Five Thoughts on Babylon 5‘s “War Without End, Part 2”

By | October 1st, 2020
Posted in Television | % Comments

Last Time on Babylon 5: We did the Time Warp Again, no one listened to Zathras, and Sheridan was stolen by a space will-o-wisp. This time? We do the Time Warp Again, no one listens to Zathras, and Babylon 4 is stolen by a space will-o-wisp. 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. Believe in the One Who Believes in You

I’m a little disappointed that Marcus’ frustration with Sinclair at the end of “War Without End, Part 1” didn’t come to anything. Sure, he gets a couple good lines when with Ivanova, though they’re totally unrelated, but I was expecting a bit more conflict between the two. Marcus had grown to respect Sheridan and Sinclair, despite his important position in the Rangers, had shown a willingness to put Sheridan’s plight aside. That would’ve made for some delicious, delicious animosity. It’s ultimately unimportant, as it wasn’t really built up to be a longer term frustration from Marcus, it’s just my desire to see more happen in this episode where SO MUCH HAPPENS OH MY GOD.

If “War Without End, Part 1” felt like a light appetizer, then “Part 2” are the other four courses all at once. All the set-up and exposition of the last episode pays off this week. Considering JMS had to also pay off an episode from two years prior, as well as two years of teases, this episode completely delivered, even if it could feel a bit overstuffed at times.

2. Um, Actually, The Tachyon Field Should Be Blue, Not Blueish Green

That overstuffed feeling is most likely because the episode had to accomplish a lot in order to send Sinclair off in style. To accomplish this, JMS had to cut a bunch, something he brought up in his contemporaneous blogging and interacting with fans on the early internet. This chopping and tight timelining, combined with him writing this as one 90-minute episode rather than 2, 42-45 minute ones, meant that some continuity mistakes snuck in with regards to “Babylon Squared”.

Things like Major Kranz never mentioning the explosion to Sinclair or the presence of unknown hostiles or changed explanations for the time drive are nitpicky while costume colors changing, make-up changes (Zathras looks rather more shiny in season 3,) or the location of where Zathras is found because the original scene would have added a minute too much to the run-time are fun examples of the limitations placed upon TV episodes. Ultimately, they’re problems only because time-travel plots are notoriously fickle to make things “fit” and it’s fun to see where practicality and fallibility of the creators runs into the fiction.

Zathras is never a mistake. *tsch tsch tsch* Never a mistake

Now, as for mistakes that cropped up because of Sinclair’s departure, I have no confirmation on what, if anything, changed when Sinclair had to leave the show. JMS has said the broad strokes were the same and, while I presume certain details of this episode would have played out differently, the major plot points remained the same. The only question then is which pieces in “Babylon Squared” had to be shifted and which were always built to be ambiguous with an answer to be written later. My guess is most of the details were left ambiguous for mystery reasons and to leave room for JMS to adjust based on the unforeseen and the spontaneous while the big, big choices were set-in stone, with only a couple tweaks here and there to make them fit.

Like, Sinclair going back in time apparently was always the plan. However, would this episode have come much later in the series had O’Hare been able to stay or was always going to leave the show earlier than the rest of the cast? Should the latter have happened, would either a different, new character step in or would Ivanova have taken center stage?

Then you have smaller details like the mysterious astronaut appearing and disappearing. Originally, it’s implied to be Sinclair. Here, we know it’s Sheridan, and then in a final moment twist turns out to be Delenn. Had it played out like originally implied, since Sheridan had not existed, Sinclair’s declaration that he failed to warn them may have been in reference to the time-slips rather than his ill-fated, impulse attempt to warn Garibaldi. Or maybe it was always meant to be Delenn, and Sinclair would have switched at the last second.

Continued below

Or or or. . .Or maybe it’s all pointless to speculate. Writing is a process by which plans are revisited and revised and thrown out. Any number of things can affect a story and what matters is whether or not it worked. And “War Without End” works within the context of the show we have. All else is a timeline that never existed.

3. Londo & G’Kar’s Excellent Murder Pact

Wow. I. . .honestly. I did not see this coming. Here I was, thinking Londo had missed every opportunity to turn himself around. He squandered his chance in “Interludes and Examinations” and I saw him being Emperor here as a sign that he continued to sacrifice his soul. But that’s not the case. Instead, he fights back, at the eleventh hour, against the thing that monitors him. Perhaps he even fought back before, only to be punished with this mind-slug-creature.

Whatever the case, he, in his final two acts of defiance against evil, releases Delenn and Sheridan and asks G’Kar to do what he had wanted to do for years and what Londo had seen in his visions, strangle him to death. It is a mutual end for two bitter enemies and begrudging comrades. A complicated relationship until the end, and a damn fine scene. Hats off to you Peter Jurasik. Hats off.

Heavy is the neck that wears the necklace

Oh, and we mustn’t forget that reveal with Vir. I guess we now know the order in which Vir & Londo become emperors. Poor Vir.

4. Love Transcends Time

Aaaaaaannnnnnddddd kiss

It’s been at least a whole season building to this point but these two finally kissed! It’s just. . .you know, not exactly the way we would have thought it would happen. For Sheridan, it’s his first kiss with Delenn. For Delenn, it’s not. For Sheridan & Delenn, it is something they’ve wanted to do for a long time but the reasons for why are totally different.

Delenn has been separated from Sheridan for, presumably, years after he went to Z’Ha’Dum and potentially died. They have a son and she is overjoyed that she can inform Sheridan of his safety. Sheridan has wanted to kiss Delenn, as their love has bloomed over the last year or so, but something got in the way each time. The kiss is one of triumph and tragedy. Of love lost, regained, and, soon, lost again. This kiss actually reminds me of a story of King Solomon. Bear with me if you know the story already.

One day, King Solomon called one of his advisors to the throne room. He asked him to find the greatest treasure in the land and bring it to him. When the Advisor asked what kind of treasure, Solomon responded that he wanted an object that could make the owner happy when they were sad and sad when they were happy. Expense or distance was no issue but the Advisor was told not to return until the treasure was in his possession. An impossible task, for sure, but one cannot defy the king and so, heeding his words, the Advisor set out to find the treasure.

He looked high. He looked low. He searched in big markets and in small towns. After months of searching every lead he could find, he was no closer to finding the greatest treasure in the land. For how could he?! Solomon already had a vault full of gold and jewels and other finery; his palace was adorned with the greatest tapestries and his shelves full of the wisest scrolls written by the wisest people. Surely among his many books or baubles, there was something which invoked a great melancholy and a great joy depending on the season?

Dejected, the advisor followed one last lead. There was tale of a Jeweler whose pieces were said to have a magical effect on all who wore them. Skeptical but willing to try anything, the Advisor went to this Jeweler’s store. Welcomed by the Jeweler, he was invited to look at the wares.

There were necklaces of ruby and sapphire, which glittered in the setting sun’s light, enough to bring a person to tears. Emerald earrings glinted and jingled, bringing a giggle to all who looked at them. Bracelets made of hammered gold and silver shimmered, delicately entwined like lovers, reminding the Advisor of his great love waiting for him at home. It filled his heart with a joy like no other and a sadness unlike anything else. Surely, this must be the piece the king was after. He told the Jeweler of his task, and how he believed this bracelet must be the piece, the Jeweler nodded and said no, that is not the piece that feeds the legends of the shop.

Instead, the Jeweler reached behind the desk and pulled out a simple, golden band. Roughly cut and simple, the Jeweler held it up to the candlelight, inspecting the inside. After some polishing, the Jeweler handed the ring over to the Advisor. The Advisor could not believe his eyes. This was the great treasure? Why, the King had hundreds, thousands of these rings? What made this one ring so special? As disbelief and a crashing sense of despair crossed his face, the flickering candlelight caught on a small engraving in the ring. Upon seeing the words written there, a smile crossed the Advisor’s face.

Upon his return to the court, King Solomon was awestruck by the presentation. Unable to contain his laughter, the King asked how the Advisor could think a ring as plain as that was the greatest treasure. He laughed and laughed, as if this presentation were the funniest thing in the world, such an unexpected shock was this. The Advisor, retaining his own smile, asked the King to read what it said inside. Suddenly, the King grew silent, and a single tear rolled down his face. It was in that moment that the King knew this ring truly was the greatest treasure in the land. For inside were the words Gam Zeh Ya’avor, This Too Shall Pass.

On days of great joy, it will remind him that all his accomplishments and all his treasures are naught but dust in the face of time. On days of great sadness, they will remind him that even the darkest nights soon give way to a bright day. Such is the power of these words.

Continued below

I tell this story 1) because I hate short articles apparently and 2) because Sheridan & Delenn each have their own This Too Shall Pass moments. For Sheridan, he knows that the successes of that day will give way to great sacrifices and great tragedy. For Delenn, in her darkest moments, she is given a moment of happiness and peace before being shown a path towards light once again. The kiss is bittersweet but that too, shall pass.

5. Michael O’Hare: 1952-2012

I’ve gone on a lot so far but bear with me just a little longer so I can give a proper farewell to Jeff Sinclair and his actor, Michael O’Hare. Sinclair was the character who set the tone for Babylon 5. His diplomatic style defined that first season and was a large part of why I fell in love with the show. Was his acting always perfect? No, but no one was in those early days. His rapport with the rest of the cast on screen was strong and that was much more on display in this episode than in the previous one. It is a great send-off for the character and the man.

I’ve mentioned before why Michael O’Hare left the show when he did, that the reasons for his departure were kept a secret out of respect for the actor by JMS until O’Hare’s death in 2012. O’Hare suffered from paranoid delusions, which, I believe, were a symptom of his schizophrenia. They manifested slowly over the course of season one but got worse and worse until JMS and team felt he would not be able to return for season two which, at the time, was not even guaranteed.

When Michael O’Hare felt stable enough to work again, I wrote a two-part episode to give his character closure and provide a chance for him to shine as an actor. He came through experience exhausted but exhilarated. There was no way he could handle the stress of working full-time on a TV series, but this would allow him to end his role honorably and remind the town that he was available for guest roles, a prospect that helped lift his spirits. He also appreciated that his situation had been treated with discretion. “Don’t worry,” I told him, “I’ll take this secret to my grave.”

He considered this for a moment, then said, “I have a better idea: take it to my grave. If anything happens to me, I want you to talk about it publicly. If people can know this can happen to a lead actor in a TV show, the commander of a space station, they’ll know it can happen to anybody. Maybe that knowledge can help somebody else down the road.”

And with that we parted.
Becoming Superman pp. 346-47

In the years after, Michael improved but then his condition took a turn for the worse as he began to stop taking his medications. JMS speculates that it was either because those around him convinced him that he did not need to constantly take them or he convinced himself. Either way, after that, he spiraled to the point that he was no longer recognizable as the Michael O’Hare from before and he eventually fell into a coma and died after having a stress-induced heart attack.

The symbol of peace, as he shouts, I Am Here.

Sadly, he was not the first B5 cast member to die suddenly and early; Richard Biggs, Jeff Conaway, Andreas Katsulas, and Tim Choate (Zathras) all died before him, while Jerry Doyle and Stephen Furst died in 2016 and 2017 respectively. There’s an entire list of B5 deaths and, though much of the list is of older guest actors, the ones who are not and the percentage of main cast members dead remains striking.

In his final performance, Michael O’Hare brought Sinclair back to life and reminded us why his character was there in the first place without letting us forget that he had changed. The same was true for the person. O’Hare’s legacy on Babylon 5 is his legacy in life. A complicated and rocky one, full of precipitous highs and low, one which was over too soon but thankfully given a coda within which to say goodbye. He will be missed on the show. He will be missed in real life.

Continued below

Goodbye, Valen Neė Jeffery Sinclair. Goodbye Michael and good night.

Join me again in a week for something a little lighter on the station that, in the year of the Shadow War, became something greater.

This is Elias. Signing out.

Best Line of the Night:

Zathras: “You are finite. Zathras is finite. This. . .is wrong tool. Never use this.”

//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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