Sunday, August 30, 2009

B5 S5 Ep19: The Wheel Of Fire

Come on baby Wheel Of Fire, Come on baby Wheel Of Fire, Try to set the night on fire! I just can't resist singing that Doors' tune every time I see the words, Wheel Of Fire.

We are coming off the creative high point of the season, The Fall Of Centauri Prime, ironically a low point for our man Londo. Can it be topped? Somehow I wouldn't think so. The preceding entry was a real doozy! It packed a wallop of a punch. We shall see how the final four fair, but I suspect a bit of a drop off after the pinnacle of excitement that was episode 18 may be the case.

G'Kar returns to Babylon 5 to be greeted by Lochley. He expresses extreme pity and concern for his friend, Londo Mollari. The cult of personality that is G'Kar is greeted by a horde of Narn waving G'Kar statuettes, photos and chanting his name. It would appear his popularity has grown even greater. As he makes an effort to speak, all drop to their feet in praise of him. He is simply awestruck.

Garibaldi is in his quarters drinking and so he is late yet again for another Babylon 5 meeting engagement. Garibaldi is confusing his facts and becoming a notable liability. Garibaldi is called out by Sheridan regarding his drunken stupor. He appears to be in hot water as all are dismissed from the meeting. We bend over for the Garibaldi spanking and enter Babylon 5, Season Five, Episode 19, The Wheel Of Fire [somehow that really didn't sound right]. Delenn and Sheridan discuss Garibaldi in the halls of the station. Sheridan inquires with Garibaldi when it is exactly he began to drink. Garibaldi wants to be fired swiftly if he is to be fired. Garibaldi is not open to conversation with his old friend. Still, he is in dire need of help once again. Sheridan suspected he was drinking again noting a decline in his performance and other tardy arrivals by his right hand man. It would appear Delenn has calmed Sheridan's anger by balancing it with understanding. He is indubitably disappointed in his old friend to be sure. Garibaldi is disappointed in himself for failing his friend and hearing him speak words of disappointment troubles him greatly. Sheridan is not so much disappointed in Garibaldi for his mistakes, but as a friend, because he did not come to him for help and because Sheridan didn't pick up on his cries for help. Situations like this are so hard and helping one's self is a big part of it.

That's pretty moving stuff especially because Sheridan really is a true friend to Garibaldi there.
Dr. Franklin visits G'Kar in his quarters where he is swarmed by Narn fans outside of his room. The Narn hero simply cannot rest. The Narn back home would like G'Kar to return. Dr. Franklin makes this statement: "People love giving power to those they believe don't want it." I have to say that I really don't agree with that statement. I think there are many who should govern that do not want to govern, that is true, but typically those in power want the power. I also think our politicians do not do a good job of hiding their true ambitions, but many are certainly susceptible to the lies.

Unfortunately, there are many who vote who simply don't have a clue and just don't do their homework or don't pay attention to the candidate. President Barack Hussein Obama would not fall into the same camp as G'Kar. I've never seen a leader speak in the first person quite as much as Obama. I digress, but on the whole I have not been impressed by America's current leadership for quite some time and I thought it was fairly obvious going in. I also wasn't thrilled by the previous administration either, but I do tend to air on the side of conservative with Jeffrey Doyle. Obama doesn't come close.

Anyway, as far as that statement by Straczynski goes I'm not sure I agree with it. I believe it was Aristotle who once noted those who should be in power are those who do not want the power or something to that effect. But I think his statement is off. After giving it some thought, I also think his statement conflicts with a truly insightful segment of political commentary he once wrote for Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 16, Exercise Of Vital Powers. Straczynski's political observations can be found here about mid-way through the entry. I remember when I heard his political commentary how razor sharp his thoughts were. His comments resonate today. In fact the views were spoken through the character of William Edgars and he ended up dead as a result. I don't think you can get better proof than death. But his feeling that power is literally handed to people is accurate. Unfortunately it is handed to people unworthy of the office or unworthy of wielding the power. There are far too many examples to prove the point, while I'm certain there are exceptions to the rule. In the end, there are a percentage of people who unwittingly hand over power to people that are charmed by style over substance.

G'Kar: "Why does the universe give us puzzles with no answers?" [Great line]

Dr. Franklin adds to this train of thought thanks to J. Michael Straczynski.

Good stuff. Meanwhile, Lochley is informed there are a number of bombings happening against Psi Corps. The trail leads to Babylon 5 and Lyta.

Lochley visits Garibaldi in his quarters. He reckons she is stopping by to gloat over his suspension. She points out he has control over his future. He thanks her for the "fortune cookie wisdom." He is a trip! She tells him she understands alluding to the fact she may have had an alcohol problem. Hot-headed Garibaldi wants to know how on Earth [or at least on Babylon 5] she could possibly understand his problem. She calls him angry. This is probably one of the stronger moments I've seen to date featuring Lochley. Garibaldi comes down off the high horse for one of her stronger performances.

At first it was seeming a little preachy for me, but the scene just got better and better thankfully. So, as it turns out, Lochley and Garibaldi have more in common than we knew and they knew.
Later, Zack and Lochley prepare an arrest of Lyta who is meeting with a known freelance weapons runner. When confronted, Lyta inquires if she is under arrest and what the charge is. "Aiding and abetting terrorist activities," informs Zack [go easy Zack old boy she may use your PPG against you]. Lochley indicates Lyta doesn't have much of an option until Lyta starts tapping her fingers on the table. A chorus of finger tapping ensues across the Zocalo as Lyta is clearly surrounded by telepathic supporters from all sorts of races using hand power. She slaps her hand to the table indicating she is "tired of being pushed around." So, hand slapping across the Zocalo ensues as things intensify. I was beginning to think the telepaths were going to start dancing a la Riverdance or Lord Of The Dance next. That was not to be I'm afraid. Lyta indicates she chooses not to be arrested and in so many words and actions lets Zack and Lochley know they should not screw with her one iota. She's looking for a little gratitude, a little thanks, a little respect. Lochley looks to Zack who is in a kind of trance. "You cannot stop someone whose been touched by Vorlons." Enter the whirring charge of a PPG and another fellow touched by the Vorlons in the form of master Sheridan. He has the PPG to her head. "Let them go or I'll blow the back of your skull off." WOW! He means it too. Zack is released. Patricia Tallman is so good in her supporting role, but I am saddened by how far she has fallen in my mind [Hey! Get out of there! Leave My Mind Alone!- Whew, that was a close one]. The scene is worth watching especially for the right hook by Lochley.

Lochley means business and I am a little surprised by her hard line. Well, on second thought, Lyta's actions have been against Psi Corps whom Lochley seems to have a pretty decent connection. Anyhow, I'm a bit bummed to see the place Lyta had to go in this series, because I really did enjoy her character. It's not that I don't enjoy her character still, I do, but I liked her more when she was more likable if you will. It's interesting when you look back at this point at these tremendous characters arcs for so many. Twists and turns, highs and lows have been a trademark of the series for G'Kar, Londo, Lyta, Garibaldi, Sheridan, Vir to name some of the big ones.
Garibaldi meets up with Lochley in the station halls. He is clearly open to a new connection with Lochley given their previous conversation. He even extends an apology to her and some thanks. It's a pretty cool moment for Garibaldi. Lise Hampton shows up after receiving word that Garibaldi needed some help. The kind of help she's going to offer you just can't buy. Well, yes, actually, you could buy it, but that would be a risky proposition for many reasons I suspect. Nevermind. How my mind wanders.

Sheridan is definitely disappointed in Lyta. Franklin gives a number of reasons why she's not who she once was. "She's pissed." "Massively," declares Sheridan. Sheridan is certain something pushed her over the edge. "Bastards!" hollers Delenn as she walks into the room. She has been hanging with the Earthers far too long and this is meant to illustrate it albeit it seemed a little forced on Mira Furlan's part. The Narn race is threatening a boycott until G'Kar comes home. Delenn faints.

Garibaldi grovels with Lise about how he messed up and how he needs to sober up. Lise wonders if he'll leave Babylon 5 at the end of the year. This is a sweet exchange.

Shouldn't Lise have a better handle on Edgars' industries if she's in charge? I mean, not wanting to know your own business isn't exactly a good way to approach your troubles. Garibaldi has a brainstorm about the corporation and "killing two teeps with one stone."

I think we've all had that initial deer in the headlights moment for a split second when we heard the news. Havremunken? Joking. It is an ever so slight moment before turning to full elation. It's kind of a Holy Shit moment! You know you'll be a father and you'll be in charge and life as you know it is about, oh, nine months away from ending and so the countdown starts. As a result, you smile hysterically with joy and fear all rolled up into one. It's all good, but just beautifully frightening.

Franklin is in medlab and informs Sheridan Delenn is putting alot of stress on herself. As a Minbari-human hybrid things will work differently. She is pregnant. Sheridan indicates if he had to choose between the survival of the mother or the child he would choose Delenn. He puts Franklin on notice. He wants both if it can happen, but it is sweet and loving that he is worried about her survival. Having said that, if she does have their baby we'll have to do some math here. Lorien saved Sheridan's life following his leap into the abyss in Season Three, Episode 22, Z'Ha'Dum. We learned in Season Four, Episode 4, Falling Toward Apotheosis, that Lorien extended his life for approximately twenty years. I'm not exactly sure how much time has transpired since then until now. We know Sheridan will not likely live past the child's adult age of 19, perhaps younger I believe. That's kind of sad.

Garibaldi visits Lyta in her cell. Now, he offers his help to her. She fries the vid cam in her cell with her mind so they can talk openly. You know Lyta is so holding back her powers. She could crush that station and she is actually a very good soul, because she is keeping her powers in check out of the general safety of everyone around her while making every attempt possible within reasonable parameters to get what she can for her peeps the teeps. Ultimately she is a good egg. Garibaldi asks if she can eradicate his neural block placed within his head by Bester. If she can do it, he can get the charges dropped against her through Edgars Industries. He tells her she would have to leave Babylon 5. She indicates it wouldn't be enough. She suspects he is looking for revenge on Bester, but he insists he is trying to regain control over his life. She offers a counter proposal. You do feel for Garibaldi's predicament. He is essentially a prisoner in his own mind.

Later, Garibaldi meets with Lochley, but not behind closed doors and G'Kar inadvertently overhears the conversation. He hears Garibaldi complain about their current predicament thanks to G'Kar giving Lyta alot of money so that the Narn could get telepath DNA. It's a little odd that G'Kar was eavesdropping with no reason to do so initially. G'Kar enters the room indicating he has overheard only the last portion of their conversation. G'Kar does not enjoy his iconic status. G'Kar indicates he cannot stay or go home in his current status. He despises his god-like status and he knows if he stays the Narn will continue to disrupt operations on Babylon 5. He likens his situation to that of Lyta. G'Kar indicates he will go away "out there" with much to discover. He wants the message of "one" to endure, but the iconic status of his statue to be crushed. G'Kar feels he can help Lyta with her troubles too. You see, Aristotle would like the one called G'Kar. By the way, doesn't G'Kar have a thing for Lyta? Travelling with her might have its fringe benefits. Giddy-up!

Things are changing on Babylon 5. Many of the characters appear to be preparing to vacate the station by moving on to new stations in their own lives. Garibaldi begins thinking about the deal he made with Lyta in the cell. Lyta wants two accounts- One for show and the other account is the money bank to hurt Psi Corps. It would be the answer to hurting Bester indirectly since the neural block won't allow Garibaldi to hurt him directly. So I'm thinking, I guess Lyta can't remove the neural block until Garibaldi asks why she won't remove it. She calls it "a great motivator." Boy, she has learned from the best of them. Garibaldi is indeed ever the prisoner. It's interesting because he, not unlike Lyta, simply cannot be free. The two are prime examples of being mentally enslaved to certain interest groups. It's a fascinating conundrum and the politics played between the two make alot of sense. It's like real life power plays. She informs Garibaldi she will check back with Garibaldi in two years time. If he has completed his part she will remove the block to free Garibaldi so that he may contend with Bester. Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall that day? Lyta will deal with the corps. Garibaldi eventually asks Lyta how she has become greater than a P12? How has she become the strongest telepath he has ever seen. What did the Vorlons do to Lyta? "Who, what are you?" Lyta talks of "small," "medium" and "big" weapons in war alluding perhaps to the atom bombs of World War II. She is the telepathic equivalent of a "thermo nuclear device, a doomsday weapon." Lyta smiling and confirming that precise status. Now that's extraordinary power and confirmation that she is in complete control of what could easily be the end of all things Babylon 5 as we know it.

Sheridan and Delenn are at rest in their quarters pondering Londo's new role as emperor. Sheridan suspects he is still celebrating his coronation. Delenn hopes it is so, but is dubious in her heart. An image of Londo enters the screen as he sits lonely upon his throne. His world is tragic. This was a great follow-up to the previous installment and loaded to the hilt with character drama. It only took seventeen episodes to find his groove, but I believe Straczynski has finally done it and in a nick of time. There was no real drop off in quality here from the previous entry.

The Wheel Of Fire: B+

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Loving The North

I thought I would share a few images from my recent jaunt into the wilds of New Hampshire and Vermont. It really is a special place. I can only hope it remains this pristine.

This is allegedly recorded as the second tallest tree in Vermont. We slept under it.

We love homemade styled root beer and we will stop at nothing to get it.
We love maple syrup and we will stop everywhere to get that too.

It really wouldn't be Vermont without a broken down dilapidated barn every square mile...

... or a covered bridge.

... or a headless pheasant caught by my cousins bird-hunting dogs.

People actually get married in this maple sugar chapel. It's adorable. It's Vermont. When you're finished getting married you can buy some cheese and syrup! Bonus!

Getting lost in the North.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cowboy Bebop Session #1: Asteroid Blues

No. That's not Jessica Rabbit, but it might as well be. Two really amazing, very BIG, reasons to check into Cowboy Bebop among many others would be character and story or so I'm told. Oh come on, get your mind out of the gutter. Alright already, those too!

"1-2-3, let's jam!" I'd be remiss if I didn't open with those explosive words from the series spectacular opening theme, Tank!, by Yoko Kanno And The Seat Belts. WOW! Cowboy Bebop could be the perfect fusion of animation/ anime, science fiction and action backed by one of the coolest Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio Mixes I've heard in some time. I'm having a bit of fun on the side with these short 22 minute entries. Welcome to Cowboy Bebop, Session #1, Asteroid Blues. I've been told this blend of anime and science fiction is must see anime and I suspect I will explore it further at some point. This is my initial foray into the series. I look forward to uncorking the excitement I have heard so much about over the years. How it will stack up to my sci-fi sensibilities is another question. It's always been on my list to watch this series from start to finish. Perhaps this will get me started.
The newly remastered Cowboy Bebop Remix doesn't disappoint. The title score by Yoko Kanno absolutely bursts off the screen and explodes from the speakers. It is a pipin' hot jazz and blues mix throughout and the audio truly enhances the visual flair and flavors. Now, by all appearances the visuals have not received the same remaster treatment here folks, but I can tell you the colors are vibrant and fresh and look as though they were at least given some attention in the process.

The animation is simply gorgeous. Each and every cel is is lush with detail and radiant color. It is a veritable delight to the eye. Not since my viewing of the series Neon Genesis Evangelion [my favorite anime next to Ghost In The Shell] have I been more excited to watch an anime series. I've seen some dogs along the way, but based upon this singular first episode sampler this isn't one of them. A truly impressive accomplishment in 22 minutes from some terrific animators and seemingly solid storytellers.

There is genuine attention to cinematic detail in some of these frames. These two images really speak volumes about the labor of love that is Cowboy Bebop.

The Cowboy Bebop [1998] anime series is the product of studio Sunrise Inc. and is helmed by Director Shinichiro Watanabe [Samurai Champloo]. It looks as fresh today as it did when it arrived thanks to the new remix. The transfer here is sharp. Blood gushes, bullets fly, fists of fury swing, legs kick and the spaceships soar across the screen in a ballet of sci-fi action and excitement. I was really blown away how much I enjoyed this first session's mix of music, mood and mayhem balanced with the appropriate points of pure silence. It is an unusual cocktail and hand-to-hand combat never looked so ass-kickingly cool.

Fans of spacecrafts like myself won't be disappointed in seeing the ship designs like that of the Be Bop herself. The red Swordfish is equally impressive. Slick, sleek, fast and grazed by firepower and the scars of space debris. It looks as roughshod as the bounty hunter that pilots her. I love this quote from the book Finding Serenity, because it really illustrates our love for a science fiction series' final main character, the ship. "From the Bebop to the Millennium Falcon, to sentient starships like the Carrier from Grant Morrison's The Authority, Moya from Farscape, or the beautiful Sol Bianca from the eponymous anime, we've found ourselves concerned for the fate of a vessel as much as any of the leads... even on the original Star Trek, the Enterprise herself became a character we knew as well as any of the human ones." Make that UNDYING LOVE for the vessel herself for me. Writer Larry Dixon offers a number of wonderful thoughts in his essay for the aforementioned book.

Spike Spiegel is the central protagonist with faithful bounty hunter/ partner Jet Black always there to back him up. He's got big arms to boot for backing up those statements as well. These are the heroes of our tale on their first mission to track Asimov on the lam from a mob-like entity dubbed The Syndicate. Asimov is a member gone rogue and on the run with a gorgeous babe feigning pregnancy in order to smuggle an expensive narcotic substance dubbed Bloody Eye. Everyone wants it at any price and all players seem to be more than happy to die trying to get it. Did I happen to mention this is going to have hot babes? Okay, two-dimensional, but very hot.

One thing we learned very quickly about our two rough-around-the-edges, guns-for-hire is they are struggling mightily to make ends meet and put food on the table and in their mouths. The bell peppers and beef as it turns out doesn't actually have beef in it. That says alot about the lives of these two movers and shakers. The two look for the next job to fill their bellies, keep their Be Bop in flight and their vagrant existence/ nomadic lifestyle financed.

This a terrific cinematic moment that is deftly delivered by the creators of the series.

The year is 2071 and this is the beginning of the Cowboy Bebop experience. I suspect there will be many asteroid blues ahead indeed. You'll need the appropriate speakers to fully experience this series and with an HD 1080p up converter and HDMI cable the disc will look and sound amazing if it continues on this course.
Asteroid Blues: B+
Main Characters:
Spike Spiegel
Jet Black

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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-