What makes this a curious episode is that it’s the second of Season 5, one episode after the introduction of Lochley, but she doesn’t so much as make an appearance while Londo has his long night. Instead we have the typical A and B plot, so common in this series. It’s not that that’s a bad idea; it often works quite well, but this time, the two plots only intersect so Vir and Lennier can have a drink at the bar. The scene offers an enjoyable dialogue about that most mysterious temple, the Shirley Temple. Vir proves to be the best Centauri around by embracing his friend, and the two part company.
The intersection takes place because Lennier has decided to leave the station in the hopes of becoming more desirable to Delenn by joining the Rangers. I don’t know if he hopes to come back and swoop her off her feet or if he’s playing a long game in the hopes of waiting for Sheridan to be dead, but whatever the reason, he’s running away. At the same time, Vir is upset because Londo has had a heart attack and despite everything Londo has done, Vir cares about him. Vir is out for a drink, the aforementioned Shirley Temple, to take his mind off Londo, our A plot.
The episode is a character piece with little else going on but what does happen here is Peter Jurasik’s chance to really shine. Needless to say, Andrea Katsulas also shines, but when doesn’t he? In fact, he spends the first 30 minutes of the episode saying nothing, yet carries a presence the whole time. To add to it, when he does speak, he also says “nothing” and carries such gravitas that you can’t take your eyes off him. But it’s Londo who sells his dread. He is forced to relive some of the worst moments of his decisions of the last 5 years. He sees as Narn is blasted from above, destroying an entire planet while he stood by and “said nothing”. Then he relives watching G’Kar being whipped by the mad emperor Catagia. He then relives it himself as his body goes into shock. Here again, G’Kar steals the scene perfectly playing the part of Cartagia all over again.
There are a number of interesting things to observe through the episode. Delenn talks about the array of emotions Londo has evoked in her and her feelings parallel the viewers, especially when we think back to his comedic beginnings. In the dream, she can only ask if he wants to live 3 times. Is this because, as she told Sheridan moments earlier, 3 is a sacred number? It would explain why he starts his dream quest seeking Delenn, that he heard her voice. But could it be that he wants spiritual guidance as well? The notion of “do you want to live” reminds us of the second episode of season 4, exactly one season back, when Lorien asks Sheridan the same thing, this way: “Do you have anything worth living for?” (One of my favorite moments of the series, in fact!) It might not explain why he then finds himself talking to Sheridan but again, we have that Centauri gift of prophesy. He talks to Sheridan as he first met him; Sheridan is wearing his Earth Force uniform. A split second later, he is out of uniform; matching the time that they broke away from Earth. A beat later and Sheridan is in his Army of Light uniform and still later, he’s dressed as the Entil’za, as Zathras had predicted (“You are the one who will be!”). We know Sheridan plans to go to Minbar, so perhaps the white robes are representative, though I did observe that John’s head is hidden. Finally, Sheridan parts in a glowing orb, just as the man did at the end of The Deconstruction of Falling Stars. (Knowing the future of the show really drives home how magnificent this scene was!)
Ultimately it is decided that Londo’s heart can’t bear the weight of the pain he caused. Throughout the episode, he is told to “turn around”. (There’s an entire subject based on the meaning of the word “revert” in the bible, where it does mean, turn around and change your ways, but I’ll leave it there, for the interested reader to investigate on their own!) Londo has to turn around, confront G’Kar and apologize. And when he wakes from his sleep, he sees G’Kar standing there. (G’Kar really did come out of the goodness of his heart, I believe, but perhaps there is a telepathic link between the two.) Londo looks at G’Kar and says “I’m sorry G’Kar!” I got chills and tears welled up in my eyes as much as G’Kar’s. I think G’Kar leaves because he doesn’t want to be seen to be affected, but he most certainly was. And perhaps now, Londo has redeemed himself.
Babylon 5 has some real ups and downs, much like a heartbeat monitor, but when it hits a high note, it really breaks the mold. What an episode! ML
The view from across the pond:
It’s obvious from the title who is going to be the focus character this episode, but there is also a sliver of a B plot featuring Lennier. Perhaps “plot” is too strong a word here, because this is a character-based episode, without any jeopardy from an external force, hence the lack of a guest cast beyond the Minbari who delivers the news about Lennier and some medical staff.
“You have Sheridan now. He is now your other half, and I’m in your way. I’m not comfortable here any more Delenn.”
Although Lennier tries to spin the situation as Delenn not needing him, it’s clear enough what’s going on here. He can’t stand watching the woman he loves in a happy marriage with another man any longer. There is a quite a lot of talking around the subject in terms of Lennier’s pledge to Delenn and the way in which he argues that he isn’t breaking that pledge is little more than politician-speak. Fortunately none of this gets dragged out too much, and Delenn and Sheridan are both quick to figure out what’s really going on. It’s not difficult to read between those lines. Lennier obviously wants to join the Rangers to become the kind of man Delenn would fall in love with. He wants to be a hero like Sheridan. Perhaps he thinks Sheridan won’t be around forever, and he’s probably right.
We get a big hint about that in Londo’s dream sequence, with Sheridan ascending as a point of light. Knowing JMS, this means something. He’s a writer who likes to include hints, but one gets the sense that he’s covering his back with this line, just in case he forgets to resolve anything:
“Prophesy is a guess that comes true. When it doesn’t, it’s a metaphor.”
I love that line though, and I think there’s a lot of truth in it. The art of a good prediction is of course to make it so vague that it could mean anything.
Londo’s dream is symbolic of his fight for life, and the clever bit in the writing is how he realises that pretty much straight away. He knows what’s going on.
“All of the bottles here are empty. The metaphor’s getting a bit thick, don’t you think?”
Most of the regular characters take it in turns to impart some advice. The best of the bunch is Sheridan, with his perspective on death and the brevity of life.
“What matters is what we do while we’re waiting around.”
The only fault with this whole thing was how long it takes to get to the point, especially as it is clear right from the start what the resolution is going to be. As soon as Delenn asks for one word from Londo, it doesn’t take a giant mental leap too figure out what word he is going to have to say and who he is going to have to say it to. When we eventually get there it is a great moment though, with Londo suffering a replay of the torture of G’Kar, until he finally speaks the word that will stabilise his condition: sorry. Importantly, he says it out loud to G’Kar, who just smiles and walks away. Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas: two actors at the top of their game, doing just what is needed to sell that moment. But for me the most important moment of the episode was G’Kar’s refusal to accept Londo’s excuses, akin to “just following orders”.
“You had an obligation to speak out.”
The point was made, and made well. Even if it makes no difference, we all have an obligation to speak out against injustice when we are confronted with it. Sometimes the ability to change things isn’t the point. Evil thrives on the silence of the majority.
All the excitement and battles of the last couple of seasons were great, but that’s not the only kind of entertainment. This quieter approach to B5 is making me think. That’s good enough for me. RP