Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Classics: B5 4:4 - Falling Toward Apotheosis

Overall: 8.0

This episode is probably the weakest of the first six this season. There's nothing severely wrong with it, really, but it feels very transitional -- like JMS is biding his time before hitting us with the awesome stuff we will see in episode five.

Plot Synopsis:

The Lurker's Guide has a summary here.

The Skinny:

Granted, I think my bias has a little something to do with the fact that I am underwhelmed by this installment of the arc. There are only a few scenes which take place on Centauri Prime, and those scenes just don't have quite the same punch. It is mildly amusing (and horrific) that Cartagia shows Londo his "Shadow Cabinet" (and nonchalantly offers Londo a snack while he's at it). And I am, once again, impressed with Londo's ability to play Cartagia like a proverbial fiddle. But regarding the Centauri plot in general, the only thing I can think of to say is this: Needs more Londo/G'Kar. They - i.e., Londo and G'Kar - don't interact at all in this episode, and it is to the episode's detriment, I feel.

If you're a Sheridan/Delenn shipper, you'll probably like this episode, as the scene in which Delenn learns that Sheridan is "life-limited" and Sheridan proposes is very sweet -- though it should be said that even SABR Matt, our resident Sheridan/Delenn fan, believes as I do that this episode has a distinct "middle-book-of-the-trilogy" feel to it. The episode's one action piece - the killing of Ulkesh - is not especially epic, though Sheridan's decision to go after the Vorlon ambassador is certainly something we both heartily support. JMS also attempts to draw us into the fear inspired by the Vorlon advance through Ivanova's periodic reports, but I think that doesn't work quite as well as JMS might've hoped. Some more visuals probably would've helped on that score.

We also see JMS putting the gun on the wall for a later plot involving Garibaldi, and here at least, I think he does a pretty good job signaling to the audience that Garibaldi is "different" without making the change obviously over-the-top. It makes sense to me, for example, that Garibaldi would be hurt and annoyed by Sheridan's choice to leave him out of the strategy sessions in re: Ulkesh. In setting Garibaldi up in that way, Sheridan is actually acting somewhat like Londo. And if Vir - sweet Vir - was upset at being used as a pawn in a larger plot, it only stands to reason that Garibaldi would feel similar resentment.

As I said, there is, for the most part, nothing inherently wrong with this episode. It is reasonably entertaining. I do have one niggling concern, though, and it has to do with the whole "they see Sheridan as the Second Coming" thing. In the highlights section last week, I mentioned in passing that I thought Sheridan's persuading the crowds at the League protest to join him was a little too easily accomplished. Well, I also find the scene in the Zocalo in which Sheridan prevents a distraught woman from being trampled troubling in the same way. It hasn't become offensive yet, but you can already feel JMS shifting to full-court lionization of his main characters. We're starting to lose the sense that Sheridan is in fact human and fallible, and that trend will eventually lead to some of the series' most annoying episodes.

Writing: 7.5

This is definitely a better-than-average script, but it doesn't quite rise to the level of the scripts which surround it. See above.

Acting: 8.5

The acting is solid, but the writing unfortunately gives the cast very little opportunity to truly display their chops.

Message: 8.0

I'm giving the episode a decent score on this front because of Sheridan's decision to confront and kill Ulkesh, who really did need to die.


LONDO: Majesty, this is intolerable! To send our people out to defend their ships?!
CARTAGIA: (giddy) You get so exercised at times like this, Mollari, really. I wish I had a picture of your face right now.
LONDO: This is serious!
CARTAGIA: Of course it is. And I have no intention of sending our ships out there.
LONDO: You don't?
CARTAGIA: Of course not. Walk with me.
(Cartagia heads inside. Londo follows.)
LONDO: Majesty, you don't know how relieved I am to hear you say that. I was hoping you would see this situation for what it is.
CARTAGIA: Yes, yes, I've come to the same conclusion you have. It was all so obvious once I set my mind to it, which is why I've decided I like you, Mollari. You think the same way I do. (I doubt it. But boy, that's a nice boy-crush Cartagia has on Londo.)
LONDO: Thank you, Majesty, but now --
CARTAGIA: (interrupting) In fact, I've decided to show you something I've shown only a few people before. (Londo looks at him askance.) Yes! This way.
(They walk down a dark corridor and enter Cartagia's private chamber. Cartagia picks up a light and leads Londo in.)
CARTAGIA: This way, this way. Sit, Mollari, sit. (He sets his light down on a table, revealing the very row of heads spoken of in the recent rumors.) I call them my Shadow Cabinet. I'm sure you can appreciate the irony. They certainly can't. Sit! Mollari, sit! (Londo is horrified, but he sits.) We were discussing this situation earlier this evening, and this one had the most -- no, no, this one. Minister Dugari. You remember him, don't you? He was always coughing. Most distressing. But we finally cured it. (Londo covers his mouth and nose with a handkerchief as Cartagia blathers on.) Had the most wonderful idea. We won't be sending any of our ships out to fight the Vorlons. Not one.
LONDO: Then you will tell Mr. Morden's associates to leave?
CARTAGIA: Of course not. I promised them they could stay in exchange for elevating me to godhood. No, they will stay on the island of Selini.
LONDO: But when the Vorlons come, if they're destroying whole planets to get at these Shadows --
CARTAGIA: Yes! You understand exactly. (He holds out a bowl.) Snicks? (Londo shakes his head.) You and I, Mollari, will turn Centauri Prime into an inauguration pyre to commemorate my ascension into godhood. The fire of our world will light my way. (Oh, gods, we are f***ed, Londo thinks.) Yes, you see it don't you? If I become a god, how will our world survive without me? I cannot just abandon it. That would be cruel. And anyone who followed me would obviously be inferior. Best to put them out of their misery. I will take it all with me in spirit. Don't send the ships. Let it burn, Mollari. Let it all end in fire! (Looks like your assassination timetable just got moved up, Londo.)

DELENN: I thought I'd lost you. I thought it was my fault. I knew Anna might be alive. I said nothing. And you went away. The only thing that might be as terrible as losing you would be if you came back and could not forgive me -- and I lost you again.
SHERIDAN: You did what you thought was right.
DELENN: That's no excuse. I'm sorry, John.
SHERIDAN: I fell at Z'ha'dum, Delenn. I saw my own death and accepted it. I looked up and saw Anna - what was left of Anna - and at that moment, I said goodbye -- the goodbye I could never say before. I let it all go. I only held on to one thing: the image of your sweet face. If I never came back, well -- that was enough. But you gave me reason to come back. Could I love that much and not forgive? (Awww.)

SHERIDAN: I wasn't going to tell you at first. But when I heard what you asked Lorien, I thought -- well, you have a right to know.
DELENN: To know what?
LORIEN: He was gravely wounded at Z'ha'dum. He was dying. He was dead. I did all I could to help him, but I cannot create life. Only the universe can do that. I can extend -- enhance. There is no magic or spiritual about it. Only the application of energies -- healing and rebuilding cells.
SHERIDAN: I had Franklin do a complete med scan. He found -- things in my nervous system. Some kind of biochemical energy repairing and sustaining me. He's never seen anything like it.
LORIEN: I did the best I could. I gave him back a portion of his life, but -- only a portion.
DELENN: How long?
(Lorien and Sheridan exchange a look.)
LORIEN: In human terms, barring injury or illness, perhaps twenty years. But no more than that.
DELENN: Twenty years?
SHERIDAN: I'll be in my early sixties by then. It's a -- it's a good run, Delenn.
DELENN: (upset) You told me that humans live to be a hundred years old -- even older. You can't --
LORIEN: Twenty years. No more. And then, one day, he will simply -- stop. (Everything has its price.)

SHERIDAN: I'm okay with this.
DELENN: But I'm not okay with this. I told you that I was afraid I would get you back only to lose you-- and that's what this is. Twenty years?
SHERIDAN: Yeah, but it's a long time. It's twenty more years than I would've had. And-and at least -- at least I can spend the most of them with you. That's why I wanted to see you alone. I -- (He checks his pockets and finds nothing. Then he walks over to a chair and picks up a pillow.) There it is. I though I lost it. (He takes a deep breath.) I, uh -- I wanted you to have this. (He places a ring case in Delenn's open hand.) I got it down in the Zocalo. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but -- it's temporary until I can get you a real engagement ring. (Delenn looks confused.) Uh, it's an Earth custom. (He opens the case.) You see, you give someone you love an engagement ring as kind of a down payment for another ring. The kind that -- you exchange when you get married. (He puts the ring on Delenn's finger.) I don't know when we'll be able to get around to that part of it.; We may not survive the next two weeks. But I wanted you to have this and for you to know that whatever time I have left, I want to spend it with you. (Awwwwwwwwwwwww. The schoomp, it is thick. :))

CARTAGIA: (confidentially) I was just thinking: I don't like the way he's looking at me. (Cartagia and Londo both turn to look at G'Kar.) I'm trying to decide what to do about it. Would you care to make a suggestion?
LONDO: (wussing out) Ummmm -- oh, no, I'm sure what Your Majesty decides will be appropriate. I should go and pack. (And he leaves.)
CARTAGIA: No, I don't care at all for the way he looks at me. (Then an idea occurs to him, and he cheerily addresses the guards.) Pluck out his eye. (Oh, snap! Londo, you should've suggested something else.)


  1. You know...I like the schmoop. Their romance always felt very warm and innocent to me. They even wait a very long time in their courtship before kissing, having sex, etc. They feel more traditional than your average Hollywood romance to me...that is to this show's credit. I just cannot agree with my co-author that the Delenn/Sheridan stuff is infested with some negative quality of over-schmoopiness. The schmoop is a GOOD thing, as far as I'm concerned.

    I do agree with her that we lose something when the show begins to treat its' star characters as mythical superheroes. But we should not be surprised by this...JMS is a comic book writer and is generally regarded as an utter hack when it comes to doing something with subtlety. There IS a reason his dialogue is so direct and so exposition-laden. That's how a comic book is written. Stephanie and I got into a vociferous argument once about whether a comic book could legitimately be considered literary. I still hold to the belief that, though the stories in superhero genre and comics in general are often wonderfully creative and thought provoking, the method of the telling is more like junk TV than literary art. All you get are a few little bubbles per page to get your point's rather like trying to write a script for a silent movie or a Saturday morning cartoon. It does not build any real skill with using the language well.

    B5 is infested with the same strengths and weaknesses that invade Iron Man and Superman comics...great, creative storytelling, epic, engaging stakes...but blunt, uncreative dialogue and painfully large characters meant to leap off the page, rather than be believable as human beings.

    This particular B5 episode does send the right message about how to treat an ally that doesn't respect the sanctity of life. That's enough for me, considering what's coming next.

  2. Just to clarify: When I use the word schmoop, it is not necessarily to connote something negative. :)

    The Sheridan/Delenn relationship is definitely not my favorite thing about this show, but I don't hate it. Not at all. I believe what SABR Matt says regarding its quaint chastity is absolutely right.