Five Thoughts on Babylon 5‘s “Interludes and Examinations”

By | September 17th, 2020
Posted in Television | % Comments

A snake is in the garden, a choice is made, and Dr. Franklin is having a very rough go of things. Welcome my friends. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2260. The name of the place is Babylon 5.

Spoilers ahead.

1. Morden Meets the Eye

Heeeeeee’s baaaaacccckkkkkk.

Look at that smug fucking smile

We haven’t seen Morden since the season premiere and it seems that Londo’s scheming to stop Lord Refa from working with him has come back to bite him in the ass. It’s kind of perfect that here, right after the Shadows have begun their war in the open, Morden arrives on the station. He can flex for the audience how evil he is, we can see how there remain spies for the Shadows in the ranks of the security force and on the station, and he can continue to be the voice in the ear of Londo, telling him all the things he wishes to hear as his other hand holds the knife that will kill him.

Morden is such a great villain! His power comes in his influence and his ability to disarm people with his smile. It’s spine-chilling to realize what he’s doing and knowing that, if you were in the characters’ shoes, you would be hard pressed to do anything different. It also lets Vir get in some sharp lines that had me cackling for what would’ve been minutes, had it not been directly followed up by Morden asking the vendor about what Vir was just up to.

Uh oh.

2. Collective Action, Comrades

Building an army is tough. Building alliances between scared, smaller worlds is even tougher. Creating a hodgepodge fighting force centered around a former diplomatic station to take on an ancient, overpowering, and pants-shittingly terrifying armada is, to understate the point, nearly fucking impossible. Yet Sheridan and Co. have to do it! It’s kinda frustrating to watch, though I suspect that’s the point.

Were each of these neighboring worlds to team up, they would be a greater force than the local foe they face, and would be able to defend each other. Yet fear drives the policy and the calculus says that it is better to stay hidden and do nothing than offer potential support to a cause that seems lost. They’ll be wiped out by this overwhelming force if they join and they haven’t been attacked yet, so why should they join up? They gain nothing by joining in the short-term.

There is a lot to be read into here but the point I’ll pull out is this: our greatest triumphs are when we band together to fight an overwhelming problem that requires us to work together, for a goal that will benefit all. It takes collaboration and cooperation and without it, the project will fail. It is important, however, to remember what Lennier said all those many episodes ago:

If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive.

3. Kosh Me If You Can

Sheridan has every right to be pissed at Kosh and the Vorlons for not doing much to help them secure the armies of many of the non-aligned worlds. They are a powerful force that can be a symbol to rally around, to convince those on the fence that this is not an unwinnable fight if they join up. Yet they sit and do nothing? Why are they still hesitating? Why hide? Why remain cryptic?

We don’t really get any good answers to those questions, other than they are not powerful enough on their own to defeat the entire Shadow fleet. However, the time for secrecy from the universe is over. Sheridan realizes this. . .but he’s also wrong. The Vorlons are staying hidden because if the Shadows think the Vorlons are weaker than they are, they are likely to slip up later on. Moreover, it’s always been clear that Kosh knows more than he’s letting on about the future and has his reasons for not wanting to get started in the fight.

. . .and that reason is that Kosh will not survive the opening salvo if done right then. It’s impossible to know whether or not this would always have happened or only occurs because Morden was still on the station but damn, I did not see this death coming. Kosh is brutalized and while it’s not very graphic, it’s very emotional, cutting between Morden watching the carnage and Sheridan’s dream conversation with Kosh-by-way-of-dream-father.

Continued below

Damn. Pour one out for Ambassador Kosh. . .and wonder what will happen to Sheridan when he eventually travels to Z’ha’dum

4. I Don’t Have a Problem, You Have a Problem

Dr. Franklin’s stims have been an issue for the entire season but have been subsumed by the larger developments of, well, the collapse into fascism and the succession of that station. You know, normal everyday stuff. I’m of two minds on this because I do wish we had spent a little more time delving into the ramifications of his stims problem but the way the show handled it worked. Most of the time, he was functioning, which allowed him to delude himself into believing he did not have a problem.

He confessed to Delenn that he might have a stims problem a few episodes ago but didn’t fully internalize it because he thought he had it under control. He was just under stress. He was just taking on extra shifts because they were understaffed and not because he needed an excuse to take more stims. He’d been subtly more irritable this season than before and the bags under his eyes were darker, though not as noticeable as this episode.

Poor Stephen.

It’s important that this is Garibaldi and not Ivanova or Delenn or anyone else noticing and acting on it too because Garibaldi 1) was the first to confront Stephen and 2) was an alcoholic himself and so recognizes the signs of an addiction. Despite wanting to see this play out a little more over the last 14 episodes, getting resolution to his increasingly dangerous stim usage via his retirement and the scene where he admits to himself and Garibaldi that he is addicted was satisfying and heart wrenching.

I hope this wasn’t Richard Bigg’s out from the show and instead a change of his position. Biggs is too good an actor and too wonderful a presence to have him be gone. I don’t think he is, and I’ve been wrong before, but you never know.

5. Death on Babylon 5

OK. . .Look. I knew this was going to happen. Adira’s actress wasn’t credited at the opening, she hasn’t been seen since season one, and those flashback scenes screamed death. That and Londo telling Morden he has nothing left he can threaten him with, which is a HUGE red flag in an episode with a long-lost love returning. Doesn’t mean I’m not any less angry or sad by the development.

There’s one part of me that’s like: Adira was fridged. Compared to Kosh’s death in the same episode, her death is unceremonious and used to further Londo’s plot rather than a resolution to her own. She’s little more than a prop, though her character was always that for Londo. It sucks and had she been a more central character, I think I would have been far more likely to see this as my criticism.

But there’s another part that sees this as the reality of the universe they live in. She was a minor character, unseen in two seasons. Characters are killed unceremoniously, they become pawns in another person’s game, and Morden’s actions are no less gruesome than when he murders the random guard he bribed at the start of the episode. Morden needs Londo and Londo has nothing except Adira and Vir and Vir would be too difficult to get to. And so, he frames Adira’s murder on Lord Refa and drags Londo back.

Londo had a chance at his third turning point. He failed to turn. Woe be unto the universe and Londo’s charcoaled soul.

That about does it for now. Join me again in a week for the first of a two-parter, the return of someone quite important, and, I dunno, war or something on the station that, in the year of the Shadow War, became something greater.

This is Elias. Signing out.

Best Line of the Night:

Morden: “Anything I can do to help?”

Vir: “Short of dying? No.”

//TAGS | 2020 Summer TV Binge | Babylon 5

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.


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