Monday, August 18, 2008

B5 S3 Ep17: War Without End Part Two

It's the height of Greek tragedy.

Holy Mackerel Andy! My head is spinning. Honestly. I laid in bed for a half hour thinking about this crazy episode. There was so much in play I was absolutely exhausted trying to keep up. Insanity I tell you. Seriously there was some fairly complex stuff in play here and God help anyone who jumped on board late for this show.

I don’t recall Stargate SG-1 having anywhere near the science-fiction complexity and character complexities of this show. Honest. As much as I like SG-1, it's not nearly as intelligent. At times, it’s smart. It’s just not this smart. A friend of mine scoffed at me who believes Star Trek:The Next Generation is by far the sharpest in science-fiction, but he hasn't seen this. To be fair, I couldn't compare the two accurately at this point. I will someday.

As complex as this one was it wasn’t my favorite but it ranks up there. In particular, there were a few moments when I was feverishly writing my blog entry while watching where I was so enraptured with what was happening I had to put down my pen. You know when you just halt writing on a dime and your mouth is agape whilst you just stare at the screen it's doing its job better than most. I especially loved one scene in particular that I will get to in a bit. It was deliciously creepy science fiction with all kinds of mystery and I savor that stuff. But seriously, there were moments that just stopped me in my tracks. I would stop writing and there were moments I didn't even realize I had stopped. My brain was cramping.

This is Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 17, War Without End Part Two [or In Sinclair's Name! It's The Man Who Would Be Valen]. When it alludes to the never-ending nature of the Great War it doesn’t joke around. This episode gives you the perception there are some nasty players out there. There are periods of peace but the impression is the fight will never end. This is a war without end indeed. So off we go. This one is like a whirlwind.

Our exciting story begins in the future where an aging Londo, picking up right where War Without End Part One left off, holds Sheridan captive. “What year is this?” pleads Sheridan confused. It’s 17 years into the future following the beginning of the war crusade. Sheridan is relocated to cell confinement.

BROADHURST! Oh for the love of God would someone suck this guy through an airlock?!
YIKES! It’s Kent Broadhurst as Major Krantz. I was kind of hoping we wouldn’t see him again or that he was “unstuck in time” never to be found or something. Good God he’s back and he’s at the helm of Babylon 4. He’s also not much better than I remember him two years earlier.

The Babylon 5 team is attempting to set up the equipment necessary to pull Babylon 4 through time.

A very busy Zathras spots a fluctuating ghost-like image of Sheridan entering in and out of his timespace. Sheridan is “unstuck in time.” Excuse me, let’s try that again Broadhurst-style, remember, “he’s become UNSTUCK IN TIME!!!” Delenn is with Sinclair and feels a strange sensation come over her or as she puts it “as if someone had just walked over my grave.” Flash forward, back to the future, and Delenn is being thrown into the cell with Sheridan. This was a truly intriguing segment. Delenn is very much of this location and time and tells Sheridan she readily accepts her fate and she is prepared to die. “Our son is safe, John, I love you” is just one of the major revelations presented. Oh and the BIG smoocheroo in the shadows. Damn! It’s a little hard to make out the make-out in the dark. I would have liked a little light shed on that love scene, but it's clearly obscured to effect. Sheridan is somewhat surprised but certainly does not turn away the advance. Overall he is extremely confused by her actions and information, “Son?” Sheridan informs Delenn, “I am not suppose to be here. I’m not really here.”

In Valen’s name. It’s true.” Delenn realizes Sheridan’s words are true and he is unaware of what has transpired prior to their meeting. Sheridan believes the war to be won based upon his first meeting with Londo, but certainly all is not right with the galaxy. Delenn enlightens him further, “The war is never completely won…only the names change.” That is about as disconcerting an update as one could possibly get with your life on the line. The good news would appear to be that Delenn and Sheridan have achieved their goals that will set wheels in motion for the next one thousand years. The bad news is, it comes at a terrible price. Okay, you see it’s this kind of depressing news that really kicks in you in the head when you think things might be looking up. Okay, lady in the lake, bearer of bad news, Debbie-downer, what else do you have for us? “I didn’t think I would see you again before the end” cries Delenn. You are not making us feel good here Delenn. The end? What! No! The only way to change the outcome and the future would be to surrender to The Shadows. In all of the intense give and take the one shining moment of joy that seems to overtake Sheridan is the knowledge he has shared a son with Delenn. “But we have a son?” “Yes we have David” Delenn smiles before guards take them. I wonder if he is a little bonehead?

Update: I have re-viewed this installment as of this point in the writing. All I can say is, awww hell here’s a video clip. The performances are so fine I had to include some of it.

Moments later Sheridan and Delenn are brought before a slightly inebriated Londo, but in general this is one Centauri who can hold his liquor. Granted he has been known to enjoy the stuff and go on significant bingers. This sequence is one of the most hair-raising for me. It is a chilling sequence and the hints of new information unveiled are spine-tingling [literally] here. Peter Jurasik is, as usual, brilliant. I mean, what the hell is that thing on his neck? I noticed it, but it was pretty subtle.

Londo: “We don’t want to wake it.”
Sheridan: “Wake what?”

I absolutely love Sheridan’s pained expression in that moment meeting with Delenn. Talk about Twilight Zone! Poor Sheridan is dropped well into the future, informed he has a child, gets a lipsmacker from Delenn, she unabashedly shares her love for him and gives him scary information like “the names change.” WOW! Where's that Babylon 5 aspirin?

So what is that thing [with trerrific make-up]? It’s clearly parasitic in nature and certainly Londo has lulled it into a brief period of slumber, which means Londo controls his own actions only briefly. Can you imagine what might have been had Londo not joined forces with The Shadows? What might the allies have accomplished with his help? It's ashame because he's such a persuasive, convincing and ultimately likeable character down deep. We witness glimpses of the old Londo from time to time.

The scene unearths even more giant story details as many events have clearly unfolded to get us to this point's latest mysteries. The next segment brings together archenemies G’Kar [wearing a kind of disheveled leather eye patch band] and Londo. It is the prophecy we were hinted to earlier by Londo's visions where G’Kar strangles Londo dead. It is a tremendous scene and there's a kind of tragic feel to the whole poetic moment. Suddenly the creature is awakened when it senses its host [Londo] is clearly in jeopardy, a struggle ensues. Is that G'Kar's hand on the creature's eye? Does G'Kar ultimately aid Londo by killing him? Clearly Londo wishes for his death to happen now while he retains bodily control. Clearly the "unfinished business" seems very much by design here.

G’Kar and Londo [with dead parasitic creature] lay lifeless as Vir stands over them with the Emperor’s medallion. Could this be Vir's moment to become emperor? What race has infested Centauri Prime? Have they supplanted The Shadows? Will we learn more about these monsters? Is this the setup for the Crusade series? Has Delenn escaped alone without Sheridan? I’m confused, [where’s that aspirin?] I don’t know, but I damn well loved it! I’m also confused about just how big that blue-skinned thing was, because it appeared be on Londo’s back as the eye opened near G’Kar’s glove that was intent on strangling Londo. It may be a small piece of alien information that is never revisited for all I know, but I do tend to get excited about stuff like that.

As Sheridan and Delenn are escorted to the escape ship Sheridan begins feeling the pain of the timeshift. Delenn warns him prior to disappearing, “Do NOT go to Z’Ha'Dum!” She begs him to heed her words. Why? Is that for selfish reasons? Is she concerned Anna Sheridan will be found? Will it alter the course of intercourse and the future birth of their son David? WHOA! Head pain. More aspirin please. I love delicious scary sci-fi stuff like the aforementioned [in great detail] sequence. It was so unexpected but completely made sense given the consequences of the war and its ramifications. Everyone keeps telling Sheridan not to go to Z'Ha'Dum, but we know he's going damn it! He's Captain John Sheridan for cryin' out loud!

I love the electrified blue, rubber space suit.
Zathras comes up with a plan to rescue Sheridan and then there is that old blue space suit. I love that big clunky-helmeted blue space suit. It’s so cool. There's something kind of antique about the whole thing. It's not very sleek in design and yet it looks terrific. I half keep expecting it to be used in deep sea diving. Zathras has rigged the suit with enough of an electrical charge to stabilize Sheridan upon his return to rescue him. How he knows he’ll land inside that space suit is beyond me. Marcus scoffs at Zathras’ plans as busy work. Ivanova really captures one of the entry’s funniest lines reminding us why nothing should be that hard to believe.

Marcus, we’re stealing a station to fight in a war that was over a thousand years ago. We’re all mad.” Indeed we are, but I love running with this crazy crowd. More aspirin.

Valen was Minbari but not born of Minbari. There were moments here I kept thinking of Sinclair. Valen is one of the holiest figures declares Marcus. He defeated The Shadows and formed the Grey Council. By the way, as Marcus and Ivanova kept loading materials in and out of the White Star through the whole burned into Babylon 4’s hull I couldn’t help but notice the way it was docked on the outside of the hull and where they kept moving in and out of the station. I imagine artificial gravity had something to do with it. Shouldn't the hole be above them? But then I realized we're on a spinning space station. Aspirin.

What animal did Zathras have to kill to get that hide?
Zathras rolls with his station in life receiving very little respect. I really liked how he settled into this episode over the first part of War Without End. He was far more amusing. “No one ever listens to Zathras. ‘Quite Mad’ they say. It is good that Zathras does not mind. He’s even grown to like it.” In all its strangeness and unexpected brilliance, Zathras’ plan works and Sheridan reappears inside the blue space suit on Babylon 4.

I just made out with you and we have a son named David, awww heck I'll fill ya in later.
The central power core is ready. The time jump system is fragile confirms Zathras. Delenn is relieved to see Sheridan. I love when he just smiles, shakes his head and tells her I’ll fill you in later. His head is spinning too. Sinclair and Sheridan head off in their blue space suits to finish securing stabilizers to Babylon 4 so it can be ready for the galaxy’s greatest disappearing act. Unexpectedly, Babylon 4 slips into a time distortion, but then re-stabilizes. Babylon 4 is now four years in the future. Are you paying attention out there? Here have some aspirin. Heck, I’m not even sure it can help now. The crew of Babylon 4 is prepping for a possible evacuation in the event Babylon 4 goes critical.

Suddenly Delenn phases forward. She is in a bedroom with Sheridan [makin' David?]. She looks on lovingly as he lies in bed. The door to the room opens. “Hello.” Is this Sheridan’s wife Anna? This is the first sign that she might be alive. Delenn is shocked as her shadowy figure enters the doorway. Surprise is natural especially if they just finished the old bone stroke and she’s not exactly expecting his wife. Is this how she returns? Is it a possible future? It definitely sounded like the voice of real-life wife Melissa Gilbert. I watched a lot of Little House On The Prairie. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I think I may have seen every episode. I'm sorry that may be too much information. Anyway, I know that voice.

Meanwhile, back in normal time, or the time ahead of normal time, or rather the normal time for some and not-so-normal time for others. Actually, Sinclair is in one time and another time at the same time. Well, they’re in the same time together at one specific moment, which is really weird. Aw heck! Anyway, Sinclair is graying, aging and still sharing his line delivery like a plank of wood. I'm kidding, he's not that bad. Sheridan is lost yet again in a time distortion. Lennier notes ships approaching Babylon 4. Lennier’s aging Sinclair tells him “that’s me and Garibaldi.” It’s Sinclair and Garibaldi answering Babylon 4’s distress signal. Elsewhere, Babylon 4’s crewmen catch Zathras just as it happened back in Babylon Squared from Season One. Who knew the White Star and friends were aboard Babylon 4 back then trying to save the world. This is KEERRAAZZY!

Babylon 4 begins jumping ship. Scenes are re-edited into this episode from Babylon Squared to refresh viewer memory and bring it all together. At the time Zathras handed a repaired time stabilizer to the person in the blue space suit. Was that Delenn saving Sheridan? Uggghh. I need painkillers.

Marcus happens upon Sheridan who has now returned with an undamaged time stabilizer. He's not in a blue space suit either. Marcus asks, “but if you’re here, than who’s running around out there in a blue suit?” Glad you asked Marcus! Man, you are always there to ask good questions. In fact, I’m glad you’re always there to be confused right along side us Marcus.

I loved this brief moment with Sinclair attempting to reach out to Garibaldi. It's quite moving and desperate.
As everyone begins bailing on the fluxing Babylon 4 we’re reminded of what a raging coward Major Krantz is who is more than happy to hurry off and leave Zathras behind to die. He’s not human. He might talk, but who really cares about poor Zathras so screw him. What a completely pathetic wanker Krantz is or was or will be. Whatever. You know what I mean. He’s terrible. Broadhurst deserved the role. What a weenie. He literally leaves Zathras, and Sinclair, high and dry to die. What the hell kind of leader is that? How did you get that position buddy? Maybe he went back in time and fixed the grades on his admittance testing. Pathetic!

Floating seemingly helpless in space within his blue space suit surrounding Babylon 4 Sinclair attempts to radio himself, actually more to contact Garibaldi. It's all quite bizarre. Actually, Garibaldi just happens to be with Sinclair, errr... himself, as they flee the distortion shifting Babylon 4 when the aging Sinclair attempts to contact Garibaldi with Sinclair. I need a drink. Unfortunately he’s outside of communication range and it's too late. “Watch your back Michael. Watch your back.” The suit communicator indicates, “Target is outside of communication range- unable to make contact.” What? Oh no, more trouble, more hints of things to come. What fate awaits my man Garibaldi? This is great! Oh my aching head. I need that bottle.

Back inside Babylon 4 an individual stands over a trapped Zathras. “Zathras trusts the one.” As the helmet is unlocked from the space suit we see that it is DELENN!? WTF!!! Huh!? Vodka, I need vodka. Did she switch places with Sheridan? We know these people fit into a specific schema. They have pre-determined fates and must see to it things happen exactly as they must to defeat the enemies. I think.

Babylon 4 disappears. Another helmet is removed revealing Sinclair, “I tried, I tried to warn them, but it all happened just the way I remember it.” At first I thought this scene was re-cut and O’Hare was replaying his lines from Babylon Squared. This wasn't the case at all. Delenn tells Sinclair “We have to go. They’re waiting for us.” The part that struck me was the fact Delenn doesn't grab his arm as she did in Babylon Squared. They added one new edit and omit the arm touching from Delenn and it just struck me because I remember how powerful that moment was way back in Season One.

As the team gathers, Sinclair tells them to go to the White Star and that he will take it from here and rejoin them later. But they know that’s not exactly true. The fact of the matter is Sinclair must see his path through. He must deliver Babylon 4 to the Great War of the past.

So Zathras is 110 years old. He ain’t pretty, but he looks pretty good for 110 years old. I hope I look that good. I keep drinking like this and it's not likely. Zathras is the oldest living caretaker of the Great Machine on Epsilon 3. He even knows more than Draal. Zathras is clearly worth his weight in salt. His knowledge is as old as a tree despite his inability to articulate himself well. Marcus and Ivanova leave the room as Zathras has a moment with Sinclair, Sheridan and Delenn alone. He explains the concept of trinity to the triad of these three important individuals as conceived by the Minbari belief system. They are three, but they are One. They are the One together. Zathras confesses his destiny is to be with the One who was. Lucky you Jeff! Make sure you have toothpaste.

Sinclair= The One who was. The beginning of the story.
Delenn= The One who is. The middle of the story.
Sheridan= The One who will be. The end of the story.

Zathras & The Boneheads [I'm thinking this is a great rock band name].
So with heavy a heart the three say farewell as Delenn and Sheridan allow Sinclair to finish his mission. All on board the White Star are clearly somber over the loss of the one, well, one of the ones. “Let’s go home.” The White Star launches, but I couldn’t help but feel sad for the whole crew. There is absolutely no peace. There is no stability to even feel at home, yet Sheridan commands the ship with hopeful pride.

The temporal rift closes as the White Star exits. By the way, about the White Star, it pretty much lacks an impressive interior. It just doesn't have the character of a ship like the U.S.S. Enterprise. Granted, Babylon 5 has all of that character. Perhaps the White Star is meant to be fairly plain vanilla, but it's so dark, dull and lacks detail.

Babylon 4 arrives at its predestined fate, one thousand years earlier during the first Great War. Prior to its arrival a certain Minbari, not born of Minbari, goes through a cocoon of his own as Delenn had in the Season One finale, Chrysalis, from Minbari to half-human, half-Minbari. Drumroll..... Sinclair is indeed Valen. It's interesting his transformation resulted in full bone-headed Minbari rather than a hybrid half-bone Minbari-Earther like Delenn. There are scenes that flashback over the process of his transition that are extracted from Season One, Episode 2, Mindwalker, when the alien tells Sinclair "they're using you." The whole storyline [And The Sky Full Of Stars] concerning the hole in Sinclair's mind and why the Minbari released him all make sense now and brings Sinclair's story full circle. Babylon Squared referenced his inevitable destiny. It was an interesting reminder of the many key moments that were bandied about throughout Season One that truly highlight Sinclair was indeed someone special. We certainly knew something was forthcoming but couldn't fully appreciate it at the time, but those moments were clearly purposeful and significant. It all lends further credence to the fact that Season One was a foundation for Straczynski’s masterfully epic storytelling. I'm sure there are a number of other moments in Season One that I cannot recall. I will certainly revisit the series again someday.

I do believe Michael O'Hare may be more natural as Valen, Minbari not born of Minbari, than he was Sinclair [that's all I'm saying].
I have to admit, my gut throughout the series kept leading me to believe that Sinclair might perhaps be Valen [you'd have to be brain dead not to suspect it]. When Zathras tells him “you have a destiny” way back in Babylon Squared I knew there was something profound about his role in the show. I’m not sure I fully committed internally to Sinclair as Valen. It seemed an illogical leap of faith and I couldn’t quite get there, but I loved how this episode plays out that fact with phrases like "Minbari not born of Minbari." It is a stroke of genius. All of the suspicions aside, I think Straczynski did an amazing job of not giving it away until now on the whole. The information was ambiguous and vague enough to keep us off the scent if you will. In the end, flanked by two Vorlons, Valen is introduced to the Minbari by Zathras. It is now Valen, not Sinclair, and as Delenn indicates it was essential his Minbari transformation occur for the Minbari to accept this great leader. Still, despite my reservations about Sinclair as leader of Babylon 5, it would appear fans were really quite torn over the loss of his character. In Valen's name, some indeed miss you Sinclair.

Folks. I had to let this entry go. It was like some kind of all-consuming black hole and the more I went back to it the more I seemed to have missed details and thought just how bloody useless my entire entry was. I couldn't seem to get my arms around it. I'm absolutely wasted! A Sci Fi Fanatic lies lifeless clutching vodka and an empty bottle of aspirin [a very deadly combination].

War Without End Part Two: A-


Unknown said...

And we finally learn why Kosh allowed Sinclair to get so close to him in the pilot. Kosh recognized Sinclair while Sinclair didn't understand what the hell Kosh was calling him. So we really get the whole climax of Sinclair was about in the beginning, but we didn't know enough until now to know what the hell was up.

Unknown said...

A lot of very big stuff here, and also quite a bit of small stuff that you'll notice on your second run through.. :)

I had the Sinclair/Valen thing spoiled before I first saw this episode, and I don't know that I would have figured it out before the exposition-heavy dialog between Ivanova and Marcus; However, now that you know, you can go back and see how Valen has been built up as a sort of Minbari-Jesus. Particularly Lennier's eagerness to explain Valen's origins to Brad Dourif is a ramp up to get the needed info in there before this two-parter.

The fun thing about JMS and B5 is of course that now you KNOW where we're going... now it's all about how we get there. And yes, you definately saw some hints towards some Lady Morella-prophesies in Londo's future. :)

As an interesting aside, one of the Vorlons who welcomed the Minbari warriors to B4 was apparently our beloved, late Kosh.

Good luck with the recovery!

Unknown said...

Oh, and Londo's neck-sucker is known as a Keeper. They don't handle alcohol too well (although they get used to it eventually). And that is all you get to know about them for now. :)

Anonymous said...

I told you you'd learn more about that Valen fellow some day :)

A few people figured it out after Lennier's explanation in "Passing through Gethsemane".

The funny thing is, when you re-watch the episode it's all so obvious. You watch the dialog with Susan asking if they might meet Valen and it's like "you might as well put up an alert sign, JMS!" But there's so much happening in this episode, like Sinclair it just keeps you going so fast you don't have time to think.

Think about what this makes of the Minbari belief in reincarnation, and their surrender at the battle of the line. Valen wasn't reborn as Sinclair to fulfill prophecy without really knowing what he was doing, but Sinclair became Valen by his own decisions, past and present, and knowing the future he created the prophecy himself. So much for "reincarnation". Here's your subversive atheist. And the Minbari ended the war because of an error in their belief system (just like the war was started because of an error).

BTW that episode, the scene in the Centauri dungeon, did it for the John/Delenn shippers. By this time they were dying and pestering JMS to see their first kiss. Now they'd got their kiss, but it wasn't quite the first kiss - obviously for Delenn it wasn't the first time. People were screaming - no first kiss! :)


SFF said...

oh my head...I'm not dead....I'm alive. Wow! Your comments are terrific all adding even more insight into all my confusion.

Bytehead: I see what you mean. Of course I had to read your comments around 3 times to get it to sink in.

Havremunken: All kinds of good points made here. The keeper huh? Weird stuff. But maybe I'll find out more about them later. Interesting you mentioned Passing Through Gethsemane indirectly because it was definitely moments like that that hinted to Valen and those thoughts concerning who it was always swirled in my head at the mention of his name and like....

M said, things are moving so damn fast. It's like you've been put on a horse's back backwards and off you go. There's no time to think strsaight so it definitely catches you by surprise a bit. That bit about reincarnation was a great point as well. I hadn't thought about that angle of it. True. Hundreds of years later Sinclair is born to become Valen all over again....I think I got that. Finally, the shippers, yeah, I'm not really a huge shipper for this one. I think they have a nice relationship but I'm not head over heels for it. I think I'd rather see G'Kar and Ivanova kiss. : )

Anonymous said...

When Sinclair attempted to contact Garibaldi and tried to relay the message "watch your back," that was in reference to him being shot in the back at the end of Season 1, just prior to Sheridan's arrival. It matches another line during Season 1 by Walker Smith in the episode TKO who told Michael to "watch your back" three times I think during that episode. Just didn't want you to go on looking for something to happen to Garibaldi to fit this line in future episodes.

SFF said...

hahaha. That is so funny. THANK YOU! Yes, I would have continued looking. How clever is that?! I mean to have that line in there referencing those final moments of Season One! WOW! I did not put that together. Thank you. You have spared me endless hours of head scratching!