The denouement of the series continues, things go shooty-shooty-bang-bang, and Shakespeare’s “parting is such sweet sorrow” finally makes sense. Welcome my friends. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2262. The place: Babylon 5.
1. Engage, Number One
One of the great tragedies of doing this column is looking up all the actors for characters I love only to find out they’ve been in, like, 10 things and haven’t acted in 20 years. I really love Marjorie Monaghan, who plays Number One aka Tessa Halloran (she has a name!), and I wanna see more things she’s in dammit! I’d forgotten how great she can be on screen seeing as it’s been, what? Nearly 20 episodes since her last appearance? Truly a sad realization.
What makes it even sadder is she has the potential to be a pretty important character to Babylon 5 going forward – former Martian resistance leader, now a member of the Mars provisional government and, as of the end of this episode, the new head of Intelligence for the Alliance. She’s also the focal character for all the intrigue on Mars and the facilitator for commentary on neo-colonialism, something we’ve been missing in the tapestry of the show. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of her in the second to last episode of the series.
All that said, it’s a sadness I’m happy to have. These ideas are present to whet the imagination and create footholds for future stories, be they official or in the minds of fans, not as missed opportunities or storytelling failures. They create a sense of continuity, of the ongoing reality of the universe beyond the bounds of what we’ve seen, and it is done masterfully. I’m sad to see this beginning at the end but I’m happy it’s given the space to be as satisfying as it is and be present at all.
2. Doctor Love Is On the Station
This episode may be the horniest episode since the last time Franklin saw Tessa. It’s only for a couple scenes, which last only a couple minutes, but it is palpable and impressive. There are plenty of great slow-burn romances in this show (and some less than great ones.) Tessa and Franklin’s is the opposite: burning bright, burning hot, and burning fast. Yet it’s treated with the same tenderness as all the others. I love it.
And I think they love it too.
3. What Youthful Optimism
Tessa’s presence on the station is actually a minor piece of the episode’s plot but what could I do? Not talk about her antics for two thoughts, now three?
Alright. Alright. I’ll get on with it.
The A-plot of “Objects in Motion” centers on a plot to assassinate Garibaldi and Lise because they might *gasp* discover the war crimes of this humongous company that performed war crimes. What’s fun about this is how low key the whole plot is, both the “plot to kill G&L” and the plot around the plot. It’s taken seriously but there isn’t a lot of screen time really dedicated to making it tense. It’s plain, it’s beat by beat, and it’s mostly there as an exploration of the inevitable consequences of Lise’s husband’s death last season.
I like this decision, especially because it ends with a very cathartic, but decidedly overly optimistic notion of what it takes to take down the corruption of a giant mega-corporation. I think part of my lukewarm reaction to the revelation that it was the board who sent the hit, as well as Garibaldi’s blackmailing them into resigning, is because things are simply different now.
Corporations & their leaders were powerful then but there was an assumption that the rules worked the same for them as others, at least at a certain point; that there could be consequences that stuck and new leadership could impart an actual ethical mandate for these giant mega-corps is a notion that feels as fantastical as telepaths. One needs only to look at “Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radden Keefe to see why.Continued below
Still, that’s a small part of the episode and ultimately a function of what these powerful ghouls would do to try and cover their tracks. I would also argue it’s a red herring to allow for a different and more interesting plot to be explored.
4. What Youthful Fanaticism
For all the fun I and the show’s been having with G’Kar’s newfound fame, the underlying theme was always far darker: the inherent dehumanization and abuse of said fame. That darkness comes to the fore in “Objects in Motion” when G’Kar meets Tra’Nil, the Narn who’d been creating and selling the statues of G’Kar from the previous episode. Tra’Nil is the exact kind of entitled fan who, when confronted with the reality of the thing they worship, turns bitter and rejects what is for what they believe is.
Thus, when G’Kar falls out of favor, we see Tra’Nil’s devotion curdle and fester, talking about how G’Kar is nothing without Narn like him and how G’Kar owes him for not being there anymore for Tra’Nil to study at his feet. We see what G’Kar had feared come to be: he has ceased to be a person in Tra’Nil’s eyes, so much so that he attempts to assassinate the real G’Kar for not living up to the G’Kar he had created in his head, and on his workbench.
While there isn’t a lot of screen time dedicated to the assassination attempt – just two or three scenes; one set up, the other one-to-two pay off – that’s more than enough to get its point across: fan entitlement is a dangerous and scary thing.
This isn’t a revolutionary sentiment but consider how deeply we’ve come to understand this in the internet age. Consider the damage that can be done nowadays in the name of a piece of media, against a person you’ve never met and never will but you think you know intimately. Consider how quickly it escalates and obfuscates the person and their humanity to the point that violence sounds not only OK but necessary. See also: Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue from earlier that year.
It’s always been true that fan culture can be deeply toxic. When one believes they are the ultimate arbiter of what is or is not “true” about a thing or, heaven forbid, a person, any challenge feels like a personal attack or a sledgehammer to a worldview. It’s a mindset that breeds resentment and feeds our worst impulses, excusing terrible actions as necessary to preserve the sanctity of an icon that doesn’t exist except in the mind of the fanatic. There is no room for complexity and contradiction.
While “Objects in Motion” portrays an extreme case, we should all be careful, lest we find ourselves forgetting that there are people – rich, complex, frustrating, wonderful people – behind all the things we love.
5. Wednesday Morning at 3AM
I talked about this feeling of finality in “The Wheel of Fire”. How it’s bittersweet and necessary. I didn’t realize how affecting it would be to have all the goodbyes spread out over the course of two (and almost certainly three) episodes. If last week was the start of the last week of school, then we’ve reached the final day before graduation. We’re actually saying our goodbyes, knowing we’ll only get a couple more chances to see each other again.
G’Kar. Lyta. Garibaldi. They’re all leaving for greener pastures (or redder, in Garibaldi’s case.) Franklin is leaving soon too and then so will Sheridan and Delenn. Lennier and Londo are already gone. Zach will be the only one, save Vir, who will remain on the station of the main cast. It’s hard not to choke up thinking about it. It’s even harder not to when everyone on screen is determined to as well.
I love every single tearful and meaningful goodbye in this episode: G’Kar’s conversation with Sheridan, Garibaldi channeling the spirit of Vin Diesel talking about B5 being a family, and having expected to bite the bullet on the station – something we’d been teased with numerous times too, the promise of Delenn & Sheridan’s 5-mile goodbye walk across, and to, the station, and even Zach’s inability to see Lyta off because of his failures. It’s all so wonderfully, achingly human.Continued below
The lockers are empty. The halls are abuzz for the last time. And the future awaits, scary and wondrous, unknown and inevitable. Two episodes remain. Let’s say goodbye together, shall we?
That about does it for now. Join me again in a week for a heartbreaking turn of events, the passing of the torches, and the rest of this long goodbye on the station where, in the year of no surrenders and no retreats, they got the hell out of our galaxy.
This is Elias. Signing out.
Best Lines of the Night:
1. G’Kar: “We are all the sum of our tears. Too little, and the ground is not fertile and nothing can grow there. Too much, and the best of us is washed away. My rains have come and gone, for now. Yours are just beginning.”
2. Sheridan: “I need some more time to think it over but I’ve had an idea…and you know how dangerous that can be.”
3 Franklin: “When this place was built, I think irony was one of the primary materials used in construction.”