kangeiko: (londo/g'kar)
[personal profile] kangeiko
Continuing on from Part 1 -

Season 2


1) Revelations
This episode isn't even that good, objectively. A visit from Sheridan's sister, who is never mentioned again? Check. A ton of plot and exposition delivered a little uncertainly? Check. BUT.

There are some wonderful moments. I love Delenn's emergence from the cocoon. I love Lennier's initial horror - did something go wrong? I love her bewilderment. I love Franklin poking her until bits come off. "Is it supposed to do that?" Stephen, how about not breaking bits of her off until you know whether or not they're meant to stay attached?

Sheridan's grief over Anna is a little soap opera-ish, but I think we need it? We need to see his grief. We need to feel sympathy for him, because of what he later does to Morden. We need to understand why he does it, and still disagree with what he does (but secretly feel that if we were in his shoes, we would 100% do the same).

And there are some nice Franklin/Sheridan bonding moments, which I love. We see so little of the two of them interacting that this is a welcome sight. I do like the Franklin/Garibaldi interactions in later episodes, but I think it's important to get a sense of Stephen's character as a rounded person who legitimately interacts with the entire command staff. And as he's not in the security meetings or in CnC, that is sorely lacking later on. So I do like the brief flashes we have of their forming friendship here (and in a couple of later episodes in the season).

Btw Sheridan's face when he first sees Delenn is astonished pleasure. I'm guessing it's the chivalric equivalent of "oh no. she's hot." She is, John. We all feel you on this. Delenn 5eva!

Also, jack. Fucking JACK. I am so pleased that Lou got to punch that stupid face in. And the little nod to Psi Corps? YES.

Finally, Londo and Lennier trying to out-sass each other in the Council chambers: GOLD.

2) Soul Mates
I love this episode SO MUCH. We meet Timov, Daggair and Mariel! G'Kar is cuckolding Londo! London invited G'Kar to his Ascension Day anniversary celebrations! G'Kar trying to be a little shit! Londo trying to be a bigger shit! Delenn's HAIR, good God, is worth the price of admission alone. "It is meant to be a dignified experience!!" We all feel you, Delenn. We've all been there after an unfortunate haircut. I understand your regret.

Also: "Timov, why must you insist on these little verbal fencing matches?" "Because I don't have a real sword handy!"

Vir trying to look after Londo's wives. LONDO trying to look after his wives. Or look after Sheridan, at any rate. (It feels like he doesn't mind Mariel's promiscuity and unfaithfulness? He just doesn't want it to damage his relationship with Sheridan. BRB, I'm gonna think about the concept of Londo being possibly aware that Mariel went from Londo's bed to G'Kar's, or vice versa.)

This episode is sweetness and light and knowing what is coming, I fully endorse having a moment of sweet sugary delight.

3) A Race through Dark Places
I almost didn't include this one here. I went back and forth. I don't actually like this episode for the main plot - the underground railroad - because I don't really feel convinced by the main resistance guy. Bester is suitably evil, though, although I can't quite tie up this episode's Bester with the guy who goes against Psi Corps to rescue blips in Ship of Tears. Did he have a moment of regret? Did Talia push too much and alter him slightly?

But anyway, I'm watching this episode for the shippy moments. Susan and Talia breaking down their walls, at last! Honestly, when I first saw this as a teenager I didn't really process that it was a first date of sorts. All I knew was that Talia got to spend time with Ivanova in her quarters and I am jealous.

This episode also has another first date - John and Delenn. Wherein Delenn accidentally wears a dress that will cause whiplash (steady there, John) and there is a terrible joke about some guy being so transfixed by her cleavage that John gets all indignant. I kinda like the idea of the pervy buy not being necessarily "whoa, BOOBS," but recognising Delenn as the Minbari ambassador, having another moment of "wait, she's hot. How did I not notice before?? Oh god." I mean by S5 the entire station seems to have a rather deep crush on her, so I like the idea of just random people catching a glimpse of her - in a evening dress, in her battle outfit, in her normal Ambassadorial robes - and being "oh no. OH NO. Sje's hot." Why do I even care about this? Because I want to punch the reporter in And Now For A Word. Because I worry that, just as Mira looked in the mirror and didn't think she looked attractive, Delenn has similar doubts. Because I imagine that body dysmorphia is a constant risk if you've changed your entire species. And because she is hot and I want other people to also acknowledge this.

Anyway, gocks. I'm imagining them in their house on Minbar, five gocks running around, David toddling after the slowest one with outstretched arms. I'm going to pretend that everything is lovely and nothing bad happens, leave me alone.

"How many Minbari does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" John, I swear to god.

More Franklin and Sheridan friendship!

But listen, this entire ep matters to me because of that date, ok?

4) The Coming of Shadows
Oh, yeah, ok, enough fluff. Let's break some hearts. I am going to cry forever.

The Emperor, recognising that he has never made a decision, but simply been led to where he needs to be, making one final decision in his life. Having it turn out that way. Londo turning down a dark road. Fucking Lord Refa, I want to set fire to that little git.

There is so much plot here. The Shadows destroy the Narn base in Quadrant 14. (Some day, someone will explain to me how you can have a 14th quadrant). The Narn/Centauri war starts again. Sinclair makes an appearance. Londo is committed to a path that will take him into darkness. But why do I love this episode?

Emperor Turhan: The past tempts us, the present confuses us, the future frightens us. And our lives slip away, moment by moment, lost in that vast terrible in-between.

G'Kar: I have no time for threats.
Franklin: He wanted to say he's sorry.
G'Kar: What?
Franklin: He came all the way out here, risked his health and endangered his life, so that he could stand beside a Narn in neutral territory and apologize for all the things the Centauri have done to your people.

G'Kar: Mollari! You!
Londo: No, I can explain everything!
G'Kar: I'm going to get you... a drink.

G'Kar: I reached out my hand, and he betrayed me. He knew! And he betrayed me!

G'Kar: They're doing it to us again! Step aside, Sheridan, I won't let this happen! Not again!

I love this episode because it pulls absolutely no punches whatsoever.

5) In the Shadow of Zha'ha'dum
I find this episode deeply uncomfortable to watch. I find it very upsetting to see Sheridan slip so easily into abusing his power. It hammers home the fact that any one of them could have let the Light, and any one of them could have slipped into the darkness. The only difference was a choice made that didn't seem to have that many repercussions beyond a limited circle of influence. I'm sure that those establishing Minipax didn't think - ok, now I'm going to doom my world to tyranny. They thought, "well, but there is a threat and I have to take action. And if I have to abuse my powers a little, or get them extended by others abusing their powers, it's ok, because it's only for this particular time. It's only limited to this particular area."

Delenn talking Sheridan back when Garibaldi failed makes me make desperate sounds. Imagine a world in which she was visiting Minbar at the time. Imagine a world in which Morden had nothing to do with the Shadows and was just his wife's murderer. Imagine Sheridan abusing every power he has access to, because he 100% would have done that. And pulled back eventually, sure. And regretted it eventually, sure. But that didn't do much good to Londo, did it?

Also of note - the Nightwatch. Zack joining because it's a little bit of extra money for doing nothing in addition to what he's already doing. (Oh, Zack. Read a history book. Armbands never bode well.) Franklin taking stims. Garibaldi and Sheridan having heated words. Sheridan being shitty to telepaths again. (This is a theme with him.) And Vir. VIR.

"I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up at your lifeless eyes and wave like this. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?"

GENIUS.

6) Confessions and Lamentations
I hate this episode, DON'T SPEAK TO ME, DON'T TOUCH ME, I AM NOT OK.

I love Star Trek, but if we ever needed proof that B5 is a very different beast, consider the Trek version of this episode. The one where they are just in time. And everyone lives.

"Faith manages."

I hate everything, don't talk to me.

7) Divided Loyalties
Because we weren't feeling punched enough from Confessions and Lamentations, I guess? I am simultaneously sad that we lost Talia and thus the Talia/Susan relationship, and glad that we had those few scenes between them in this episode.

The key thing here is the swapping out of the telepaths (again). I actually like Lyta as a character, and although I acknowledge that, narratively speaking, there isn't space for both her and Talia in the plot (i.e. they serve the same purpose), I'm still a bit sad that we lose Talia. And that we don't see her back again later on. How cool would it have been to see a Psi Corps-loyal Control challenging Lyta? How awesome would it have been for Talia to break free and get shit done? I liked Lyta because I like how passionate and committed she is as a character, but I think we can all acknowledge that her judgement later on slips, and that Talia wouldn't have had any time for Byron's monologues. Because she would have been in Susan's bed.

Anyway, I include this episode because it's important, and it's well-done, but do I enjoy it? Gulp. No.

8) The Long, Twilight Struggle
Oh, hey, an upsetting episode I do actually like and would watch again and again? It's this and The Coming of Shadows, basically. "LONDO, NO" featured prominently in the skype commentary for our re-watch of this episode. G'Kar's speech in this is heart-wrenching. If you were uncertain about Andreas's status as a heavyweight before, this settles it without question. His pain. His rage. His acceptance of what is, and what he must bear in order to help his people in the future. If we need a moment for when G'Kar starts on his path to becoming the spiritual leader of the future, I'd pick this one. (And also Dust to Dust of course, but I'll cry about that episode later.) This is a G'Kar commanding respect from a position of abject loss. He has nothing left. He doesn't even have his homeworld. And yet every eye in that Council Chamber is on him.

And then, there is Londo.

So, according to the commentary, they stuck Peter up on a pedestal and left him there. The purpose was to make him feel isolated for that key shot of him witnessing. MISSION FUCKING ACCOMPLISHED. I feel sort of dirty in that I'm feeling sorry for someone witnessing the genocide they helped bring about. And yet. My heart still breaks.

Londo isn't born a monster. He's not born a bad guy. The Londo in A Voice in the Wilderness is capable of supreme self-sacrifice, and so is this one. He just makes one or two bad choices, and then refuses to turn back. And, step by step, it leads him to looking out of that window, witnessing what he has done.

And later, in the Council Chamber. My God. The complexity of the viewer's feelings towards Londo and G'Kar is what drives this episode, and both Peter and Andreas nail it.

9) The Fall of Night
MEEP. I always describe this episode as "the one where we see a Vorlon." It's a lie, of course. We see what the Vorlons want us to see, and that is pretty revealing.

I have pretty strong feelings about this whole reveal. What it is NOT: the Vorlons are not a manifestation of angels, or of goodness, or whatever they would like us to believe. Human religions did not spring up around their visitation; instead, they piggybacked off existing beliefs and altered certain parts just enough so as to react favourably to a Vorlon visit. Sound familiar? Yup, it's the Bene Gesserit's Missionaria Protectiva. There are a lot of Dune influences in Babylon 5, doubtless some of them unintential - but this one is too similar to be anything but a direct reference. Without a doubt, the Vorlons practice "religious engineering". We see this in The Fall of Night, we see it in Dust to Dust when Kosh impersonates G'Quan (or possibly G'Lan), and we see it in War Without End, with the two Vorlons flanking Valen as if they are angelic guardians. For goodness' sake, we even Sheridan in full messiah reenactment, being given his proof of divine favour by having angels "lift him up in their arms". Wasn't Sheridan tested and found 'the right person' by the Inquisitor?

I have strong feelings about the Vorlons messing with religious imagery and none of them are good. I think this is around the time when people start questioning the Vorlons' motives. They are good because... we see them as the manifestation of goodness? That tautology begins to wear thin very quickly in S3, but it is here that we see it in full force.

What else about this episode... ok, the opposite side of things. If all the beings present see a manifestation of angelic goodness, why does Londo see nothing? The first, immediate feeling, is that he has no faith left, so the Vorlons don't have anything to tap into. But if that is the case, there is an implication that people without faith wouldn't see them at all, which makes no sense. I'm more thinking that, 1) either Londo doesn't believe his eyes and thinks, "oh shit, fairly certain my fellow Centauri just tried to kill someone who is literally being carried away by angels, that's not a terribly good sign for us, oh shit, what does this mean for the future?" And his reaction is that he looks forward and sees nothing (i.e. he's answering the question with respect to whether this is a good sign or portent). OR 2) taken more literally, the Vorlons didn't visit Centauri Prime or couldn't influence them the way they influenced more monotheistic cultures and therefore he sees something he can't make out other than a blur of energy (i.e. the Vorlons are selectively corporeal). But either way, everyone around him is talking about how they've just been visited by the divine, and all Londo can think is, "I wasn't..." which doesn't exactly inspire confidence in his choices, if he had any left in them by this point.

I also liked the fact that Lantz is there ostensibly to investigate the Centauri aggression, but walks out of that consultation and directly quotes Neville Chamberlain. Peace in our time, my arse.
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