Babylon 5: Interludes and Examinations

b5I have been looking forward to talking about this powerhouse episode for a long time.  I wanted to talk about that episode-defining moment when Sheridan confronts Kosh.  Interludes and Examinations is one of those strong episodes that just gets the blood pumping.  Sheridan finds a victory for his Army of Light and we are given hope that things could get better.  And then we suffer a massive loss.  Captain Cryptic is taken from us.  But something completely unexpected happened when I was skimming the episode trying to get to the scene when Kosh and Sheridan face off.  A technician said something that derailed me…

Alright, let’s be fair and take a step back.  This episode opens with Ivanova giving us a rundown of how things are going, reminding us that the Shadows have started their attack.  As the music builds, we see Morden is back on the station, Franklin is abusing stims, and even Kosh seems to be afraid.  “When the Vorlon go to ground, you have to worry.”  But at least season 1’s Adira is coming back to see Londo.  (Yeah, she goes back to episode 4, Born to the Purple!  Nothing like a well-built universe, huh?)  Of course, even that goes bad and Londo loses her too.  With the Shadows on the station, things are going from bad to worse.  Sheridan needs a victory and he goes to Kosh for help.  But Kosh won’t have it.  “Don’t turn your back on me!”  Sheridan, however, won’t relent so easily.  The dialogue is amazing but these are two of my favorite characters (if only G’Kar were here…).  Sheridan pushes the envelope: “Unless your people get off their encounter-suited butts and do something… hell my own government wants to kill me and if we lose this war I’m just as dead!”  An impassioned plea but Kosh is just getting angrier!  It was at this point, the technician said there was a non-localized phenomenon.  Now, I remembered the words, but could not think of why.  I let it go and finished my scan of the episode.  Then something stuck in my craw and I became a little annoyed at something.  Kosh says to John “I will not be there to help you when you go to Z’Ha’Dum.”  He had already told John that “if you go to Z’ha’dum, you will die”, so I started to think: he knew he was going to die!  Why did he stay in his quarters?  Why not leave the station?  Why not go to an open area to draw the Shadows out?  Isn’t he supposed to be godlike?

And for the first time in 4 viewings, something hit me.  When I was looking up what episode originated the Vorlon line “understanding is a three-edged sword” (Deathwalker, for the record), I also looked up “non-localized phenomenon” and saw that it came from Passing Through Gethsemane, earlier this season.  That realization turned what I was planning on being a dig against the “brilliance” of Kosh into praise for the brilliance of Straczynski!  Why didn’t Kosh leave his room when he knew his enemy would come for him?  Why didn’t he run from the station?  Same reason Brother Edward didn’t leave his “garden of Gethsemane” in his episode: he knew what had to be done and was ready to face the consequences of that decision; he had the courage to do it.  He also knew the sacrifice was the only way to keep balance, and that’s really what we’ve seen so far: the Vorlon and the Shadows are doing a dance of sorts.  Now that Kosh helped Sheridan, there had to be balance or the Shadows might have decimated everything.  In the moments before he dies, Kosh reaches out to tell John not to be upset because he understood what was happening had to happen!   He ends with that that reminder that as long as John is there, “I’ll always be here”, the same thing Kosh said to John after this dream in All Alone in the Night.  I thought  Passing Through Gethsemane was a good philosophical filler episode but didn’t realize it was preparing us for this moment when Kosh stands his ground.  It’s an incredible realization and it made me want to re-evaluate so much!  How much else have I missed by being so consumed by the story that I wasn’t paying attention?!

Meanwhile,  Franklin has lost sight of what he’s doing and Michael is willing to talk to him about it.  I love the interaction between them because I’ve seen the results of addiction and know how hard it is to get through to the person having the problem.  It’s not easy to watch, certainly, but Michael does the noble thing and tries to reach out to his friend.  Now, Roger has not been a big fan of Franklin and I never thought it was entirely justified until this point.  Just as the war is picking up and things are getting really bad, Franklin resigns his post because he had a problem.  I think it was evident that Michael wanted to help and it’s equally evident that Sheridan needs Franklin at his post, but Franklin does the selfish thing and walks off, like a petulant child.  Which was another spark in my mind: Kosh (and Delenn) have often spoken of the “younger races”.  When Kosh is angry with Sheridan he says “disobedient” and when he appears in John’s dream, it’s as his dad, even calling him “son”.  I may have the benefit of knowing what’s coming ideologically, but I never realized that the Vorlon treat the other races almost like children.  Does Kosh see humans as children?  And is that something to do with the “angelic” nature of his species, or is it something more?  Something to think about, eh?

Kosh is gone just when the Army of Light could really use him.  Franklin is gone just when the station could use him.  Adira is gone just when Londo really could use her.  But while this episode ends on a sad note, watching Kosh’s ship fly into the sun, a last act “in memory of Kosh”, we have won a victory and the Army of Light just had a few races sign on to help.  Surely that’s a good thing… right?  ML

The view from across the pond:

What an oddly structured episode this was. It felt like it reached a climax about halfway through, with the Vorlon battle with the Shadows, and what followed was a strange mix of resolutions and twists in the tail.

The big story here was Sheridan trying to secure himself some allies against the Shadows. Our WW2 allegory continued, with those who could help refusing to do so, on the grounds that they might escape attack themselves, and were wary of possibly joining the losing side. The solution was all about showing them that Sheridan could be on the winning side after all.

“How do you suggest we do that?”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

Just when I was thinking we don’t need another Kosh, it turned out that what Delenn said was supposed to make Sheridan think of Kosh for a reason. He was the one who could provide the victory Sheridan needed to bring in the other powers. There was just one problem with that:

“It is not our time, it is yours. We are not prepared.”

The argument between Sheridan and Kosh was an electrifying moment, if you will excuse the pun. I have been watching Babylon 5 for the first time and I’m not at all in touch with fan opinions apart from knowing that Mike thinks it’s a great show, so I’m never quite sure if I’m out of step with fan opinion or not. So far, my opinions of characters have been validated, with the ones who really weren’t working at all written out completely. This episode was the big moment that validated my opinion of two major characters. I have always found Kosh highly irritating with all his annoying riddles, and this episode illustrated that it was intentional, or at the very least JMS realised how the character would be perceived, and Sheridan gave Kosh some home truths that hit the nail on the head:

“Just who the hell do you think you are?…You haven’t done a damn thing but stand there and look cryptic.”

Yes! Exactly that. When he said “up yours!” to Kosh, he nearly had me punching the air. Kosh is an annoying riddle-monger who needed to be knocked off his high horse.

And then he dies.

It’s fiendishly clever of JMS, and ties in well with Kosh’s reluctance to get involved. It seems almost to have been written to make me feel guilty about not liking Kosh. But at the risk of sounding horribly hard-hearted, he was an annoying character and I’m not sorry to see him written out.

I mentioned that the episode validated my long-standing opinions of two characters, and the second of those is Franklin, who I have been complaining about as the weak link in the line-up for a long time. The one big issue I have mentioned several times is his absolute certainty that he is always right about everything. At long last, he found out that he isn’t. It was a long time coming. His resignation raises the hope that this was a two-for-the-price-of-one episode and we’ve got rid of Mr Riddles and Dr Idiot all in one go, but I doubt we can be that lucky. To be clear, I am not demonising his addiction. That was handled well by JMS. It’s just that Franklin has been a deeply flawed character long before that storyline cropped up, but you would have to go back and read several older reviews to understand my thinking on that.

That’s the A plot and B plot dealt with. Before we get to the C plot, let’s have a little interlude and enjoy our future prediction fail of the week:

“Every time somebody says we’re becoming a paperless society I get ten more forms to fill out.”

No, no, no, no, no. There’s no way people will be filling out forms with pen and paper in 250 years time. It’s about as likely as using ticker tape or waving around semaphore flags.

Our C plot this week required some flashbacks in black and white. I don’t like that. If the writer has to resort to inserting bits of previous episodes to explain what’s going on then either (a) things have got too rambling and complex, or (b) he needs to learn how to do exposition scenes more effectively. This kind of series really needs a pre-credits “previously on Babylon 5”, to avoid such clumsiness. So, in the spirit of a recap…

Previously on The View from the Junkyard:

JMS never quite plays the heroes vs villains game, without having shades of grey. The heroes are frequently flawed, and the villains are complex. Londo and Bester are both great examples of that. They are not moustache-twirlers, but their motivations are clear. We are shown the paths that bring them to where they are, and they are never entirely unsympathetic characters. They might be 95% villainous, but the 5% that remains is sufficient to make them feel much more like real people. In Bester’s case, that 5% is love.

That was what a said last episode, and this week the theme continued by exploring that 5% of Londo, the love that humanises him, and that love died. Importantly, the life he has been leading led him down that road. He poisoned Refa, and his girlfriend was poisoned in retribution. Finding that out was a character-defining moment. When somebody discovers that the life they have been living has led to tragic consequences, two paths lie ahead. They can use it as a catalyst to change their ways, or they can go further down the dark path and truly become a monster.

“All I want now is revenge.”

Londo’s 5% is dead. The monster has awoken.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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3 Responses to Babylon 5: Interludes and Examinations

  1. scifimike70 says:

    The 5% love that can work for an SF villain beings back fond memories of Servalan in Blake’s 7: Sand. Thank you, RP, for making such a thought-provoking point and thank you too, ML.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have really enjoyed your input on my favorite show when I was a kid and you have brought serious insight to a couple episodes that I had not previously thought of during this difficult time by allowing me to reminisce with you divulging further and further into the Biblical references from JMS and the downright Awesome G’Kar References (RIP AK)… but this one really had my mind blown with the analogy to Brother Edward and Kosh. I had honestly really never thought if it that way. Kosh has “fallen on the sword” for Sheridan and the Army of Light and now that I think of the repercussions of what would have NOT happened if the other league worlds had not signed on is pretty mind boggling. Thank you so much for the good read and I hope to get an even better one with WWE parts 1 and 2. The two episodes that I have probably seen over 100 times.

    Liked by 2 people

    • DrAcrossthePond says:

      I couldn’t agree more – one of the best shows ever made. Stay tuned tomorrow for WWE (we are doing it as one episode). It’s such a brilliant series and I think JMS is a genius. Hope to see you back tomorrow. Maybe with a name so I don’t have to call you “anonymous”!
      Oh, but one thing, I only made the connection to Brother Edward when I was thinking Kosh should have run because he knew what was coming. He always knew. So it’s not like I had some deep knowledge. It was a fluke! ML

      Liked by 1 person

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