Sunday, October 12, 2008

B5 S4 Ep4: Falling Toward Apotheosis

I think security could walk around in the alien sector dressed in this cool gear the entirety of the episode and I'd think it was a sci-fi classic.

The Vorlons are rising as they implement a mothership with enough firepower to annihilate entire planets. It is a planet killer as we make contact with Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 4, Falling Toward Apotheosis [formerly Kissing, Mistrust, Eye-Plucking & Vorlon On Vorlon Violence].

Refugees are being taken in by the droves aboard Babylon 5 and other worlds where available. Ivanova, utilizing Babcom Video, provides news updates on the devastation and the resulting refugee problems as well as available sites available for the displaced. Babylon 5 has clearly reached capacity.

Sheridan extends his hand to a fallen civilian lost in the shuffle. People look on as if they've seen the return of Jesus or a messiah. The woman says to Zack, “they say he came back from the dead.” There is much faith now placed in Sheridan who is holding it all together.

Lorien: “They need to believe.”
Sheridan: “Not in me.”

Clearly Straczynski raises the question of belief and faith in false gods and how far people are willing to go to convince themselves the idea of hope is tangible.

Lorien and Sheridan are locked in step at the hip and shortly after this thought had crossed my mind Garibaldi mentions said same at a meeting within the War Room.

It would appear Wayne Alexander has landed a plum recurring role as Lorien making his fourth consecutive appearance. There's a physical aspect to his character that reminds me very much of a character from Dr. Seuss not to mention his Seuss-like philosophical leanings and the fact his name reminds me of Lorax. Also notable is the impact of recurring character Emperor Cartagia played with much flamboyance by Wortham Krimmer also making his fourth return. Morden rears his ugly, now made doubly-ugly by the nuclear blast, crispy-critter-cloaked head for the second time this season.

This sequence really pulled together a lot of what I had been feeling at the end of the last episode, The Summoning. There was much unease in the meeting room between many of the characters. I really felt I had a good read on the discomfort of various players in the final moments of that episode based upon the exchange here. Garibaldi isn’t real pleased he’s being examined and overanalyzed time and again, while Sheridan seemingly gets a pass. He may have a point. Having said that, Garibaldi did disappear and get rescued under very suspicious circumstances. He cannot remember anything after a certain point. He has a damn near hole in his mind. He has no recollection. I think it’s safe to assume he is being handled very carefully and wisely despite Garibaldi’s legitimate beef with Sheridan and this strange character Lorien who has now returned. Fortunately, the appearance of rising up from the dead has a way of casting a spell on people’s attention, plus he’s in charge. But Sheridan arrives with some question in my mind as well. If I were Garibaldi I might be slightly annoyed as well. There definitely appears to be a double-standard in play.

Down on Centauri Prime, Morden updates Londo. With The Shadows spreading across space The Vorlons are intent to destroy any world infected by their presence. A cleansing is in process with the potential for genocide. Morden insists they will never touch Centauri Prime. Londo has had a significant change of heart and looks at things much differently. He has clearly realized his association with The Shadows was a mistake. He is deeply regretful I believe and troubled by the news and insists The Shadows leave and turns to Cartagia for his support. His words fall upon deaf ears. Cartagia will hear nothing of it and Morden smiles from ear to ear. Cartagia urges a Centauri perimeter be established around the planet. Morden exits. Cartagia turns to Londo, now alone, and nullifies his initial plan for a perimeter. Cartagia has different objectives that continue to illustrate just how deranged a man he is. He is deeply disturbed. He expresses to Londo his orders were nothing more than window-dressing, a smokescreen to give the impression of support to Morden. Cartagia takes Londo to his private place to meet the 'shadow cabinet' if you will. Yes, the severed heads. Cartagia once again highlights his plan for martydom. Without a Centauri perimeter, The Vorlons will come to their homeworld and raze Centauri into a funeral pyre thereby cementing his status as god.

Cartagia: “We will turn Centauri Prime into an inauguration pyre to commemorate my ascension into godhood. The fire of our world will light my way…let it burn, let it all end IN FIRE!”

Whoa! Do you recall those fateful words? I know I did immediately. “In Fire.” Our late friend Ambassador Kosh spoke those words when he spoke of the future to a fragile, frail and dying Centauri emperor who was visiting aboard Babylon 5. The emperor looked to him for hope, but Kosh could only speak truth of Centauri fate. Here is that powerful moment from Season Two, Episode 9, The Coming Of Shadows.

By the way, I never really noted, at the time, the bit when Dr. Franklin asks the emperor "what do you want?" Funny that. Now back to our current conundrum- Emperor Cartagia.

Back on Babylon 5, in medlab, Dr. Franklin is giving Garibaldi a final, thorough re-exam. My hope is Franklin spots some kind of transmitter that can be safely removed and spare our dear friend Garibaldi the disastrous potential of Psi Corps activation as a lethal enemy combatant. Please let it be so. At this point, Franklin clears Garibaldi for active duty. As he’s about to exit medlab, the snap of Franklin’s rubber, sterilized gloves upon his hands stirs a flashback for Garibaldi. He is wrapped on a lab table in plastic wrap where he was held prisoner. Now, why exactly plastic wrap? I'm not sure, but he looked like he was being prepped for the microwave. Perhaps they are a strange bunch. It doesn’t register enough to make him question it, but I wondered if the Garibaldi we know and love isn’t going to figure it all out himself somehow. Perhaps he will beat Psi Corps at their game by remembering the suppressed past and saving himself. Seconds after Garibaldi departs Sheridan arrives in medlab to review Garibaldi’s results. Clearly, without displaying it to the others, Sheridan has his own doubts about Garibaldi’s behavior. I like Sheridan’s snappy new, state-of-the-art crew cut. He looks pretty snazzy as a sharp-dressed commander. I like Garibaldi's haircut too, of course his options are limited.

Ivanova continues her Babcom updates informing the station population of new information related to The Vorlons. Apparently they scramble any frequency signals prior to planet bombing. In other words, no messages in or out, of targeted planet.

Elsewhere Delenn visits Sheridan in his quarters where he tells her he’s never heard fear in Ivanova’s voice until now. The situation is becoming critical on the station as far as sustaining the masses and holding together their fragile alliance. Things get a little more intimate when Sheridan shares with her that he clung to the images of “your sweet face” to stay alive. Holding on to her saved his life. “You gave me reason to come back.” Ewww, snuggle-age and more snuggle-like hugging again. Yucko!

Garibaldi discusses the security and population issues affecting the station with Franklin, Ivanova and Zack in the War Room. Franklin suggests shuttling or relocating some of the folks down to Epsilon 3 ['bout time it was used for something]. Sheridan arrives and concurs with that idea. “Where’s your new best pal?” inquires Garibaldi flippantly. You can’t help but feel a little bit for him here. He’s either definitely a little re-wired or he simply is feeling out of sorts since his return and perhaps slighted in a way by his friend Sheridan’s lack of attention or at least prior willingness to confide in him. Garibaldi is definitely feeling underappreciated. He’s definitely off for a few reasons. Sheridan discusses the security risk posed to the station and the planets with the new Vorlon ambassador's presence on board able to report back to his race whether through telepathic extraction or plain old intel. Sheridan raises the question of NEW Kosh’s telepathic abilities and fears he could be aiding The Vorlons new directives and war effort, which run contrary to Babylon 5's plans. For fear of scanning by New Kosh, Sheridan has limited exactly how much and what information is given to his colleagues. Garibaldi is none too happy he’s been left out of the “strategy sessions.”

They really highlight the delicate balance of trust issues at hand here. There is a lot of uncertainty abound and it is definitely a destabilizing factor for this normally tight knit cadre in Season Four.

Enter Lorien and Lyta. Sheridan confirms their plan will go forward regarding the Vorlon ambassador. Lorien warns of the formidable power of the Vorlon. The matched force of a number of Shadow spidery sentients took down the previous ambassador. It will be different this time around, but it may be the only way to save thousands of lives. Everyone has his or her respective orders.

Garibaldi, Zack and four other security officers report to the alien sector to speak with New Kosh. With no answer, security enters. The Vorlon is asked to leave. To say things don’t go well would be an understatement. New Kosh is pissed off, incensed and goes positively electric zapping men and their breathing apparatus forcing them to exit from his quarters. I love when they asked him to leave and he answers them with a resounding “NOOOO.”

Choking their way out of the alien sector, their tails between their legs and gasping for air, our fearless security unit is lucky to escape with their lives. Phase one of their plan to move against the Vorlon is complete.

Londo contacts Sheridan via video communiqué from Centauri Prime inquiring about what he understands to be the intentions of The Vorlons. Quite amusingly Sheridan sarcastically mumbles, “Londo, he’s probably calling collect.” Londo seeks information regarding The Vorlons e.t.a. upon Centauri Prime. Sheridan estimates approximately 7-8 days for their arrival. Sheridan shares his basic plan with Londo and hopes it works. Londo tells Sheridan he owes him one. The new Londo is much more cooperative and kind of rejoining the fray. I like it a lot. “Thank you Captain. I owe you a favor. Good luck to you-to all of us.” When was the last time you saw Londo express that kind of spirit of cooperation? He speaks not in the selfish interests of one, but rather of “all.” They don’t actually show Sheridan’s reaction [they should have], but I have to believe he found it a little strange quite frankly. To see Londo reach out and express a little humility exemplified a true moment of conciliation or at the very least gratitude. It was pretty big. I think a reaction shot from Sheridan was in order there.

Lyta reports to New Kosh with a red herring [her Sheridan-concocted covert plan]. Acting as a kind of mole/ informant for the station gang, Lyta feigns concern for New Kosh. She eagerly tells the Vorlon Sheridan will be moving against him. New Kosh is merely arrogant in his reaction. She tells him that a piece of Kosh may be inside of one of the humans. This has peaked his curiosity and he asks Lyta to bring him to the human. New Kosh expresses concern over the possibility of intentional or accidental Vorlon imprisonment within a human. This is “intolerable.” Yeah, he no like us at all. He has disdain for humans, but phase two of their plan is in effect.
There is always terrific lighting in greens, reds and blues in Babylon 5. There is nothing boring about it.
The Vorlon is lured into a trap and he begins to suspect something as New Kosh attempts to infiltrate Lyta’s mind. Thanks to the Vorlon enhancements she intentionally manages to keep him out. He demands she let him in but he’s too late and he stands exactly where Sheridan wanted him. The final trap is set in motion. High voltage power floods the Vorlon area and a full-on weapons assault begins to take out the ambassador. Sheridan isn’t screwing around with this prick. It would appear New Kosh has met his match and standing in some very deep doo-doo with little chance of escape. Interesting that Delenn looks on in near horror at the site of the Vorlon’s persecution. Overmatched, the Vorlon’s Ecounter Suit Head pops off like a cork and the Vorlon creature comprised entirely of energy bursts forth. In the heat of battle Sheridan is attacked which inevitably releases the original Kosh within him. Lorien instructs Sheridan to let go. Meanwhile the station rocks as the Vorlon ship launches. As it makes haste in departing from Babylon 5, the energy waves between Kosh versus New Kosh project outward away from the station and touch upon the Vorlon craft forcing it to explode. Wow, that’s pretty powerful energy. I wonder why the original Kosh was so protective of Sheridan and company, but he was. Also, I imagine a piece of the Vorlon is part of that craft. There was definitely a desire to escape even for the ship which we've always known to exhibit signs of being very much alive as well.

I'm diggin' the freaky hand!
Sheridan lies silent on the floor, but Lorien replenishes his being applying his own lifeforce. It would appear Lorien is keeping Sheridan alive. Lorien is visibly weakened after touching Sheridan with his hand complete with elongated fingers. One of the things that truly fascinated me is how far we had come in this series. I mean, here was Sheridan and crew willingly assassinating a Vorlon, a race of beings that were allegedly on the side of the humans at one point. Hell, it wasn't long ago they were sad to see the original ambassador Kosh assassinated by The Shadows [Season Three, Episode 15, Interludes And Examinations]. After four seasons we have the strange dilemma of being between both The Shadows and The Vorlons and getting absolutely no sense of comfort at all. It genuinely felt as though the folks on board Babylon 5 were going it alone. To make matters worse it would appear they didn’t know who was going to stick it up their ass next. This was a disappointing turn in the war effort against The Shadows and only added to the uncertainty of exactly how it would all play out. Straczynski strikes again! Once again unease is the order of the day on Babylon 5. You gotta love it.

Back on Centauri Prime, Londo has summoned the emperor to the throne room. It would appear Londo’s plan of attack to move against the emperor is about to begin. Londo solicits the emperor on who will remember him when he is gone. Who will sing songs of the emperor? Londo suggests G’Kar is the key. It is his belief they should move the trial of G’Kar to the Narn homeworld. Staging the execution there would give the illusion of a sympathetic emperor to their enemies. All could see the beneficence of Emperor Cartagia and what a magnanimous and brilliant ruler he truly is. Londo masterfully executes his political instincts to move against the emperor. He delivers it all with such delicious seditious mastery.

On Babylon 5, Delenn visits Sheridan and Lorien. Lorien admits to the obvious fact that he is indeed prolonging Sheridan’s life. He has preserved his existence beyond his natural death. He will live for an additional twenty years. Delenn looks troubled, but the fact of the matter is Sheridan will live into his sixties. WOW! Sign me up! The guy is supposed to be dead and he gets to live twenty more years. Come on. I was half-expecting twenty weeks or twenty months, but years, yeah he’s doing all right for a dead man. That not a bad bloody prognosis! What more can he ask for? Shoot! I’d take that if someone offered me that at the gates. Sign me up; I’ll take that deal when it comes. Not to mention when it comes, he’ll just stop, expire, and cease. It won’t be a horrible way to go, like say jumping off a cliff or a car accident. It'll be like the sand in the hour glass just runs out. Delenn is clearly saddened by the news. Sheridan comforts her with the knowledge that it’s a long time and not to worry. Sheridan fumbles for a ring. Apparently he’s purchased her an authentic Zocalo special. I was wondering if he got to use one of those Drop and Grab Crane Machine Games to pick up the engagement ring. They don’t snuggle one bit here. They lay the big, fat, wet one on each other.

Back on Centauri Prime, Londo and the emperor prepare for G’Kar’s departure. Thankfully Cartagia is an absolute moron, a mad moron, but a moron just the same. He’s also a despicable thing that goes far beyond the pale of traditional Centauri imperialist values or the Londo-established Centauri directive of Centauris first. His motto would be Cartagia first. You’ll recall the sequence in Season Three, Episode 17, War Without End Part Two [we saw a foreshadowing of this even earlier in the series] when G’Kar strangles Londo complete with leather eye patch. We wondered how on Earth did he get that patch? Well you find out right here. The emperor is disturbed at the way G’Kar has been looking at him and is trying to come up with a cute and clever way to make him pay for that apparent disobedience. I was really surprised Londo walked away leaving it up to that lunatic to decide. I thought he might have attempted to stay and dissuade him from doing something unscrupulous. Perhaps Londo knew he wouldn’t kill him since he had bought into his plan to move him to Narn and that was enough for him. Perhaps he didn't think him capable of such a physical atrocity as well. What he does to G’Kar is just awful and fittingly left to our imagination as the cameras cut away and the door closes.

I was half expecting some kind of wretched scream from G’Kar behind that door, but it does not come to pass. That is one strong Narn. That makes sense, since G’Kar refuses to give the emperor any kind of satisfaction no matter how excruciating the pain. “Pluck out his eye.” Good Lord. He is one sick bastard. I’m not quite sure if Babylon 5 could get any more depressing than this.

This was a great title for the episode as apotheosis is defined as deification. Many questions still remain and circle exactly who The Vorlons are. We have Sheridan returning from the dead giving rise to speculation that he too is a god of sorts. Meanwhile down on Centauri Prime we have Cartagia lapping up the idea of becoming one himself. We are falling towards it indeed or at least neck deep in it.
Being zapped by Vorlon eye fire must be fairly unpleasant.
Remember the days when there was a stand alone episode to break up the tension. I’m feeling really tense and I don’t see any end in sight.

Falling Toward Apotheosis: B+


Anonymous said...

Well, that's kind of the problem with Season 4 (at least I think it's a problem; others disagree): No time for standalones (or at least in part standalones) to break the tension. A result of the impending cancellation after season 4.

Remember Lady Morella's prophecy "you must save the eye that does not see?"


SFF said...

Hey M! Yeah, interesting. I'll say this, to those folks who have referred to the fourth season as consistently solid, it has been that for me so far. It's is extremely entertaining.

The lady Morella reference...ahhhhh! Cool.

I went back to the Season Three, Episode 9, Point Of No Return, just to see what I had written about as far as Lady Morella's references way back.

Here is what I said:
Those three opportunities:
1. “You must save the eye that does not see.” [?]
2. “You must not kill the one who is already dead.” [G’Kar?]
3. “You must surrender yourself to your greatest fear- knowing that it will destroy you.” [Vir? or relinquishing power?]
So clearly I was close on the G'Kar thing. I was off by placing him at number two when number two was referring I would imagine to none other than Sheridan who is already dead. A-HA! Number three I'm not so certain of but I'm sure it will come to me either after I post this or later.

I love the puzzle that is J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5.