Sunday, February 1, 2009

B5 S4 Ep20: Endgame

Marcus sits by Ivanova’s side and the latest entry kicks things off on an emotional note. Delenn and Marcus make fine points in their concern for Ivanova.

Back on Mars, telepaths are being smuggled quietly into Earth gov warships within their cargo holds. One telepath per vessel is placed inside each ship to make thirty implantations in all. They are being fitted for a reason as part of Sheridan’s plan to reclaim Earth. Dr. Franklin is fairly certain the plan will work.

Some nifty gear and costume design.
Garibaldi is scanning critical Mars locations in a plan to sabotage Earth gov operations. He is scanning with a pair of nifty sci-fi binoculars. They are very cool. Binoculars are always a nice idea, but they never pan out or realize their full potential of coolness. They always seem nice conceptually. If we could get one of these binocular units maybe people would actually use them.

It’s 2261 and the fight to free Mars and Earth is coming to a head like a pimple as we near the end of Babylon 5, Season Four with Episode 20, Endgame [formerly titled War Rages While Ranger Marcus Is Helplessly Lost In Love].

The Earth forces located on Mars allude to their fleet being the biggest since The Battle Of The Line. I remember that battle way back when. With the element of surprise and the help of an insider, Garibaldi, Lyta, Franklin and Number One ambush the base of Earth operations. Lyta is equipped with telepathic communications equipment and goes outside to connect with her telepaths on board the Earth vessels. She needs a clean line of sight to git-r-done. I'm quite pleased Lyta is on our team. She definitely qualifies as a nominee for MVP [Most Valuable Player]. If she ever fell to the darkside or if Straczynski takes her in an unexpected direction in Season Five our fearless heroes would have their hands full with this powerhouse. She's amazing.

Sheridan wants to take Mars first for them to achieve success. Marcus and Lennier stand by to do exactly that.

At the same time Earth fleet readies for action. Brigadier General Lefcourt has been called upon to lead the charge. He’s been brought in because he was once a mentor to Sheridan and “taught him everything he knows.” He’s a traditionalist loyal to Earth however unjust the government’s directives. He will not fight his own government. “I know how he thinks. I know how he fights… and now I’m going to have to kill him.” He’s not happy about it either. He knows these are terrible days. Lefcourt seems like an honorable gentleman. These are good people all thrust into terrible war-time circumstances. Lefcourt’s sole focus is to crush the rebellion. Earth hopes Lefcourt is their ace in the hole to counter Sheridan's military genius.

Back on Mars Garibaldi checks in with his partners, “Grumpy to Snow White, I’ve got the coordinates for the Wicked Queen’s Castle.” Earlier he called in, "Grumpy to Sneezy, Sleepy and Doc." I know who the Doc is.

Lennier senses Marcus’ thoughts stray from the mission over to the love of his life, Ivanova. He's a man on a mission to love her.

Garibaldi delivers the coordinates for a jump point to open for the arrival of Lennier and Marcus via the White Star. It’s a dangerous move to open a gate this close to the ground and to the targets, but these are risky times.

You’re not sure if Garibaldi's joking or half-serious in that scene. It’s a bit scary really. The White Star arrives and destroys all key targets with precision Minbari navigation. Lefcourt is impressed by Sheridan’s offensive strategy, but he senses he must have some kind of “an ace in the hole.” Damn it! Everyone has an ace in the hole. I’d love to have an ace in the hole just once. You know, say you have to go somewhere with your The One To Be Pitied and you don’t really want to go, but you have no way out of it, unless of course you have your ace in the hole. You see that’s a nice thing to have. Speaking of The One To Be Pitied, she sees Richard Biggs on the screen as she walks through the room with her usual derogatory comments and remembers him from the soaps and says how he’s cute and how sad it is he passed away. I pause until she leaves the room. She is intentionally annoying me and distracting me so I can’t catch the details. Still, it is indeed sad he died so young.

Here's Johnny!
Lyta begins activation of the telepaths to make her connection with them so that they may connect with their respective Earth vessel's on board computer systems in order to completely screw things up for the Earth forces.

A female questions Franklin’s motives in the resistance. You can sense he’s uncomfortable with what he had to do. It harkens back to his discomfort in Season Four, Episode 16, Exercise Of Vital Powers. He looked like he lost his best friend as he moped with Lyta by his side, because damn it! he's a doctor Jim, who is tasked with saving lives and it goes against his very sworn oath. He justifies his actions by indicating, “They are weapons.” If they don’t survive this they will die anyway. He’s right despite seizing the opportunity in defense of his actions and still sounding unjustified. They are living killing machines. It’s ironic. Earth created these telepathic weapons. How fitting they should be used against their creators in the end. The female resistance fighter wins the award for overactor of the episode. She’s horrible and hard to believe. She’s annoying, naive and over-the-top awful. It’s like clam-the-hell-up and just sit there. Since when have you cared about human lives resistance fighter!? You’ve been out blowing people up for quite some time now, you self-righteous jerky. It was too convenient of a device to have her there.

Apart from a teaser in Season One, Babylon Squared, I never did get my hand-to-hand combat episode.
A series of jump points open and Sheridan’s team arrives right on schedule. The part about the telepaths throwing a fly in the ointment is the part that wasn’t expected for Lefcourt. General Lefcourt quickly deducts cargo was brought on board that should not have been. Personally, I find it a little hard to believe he figured it all of that out in a matter of minutes. I don’t care how sharp the guy is how could you see that coming? It’s a bit convenient even for a brilliant General. So, again, that was one of those hurried moments for me. Shoot, I'd have been blown up long before I figured all of that out, but that's why I'm not a General or in this case a SUPER General!

Sheridan orders all weapons systems and engines disabled to minimize casualties. Meanwhile, Lefcourt’s soldiers find their telepathic infiltration aboard the ship all marred in wiring and disable their own problem with very powerful guns.

Marcus and Lennier finish their clean up of Mars and rendezvous with the others. While en route Marcus contacts Babylon 5 to access the station's medical files.

He is a man on a mission. Marcus picks up new knowledge of the alien device that is under tight wraps on Babylon 5. You’ll recall the device from Season One, Episode 21, The Quality Of Mercy. Marcus has no designs to use that device on you know who. Of course he does! He must save Ivanova!

I must say, now more than ever, with his beard fully in place, Sheridan actually looks the part of the grizzled war commander. Back on Lefcourt’s ship they are still attempting to get navigation problems under control following the elimination of their telepathic wrench.

Marcus sends Lennier to Delenn and takes his White Star back to Babylon 5 leaving the heat of battle. The love bug really has a hold of Marcus. My first thought was that Sheridan is going to be pissed he left. When we get to Sheridan he looks pretty unhappy. He wants to contact Babylon 5 to stop Marcus. He can’t reach the station as communications are now being jammed. He apologizes to Delenn, “I’m sorry.” Why is he sorry you ask? I asked the same thing. He’s unable to contend with that matter further as he presses his fleet forward through the jump points to Earth. What gave him pause enough to almost consider dealing with the Marcus issue? Hmmm.

Sheridan contacts the enemy and gives them the speech of a lifetime. It’s quite good, but dissected into too many parts and disruption to put it all together [for a video here on the blog]. He has arrived to take back Earth from Clark. On Earth, Clark is writing feverishly. Defense weapons around the planet fire upon Sheridan’s forces. The revolution is in full effect as it comes knocking on Clark’s office door in the form of an angry mob. The coward commits suicide with a PPG to the temple.

The paper on his desk reads over and over: THE ASCENSION OF THE ORDINARY MAN. Key letters are circled that spell out SCORCHED EARTH. Sheridan is contacted. Clark plans on, um well, scorching the Earth with the defense systems. The defense grid begins taking position to fire upon our Mother Earth. Sheridan’s forces take evasive action to save the planet. Sheridan’s ship, The Agamemnon, is struck and weapons are disabled. They take a ramming posture to knock out one of the defensive units with every intention of dying if necessary. The collision course is in play, but Lefcourt arrives and destroys the defensive satellite saving Sheridan in a nick of time. “Welcome home John,” radios Lefcourt. A convenient change of heart. I suppose when you're planet is in jeopardy of being crushed that can have an impact.

ISN is back on line reporting the real news. This is the real ISN that was banished and placed in exile in favor of Clark's media arm. So it's no longer the lying, deceitful, no good, cheating, agenda-driven propaganda media machine under Clark. Instead, it’s the much more trustworthy lying, deceitful, no good, cheating, agenda-driven ISN of old. In other words, never trust the bastards!

Franklin is heading for Babylon 5 “to stop someone from making a terrible mistake.” We discover what Marcus’ intentions are. He plans on saving Ivanova with the alien device. Unfortunately the alien device feeds the dying individual the life force of another leaving the savior as victim. Marcus is heading back to be with Ivanova to give her his life. He is planning to die. He is going to sacrifice himself out of love. Could it be that Delenn was concerned if Marcus succeeded some sort of prophecy for Marcus would not come to pass?

Talk about devastating.
On the subject at hand, I have to admit, this is an interesting question to pose. What would you do? What is the right thing to do? His intent is undeniably noble. He sits by her side rigged to the equipment and whispers to her, “I love you.” It is significantly moving. There are some real tender moments in this installment all involving Marcus.
There is some real beauty found in Marcus’ love for her. As much as I am saddened, even heartbroken, by Ivanova’s current condition and would like to see her live, this did not feel right, unnatural even. I mean to say, my feelings have nothing to do with the great writing here, I just didn’t want to see Marcus die. If there was a character I had learned to care for over time, in much the same way I did Ivanova, it would have to be Marcus. I understood what he was doing and I don’t think he was wrong for doing it at all, but some things are meant to be. Ivanova’s passing seems natural and this act by Marcus does not. I hope he does not succeed. Still, mom always did say "where there's a will there's a way" though. Marcus has the will and now the way.

Endgame: A-


Havremunken said...

I see what you're saying, but still, this is SO about who Marcus really is. He wanted to be with her, but when he couldn't, he would at least rather have her survive than not - at the cost of his own life.

When people say that you gotta PAY ATTENTION when you watch B5, and that stuff that happens early on in the show has consequences much later, this is one of the (totally heartbreaking) things they're talking about. When I first saw this, I was thinking about the alien device, but it wasn't clear in my head that with mortal injuries it would take a life to heal a life. Well, it was a capital punishment device, so that's the way it was designed. Poor Marcus didn't have a choice from his point of view.

You have probably already seen it, but there is another heartbreaking scene regarding this in the next episode. It's kinda painful to watch, but only because it is fantastic.

Oh, and I must admit, the moment that Sheridan realizes the only way to save earth is to sacrifice himself and his crew (and his crew realizes as well), and gives the order for ramming speed, he defines his very role as our hero. After all he has been through, he choses The Right Thing over glory, and the haunting music that goes along with their death march is a fine example of how Franke's music elevates the already amazing show even higher. Of course the being-saved-at-the-last-moment thing might seem anti-climatic, but I guess it would feel kind of cheap if the coward Clarke managed to take Sheridan to the grave with him.

I love this episode, and it really is a satisfying way to conclude the war-on-earth arc. Well, at least the fighting part. More to come. :)

Oh, and on our over-acting heroine. I think JMS wanted the way Sheridan/Franklin used the telepaths as weapon to feel more horrible than it seemed (at least to me), and he used this character to drive the point home - just a little too hard.

Oh well, gotta go get ready for another week at work. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I'm with you. Marcus is a man of sacrifice. There is no question. He is a true hero. This episode is all about sacrifice. These people are willing to go to the wall and pay the ultimate price.

I'll have to pay attention to Franke's music. He has been terrific.

This last group has been quite the trilogy of episodes in strength.

Have a good week.