Sunday, December 28, 2008

B5 S4 Ep16: Exercise Of Vital Powers

Haven't we all had nights like this? Take it easy on New Year's Eve or this could be you.

The liberation fleet is succeeding by usurping back control of the various colonies from Earth’s dictatorial hand. Up next on the menu: Earth.

On Mars, Garibaldi is convinced Sheridan is on a power trip. In a bit of a new reveal we learn Mars almost killed Garibaldi three times. Now he’s back for more. He’s a true glutton for punishment. Garibaldi is blindfolded on his journey to convene with William “the big guy” Edgars.

I can’t believe I’m back on Mars. I gotta be out of my mind.” Hmm… perhaps you are Michael. In fact, this show continues to push the boundaries of my mind as we enter Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 16, Exercise Of Vital Powers [formerly titled Garibaldi Exercises More Poor Judgment As He Further Screws Up His Life And Everyone Else's In it].

On the station, Franklin is doing the very best that he can to bring back those telepathic Popsicles. The problem is as soon as they awaken they immediately bond with the nearest computer system. They’re also not very friendly when they snap to. They’re quite nasty actually. These extraordinary powers bring to mind Season One, Episode 6, Mind War. Talia Winters old flame had some significant control issues with his telepathic abilities. He was clearly a living experiment thanks to the Psi Corps. I suspect they aren’t connected somehow.

Zack asks Lyta to scan the victim of a crime. Her payment is standard commission plus 10% stress fee for reliving the attack. I love that kind of detail. Zack agrees. Now, while standing in medlab she scans a telepath patient of her own volition that Franklin had been attempting to revive with no success. The man’s eyes open WIDE. We hear the sounds of those creepy Shadows vessels. Franklin turns to see Lyta standing at the glass with the patient standing on the other side of it and reaching his hand onto the glass to touch her. She breaks from her scan and the man falls to the floor. Franklin is not troubled, but instead pleased by this development by displaying a soft smile.

Back on Mars, Garibaldi meets with Lise. She tells him he shouldn’t have come. Maybe that was the message she was trying to leave him previously that he deleted. Edgars enters and offers Garibaldi a drink, but remembers that’s not such a good idea for someone now clean and sober. He knows this of course because apparently he’s done a full background check on him. Edgars has people in high places who clearly shouldn’t be accessing his background records unless laws and access are completely different in the future Babylon 5 'verse. Ordinarily accessing criminal history records via a police system for personal use and non-criminal related investigations would be a violation of the law. Edgars doesn’t look too concerned about that sort of thing. Still, he could have gotten the information from any number of computer sources given the number of avenues that appear to exist in this future.

Garibaldi is no dummy. He reverses tables on Edgars and knows almost as much about him including his political influence back on Earth. Neither Edgars nor Garibaldi is fond of Clark. Edgars is clear he was behind Santiago’s assassination. Edgars believes Clark needs to be stopped from within, not via “military action” as Sheridan believes. Garibaldi and Edgars have a mutual need for each other to contend with their Sheridan issue. First, Edgars feels there are some trust issues between he and Garibaldi that need to be ironed out. Oh, minor details. Really, come on, why would something like trust between strangers be an issue when dealing with political assassination or governmental coup d' etat.

Wade is of course Edgars’ toadie or whipping boy if you will. He’s played quite well by Mark Schneider. His performance along with that of guest Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. [as Edgars] combined with recurring cast member Patricia Tallman are all terrific here.

Speaking of Lyta, an excited Franklin approaches her for help with the telepaths. He's not angry, but energized by her recent discovery. She apologizes for her involvement, but he insists it’s not necessary. She is surprised by his appreciation and he thankful for her intervention. She confirms she heard the sound of the Shadows vessels while connected to the patients. “It sounded like the scream a Shadow vessel makes when it goes by.” Yikes. That is a creepy ass sound. The hair on your back raises and, well let me tell you, that’s not pretty. She let go qickly and instinctively when she heard it. Franklin really needs her help and she reluctantly agrees.

On Mars, Garibaldi is abducted [again] while sleeping. Cloaked men take him to a room. I think they were men. It’s a guess, because they were cloaked. A female telepath is sitting awaiting his arrival. I hate interviews. I’ve never been to an interview in a darkened room nor do I ever want to do one like that. Sometimes though it feels like there is a bright white spotlight on you during those interviews. Edgars communicates via a linked sound system and comes off as a disembodied voice. She is there to provide a non-invasive surface scan to ensure his answers to a series of questions are truthful.

How do you feel about telepaths? “I don’t trust them. Never have. Never will.” Do you believe they are a menace to society? “The biggest we’ve got.” What happened to you when you disappeared from Babylon 5? “I don’t remember anything.”

The telepath appears to nod into the darkness with approval until this last inquiry.

One more thing. Are you still in love with my wife?” Why would you lie to this? You know you’re being scanned. Garibaldi’s reply, “No, no I’m not.” LIES LIES LIES YEAH! You can hear that Thompson Twins song can’t you? The telepath nods disapprovingly to confirm he is indeed lying.

Later Lise greets Edgars and inquires about Garibaldi to which he replies; “I think he’s put it all behind him. I think he’ll be a fine addition.” LIES LIES LIES YEAH! Queue the song again!

"Say goodbye to Hollywood, say goodbye my baby!"
As the female telepath prepares to leave with the intention of getting paid, Wade the toadie greets her with a fistful of lead and shoots her dead [so much for that payment and possibly stress pay to boot].

Back in medlab on Babylon 5, Lyta works with Franklin entering the patient’s mind slowly. The Shadows’ creepy chatter begins [not the screaming, but the chirpy, cricket-like chatter]. Their sounds do leave an indelible mark of shivers on the mind don’t they? Now this was really something. Remember those creepy X-Files-like fellows from Season Three, Episode 14, Ship Of Tears, well here they are again.

What the hell are those things apart from big damn ugly? Clearly, if not a relation to The Shadows, they are somehow “dark servants” of The Shadows.

Random thought while watching Babylon 5: One thing is clear in wathcing this series and that is there isn't a single minute that goes by that doesn’t serve Straczynski’s story in play. Whether material serves the series as a whole or a single thread within an episode there isn’t an ounce of fat to trim from his lean tale. No time is ever wasted time. I suppose that is the art of great scriptwriting. It is the fine art of Straczynski storytelling to be sure.

Garibaldi meets with Edgars. “I assumed I passed.

Classic line:
Edgars: “Do you know how the ancient Greeks defined happiness?
Garibaldi: “Not off hand, but I’d be willing to bet it involved three goats and a jug of wine.” Ha! Now that is the classic Garibaldi we know and love. He's in there. He's just off.

Edgars points to a potential world run by telepaths. What then? Would it not be like George Orwell’s 1984 and big brother? Edgars sees that possibility as real. This is a stirring exchange. This excerpt, taken out of context, could be applied to almost any period of time and almost any political reality today. It is a frightening reality. Take a look around. It’s out there. This is a stirring segment.

These are powerful political observations well articulated by Straczynski. The holocaust comes to mind. Wake up Europe. Wake up Americas! It’s happening as we speak. “Nobody takes power. They’re given power by the rest of us, because we’re stupid, afraid or both.” Wow! That is a scary truth. That is some of the most potent writing of the series right there.

So Edgars points out the mega-corporations are running things. “We just don’t show ourselves much. People wouldn’t understand. So we let them think they still have a voice.” Tell us something we don’t know. Clark is clearly an amateur according to Edgars. Edgars plans on impacting change behind the scenes and is fearful Sheridan’s military intervention will ruin everything. Clark will become paranoid, panic and rush Edgars’ timetable. “Once you decide you’re in all the way I’ll tell you the rest. We’re gonna’ change the world Mr. Garibaldi.” This whole section between Garibaldi and Edgars is dialogue intensive, but there’s a lot of meat on them there bones worth tasting. There's a lot of life and political truth to it.

Meanwhile, Clark’s forces have been defecting to Sheridan’s fleet. Sheridan is informed Delenn will be returning to Babylon 5. He checks in with Franklin as well who is getting annoyed with the boss man. I can relate to that. He believes he can neutralize the implants within the telepaths for periods of time. He demands to know why he needs these telepaths so badly. Sheridan tells Franklin and the man looks defeated and somewhat shell-shocked.

That's a moving sequence. It’s funny how friendship finds itself in unexpected places on the show. Surprisingly Franklin feels much the way Garibaldi had felt concerning Sheridan and his potential change here, perhaps not to the same degree. I never noted a huge change in Sheridan to be honest. I never really felt that different about him. I suppose he is a little more driven and less compromising, but Garibaldi, and now Franklin, keep pointing to his changes. Now I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t something to it this series is leading to. Boy, Franklin sure is getting gray by Season Four.

Back on Mars Garibaldi and Lise have it out. Perhaps a mud-wrestling contest in their skivvies could have made it more entertaining a la Duran Duran's Girls On Film. Garibaldi can’t understand why she’s with Edgars never mind old flame Franz. She is worried for both Garibaldi and Edgars. So let's get this straight, they aren’t actually lovers, but they do have a lover’s spat. She even throws Franz back in his face. Ouch! Still, I like this scene between them.

Edgars meets with Wade the whipping boy. We see three telepaths in a secret room dying from what looks like, Necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease [a more common form is MRSA or methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus]. That’s just God-awful stuff. Though, flesh-eating disease is not a virus, but rather of the bacterial kingdom. How do physicians and scientists come up with these names and keep them straight? Anyhow, they will die soon. They have been off some kind of “drug” for five days now. “It will be over soon,” comforts Edgars to the dying man. To the side, Edgars tells Wade to “put them all down” like they're cattle. He adds, “There’s enough pain in the universe already. Let’s not add to it until we have to.” Uh-oh. That doesn’t sound good.

Later, Garibaldi tells Edgars he’s in. Edgars indicates he better not be in and he’ll need to prove it by not sleeping with Lise. Kidding. Edgars tells him, “Give me Sheridan.” He wants to hand him over to Clark. Garibaldi agrees to give Sheridan to Edgars but not to Clark. He can’t do that. Now I’m thinking, ‘that’s stupid.’ Obviously Edgars will hand him over to Clark himself. I don’t get Garibaldi sometimes. Garibaldi adds, “You get to Sheridan through his father.” New information alert: Apparently Sheridan’s father has a rare blood disorder that needs medical attention from time to time. They should be able to smoke him out via this avenue. Confidential medical records, hell, what's confidential anymore in the world of Babylon 5? “You get him. You can get Sheridan.” Garibaldi believes he can help.

The final moments with Garibaldi on the tram are quite sad and lonely. “I can’t feel anything anymore. I don’t know what I care about anymore except Lise. It has to be done. I hope he can see that someday.”

Garibaldi is traveling down a dangerous road. He is messed up.

Exercise Of Vital Powers: B

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