After the ridiculousness that was the 7th episode with Nana Visitor showing up to bring Jack to the one man who could tell him what was going on, we are re-introduced to Angelo, the one man who can’t say a thing because he’s in a coma and about to die. Jack and company arrive with Angelo’s granddaughter as guests and it’s immediately clear that the events of episode 7 never had to happen: an invitation would have been enough to get Jack involved. But neutralizing the previous episode isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it frees this one to be a much better episode. Well… barring a little annoying dialogue in the beginning. Rex realizes that all this happened because “two gay guys had a hissy fit!” Thankfully Gwen sets things right pretty quickly: “Come on Rex, get back in your cave!” (And of course, their hissy fit had nothing to do with the Miracle!)
As we discussed a few weeks ago, an arc needs to either add things or change things to move the story along. We are given some additions: Angelo found a way to create a “null field” so he would not live forever, though it’s clear that was not his plan, considering how much he did want to live forever. We learn about the families; no not some Mob thing, but a group of three families who go on a quest for eternal life. And we get another Star Trek alum, John De Lancie (Q) as Shapiro who is also a remarkably fun character to watch. (I do take issue with the fact that the writers felt a need to have so many blatant slurs in this series though: De Lancie calls Friedkin “fat ass” twice, which I find as offensive as all the gay insults! This certainly isn’t the parent series!) But barring his nastiness, Shapiro is a lot like Rex with his blunt attitude and no interest in wasting time. The dialogue is often really enjoyable. (I especially love that he calls Jack the “Red Baron” and asks if he has “Snoopy up [his] ass”.)
The big question is: what makes this episode the titular “end of the road“? Is it that Angelo died? Does it have to do with the null field that has a piece so small Jack can sneak it away in his shirt pocket? Is it that Oswald Danes has gone off the deep end and beaten Jilly or is it that Jilly was approached by The Family and recruited to work with them? Or could it be the fact that there was still an agent inside the CIA? Probably none of that. It’s more likely that Gwen has been deported and is sitting on an airplane. She has no idea that Jack has been shot. Jack… the previously immortal character that is now mortal… lies in the back of the car that Esther drives to an unknown destination. It’s a damned good cliffhanger to an episode that felt strangely fluffy.
I’ve said before that I am a huge fan of Babylon 5. It’s an epic story told over a 5 season arc. There are filler episodes, don’t get me wrong, but there’s an entire 3+ season run that pushed the story along. That’s what’s needed for arc-series. This episode is good, and it’s got some great moments. It was also nice seeing De Lancie and Visitor together for a few minutes. But it doesn’t feel like it needed to be an episode. It felt like it could have been half an episode that was accidentally stretched out. Yes, it’s miles ahead of the previous one and puts the series back on track to launch the final two parts, but… there was a better way…
In a rare moment, I’ll explain what should have happened in episode 7. Visitor reaches out to Jack and invites him to meet. Of course he accepts, because why wouldn’t he? Through this sequence we could be given those flashbacks – most of what we saw last week could have been truncated into shorter flashbacks that Visitor narrates. By the halfway point of the episode, Angelo would have died and Jack would have found the null field, ran off, taken the bullet and ended in the same place this episode did. Now, we would have a more cohesive, logical story with just as much data but a better flow. Alas, I suspect someone said “but that means only 9 episodes and we can’t have an uneven series in America! What is this, Britain?” So episode 7 was crafted to lengthen the series. And that’s a shame because we could still be left in the same place, but without a lot of backstory that did very little to make us care about Angelo. Were we supposed to care about him? I liked him enough in episode 7 but by this episode he dies without ever speaking another word, and then he’s taken away and forgotten. Gone is the memory of Angelo. (Even Ianto gets mentioned in this and he’s been gone for more episodes than the entirety of last season. Will Angelo ever be thought of again? I’m going with: nah…!)
I shake my head. A good series so far, but not a great one and we had the potential for a great one. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the last two episodes change my opinion! ML