Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Classics: B5 3:11 - Ceremonies of Light and Dark

Overall: 7.7

A decent - though flawed - tying-up of loose ends.

Plot Synopsis:

The Lurker's Guide has a summary here.

The Skinny:

I think I'm going to break this episode down into the elements that work and the elements that don't.

First, what works:

  • The military funeral early in the episode is very well-done -- and an important reminder that the secession had a price tag.
  • Delenn's ceremony of rebirth is, generally speaking, an effective character development engine. Marcus reveals his survivor's guilt, Lennier reveals his love for Delenn (although that should've been evident to any viewer with half a brain by this point), Sheridan reveals he is one step away from asking for Delenn's hand in marriage, and Delenn herself reveals - and not for the last time - that she is concerned about Londo's salvation, which is extremely interesting. I do think, though, that a few of the confessions were pretty poopy. Franklin's telling Delenn that "I think I have problem," for example, reveals nothing at all (except to the viewers, who have already seen Franklin abusing stims). Way to follow the spirit of the ritual, Doc.
  • Speaking of Londo, his scene with Refa is one of the funniest scenes ever. Yes, I know - I have a twisted sense of humor.

Now, on to what doesn't work:

  • The assassination plot is destroyed by hammy writing and acting. It's certainly true that Sheridan's recent actions have made him a choice target - and going after Delenn is a pretty novel way to weaken Sheridan's base of support - but Boggs and the other gunman don't feel like credible characters to me.
  • "Sparky" the AI needed to be cut from the episode entirely. That subplot feels out of place and just isn't all that funny.

Writing: 7.5

This script would've been stronger if JMS had restrained his less attractive impulses. The melodrama needs to be dialed back in some key places, and the overly self-indulgent attempts at humor should've been elided.

Acting: 7.5

Boggs and his henchman are awful - which is unfortunate, as the main cast puts in a very good performance by and large.

Message: 8.0

The destructive nature of unearned guilt is touched upon here, which is nice. Marcus really has no reason to feel responsible for what happened to his brother. Therefore, his constantly dwelling on the events of that day can do nothing but hold him back.


SHERIDAN: In breaking away from Earth, we have begun a difficult and uncertain journey -- and none of us can see its end. But our cause remains a just one. That truth honors and sanctifies our fallen comrades who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might carry on the work that is ahead of us. We are gathered here today to honor their memory and their names.
(They turn to watch the launch of the coffins.)
IVANOVA: Hamilton. Rodriguez. Spinelli. Sing. Osterman. Massey. Cooper. Kim. Endari. Nagashima. Lietz. Mankowski.
SHERIDAN: From the stars we came. To the stars we return. From now until the end of time. We therefore commit these bodies to the deep. (Very nice.)

LONDO: Ah. Will you have a drink, Lord Refa?
REFA: Yes, thank you.
LONDO: I'm sure it was a tiring journey. (They toast.)
REFA: Yes, it was. Now what was so important that you felt you had to drag me out here instead of coming to Centauri Prime?
LONDO: Well, I have been going there quite a bit lately. I think it's good for you to come to me from time to time. (Refa raises an eyebrow.) Now, I have been studying these reports from the front lines. You'll note the plural form: lines. Is there anyone along our border with whom we are not currently at war?
REFA: We need room to expand.
LONDO: Only an idiot fights a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne in the kingdom of idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts. (Ha! Nice.)
REFA: We can handle it. Our resources are greater than you think.
LONDO: Ah! You mean your recent alliance with Mr. Morden, yes?
REFA: I don't know what you're talking about.
(Londo makes a tsk-tsk noise and activates a recording.)
MORDEN: (in the recording) We asked Lord Refa to secure the planet for us.
(Londo shuts down the recording, his point made.)
LONDO: I have gotten into the habit of recording important meetings. One never knows when an inconvenient truth will fall between the cracks and vanish. (A beat.) Mr. Morden and his associates worry me. After the Narns were defeated, I took steps to put some distance between us. Refa -- I have a feeling that his associates are carving a great dark hole in the middle of the universe. And when they go down, anyone nearby will go with them. (Prescient.)
REFA: That won't happen. You don't appreciate their strength.
LONDO: I appreciate their strength, all right. And that is why this unfocused aggression worries me. By drawing our forces into dozens of smaller wars, you have effectively weakened our main line of defense. They may turn an eye to Centauri Prime.
REFA: They will not do that.
LONDO: No, they will not -- because you are going to take steps to prevent it. And you will start by breaking off your relationship with Mr. Morden!
REFA: (laughing) Oh, Londo. You are a fool. You walk away from the greatest power I have ever seen -- and now you expect me to do the same? They are the key to my eventual rise to the throne! Why would I abandon them?
LONDO: Because I have asked you. Because your loyalty to your people should be greater than your ambition. (A beat.) And because I have poisoned your drink. (Refa stares at Londo.) Yes. And it is a very interesting poison. It comes in two parts. Both are harmless on their own, but when combined, quite lethal. The first settles into the blood stream and intestinal walls. It stays there for years. Silent. Dormant. Waiting. When the other half of the poison enters the body, the two meet and have a little party in your cardiovascular system -- and suddenly, you are quite dead. Your drink contained the first half of the poison.
REFA: Why? Why did you do this?
LONDO: To guarantee your cooperation. And because sooner or later, you would do it to me. Yes, we are returning to the old ways, Refa -- and poison was always the instrument of choice in the old Republic. Being something of a sentimentalist, I got here first.
REFA: What do you want me to do?
LONDO: You have encouraged that fool, Cartagia, to attack worlds that have no value to us. You will now encourage him otherwise. You will bolster our lines of defense around Centauri Prime. And you will have nothing more to do with Mr. Morden. If you do not comply, one of my agents in the royal palace will introduce you to the second half of the poison. (He raises his glass.) To your health, Lord Refa. (MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This is an absolutely CLASSIC Londo scene.)

SHERIDAN: A rebirth ceremony?
DELENN: Yes. I demonstrated a small part of it two years ago in an exchange of religious ritual. Now I think we could benefit from all of it.
SHERIDAN: Who are you inviting?
DELENN: You. Ivanova. Mr. Garibaldi. Dr. Franklin. Several in what's left of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. G'Kar. Ambassador Mollari --
SHERIDAN: Londo? With everything that's been going on, he's the last person I'd invite to something like this.
DELENN: Which is why I decided he was the first one who must be invited. (Touche.)

LONDO: Could you tell me a little more about what is involved in this 'rebirth' ceremony?
DELENN: Reflection. Meditation on what has gone before, what is now, and what is to come.
LONDO: Ahh! For a moment, I was thinking women, drinking, and debauchery. I forgot I was speaking to Minbari. This to you is a good time, is it? What else?
LENNIER: You must tell someone a secret that you have never told anyone else before. And you must give away something that is of great value to you.
LONDO: Ugh. Sounds positively festive.
DELENN: It is time for us to come together. To restore that which has been torn apart. To heal the wounds which we have suffered.
LONDO: (a little vulnerability slipping through) With everything that has been going on, I'm suprised you invited me.
DELENN: In the matter of confessions, meditations, and the closing of past wounds, Ambassador, you were at the top of my list.
LONDO: (suddenly hard) I am already attending to my past, my present, and what remains of my future. I do not require your assistance -- or your approval. (Ouch. Valiant effort on Delenn's part, though.)

MARCUS: My brother was the last of my family, and he died because of my stupidity. He warned me of the Shadows; I didn't listen. And when they came, I lost him, a home, the colony where we'd grown up, a woman I was quite fond of. I escaped with only the clothes on my back and went off in search of these Rangers he was always going on about. Because he believed in them -- and in you. Everything I was - everything I had - all of it - died that night. I don't have anything left to give.
DELENN: That is exactly what you must give up. Yes, you have lost much. Endured much. Sacrificed greatly. But you cling to the memory of your sacrifices -- over all the things you have lost or left behind. They drag behind you like chains of your own making. They can have a terrible power over you, Marcus. The power of grief and loss and regret. Yes, you have let go of the people, the places, the things, but you have not let go of the pain. You have not forgiven yourself.
MARCUS: For what?
DELENN: Being alive. (Also nice.)

MARCUS: (looking around at the seedy bar he has just trashed) Bugger. Now I have to wait for someone to wake up. (Heh.)
(Some touches him on the shoulder, and he moves to strike.)
LENNIER: (cool) I would advise against it. (Lennier takes in the surroundings.) I see they have trained you well back home.
MARCUS: (out of breath) Yeah. They always said I was carrying around a lot of repressed anger.
MARCUS: I'm not repressed anymore. (Heh.)

LENNIER: Don't you think I want to tear this station apart looking for her? She is my mentor. My teacher. My -- (He trails off.) As part of the rebirth ceremony, I am required to tell someone that which I have never told anyone before. This is as good a time as any: I love her. (At last, the truth comes out. Poor Lennier.)
MARCUS: You'll forgive me if I'm a little surprised at your admission.
LENNIER: My love for Delenn is not quite what you might think. It is not romantic love as you consider it. It is something higher and nobler. A pure, perfect love, if you will. (Yes, you keep telling yourself that, Lennier.) I know that Delenn is fated for another and -- I've accepted that in my heart. (Sure.) But I have vowed to stay at her side through all things for as long as I live.
MARCUS: That's a dangerous promise, Lennier. (Indeed.)

MARCUS: You see? It's like I've always said. You can get more with a kind word and a two-by-four than you can with just a kind word. (LOL!)

And finally, a video highlight:

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