Tuesday, August 25, 2009

B5 S5 Ep18: The Fall Of Centauri Prime [Londo's Selfless Final Act]

Reverberations of the past continue to haunt the players of Babylon 5. The Dark Servants return along with the creepy eye thingy.

The opening to Babylon 5 kicks in with "Previously on Babylon 5" and I must admit I cannot recall the series ever opening with a recap. It may have been done once, but it is a rare thing to my knowledge. Given the threads in the second half of Season Five that have been building toward some kind of Centauri Prime climax we do get the traditional recap of events often seen in series shows that are linked from week to week like Lost or Battlestar Galactica.

Centauri Prime is getting obliterated by Narn and Drazi weaponry. G'Kar is in his cell and knocked down by falling rubble. It was kind of sweet to see Londo come to his aid and pull him up and place his arm around his old/new friend. He knows G'Kar is a loyal, trusted and honorable friend at this point. He assures G'Kar he will make it and leaves him in a safe place so that he can tend to other more immediate pressing problems.

Garibaldi informs Sheridan Delenn is missing in action. Meanwhile, Londo is frustrated looking out from the emperor's throne room at the burning of Rome, so to speak, in this case Centauri Prime. The Regent keeps telling Londo "they say" this and "they say" that. Londo demands to know who "they" are and suddenly a Drakh walks into view of his sight. The Regent tells Londo "they say" it is his time. They say it could also be my time to watch what looks like the best episode of Season Five. We enter the flames of Centauri Prime with Babylon 5, Season Five, Episode 18, The Fall Of Centauri Prime.

It's always interesting how flashbacks or past events are reflected on Babylon 5 in black and white. It works well. It's a simple and effective technique. It's also slightly unsettling when presented on this show. Londo is informed of the Drakh's previous position of power as servants to the Shadows. They were left homeless following the destruction of Z'Ha'Dum in Season Four, Episode 7, Epiphanies. In fact, Epiphanies offers alot of crazy, new information. The Drakh race is trying to find its new place in the galaxy. They remembered, through the Shadows and Morden, Londo and the potential of Centauri Prime, discovered upon the Shadows' initial visit to Londo's homeworld. We are treated to a flashback of Morden calling Londo's bluff about destroying the many Shadows' vessels that were parked across the islands of Centauri. Londo blew those islands up and the Shadows along with them. The next sequence is from Season Four, Episode 6, Into The Fire. As Morden is pulled out of the throne room he speaks frightening words in anger. "They have allies. They'll make sure Centauri Prime pays the price for what you've done here today." It is revenge for the loss of their masters which fuels the Drakh. Morden certainly warned him them and those chickens are certainly coming home to roost. The Drakh intend on making their mark but doing so with stealth precision and the omission of any physical footprint.

video

The Drakh also want a new home. They desire a place to work quietly and undercover. Londo refuses to allow it. He refuses to comply until that is, he is informed by the Regent that fusion bombs have been planted throughout and across Centauri. The Drakh furnishes a detonation device to prove he means business. I have to admit I found this particular scene a little hokey. I mean the whole 'I have a detonator' routine is a little old hat and just a little too convenient. I just wasn't buying it and I need my belief to be suspended to be completely won over. It wasn't. The Drakh have also been a less than impressive villain thus far, but we shall see. Londo asks one of the most iconic questions of the series- "What do you want of me?" The Drakh smiles, indicating 'they want you.'

Cut to Sheridan engaging the Narn and Drazi fleets. I enjoyed this classic, fiery kind of Sheridan moment.

video

Back on Centauri Prime, the Regent acknowledges he remains alive to act as Londo's crutch. He will take the fall [small pun intended] for giving the attack order on the alliance fleet. This will lead to the further destruction of Centauri. Londo wants it stopped, but the wheels are in motion and the Regent is part of the endgame here. Eventually, Londo shall usurp the role of emperor and be given the authority to give the surrender order. The Regent will be killed. The Regent tells Londo he has no choice in the matter. I knew we were going here. He alludes to the Keeper that is tied to his neck, yes the creepy eye critter. These things are clearly instruments of the Drakh. The Regent tells Londo it is the Keeper that allows him to live as long as it is part of him. The Keeper reveals itself and the Regent indicates it controls its host as long as their mutual interests are at stake. If the Keeper leaves its host, the host dies. Um, I'm no rocket scientist, but I believe that is bad news for The Regent. The Regent indicates it is time for him to go. Londo does not want to see him leave. The spidery creature detaches from the Regent complete with its bloody insertion tail. The Regent falls and passes on. I know it has something to do with the weak computing power of the CGI graphics back in the day, but the spidery CGI creature never looks the same as the one that is attached to the neck with the eyeball. I mean, if you squint, maybe.

The Centauri fleet is en route back to Centauri. Sheridan wants Delenn's ship found. Delenn and Lennier contemplate their remaining life support. Lennier tries to put her at ease by indicating it might be better not to know.

Londo checks in on G'Kar. This is a truly great scene with a powerful message. It is a beautiful moment and one that is made all the more so by the depth of their relationship between them, their character growth and all of the trials that have preceded them to this point. It is one of the very best of the series between these two classics.

video

This is a job for DRAHKMAN: Here I come to save the Day.
It nearly chokes you up. I thought it was a powerful visual metaphor at the end of that scene when Londo leaves the door open as he exits the room. In a way, it indicates to G'Kar that he is always open to his presence. I simply love the moment when G'Kar gestures to Londo that he understands as if to say no words are necessary my friend. We are way beyond birthdays now. It's also telling when G'Kar offers forgiveness outside of his own people. He has grown more enlightened than a war-weary people could ever evolve and he extends this to a friend he too sees changing with each passing day. It is a beautiful, lovely sequence and exchange and a highlight of Season Five.

Londo returns to the throne room to meet with the Drakh. It would appear the Keeper is essentially an appendage or part of the Drakh's body. It literally comes out of the Drakh's chest. It's kind of a neat sequence and weird as Londo gives himself over to his captors as it were. The spidery Keeper crawls up the body of Londo after being removed from the Drakh's chest cavity. Ouch! I thought about clipping for the blog here, but I don't need to see that again. Londo is now officially 'kept' as it were.

Londo opens communications with Sheridan. He informs him, as planned between the Regent and Londo, that the Regent was behind and had given all of these express orders that have preceded him. He informs Sheridan that the Regent is now dead. "His hearts gave out," informs Londo. I love the "hearts" bit. That always kills me. Londo will give the return order to his fleet. Sheridan wishes to report in person to Centauri Prime. Sheridan indicates Delenn is missing.

Londo meets with the Drakh asking him of Delenn's whereabouts and we get the traditional Wayne Alexander head motions and pensive head nods. At this point, I began reflecting back to Season Three, Episode 17, War Without End Part Two. I remember Delenn being imprisoned on Centauri Prime. I suspect things are coming to a head. I remember Sheridan leaping forward in time and speaking with Delenn and perhaps we are going in that direction. Perhaps she will be imprisoned on Centauri Prime after being rescued by one of their vessels. Perhaps G'Kar will strangle Londo as his final wish as a friend. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, but what about that business about a Sheridan/ Delenn lovechild? On a second thought I realize this is in the distant future as Londo was an aged emperor when those events occurred. The jumping back and forth in time reminds me of the Sinclair/ War Without End/ Valen thread. So much to chew on here, but always good stuff when it gets weaves those complicated J. Michael Straczynski storylines.

Sheridan arrives on Centauri Prime. Sheridan asks Londo for assistance in finding Delenn. He knows he could put a call out to the fleet. Londo indicates he may ask Sheridan for a favor someday. Poor Londo. He is always thinking and he knows he may need help now that he is merely a puppet. All that bad karma is definitely coming back to haunt him. Sheridan, after being asked for something in return, tells Londo with some disgust, "she's your friend too." He tells Sheridan that if he returns Delenn it will be "an act of charity, nothing more." Ouch. Londo is hiding the reality of his situation behind a harsh exterior to keep those he cares about at bay. Sheridan is disturbed. We feel his disgust too. We do not like seeing this Londo in action. We were happy to see this Londo long gone forever. Unfortunately, this is NOT Londo and yet we are forced to witness the return of the OLD Londo under alien influence. It is an unpleasant sight to behold. Again, his desire to appear as a segregationist may be more out of his need to protect these old friends despite the pain to himself and ultimately sacrificing all that he had built between them. While appearing selfish, he is essentially throwing himself down upon his sword [or knife as the Centauri would say] unselfishly to protect those he cares about. Londo has never been one to express his true feelings, not like G'Kar. He tends to bottle things up and keep his feelings close to the vest.

video

Delenn and Lennier hope against hope for rescue as they drift in hyperspace. The Centauri fleet has arrived. The two suspect death is inevitable but they are rescued instead. In those final moments, Lennier has nothing to lose and gets up the courage to tell Delenn "I love you" to which she resonds "I know." It was good. It was a little hard for me to hear such a cool acknowledgment of Lennier's open heart by Delenn. There must have been little comfort there for Lennier. It was also amusing to hear this exchange because I was instantly reminded of the Han Solo/ Princess Leia moment in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back right before Han Solo is frozen in carbonite. Anyway, Lennier is weak in the knees and falls to the ground. Oddly, Delenn indicates she really didn't hear what Lennier said with all of the noise as they are tractor beamed over to the Centauri vessels. She indicates people say things under great stress. So is she lying? I guess so. Delenn gives him the old "It's Not You, It's Me" speech. OW! I hated those moments. Yes, she treasures their friendship. Screw friendship! I want more! We've all been there in our younger days hoping for the prospect of something greater beyond friends. I suspect Lennier is good with it, but down deep he's hurting like we all hurt when we get the old "Let's be friends" speech. Lennier moves on and asks her if they are taken to Centauri Prime does she think they will have to fight their way out of it. Delenn's reply is great, "for their sake, I hope not." Damn! That's confidence. There must be considerable warrior-like training for the religious caste otherwise these two were doing their own karate training on the side. They are like a KARATE MAN WHO BRUISE ON THE INSIDE NOT ON THE OUT! Seriously they probably have a Kung Fu grip to boot.

video

Centauri Prime in flames smoulders. Vir arrives and goes to Londo's quarters and barges in as he is about to de-robe. Londo is greatly angered by his abrupt entry and demands he never do it again. Londo, in what little control he still has, desires to protect Vir and his people from the harsh reality of his situation and the dire nature of what is in play on Centauri homeworld. It is, again, tough to see Londo treat his dear comrade Vir this way knowing he would never do so at any other time and that he cannot tell Vir the truth. His reaction is out of love for him. I suppose there is some vanity to his behavior, but I choose to think the former is more accurate. He tells Vir he is fine. He will be inaugurated as emperor this day. Vir points to the fact the reparation costs are so exhorbitant there will be no money to rebuild. Londo indicates there is "no choice" referencing his lack of choices from the previous episode. This is no doubt where the Drakh will step into help on the QT. Londo slips and says to Vir, "They got what they wanted." Vir asks "who?" He replies, "Nothing, no one." It's a solid sequence.

video

In the halls of Centauri Prime, Sheridan is reunited with Delenn. G'Kar too is healing. Londo, via projected holographic image against the Centauri sky, speaks to his people of a "war to rebuild" the glory that was Centauri Prime. The cycles of war and peace is one that is centuries old and makes you reflect on our own Earth strife captured in the history books. Londo attempts to build strength and pride again within the hearts of a scarred, distrustful and angry Centauri people. It is interesting to note Londo appears before his people in the classic white garb referenced in War Without End Part Two. Londo pins some of the blame on Sheridan and the alliance for his homeworld's segregation playing the victim card. It is an unfortunate fate and one in which Londo has no control in steering. Sheridan responds, "Uh-oh" indicating his fear of the Centauri war machine building once again all over. Londo tells his people they are strong and will bear the burden of this struggle. "We will not bow down" proclaims Londo as the Drakh looks on from the shadows [fitting that]. The Centauri will procceed forth in isolation. "We are alone in the universe, but we are united in our pain." It's a great speech if it wasn't so inciteful. It's a troubling return for the old Londo indeed and the beginning of a long period leading to a dreadful end. Could Centauri be the base site of a planned return by the Shadows for a third time out in the future? Hmmm.

Londo informs Sheridan, Delenn and G'Kar that they should leave Centauri for their safety. He also appoints Vir Cotto as ambassador to Babylon 5. I love his compliment of Vir indicating he will be "at least" as good as he was on Babylon 5. It is his way of saying he will be a better liaison as Londo considers and knows Vir is a far better Centauri than he.

Delenn says it best, "I find I can no longer see the road you are on Londo. There is a darkness around you." G'Kar offers his friendship despite false appearances that speak contrary to the Centauri he began to know in the end. This is a moving reflection of Londo's journey.

video

Sheridan and company discuss the old Shadows' technology. Dr. Franklin points to its horrific, intrinsic value. As I watched this scene, I could not help but consider what a dangerous crossroads many of our countries are at globally. This is a frightening reality for all of us today well beyond the year this was filmed. It is an insightful commentary of a reality that stands before us all on our tumultuous planet and one that I pray never comes to pass.

video

I suspect Lyta's words recall the final moments of Season Four, Episode 22, The Deconstruction Of Falling Stars. Straczynski's writing throughout the episode is significantly stronger than anything found in Season Five to date. He really found his groove recently and it culminates in a very powerful entry here. There are a number of very thoughtful moments along the way and The Fall Of Centauri Prime got stronger and stronger as the entry progressed. It's one to watch again.

Zack enters the meeting and asks why all the long faces given they won the war. Delenn wonders at what cost. As the camera pans away from Londo who sits in the chair of his throne tapping pensively with his fingers I could not help but feel such great sadness for him, his journey and what amounts to a life of much pain and manipulation. I remember him saying something to the affect of not having much of a childhood along the way and I think Londo continues to carry the emptiness of his Centauri life. Peter Jurasik plays the role so brilliantly throughout the series and this is one episode that is a real highlight for him. It is so sad to see him lose the joy he was just beginning to find. My heart was broken for the man. The entire episode is like the unflinching act of one selfless man. His fate is one of tragedy. He offers the ultimate expression of sacrifice and what an amazing arc for any actor to bring to life. If it all ends here for actor Peter Jurasik it ends very well indeed. His is a layered, powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking portrait of Londo Mollari and this is simply one of the finest moments in Babylon 5.

The Fall Of Centauri Prime: A-

6 comments:

Havremunken said...

Heya,

This is one of my favorites. Londo walking among the ruins to the churchbells and the little "summary" of his life that precedes it.. good stuff! And not to mention his final, "unkept" moment with G'Kar, when he says that maybe he doesn't understand as much as he thinks he does.. It is a very powerful entry, and at this point, you feel for Londo, to the degree that at least I felt that his crimes were dwarfed by the punishment. But oh well, I guess that is what you get..

Either way, it is a sad thing to see someone who went from bad to good get kicked in the face permanently like this.. Londo, we'll miss you on the station for sure!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey
So true. He will be missed. I love when G'Kar says in so many words 'well, i'm a better person than you' and Londo is incensed in a funny way and they just move on from it. That kills me.

I'll tell you and I know I'm not going out on a stretch here. Some would think it unfair of me to compare Babylon 5 to a show like Battlestar Galactica [new], but I think, special effects aside, much can be compared as far as writing and execution. More on that in a moment.

I love Star Trek The Original Series. I love the execution of visual effects on that series more than I like Babylon 5. I love the characters. I love the stories, the ideas and the concepts. I love it for nostalgia and I love it because it's just pure damn good. It's no wonder it's number one on a lot of sci fi lists. Anyway, I still love it and yes it's an old series.

Now, I finsihed watching Battlestar Galactica and it was a great four season run on a number of levels. It's an energized thrilling story with loads of trust issues and betrayal and on a soap operatic level it's excellent. Visual effects are superior.

Still, I think it's safe to say the character development found on Babylon 5 is top of the heap. Many series don't hold a candle to the depth of character that has been developed on Babylon 5 over five seasons. The arcs are really something and it is the writing fo which Babylon 5 will be forever beloved.

Long live Londo and G'Kar.

Havremunken said...

Hey again,

The relationship between Londo and G'Kar is definately one of the greatest things in all of Babylon 5. The characters are definately where the show dominates.

Since I live outside the US (and always did), I only ever heard about Star Trek through the internet. Eventually TNG made it to norwegian TV, but B5 was the first long-running, serious sci-fi show I saw (not counting Lost in Space etc. when I was a kid) - so it kinda captured my heart first. I have only seen some of the new Galactica, but I love Firefly and Farscape was kinda fun, even tho there were muppets everywhere.

B5 was a great show, not just a great scifi show, and while effects and stuff of course is a big part of a sci fi space opera, the writing here really is top notch, and the actors, especially as they got comfortable with their roles, ARE the characters.

You have a few good moments left still after this, and then.. well, it's hard to say goodbye!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Interesting to see what you had access to. I'm surprised you had NO Star Trek. That's shocking! : )

Farscape will be interesting especially with all those muppets as you put it.

So much to make fun of with Lost In Space but I loved it too!

I suppose it will be a goodbye of sorts. As far as your input here, hopefully we can strike up a cord with something of mutual interest along the way my friend.

Havremunken said...

Yeah, it's kinda weird to see how Star Trek-"infected" the US is compared to what I've seen of the rest of the world, even tho us pesky non-US guys are really into many of the other sci-fi shows from there (sci-fi TV from outside the US and UK has never really appealed to me).

I'm sticking around, your blog is firmly lodged in my Google Reader and I depend on the internet to know which sci fi shows are worth watching; So you're not rid of me even when you run out of B5 in a short while! :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks H! You actually make me feel like this is all worthwhile. I'm glad I'm not wasting my time.

All in all, I guess like anybody, I do it for fun as a creative outlet. It's just nice when it works for others like it does for yourself. It's nice to get the Europeans on board with me. Cheers pal.