Thursday, May 29, 2008

B5 S3 Ep4: Passing Through Gethsemane

One of many creepy moments in a powerful entry.

Wow! Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 3, Passing Through Gethsemane, really stayed with me long after watching it. I actually ended up watching it twice. The message was so powerful in the story it was a bit like going to church when your pastor delivers his most powerful sermon of the year. It had that engaging quality to it. The writing was really something to behold.
The story begins over a chess match between Brother Theo, played by Louis Turenne, who quite simply is brilliant in the role. I've really enjoyed his recurring part though I made little mention of it upon his first appearance in Convictions. One Brother Edward is watching the match. Character actor Brad Dourif guests in the role. I'm always hot and cold on Dourif. Either Dourif [Deadwood] is the kind of quirky, eccentric character I’m not crazy about [Grima Wormtongue in Lord Of The Rings] or plays a part I really love [Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest]. Well, he plays the part pretty straight here, being a religious man, and it is a pleasure to watch his craft unfold. Despite my reservations he can unquestionably perform with the best of them.

Ambassador Kosh arrives in Bay 13 and the Vorlon ship contorts to create a doorway [love that Vorlon technology]. Lyta Alexander has returned. According to Lyta she essentially hitchhiked to the edge of Vorlon space. We know she has been drawn to Kosh since the beginning. Her story has it she was left floating in a lifepod with five days life support. Lucky for her she was saved and found herself on the Vorlon homeworld. Sheridan and the others inquire about her experience there, but she cannot discuss what she has witnessed. She tells them most would not believe what she has encountered anyway. How convenient. Try us Lyta. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. As luck would have it, Lyta will be working for Kosh, but be based out of Babylon 5. Her association with Kosh is of her own free will [unlike Sebastian of Comes The Inquisitor]. Kosh will also protect her from the nefarious Psi Corps. I'd have to admit I'd be just fine with Kosh as my bodyguard.

Garibaldi has this to say: “Nobody’s ever been to the Vorlon homeworld and back again, yet she goes, comes back like she just took a trip to the corner store and now she’s working for Kosh. Is anybody else as creeped out about this as I am?

Yup! Creeped Out!
Meanwhile, oddly, a black rose drops from the bag of Brother Edward. Someone is toying with the new addition to the cloaked brotherhood.

A conversation between Garibaldi and Delenn sheds some interesting light on the state of criminal justice in the Babylon 5 world of Earth society. It appears to be a kinder, gentler Earth [on the surface]. Mind wipe or “death of personality” has replaced the electric chair. Criminals receive a new personality to supplant their past and will do community service for the rest of time. It's kind of like a nicer version of the lobotomy if there was ever such a thing.

Delenn: “But you don’t agree?
Garibaldi: “No, I’m an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth kinda guy ambassador.”
Delenn: “So you support the system that would leave everyone blind and toothless.”
Garibaldi: “No, not everyone- just the bad guys.”

Now that’s my Garibaldi. He refers to the old code of Hammurabi of Babylon without actually saying it [interesting connection eh?].

In medlab, Dr. Franklin performs a physical on Lyta. Curiously she is in better health now than she was the last time she left Babylon 5.

Yikes, creepy wall scribbling, not a good Sign- literally.
Poor Brother Edward is showing signs of psychosis or is it? Arriving at his quarters he sees words on his wall that appear painted in blood. I always hated the 'wall-painted-in-blood' trick! You get the heebie jeebies! He alerts Garibaldi but when they return the message has vanished. You see, that's when you get the heebie jeebies! It's not right.

This sequence sees Londo attempt to work Lyta over and unsuccessfully charm her into giving him information about the Vorlons. Londo looks so pathetic when he tries these stunts, but they are fun to watch, and he wouldn't be Londo if he wasn't trying.

This is quickly followed by a moving exchange between Delenn and boy toy Lennier meeting with Brother Edward over the meaning of the soul. The Minbari believe it to be a "non-localized phenomenon.” The body is merely the shell that houses the soul, hence the concept of Minbari souls taking human bodies. Lennier eloquently explains the concept and keeps it succinct. It's the next part of the scene that was profoundly thoughtful, touching and noteworthy for me as portrayed by Dourif. What would you do?

I love that Straczynski constantly sets forth the idea that events are in motion and people can alter their course if they so desire or can they? Why can’t people stop and make things right? People just can't stop themselves damn it!

When Brother Edward arrives in Brown 17 he is touched by a Centauri telepath as he exits the elevator. He hears voices, sirens and sees the message again, “Death Walks Among You.” Edward finds a dead woman with a black rose stuffed in her mouth. Running through water, a tear runs from his eye. Ah, I started getting the mind wipe connection here. I know-I’m slow. Brother Theo attempts to dissuade Edward’s desire to probe into what these images mean. Edward accesses the station computer to cross-reference information like the black rose. The computer matches on the black rose killer, Charles Dexter. Brother Edward WAS/ IS Charles Dexter and was the recipient of the “death of personality” April 3, 2251. What a great story and the twists continue for Babylon 5.

Sheridan, Theo and Garibaldi uncover the truth. Edward now knows he was once a murderous monster or as he tells Theo, “the stain remains with the soul.”

Creepy Centauri telepath!
Garibaldi finds the recorder that was left running that Theo lost while on Brown 17. He is being set up to remember his past. The blood red writing is a chemical that disappears. The intercom played on Edward’s psyche. The Centauri telepath was hired to break down Edward’s mind wipe. The children of Dexter’s victims want revenge and have come for him. Edward is missing and the Centauri will not relinquish information under questioning. Sheridan implements plan B. Garibaldi slides a bag over his head [whatever works in the name of justice] and Lyta enters to peel away his mind. The Centauri struggles but passes out. Lyta has the information. Edward is on Brown 42.
Creepy Brother Edward mode! My heart just broke for the guy. If Straczynski wanted me to feel bad for a murderer it worked.
I thought the darkened lighting was brilliant. Director Adam Nimoy and his team employed some terrific techniques to capture the mood. This image exemplifies the lighting effort as Edward’s face is skewed complete with red eye sockets. It really played on the whole concept of Edward as the monster underneath. It was really well executed by the creators here. In the end, Edward answers the question of whether or not he would have the courage to face destiny. He answers it by facing the victims of his former self's actions and proving he did indeed have the courage to face it. I thought Straczynski’s one misstep was to make a point regarding Gethsemane here. He didn’t have to go back to it. That scene was so powerful earlier on and resonated with me so much Edward’s actions spoke volumes and did not need to be spelled out for us, especially fans as smart as those who would seek out Babylon 5. The question I have, how do we reconcile whose soul was at play here, that of Charles Dexter or Brother Edward? Is it one and the same or a moving force like that which Lennier described earlier. My head hurts.

Always great to see Straczynski turn the tables on us by socking characters in the gut, even if they aren’t aware of it. Garibaldi [not unlike myself] exhibits much sympathy for Edward despite voicing his stance on the mind wipe as punishment to Delenn earlier. Everyone certainly approached Edward with sympathy while knowing he was indeed formerly a killer. Dourif is terrific just as Wayne Alexander was terrific in Comes The Inquisitor.

The subject of forgiveness is brought to the fore in the final minutes and it is a gigantic twist.

Straczynski’s words shine through Sheridan: “You take away a man’s life, memory, payment for his crime. It’s still not enough. Where does revenge end and justice begin? Forgiveness is a hard thing isn’t it Theo?” More than you know Sheridan.

And with those words Sheridan’s feet are held to the fire when he turns to meet the latest addition to the order in the form of the very man who murdered Brother Edward. Sheridan is visibly shaken but must put his words to the test as he painfully extends his hand after first denying the the new brother a handshake. Going back to Sheridan’s words earlier, “I believe in a little bit of everything. I’m eclectic, open-minded.” Indeed. He at least proves those words true.

Eww! Creepy gill implants!
The epilogue moment sees light beaming from Kosh’s encounter suit with his head placed by the side. Lyta absorbs light beams through her eyes and mouth. Her breathing is aided by those creepy gill implants. It’s all very odd indeed. Is Lyta changing? One thing is certain she looks like a damn addict.
This is a powerful work, which left me thinking about a lot of things, including the fact that the mind wipe could be applied to anyone, even one of our beloved characters. Still, I don't really believe that simply for the mere fact that our favorite characters are filled with way too much passion and that seems to nearly absent following the "death of personality."

Passing Through Gethsemane: A-

While some of my grading may be on par episode to episode, each one is populated with very different ideas and can be like comparing apples to oranges despite being graded similiarly and liking them for different reasons.


Anonymous said...

This is, in my opinion, the best non-arc episode of Babylon 5 ever.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

It would appear we are on very much the same page. Very nice work indeed.

Anonymous said...

Told you, I did :)

The whole death of personality
idea raises a number of difficult questions that were touched time and again in Soulhunter, Quality of Mercy, Divided Loyalities, all episodes dealing with the question what constitutes a person, what is the difference between personality and the soul, does such a thing as the soul in a religious sense even exist ... The death scene with Brother Theo giving absolution to Edwards is heartbreaking, and the entry of Brother Malcolm, who joined the order "under most unusual circumstances" is a bucket of icewater even in a rewatch. First that death scene, and now that. I was thoroughly shocked when I first saw this.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M- it was really powerful. As mentioned previous, it was definitely a cohesive strong story and one of the best of Straczynski's stand alones. What was funny. At first, I didn't realize Brother Malcolm was Edward's killer all cleaned up and well groomed. I actually thought it was Garibaldi's aid from way back in Chrysalis that shot him at first. They looked similiar but upon checking it out it was clearly not him. My mind plays tricks on me sometimes. You're right though, there were alot of emotional moments in this one and Dourif is actually excellent.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

By the way I was thinking about best Babylon 5 standalone story ever and INFECTION ranks right up there with Passing Through Gethsemane.....kidding!

Anonymous said...

"When it comes to Infection, I'd just kinda prefer it if it kinda vanished in the night" (JMS; said about the same thing about "Grail").

There are a few other standalones coming, "Avalon" in 3x13 is one I personally like a lot, but not everyone agrees.

I'm curious about your comments to "Authority", that's one of the often forgotten ones I have somewhat of a personal love affair with, because I think it's extraordinarily well written dialogue-wise; it's uncanny how distinctive the "voices" (on paper) of the characters are in that. Plus, I love Julie Musante. Sure, actress is overacting, but she's funny as hell. :)


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M! Hope Saturday is treating you well. I'm in the thick of Authority at the moment and you're absolutely spot on about the dialogue and character performances. More to come...and Mussante is a character among other things... : )