Monday, April 28, 2008

B5 S2 Ep20: The Long, Twilight Struggle

There is beautiful work in this gritty tale right down to the make-up.

Where the hell was I when Babylon 5 was on TV? Where the hell did I go? Did I just check off the planet for a few years? Did I just disappear and forget who I was only to turn up 5 years later clutching a bottle of paint thinner? What the hell was I thinking? Look what I've missed all these years. It isn’t right. It’s troubling actually to think I spaced it and lost out on all of this delicious science fiction. Interplanetary politics, backroom deals, packs with the devil, space battles, alien races and Boxleitner. Whew! This is a tremendous series and it is mesmerizing to watch. My jaw is open at times hanging on every word and every delivery. I am in awe of events that transpire and the consequences that follow. I am enjoying the structure of this series and the serialization of various arcs [The Shadows, Psi Corps, Earth Defense Force, et.] as much if not more than, dare I say, Stargate SG-1. I never thought I would say that, but there it is. Babylon 5 is nothing like I envisioned. What I envisioned I'm not sure, but it wasn't this.

On the whole and maybe weighted toward the second half of Season 2 there is so much information, so much detail. It’s a tremendous, epic mythology that has been brought to life on a visual canvas. There’s also nothing light about the material. I am blown away. Be forewarned people, I have no option but to revisit a few episodes before moving forward. There are forces at work that are pulling me backward.

We arrive at Season 2 Episode 20, The Long, Twilight Struggle, and what a struggle it is for especially for our dear Londo and G’Kar. You can see the pain in Londo as he fights every fiber of his righteous body to do the wrong thing. G’Kar is such a sympathetic figure to me. His pain is palpable. I just wanted to curl up into a fetal position for him by the end of this one. It was excruciating. How does Minbar and the Earth Alliance stand by and not want to bring the full weight of their arsenal upon the Centauri? It's rhetorical. I know the answer, but I just wish they'd damn well do it. The Narn is facing extermination and everyone sits idly by and watches. I suppose it’s much like events in our own world. You'd think the genocide of the Markab would be a wake-up call. Straczynski is a true genius.

We Are Family [sing it!]: G'Kar and Uncle G'Sten.
So, the vile Lord Refa summons Londo to Centauri Prime, while G’Kar meets with his uncle G’Sten at B5. G’Sten informs G’Kar the Narn are re-strategizing and preparing to thrust an all out assault on the Centauri supply world of Gorash 7. The Narn plan is to strike with sharp intensity so the Centauri will pull back. Unbeknownst to the Narn, Refa has intercepted those plans. Refa wants Londo to send his “associates” to Gorash 7 to wipe out the Narn fleet when they arrive, while the Centauri applies its full arsenal against the Narn homeworld in an offensive slaughter. Refa intends to wipe out the Narn utilizing methods outlawed by all civilized races in the form of Mass Drivers [planetary bombers].

Londo is distressed by the plan. You can visibly see and feel his discomfort. Not to mention, Londo is worried about the strength of the Shadows and he should be. Why the Centauri do not question who these “associates” are, their capabilities and the potential havoc they could wreak upon their own world, is a mystery. Now that is a bloodlust for power. Londo expresses his preference to avoid reliance upon the Shadows. Gee, I wonder why Londo? He impresses upon Refa that the Centauri should carve their own destiny without aid. Hmm, perhaps that old sinking feeling is setting in. Refa presses Londo. Londo concedes to the pressure reluctantly and vows it will be the last time he calls upon the assistance of his "associates." Why do I get the feeling it's not going to be that easy.

Later, Refa invites Londo along to oversee the Centauri victory over the Narn and the destruction of the Narn homeworld. It is a haunting image of Londo watching from the window of his vessel the fruits of what his command has enabled. He is deeply disturbed by inner demons and he exhibits his stomach-churning choices as he looks away.

On B5, G’Kar visits wounded Narn strewn throughout the medlab and Dr. Franklin informs him of information given to him by one of the Narn who has died. Dr. Franklin tells G’Kar the deceased Narn was interrogated and the Centauri probed him about Narn homeword defenses. The red flags are waving for G’Kar. He knows the Centauri are thorough and unlikely to finish a job however small, yet he learns their ships have peeled away from various Narn outposts. Why? G’Kar knows and informs G’Sten to pull away from Gorash 7 and retreat back to the Narn homeworld. It looks like a trap yet G’Kar cannot convince G’Sten to go back and protect their home.

And so, despite the urging of G’Kar and his insistence the Narn leave the sector of Gorash 7, the fate of his people sealed, they are instead simply wiped out by the black-fingered hand of evil that is The Shadows. It is a slaughterhouse and retreat is futile. The lethal force of purple-pink firepower kills all. The spiritual G’Kar is deep in frantic prayer, but he knows his people’s fate and his prayers are unanswered. What God does G'Kar pray to?

Upon word of the attack, Narn fighting begins on B5 between, you guessed it, the Narn and Centauri. Yeah, I’d have a problem with mass genocide too. Four days of bombardment later, the Narn surrender and G’Kar’s long, lonely, twilight struggle continues.

Oh poor Londo, how far you have fallen.
Londo calls for an emergency session of the Advisory Council and the League of Non-Alligned Worlds. Londo, despite knowing the atrocities he has committed, with a sure hand commands the audience with his false power. His demands before the council include:

The disbandment of the Narn ruling body who will face arrest and trial for war crimes. [Earth requests a presence but is denied.]

Prevention of acts of terror by Narn upon the Centauri. Such action will result in the execution of 500 Narns for any one Centauri killed.

A provisional ruling council by the Centauri will rebuild a “civilized” Narn government to be a colony under the rule of the Greater Centauri Republic.

Last but not least, Ambassador G'Kar shall henceforth be named Citizen G’Kar.

G'Kar, having a very, very bad day.
In a second thread, Delenn’s friend Draal [now played by a different actor- poor Straczynski really had to do some juggling from time to time] has appeared before her and Sheridan as a holographic image from Epsilon 3 where he is keeper of the Great Machine. With B5 orbiting the planet, and being a mere hop, skip and a jump away, he has requested a visit. It has been one year and Draal offers Sheridan an alliance with Epsilon 3, but it is agreed the information will be kept from the Earth Alliance and between Delenn, Draal and him alone. Hmmm... another secret weapon in the old Babylon 5 back pocket? Good idea. They're gonna need it.

One last note of interest, Draal calls for old friend Zathras [Babylon Squared Season 1] off camera, so we never actually see him. This thread is certainly very important. What does the future hold for B5 and its planetary protector Epsilon 3? The partnership looks to be establishing B5 as a protectorate. We were first alerted to the planet’s defensive power and its secrets [what they are we're not sure because they're secret] in Season 1's A Voice In The Wilderness parts 1 & 2 . The two-part episode established B5’s link with the station and the planet's care in the hands of a Minbari to prevent its destruction. Clearly Epsilon 3, now allied with B5, will continue to play a part in the coming Great War or beyond. Finally, the mention of Zathras ties this emtry not only to the aforementioned two parter, but with Babylon Squared where we first met Zathras. If you recall, Zathras saved Sinclair [not The One] and became pinned by a girder on the unstable Babylon 4. Zathras told Sinclair to "Go" with the others. "You have a destiny." If you remember, The One appears before him in a blue spacesuit. Zathras expressed relief, "Zathras knew you would not leave him. Zathras trusts The One." It's wonderful to see Straczynski come full circle on some of these ties that bind the show. So we definitely receive the first sign here that Zathras is still very much alive.

The Epilogue: Delenn introduces Sheridan to The Rangers, fighters of the coming darkness, army of light. The Rangers have been under Delenn’s command. It is in this moment she transfers equal authority to the now trusted Sheridan. Sheridan and Delenn's association and their roles in the fate of Babylon 5 seem to be closely tied.

The Long, Twilight Struggle: B+


Anonymous said...

I imagined you would be quite unsettled by this one. Truely horrible stuff being done to G'kar and the Narn.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Downright nasty M! It shakes your faith when you see people knowingly make the wrong choices. Great episode.