Babylon 5: Divided Loyalties

b5So yeah, we are now in full JMS momentum and the things that have happened up until now can start to take shape.  It’s like we had all the ingredients put into the pot, and now it’s in the oven.  What do we bring together for Divided Loyalties?  Well this is another episode that illustrates how strongly Babylon 5 belonged in our current era of binge-television.  Let’s go over the key events here.  Lyta come to the station to say they have a rat.  She’s going to glare ominously (read: comically) at people until their submerged personality pops out.  Needless to say, this will bring about an attempt on Lyta’s life but what else is new on B5?

So the key players for this have to be Lyta and Talia, but Talia has been getting closer to Ivanova.  Ivanova has a secret which from early on has been hinted at by her aversion to being scanned by a telepath.  Remember season 1’s Eyes when Harriman Grey (the great Jeffrey Combs)  is onboard and he wants to gently scan her surface thoughts?  She’s pretty peeved about that.  And if we consider how the anti-psi drugs work, as we learn more about the connection telepaths share, when her mother was made to take the drugs, Susan would have felt their special connection breaking.  It’s no wonder she hates the Corp!  This whole revelation about Susan’s latent telepathy now makes sense in relation to Sheridan’s Kosh-induced dream during All Alone in the Night when Susan says to him, “Do you know who I am?”  I love the foreshadowing.  But it also begs the question of how close Ivanova had been with Talia.  They clearly shared a bed during the episode (potentially also ahead of its time for network TV) but it is possible, with the limited space on the station, that she had little other choice.  (Neil Page and Del Griffith, anyone?  “You’re messing with the wrong telepath!”)  Did she share more information with her?  Or can we jump back to Mind War again when Talia asks in her huskiest voice, “Do you know what it’s like when telepaths make love?”   Which is why Talia’s story is all over the episodic map.  Also in Mind War, Jason Ironheart gave her a gift.  So either the bad guys have a really powerful weapon in her, or it was erased when the latent personality manifested itself.  (Of course the big question here is: how come Ironheart didn’t detect this buried persona?  Perhaps due to his own traumatic experiences, he didn’t notice it because he wasn’t looking for it?)   The idea of a buried personality was first shared with us in Quality of Mercy, where a hardened criminal was going to be “overwritten” and made a productive member of society again.  Now, assuming there is a loaded weapon in the hands of the bad guys, maybe that was why Kosh had the ViCaR record the data crystal about Talia in DeathwalkerThe whole experience left Talia uncomfortable and maybe that will play a role later.  Who knows where it will lead, if anywhere.  It is possible that her capture is enough; the plan failed and perhaps she is being taken away for good.  As far as I’m concerned, the best part of what happens here is that Talia is taken off the board!  She was hands down my least favorite character and with her gone, the real JMS stuff can begin.

But let’s not lose sight of the other member of the triangle: Lyta.  Since The Gathering when she looked into Kosh’s mind, she’s been connected to the Vorlon home world.  She knows more about what a Vorlon looks like than anyone else, and to compound matters, Kosh lets her see him.  Sadly, he doesn’t let us see him!  So far, only two humans have seen him: Kyle and Lyta.  Kyle is… who knows where.  Lyta is given special access.  Does this mean Kosh trusts her?  Perhaps he entrusted her with more than just his appearance?  So, there is a lot of the past that pops up in this story while it hopefully closes Talia’s story to make way for a better one.  Binge-television indeed.

Now, while this is all going on, I do want to make a few comments.  I don’t mind seeing Delenn trying to be cute with the word “Butt”, but I felt like that was a thing my 5 year old nephew would have liked.  Silliness aside, I do love that Delenn is reading the paper to get information about what’s going on at home and to see how humans perceive the Minbari.  After the events of And Now for a Word, it’s no wonder that she’s paying greater attention, rather than be caught unawares.   She seems to be coming to terms more with her own changes, but how much of that is because of the growing relationship with Sheridan?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see where we go from here.  As part of the overall arc, not a lot happens, but we are now better positioned to move on from here.  All I want to know before moving on is: do the Pak’ma’ra really stink up the bathroom so badly that they need a privately designated one?  And if so… who cleans it?!!  These are some of those things that keep me up at night.  Well, that and the concern that I have a buried personality waiting to pop out!   ML

The view from across the pond:

“Life decides to kick you in the butt.”
“But what?”

That look on Sheridan’s face is priceless, when he realises he’s going to have to explain to Delenn what a “butt” is. Their budding romance moves on a little more this week. They’ve progressed to hand-holding, longing looks and “butt” humour.

Butt but that was just the source of the breather moments this week. The main thrust of the episode was the question of who can you trust in life? How do you know if a person is truly on your side? In a command situation that problem becomes heightened, but especially in the kind of situation Sheridan and his senior officers have found themselves. Not only are they trying to hold everything together in the middle of a war, butt but they are effectively freedom fighters, conspiring against their own corrupt government. If the wrong person finds out what they are up to, they are finished. In light of that, I found it very odd that they would consider inviting Talia into their select group of conspirators:

“I can’t see why she wouldn’t want to help us.”

… because she’s Talia, perhaps? The woman’s so sneaky she can’t even take her gloves off to eat dinner. In the end the idea of confiding in the station’s resident power-dresser is an irrelevant distraction, because it never happens and never can happen now, and the reason for that is… wow, it’s Lyta Alexander, a blast from the past, not seen since the pilot episode.

“Didn’t last long. Was there a problem?”

Yes, she couldn’t act. Unfortunately she still can’t, although she never plumbs the depths of ham acting here that she did in the pilot. Thankfully it doesn’t matter too much, because the storyline is so interesting. Somebody has been “programmed” psychologically to be a spy without knowing it. That’s some revelation. What a way to create paranoia! Fortunately, Lyta has a simple solution – send a password into the minds of the command staff to unlock the monster within, butt but Ivanova has a problem with that. In an episode full of exciting twist and turns, Ivanova has a secret.

“How do you tell someone that you’ve been lying to them for years?”

For the first butt but not the last time this episode, that had me kicking myself that I hadn’t seen the twist coming a mile off. Of course she’s a telepath! It makes perfect sense and the clues have been there all along, although the cleverness of this is that her aversion to being mind-read also made sense in terms of having seen her mother suffer at the hands of the Corps. I was a bit frustrated by how long it took Sheridan to come up with the solution to the problem, which jumped out at me straight away: only allow Lyta to send her the password after everyone else has been done. That way she either avoids being read, or is the mole anyway. He got there in the end, and then rather foolishly forgot about one of the most important people on the station, which was a bit of a silly oversight, and here we come to the second time I was kicking myself.

Talia being the mole should have been blindingly obvious, and I’m sure for many viewers it would have been. Lyta and Talia were kept apart for the whole episode, although they were obvious people to have meet each other much earlier on, and Talia was the one human close to the centre of power who hadn’t been checked (it was never going to be Ivanova, was it). I should have seen it coming a mile off, and I felt a bit silly when it happened and I hadn’t figured it out. I’m not sure whether to attribute that to great writing or my own poor observation skills. Maybe I was just blocking the boring Talia out of my mind as usual.

Butt But by the end of the episode Talia was most certainly not a boring character any more. After nearly two whole seasons at last we had a GREAT Talia episode on our hands, and even more astonishingly a great Talia performance at the end. And presumably this is the end, at least for the character of Talia as a regular on the station. She is, after all, effectively dead:

“The Talia you knew no longer exists.”

Somehow, I doubt it’s going to be the last we see of her though.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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1 Response to Babylon 5: Divided Loyalties

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Talia would of course be a game changer for how certain sci-fi series regulars could meet their exits in the 90s. Babylon 5 itself was a game changer after what Star Trek TNG had revitalized for TV. I’ll admit to having difficulties at the time in absorbing how far TV drama could go in this regard. Yet I could certainly appreciate the intended impacts and the logical decisions behind them. Talia would therefore be most profoundly remembered for the right reasons. Thanks for your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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