Monday, November 10, 2008

B5 S4 Ep9: Atonement

G'Kar is fitted with a SUPER BIONIC EYE and Minbari fit new Babylon 5 head of security Zack Allen with a new station uniform....

Zack's uniform is sewn with a Minbari fabric called Zirca [sp?]. The fabric is a gift from Delenn and is made from rare Minbari plants. Zack worries about Garibaldi despite his promotion to the position.

Speaking of Delenn, she is returning to Minbar for a process referred to as The Dreaming. If it doesn't go well she will be unable to return to Babylon 5. What precisely would cause that to happen we shall see.

Can I party with Ivanova?
Meanwhile Ivanova heads off to party with the Drazi. She is apparently going to party with the green sect. The Drazi have never struck me as the partying types [the brawling types maybe]. I mean, I just can’t see myself looking at a Drazi and saying, “man, I wanna party with you.” But judging from Ivanova’s exit from the elevator and what amounts to a falling down drunk Drazi inside of it, it does appear they had a fairly good time, oddly enough, with those Drazi festivities. Hopefully none of the purple-scarved Drazi had to die to have a good time. You’ll recall Season Two, Episode 3, The Geometry Of Shadows where it was purple versus green to the death.

So here we go with Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 9, Atonement. G’Kar is being fitted with his new supersonic eyeball. Dr. Franklin gives him this new extremely advanced prosthetic eye. It can apparently send images to his brain even if he pulls it out of his socket. It’s like a bloody camera. G’Kar exhibits his goofy, silly side when he starts waving to his own eyeball. Rediculous but classic!

Sheridan visits Delenn in her quarters and she looks absolutely ravishing in black. She looks lovely. The two discuss their courting ritual. They must spend three nights together [clearly not consecutive]. The 1st night was on the White Star. The 2nd night was in Sheridan’s quarters. The final of three nights will resume in Delenn’s bedroom. Delenn is overly anxious and eager to make it happen. She is exhibiting signs of desperation given her impending return to Minbar may affect her relationship with Sheridan long-term somehow. That happens should she be unable to return to the station. That's right, long term relationships rarely ever work. Sheridan worries for her and inquires if anything is wrong. Delenn kind of weirds me out with her body language at times. She’s certainly sexy, but Mira Furlan definitely brings her own unique, sort-of-strange style and personality into play. Anyway, her kind of sexy is a bit odd but intriguing. In fact, I think Sheridan gets weirded out too. Delenn departs Sheridan and Lennier is waiting outside. He is concerned she would leave the station without him. Loyally, he extends his hand to remain by her side. He is a faithful companion to the end. “They’re waiting for us.” She accepts his hand and it is a sweet moment of true friendship.

Sheridan holds a meeting with Franklin and Marcus tasking them with a mission to meet with the Mars resistance. To do that, they will need to traverse blockades and dangers by travelling a long, 2.5-week route to get to Mars. It will take over one month to return to Babylon 5. WOW! WTF? That’s a long bloody time. Time makes big leaps on Babylon 5. Franklin kindly offers to look into what happened to Sheridan’s parents on Earth, but Sheridan declines his offer. He fears the climate is too dangerous and the investigation might warrant undesired exposure to their mission due to the possibility it could be a trap.

On Minbar, all Minbari are in virginal white. The “calling of my heart” troubles her peers. Her choice to connect with “the human” disturbs them. Whatever will be she tells the clan she will abide by their decision. Clearly they will decide what is right for their people. Love will not be enough. The Dreaming will purify her thoughts; distill them to get to the truth. The dreamer is allowed one companion to shadow them. Lennier will be her protector and guide. The two sip anxiously from a chalice. Their hearts race with anticipation knowing what awaits them. They were looking at each other so intensely I half expected them to start making out.

'If you weren't like my sister I would kiss you.'
We receive loads of Delenn backstory in this entry and much of the information is interesting. I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of the Minbari arc/stuff and sometimes much of what surrounds that culture isn’t of great interest to me. In fact, I might like to know more about the Narn. Having said that, this installment fleshes out some great new information and I enjoyed it all the more for it. Through flashbacks we learn Delenn once entered The Dreaming chamber as the acolyte to Dukhat. Reiner Shore offers a nice performance as the late, revered Dukhat. She was terrified. Taking us back we get to see Delenn in her pre-chrysalis state with the complete Minbari bonehead. We witness flashes of war and suffering in the chamber through her memories.

Back in the day, Delenn was taken before the Grey Council at Dukhat’s side. The flashback: the Grey Council is in agreement NOT to contact the humans pre the Earth-Minbari War. Delenn is informed of the reasons. Each caste is worried about the influence of the humans on their culture. It’s interesting how insecure the Minbari appear at times. Granted they did allegedly war intensely with one another at one time and perhaps that plays into their psychology. Delenn is asked to speak her opinion before the council. She feels unworthy to respond and answer, but Dukhat insists. Delenn steps into the circle to answer. She quotes Valen and tells them “the greatest enemy is the one you do not know. You can predict the actions of those who are familiar to you. The one you cannot predict is the one who can harm you.” Well said. The philosophy subscribes a bit to the old adage, “better the devil you know” or “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I bet if I went back to read the classic book, you might find a bit of the Machiavellian here, a la The Prince. Dukhat is disgusted by the Grey Council’s narrow view and inability to think bigger. He is impressed that even his acolyte Delenn demonstrates greater wisdom than even they have to offer. Dukhat uses Delenn for his own ends. He does apologize to her for placing her in that position, but her challenge is met with a promotion from acolyte to aid by Dukhat. He will train his apprentice. It is all very Star Wars here, but much more cerebral.

The props department must have had fun and about five minutes to make this little dandy.
Eventually we discover she becomes one of the Grey Council. Some shudder in her presence. Is it prophecy they see? Her hand passes over a triluminary. It glows. We learn it is sensitive to the DNA of Sinclair. This will have greater significance later. Her fellow council members tremble. Her appointment was not by accident. Dukhat has a plan and she is the instrument. She has purpose.

An alarm sounds and Earth vessels appear on screen. We learned in Season Three, Episode 13, A Late Delivery From Avalon it is customary for Minbari to approach with gun ports open. This is certainly not a wise decision in my opinion, but heck it’s a cultural thing and they asked for it. The warrior caste is comprised of warriors and not necessarily the brightest bones on the planet. Also on screen and bearing in at 12:00 are four soul hunter vessels. This is clearly a sign things are going to get ugly and Minbari WILL die. Those soul hunters have a particular taste for Minbari. You might recall how Delenn almost became a Soul Hunter tatste treat way back in Season One, Episode 2, Soul Hunter. The open ports understandably provoke the Earthers to attack. You see Grey Council, just like Delenn said; if you made contact with the humans this could have been avoided. The rest of the Earth-Minbari War is, as they say, history.


I thought the lighting and the blue tones within The Dreaming chamber was a nice touch.
Dukhat is killed in the carnage and the chaos aboard the Minbari ship. We see him saying something but we can’t make it out. This is on purpose of course so that we can discover precisely what it is he had to say via The Dreaming. Delenn is asked if the Minbari should strike back. The council is split. Her vote is the deciding factor. In her rage and anger over Dukhat’s death she gives the order to avenge her master. She implores the humans to be struck down and killed. They are “animals!” “They deserve no mercy! NO MERCY!” She’s extremely emotional and very unglued. A good rule to follow, when time permits, is to step back and breath before making that decision. I have to do it myself from time to time. Otherwise I might be yelling like a moonbat too. It’s a pretty big WOW moment as we determine it was Delenn who, maybe didn’t start the war, but certainly engaged and continued to see it through. So it was her move that was the deciding factor in the Earth-Minbari War. Her rage overwhelmed her rational thinking.


This girl can scream. I should think Sheridan could be in big trouble in the hay if these rituals ever come to a close.
Later, in another flashback, stepping back from the carnage and death, Delenn speaks with great wisdom. “I was enraged. Grief stricken. I didn’t consider my words.” Rethinking it, she definitely wishes she could change her decision. She wishes she could have avoided further loss, but the war had begun. Her fellow Minbari credit Dukhat for his wisdom in desiring to contact the humans, but it's all too little too late.

Perhaps the bloodshed could have been avoided. As a result, Delenn carries a great burden in the knowledge she was instrumental in carrying out the war. Her life’s work, in part, has been to atone for her ill-fated decision. She is seeking vindication. Lennier feels her wish to join with Sheridan is an extension of that self-guilt initially as part of her atonement. Delenn insists there is more to her connection with Sheridan than that.

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She has tried to make up for that singular “moment of rage” for ten years. Could her grief cause sympathy to factor into her decision to love Sheridan? I think it has, but it certainly has grown into something more. Some of you out there alluded to that not long ago. This certainly gives us a substantive layer to Delenn’s character.


There's a lot of hand-reaching in this one!
The Dreaming is concluded. Delenn rests and considers what she has witnessed. She focuses in on the dying words of Dukhat. Suddenly, she races to Calenn and Lennier. They drink from the chalice again [anything to get another sup from the cup for a little Minbari proof] and head back into the dry ice smoke-filled Dreaming chamber. She begs them to listen to the truth of her discovery.


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As Dukhat dies we hear those profound, fateful words. “You are a child of Valen.” This is why the triluminary glowed. More WOW moments. Cool.

Are those monsters or is that truth I see in the mist?
There is much that enters our minds with all of the information Straczynski provides for us with this episode. I am most acutely aware of Delenn’s relationship to Jeffrey Sinclair in Season One. In essence he would indirectly be the father of her bloodline. That is just crazy! This is why the triluminary glowed, because a piece of Sinclair [human DNA] is within her. She is obviously not a direct child of Valen, but she is part of that lineage. I’m also especially sensitive to all of those moments throughout the first two seasons where Delenn avoided eye contact. She often hesitated to engage in direct eye contact over specific situations. There was a sense of shame to her responses and this illustrates why that was the case. She has carried a great burden for a very long time and this episode speaks volumes about why this was happening. Delenn has often been a sounding board for many of the characters on Babylon 5 on many of the issues and yet she is central to the resulting consequences that directly impact current events on and outside of the station that have resulted from the Earth-Minbari War she approved. How's that for irony? Fascinating!

These are both moments from Season One, Episode 8, And The Sky Full Of Stars, whereby Delenn shows her evasive side. She's always been quirky, but she's had many moments if I recall where she couldn't even make direct eye contact as well.

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Delenn recaps many of these important facts that have come to light and she does it with her fiery best. There are loads of details that she delivers best.

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So Delenn gives her Minbari brethren a reason to retain her love for Sheridan. We are essentially impure and imperfect so stick that in your pipe and smoke it! Straczynski has also scratched the surface of another segment of Minbari society by alluding to the Minbari Civil War. It is fast becoming apparent there was much trouble on Minbar historically and the caste system is fragile. We assume this based upon Calenn’s input regarding the exchange of individuals from one caste to another for marriage in the interests of keeping the peace. We've seen from time to time the tightrope being walked between the castes. It's becoming more and more evident.

Delenn returns to Babylon 5. Sheridan greets Delenn, but YES John - she will continue to keep you in the dark on much of her mysterious past and keep your ass guessing because that's what Delenn does. Someone really has to tell Delenn that building a relationship founded on secrets isn’t the healthiest of routes to take. Does all of this amount to atonement? I don't know.

The final moments see Marcus and Franklin on their long journey across space buddy-style.

Atonement: B

9 comments:

Havremunken said...

Hey!

Just a fun little thing.. That little playfulness from Dukhat when he recruited Delenn as his aide.. Now go back to the moment when we first saw Lennier.. I believe it was somewhere around "The Parliament of Dreams", but it's been a few years.. :)

It's just a little jms-fun, kinda like the other episode with Zack in customs when Bester, Londo etc. comes through, and he asks "What's next, the second coming or something?" - and next through the door is three Elvis impersonators.. i.e. three kings... :P

I don't remember where I got this information, but it's a widely believed fact (Futurama quote, yay) that Dukhat and other Minbari seen with the "porn donut" (what we call that little beard around the mouth) are also children of Valen - the Minbari didn't have facial hair until he polluted their genetic thingy. :)

Also, I believe you are now spoiler-free for "In the Beginning".

Anonymous said...

Well, now you might like to look back on the episode "A Late Delivery from Avalon" and watch the scene when Arthur gives back Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake.
You might now understand waht we ment when saying "there will be a time when you look at this scene from a different pov." ;o)

greetings
Ly

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks H. Yeah. I'll have to see. It's like Delenn begins her journey with Lennier there. Interesting about the genetic impact of Sinclair. I will consider In The Beginning for the end of Season Four.

Thanks L. I recall that seen between Delenn and York. I will definitely have to go back. I'm sure it is interesting to see it in context. Obviously viewing way back was a bit of a puzzle and a mystery.

Anonymous said...

Ah, if you go back to Avalon, maybe now finally can discuss who is Merlin, and who is Morgan Le Fay :D

M.

Anonymous said...

Some additional thoughts:
- Delenn's a very complex and interesting character, although she's often overshadowed by Londo and G'kar
- this episode clearly shows how difficult the John/Delenn relationship has been esp. for her, considering the attitude of her people. It also shows the amount of secrecy on her part. I think I've mentioned before that this isn't a "normal" relationship by any stretch of imagination.
- no need to downplay it, Delenn *did* start the Earth-Minbari war. Good catch concerning the caste issue.
- you're very perceptive in things season 1. Not many viewers would have remembered the "your role in the war" conversation with Franklin.
- JMS commented on the "open gunports" issue with reference to similar habits in the animal kingdom
- Things look very Star Wars re: apprenticeships, but considering the release dates, it's Star Wars that looks like B5.

You'll see more of Reiner Schoene as Dukhat in ItB. Maybe now would be the time to watch it. Essentially, it tells the story of the Earth-Minbari war.

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M,
Good to see you are well. Thanks for the tip of th cap.
I would agree with you 100% that Delenn is a very subtle and complex character. No doubt about it. You also make a great point about Star Wars. The prequels are far more apprentice-heavy in the development of the story and that is indeed post-Babylon 5. Very true. I'll have to get on ITB. I am interested in checking it out. Great comments. thanks.

Anonymous said...

One thing with reference to Soul Hunter: I love the attention to details in this show. In "Soul Hunter", the Soul Hunter said to Delenn that he was there when their leader Dukhat died. Now we're in season 4, more than three years later, and sure enough, the Soul Hunter vessels are there when Dukhat dies. How many shows would have remembered this detail?

Come to think of it, the Soul Hunter, who couldn't save Dukhat's soul, is another character who was driven into psychological trauma by that incident, in addition to McIntyre and Delenn.

M.

Francine said...

Ivanova often has fun with aliens, when she's had a few shandies - ref her glee in Born to the Purple... makes you wonder...

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Shandies...haha that's funny. Yeah, I remember getting cans of Shandy while in England. They had the panda bear on the can logo.