 21st, 2004 04:17 pm (UTC)
But either way, I'd still say it was a rash, stupid and not really thought through spur-of-the-moment decision rather than a deliberate attempt to provoke a war. From a political perspective it doesn't make a lot of sense - what would the Narn have hoped to gain?

No argument on its stupidity, except that the Narn don't have the crucial information - that the Centauri have Shadow backup. Without Shadow backup, the Centauri have been shown to back down before any display of strength throughout the first season. There are strong parallels between Coming of Shadows and Midnight on the Firing Line - in both cases, you have an attack on an outpost of one power which the other power considers to be rightfully theirs. Said attack is made in a sneaky way, by using a third party. Only in the first season example, it's a (civilian) Centauri colony, Ragesh III, which gets attacked; in the second season example, it's a Narn colony. In the first season, the Centauri government decided not to respond because of their position of weakness; if Londo's words to Vir are anything to go by, the Centauri also believed the Narn would kill every single Centauri on Ragesh III. It was Sinclair's interference which changed things. In the second season, if G'Kar's words are anything to go by, the Narn assume the Centauri would kill every single Narn on the Quadrant 14 outpost; it's Sheridan's interference which changes things.

I'll get back to these paralles in a moment, but first let me reiterate: the Narn probably believed the Centauri would lose a war, based on their behaviour and defensive capabilities as shown up to this point. And the Narn wanted a war, in revenge for the occupation. G'Kar, while being certainly furious etc., was still disciplined enough to wait for the okay from his government, and more than that, to ask the Khari just when they thought would be the best moment for the assassination. Only once they had chosen did he proceed.

IMO, up to this point, you don't have a moral difference between Londo and G'Kar. (Well, except that Londo feels guilty when spotting G'Kar after having arranged the attack even before G'Kar makes his stunning offer of a drink, and G'Kar in Midnight is just gloating when seeing Londo.) This is about to change, of course, as G'Kar in his rage actually listens to what Sheridan says and puts his people before any personal gratification of revenge. And then G'Kar goes on his bumpy road to prophet-dom. But until this episode? They're equal.

Regarding the Emperor and G'Kar both being willing to die for what they believe in: true, but this quality is not necessarily a blessing in the B5 universe, nor reserved for a just cause, or the good guys. Bester is willing to die for what he believes in.

There is another echo I see rippling from this episode, not just the backward one (i.e. to Midnight on the Firing Line) but a forward one. Turhan, as related by Franklin, thought that peace between Narn and Centauri would not be achieved until someone said "I'm sorry". His own message, though heard, doesn't have effects because of what Londo does in this episode. Later that season, Vir says "I'm sorry", but G'Kar isn't willing to listen any longer, which is all too understandable, given what happened in between. But then, years later, those crucial words in The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari? "I'm sorry." And it's important that he repeats this when waking up and seeing the real G'Kar, and that the real G'Kar hears them.

Comes the Inquisitor: I like the episode but have one problem with it - being willing to sacrifice your life for the one you love isn't exactly the best test of character. Again, Bester would probably meet this qualification as well. Now, Delenn's willingness to risk and if necessary sacrifice her life for the Markab an episode earlier - that's different. Sheridan helping that unknown (at that point, to him) Narn - that's different. Though Sebastian could hardly have engineered such a test.

To me, the crucial thing about Comes the Inquisitor is that it gives an early warning about the Vorlons at a point when every one regards them as angelic.
solitary_summer
Jan. 22nd, 2004 10:26 pm (UTC)
[sorry about the earlier post - I accidentally hit the submit button instead of review.]

:: sigh :: I see the parallels, but I still *feel* there's a divergence of paths earlier, some kind of difference, if only because of the fact that the Centauri were the initial aggressors in this conflict. It's like the whole Near Eastern situation - you can't look at Israel's politics and ignore the holocaust. But I realise that this is mostly based on feeling and not really much of an argument. You're probably right, anyway. When I'm through with season 3 I'll re-watch and maybe reconsider.

About 'Comes the Inquisitor':
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<lj-user="calanthe_b">') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

[sorry about the earlier post - I accidentally hit the submit button instead of review.]

<i>:: sigh ::</i> I see the parallels, but I still *feel* there's a divergence of paths earlier, some kind of difference, if only because of the fact that the Centauri were the initial aggressors in this conflict. It's like the whole Near Eastern situation - you can't look at Israel's politics and ignore the holocaust. But I realise that this is mostly based on feeling and not really much of an argument. You're probably right, anyway. When I'm through with season 3 I'll re-watch and maybe reconsider.

About 'Comes the Inquisitor':
<lj-user="calanthe_b"> in her criticism of the RotK movie wrote something along the lines of how in Tolkien's novels there was a balance between war and healing, and I think artistically B5 tries to achieve something quite similar. At the heart of the great war there's this downright <i>epic</i> love-story; in fact the war most likely wouldn't even have been won (or fought) without these two people loving each other. They're essential to each other and, <i>together</i>, crucial to the outcome of events.

To me the most important thing about 'Comes the Inquisitor' is the way the Delenn/Sheridan relationship is shown. In this episode everything building up since 'A Distant Star' falls into place and we suddenly see that this isn't just the obligatory romantic sub-plot, but a (the) central part of the story.

I *think* maybe that was also the main artistic concern of this episode.

From an objective, 'realistic' pov, does the 'test' make sense? I think maybe yes, even so, as far as it is possible to say that, considering this is far from being a 'realistic' situation.
Granted, both Delenn's decision in 'Confessions and Lamentations' and Sheridan's actions in 'All Alone in the Night' say a lot about their characters, but neither situation is quite comparable to the trial in CtI. Delenn had time to think about her decision and just maybe, deep down, convinced of her destiny, she didn't believe she was going to die that way. Sheridan helped a fellow captive, it was never a question of either/or. In CtI they're pushed to extremes, no time for deliberation, just pure instinct. Doing the right thing isn't enough, they need to be the right persons - have the right reasons, here and now.

Now assuming for a moment this is anything approaching a realistic situation: 'fighting them without becoming them' is a leitmotif for this war; and for almost-messianic charismatic leader-figures, like Sheridan and Delenn are going to be, this would be a very real danger. It would not only have endangered the war itself, but once they'd have emerged victorious, what would have stopped them from shaping the world according to their vision; and they'd probably even have meant well. It's the choice of Galadriel in LotR, only of course there is no ring in B5 and the only thing they can pitch against the temptation of power is themselves, their personalities. Therefore, paradoxically, however important the cause, it must not be the most important thing - there must be a balance of a personal, emotional kind. Therefore also the emphasis on humility.

<i>To me, the crucial thing about Comes the Inquisitor is that it gives an early warning about the Vorlons at a point when every one regards them as angelic.
</i>
It certainly is an important episode in this respect, but I think the warning was already plain in first season 'Deathwalker'. No matter what Talia later turned out to be, which of course one isn't supposed to know at that point, the random cold cruelty was enough to leave one with a profoundly ambiguous, if not downright bad feeling about the Vorlons. Similarly Kosh acting as <i>deus ex machina</i>, blowing up Deathwalker's ship. Now I believe it was the right, indeed the only possible course of action to take, but you still see during this episode that in some ways humans are rats in the labyrinth to the Vorlons.


Added as an afterthought... Self sacrifice might not be only for the good guys, but in think in B5 universe it's a redeeming quality for everyone.



solitary_summer
Jan. 22nd, 2004 10:30 pm (UTC)
*headdesk*

calanthe_b's RotK review, sorry, messed up the tags..
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