Wednesday, May 7, 2008

B5 S2 Ep21: Comes The Inquisitor

G'Kar: Narn of the people.

I’m really glad to see Robert Rusler was used to his potential in the series. I mean, really, what has he made 3 appearances at the most? His screen time is definitely minimal and we certainly know nothing about him. He never struck me as all that interesting anyway. It’s just funny they gave him an opening credit and then buried him in the background. I think the uncredited Jeff Conaway has been in the series more than him. How much did Rusler get paid? Knowing how tight the budget was on this series it couldn’t have been much, but at the same time he didn’t work very hard. I know- they’re saving him for the season finale right? I won't hold my breath, but it just seems like he's been forgotten.

So here Comes The Inquisitor Babylon 5 Season 2. Here’s another shining installment in the Babylon 5 legacy. WOW and what an entry it is! Certainly this is a thinking person’s show [right M!]. The writing is light years beyond the first season at this point matched only by the performances and including some impressive guest star turns since the agonizing days of the screaming Kent Broadhurst appearance in Babylon Squared. Straczynski cleverly weaves a bit of historical Earther infamy into the show and ties it to his own B5 mythology. I Loved that! Pure dead brilliant!

There are two potent segments in play here. The story begins with ousted ambassador, now Citizen G’Kar relegated to Narn leader of his subjugated race. He is expounding to the various alien races in the Zocalo that they could be next. Vir watches with a heavy heart and we know he is the discarded moral compass for the Centauri's one darkened Londo Mollari.

G’Kar later meets with an arms smuggler attempting to run weapons through B5 to feed an underground armed Narn resistance to the Narn homeworld. Mr. Chase is an interesting character and judging by the various close-ups and tilted cameras, the director, Mike Vejar, does a great job of creating a visual style that emphasizes what is in process isn’t exactly on the up and up. I really loved alot of the camera work and lighting in this episode.

Garibaldi catches up with G’Kar and the two have a moving exchange. Garibaldi tells him they’ll be no gunrunning through B5 on his watch and when G’Kar relents Garibaldi appreciates his honesty and gives him a tip about a friend’s transfer station in Sector 90 near a jumpgate that might help the Narn cause. G’Kar lights up with a smile. Small victories as they say.

Garibaldi: “I don’t want those weapons coming through the station otherwise this place is gonna go straight to hell.”

G’Kar: “We are already, as you so quaintly put it, going straight to hell. You cannot escape what’s coming.”

Yikes! I love that all the characters like to say "straight to hell!"

In one of the episode's most stunning pieces Vir and G’Kar, played with much aplomb by Stephen Furst and Andreas Katsulas respectively, meet in the always-uncomfortable 'elevator moment'. Given the Narn/ Centauri war it’s even more uncomfortable than normal. It is a simply fantastic, heartbreaking exchange for both. While I am a huge, unabashed G’Kar supporter, proponent, advocate, Vir takes the cake here as he is clearly riddled with guilt over the Narn devastation at the hands of the Centauri. The silence is deafening, as the dissenting conscience of Vir scrambles and fumbles for the right words standing before the seething anguish of G'Kar. The pain is palpable. Katsulas brings such emotional resonance to his part in this show. His talent absolutely bursts through all of that make-up and latex. His could be the most amazing role by someone as an alien I’ve ever seen in a science fiction series. Composer Christopher Franke’s score is understated and lets the scene breathe until its climax. It is powerful, stunning stuff. How does Straczynski do it?

When G’Kar’s ability to lead comes under question by his fellow Narn, he is tasked with finding out about families back on the homeworld to prove his worthiness. He must complete the task within 24 hours or step aside. G’Kar turns to Sheridan for help who understands it is in B5’s best interests to keep him in that role for balance and calm. Interesting to see guys like Sheridan and Garibaldi play backdoor politics throughout the episode in order to maintain stability or aid in doing the right thing while breaking with code. Sheridan assigns Garibaldi the mission of getting the Rangers involved. It would appear this is the first time the Rangers take proactive action rather than stand idly by waiting in the shadows [ewww, bad pun there].

Nice eyebrows Vir. Ya gotta alove those old Grandpa Ben Centauri brows.

The second thread in Comes The Inquisitor, and just as compelling, centers on Delenn and later Sheridan. Delenn is summoned by Kosh and informed she will undergo interrogation by an inquisitor. Kosh intends to determine if Delenn is worthy of the burden she will bear and whether she can be trusted to see it through.

Delenn: “How will I know who it is?”
Kosh: “You will know if you survive.”

Ah that's comforting. We know from Kosh’s always enlightening words Delenn is in for a harrowing journey. He is looking for confirmation that she can be trusted in handling the “coming storm” for the right reasons.

A Vorlon transport ship arrives at B5. A human interrogator of British decent meets with Sheridan, top hat and cane in hand [visual allusion to late 19th Century England]. Sheridan clearly finds it odd that he has been dispatched from Vorlon space. He understandably begins to probe the new arrival. He blocks Sheridan’s overtures for answers with “you’re not ready for the truth.”

A meeting has been established for Delenn in Grey 19. The Inquisitor’s name is Sebastian, the Vorlon's examiner of choice. At first, I thought Wayne Alexander might be delivering an over the top performance, but instead he is deliciously evil and his British pomp is perfect for the execution of questioning. Delenn is informed of the rules. She is free to leave at anytime, but in doing so she would admit defeat and inadequacy and would be forced to answer before the Vorlon. In other words she is a free and willing participant of the inquisition.

Delenn must answer a series of questions and if the answer is unacceptable she receives a technologically advanced form of shock treatment exponentially increased each time from the wack of his cane. The most fascinating is “who are you?”

This sequence is edge-of-your-seat engaging. The harsh, cold Englishman is in direct contrast to Delenn’s soft, gentle but fight-ready soul. The philosophical analysis is terrific because I began asking the question, “Who am I?” I kept applying such contemplations to myself. Sebastian is like that of a drill sergeant. He works to break her and tear her down. Delenn needs to be ready and strong for the coming war. Weakness will not do and will not be tolerated, yet only when she begins to question does Sebastian relent. Curious.

Sebastian: “Who are you?”
Delenn: “I am Delenn” [electrocution continues]
S: “And you have a destiny?”
D: “Yes.”
S: “NO! Be a nice Minbari. Conform! Be quiet! Admit you are inadequate!”
D: “NO!”

Delenn demonstrates true courage and stamina. Sheridan arrives in Grey 19 after being alerted to Delenn’s status by Lennier. When Sheridan enters he becomes part of the inquisition. [All part of the plan-the 'teaching' by Kosh.] “You’re linked at the hip,” announces Sebastian confirming my own belief that the destinies of Delenn and Sheridan’s feel inextricably linked. Delenn comes to Sheridan’s aid who is also being tortured. Delenn demands all life is valuable. Her destiny is life.

The inquisitor informs them both. “How do you know the chosen ones? No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother. Not for millions. Not for glory. Not for fame- for one person, in the dark, where no one will ever know or see. I have been in the service of the Vorlons for centuries looking for you- Diogenes with his lamp looking for an honest man willing to die for all the wrong reasons. At last, my job is finished. Yours is just beginning. When the darkness comes know this. You are the right people in the right place at the right time.” WHEW! WOW! Signs and portents for sure! I just love the poetry in Straczynski's writing. It really is a beautiful thing.

And in the end, we learn, that fine English gent, that king of torture, king of pain is serving his penance to the Vorlons. Plucked from his ugly existence, the Vorlons show the unidentified killer of late 19th Century London the way. Sebastian was their fitting inquisitor. His alter ego was none other than Jack The Ripper. WOW! This is another exceptional entry deftly penned by Straczynski.
It's also worth noting the camera direction in this episode is outstanding thanks to Director Mike Vejar. I know Janet Greek and Jim Johnston rank up there I'm sure with the Babylon 5 faithful, but Vejar has contributed some fine contributions and this is clearly one of them.
Comes The Inquisitor: A-


Anonymous said...

Keffer's a character introduced due to network inference; PTEN reportedly wanted a "sexy, hot-shot, Han Solo-type character". JMS says he hates that sort of characters and he commented on the inference in his own way: in his first scene in "Point of Departure", sexy Keffer receives a video letter from his girlfriend, who tells him she's been dreaming about being in bed with him and proceeds to describe the wallpaper in great detail ... the wallpaper, JMS? :D

Gives us some second thoughts about the Vorlons, this episode, doesn't it?

On the questions: "Actually, the origin of "What do you want?" comes from encounter groups I've run, and from other kinds of group psychotherapy, such as the original Synanon games; you ask, "Who are you?" over and over, refusing to take the same answer twice, to peel away the fabric of what the person is. It's a slight jump to "What do you want?" (I knew that degree in Psychology would come in handy one of these days.)" (JMS)


SFF said...

Always quality behind the scenes input from you M. Interesting comment about the Vorlons...they are still very much a mystery to me. Moving on to check out the finale. I'm not as staggered as I once was. Also, speaking of credited players in this thing, what the heck ever happened to Mary Kay Adams? She's disappeared as well. It's like she got blown out the airlock. : )

Anonymous said...

re Keffer: I meant network inTERference, of course. Mary Kay Adams, it seems she did ok in the casting but then continued to stick to an understated portrayal of Na'Toth that wasn't intended for the character, despite being directed otherwise. JMS got frustrated and not wanting to recast the character again, he wrote her out.


SFF said...

Ouch! That had to hurt. Here is the thing. I really wish they had kept Julie Caitlin-Brown. She was perfect for the role. Adams was completely forgettable. Brown had sass and fire. Adams was more than understated, she was borning. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

They had huge problems with the Narn make-up, which caused major skin irritation. It was the reason for two actresses to leave before who were cast to play Ko'Dath (one never appeared on screen), and it was a major problem for Brown. Caused her red spots and rash on her skin for days, and since she was being offered feature film roles at the time, she (understandably, to me) feared permanent skin damage and felt she couldn't keep that up.

Inquisitor is one of my fav episodes, really, although a lot of people don't agree because it's doesn't move the arc forward a great deal. But I think it's one of those episodes clearly showing JMS' playwright background, having two or three people in a small space primarily talking, and I've always liked that. Besides, for once a writer addresses this "chosen one" business and doesn't just take their heroes' "destiny" for granted. I felt that using Jack as a self-appointed "chosen one" of the wrong kind was a great idea.


SFF said...

Well then M, it looks as though we have similiar tastes given I'm right there with on Inquisitor! I had heard about the make-up issue and I can't blame her especially based on the additional details about her career you mentioned. Finally, great point about "destiny" and fleshing out the concept surrounding these characters rather than just saying they're the "chosen ones." There is some real meat on the story. Excellent point!