Babylon 5: Falling Toward Apotheosis

b5What a great title, huh?  Apotheosis is the elevation of someone to divine status, which is the goal of Centauri Emperor Cartagia.  But the episode focuses a lot more on Sheridan and the Vorlon problem and it’s evident from the start that people on the station are looking at Sheridan as if he’s some form of god.  Now to enhance the brilliance of the title, it’s “falling toward” godhood.  If godhood is the pinnacle, where does one come from to be falling toward it?

As the Vorlon/Shadow conflict is increasing and season 4 is just in the first few episodes, we wonder where things can go.  On the plus side, we have an episode that did not need to open with a “captains log”.  Well… actually we did get one, but it was in the form of a news broadcast which worked far better.  Ivanova is scared and she knows the Vorlon planet killers are coming.  A scary thought indeed.  Garibaldi is crankier than normal, unsure if he’s more afraid of winning or losing, but he is making some damned good points about how people are reacting to his ordeal when it’s Sheridan that is walking around the station like the second coming, complete with a disciple of sorts.  I actually think Zack has a moment to shine in the way he handles Garibaldi and he doesn’t do a bad job with the woman who is in awe of Sheridan either.

On Centauri Prime, Londo is up against a madman and the way he plays Cartagia could form a class in corporate manipulation.  It’s great fun, but I need to compliment the actor playing Cartagia; it must have been such a delightful role to play and he nails the psychotic character perfectly!   Jurasik plays his role beautifully too!  When Cartagia takes Londo to see his shadow cabinet (an ironic title on many levels), Jurasik plays the part for all its worth.  The look of horror and disgust is amazing, coupled with the handkerchief over the mouth and nose, it’s a stunning performance.  (*Did the head next to Londo look familiar?  It’s a cast of Andreas Katsulas!  There’s a story here: JMS put it there to steal the scene from Jurasik.  It almost works!)  But there’s an interesting thing about the dialogue between Cartagia and Londo.  When Cartagia says the whole planet will burn in a funeral pyre to his godhood, he says “Let it all end in fire!”  Those who remember Kosh’s words to the previous Centauri Emperor might recall the answer to “how will it all end?”  Kosh simply says “In fire”.  Was this something Kosh saw coming?  Or does it mean something else entirely?  If it does mean what Cartagia intends, this bodes very badly for Centauri Prime!

That said, I’m going to say no, it surely can’t mean what it sounds like.  If the Vorlon were capable of future sight, wouldn’t Kosh 2.0 know what was coming in this episode?  Oh, Sheridan does a good job sending Garibaldi and his men into the battlefield with Kosh 2.0 but surely Kosh would have foreseen that?  Sheridan has a bigger plan in mind anyway and it involves our resident telepath, Lyta.  After the recent look into her personal life where we see the abusive lifestyle Kosh is forcing on her, we understand why she turns on him but why she suddenly starts acting like she can’t walk is anyone’s guess!  Still, the result is a great moment where the old Kosh comes back to fight his replacement.  The result: both Vorlons appear to be destroyed.  Unfortunately, it also kills Sheridan again.  Lorien brings him back but it has a price tag.

Unlike some of us, the love between Sheridan and Delenn was a highlight for me when I first saw this show.  (I admit, that was during a difficult time in my life and maybe it echoed to something I longed for, but whatever the reason, I really appreciated their relationship.)  So when he and Delenn have a chat about the price tag associated with coming back, it has two beautiful components.  In reverse order, it leads to an engagement between them.  As Sheridan says, they might not survive the next 2 weeks, but he wants her to have the ring.  (Notice how well Furlan plays the role too; she doesn’t know what an engagement ring is when it’s presented to her; a subtle look conveys the confusion and it’s done quite believably.)  The other thing is that we learn that he will only have about 20 years to live “and then, one day, he will simply, stop.”  Needless to say, Delenn is upset, but Sheridan rightly points out that it’s 20 years more than he would have had when he (permanently) died on Z’Ha’Dum.  But that’s not the important part.  It’s that it gives a great deal of clarity into her comment in the future (from War Without End) when they appear 17 years in the future.  She says “do not go to Z’ha’dum”.  She says it while they are in the cell awaiting “execution” before Londo actually frees them.  I strongly believe she is telling him before it happens, knowing that if they survive the execution, it will give them only 3 more years.  (I do wonder too, if this episode is partly why Londo let’s Sheridan and Delenn go in that future.  He does say to Sheridan that he owes him a favor, after all.  But that does seem like a good deal in the future, so maybe it’s not connected.)

So the episode shows us two types of godhood: Sheridan as he has been resurrected and is looked upon a something far greater than a leader and Cartagia as he prepares to allow his own planet to be destroyed to become a god.  One wonders if JMS was saying something about religion in this story.  We then wrap the episode with Londo and Cartagia getting ready to go to Narn to put G’Kar on trial.  Cartagia doesn’t like the way G’Kar is looking at him and asks Londo what to do.  Londo does not act and as a result, Cartagia decides to pluck out is eye.  Thankfully we don’t see it happening but we now know why G’Kar of the future wears an eye patch.  At least that means he survives, right?  And if you are really attentive, you notice another curious thing: as the door closes and the camera moves closer to it before the fade to black, we hear… nothing.  Nothing, because G’Kar, even while losing an eye, will not give Cartagia the satisfaction of another scream.  Even with that little screen time, G’Kar stole the show again…  ML

The view from across the pond:

Since when was Ivanova a newsreader? The camera zooms in on the dramatic bits, and she even gets handed bits of paper with the latest developments. Wait a minute, she’s not just a newsreader, she’s a 1990s newsreader! I suppose it makes a change from all the diary entries.

With Garibaldi and Sheridan back on the station, this week’s episode examines the difference between how their returns have been handled. When you drill down to the details, there are strong similarities. Both have been captured by the Shadows and both have escaped. Both are therefore remarkable and both should be approached with caution, in case the Shadows wanted them to escape for some reason. But their treatment is very different. Everyone is looking at Sheridan as if he is some kind of a messiah, and the camera angle when he walks through the station is from his viewpoint to emphasise that, with lots of supporting artists doing their best to look in awe of him without overacting too much. In contrast, everyone keeps asking if Garibaldi is OK, which is simply veiled suspicion, but nobody’s questioning Sheridan. Garibaldi has a point, and it’s strange that nobody else can see that.

“Is it my imagination or is Mr Garibaldi crankier than usual?”

It’s hardly surprising. Without being confided in, he is asked to go and tell Kosh 2.0 to leave and he can only take a small team with him. When he raises an objection he’s told to go do it anyway, which is not so far removed from a suicide mission. His “trusted men” are about to die, and possibly Garibaldi along with them. In the end, it’s pure luck that Kosh 2.0 doesn’t decide to kill them all, something he would have been quite capable of if he put his mind to it.

Luckily Sheridan’s plan does eventually come together, with the help of Lyta and what’s left of Kosh 1.0. It’s an achievement, but surely the Vorlons would simply send Kosh 3.0 to the station if they wanted to, and B5 realistically has no defence. That’s the trouble when a writer sets up the enemy as an all-powerful, near-indestructible foe. You have to gloss over things like that and have them constantly fail to do the obvious thing to secure victory.

We also learn more about the nature of Sheridan’s revival. I was pleased that Lorien is not being sold as a god any more and that turned out to be a red herring, because I just didn’t buy the way JMS was selling that one.

“There is no magic, nothing spiritual about it.”

Sheridan has about 20 years left at the most, which is a clever revelation because it’s a slow burn shocker. At first you think, oh, well, that’s alright, and then the realisation dawns that it sounds like a lot of time but time passes quicker than you realise. It is now more than 20 years since this episode was made, after all. Delenn’s horror is immediate though, and I think that underlines her love for him very well. Their relationship develops further this episode. Sheridan is a smooth talker:

“I only held onto one thing: the image of your sweet face.”

But that smooth talk only earns him a hug. Just when I was thinking how ridiculous it was they they are still huggy but never kissy, Sheridan popped the question and earned himself his first smacker. They certainly held that back for the right moment.

The mystery about Garibaldi deepened a little, with another of his flashbacks. This latest one involved a lot of clingfilm. He’s being less than honest by keeping that to himself. Also being economical with the truth is Morden, who is looking a bit less crusty than last time. He tells Londo that the Vorlons don’t want lots of civilian casualties but we already know they don’t care about that. Cartagia continues to be a monster who rivals his obvious source of inspiration, Caligula, and Londo is playing a clever game by using his pride against him. He’s not quite clever enough though. When Cartagia asks what to do about the way G’Kar looks at him, couldn’t he have suggested a blindfold or something? It was grimly obvious what was going to happen next.

“Pluck out his eye.”

I really don’t like that guy.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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