Are there other plots besides the terrific Centauri plot? We can't remember.
The Lurker's Guide has a summary here.
Stephanie S.: Here, Delenn and Sheridan Finally KissTM, but for both of us, that completely takes a back seat behind all the Centauri fun. SABR Matt will explain in more detail exactly why Londo's Grand Revenge Plot inspires our evil laughter (okay, yes, it's misdirected revenge, but it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy than Lord Refa). My task is to discuss the one element that tempers our perverse joy: Vir.
As I remarked down in the highlights, this episode signals the end of an era for Vir. Up to this point, Vir has fought with Londo using three main tools of the trade: 1) attempts to dissuade; 2) expressions of strong disapproval; and 3) stealth acts of bravery (like creating the Abrahamo Lincolni persona or apologizing to G'Kar). Vir's actions have always fallen short of flagrant disobedience -- even at critical moments like the one which arose in The Coming of Shadows. Why has Vir held back? I'm of the opinion that Vir's fundamental lack of confidence only provides part of the answer -- that, in fact, Vir was also motivated by a sincere belief that Londo would be worse off without a trusted friend waiting in the wings (a belief that is ultimately vindicated).
Every camel has his final straw, though, and this episode is Vir's. At the start, Vir tries to reason with Londo (as he has many times before), but when his sensible points are rebuffed, that's it. Vir tries open defiance for the first time, and Londo resorts to cruel threats to force his aide to comply. It's a very dramatic moment. I can imagine how Vir must've felt when any remaining rosy scales were finally ripped from his eyes. No wonder he's tempted when Refa tries to bribe him later. And yes, you can see in Vir's eyes that he is tempted. Why wouldn't he be? As we discover later, Refa promises Vir the one thing Vir has always wanted: a small title, a decent salary, and a peaceful life. Of course, Vir knows he can't trust such a promise when it's issued from the mouth of a viper, but oh, he must've longed for the offer to be a genuine one!
Yes -- this episode is emotionally brutal for Vir. There is, of course, the stark terror of being kidnapped, interrogated, and telepathically assaulted by Refa and his minions (part of me thinks Refa deserved to die just for making poor Vir cry). But more importantly, Londo profoundly disappoints Vir twice over: once when it appears that Londo is throwing G'Kar under the proverbial bus to get ahead and again when it is revealed that Londo has manipulated Vir to serve his own self-interest. Any lingering illusions are utterly shattered, and that's why the last scene between Vir and Londo carries with it that air of finality. From this point forward, Vir's relationship with Londo will be completely different. When we get to The Hour of the Wolf, you'll see how.
SABR Matt: My sister covers Vir's story (heavy in character development and well worth a read/watch), but I think I'd like to have a bit of fun with Londo for once! This one is pretty much all Centauri all the time for us, so I finally get to say a few words about Londo. What this episode does for him is actually pretty important. It doesn't grow his character, per say, but it demonstrates that, when put to use in the direction of good (ostensibly, Refa is bad and seeing him die is a good thing...LOL), Londo's determination, ingenuity, intelligence and wit can all be powerful assets, as can his sense of justice. We'll see Londo eventually become a force for good (though no one will realize it until it's too late) riding the same personality quirks (the same "big" emotions, the same commitment to his actions, the same survival skills), and this episode gives us a taste of how good that will feel.
We don't see Londo learn to walk on the side of righteousness here...far from it! He's EVILER than ever! Totally on a vengeance kick, he torments Vir, attacks an ally, lies to his rivals on the station to enlist their aid, all in the name of selfish vengeance. But...damn it...I can't help but cackle with glee when they bust out the gospel choir singing "and the rock cried out, no hiding place!" as we pan away from Refa going "oh f...". AWESOME...the lengths Londo went to in order to convince Refa that poisoning was how he'd do it if he wanted to sting him, that his bodyguards were trustworthy, that they were still in cahoots, etc. I mean this goes back more than a year...he leaves no stone unturned and when he needs to kill Refa...he does so in a way that guarantees a stain on his family's honor. There are so many layers on this revenge killing that calling it onion-like would be an understatement. And as much skill as it takes to dream up such a scheme...it takes even more skill to write it convincingly. JMS should be given a lot of credit for showing that much creativity!
But back on point...the timing here is also important. We need to cheer a little for Londo again...just before he gets thrust into hell and is made to pay for his bad choices. It's a little reminder of how fun he used to be before he went dark side on us. We're about to see him walk through the mad hatter's court having to fake cooperation while G'Kar is practically crucified and then plot to kill the hatter. Only to have Vir accidentally do the killing (!) and then have to shoulder the emotional burden of realizing that because of his bad choices, Vir has lost his innocence. Trust me when I say...it's good to cheer for Londo here...because for the next little while...you'll mostly be feeling sorry for him and hating him at the same time. Ouch.
Writing: 9.5 / 10.0
Stephanie S.: This script falls short of perfect, I think. The Sheridan/Delenn scenes are pretty damned schmoopy, and JMS really strains to wrest humor out of the Catholic/Protestant divide. Still, the Centauri double, triple, and quadruple-crossing is just so much fun that I'm inclined to forgive much.
SABR Matt: The complex plot unravels in such a way that I just...can't give this episode anything less than a 10 for the writing. Bravo, JMS and company!
Acting: 9.0 / 9.0
Stephanie S.: There are flaws in the performances, but Stephen Furst's scene with Will Forward is such a gut-punch that, again, I feel generous.
SABR Matt: I still think my sister overrates Peter Jurasik...but not in this episode. He does a masterful job working over the audience just as badly as he works over Refa. Stephen Furst has himself a gem of an episode as well. The only negative blip on my radar is Refa himself...who is less convincing than he has been in previous appearances.
Message: 9.0 / 9.0
Stephanie S.: This message score is mainly awarded to the B-plot for its inclusion of two positive Christian characters. I wish said characters' statements were a little more recognizably Christian in nature, but given the state of our general popular culture, I'll take what I can get. Christians subverting the will of a fascistic dictator? Bring it on!
LONDO: I have decided that G'Kar must be dealt with.
VIR: (long-suffering) I suppose so. Eventually.
LONDO: No, not eventually. As quickly as possible.
VIR: Londo, has it occurred to you that half the other races are at war? We have to figure out what to do about them - about us - and you're worried about G'Kar? We have a lot bigger concerns here. (Eminently sensible, Vir. That's why we love you.)
LONDO: Remember G'Kar's aide, Na'Toth?
VIR: Remember? I still have the claw marks! (LOL!)
LONDO: They were very close when she was here. He lost track of her when we bombed Narn. He assumed she was dead.
VIR: Is she?
LONDO: I want you to go to G'Kar and tell him that Na'Toth is alive -- that she has been taken prisoner and is being held in a cell beneath the building that once housed their ruling body, the Kha'Ri. G'Kar is the last of the Kha'Ri still free and the only one who knows the layout of these underground cells. Knowing G'Kar, once he hears this, he will return to Narn at once.
VIR: But how? You know every ship going to Narn is searched.
LONDO: Vir -- we're talking about G'Kar here. He is annoying, but extremely capable. He will find a way. And when he arrives, he will attempt to free her, and my forces will be there to arrest him.
VIR: No, no, no, it won't work, Londo. He'll never believe me!
LONDO: Yes, he will. He knows you helped his people while you were stationed on Minbar. He trusts you -- as much as any of his kind can trust one of us. He will believe that you have no reason to lie to him.
VIR: (putting his foot down) I don't. I won't go! I won't do it!
LONDO: (coldly threatening) Yes, you will. You will do it because I ask you. Because it will help our people. Because if you do not, I will reveal everything you have done on Minbar. I will humiliate you, your family, and your house. I will drive them from honor and bankrupt them. I will have them stripped naked and whipped through the streets of the capital at midday, and in the end, I will destroy them. So yes -- you will go, and you will do it. (Dang. And you can tell that Londo was prepared for Vir's resistance.)
LONDO: Ah, good, Vir. You did as I asked?
(Vir bows his head in affirmation.)
LONDO: Excellent. (To Virini) Minister, you're right. This division must end -- but by deeds, not words. What if I could prove to Emperor Cartagia the value of House Mollari over that of House Refa? What if I could rid the royal court of a problem that has been bothering it for quite some time? An embarrassment, shall we say. Would that win his favor?
LONDO: Done. When I am finished, this rivalry will be over once and for all. Good day, Excellency.
(With that, Londo and Vir leave. As soon as they make it into the hallway, Vir erupts.)
VIR: I don't believe this! Is that why you're doing this? To win favor at the royal court? How could you do this to me? To have G'Kar imprisoned or killed just to elevate your position?
LONDO: You're young, Vir. You don't understand. But you will.
REV. DEXTER: I'd rather do something and make a mistake than be frightened into doing nothing. That's the problem today back home. Folks have been conned into thinking they can't change the world -- that they have to accept what is. Let me tell you something, my friends: The world is changing every day. The only question is, who's doing it?
REFA: What is Londo doing?
VIR: I have no idea what you're talking about.
REFA: My sources tell me he has come up with a way to elevate his position in the royal court at my expense. You know what it is. Tell me.
VIR: (turning away) I can't.
REFA: He has not been very kind to you, has he, Vir? He has treated you badly, thrown you aside, kept you down. I can change that for you. I can have you appointed to the royal court. You'd be able to go home again. Have money, a title -- a little power. (Vir stays silent.) In time, Vir, I think you would come to see it my way. But time is something I do not have. (Knowing what's coming, Vir starts to cry. Uncaring, Refa delivers his next command to the telepath at his side.) Take it from his mind. (Poor put-upon, abused Vir. You just want to give him a big hug.)
REV. DEXTER: I've watched your people since I came aboard. They all come to you with problems, questions, concerns. So who do you go to? Who do you talk to?
SHERIDAN: Well, uh... there isn't anybody. It's my responsibility. I can't put it on anyone else.
REV. DEXTER: I didn't say you should put it on anyone else. Just talking about it -- sharing the burden as much as you can. You know, back during the Minbari War, I was a chaplain. And you could always tell the good officers from the bad ones. The bad officers were loaded down with this terrible sense of responsibility. It consumed them. They wanted to do right by the men and women under their command, but after a while, they just became more and more isolated. Unapproachable. Downright unsociable.
REV. DEXTER: Now, that's as good a word as any. They were in such a fog of worry and self-doubt that nobody could get through. When your worry tank gets full, people stop coming to you because they don't want to add to it. Have to empty out your worry tank every once in a while or you just get more isolated.
SHERIDAN: Is that what you think is happening to me?
REV. DEXTER: I was just lookin' at your eyes and remembering the look I saw on a lot of the faces during the last war, that's all.
SHERIDAN: So now you'd like me to turn all of this over to God, right?
REV. DEXTER: When God comes knocking at your door, you won't need me or anyone else to tell you what that sound is. But you gotta remember: After God created man, He created Eve because He knew we all need someone to talk to -- someone to help shoulder the burden. (A beat.) She loves you, you know. I saw it in her face at dinner every time she looked at you.
SHERIDAN: I don't want to talk about this anymore.
REV. DEXTER: Of course. I was just --
SHERIDAN: Delenn's been through a lot lately. We all have. She's got enough problems on her hands without giving her mine as well. Thank you for your concern, Reverend.
REV. DEXTER: (standing) You know, before I got married, Emily used to come by sometimes and help me clean out my apartment. Well, I asked her, 'How come you're so eager to clean up my place when your place is just as bad?' She said, 'Because cleaning up your place helps me to forget what a mess I've made of mine -- and when I sweep my floor, all I've done it sweep my floor. But when I help clean up your place, I am helping you.' Of course, the way I lived back then, sometimes the mess was too big for both of us, but -- it sure was nice to have the company. (Nice conversation.)
LONDO (on his holo-recording): Hello, Refa. If you are seeing this message, it is because in a very few minutes, you will be dead. I have made sure the guards assigned to you are loyal to House Mollari. They will not obey you from this moment forward. (And indeed, all the guards have lowered their weapons.) You have taken from me... that which I loved, Refa. You also took the life of Prime Minister Malachi, a good and dear friend. You have inconvenienced me and threatened my position in the royal court... and weakened our defenses by your constant warfare. None of which matters to G'Kar and his associates. But I think they do care what you have done to them, Refa. Yes, I think they care about that a great deal. I have given G'Kar documents which prove that you are the one who orchestrated the bombing of the Narn homeworld against my advice. That you personally were involved in the creation of death camps and genetic cleansing programs. That you personally are responsible for the deaths of five or six million Narns. And I think they would like to thank you personally for your efforts.
REFA: You can't believe him. He's lying!
LONDO (on the holo-recording): On the off chance that G'Kar might not believe me, I have arranged for 2000 Narns now in custody to be freed -- half in advance, half pending his cooperation. More than sufficient inducement, I think. You see, it is not enough for me to simply kill you, Refa. I could do that at home, or here. But through your death on Narn, I will discredit your house and all opposition in the royal court. (A beat.) Goodbye, Refa. (MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Another classic moment for Londo.)
LONDO: All right, Vir, what is it? You have That Look again.
VIR: You used me.
LONDO: Of course! I knew Refa had a telepath with him. If I'd told you the truth, he would've found out. So I led you to believe what I wanted him to believe. It was the only way to lure him into the trap I had set for him!
VIR: Londo, they could've killed me!
LONDO: Nonsense! You're not important enough to kill.
VIR: But I'm important enough for you to lie to! I used to think I knew you, Londo. But I never knew you at all, did I? (OUCH! That's the end of an era right there.)