Friday, October 17, 2008

B5 S4 Ep5: The Long Night

Rage Hard and then Freedom!

Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 5, The Long Night begins with Captain Sheridan’s personal log. The personnel of Babylon 5 are preparing to strike Z’Ha’Dum from their base of operations just off Epsilon 3. Things are really coming to another head as Ivanova and Sheridan observe a kind of metallic shroud of dust around yet another planet nearing Vorlon annihilation.

On Narn, Londo engages in a secret meeting with Vir and others regarding the removal of the wackjob that is Emperor Cartagia as well as the elimination of The Shadows from their own homeworld.

Ivanova and Sheridan meet regarding the assembled fleet. Susan is eager to join Sheridan for the impending battle. It's all coming to a head and she knows it amounts to everything she has trained for all her life. Instead, Sheridan wants her to search for more of the First Ones. Of course, Susan is like, ‘again with the bloody First Ones, enough already, I’m tired of looking for these weirdoes.’ Things get personal and Susan lets down her walls for a moment. It’s a very nice sequence.

I thought this was really illustrative of what many mentioned earlier in the season concerning Susan’s personal losses. She loses people she cares about and it has a major impact on her internal make-up. It speaks to her youth and her experiences and how profoundly the loss of her mother impacted her. It really paints a portrait of why she is who she is. Sheridan is quite protective of his commandant. She in turn grows here as she wishes to kind of stand on her own by his side. It’s a very sweet exchange. Their friendship is real and in some ways I’m reminded of a kind of father-daughter love. In retrospect, thinking back to Season One, it struck me how much Ivanova has grown and changed. Her transition has been quite gradual and logical whether it was planned that way or not. When we first met her she was very strict military, rigid, cool as a career person. Now, she retains her strength while also displaying vulnerability. She’s softer, wiser. She’s loosened up considerably even letting her hair down more often. You can tell how much Sheridan means to her. It’s a moving exchange.

I liked this photo of both Sheridan and Ivanova. It was quite by accident but reminded me of a kind of mentor-student relationship.

On Narn, the festivities continue for the imbecile that is Cartagia. Cartagia adds another wrinkle to Londo’s understanding by informing Londo that he plans to watch the Vorlon destruction of Centauri Prime from afar. While the party continues, Londo visits G’Kar in his cell one last time and is troubled by what he sees.

I found it intriguing when G’Kar looked at Londo and tells him “Your heart is empty Mollari. Did you know that?” I wondered if Londo was actually attempting to right the course of events and G’Kar was wrong or if he saw something in Mollari that will influence his actions in the future. Will Londo vindicate his mistakes or will he slide again? Hmmm. One thing is certain Londo didn’t disagree with G’Kar. Doth not protest too much. Doth not protest at all.

By the way, did you know the Centauri have more than one heart? I certainly did not until now. Vir and Londo meet to discuss the administration of the poison into their target, Cartagia.

I thought perhaps a proper Centauri investigator [or a telepath] might be able to spot the nail sized hole stabbed through the emperor’s new clothes.

Things become very disconcerting as a slow, methodical drumbeat accompanies the arrival of G’Kar who is paraded before his people prior to his inevitable execution. With G’Kar standing before the emperor, Cartagia throws a wrench in the works turning to Londo and informing him he had the chains replaced because the older ones looked weakened. Londo is certainly concerned about this news, as this will certainly have a deleterious effect on the implementation of his assassination plot. Not to worry, the blood of his freedom drips into the crevices of his mouth and G'Kar's heart pounds with the desire to be free. G’Kar is empowered by the freedom of his people and with great physical strength still overcomes the new metal chains breaking that which binds him. It is a potent and symbolic moment of freedom for the Narn race.

Londo quickly whisks Cartagia to safety, well, not really. Londo, like a spider, pulls Cartagia into his web of deceit so that he may remove him from power. Londo quickly fumbles for the poison needle and rattled tells the ranting emperor to be “quiet!” This forces an unexpected response as the emperor swings around and backhands Londo in anger and frustration over the situation and for his insubordination. The needle flies to the floor knocked from his hands and as Londo searches for it the emperor places him in a stranglehold. As he releases his grasp on Londo and turns Vir plunges the needle straight into the center of his chest. I had a feeling Vir was going to be the one to save Londo. The deed is done. The emperor is dead. It is the perfect murder [well, in television anyway].

Londo addresses his people telling them Cartagia’s death is a sign the Centauri must vacate Narn. Londo is nominated to the seat of Prime Minister to lead during this crisis. He is now one step closer to the throne. He has three days to remove The Shadows and those that have been touched by their influence.

Back on Babylon 5, in the War Room, Sheridan and Garibaldi debate their current status and Lennier, who is trying to give them a report, just can’t get a word in edgewise. Before he can share his information a report comes in from Ranger Ericsson on White Star 14. Ericsson [played at the time by the up and coming Bryan Cranston; future star of Malcolm In The Middle] is the good soldier. He informs them thermo nuclear missiles are burrowing into the planets' surfaces and obliterating them from the inside out. Lennier finally informs his colleagues that he is aware of the next Vorlon strike based upon the Vorlon fleet movements and can predict and track their next strike. Well damn Lennier why didn’t you say so? Poor guy.

As the Centauri occupiers prepare to release Narn Londo goes to Vir’s room where Vir is highly inebriated. He is significantly troubled by what he has done. He has killed one of his own. This is a deeply moving moment between Vir and Londo. And don't you mean two "good" hearts for Vir, Londo?

The two men continue to amaze and while Stephen Furst isn’t quite the caliber of actor that Peter Jurasik is, he still does tremendous work with the material he's given and the moments he's allowed to shine. He can seriously hold his own. I was crushed when Vir talks about how he hoped someone could love him. Does your heart just break for the guy? How many of us have felt inadequate from time to time? He just kills you. Londo exhibits vulnerability with his turn and as usual blows us away by his amazing ability to walk the line of cool and sensitive. It's quite the touching scene.

In the end Londo keeps his promise to G’Kar. He reminds us, and in some ways intentionally reminds himself, that honor is all he has left. As Vir looks out upon Narn's celebration, fireworks fill the sky [apparently they have fireworks on Narn too!]. Vir asks what only the peaceful heart of Vir could ask, “What was it all for I wonder? What was any of it for?”

Back on Babylon 5, Sheridan rallies the troops in preparation for the Vorlon attack on Coriana 6. It astounds me when I step back to see that a small faction of the human race [at least those found on Babylon 5] have aligned with other worlds to now fight a two-pronged, two-front war. Who knew going into Season Four we would need to fight The Shadows AND The Vorlons. Damn! Talk about having the cards stacked against you. So Sheridan has a plan. When doesn’t he? He’s good- real good. His plan is to have Ericsson drop misinformation into the enemy hands of The Shadows. He will plant a bug for the bugs to dispatch to Coriana 6 and arrive at the same time The Vorlons arrive in that system. In other words, as Bruce Willis said in Die Hard, “Welcome to the party pal!” With the knowledge there is a Ranger base on Coriana 6 it will draw The Shadows, well, out of the shadows and force a conflict between The Vorlons and The Shadows. Brilliant! Simply brilliant! Holy mackerel! Sheridan is learning from the masters of manipulation. It would appear he is able play chess with the big boys and manipulate with the best of them. The two races continue to avoid direct conflict and Sheridan is going to ensure that direct contact is exactly what they get. He knows he cannot just ask The Shadows to come so he will mislead them into a trap. You slimy Second One you!

There’s one catch. Ranger Ericsson MUST DIE! Sheridan asks much of him indeed. He must engage The Shadows in a conflict with White Star 14 and see to it the deceptive information falls into the wrong hands. For this to happen, he will die. He has been tasked with a suicide mission. WOW. That’s hardcore. Knowing the sacrifice he must make Ericsson signs off with one of those Nazi-like, Minbari salutes. The party begins in three days.

On Narn, G’Kar’s people celebrate in a ballet of violence. G’Kar asks why. I don't blame him. I never could understand why people get violent when they're celebrating. This is a fairly powerful conclusion to a very solid episode. Kim Strauss is always a pleasure to watch take on a variety of recurring roles on Babylon 5. He appears here opposite G’Kar as G’Lorn.

How could G’Lorn address G’Kar in that way? I mean, just look at him. WTF?! The guy stands before you with wood and chains. He’s missing his fucking eye! He’s been in solitary confinement for days! He’s been through extreme physical torture. He looks like he's been through everything but bloody sodomy [an even then you never know with those Centauri]. Not to mention the poor fella carries a major heavy heart over the occupation of his world. He’s been through it all. I understand he may not know it, but his physical scars exemplify that he deserves a bit more respect than that for cryin' out loud. G’Kar rightfully laughs defensively in utter amazement.

In the final moments Sheridan sits alone listening to the final seconds of Ericsson’s mission broadcast across channels. He dies heroically and it cuts at Sheridan’s heart to know what is required for victory. Sebastian knew he and Delenn needed to be tested for this journey and they continue to pass that test. Sheridan confers with Delenn, “The Shadows took the bait.”

Sheridan and Delenn converge with the fleet and prepare for battle. They are heading into “the heart of the fire” between Vorlon and Shadow. It appears to be building to a big battling crescendo indeed. The allied fleet is massive and impressive in scope. Will it be enough? They are ready “not to yield” referring to a poem by poet Alfred Tennyson as recited by Sheridan over the final scenes of the entry.

One equal temper of heroic hearts
Made weak by time and fate
But strong in will… and not to yield

The Long Night: B+


Anonymous said...

I don’t think the two hearts of the Centauri were mentioned prior to this episode. As for Cartagia, I honestly doubt that there are many in the Centauri court who are interested exactly why he died – as long as he is gone. Vir I find one of the most intriguing characters in B5; looking back to the very first episode where he appeared to be nothing more than a buffoon. No-one took him seriously, but then no-one took Londo seriously, either. Those "comic-relief characters" have come a long way.

Someplace (could be the Lurker’s guide) I read that G’Kars loss of the left eye might be a reference to the Norse mythology, where Odin gave his left eye in exchange for wisdom. I think this isn’t unlikely, considering JMS is now writing Marvel’s Thor.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Always with the inside scoop M. Thanks. I wouldn't be surprised even if he wasn't writing Thor. He's certainly a knowledgeable and well-studied fellow with plenty of historical perspective and/or nods to mythology written into the fabric of the series. I would agree Vir has proven to be far more than a one-note caricature as many players within the JMS verse have clearly been the fortunate recipients of some fine material.