Monday, January 5, 2009

B5 S4 Ep17: The Face Of The Enemy

This installment is a bloody good time.

The battle to reclaim Earth and the colonies from Clark gov is in full progress. Conditions grow harder and more desperate the closer to victory they get. This is “end game” as Ivanova dubs it in her narration.

Lyta and Franklin return to Mars. Garibaldi informs Edgars that Sheridan’s father is now in custody. The next phase to obtain Sheridan himself is in play. Edgars informs Garibaldi the truth is just a few days away and Sheridan may even thank him in the end. Garibaldi sincerely doubts it.

A massive line-up of guest stars populates the entry as we enter the airlock of Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 17, The Face Of The Enemy. [formerly The Enemy Of Mine Enemy Is My Friend And Now Clearly Mine Enemy Too].

Sinclair is growing tired, frustrated and has certainly been on edge for most of the season. He is far easier to anger than ever. He is clearly a focused, driven man on a mission and lets nothing interfere with his desired goal. He wonders, “Why won’t they surrender? They can’t wanna’ die, not for Clark.” Captain Frank finally surrenders at the behest of Captain MacDougan. The propaganda machine on Earth has Earth’s military personnel believing they must not be captured. If it should happen they will not be spared. They will be executed and replaced by Minbari under Sheridan’s governance and direction. Of course, it's all a crock of shit and MacDougan gets Frank to relent and back down. At the same time Sheridan’s old warship Agamemnon arrives through a jump point. She and her crew have arrived to join the fight on Sheridan's side. Sheridan is fond of his old crew and ship and decides to board their ship to greet them. Marcus is opposed to the idea and I can’t say I would blame him. At the same time, after thinking about it, I can’t say Sheridan is crazy for wanting to go. At first I was thinking, don’t bloody do it. It’s kind of like a haunted house; if it’s haunted don’t go in, not that I've ever seen a haunted house. But again, I think it was a judgment call on his part and he was exhibiting a bit of faith in his fellow man.

On Mars, Number One of the resistance greets Franklin and Lyta. She’s none too crazy about the telepath tagging along with Franklin. And no it’s not jealousy because she’s with Franklin so just stop it! This is business and she no Lyta likey! I must admit I didn’t sense an ounce of chemistry between Franklin and Numero Uno. Nada. Granted it was a one-night stand, but it is a little surprising they shacked up in Season Four, Episode 11, Lines Of Communication. I suppose sexual chemistry is all that’s necessary. She is a frigid thing though. I'm thinking about this way too much. Speaking of cold, Lyta is required to handle their “cargo.” Yes, the frozen Psi-pops have joined them for their journey. Number One insists they have some splainin’ to do.

On the Agamemnon the Captain tells Sheridan, “The crew trusts you Captain. They believe that you’re a pain in the ass sir, but they trust you.” Excuse me, bend over while I shove this stick up your ass? Ha! I don’t think so. You ever talked like that to someone in that forum I’d think you’d get a pop. I don’t think he knew him well enough to speak with him in that manner. Marcus puts a transmission through to Sheridan from Garibaldi. Garibaldi informs Sheridan his Dad has been imprisoned on Mars. So begins the next phase of the Edgars/ Garibaldi plan.

Sheridan agrees to meet Garibaldi and do what he needs to do to get his father back. You know it smells TRAP, but I can’t blame him there either. You do what you have to for your Dad. Ivanova is concerned about his decision. Sheridan places Ivanova in charge of the roving freedom fleet. He impresses upon her it is important to maintain a human face in the command chair of the fleet. Minbari commanders would make people nervous and re-ignite old wounds and war fears. The last thing Sheridan wants is a reprisal of the Earth-Minbari War version 2.0.

On Mars, at dinner, there are clearly some trust issues between Number One and Lyta so Number One opts to leave the table. Lyta shares considerable Psi-Corps history with Franklin. She discusses a faction called the Bloodhound Unit within the Earth military. She is troubled and fears for a coming war between mundanes and telepaths. Boy, Lyta sure does have some dark, scary, probing eyes. They go right through you like black lasers.

On Babylon 5, Delenn and Lennier have returned and they will maintain order in Ivanova’s absence. Despite her inability to notice the subversive deception of her own caste’s subversion [Season Four, Episode 13, Rumors, Bargains And Lies], Delenn insightfully worries about Sheridan and whether Garibaldi can still be trusted. It's funny how Delenn is perceptive in some arenas and not in others. Clearly she needs Lennier.

On Mars, Sheridan meets with Garibaldi. This surely is one of the most disheartening moments of the series. My stomach just turned seeing two old friends, completely disconnected, face-to-face while one completely betrays the other. I was crushed, but what a terrific piece of creativity from Director Michael Vejar. The anonymous music actually works beautifully to heighten the tension. Sheridan spirals like a dying animal, the predators toppling and crippling their prey. It is tough to take.

Vejar's camera work serves up some pretty classic, up close and personal shots that have become a trademark of his personal, directorial touch. Interesting angles, strobes and visual ideas abound. Nice stuff.

Sheridan is subdued and taken down. Elsewhere, Marcus and Ivanova are aware of his capture via ISN. He is receiving- “proper care and treatment” as the report is spliced with his physical torture. I love edits like this. If that’s proper care and treatment, count us out. Delenn is startled from her nightmare. She seems very in tune and connected to the sheer brutality being endured by her man Sheridan.

Back on Mars, Garibaldi reports to Edgars demanding to know the truth. Edgars turns to him and hollers, “YOU CAN”T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” Kidding. Edgars, tells Garibaldi about the airborne nature of the virus he has created. There is also an antidote telepaths must take regularly to survive. The future is one in which normals may be able to control telepaths. They shall become a kind of “slave race” as Garibaldi puts it. Edgars plans on removing the Psi Corps element from power. They are Clark’s power base. He plans on rolling out the virus in days. Edgars explains the “telepath prob-” and stops. Now, I found that interesting. Why did he pause in mid-sentence on the word ‘problem’? He finishes with “the telepath problem will be over.” My feeling was he might know someone dear to him, Lise perhaps, that might be a victim as a result. It’s as if he knew someone he loved would die. Things that make you go hmm….

A-ha! The old transmitter in the tooth trick.
Lise hears the conversation from behind a wall. Garibaldi sits in Edgar’s office after Wade and Edgars have departed. Tilting his head back, he reaches into his open mouth and pulls out a fake tooth implant, pops the crown and reveals a wee little transmitter. At first I wasn’t sure if it was a homing device or a transmitter, but I suspected it had some role in establishing a line of communication.

Lise runs to Garibaldi who is sitting blankly inside the tramcar. He seems so distant. He tells her to leave. Moments later, our man Bester arrives to retrieve the information obtained by his own personal mole, Mr. Michael Garibaldi. I knew it was coming. I don’t think it was a big reveal, but I imagine most had a hunch Bester was the man. We recall Bester referring to Mr. Garibaldi as his “ace in the hole” back in Season Four, Episode 7, Epiphanies. The transmitter summoned Bester to his location. Bester invades his mind learning everything. We get another delicious, classic Vejar sequence. Bester concludes with his always smug, “Thank you. No that you had much choice.” Garibaldi is simply blank completely programmed according to Bester's requirements. This next scene is critical with loads of great information. I am reminded, or ironically I have not been reminded, that Bester, played by Walter Koenig, once made the very man behind Star Trek's Chekov. It's easy to forget. I mention this because I am so impressed with Koenig and the portrait of this character he has brought to life over four seasons. He has literally forged a completely unique character as envisioned by J. Michael Straczynski that bears no resemblance to the actor who embodied Chekov in the groundbreaking classic. He has really done a splendid job portraying this unique character.

You'll note a brief appearance by Harlan Ellison who wrote for Star Trek The Original Series in the next segment. He is credited at the end of the installment. He is notable for many reasons but is renowned for being a science fiction constant for decades. He was also a creative consultant for Babylon 5.

So that’s what happened to Mr. Garibaldi! WOW! It explains a lot. The title of Season Four, Episode 2, Whatever Happened To Mr. Garibaldi, has echoed in our minds. It wasn't just a physical question of his whereabouts, but more importantly his mental existence. I had a weird vibe many times from Garibaldi that just didn't make sense to me and it’s all very clear now. His behavior was so out-of-character. It also speaks volumes about how Jeff Doyle played the part. He did an outstanding job delivering exactly what he was supposed to deliver. It's no small feat to walk the line of subtle change. The fact that Garibaldi’s personality and its many attributes were accentuated brings it all into focus. He never seemed right and this is precisely why and completely believable. Further, when he did have those moments of confusion or he remembered things, I thought he might figure it out. Obviously that was Michael attempting to fight the mind wiping of sorts and it was not to be. The occasional video broadcast/ transmissions were further updating his Psi Corps programming to the point he no longer remembered who he really was. Therefore we no longer saw his flashbacks as a result because the programming was complete. Fabulous! He was imprisoned within his own body and mind. What a terrible fate. All of the damage he imposed and inflicted unknowingly on his friends and now here he was at the precipice of death at Bester’s hands. What could be worse? Well, what could be worse, Bester allows him to live. I don’t think it could get much worse. His hole is so deep to prove anything will be nothing short of a miracle for Garibaldi. Who the hell will ever believe him without a trace of evidence? Yeah, this is about as close to the bottom of the barrel as you can get. He literally has no friends. Terrible. I felt so bad for the guy. Now he must reclaim his identity and the trust of others he has lost. He may well wish he were dead. If he does manage to pull his act together he is so going to kick Bester's ass. This has been a very impressive thread throughout Season Four.

On the White Star, Ivanova learns Garibaldi set up Sheridan. She is none too happy about the back-stabbing. She declares I want “That son of a bitch shot on sight.” You see, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. She is livid. The real Garibaldi is back and he has the fight of his life ahead. As far as the mission goes she recalls the words of Sheridan, “the person is expendable, the job is not.” I think we can all appreciate those words in our own lives. She presses forward with the fleet.

On Mars, Garibaldi seeks out Lise. Wade is dying. Edgars is now Dedgars. The murder scene is pretty nasty. Bester is a true assassin. I wonder if he did it himself? All of the vials are missing and case closed. I’m also curious how Edgars’ intentions would have turned out. Elsewhere, Sheridan is incarcerated and in seriously tough shape. ISN reports Edgars’ death as the handiwork of the resistance. To make matters worse Garibaldi’s picture is displayed all over the news as the hero who handed over Sheridan. Boy, nothing like getting the word out. He really has his work cut out for him now. He’ll be public enemy number one in a lot of quarters. What an awful position for him to be in.
Oh don't you just love that face!
There were some fine moments in this entry. So, to recap, Sheridan is in dire straits. Ivanova’s fleet is solid, but has lost momentum with the capture of their illustrious leader. Lise is missing. Garibaldi has no friends and is screwed major, big time. Psi Corps is back in power in a big way. Overall, it looks as though we have a major cluster here people.
The Face Of The Enemy: B+/ A- [the last half]


erin-anderson said...

I am so glad that you have my favorite episode up next on your viewing plate. I am eager to hear what you have to say, especially after the big reveal in this past episode. I really felt for Garibaldi after his scenes with Bester and you will get lots of delicious moments where Garibaldi tries to rid himself of the pain in the mikta that is Bester in upcoming episodes, so stay tuned for that. JMS definitely doesn't let it just go away. And if you are more interested in wanting to know how it all ends you can read a trilogy of books about the Psi Corps. I highly recommend it. That and a trilogy dealing with the Centauri and their fate after the Shadows leave. Hope I haven't said too much!

Havremunken said...

Happy new year!

Just a quickie here before I run off to work..

Edgars referring to the telepath problem was handled the way it was as a somewhat subtle reference to Nazi Germany's "final solution" to the jewish problem - kind of like the reference to "The Centauri Problem" in the final episode of S2. Edgars, while having some issues, was a thoughtful guy and probably realized this as he was saying it.. still convinced of the righteousness of his cause, but definately catching the parallell to what the nazis did. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I look forward to those entries erin. It should be really interesting. I do look forward to those trilogies you mention. It'll probably be some time before I get to them but I will indeed. The Centauri one ahs me the most intrigued.

Thanks H for that always exquisite insight into particular scenes that may be going over my head. It's hard to catch everything with so much packed into each episode. Edgars was indeed thoughtful as I mentioned in the entry before this. I really loved the political commentary/ dialogue Straczynski gave the character as he spoke of the various political groups [ex- Nazis] and the work people that don't belong to the parties are more than willing to do for them. Perhaps you are spot on with that one!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

By the way happy New Year 2 U!