Saturday, January 24, 2009

B5 S4 Ep19: Between The Darkness And The Light

This is simply one of the most devastating episodes of Babylon 5 without question. It was a tough one to swallow.

Sheridan is back on Babylon 5 speaking with Dr. Franklin. The sequence is a clever splicing of reality and fantasy. All of it is occurring within the mind of a weakened John Sheridan. He imagines he is speaking with a friend, but is offered a drug by the interrogator rather than the cup of coffee he envisions offered by Franklin. Sheridan has been brutalized and pressed mentally and physically now for days. “We don’t want cooperation. We want conversion.” Sheridan is now confusing and blurring the lines of reality with his internal desire to find comfort and solace. By the way, we get our first glimpse of a now bearded Boxleitner here. I’ve seen images of him with the beard. We see it here for the first time. I love it. Boxleitner is a handsome fellow and I’m safe enough with my sexuality and my beloved action figures that I can say that.

Elsewhere, Garibaldi reaches out to the Mars resistance. Instead of a warm greeting he is cold-cocked and head-bagged. Ironically both Sheridan and Garibaldi are clearly about to receive more intensive scrutiny and questioning as we launch into Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 19, Between The Darkness And The Light [formerly titled I Can't Freakin' Believe Hot Lips Ivanova Is Dying And I'm Pretty Sad About It].

Garibaldi is beaten and brought before Number One and Franklin. Number One is prepared to kill him by PPG. After all Garibaldi has been heralded as a hero on ISN [the propaganda arm of Earth gov]. The resistance hates all of the above. Not surprisingly, the good doctor Franklin can’t kill a man who has been a dear friend to him for quite some time. It makes sense too. Straczynski has done such a splendid job of building relationships throughout the series. He has peppered these little connections between characters all along the way including Garibaldi’s efforts to curb Franklin’s past stim use. These building blocks come into play adding conflict into the decision making process for our heroes throughout the story. So Franklin's conundrum is natural and certainly understanding as he needs to hear Garibaldi’s side of the story [lucky for Garibaldi]. Now that Garibaldi is back to normal, he attempts to tell them the long and short of whatever happened to him.

Franklin: “You got any proof?”

Garibaldi: “Yeah, I got a receipt from the Psi Corps certifying that my brain’s been dry-cleaned, pressed and starched. Come on Stephen, this is Bester we’re talkin’ about here. Do you think he’s gonna leave any evidence? Damn it it’s true!

Garibaldi is desperate for someone to believe in him. 'I want to believe' [nod to The X-Files] ponders Franklin. Garibaldi wants Lyta to scan him. Still, the resistance doesn’t trust telepaths and Number One makes that clear. Amidst the tension of this terrific sequence Lyta goes all High Noon and plasters the joint with laser-driven rifle fire. Wicked cool! Then she goes into a kind of Babylon 5 version of Spock mode as only Lyta can.

YO! That would be Lyta Eastwood to you. Git-r-done!
Lyta’s big black eyes return breaking through to the truth she needs inside Garibaldi’s mind. Number One scoffs at the information. Lyta gets pisses and gives Number One one of her wicked head jerks as Lyta goes all Exorcist-like. She’s pure head-spinning Regan/ Linda Blair. “What do you know about hell?” She forcibly stuffs the bimbo, blonde toughie’s mind with the visuals Garibaldi has had to endure. I thought Lyta and Garibaldi got off the hook a bit easy here. I think this is one of those rare Straczynski missteps. He just attempts to wrap up or move forward with a solution that is a little too easy and illogical. While an argument can be made it's a bit of a push here. I mean if everyone in that room was so down, fearful and distrustful of telepaths why wouldn’t they question what just happened? I mean, if I’m the resistance, I’m thinking ‘well, what did you just do to Number One to get her to believe you?’ Right? Maybe. They could be thinking her little telepathic mind trick was nothing more than a jedi mind trick thingy. It just seemed trusting Number One to speak for everyone and suddenly be a believer within a heartbeat of a nano second was a little too convenient of a story device. I know. I know. She’s Number One bud! There’s no one higher so you just gotta believe. It works enough. It’s the easiest, most sensible way of pardoning Garibaldi, providing his innocence and moving the story forward. I did think he would have a harder time proving his innocence, but Straczynski clearly has other plans for his terrific tale and beloved Garibaldi that I should dare not question. So, Garibaldi is released. I felt like he should have turned to the faceless rabble to say something like, ‘it’s been real dickweeds, thanks for the stay and the beating fellas. I'll be sure to catch up with ya later’.

Meanwhile, Ivanova moves forward. Her fleet takes on The Damocles. The Damocles fires first and then Ivanova unleashes hell on her ass. When the White Star fleet is finished The Damocles is nothing more than a flagging fireball of destruction. Survivors are rescued. Marcus expresses some worry in his eyes here for Ivanova. It is notable, but for what reason I am uncertain.

Back on Mars, the resistance prepares to rescue Sheridan. Number One sends a “skeleton crew” along to accompany Garibaldi, Lyta and Franklin. Now, I’ve heard of skeleton crews, but to me it qualifies as more than one person. Yeah, that’s pretty thin skin and bones all right. Granted, their skeleton escort is an ultra smokin’ hottie. We’ll have more on her old bones in a minute.

The moral of the story is, if these freaks can pull it together why can't we? All in favor?
On Babylon 5, Delenn and Lennier rush to a meeting already in progress and assembled by Londo of the non-aligned worlds. Londo calls for a vote asking for everyone’s support to rescue Sheridan. These races are working together “like never before.” Londo insists, “The humans have become the glue that holds us together” since The Shadows War. Lennier asks why he and Delenn were not summoned to be involved. Londo knows the Minbari might be compromised by their participation thanks to Delenn’s relationship with Sheridan. They are being protected by a selfless Londo act. It is all reassuringly enlightened. My we have come a long, long way indeed. Londo is leading the charge. G’Kar is there in full support. The Gaim, Drazi and others aren’t feuding and bickering selfishly for the first time in memory. It is the dawning of a new age and a new day. Could this be the earliest moment of a League of Aligned Worlds? It is conceivable. I just wanna' start singing We Are Family, I got all the Drazi in me.

On Mars, a voluptuous woman [a.k.a. the skeleton crew] in the form of actress Musetta Vander leads Garibaldi, Lyta and Franklin to their destination. Supple of lip, hot of body and this deliciously gorgeous brunette with a big gun is all that stands between them and death. She is one red, ultra hot skeleton. Did I mention I like skeleton crews? I knew her name looked familiar. She played Shaun’auc on Stargate SG-1. Um, yeah, she was hot in that series too. In fact, she was hotter. You’ll need to see that one for yourself. She also has a meatier guest role in that series with fewer articles of clothing. As the quartet makes their way through the tunnels to get to Sheridan we get the absolutely rare moment of ear-to-ear cheer. This is one of those rare light moments in a science fiction universe that is generally dark in tone more often than not. What a special moment it is and Patricia Tallman is terrific once again.

Lyta is even cute pissed off, kind of sexy even!
I love team-styled guerilla stuff. I wished I had seen a little more of this kind of action throughout the series against The Shadows. I know the story didn’t call for it, but I would have loved just one episode where they attempted to survive them on the ground one on one blasting bug guts all over the walls. I suppose that is one of the things I love about Stargate SG-1 or Stargate Atlantis. That up close and personal, in the trenches, kind of combat is exciting. I suppose they have Starship Troopers for that. Anyway, the sexy scout chickee leaves them to their own devices for the rest of their journey. It’s okay I like this team. You’ve got a balls-to-the-wall brawler, smart and fearless, a medic with guts and a powerhouse telepath unafraid to fire a weapon to boot. Yeah, I think that’s a pretty sweet team. I'd put money on them. Granted a sexy, brunette skeleton would have been a nice distraction taking them a little further.

In space, Damocles Officer Eisensen is brought before Ivanova. He tells her some defectors of Earth are loyally reporting back to Earth on Ivanova’s plans to head to Mars to rescue Sheridan. The moles for Earth are setting a trap for her. They have newly designed ships awaiting their arrival. I love ships. I can’t wait to see new ships. I told you how much I love space ships. Things could be ugly. I was thinking Ivanova should hold back her warships and enter Mars space strictly with her vast, fleet-of-foot White Stars. She should be able to outmaneuver them with their sheer speed.

Back on Mars, our fearless heroes ambush two Mars troopers. My hopes had been slightly optimistic here coupled with my thirst for hand-to-hand excitement and adventure. I was optimistic despite their odds but it all came to a screeching halt as Garibaldi was knifed in the back. I really hate when that happens. There is nothing worse than getting stabbed in the back figuratively or in this case for real. This is not good at all. It hurts just looking at him. Still, we have our doctor and he stitches him up straight away. Garibaldi dresses in an Earth uniform to implement phase two.

Elsewhere, it appears Ivanova heard me and is taking my advice. Ha. She is heading out with White Stars only. So it would appear Earth has the element of surprise waiting for her technologically, while Ivanova and friends have the element of surprise knowing they will surprise the surprisers that think they are the surprisers when they really aren’t going to be surprising anyone and therein lies Ivanova’s surprise for the surprisees. It should be interesting as all parties are converging upon Sheridan. It is all, not surprisingly, very good.

On Mars, Garibaldi and company arrive at Sheridan’s holding area. I never could understand how often people in just about any kind of show can waltz into an area and not be recognized by other troops. They must always be very big armies with soldiers that don't pay each other much mind. Granted, in this case, it’s handled very well. The man on duty recognizes Garibaldi as the hero from ISN. “The one and only,” smiles Garibaldi.

Is there anything this woman can't do? She's a machine!
Season Four has been so complex and so expertly written. Thank God Straczynski wrote all of it. It is impressively woven together as if that is any kind of revelation I suppose. It just never ceases to amaze me how the pieces of his story fall into place and make sense inside the big picture of course. Garibaldi is an intergalactic hero so I’d let him in too. This next scene is hysterical.

I love how Straczynski can place his own thoughts into the mouths of these characters and it just works. Funny moment number two.

Garibaldi: "I'm the one who turned him in. Maybe you saw me on ISN."

Guard: "I don't watch TV. It's a cultural wasteland filled with inappropriate metaphors and an unrealistic portrayal of life created by the liberal media elite."

Garibaldi: "I couldn't agree more." Amen! The guard has a point.

That is a Lyta Eastwood Right Hook Special! She is out of fucking control! I love her! Even Biggs is frightened by her here.
Do you just love this team? I am a little surprised the stabbing didn’t inhibit Garibaldi’s movement a bit more. Still he’s a tough guy who can suppress pain so you can definitely buy into it. You can see the detail they give the situation though with the blood permeating through Garibaldi’s shirt. His entrance wound is a mess.

On the White Star Marcus waves his hand over a resting Ivanova as he speaks to her “You’ll never know.” Apparently she does Marcus. This is a sweet moment. He really confirms his love for her here.

Yeah, she knows.

On Mars, the escape of Sheridan is in progress. I should think Sheridan has slight anger issues as he shoots one of the guards over 8 times. It’s understandable.

Dr. Franklin is a pretty fine shot too! He's good with stims AND PPGs. Ouch!
WHOA! They're baaaack, kinda sorta. I never saw that ship design coming. That is so sinister cool. In space, the White Star fleet encounters the new Earth warships. So this is what Earth gov was up to all those episodes ago first prompted in Season Three, Episode 8, Messages From Earth as the Shadows vessel was being unearthed and utilized for the weapons division. It was essentially a military industrial complex initiative. Now, pure evil is a reality. Those ships are friggin’ scary and hideous. The lighting is what gives them such menace. Ivanova’s reaction is priceless too. So it would appear we are about to see the Vorlons battling the Shadows all over again. We have Earth with its Shadows-technology versus the White Star fleet with its Vorlon-heavy build. Both have inherited “semi-organic hull designs” from the First Ones who are now gone. Their legacies live on. The battle of light versus dark begins again indeed.

She looks a bit like The Grinch here.
This is one of the best bridge identifications I’ve ever seen. It ranks up there with the best of “Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.” These are people with whom not to mess.

Those nasty looking vessels look like Earth warships with a bad skin problem. It’s notable they even have laser-styled firepower compliments of the Shadows. Now if I'm not mistaken there is a significant connection here in what she says to those strange black and white segments envisioned by Sheridan in Season Two, Episode 11, All Alone In The Night and referenced again in Season Three, Episode 21, Shadow Dancing.

Ivanova: "I am the right hand of vengeance and the boot that is gonna kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth."

I must admit up until Intersections In Real Time I was slightly [and I do emphasize slightly friends] disengaged at times getting through some of the episodes. It was feeling a bit like a chore in some aspects of watching [for the writing part of this], but this entry and the last have really made me wake up. I was addicted all over again. They had the kind of energy and excitement that I recalled from Season Two, Episode 9, The Coming Of Shadows or Episode 16, In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum. In some ways the episodes that have preceded this have been a build to this moment. This is a crescendo of excitement. The battle sequence is excellent. I love how those White Stars can swing and turn on a dime instantly. Their like horseflies. They give the Vorlon-derived ships a huge advantage over the lumbering Earth warships. No matter what you do to those warships or how you dress them up they still lumber around like giant Earth warships. I suppose they were better defensively and offensively, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter. Admittedly I was expecting a little more out of them. I'm a tough customer.

Ivanova really lets them have it with both barrels. The White Stars hammer away. It is undeniably one of the premiere battle events of the season and the best since Delenn’s encounter with the Drakh emissary in Season Four, Episode 11, Lines Of Communication. Just seeing those spidery tendrils sticking out from the Earth ships is just plain creepy. They give me the heebie jeebies all over again. But now…

HOLY TOLEDO! The Shadows debris in the exploding fireball hits Susan Ivanova’s ship and they are slammed hard. She goes down and the ship is devastated internally. Marcus runs to her aid as fast as he can. This was the holy good shit heartbreaker of heartbreaker moments.

Damn! If that doesn't give you goosebumps I'm not sure what will.

Later, on Delenn’s White Star Sheridan is reunited with his lady love. They give each other a big old desperate smoocheroo of joy. Their chemistry and their relationship has been one that has left me confused or awkwardly watching and questioning along the way. It has been a fascinating love affair. I have not been fully on board at times, but its’ complexity makes sense and it is all the more genuine for it. They have grown on me. Let’s face it, Mickey & Sylvia once sang the song Love Is Strange and it is. It is a weird animal and Straczynski never once spoon-fed us a tailor made love story. It has been every bit the complicated beast real love is and every bit the puzzle Straczynski's tale has been. I can respect that.

HOLY DOUBLE TAKE BATMAN! Now Susan is also on Delenn’s White Star being cared for after the devastating blow to her White Star. She is in a bad, bad way and in a neck brace. She completed her mission as promised. But the good guys have paid a terrible price as I learn for the first time Ivanova is dying. This is tough to watch and really tugs at the heartstrings.

I was thinking I might see a little more emotion from Sheridan. He has indeed hardened over the years. I suppose he is hurting inside and didn’t want to express his pain in front of her, but show me a little pain after you leave the room. Marcus’ tear was brutal. He tried to warn Susan to back off in that fight but she wouldn’t relent. I think he also senses something about her resolve earlier when I mentioned his reaction to her on the bridge. He knew something bad was going to happen. That tear is for her and for his loss and what might have been between them. This poor bastard is like a bad luck charm. He loses everybody around him. His family, his brother, Sakai, Sinclair and now Susan are all gone. Folks, if you see Marcus coming you need to run the other way and fast. You will die. Poor son of a gun.

When Ivanova injected her classic sense of humor to make her friends at ease, this big softy got all choked up. I got the lump in my throat. Honest to God people I did not know Susan Ivanova was going to die. I knew based on photographs and the appearance of Tracey Scoggins she was not around for Season Five. Is it me or does Scoggins and Ivanova have that kind of Playboy playmate quality? It could be me. I digress. But seriously I have isolated myself in such a way that I just did not see this coming. I don’t know the story of Babylon 5. I didn’t know the characters or what it was about but this was a big blow for me. I was really bummed to see this happen. It was a shocking surprise. It was killing me to see her go this way. It was completely believable that in war there are real casualties. Big names die. Our friends die. People we love die. I like it for that reason, but I don’t like it if you know what I mean? Still, it wouldn’t be Babylon 5 without something believable occurring, something unexpected unfolding, something ultimately bad happening. These are the realities of war. Why not? It’s brilliant and deliciously tragic.

Ivanova’s last dying wish is for Sheridan to see the battle through unless there was something else to her wish that I missed. Sheridan resumes command of the fleet to take the fight to Earth in her name. All the while I kept thinking, ‘Will I get to see Susan again? This can’t be the last time I see her. This can’t be it. Damn, where is that bastard Lorien when you need him?’ I so want to see her one last time. In fact, I don’t think I wanted to see her character go at all. I kept wishing her life. I had so grown to enjoy Ivanova like family watching the show I just didn’t want her to die. It’s just too sad to take.

The title for this entry is just perfect. Our heroes are all somewhere in the middle. This continues a powerful run to the end of the season.

Between The Darkness And The Light: A


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with respect to Lyta, being left off the hook to readily. This is one of those instances where the acceleration of the arc due to the threat cancellation is noticable. Ordinarily, either Face of the Enemy oder Intersections were supposed to be the last episode of season IV.

Ivanova on her deathbed is absolutely heartbreaking. But I felt that her "right hand of vengeance" speech was over the top.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I see what you mean. That's right. That makes sense about the impending cancellation. I'm glad to see it didn't happen.

I would agree that Ivanova may be a bit over the top in that scene, but I still like it. I think the music or mood really enhances the moment which may be why it worked for me. Good to hear from you M.

Havremunken said...

Hey again!

This is one of my absolutely favourite episodes, following two other very strong entries. Yep, Lyta got off easy - but then again, I guess everyone there realized they were better off believing her than having her stare at *them* with those black babies. But seriously, yeah, what M said. :)

Over the top speeches aside, Ivanovas death is heartbreaking to the very core of one's being, if you're in any way a fan of the show. Having Marcus there makes it even worse - we've seen glimpses of her lacking and troubled love life, while he is the perfect gentleman, a virgin waiting for her all along, without getting anything back from her.. When she is laying there, blue in the face, fighting the spasms, I must admit the big bear tough guy act is hard to keep up. ;)

And yeah, you *will* see Ivanova again, just not how and when you expect. And except two later episodes (IMHO, other might disagree), this is one of the most heart wrenching moments ever. So unfair, yet so... well.. I guess you could say realistic, in a way. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

See. Nice to see a fellow big old softie out there. This is definitely hands down one of the heartbreakers of the series. Crushed me. Definitely real for a TV series. No question. As real as a heart attack. Always good to hear from you H!

Anonymous said...

Btw. in regard to Lyta. The development of her character usually doesn't get nearly enough credit. Remember the Lyta Alexander from the pilot episode "The Gathering"? And look at Lyta now, and what she's gone through. She's come a long way. And there's more to come.


Anonymous said...

If you think things are heartbreaking now, you better have a box of kleenex for what more is to come with Ivanova's character. Or maybe several boxes of kleenex. And when you finally get to the series finale, better make sure you've bought stock in Kleenex. Cause even my One To Be Pitied needed a few tissues. It also might be because outside of Londo, Ivanova is my favorite B5 character. And I loved her right hand of vengeance speech so much, I had a friend make me a wallpaper with that speech on it. It maybe over the top, but it definitely fit the moment.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey Erin. Sometimes I run low on the Kleenix and run straight to the toilet paper, but I have alot of that too. : )
I hear you. I enjoyed that command speech. Having that made into wall paper with a photo of her must have been cool.

M- I absolutely agree with you on Lyta and her arc has been really notable. She has come a long, long way. She is such a three-dimensional character and it's interesting how she was gradually worked into the story without the spotlight on her. She is an extremely effective actress/ character and I'm glad she's part of the show.

It sounds like there's loads of good stuff ahead.