Television 

Five Thoughts on Babylon 5‘s “Meditations on the Abyss”

By | September 7th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

Lennier shows how much of a warrior he has become, Vir learns how to create fruit salad (yummy yummy) and the Drazi continue to be the worst. Welcome my friends. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2262. The place: Babylon 5.

Spoilers ahead.

1. Longing For What One Cannot Have

Godddddddddddd. This scene was so hard to watch. It was amazing, don’t get me wrong. I love seeing Delenn and Lennier interact again after so long. We got a little in “Day of the Dead” but no real conversation and definitely no decompression after Lennier’s Morden vision. Here we get both and it is equal parts cathartic and heart rending.

Before I get there, can I gush about the design (both visual and aural) of the scene? They’re confined to an air vent nook with orange slatted light on their faces and barely an inch between them. The camera sticks to close-up, only occasionally pulling back to include torsos, usually when one is reaching out to the other or retreating to a defensive position. There’s no music until near the very end and they both talk in hushed whispers. It’s tender and tense and it just breaks your heart to see, with every aspect of the scene driving that home.

See, the two of them are meeting like teenagers in a romantic drama. One sneaks out of bed to meet the other in a secluded meeting space where they exchange tender glances and meaningful pauses, sharing secrets and laying their hearts bare. But then one brings up their current partner and things become awkward and painful. Thankfully, these two are adults and their conversation is refreshingly mature. That doesn’t make it any less painful though.

Lennier has been struggling with his feelings for Delenn, and thus his feelings towards Sheridan, whom he respects and loves too, for a while, though it wasn’t untilthe second episode of the season that it really came to a head and he decided to leave, cutting himself off and ultimately fraying the connection between him and Delenn.

That frayed connection is the axis about which their entire conversation revolves as they try to talk as they did before but are hyper aware of what has changed. Delenn tries to avoid talking about Sheridan, keeping things on her trust in Lennier and the mission, but Lennier brings him up, his jealousy seeping through. Every move one makes hurts the other, intentionally or otherwise, and what would have once been easy becomes the hardest thing in the universe.

Mumy’s performance here is so, so good (and Furlan’s, of course.) The longing in his eyes the entire time is just barely hidden. The turmoil on his face roils just below the surface, visible only through his eyes. The intimate meeting space exacerbates these feelings, leading to their final interaction when he rejects Delenn’s extended hand and desire to catch up in earnest. It’s not harsh, not quick, but precise and with the same care she shows him, knowing it will hurt her but unable to bear his own pain. It is the act of a lost man. I hope he finds himself soon.

He walks a lonely road. The only road he's every known.

2. Meditation Intensifies

So what is this secret mission? Basically, Lennier is going to get proof of the Centauri’s role in the attacks on transport ships. However! First he has to survive field tests with Captain Montoya, played by Richard Yniguez. Yniguez is a pitch perfect instructor archetype, with the right balance of charm, warmth, and military harshness. Chalk one up for another guest character I love who’ll only be around for an episode or two.

On this ship, Lennier is partnered up with Findell, who, much like Lennier and Marcus before him, has become a Ranger not necessarily out of a desire to BE a Ranger but because of an ulterior motive. Findell actually shares a motivation with Marcus, while Lennier seems to be more like Marcus in attitude. But I digress. This ultimately leads to Findell letting his feelings of jealousy and failure overwhelm him and Lennier has to save him from crashing his ship into an asteroid.

Continued below

While I found this to be the weakest of the stories, it was still really good and created the potential for self-reflection within Lennier. He has yet to do much of it but the seed has been planted and it’s up to him to decide what to do with it. This also further establishes a reason for why Morden’s prediction may not be so far-fetched after all. Whether he meant it literally or spiritually, though, is still up for debate.

3. Bugs Among Us

Man, Londo just can’t catch a break. Not only is he being left out of very important meetings because he’s suspected of being behind, or at the very least unwittingly supplying info for the transport attacks by Sheridan and Co. but he’s also now being surveilled by the other members of the Alliance, specifically the Drazi. Ugh, of course it’s the Drazi.

While this is ultimately a light B-plot, it serves a variety of purposes and is a really great example of an economy of storytelling. The central plot is tight and simple, with a complete arc, and thus works on its own. It’s engaging, multi-faceted, funny, and of course acted beautifully, as one would hope for with the return of Stephen Furst to the front of the screen (he directed “The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father.”) It also conveys their ongoing political situation, moves those other plots forward a little, and seeds future events and character changes.

That’s a lot for what is ostensibly set-up for Vir being appointed Ambassador to Babylon 5, once Londo becomes Emperor of course, and a couple gags. But that’s what makes it so good. Vir was introduced as a comic relief character and has grown since then, so this plot honors both aspects. It’s what makes this show, even when it struggles, a must watch for any sci-fi fan with scripts that are a must read for anyone wanting to make TV and make good network TV. Just because something is small or short or seemingly frivolous doesn’t mean it can’t support the whole in a variety of ways in the short, medium and long term. More shows need to learn that.

And to think, this is all because of a bug in a food bag.

Makes you wonder what a Prime Minister has to do to get some electronics free produce? Make up a rumor about the Ambassador sleeping with the Drazi leader’s wife, I guess.

Classy Londo. Classy.

4. As Far As the Eye Can Preach

Oh dear. This is shaping up to be another long review and I haven’t even gotten a chance to talk about G’Kar. Bear with me folks, this is just a really strong episode. JMS is truly firing on all cylinders in all aspects and the crew is matching, and surpassing it in every way.

G’Kar, after spending nearly an entire season with his new eye being the wrong color, finally gets to have his eyes match! It’s been a long time coming and there’s a sense of wholeness to him, as if now he can be more full. There’s a marked change in his demeanor, not just in the joy he projects, when Franklin puts the new eye in. I actually never expected this to happen. I thought he’d always have the dual colors and then lose the eye again, or sacrifice it, sometime in the future. I’m glad though.

I’m even more glad at what comes about because of it.

I'd have made this the featured image but I couldn't resist Vir's unhinged face.

Franklin, ever the philosopher too, ended up reading G’Kar’s book and after having a great conversation about that, asks to listen in on one of his lessons. So he does and so do we. And in there, G’Kar is given one of the trickiest questions in the world: What is Truth and What is God? I’m going to just put the speech below but know it’s even better delivered by Katsulas:

If I take a lamp, and shine it towards the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search for truth, for understanding. Too often we assume that the light on the wall is God. But the light is not the goal of the search. It is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the sense of revelation upon seeing it. Similarly, someone who does not search, who does not bring a lantern with him, sees nothing.

What we perceive as God, is merely the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light, pure and unblemished, not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes we stand in front of the light and assume we are the center of the universe – God looks astonishing like we do. Or we turn to look at our shadow – and assume that all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose. Which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty and in all its flaws, and in so doing better understand the world around us.

Continued below

There’s a lot to chew on in that speech but I don’t want to dissect or react to it. It feels antithetical to speculate on what it means, what its theological implications are, etc. But what I do want to get a little into is the wholeness of the idea. It’s not esoteric or obtuse or hidden. It’s straightforward in its recontextualization of the question, which makes what comes right after absolutely hilarious.

Like any good starry-eyed theological student, the Narn who posed the question poses it again, unsatisfied with an answer that clear yet meaty, so G’Kar gives in and makes some pithy, cryptic statement that people will argue about and interpret for centuries to come while missing the point.

I also love how we see Franklin react to all of this, as well as the hilarious lighting on him during the speech. He’s a Foundationist, so he’s very familiar with the similarities and differences between different religious teachings and practices. He laughs at the end, warm, friendly and sympathetic as he recognizes one more universal truth all teachers face: sometimes students want an overly simplified idea, one that’s empty but wise sounding, rather than a challenging yet clear idea.

5. I Am Vir. Hear Me Roar

I wrote a lot about Vir and Londo’s bug problems earlier but I wanted to close out on the resolution to it on Vir’s end. A perfect set of scenes top to bottom, with Vir confronting the Drazi who gave him the bugged bag, failing, then nonchalantly going to get a SWORD FROM LONDO’S WALL before fucking up the fruit stand in a rage and shoving grapes in the Drazi’s face. It’s cathartic to watch and, again, pitch perfect.

No notes.

I’m with Londo on this one.

That about does it for now. Join me again in a week for a confrontation with Garibaldi, the actual mission Lennier was sent on, and Lyta ascending on the station where going to Z’ha’dum means death.

This is Elias. Signing out.

Best Line(s) of the Night:

1. Creepy Bar Guy: “You broke my finger!”

Delenn: “True, but you have nine others. For the moment.”

2. Vir: “Now! Do you want to finish our little conversation spoo for brains?”

And one more image for the road:

I paused at this exact moment and I couldn't NOT use it.

//TAGS | 2022 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.

EMAIL | ARTICLES



  • -->