Bonus Points for Londo's NUKING OF AN ISLAND: +0.5
Final Score: 8.5
This episode is still enjoyable for many reasons - chief among them the fact that Londo and Vir are both AWESOME - but the manner in which it concludes the Shadow War arc is rather disappointing.
Head on over to the Lurker's Guide for the juicy details.
Though I'm well aware that Mr. Morden's parting shot will in fact come to pass (given War Without End, even an unspoiled viewer knows at this point that Londo's successes here are merely temporary), I feel nothing but undiluted glee the moment Londo destroys the Shadow base on Selini. The scene in question is about as "comic book" as it gets, but unlike the other "comic book" moment in the episode, this one somehow feels more earned. And no, I don't think it's just because of my personal biases where Londo is concerned. I think it genuinely makes more sense that, after careful preparation, Londo would be able to best the arrogant Shadows with a few well-placed nukes.
Ah, yes -- vengeance is definitely a dish that is best served radioactive. But that's not the only reason why I love Londo's storyline in this episode. Primarily, I love Londo's plot in this episode because it officially announces a new stage in the development of the character. In the first season, Londo was the "washed up old republican dreaming of better days"; in the second and third season, he was the (frequently angst-ridden) villain -- an alien Macbeth wading through his river of blood because he figures he's just too far into it to stop. But here, at last, Londo becomes something we can love without a qualm: a tragic hero. And this is the role he will occupy for the rest of the series.
It's so much fun to watch Londo blowing up islands and beheading his enemies (And by the way, wasn't it great to see Vir get what he's always wanted?), but the best scene in the episode actually has absolutely nothing to do with any of those things. No -- when the Vorlon planet killer arrives and Londo orders Vir to kill him for the sake of Centauri Prime, that is the episode's finest moment. In the space of a few minutes, that scene expertly foreshadows Londo's ultimate end. At the same time, it reveals the absolute trust and genuine philia that exists between Londo and Vir. Vir loves Londo enough to tell him the truth: that Londo himself has been touched by the Shadows and will have to pay the price. Londo, meanwhile, has apparently developed enough respect for his young aide and friend that he's willing to leave his own death and the fate of his people in Vir's capable hands. God, I adore those two!
But now on to the A-plot of the episode. Sheridan's chances of defeating both the Vorlons and the Shadows militarily were definitely slim-to-none. I'll grant that. I'll even grant that talking was probably the only way Our Heroes were ever going to get out of this. But Sheridan's yelling at both the Shadows and the Vorlons to "Get the hell out of our galaxy!" still feels fundamentally less-than-satisfying. While the Vorlons and the Shadows have Sheridan and Delenn locked in their respective neverlands, is anything truly persuasive said that would believably change the tide of the war? I don't think so. Up to this point, neither the Vorlons nor the Shadows have demonstrated that they feel any compunction when it comes to using the younger races as pawns in their deadly ideological competition -- so why would they suddenly agree to leave now? Is it just because of Lorien and the power of his ancient awesome? I don't know; somehow, this ending feels kind of -- lame.
The dialogue feels a bit stilted in places, and while I understand JMS's intent in ending the Shadow War the way he did, the talking-heads solution just lays there. The Centauri plot is still excellent, though, so it all averages out to a pretty decent score.
The performances are strong - even great - but I wouldn't call them feature-worthy. (Though I do enjoy watching Peter Jurasik pitch his one-take fit. Heh.)
JMS advocates a third way between the extreme ideologies of hyper-control and Darwinian natural selection. It's a good message, but the presentation lacks something I can't quite pinpoint.
LORIEN: We were born naturally immortal.
IVANOVA: That's impossible. Everything dies.
LORIEN: Yes. Now. At first, we were kept in balance by birthrate. Few of us were ever born - less than a handful each year. Then I think the universe decided that to appreciate life - for there to be change and growth - life had to be short. So the generations that followed us grew old, infirm, died. But those of us who were first went on. We discovered the Vorlons and the Shadows when they were infant races and nourished them - helped them and all the other races you call the First Ones. In time, most of them died or passed beyond the Rim to whatever lies in the darkness between galaxies. We've lived too long. Seen too much. To live on, as we have, is to leave behind joy and love and companionship because we know it to be transitory - of the moment. We know it will turn to ash. Only those whose lives are brief can imagine that love is eternal. (Interesting monologue.)
(Okay -- now the next one definitely requires the inclusion of a video clip. Fortunately, You Tube came through for me this time. Woot!)
(Granted, it's a pretty melodramatic tantrum, but I think it fits Londo's outsized personality. :))
LONDO: Ahhh, Mr. Morden! I see they found you. Good! Good! You're looking well. All healed now, I take it?
MORDEN: (glowering) I'm fine. What the hell is going on, Mollari?
LONDO: A number of Vorlon ships are on their way, accompanied by one of their planet killers. They will arrive in a matter of hours. They have been wiping out any colony, world or outpost where your... associates have influence. Cartagia gave your associates the island of Selini as a base for their ships. Now that Cartagia is dead, I am ordering you to remove those ships at once.
MORDEN: There are three billion people here. The Vorlons would never attack a civilian population that big. (He smiles.) The ships stay.
LONDO: You're afraid, aren't you? They're afraid. And speaking of your associates -- (At this point, the palace guards step away from Morden.) -- we must make sure that we can talk privately. Do not move.
(And with that, Londo silently orders his guards to kill the Shadows who are lurking on Morden's right and left. Once that necessary task has been completed, Londo approaches Morden.)
LONDO: (regarding the new burn marks on the walls, of course) I'll have to have that painted over, I suppose. (MUAHAHA!)
MORDEN: You're insane.
LONDO: On any other day, Mr. Morden, you would be wrong. Today? Today is a very different day. (MUAHAHAHAHAHA!) One last time: Remove your ships.
MORDEN: No. You don't frighten me, Mollari. If you try to attack our forces, you'll lose.
LONDO: Yes, your ships are very impressive in the air or in space. But at this moment, they are on the ground.
MORDEN: Fine. But they can sense an approaching ship from miles away. So what are you gonna do, Mollari, huh? Blow up the island?
LONDO: Actually, now that you mention it... (KABOOM! And seriously? There is not enough MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! in the universe to express the almost orgasmic pleasure this scene gives me.)
(Oh, and by the way, while we're discussing orgasmic pleasures...)
LONDO: Oh, Vir, we have done it! We have saved Centauri Prime, as I knew we could. Now we only have to... (He trails off when he sees the look on Vir's face.) What? What is it?
VIR: (grim) You're wrong. There's still one thing left. Something that's been touched by the Shadows -- influenced by them.
(But Vir can only point at Londo's chest. At this moment, a Vorlon planet killer arrives, eclipsing the Centauri sun.)
LONDO: No. Not for me. They would not. They would not do it just to get me. They won't know.
VIR: You sent them a message. You told them that you were here.
(Then, after the cut to Sheridan's White Star...)
LONDO: You must kill me, Vir. Quickly. And then tell them - show them that you have done it!
VIR: No, Londo, I can't!
LONDO: You must! It is the only way to... (But then the Vorlon ship abruptly departs, presumably to answer the call for reinforcements.)
VIR: They're leaving!
LONDO: Yes, Vir - they're leaving. (I love the looks of relief and joy on both of their faces here:
Awww. Though, obviously, that's not half as sweet as this later moment:
I heart Londo and Vir and their BEAUTIFUL LOVE. I heart it so much, in fact, that I think it deserves the sparkly treatment:
Yes, I am a geek. I think we've established that already. :))