Five Thoughts on Babylon 5‘s “Movements of Fire and Shadow”

By | September 28th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

War isn’t enough for some in the Alliance, Franklin & Lyta place themselves in considerable danger, and G’Kar loses his lunch for Londo’s benefit. 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. Loch the Door on the Way Out

Elizabeth Lochley is back! For all of 2 scenes but she’s back in the plot. It’s been quite a number of episodes since we saw her last. I was beginning to worry she’d been written out of the show. Seriously. Had I not spent 600 words on the start of the war in “And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder”, I would’ve commented on how it was odd we haven’t see her in a meaningful way since the end of Byron’s time on the ship.

I get it. All the stuff since has been squarely focused on the fallout from the other big plot – The Shadow War – and Lochley, as station captain, really had little to do with it. Had Ivanova been in her position, like she was intended to be, I suspect we would’ve had a bit more interaction as she had a personal stake in everything rather than being a figure who had to be kept somewhat at arm’s length. It stinks but it makes narrative sense.

Moreover, there’s simply not enough space to fully develop a brand new character, what with this being the final season after an already truncated previous season. That said, I think it was a wasted opportunity earlier to not have Lochley be a more involved and active character in the same ways Byron was. While Lochley is a more interesting and complex character – Byron had the feel of a plot device more often than not, whereas Lochley serves a narrative purpose AND remains a more fleshed out person – Byron had far more screen time, or at least it felt like he did.

Still, I’m hopeful that we’ll get a little more meat out of Lochley’s final couple appearances after this than we did here. Her report was delightfully ominous and set the stage for the current round of hostilities on the station perfectly, and her reactions to Sheridan’s announcement that the White Star fleet was joining the fray told us everything we needed to know about how serious that way, even if that was all she was here to do.

We need more scowl, asap

2. That’ll Be Both Your Arm and Your Leg Please

I knew Lyta had changed since “Phoenix Rising” thanks to her dream invasion of Garibaldi but I think this episode really shows just how much she’s changed in her day to day. She’s confident, aloof, and 100% single-mindedly driven in creating that better place Byron promised. And she’s also a lean, mean, capitalist machine as she drives up the price of her help for Vir, a longtime friend, to help retrieve the bodies of fallen Centauri.

It’s hard to watch because on the one hand, fuck yeah. Get that money. Build that homeworld. On the other, she seems detached from the people she used to call friends and from the morality she used to have. It’s not gone and it’s not even “twisted” but it is being superseded by this other goal. In her quest to no longer be used by anyone, and to secure a safe future for telepaths, things like friendships don’t mean shit if she has to stick her neck out without greater benefit.

I guess Garibaldi taught her that lesson too well last season.

3. Make Revenge, Not War

I think if this season had a subtitle that wasn’t as thematic and appropriate as ‘Wheel of Fire,’ it would have to be “The Drazi Make Everything Worse” because I think you can trace back almost every source of friction in season 5 to their government or ambassadors. I won’t complain more than I already have about this and instead will turn to what they did this week that was so bad.

They, along with the Narn and a few others from the Alliance, sent their ships to Centauri Prime to, essentially, raise it to the ground.

Continued below

It hasn’t happened yet – this is part one of a two-parter – but it’s a moment we’ve had teased for nearly 2 years. There are a couple moments in prior seasons where it looked like this fate may have been avoided, like when Vir killed Emperor Cartagia and they sent the Shadow fleet away, but sadly it seems like this was the real moment. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about Londo & G’Kar next time, as they will be on the planet when the attack comes.

This was instigated by the Drazi for no reason other than revenge. Not to stop an injustice or to stop the war but instead to fulfill a desire for retribution, in part because they cannot admit they had a hand in making those instigating incidents worse. Revenge is a corrosive motive, always destructive and, in this case, exactly what the Drakh (and the Drakh controlled/aligned Centauri) want.

4. It’s Not A Body…It’s an Egg.

For much of the episode, the B5 crew is trying to figure out what the Centauri’s plan is. We, the audience, know that there really isn’t any plan other than instigating a war, or can figure it out at least, but it’s the details that are the sticking points. How is it that the Drakh were able to convince so many people and keep their ultimate goals a secret? At first, I thought it was pretty simple: the military command had put control aliens or gotten sympathetic Centauri to carry out the attacks on cargo ships.

They’d done worse during their attacks on Narn, after all.

As it turns out, Lyta and Franklin discover it was a different Shadow technology that allowed the royal court to maintain complete deniability, and thus keep pretending that it was all propaganda from the Alliance. That’s right: they broke out the eggs of doom.

OK. Maybe they’re not eggs of doom but they are an organic auto-pilot for the Centauri ships sent to carry out the attacks. No bodies, no proof that it wasn’t just stolen ships or a frame job. It’s a clever plan and the introduction of the new tech carried the right amount of shock and believability. It was a moment when everything kind of clicked into place for both us and for the B5 crew when it was revealed, leading beautifully into the final couple scenes of the episode.

5. It’s My Empire. I’ll Burn It If I Want To.

While I want to talk about G’Kar vomiting to help Londo save face – what a champ he is – can we all appreciate Damian London’s performance as Regent Virini? Fucking chilled me to my BONES, he did.

It starts off funny but off-kilter, as we’ve already been primed to know what’s going on, even if we don’t actually know what any of it really means yet, but then it slowly builds, never losing its wistful, flighty edge as each subsequent sentence is filled with more and more dread. As if it’s bubbling up from under the surface, all the awful things Virini had to do on behalf of the Drakh.

I know I backloaded these images but damn if the second half didn't have all the great moments

He is finally free, or at least as free as he can be knowing his death is mere hours away and that the one who showed him the most kindness is fated for something worse than him. We haven’t seen the last of Regent Virini, but these may be his final true moments. The rest, as they say, is epilogue.

He never did get to change those drapes, did he?

That about does it for now. Join me again in a week for the burning of Centauri Prime, the fate of Delenn, and Londo learning more than he should on the station where, in the year before the signs and portents, there was a hole in your mind.

This is Elias. Signing out.

Best Image (and Lines) of the Night:

Coming soon: Boneless Londo

1. Virini: “Oh, there will be peace…for a while. It never lasts, really. They said so. They said both things, actually; that there will be peace, and that it won’t last. They also said I would be dead by morning and that tomorrow…you will be emperor.

They said many, many things…things I didn’t want to hear…things I didn’t understand…and things I didn’t want to understand.”

2. Virini: “I think I’ll stay and watch from here. The sky should be lighting up anytime now. I imagine…it will be…quite beautiful.”

//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.


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