Saturday, January 7, 2012

Classics: B5 5:22 - Sleeping in Light

Overall: 9.2

This grand finale is as schmaltzy as all hell, but we love it anyway.

Plot Synopsis:

It's pretty simple, really: Just before Sheridan hits his twenty year deadline and "passes beyond the rim," his friends gather on Minbar for one final dinner. But if you're hankering for more details, you can check out the complete summary at the Lurker's Guide here.

The Skinny:

This isn't really the place for a comprehensive retrospective tackling this show's major themes and arcs, greatest strengths, and primary weaknesses -- though that is something I'd like to do at a later date. (Actually, I'd like to do that for any series on our docket that ran for at least four years.) I would, however, like to point out - as I did at Dragon*Con 2004 - that Vir is the character who changes most dramatically over the course of the series. And I would like to highlight this reality now because the terrific closing sequence for this episode - which juxtaposes each character's first and last appearances - makes Vir's growth immediately and poignantly apparent:

The Vir of Midnight on the Firing Line was a fat, goofy boy who was scared of everything -- especially Londo, who, back then, had a tendency to shout and throw things. And the Vir of this episode? Well, he is every inch a monarch. There are hints throughout that Vir has restored Centauri Prime's relationship with the Alliance and the Rangers -- just as we always knew he would. Further, he carries himself with a gravitas that was once thoroughly absent from his character -- though, hilariously, he still passes out if he drinks too much. ("Where are the others?" "They're putting Vir to bed." Heh.) The Vir of Sleeping in Light is a man who has seen and done much; he has become intimately acquainted with tragedy, and his face shows it in every detail. This, of course, is owing to the fact that Stephen Furst is awesome. All along, Furst subtly changed his performance to keep pace with Vir's phenomenal evolution, and I don't think he gets nearly enough credit for that effort.

My favorite scene in this episode, predictably, is Vir's mysteriously powerful moment in the spotlight. Yes -- this may be Sheridan's episode, but JMS - conscious of where the soul of the series really resides - simply can't resist inserting a little love letter to Londo and Vir and their (aforementioned) BEAUTIFUL LOVE. Forget the "you are my star and my moon" stuff; it is Vir's humble little anecdote that really makes me cry because - like Stephen Furst's performance - it is so marvelously understated.

Which is not to say that I don't understand the appeal of Sheridan and Delenn and their truly epic farewell. There's definitely a valid reason why so many people are drawn to such a traditional romance. I think we all would like to hold on to the hope that love means something more than the mashing together of physical bodies. I think we all still believe, deep down, that romance is fundamentally a salvific experience in which the man and the woman are forged into more heroic - and more saintly - versions of themselves. True -- as I suggested in my opening comment above, JMS definitely overdoes it when it comes to Sheridan and Delenn's final scene together. But once again, I'm inclined to be charitable.

I think it's also important to note that JMS, despite his self-proclaimed atheism, fails to argue that Sheridan's end is really The End. And that's perfectly understandable, I think. What kind of inspiration is your viewer going to glean from your series if you proclaim that your hero's ultimate destiny is to become worm food? 'Tis better to speak of "passing beyond the rim" and "starting a new journey" because the belief in the existence of an afterlife is innate in human nature. Our instincts point to Heaven -- and as a writer, JMS is just smart enough not to fight those instincts.

Writing: 8.5

The script lacks subtlety in places, but it is still quite touching.

Acting: 9.0

I think everyone gets at least one nice scene here.

Message: 10.0

See the discussion above.


First of all, I need to transcribe my favorite part:

VIR: You know, Londo never liked the Pak'Ma'Ra. They're stubborn, lazy, obnoxious, greedy --
GARIBALDI: (interrupting) They kinda look like an octopus that got run over by a truck.
VIR: That too. But one day, Londo and I were walking past their quarters, and we heard them -- singing.
SHERIDAN: Singing? They can sing?
FRANKLIN: There's nothing about that in the literature.
VIR: Apparently, it's something they only do certain times of the year as part of their religious ceremonies. You may not believe this, but -- it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. I-I-I couldn't make out the words, but I knew it was full of sadness and hope and wonder and a terrible -- sense of loss. I-I looked at Londo, and - this is the amazing part - there was a tear running down his face. I said, 'Londo, we-we should leave. I mean, this is upsetting you,' but he just stood there and -- listened. And when it was over, he turned to me and he said, 'There are forty-nine gods in our pantheon, Vir. To tell you the truth, I never believed in any of them. But if only one of them exists, then God sings with that voice.' (A beat.) It's funny -- after everything we have been through -- all he did -- (And then, after a long pause and with emotion:) I miss him. (AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! Seriously: This scene is what makes the entire episode for me. I'm half inclined to say, "Screw the Sheridan/Delenn stuff. I'm going home." But that wouldn't be fair to SABR Matt -- or to any other Sheridan/Delenn fans in our audience.)

And now let's turn to the video clips:

(There you go, Matt. That one was for you. ;))

(There's a comment on this video over on YouTube which states, "Probably the only show that will ever make me cry over the destruction of an inanimate object." And you know, I couldn't agree more.)

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