Wednesday, April 16, 2008

B5 S2 Ep 16: In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum

[Man running breathlessly to top of mountain]
Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom for Z’Ha’Dum [that just had a nice ring to it]! Season 2's In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum is absolutely freakin’ brilliant! Babylon 5 at its absolute best!

Ed Wasser returns as Morden and like many of the series recurring characters he is always a joy to watch. He has a meaty role and he delivers it with sinister confidence and likeable creepiness.

The entry is jam-packed with information.

The story begins with Morden meeting Vir in the Zocalo where Vir really demonstrates some major stones and lets Morden have it with both barrels. It is a delicious exchange.

Elsewhere on the ship, Sheridan is reviewing the ship manifest of his wife’s science vessel the Icarus. Garibaldi arrives and makes note of one of the crew pictured on the monitor. Curiously it is none other than Morden. Garibaldi informs Sheridan he knows him. Of course this is impossible because everyone on board the Icarus perished. Alas, apparently not, Garibaldi checks the computer and informs Sheridan Morden is still very much alive. Where is he? He's still on B5. Sheridan demands him found and arrested for interrogation. This leads to yet another impressive mental duel throughout the episode between Wasser and Boxleitner. They too are at their best!

Sheridan: “What happened to the Icarus?
Morden: “I told you I don’t know. I don’t remember.
Sheridan: “Well you damn well better start remembering mister because by God by the time I am done with you, you will wish you had died on the Icarus.

Sheridan means it. He is pissed off and in a frighteningly vengeful mood! Nevertheless, Morden is about as cool as cucumbers get. It was a nice turn to witness Sheridan’s judgment clouded with his personal agenda. If you recall, his head was clear when he advised G’Kar against revenge upon Londo in The Coming Of Shadows, but all of that is out the window now that his wife's demise appears uncertain. He feels rage standing in G’Kar’s shoes. He needs significant help to come down off this cliff, but does eventually get it. This is one of the best elements of B5. Behavior, choices, consequences are all part of the exceptional writing by Straczynski. Further, this one is loaded with uncomfortable intimacy. It is riveting space drama.

Things get heated internally when Garibaldi presses Sheridan on the illegal detention of Morden. If charges are not applied, the honorable Garibaldi threatens to resign his command. As Security Chief he is a proponent of the law and inevitably resigns. Sheridan promotes Zack "Greased Lightning" Allan to Security Chief as a result. The pressure builds as Sheridan continues to lean hard on Morden by requesting the telepathic assistance of Talia Winters. Meanwhile, upon hearing of Morden's incarceration, Vir approaches Sheridan on behalf of Londo and requests Morden’s release as a guest of Centauri Prime. Vir emphasizes diplomatic immunity for Morden. Sheridan, cleverly turns the tables on Vir and informs him that Morden is in protective custody, has not been charged with a crime and is therefore ineligible for diplomatic immunity.

Sheridan continues to feel the strain placed upon him for Morden's release. Upon learning Ms. Winters has declined the scan for legal reasons Sheridan gets cute. He arranges for Morden and Winters to cross paths on board B5. Winters sees Shadows surrounding Morden and is left disturbed at the images revealed. She lets Sheridan have it.

Delenn and Kosh learn of Morden’s retention. Both request his immediate release from B5 and inform Sheridan of the last Great War with the Shadows, 1,000 years ago. The Shadows were defeated then by the First Ones, but not destroyed. Kosh is one of the last of the First Ones. His encounter suit protects his identity. The Vorlons have been guardians watching and waiting for the Shadows’ return. Delenn pleads with Sheridan to do the right thing and that lives, outside of his own redresses, are depending upon it.

Delenn: “Be warned. Once you know his secret. You will never sleep again. Come Captain, the greatest nightmare of our time is waiting for you.”

Here is an intense segment of revelation surrounding the Icarus and the Shadows.

A furtive trust between Kosh and Delenn dates back at least to Chrysalis [the Season 1 finale]. Delenn had Lennier ask Kosh if 'they' had returned and his singular answer was “Yes.” At the time we weren't entirely clear on what had inspired Delenn to move toward transformation. In The Shadow Of Z’Ha’Dum continues to capitalize on those earlier seeds surrounding Delenn, Kosh and G’Kar. A revisit of that episode may be in order.

Sheridan is forced to relent, much as G’Kar's hand was forced to yield to Sheridan despite learning of the attack on his beloved Narn. Sheridan orders Morden’s release to ensure the Shadows’ continue to believe they are still moving unmolested and undiscovered, at Delenn's urging. It was Delenn who reminded Sheridan of his own call for calm from G'Kar in Acts of Sacrfice. I understand the omniscience of Kosh, but how did Delenn know what Sheridan had told G'Kar about letting go of revenge? She wasn't present during that exchange.

The epilogue is splendid as well. Sheridan informs Kosh in the alien sector that he himself will someday go to Z’Ha’Dum. Kosh tells him he will die, but he agrees to teach Sheridan how to fight the Shadows. This is hands down, kick ass stuff! The amazing Straczynski story continues.

Oh! In a new thread I’m sure will be important later, The Ministry Of Peace has offered credits [payment] to B5 security personnel for wearing a new patch dubbed the Nightwatch program. Yikes! Jeff Conaway earns the cringeworthy speaking role. Gasp!

In The Shadow Of Z’Ha’Dum: A


Anonymous said...

When going back to the season 1 episodes, you'll probably find yourself with a whole new level of appreciation for them. Not just the major ones, like Signs and Portents, or Chrysalis, but also some of the more inconspicuous ones. The efficiency how information is packed into Midnight or Mind War, for example, is quite astonishing.

Have you been warned of the DVD commentaries? Don't listen to them until you're through with the entire show, they're spoiling big time.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey ya! I'm with you 100 percent M! I'm already discovering a newfound appreciation for them. You are spot on! I agree, I will have to take a look at the less glaring examples to see what you mean. Thanks for the tip on the commentaries. I have not been warned until now, but to be honest I was definitely steering clear of those as well as the MAKING OF featurettes. I don't want to take any chances. Cheers as always.

Anonymous said...

You asked me about the pilot - as you're fast approaching "Divided Loyalities", if you want to watch it, before that episode would be a good time.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey M! I'm staggered a few episodes for writing and creating purposes - so I am two shy of the end of S2. Would you say to go ahead and check out The Gathering as I conclude Season 2 or would now be a good time to go ahead. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Well, then it appears you've seen "Divided Loyalities" already - I mentioned the pilot because it introduces Lyta Alexander, and you see matter about Lyta scanning Kosh. It's also interesting to compare Lyta's character in the pilot to the Lyta we see in Divided Loyalities.

2 episodes to the end of season 2? Then you're past "The
Long Twilight Struggle" (I'm curious what you'll have to say about that one) and in for a horrible treat in "Inquisitor".


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey M, I definitely put the whole Lyta connection together when I saw her. I think I may check out The Gathering soon based on your comments. I'm working on the next one feverishly. : ) Have a good one.