Sunday, October 26, 2008

B5 S4 Ep6: Into The Fire

You just gotta love those First Ones. They are way cool.

Lights! Camera! Action! Like a giant, big, fat, juicy pimple, things are coming to a head indeed with Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 6, Into The Fire [formerly "Now Get The Hell Out Of Our Galaxy!"].The heat is rising and tempers are flaring. I kind of enjoy the action-based episodes from a blog-writing perspective because there tends to be less writing with the episode tending to be more visual and less talky. So one might think. This one really didn’t meet that expectation. Straczynski strikes once again! Theoretically one might expect to write something along the lines of:

There’s a firefight. Crash! Bang! Zap! BOOM! [Thinking of Ivanova here] and out. This was not to be.

Normally, one would potentially have to spend less time analyzing the character complexities amidst all the action. Granted, writing about character stuff is far more interesting. So action tends to make the writing part easier, but alas I just can't be brief even if I tried.

When we last left our fearless heroes Ivanova had joined the mysterious Lorien to seek out some of those peculiar, off-beat-looking First Ones. Currently they have five on the hook for assistance in the next Great Shadows War. Lorien indicates there is one more. The Sixth and final race arrives in its special effects-laden splendor and it’s pretty damn cool. It’s like a giant wooden football with appendages. Now my friends, we have the team and the proverbial shit is about to hit the fan. Let the battle begin.

Elsewhere, Sheridan and friends take out a heavily-armed Vorlon observation post with precision firepower.

Down on Centauri Prime, Londo is organizing to fight The Shadows on his own front. There’s a great moment for him when he sits in the emperor’s chair as he gives orders. The gay minister calls him on it objecting vehemently that he should place his arse in that chair, because of course he’s not the emperor [yet]. Londo's reply is comical. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. Very natural though” he says quite matter-of-factly. It’s no doubt a breach of protocol to the Centauri for such a brazen move. Finally, Londo has summoned for Mr. Morden as well.

Sheridan informs Ivanova to “haul ass” if she wants to make the enemy engagement. We learn Lorien is the last and the first of his kind. The others either fell ill and died or moved beyond the Outer Rim. Ivanova is skeptical of Lorien’s story.

Lorien’s people became more mortal with each passing generation. Their role was to nurture the first races. We are indeed born to die unless of course you are the one, the only Lorien.

On Centauri, Londo is given the truth concerning Adira’s death. He is told what we suspected all along, that Morden manufactured her death. Londo’s stomach is in knots with disgust. Anger, rage and tears quickly follow. “He played me. He played me like a puppet,” Londo growls with pure rage. Londo is getting it. He is finally seeing it all clearly. His heart grows heavy to hear of her death all over once again. It's safe to say Mr. Morden is in deep doo-doo.

Fast Minbari language fact: Ah hell [translates into continuous fire].

Philosophy and deep thoughts with Lorien: “Patience is also a weapon when used properly. You cannot win this war through force. You must understand your way out of this. Sheridan knows. What remains to be seen is whether he knows that he knows?”

Sheridan’s hope for victory rests in the truth. Perhaps he does know that knowledge is power and weapons will not win this thing for him. He certainly seems to be channeling Lorien. Of course having a massive armada to back you up doesn’t hurt either.

Morden has somehow miraculously healed thanks to the rejuvenating powers of those wonderful, creepy crawlies known affectionately as The Shadows. His burns are gone and his skin may look better than ever. I can see a contract for skin commercials in his future. Londo and Morden meet and the stakes are much higher for Morden thanks to Londo’s newly acquired information regarding what happened to his ladylove. Londo calls Morden scared. The guards back away, leaving Morden vulnerable as Londo’s men fire upon him directly to his left and right killing The Shadows creatures that protect him. Straczynski played that scene smart because it was a bit unexpected. He didn’t prompt us to their presence with the usual Shadows bug chitter-chatter sound affect that normally accompanies Morden. It threw me off. I liked it. Londo’s cleansing of The Shadows occupation continues. It’s a pretty strong sequence.

Nuclear testing- Centauri-style. This land mass looks a bit like Portugal and Spain.
I’m reminded of the many moments where these two fine actors [Peter Jurasik & Ed Wasser] played in scenes together over the last four seasons. They were always interesting and whenever I saw them together there was an anticipatory excitement and crackling bit of electrical energy in the air between them. Straczynski was wise to cast Ed Wasser in this fabulous recurring role after underutilizing him in the Babylon 5 pilot.

It was at this point my son was watching this episode with me and he was definitely into it. He asked if I liked Babylon 5 or Stargate better. I said, ‘good question.’ My answer was Babylon 5 because it was more complex than Stargate despite the wonderful special effects and often-fine performances and stories employed for Stargate. I also like the ongoing epic nature of Babylon 5 as a series. I think it's clearly advantage Babylon 5 based upon the evidence of nearly four seasons before me. My son’s answer was ‘Stargate.’ Need I say more? I explained that Stargate was exciting based upon action and performance but certainly less taxing on the mind, which is why it would appeal to a younger set. I think my assessment is fair to say. It amazes me that at one time I never even let Babylon 5 enter my radar.

Off Coriana 6, Lyta senses The Shadows. The Vorlons and The Shadows are on a crash course toward one another. Sheridan serves up a great line, “Good morning gentlemen. This is your wake-up call.” Lyta informs Sheridan, “Captain, they’re pissed.” Sheridan reaches out to The Vorlons on behalf of the lives of Coriana 6 while the battle rages.

On Centauri Prime, Morden finally meets his maker. It was a pleasure knowing this character but his time had come and it was a fitting way to go. Morden is beheaded and his head is stuck upon a pike in the garden. Ding-dong the scumbag’s dead and it was the right way for him to go. Vir is thrilled to see it come to fruition. I must admit I didn't think Straczynski needed the flashback of Vir reminding us of how he wanted to look up into Morden’s lifeless eyes and wave. It wasn’t necessary at all. The Babylon 5 audience is far too intelligent. We would have remembered that without the flashback. If anyone is following this story up to Season Four they just don’t need it. It’s fine that it was there, but it wasn't necessary for us to see it.

Without further delay, Sheridan calls upon the First Ones to aid in saving Coriana 6. I really like the First Ones. They’re like a superhero group. I especially love the giant space disco ball. I’m a huge fan of that thing. ZOG! Still, the other ships are impressive in design. I always want more detail on the ships but never get it. The attack is swift as the six First Ones pummel the Vorlon planet killer destroying it where it sits. ZOG I say! I would enjoy knowing more about the ZOG! I think I just enjoy saying ZOG. ZOG. Yeah, that's a fun word.

Here come The Vorlons [and there go The Vorlons!]
Meanwhile Londo shares his excitement with Vir that Centauri Prime is cleansed of The Shadows infection. Vir points out the obvious. There is one more influenced or touched by The Shadows left. Londo. He was indeed touched [a tool of The Shadows] and The Vorlons come descending upon the planet. Londo tells Vir to kill him to save the planet. You know Londo has come along way that he didn't flinch to sacrifice himself to save his people. Impressive. I mean he didn't bat an eyelash. Still, Vir can’t do it and just won't do it. There's loyalty to Londo for ya. Suddenly The Vorlons disseminate leaving Centauri airspace thanks to an emergency signal requesting back up off Coriana 6. Thanks to the First Ones, The Vorlons need reinforcements in their fight against The Shadows.

Back on the White Star, Lyta’s eyes glow white and she looks at Sheridan. “You thought we could not touch you, you were wrong.” Sheridan is encased in an electrified cocoon. Lyta’s eyes then turn black as she turns to Delenn and imprisons her in the same way. Lorien tells Lennier not to interfere. Lorien embraces both. The Shadows and The Vorlons are speaking to Delenn and Sheridan channeling their powers through Lyta. She is the vessel. Poor Lyta is used more than any character on this show. They are both in darkness engaging their respective race. Delenn is in contact with The Shadows while Sheridan engages The Vorlons. I love the sequence for stylistic reasons. It makes it all the more powerful.

While Sheridan is hammering away at the woman in crystal, Delenn is approached by various Shadow creatures taking the representative form of her friends on Babylon 5. Still, what is the significance of it? Why do they present themselves in this way? Is it because The Vorlons are pure and untouchable? Is it that The Shadows use deception as a means to power? Yet another fascinating moment as the two races attempt to work their manipulation.

Suddenly hands extend to Sheridan and Delenn and they are pulled back by Lorien and released from their heated exchanges with the older races. Ghostly images of a Vorlon and Shadow appear before our fearless heroes. Lorien cannot interfere. Sheridan pointedly puts the finger squarely in their face. He tells them the questions are always “who are you?” or “what do you want?” but that they are never forced to answer those same questions themselves. Missiles begin firing upon the White Star but the other races surround them and protect them. This is why Lorien is merely energy; he cannot die aboard the White Star even if it did get hit. Sheridan is all fired up and I just absolutely love this line:

Lorien squares it away telling them to beat it and hit the road. It’s time to “let them go.” It’s time for the younger races because they understand now. The Shadows and Vorlons must step aside. I think the clip above illustrates just how childish these two powerful forces are and remain. It's like they never grew up. They are simply children to the paternal/ maternal overseer that is Lorien. They sound pathetic! It really works. All this time they seem like these big baddies [and they are], but everything is relevant and they come off as nothing more than spoiled rotten children behaving badly. Okay so they’re killing billions in the process but who’s counting? Lorien tells them he will join them beyond the rim. Like a parent to his offspring he tells the mischievous ones he will be with them. They seem comforted by his assurance like children are comforted by their parents. It so reminded me of Mother Nature speaking with her ill-tempered kids, siblings Heatmiser and Coldmiser, from The Year Without A Santa Clause. It’s hysterical how immature they seem despite all of their great powers.

Here's my boy!
The First Ones vacate the airspace and head off to the rim through the wormhole. Did I mention I love that giant space disco ball? ZOG! It’s got some pretty impressive firepower by the way. We never did actually meet all of the First Ones officially. We don’t know what they look like apart from our blockheaded buddy ZOG! We don’t know much about them. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more on all of the creatures and their respective races. They were clearly more mature and just as effective with a weapon as The Vorlons and Shadows. As Lorien dematerializes we see the energy force that saved Sheridan, a.k.a. The One, first established in Season Four, Episode Two, Whatever Happened To Mr. Garibaldi?. I had originally wondered incorrectly about the force, but it was clearly Lorien.

The epilogue sees a brief respite of joy for a change as the war is over. The emperor is dead. Centauri Prime is saved. Londo and Vir’s embrace is warm, sweet and filled with sincerity.

I thought this shot really spoke volumes about the series heading home to Babylon 5 and getting on track with new stories and perhaps wrapping up loose ends or ramifications from the Great War.
Sheridan and Delenn sit alone heading back to Babylon 5. “It’s a new age… a third age.” I'm a little uncertain about what qualifies for the first, second and third age, but I imagine it has something to do with the end of conflict. For the first time they feel free and in control of their future minus the meddling of the older races.

What a conclusion! That’s it. It’s over. I feel so alone. That storyline has propelled us from the beginning and it feels like the wind was just taken from my sails. I feel as if this would have been a perfect ending to the season or even to the series as a whole if it ended all today [despite lingering questions]. It could have stopped here. There are always questions. It’s like, where do we go from here? I feel like a ship without a rudder, directionless. I must admit I am excited for the prospects of the unknown ahead. Future installments should be interesting. In some ways it feels as though this story ended somewhat abruptly. In other ways it feels as though it was just right and the time had come. There comes a time when you must sleigh the dragon so to speak. It can’t just keep getting up and coming at you over and over. It could lose some of its impact if you know what I mean. I always felt James Cameron's film The Terminator pushed the envelope a bit at the end when the disembodied robot kept crawling toward Sarah Connor/Linda Hamilton to kill her. It was like, 'enough already!'

He is indeed the energy form we thought he was.
So, are there questions remaining? Yes, I have a few like whatever did happen to Garibaldi? He certainly took a bit of a backseat for this one. I know there is much more to come with his character and I look forward to that thread. Also, what of Psi Corps? I’m sure there is much to discover there. Whatever happened to Epsilon 3’s role? It may have been a backup plan and that was that and didn’t necessarily have to get implemented to protect Babylon 5. Perhaps it was enough just to know it was there to protect Babylon 5. PERIOD! What about Babylon 5’s relationship with Earth? Obviously that is in limbo since the station seceded. Straczynski has wrapped up a big one here with Episode 6 very early on in Season Four, but I’m sure there are a number of threads to revisit and probably some new ones to create. I’m thrilled by the prospect of something new. I’m also fascinated at the possibilities of where the Londo/ G’Kar relationship goes from here. It feels like a gift to get more Babylon 5 at the end of this run. With The Vorlons and Shadows gone, Morden dead and nothing to distract Londo I wonder if he will look to the potential prestige of the current vacancy of the emperorship. Will he fill that vacuum as quickly as he can? Will that hunger and thirst for power reawaken the other, not-so-appealing side of Londo that I’m none too fondo of? Will his empty heart fill with greed and selfish desire once again? So it didn’t end in fire. It could have, but it didn’t. Londo reversed course but did he do it in time? Let’s face it Sheridan saved everyone’s ass here. BIG TIME.

Well, now that Babylon 5 is over I guess I’ll just… wait a second. It’s not over! NOTHING IS OVER! It's all just beginning again. From this point forward every episode will be like an added gift.

Into The Fire: B+


Havremunken said...

Hey again.

You seem to be experiencing pretty much the same thing I did - the "emptiness" following the departure of the first ones, including the Shadows and the Vorlons, was definately a weird thing here. After three whole years of buildup, one could argue that the whole thing was resolved a bit quickly. Then again, I applaud jms for making this a conflict about philosophy, which was also *resolved* by philosophy and understanding, as opposed to just wiping out the immensely powerful bad guys.

Then again.. what about Sheridan's jump into the distant future.. Centauri Prime in flames.. G'Kar and Londo killing each other.. is that still en route? Or is all that changed now?

The Vorlon woman "frozen in ice" was a bit symbolic of the Vorlons and their inflexible view of the world. They are more or less frozen in time and want everyone to do it their way. Both races showed their manipulative ways, and they were none too happy about Lorien broadcasting it to everyone. It's clear they liked their role as sheperds / half-gods in regard to the younger races.

Anyhoo.. Life goes on. The Shadows and the Vorlons are gone. Their legacies live on, in the attitudes and experiences of those left behind. That might eventually present itself as a topic. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

ahhh hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge. I'm sure the consequences are sure to follow. Thanks for your thoughts. Yeah, 'empty' is a good description, but excitement is also there for what is to come.

Also, great description of the lady in ice and what she represented. I guess, then, the Shadows represent their desire for chaos and change by altering their appearance to Delenn as well as attempting to deceive her into a comfort.

Following on from the teachings of Come The Inquisitor Sheridan and Delenn were right there being challenged. Which leads me quite by accident to this question, so were the Vorlons/ Sebastian attempting to train them and shape them into alligning themselves with the Vorlons?

But like you Havremunken I have many of the same questions concerning the prophecies? Will any of them come to pass or is it all different now?

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

By the way H. I agree with you on your point about Straczynski basing his tale of light versus dark in philosophy. It was far more interesting for it.