Things get real dark because of Londo, Sheridan and Delenn continue to have great chemistry, and I’m almost convinced Benny Hill composed the music this week. 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.
1. “52” Done Right
Anyone else wondering why the chyrons say Z minus 14/12/10? Isn’t it supposed to be T as in time? This strikes me as odd. It’s certainly a deliberate choice but the why of it eludes me? Is it a reference to the fact that the season finale is called “Z’Ha’Dum,” that planet of dust and death? Is it a special space time measurement? Did the person making the chyrons legitimately fuck up and no one caught it? Is it all an elaborate ruse to trick the audience into thinking this will be the what Delenn was warning Sheridan about, the same event that Kosh warned was now inevitable, when really that will come farther down the line? IS ZED EVEN REAL OR IS IT A HALLUCINATION CAUSED BY SPACE FEVER?
Whatever the reason, it’s done a bang-up job of getting me worried about the potential of BOOM or a major death in the coming two episodes and I am not ready to lose any of the central few.
2. Cute; Adjective. Synonym of AWWWWWWWWWW
Sheridan & Delenn’s romance is the kind of slow burn I wish I saw in the other shows I normally review. It’s genuine and meaningful and never in your face. The development of their attraction was handled through glances, actions, awkward stammers and worry in the face of destruction. No long speeches. No episode long hand wringing where the writing is more on the nose than a clown’s red one. Just a series of moments that, looking back, mark a clear path but at the time were just that.
It makes the kiss at the end triumphant and Delenn’s fussing over Sheridan at the start endearing. The banter warms my heart and in an episode, and a season, that portents only more darkness and tragedy to come, we need a little warmth to make it through the coming cold.
3. No, Mr. Cotto. I Want You to Cry.
Poor Vir. What a shitty day he’s having. First he’s threatened by Londo in a deeply chilling scene, then he’s forced to betray G’Kar by feeding him false info. Then he finds out it was for a petty reason. THEN he’s kidnapped and tortured by a Centauri telepath & Lord Refa AND THEN he finds out that what he thought he knew wasn’t true and that Londo was playing him like a fiddle the entire time. The two hadn’t been close in a while but this will almost certainly strain what little respect Vir had left for Londo.
It’s a brutal episode for him and Stephen Furst deserves much praise. Hell, the entire main cast deserves praise for keeping these characters dynamic and evolving alongside the scripts but with Vir & Furst, the change has been more gradual as he’s grown and changed. Vir is not the same comic relief, slapstick character he was back in season one. Nor is he the same person that was originally sent to Minbar as an Ambassador. He is standing up to Londo. . .and is paying the price for being stuck in his political games. It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here on.
I should also note that I had a feeling something more was going on with G’Kar but I genuinely did not expect Londo to be the one to have warned G’Kar about the trap and to play along. Once that was revealed, I figured the guards were paid off or something since what Londo really cared about was a personal revenge rather than the credit for capturing the final member of the Ka’ri.
That’s some layered plotting, making Londo into a formidable foe in the coming war. The scheming is nothing new to Babylon 5 but the single minded focus, masterful manipulation of every party involved, and driving ambition for cruelty is. Londo’s actions this week seal his pact with Morden and while it’s very nice to see Lord Refa get his just desserts, it’s bittersweet knowing Londo had simply turned him into a sin offering.Continued below
G’Kar seems to recognize this. Refa may be gone, there may be a modicum of justice, but the system remains and Homeworld is still subjugated.
2,000 more Narn are free. How many more must be rescued before one can call it a victory?
4. Something Something Jesus Good Word Joke
I’m Jewish. It’s no secret that I’m Jewish. I wrote an entire article that centered that fact. I say this because I’m pretty unclear about the differences between the various denominations of Christianity. Like, why is it the word Christian is both a catch-all as well as specifically excluding Catholics? What’s the material differences between Anglicans, Protestants and Evangelical Christians other than the first is tied to the Church of England, the second a result of the Protestant Reformation and the final being *shrugs and looks at the non-helpful Wikipedia page*?
I say this, 1) to be facetious, and 2) because I’m not sure if the animosity between Brother Theo and Reverend Will is because of some theological difference, some practical (i.e. the actual practices) difference, or because the two people don’t particularly like each other. Neither Theo nor Will have a 1-to-1 denomination, though their garb & attitudes signal their potential alignment, and because I know little about historical animosities, I cannot comment on that.
Theo certainly comes off as a stick in the mud who doesn’t know how to have fun. His attitude actually reminds me of the story of how the Chasids came into being back in the time of the Bal Shem Tov (think 1800s Eastern Europe.) I’ll spare you the details but basically, they believed that prayer and practice must be joyous, loud, and that it is this spirit that animates a good prayer, rather than the monotonous and rote prayer of that era’s Rabinic Judaism.
Reverend Will comes from a similar tradition, from what I understand of Pentecostalism and black gospel music (which, again, is very little.) This conflict of approaches could very well be at the root of Theo’s distaste for Will’s approaches and vice versa.
It’s also important to note that Theo channels white attitudes towards black culture in his initial barbs. I’m not sure JMS was aware of what he was doing but it’s a nice bit of critique by putting those words into Theo’s mouth, who is framed throughout the episode as the grouch who needs to reevaluate his attitudes. This is further reinforced by Reverend Will’s sage wisdom to Sheridan later in the episode.
Whatever the reason, I wish we had gotten more of this plotline or, at the very least, these characters.
5. Ah Crap. Switched the Tapes.
I don’t really know how I feel about the choice to juxtapose the scene of Lord Refa being brutally murdered by a group of Narn and the crew of B5 singing the titular hymn. By placing an upbeat song over the killing, it makes the scene read as humorous, which doesn’t feel right. Not that Refa’s death should be accompanied by a “tragic” or a triumphant score but it doesn’t feel in line with the show’s approach to death.
Then again, the hymn itself is all about being unable to hide from G-d’s wrath; that when you have done a great wrong, not even the rocks will allow one to hide. (Or it’s about the rapture but let’s not dwell on that now.) The juxtaposition between the words’ dark but righteous meaning and lively way in which it is sung is already baked in and so all the episode is doing is adding a visual reflection of that sentiment. It’s clever and further reinforced by G’Kar walking away from the scene, clearly still unhappy as the song fades and becomes less joyful. I will admit it I may be the only one who sees this as a contrast of tones, that the words and tune are not at odds, but there’s a part of me that sees Refa’s death not as a celebratory moment.
It is not a tragic nor an unearned one but is it, like the one in the hymn, truly something to be celebrated? Or is it something to be mourned, for it meant the person was too far gone to ever atone and the only way to remove them from a place of doing damage was through death? I don’t know and I don’t know the story of the original hymn. It remains, to me, a jarring scene. . .but that may also be because 95% of the Jewish songs I know are in a minor key, even the happy ones.Continued below
One last observation about this scene. You can really tell that most of the crew behind the camera is white and used to a somber service with how awkward everyone looked. I was laughing so hard at this, especially watching Lennier & Delenn who have no reference point for what’s going on but are trying to be polite. Also, Rabbi Mark being into it and knowing all the words was a flub on JMS’ part since the hymn is New Testament but that makes it all the better.
That about does it for now. Join me again in a week for the penultimate episode of the season, an ominous title, and almost certainly things going wrong on the station that, in the year of the Shadow War, became something greater.
This is Elias. Signing out.
Best Line of the Night:
Delenn: “Ivanova sent me to find you. She said you haven’t been sleeping. That you’ve barely been eating. She said that you have been, in her words, carrying on cranky. I looked up the word cranky. It said, grouchy. I looked up grouchy, it said crotchety. No wonder you have such an eccentric culture. None of your words have their own meaning. You have to look up one word to understand another. It never ends.”
Sheridan: “Somethign here doesn’t make sense.”
Delenn: “That’s what I thought when I came across crotchety. This cannot be a real word.”