Tuesday, June 17, 2008

B5 S3 Ep9: Point Of No Return


Yup! It's official. FASTEN-ZIP!
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If you’re like me, sometimes you watch an episode of one of your favorite shows and it may not resonate with you initially right away. Let the dust settle, so to speak, allow for things to sink in and appreciation for it begins to permeate your mind that may not have moments after initially watching it.

So let’s get to the point in the form of Point Of No Return, Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 9. I’ve been a little less blown away of late, not that the entries haven't been consistently solid on the whole. Some of the WOW factor that I cherished in Season Two hasn’t quite been there for me, but that’s not to say the quality of these productions isn’t excellent. Point Of No Return is an exceptionally solid entry on the whole. Perhaps I spend so much time looking at the details for writing purposes I forget to just sit back, watch and enjoy. Here we go.

Londo makes every attempt to influence Vir’s reporting of life and culture on Minbar by placing a negative spin on its contents at every turn. Londo's perpetual couching of Vir’s material is the ultimate in Centauri propaganda. It’s disgusting and Vir knows it by letting Londo have it with both barrels in anger.

The costume design is always top shelf on Babylon 5.
Londo receives a call from Centauri Prime notifying him that Lady Morella [gracefully portrayed by Star Trek’s own aging but lovely Majel Barrett] will be making a visit to Babylon 5. She is the third wife of the late Centauri emperor. She is a prophetess, a seer and Londo has pulled many a string to bring her aboard Babylon 5 for one purpose and one purpose alone- confirm his fate.

Back on Earth martial law is in full effect thanks to the orders of dictator, I mean, President Clark. There is a nine system alert seeking the apprehension of Sheridan associate General Hague. We were first introduced to him in Season 2, Episode 11, All Alone In The Night. By the way whatever happened to Bureau 13 referenced in Spider In The Web, Season 2, Episode 6? Man, a guy's head could spin.

Fine turns continue from Marshal Teague as Ta’Lon and Vaughn Armstrong as the Security Guard. Zack is informed that Nightwatch must be fully armed in preparation for violence. G’Kar is released unconditionally three weeks early from the brig by Garibaldi. His security officers are needed elsewhere as unrest grows. Garibaldi gets in on the action and tosses one of his own ‘Hell’ bombs. “Everything else has gone to Hell!” Alright Garibaldi! Welcome to the party pal!

Later, Sheridan reports into Earth with Garibaldi at his side and is reamed a new asshole as it were or is he? He is informed to follow “chain-of-command” and keep his opinions to himself, because everyone knows what opinions are like, they're like, well, you know and everyone’s got one [including me right?]. Their marching orders continue with the revelation that Nightwatch has been newly charged with the task of off-world security. “WHAT?” declares Sheridan. More like, “What the Hell!” The Nightwatch reminds us of a gang of bullies with badges and PPGs. Garibaldi knows things are unravelling, which is why he is willing to go to the wall and bust some heads.

Lady Morella asks Londo, “why have you brought us here?” She looks to Babylon 5 as a kind of memorial to her late husband’s unfinished business. She plays a heavy heart and pervading sadness with much dignity. Londo eagerly informs her of his Centauri status. He tell her he is “touched” and that he is meant for something “greater.” “A Greater darkness or a greater good I can no longer say. All I have ever wanted is to serve our people. I need to see see what is before me- if I should escape it or embrace it?- if there is any longer a choice.” Lady Morella believes there is always a choice, a hope. “We say there is no choice only to comfort ourselves when the decision we have already made.” BINGO! She speaks directly to the heart of Londo’s problem. He makes bad decision after bad decision and makes excuses for them, because he voluntarily looks at his rise to power as something designed by fate. She agrees to provide Londo with a reading before her departure.


Elsewhere, Nightwatch is organizing, consolidating their resolve complete with logo armbands. Some show character and turn in their security gear refusing to join on principle. As a result of the Nightwatch tide, we get a little red hot Garibaldi. Man, I love red hot Garibaldi [definitely a hint of Jesus and the money changers from Straczynski the self-professed atheist].




WOW! What a fight for the hearts and minds of these men and women from Babylon 5's hot-headed finest.

G’Kar meets with Ta’Lon and expresses to Ta’Lon his newfound spirituality. His life is now guided by a mission to reach out beyond the Narn to benefit all who struggle.

Sheridan receives the Issuance of Executive Order: Declaration Of Martial Law on Babylon 5. There is still no word on his confidant General Hague. The concern outstanding is that Sheridan and company might be connected to the insurrection should Hague be arrested. At the moment Hague is commanding the Alexander and is under attack by Earth Force cruisers. Hague escapes and civilians aboard Babylon 5 cheer aloud. Without knowing all the facts, everyone certainly loves a good underdog fight and apparently Hague is their man. Nightwatch arrives and breaks up the congregation of races. A melee breaks out between the Babylon 5 population and Nightwatch. Vir takes one for the team as a glass bottle breaks against his neck and misses Lady Morella by inches. Over the vidcom system, Sheridan announces martial law has been instituted on Babylon 5 as the battle rages. If you don’t mind me saying, everything is clearly going STRIAGHT TO HELL! That felt good.

Sheridan reanalyzes the message from General Smits and determines there was indeed a subtle directive within the non-encrypted message. Sheridan reads between the lines concerning “chain-of-command” giving him the subtle backing he needed to restore order on the station.

G’Kar heads to the bridge and informs Ivanova he is interested in “saving all of us.” G’Kar has found religion and he does come across a little different as a result. He’s not nearly as fired up.

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These guys are just plain bad ass and have justice in their hearts and minds.
Later, Zack returns to his quarters after what could certainly be deemed a tough day. Sheridan, Garibaldi, Ivanova and G’Kar are awaiting his arrival. Admittedly, it’s nice to have the authority and luxury of breaking into one another’s quarters when needed isn't it? Sheridan's plan is in effect.

Lady Morella is nursing Vir’s neck. Londo retrieves a cloth and during the exchange from his hand to Morella’s she see Londo’s future unexpectedly when their hands touch. That was a nice way of bringing the “reading” into play when we least expected it.

Zack sets up Security Guard Vaughn [and Nightwatch] with a plan of attack designed by Sheridan and company. I absolutely love the shot of Sheridan in thought, in the dark and the slow motion shots from Director Jim Johnston of our heroes executing the plan.

The slo-mo really heightens the growing conflict and the move to act. In the end, Zack doesn’t let me down. He makes the right decision and backs Sheridan and Garibaldi. He rips the armband off in protest. It is a symbolic moment to see Sheridan and the core four gain another ally with everything going to HELL and all. I mean, with all of the people surrounding Babylon 5 often making the wrong choices [especially Londo] it was actually refreshing to see the conflicted conscience of Zack come around and make the right play. Nightwatch is now trapped in Bay 9. You can give ‘em a PPG, but you can’t give ‘em brains. Check out the young whippersnappers in Nightwatch with Vaughn. They’re like babies for cryin’ out loud.
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It's going to take more than these two chuckle-headed punks behind Vaughn's shoulder fresh out of Earth Force Elementary School to stop Garibaldi!
Sheridan reads Nightwatch the riot act. The rogue unit is officially de-teethed and placed under arrest for the time being for mutiny and failure to obey the chain-of-command. Zack is clearly joining the inner circle. G’Kar has enlisted the Narn to aid in the security detail of Babylon 5 now that many of the security forces have been rounded up as part of the Nightwatch brigade. These Narn are loyal to G’Kar. Might that be a conflict? Perhaps, but the noble G’Kar seemingly has Babylon 5’s best interests at heart and it’s not like there are a lot of alternatives. It was the first time watching Babylon 5 I felt as though an alien race was acting outside of its own self-interests. Let’s face it, there are a lot of self-serving interests competing for priority on the station and for a change it felt like there was an attempt to work together as opposed to the usual alien lobbying.

I snapped this image at just the right moment completely by chance, but I thought it really captured the spirit of this thread as Morella finally sees the fate of Londo, also by accident.
Morella advises Londo, “you still have three opportunities to avoid the fire that waits for you at the end of your journey. You’ve already wasted two others.” 3+2=5 if I do the math correctly, 5 chances, man I'm good. Hmm…let’s think about this, where along the way did Londo make those mistakes? Anyone? Bueller? I'm thinking perhaps during the Knives confrontation [Season 2, Episode 17] or his willingness to demoralize G'Kar before the council in The Long, Twilight Struggle [Season 2, Episode 20] along with accepting his role in the Narn assault as two distinct possibilities. If it's better I learn on my own, don't mention it.

Those three opportunities:
1. “You must save the eye that does not see.” [?]
2. “You must not kill the one who is already dead.” [G’Kar?]
3. “You must surrender yourself to your greatest fear- knowing that it will destroy you.” [Vir? or relinquishing power?]

I don’t understand,” worries Londo. One thing is certain offers the lady, Londo will be emperor, and much to Vir’s astonishment, and ours, so will Vir. Huh?! What? Cool! It's funny, Vir is like the antithesis to Londo.

One of you will become emperor after the other’s dead.” This could present a bit of a trust issue for Londo. Ya think. Check the discomfort. Vir's motives are pure and he is far more secure with his moral compass than Londo.

I’m always sucked into scenes featuring G’Kar [he's definitely been a favorite for a long time]. I love how he is now very much an outsider with no official capacity really. He's now beginning to think differently and for that reason he is far more likely to gain eventual admittance into the inner circle of trust, the War Council. We shall see. I also love the initial juxtaposition of Lady Morella with Ta'Lon [Narn Security] as seen here. It is ironic to see the Narn protecting those that would have them destroyed. Such a clever series with so many agendas and rich undercurrents at play.



General Hague is close to capture.

Sheridan: “They’ll be coming for us next you know."
Ivanova: “I know. Never thought it would end like this."
Sheridan: “Me either.”
Those downbeat endings continue. Is there any other kind on Babylon 5?

Point Of No Return: B+

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The first part of a season is always a bit slower and more stand-alones than the later parts, to give new viewers a chance to get into the show (not so much in season 4, though).

re: Bureau 13 – the in-universe explanation is that Bureau 13 was absorbed in the growing conspiracy web in Earth Gov. The real-life explanation is that they found out a role playing game named „Bureau 13“ existed and JMS decided to stop using that name.

Lady Morella talking about Emperor Turhan is, by his own admission, JMS talking about Gene Roddenberry. Thankfully the average Trek fan didn’t get that, or the part about B5 being a memorial to his unfinished world would’ve likely caused a civil war :)

I don’t think we’ll ever find out what Londo’s two wasted chances were, so that is left to our speculation. Since this is more about Londo’s personal redempention than the larger situation, my guess would also be Urza Jaddo and the situation in the war council with G’kar.

The downbeat endings will continue for a while – though not without rays of hope. As JMS explained, B5 follows the classic five act drama structure: introduction, rising action, to conflict/complication, climax and denouement – five seasons. You’re only in the first half of season 3 ;)

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M

Looks like we're on the same page regarding Londo. If I really had time to think about it we could nail it down. I can't tell you how many times [maybe it was three : )] I was thinking no Londo you idiot. I'm sure those were the moments.

I can always count on you for the lowdown. Thanks for the B13 explanation. I also read somewhere in a magazine [and again, I always read previous to where I am and never ahead of where I am], Starlog I believe, that Larry DiTillio, who wrote the episode referencing B13 was sort of let go [despite ebing friends with Straczynski] and he was never able to pick it up from where he left off after that. Anyway, loads of behind the scenes stuff.

I love all this bad blood with Star Trek. It's interesting. I have yet to watch Deep Space Nine apart from maybe once or twice.

Also, I do want to agree that there are always moments of hope. I shouldn't say that it's all doom and gloom because I never feel that way at all. But I do like downbeat. : )