Thursday, April 10, 2008

B5 S2 Ep 12: Acts Of Sacrifice

Babylon 5: Acts Of Sacrifice serves up another humdinger of an episode. I had to dedicate one entry to it. In fact the more detailed each episode becomes with new information combined with back story the more I get the feeling this may happen. I ended up watching this one twice.

This is such a character study especially for G’Kar and Londo Mollari. This is pure unadulterated sci-fi drama of the highest caliber. Special effects are at kept to a minimum apart from a gripping opening sequence. This is strictly a vehicle for the actors and it really allows Boxleitner, Furlan, Doyle, Christian and especially Katsulas and Jurasik a chance to shine. It builds upon these players with powerful performances. Season 2 has Katsulas and Jurasik really digging in. Revelations, The Coming Of Shadows and now Acts Of Sacrifice are all, not surprisingly, penned by one J. Michael Straczynski who really has the pulse of these characters and where he wants to go with his story. In fact, looking back to By Any Means Necessary from Season 1, there is pure venom between Londo and G’Kar. If you remember, G’Kar was desperate for a G’Quan Eth plant for his religious ceremony. A Narn ship was destroyed in an accident that was carrying the necessary ingredients for the time-sensitive Holy Days of G’Quan. Londo possessed the required flower but would not aid G’Kar with his ceremony. He made his life miserable and did it with a smile [and to think at one point or another we thought perhaps Straczynski might go in a more positive direction for these two. He sure had us fooled]. The bad blood runs deep. It is a pivotal moment as we begin to see our perception change and sympathies transfer from Londo to G'Kar.

Episode 12, Acts Of Sacrifice, begins with Centauri warships attempting to wipe out a civilian transport ship of Narn women and children making a break for the jumpgate. A Narn vessel positions itself between the escaping craft and the Centauri. The sacrifice of those Narn saves hundreds.

Sheridan and G'Kar go toe to toe before making out.

The episode is jam-packed with emotional power and rising tensions beginning with Sheridan’s efforts to gather support against the Centauri military action in support of the Narn. Sheridan is alerted to Earth’s inability to intervene “officially” following Sheridan’s request to aid the Narn. G’Kar pleads with Delenn who is torn and unable to reconcile the hateful, vengeful rhetoric of G’Kar from the past and the possibility of the Minbari being drawn into another war that maynot be quelled.

Meanwhile, all sorts of lobbyists [with their own racial agendas] are turning to Londo for assistance given his newfound prestige and power within the Centauri Empire. Jurasik plays the role with a sublime panache combined with a touch of the temperamental. It’s a beautiful thing watching Jurasik deliver.

The conflict between the Narn and Centauri is escalating and not unlike any engagement of this magnitude convincing nations to fall in line and apply pressure to ending it is no small task. G’Kar is left frustrated and helpless at every turn for help. It is a thrill to watch these ambassadors jockey and navigate the political turmoil within the neutral zone of B5. Who knew political conflict could be so rife with excitement.

With G’Kar thwarted at every turn tempers rise


Londo, too, is coming to terms with his newfound political power. He discovers all isn't as he'd hoped. Suddenly he is feeling very alone as perceptions around him are changing. It is a troubling fall from grace to behold.

Londo gives good meaning to "with friends like you who needs enemies?," but he continues to pack a heartbreaking punch of his own as we still care about the esteemed Londo Mollari for the flawed Centauri that he is.


The fragility of these two leaders couldn’t be more heartbreaking as displayed for different reasons. G’Kar continues to try and do the right thing for his people. He even challenges his own people calling for calm, patience and cool heads on B5 in the hopes of gaining sympathy external to their own race. Let’s just say G’Kar is the freakin’ Narn! He has become a character with such a noble heart.

There is a brilliant juxtaposition of these two characters throughout the installment as G'Kar and Londo are caught up in the push and pull of their own personal demons amidst the unstoppable force and weight of dark forces much bigger than themselves and beyond their control.

The emotional energy is palpable in this one and I informed “The One To Be Pitied” how touching this episode really was. She didn’t care. She informed me that I was bothering her. I told her how moved I was by Katsulas as G'Kar. She told me, "you want to see him naked don't you." Now really. Honestly folks, Season 2 is resonating with me because the writing is more genuine and sincere than it was delivered or felt in the first season. I had a lot of praise in Season 1 for Jurasik, but for fans of G’Kar, Katsulas has really been something special in Season 2. These are two amazing characters created Straczynski and made credible by these two seasoned actors.
*
This is an emotional sequence and one of the best of the series to date.

G'Kar remains true to the path of diplomacy only to receive yet another crushing blow. The dignity of his people is on the line and he writhes in pain behind a brave face. This is one of the show’s most heartrending moments to date. It’s a brutal episode as the attempt at systematic genocide continues to unfold before the ambasador's eyes while he can do nothing. Equally troubled is Delenn in that brief scene as she clearly desires to do more for G'Kar and yet she too has no answers.

Stepping back from it, so much of this story plays like a modern version of Greek tragedy. There are paths that characters take that will inevitably end badly and as events unfold you know there is this momentum in place and all of these wonderful characters seemingly play a part of decisions that cannot be altered. It's as if destiny's hand is pulling their strings. You just want to scream at the screen in frustration. The future is hurtling toward them and with each poor choice tomorrow looks dark indeed.

To lighten the mood a second thread for the installment features Ivanova with her extraordinary riff on the Meg Ryan fake orgasm. Ivanova has been tasked with establishing an ambassadorship with a race of elitist aliens. Custom has it they must have sex first in order to establish such a relationship [my brother would like these guys]. Ivanova turns the tables by informing them they will have sex her way, hence the orgasmic performance!

Londo to Garibaldi: “It is good to have friends is it not Mr. Garibaldi? Even if maybe only for a little while.” Truly tragic stuff.

Acts Of Sacrifice: A-

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

It may seem destiny and inescapable at this point, and yet it’s the characters’ choices that have set this momentum in motion in the first place. Most especially Londo, who with his conviction that „nothing can be changed“ doesn’t realise the extent of damage he’s capable of causing.

JMS has earned degrees in sociology and clinical psychology, and he’s pulling the latter in particular with increasing frequency and effectiveness to dismantle his characters (and audience) emotionally. Yes, he can be most brutal with our fictional friends. You haven’t seen the last of it.

Mandy

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Yes, I love the complexities of the writing and characterization. It's pretty deep analysis and that the performances have some impressive nuances. Now I know why Straczynski has so much insight. Perhaps you need to contact anyone involved with the cast and start writing your own book called Babylon 5 Revisited. You are clearly well read and knowledgeable on the subject.

Anonymous said...

There are already a couple of books as well many people with a lot more expertise than myself out there :) ... I’ve been there since the show first aired, but everything I know is accessible on the internet (the best source for information is the Lurker’s Guide at http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/lurker.html, as well as Wikipedia, but beware of spoilers). Btw., from this point on, there are only three more episodes written by freelancers. All other scripts until the end of season 5 were written by one workaholic JMS himself.

Mandy

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey ya! Yes, I agree I have come across a couple of fine books and I intend on reading them after I complete the series. I'll bookmark the link you gave me but won't go there until later. Reading up on the cast/writing/directing credits is one of those things I enjoy and I was noticing the best of the material has come by way of Straczynski. I've been noticing there's no other way for him to weave his story unless he tells it. Thanks as always for your input.

Francine said...

G'Kar naked? Sounds good to me! Seriously, brilliant analysis, brilliant screen captures and vid - thanks!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

haha Clearly you're into alien loving. Okay. : ) I always liked Yvonne Craig in green myself. Thanks for the vote of confidence Francine and the support.

Francine said...

Hmmn, well, I'll admit to having thoughts about Gul Dukat going where no man has gone before... but the rest, as Shakin' Stevens (or was it Shakespeare?) once said, is silence....