“This place kinda grows on ya!”
Well, leave it to the great JMS to surprise me. Last week we saw some friends leave the station and I thought it would be a bleak affair without them but G’Kar and Garibaldi do make an appearance in this story. Garibaldi is hiring the new board of directors at Edgars Industries, bringing on the complainers to help keep the company on track. It’s so quintessentially Michael that we have to laugh. Mostly it serves as a coda; he has started the next chapter of his life on Mars. G’Kar is there to hand over the reins to Ta’Lon. This is another piece of great storytelling in that we saw G’Kar leaving a message in the last episode but we did not know for whom it was intended. Cinematically, this is beautifully shot as G’Kar appears in the room next to Ta’Lon. This is also the episode that Franklin chooses his successor: Dr. Hobbs. She is a “generalist” and to take Franklin’s position, he believe the chief of staff has to be a generalist. Vir has already been appointed the new Centauri representative and Tessa is the new Michael Garibaldi. Now it’s time for Sheridan and Delenn to leave the station to complete the departures.
Sheridan says he wants a quiet departure. He doesn’t get it. Humorously, he can’t think of anything to say so he opens his mouth, pauses, and says “Um… Delenn?” She proceeds to give a lovely speech about how the word goodbye doesn’t exist in Minbari so she won’t say it; it is one of the most difficult words she’s had to learn. She believe she will “pass this way again” as their souls “are a part of this place”. I love the poetry, but I don’t deny it makes me teary eyed. Before they leave in the White Star, Zack sees them off; significant only in that he thinks he’ll be there when they shut the place down. The excellent Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5 website had become a bible to me years ago and I read every word. Some things are etched in my mind. According to the site, JMS said that he gave composer Christopher Franke one instruction with this episode: break our hearts. When Sheridan says “Let’s take one last look at the place” and looks back at his former home, he sees the new staff of B5 in the window: David, Tessa, Vir, Lochley, Zack, Ta’Lon, Dr. Hobbs all stand watching their former captain leave the station. The music does exactly as it was instructed. My eyes well up and I salute the cast. What a great series!
But the episode is only half over and there has been no conflict. We still have one more thread to tie up: Lennier has yet to betray the Rangers! Through inaction, he almost allows Sheridan to die thus fulfilling Morden’s prophesy. Frankly it’s the one part of the episode that did little for me. If nothing more, I have a complaint because Delenn’s comment is that she had no idea how strongly Lennier felt about her. Um, no??? He basically threw himself at her, confessed his love, and continually speaks with barely concealed disdain for her marriage! Surely all that wisdom isn’t blind to something so obvious!! Especially considering she can see things that are far less obvious, like the thing on Londo’s shoulder (and the Shadow influence around Morden 4 seasons ago!)
Then they get to Minbar and Londo makes one more visit. It was nice seeing him there, but unfortunately, there’s something else going on. He asks for alcohol to toast Sheridan and Delenn but it’s more a plea for a means of knocking out his jailor that hides on his shoulder. Unsuccessful, Londo leaves but makes one last request: that they remember him as a friend. He knows the creature that controls him is going to make him do some terrible things. And so, the gift of an urn remains with Sheridan, until his unborn child comes of age. Our last image of Londo is of him in another window on a space ship, looking out, all alone. The comedy relief from season one is a stark, lone and distinctly unfunny character by the end. Life does strange things to us all, doesn’t it?
Then John has the realization that he won’t be there for his child to come of age based on Lorien’s prediction. The message he records is so profound that I believe it needs to be included here. I know it’s scripted, but it’s a testament to a truly amazing television show.
John: “…From time to time, you will make mistakes. They’re inevitable. Sometimes those mistakes will be huge. What matters is that you learn from them. There’s nothing wrong with falling down, as long as you end up just two inches taller when you pick yourself up off the floor. At times you may end up far away from home. You may not be sure of where you belong anymore. But home is always there. Because home is not a place. It’s wherever your passion takes you. As you continue on your path, you will lose some friends and gain new ones. The process is painful, but often necessary. They will change and you will change because life is change. From time to time they must find their own way, and that way may not be yours. Enjoy them for what they are, and remember them for what they were. There’s not much left, except I believe…I really do believe that sooner or later, no matter what happens, things do work out. Oh, we have hard times, we suffer, we lose loved ones. The road’s never easy. It was never meant to be easy. But in the long run, if you stay true to what you believe, things do work out. Always be willing to fight for what you believe in, it doesn’t matter if a thousand people agree with you or one person agrees with you. It doesn’t matter if you stand completely alone. Fight for what you believe in. Which brings me to the first piece of advice my dad ever gave me and now I’m giving it to you: “Never…”
Delenn: “Never start a fight, but always finish it.”
John: Always finish it.
Amen! There’s a part of me that weeps at the message and another part that applauds. It’s all so true. Life is change and we do lose some friends and gain others. I don’t like goodbyes. I hear that lyric all over again. “Time goes on, People touch and they’re gone, And you and I will never love again, Like we did then.” I don’t believe that anything will derail my love of Babylon 5. ML
The view from across the pond:
The pre-credits sequence sets the tone of this episode. What’s the big hook to keep us watching? G’Kar has chosen his replacement and it’s the most obvious candidate for the job: Ta’Lon. It’s hardly a big, exciting moment. But this episode only really has one of those, with Lennier trying to kill Sheridan by leaving him trapped in a room filled with poisonous gas and running away.
I’m not sure if JMS realised he was writing an episode with zero drama and decided to stick this in, or if it was some kind of a box-checking exercise because of Morden’s prediction, but with so many more significant dangling plot threads this was hardly the most important box to tick. Either way, I don’t quite see the point of giving Lennier an unhappy ending at the last moment, and having him act so dreadfully out of character. I realise jealousy can eat away at a person, and Delenn’s philosophising about “moments when we all become someone else” does a good job of papering over the cracks, but come on; this is Lennier. He’s hardly going to murder his friend and colleague of four years. Whatever way you spin it, I’m not buying that. It was a gripping piece of high drama, with the look of disgust on Sheridan’s face selling the scene brilliantly, but Lennier doesn’t kill his friends, end of.
As for the rest of the episode, we had some little teases for the future which, barring the films, isn’t going to happen, so that was annoying. Those Keeper creatures have been kicking around for a long time now, and we have been teased with a great storyline that has no resolution, at least within the main series. Now we are teased even more, with the prospect of a Keeper in an urn waiting for Sheridan’s son. It’s creepy, and it leaves us with the question of whether Londo was aware of what he was doing by bringing that gift to Sheridan, but at this point throwing more unanswered questions at us isn’t particularly helpful. There is a moment where Delenn clearly realises something is going on with Londo, and anyone would have to be pretty dense not to pick up on clues like this:
“My associates don’t allow me such pleasures any more.”
The poor bloke is crying out for help from his friends. It’s all so frustrating. And in the end I think that’s why I couldn’t really enjoy all the goodbyes. We have had so much of this, and it’s all so self-indulgent, with a writer abandoning so many fascinating plot threads in favour of endless little character pieces. Even in the goodbyes we are teased with treats we can never enjoy, with the new lineup of main characters looking like a lot of fun to watch (especially Tessa). Except we are not going to be able to watch them. Why waste a scene establishing who is going to be the new Franklin? It’s not important, when a writer is leaving so many things that are important in his wake.
That’s not to say the character pieces weren’t enjoyable. Garibaldi hiring all the trouble makers onto his board of directors was fun. Sheridan saluting the new crew of Babylon 5 through the window was one of those moments that sends a little shiver down the spine, and then his final speech to his unborn child was inspiring, talking of learning from mistakes, taking your home with you, and most importantly losing and gaining friends. We can all relate to that one.
“Enjoy them for what they are and remember them for what they were.”
Here’s to friends, past and present. RP