Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Classics: B5 5:6 - 5:10 - Capsule Reviews

Now that The Walking Dead is on hiatus and our schedule has opened up again, I'm going to try to finish up Babylon 5 -- and I'm using capsule reviews here because, with the exception of And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder, Movements of Fire and Shadow, The Fall of Centauri Prime, and, of course, Sleeping in Light, the fifth season doesn't really interest me all that much, and I would rather not devote another seventeen weeks to reviewing it.

This first set of quick-takes will cover the rest of Byron's arc. The second set will cover episodes 5:11 through 5:15. Then we will slow down to cover the end of Londo's arc in greater detail because I love Londo and believe his storyline is the only thing that makes this final season worth watching. Yes, I am biased -- but I'm sure you've picked up on that fact already.


5:6 - Strange Relations

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: Oh, Delenn, you wily matchmaker you! You're not fooling me with that whole "bodyguard" pretense. It's blindingly obvious that you're just trying to do for the Narn and Centauri what your marriage to Sheridan did for the Humans and Minbari. Admit it -- you're a huge Londo/G'Kar shipper, aren't you?

Okay -- now that I've got that moment of slashy silliness out of the way, it's time to talk about the Prince of Purple Prose. Granted, JMS has never been known for his realistic, subtle dialogue -- but Byron definitely takes things to ultraviolet extremes. I really can't believe Lyta would be gullible enough to fall for that "you are my willow" crap. Seriously - if some guy spoke to me in that matter, I would suspect he had an ulterior motive.

Steph's Rating: 6.5


5:7 - Secrets of the Soul

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: The Hyach/Hyach-Doh plot is mildly interesting filler, though I think it would've had more emotional impact if it had involved an already familiar race. And as it just so happens, I already have one candidate race in mind: the Centauri. Centuries ago, the Centauri exterminated a competitor species - the Xon - on their homeworld, so their history would've perfectly aligned with JMS' central intent.

But now let's get back to Byron, who remains thoroughly unlikable despite JMS' attempts to turn him into Teep Jesus. I always feel this urge to jump through the screen and smack Byron when he scolds Zack for keeping him in lock-up and preventing him from reining in his people. I mean, what did he expect Zack to do, exactly? Zack is Chief of Security, and he found Byron standing over an unconscious man!

And when Byron finds out about the Vorlons' genetic manipulations? That's when his actions head into "WTF?" territory. "The Vorlons made us so that we could be their cannon fodder -- so the Alliance clearly owes us something!" How in the hell does that make any sense? Byron is just like your typical Occupy Wall Street protestor in that he spends all of his time attacking the wrong target. Human teeps do have legitimate grievances - Sheridan doesn't call the Psi Corps "Fascists 'R Us" for nothing - but they should take that up with Earthgov and leave the Alliance alone.

Steph's Rating: 6.8


5:8 - In the Kingdom of the Blind

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: I like this episode, but that's solely because of the Londo plot, which is full of creepy, foreshadowy goodness and also features G'Kar being kind of awesome in his capacity as Londo's new "bodyguard". Byron, on the other hand, continues to inspire my seething hatred. What I find particularly galling about our supposed Teep Jesus here is the fact that he doesn't even try asking nicely for a teep homeworld. Given Delenn's expressed sympathy for the rogue telepaths' plight, the Alliance might've helped Byron out eventually if he had tried the diplomatic course. But instead, he skips straight to violating everyone's privacy and then blackmailing the entire council. Well, screw you, Byron. You deserve to fail. As I remarked in an earlier review, you are no better than Bester. You may talk a good game about "non-violent resistance" and "creating a better world," but you are no less bigoted when it comes to mundanes -- and like Bester, you don't even bother to hide your contempt.

Steph's Rating: 7.7


5:9 - A Tragedy of Telepaths

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: It's interesting that Sheridan and Delenn resort to the threat of military action in order to prevent the Drazi - or any other Alliance race - from starting a war over the shipping lanes issue. Like I said, the Alliance is a United Nations with actual teeth. And by the way, the Drazi ambassador's over-dramatic speech in that scene in re: Sheridan's "big mistake" is right, but not in the way he thinks. Sheridan is not wrong to prevent hasty action before all the facts are known. What he will come to regret eventually is his promise to back the actions of the Drazi, Brakiri, etc. once the origin of the new crop of raiders is discovered, as that will lead to the carpet-bombing of an entire planet. Oops.

In other news, this episode provides yet more evidence that Londo is fundamentally decent deep down -- though it also illustrates why Londo frequently doesn't heed the warnings of his own conscience. He genuinely enjoys freeing Na'Toth from her cell -- but, of course, if G'Kar weren't there to strong-arm him into doing it, Londo would've given in to his "breeding" instead of doing the right thing. Ah, Londo. You are such a great character.

And as for Byron? His agony over the actions of the teep splinter group rings false to me. Why? Because if he had cooperated fully with Lochley and helped to apprehend said individuals, he might've prevented all the violence that goes down in this episode and the next. And also? If you teach your people that a mundane mind is not worthy of respect, it really is a very short jump to the conclusion that their bodies don't deserve respect either.

Steph's Rating: 7.3


5:10 - Phoenix Rising

Plot Synopsis: Can be found here.

Steph's Comments: Now, finally, we get to Byron's inevitable self-immolation. And you know, I think I would've accepted this entire plot if JMS had just gone ahead and acknowledged in some shape or form that Byron is a villain. If JMS had gone down the Charles Manson route, all the contradictions would've made perfect sense. His sorrow over gunning down a mundane ship, for example, could be understood as an act calculated to manipulate others, while his willingness to use invasive mental tactics on the mundanes would be seen as revealing of Byron's true self. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, JMS thinks Byron is a hero -- and that's why Byron's arc fails. Really, the only thing that prevents me from giving this episode a lower score is the fact that Bester is still written consistently.

Steph's Ratings: 6.5

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