Thursday, December 8, 2011

Classics: B5 5:11 - 5:15 - Capsule Reviews

A quick note: As far as the placement of Day of the Dead is concerned, I'm using the Lurker's Guide chronology rather than the DVD chronology -- although both options create problematic discontinuities with regards to Londo and G'Kar and their travel schedule. Actually, I'm thinking now that that particular episode should have been put somewhere before Londo and G'Kar actually left for Centauri Prime (i.e., before Strange Relations). But oh well -- it's too late to change it now.


5:11 - Day of the Dead

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: This is the only episode after season two that was written by someone other than JMS. The question is, did Neil Gaiman manage to play in JMS' sandbox without messing everything up? Yes -- largely. I'm not one of those sci-fi/fantasy fans who believe that everything Gaiman pens is a work of staggering genius, but here, he's crafted a story that's pretty interesting -- and also relevant to the larger arc.

Probably the most effective scenes in the episode are the ones involving Londo, Lochley, and Lennier. Londo's meeting with Adira works mainly because we all know what's coming for our doomed Centauri and therefore would like to see him enjoy one final night of happiness before everything goes to hell. The troubled background Gaiman invents for Lochley, meanwhile, definitely satisfies our craving for more information on the brand new captain -- and by the way, those scenes between Lochley and Zoe are also astonishingly well performed by both Tracy Scoggins and Bridget Flanery. When all is said and done, though, I think Lennier wins the night for his meeting with Mr. Morden (!!!). That, I think, is Gaiman's true master stroke. Morden, you see, represents our darker desires and temptations, and there's no question that Lennier is struggling with just that sort of problem. It's the kind of match-up that would never spontaneously occur to you -- but also makes perfect sense the moment you see it in action.

The other thing I personally like about this episode - besides the character work discussed above - is the fact that something hugely mystical happens and Gaiman doesn't even bother to fully explain it. Undoubtedly, this causes the hardcore materialists great discomfort -- and I will always support anything that makes those arrogant prats squirm.

Steph's Rating: 8.0


5:12 - The Ragged Edge

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: I forgot to mention it in my last post, but one of the other things that prevents Byron from pulling everything below the average line is Garibaldi's plight. That scene in Phoenix Rising in which he tries to kill Bester and discovers he can't is absolutely terrific -- and, of course, that is what starts the whole downward spiral that is portrayed, in part, in The Ragged Edge. Garibaldi's frustrated desire for revenge - which JMS rightfully portrays as destructive - has so consumed him now that he spends much of the day piss drunk. As a consequence, when it all goes pear-shaped on Drazi Prime, it is by sheer luck alone that Garibaldi manages to escape with his life -- and a clue as to who is perpetrating the recent raids on the shipping lines. His informant, on the other hand, is not so lucky -- and that adds one to Garibaldi's body count. More will be added later.

As I noted, however, Garibaldi does come back with a clue, and that's where things get interesting again as Sheridan, Delenn, and G'Kar discuss whether they should tell Londo about what their investigation has uncovered in re: the Centauri government's likely involvement in the aforementioned deadly raids. G'Kar's role in this is especially fascinating, as he argues in favor of keeping Londo out of the loop precisely because he wishes to preserve Londo's life. Can you imagine G'Kar harboring a similar motivation in, say, season two? Yeah -- me neither.

Speaking of G'Kar, I love how he responds to the discovery that his book has been "liberated" and published in his absence. And I doubly love his reaction to the discovery that, suddenly, he has followers. Naturally, Londo spends much of the episode teasing G'Kar about it, which is also a hell of a lot of fun to watch:

(G'Kar approaches Londo in the Zocalo. A small crowd of Narn tag along behind him.)
LONDO: Ah! Good morning, G'Kar! (Then, taking note of G'Kar's entourage:) Well, this is a delight. I did not know you had children.
G'KAR: Neither did I.
LONDO: Yes. Most unsettling when that happens -- and in your case, most amusing.

LOL! I love those two so much.

Steph's Rating: 8.3


5:13 - The Corps Is Mother, The Corps Is Father

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: If Bester were commissioned to write his own episode of Babylon 5, this is what you would get: a story in which Bester plays the role of a long suffering hero who's just trying to protect the members of his "family" from mundane prejudice and out-of-control rogues -- while at the same time dodging the advances of a starry-eyed young telepath who thinks he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. My reaction? EEEEEEEEEEEEW -- but not necessarily in a bad way. Actually, I think it's kind of neat to switch to the villain's point of view for a little while. It gives us a chance to see where Bester is coming from -- and it reminds us that the bigotry between mundanes and telepaths goes both ways. The only reason I don't give this episode a higher score is that it interrupts the great story started in The Ragged Edge. When you've got a momentum going, you really shouldn't slow things down with filler -- even if it's relatively high quality filler.

Steph's Rating: 7.5


5:14 - Meditations on the Abyss

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: The most memorable thing about this episode - for me, anyway - is Vir's getting so mad over an attempt to bug Londo's quarters that he completely destroys a Drazi fruit stand with a sword. The script plays this for laughs - and admittedly, it is kind of funny, especially given Londo's pride and Zack's retelling at dinner later - but there's also a darker edge to the whole incident. As I noted in a Live Journal post years ago:

We've seen other signs that Vir is beginning to fray around the edges - his nightmare in No Surrender, No Retreat, his public emotional outburst in The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari, etc. His sword-wielding tantrum here fits into this pattern. I think the Drazi's ridicule hit a very personal nerve and unlocked a whole lot of bottled up frustration and anger. Thinking about this scene this way, I am impressed with how emotionally true it really is.

The second most memorable thing about this episode is the opening scene in which Delenn seeks out Lennier for her secret fact finding mission. Number one, Delenn's casually breaking that guy's finger is really, really kick ass. Number two, I feel sorry for poor Lennier. Delenn is definitely aware that Lennier has feelings for her, yet she still recruits her former aid precisely because she knows he will be especially motivated to get her what she needs. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Also worthy of note is Lennier's interaction with Findell, mainly because it reeks of hypocrisy. Here Lennier is, opining that Findell has joined the Rangers for the wrong reasons, and yet Lennier himself has joined the Rangers for equally wrong reasons. Ah, Lennier -- your psychology is so delightfully convoluted. That's why I like you.

Steph's Rating: 8.5


5:15 - Darkness Ascending

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: This episode competently lays the groundwork for And All My Dreams Torn Asunder and sets Lyta up as the new leader of Byron's rogue telepaths, but in the end, it's really just a transition episode and therefore doesn't inspire much in the way of comment. I do like, though, how the director emphasizes Londo's increasing isolation via the camera work. And I do like that scene towards the end in which Delenn spontaneously hugs Londo because she knows he's about to get royally screwed. That, I think, is a very touching moment. I'm just sorry Londo and Delenn couldn't have interacted more often. As I've argued in the past, I think they have an awful lot in common.

Steph's Rating: 7.2

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