In the third episode of the first season of Babylon 5, Londo gets involved in a potential scandal, and Ivanova deals with a terrible setback. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death/grief, slavery, consent
This episode was a bit perplexing to me, only in the sense that I expected there to be another act/story beat towards the end. Instead, it just sort of… ended? There wasn’t this sense of a sweeping climax or a cathartic conclusion, but I’m also wondering if that’s intentional. Perhaps Babylon 5 isn’t going to follow the same sort of storytelling rules that I’ve expected. LET’S TALK.
Look, I figured that something important was unfolding on those gold channel conversations, but I just thought that Ivanova was poking fun at Garibaldi. WHICH WAS REALLY FUN. Ivanova is the character I’ve latched on to the quickest, so LORD, this was a gut-punch. It’s interesting to me that this is such a small part of the running time of “Born to the Purple,” given how clearly vital this is to the character. Losing one’s father is a huge deal, and I am actually expecting that this will be referenced at least a few times this season. I say that because this event occurred so early within season one and in such a unique way. Garibaldi knows the truth and, without saying it outright, communicates this to Ivanova, possibly bringing them closer.
I’m getting the sense that this show drops seeds along the way, that these tiny moments can grow into larger things with a little patience. At least I hope that is the case! It would be weird if there was no intent to deal with things like Ivanova’s father’s death, or Sinclair being “chosen.”
Like the previous episode and Delenn’s story giving us insight into the Minbari, I feel like “Born to the Purple” provides us with some necessary information on the Centauri. Some of that is spelled out, while most of it is introduced through smaller moments or within dialogue. As for the kind of worldbuilding that was spelled out to the viewer, the superficial nature of the Centauri is now very obvious to me. As Londo says, his people care very much about appearances. Class, rank, titles… all these sort of things are part of the hierarchical nature of Centauri society. I’m guessing that is why Adira was so pleased with the nature of Londo’s title: “ambassador” must carry a lot of weight in the republic.
It also explains why Adira was so reluctant to have dinner with Londo in public. There’s that sense that this relationship was scandalous, but I’m curious how much of that had to do with Adira’s citizenship status. This episode is very casual about the fact that Adira is a slave, though little is told to the audience about what this actually means. Trakis frequently abuses her as her “master,” and since there is so little in the way of worldbuilding here, I feel like that it is acceptable behavior within Centauri society. Hell, no one seems to express any opinion that slavery is wrong, not even the humans who come to learn the truth about Adira.
So it leaves this episode with an odd lens with which you can analyze everything. Adira was forced and compelled to steal Londo’s purple files for Trakis, and it also means that Londo had a relationship with a woman who was more or less forced to seduce him? Granted, by the end of the episode, it seemed obvious that Adira had feelings for Londo, but I would have preferred that some part of this was unpacked on screen. Instead, there’s more time spent on the Euphrates negotiations (and the humor that came with them); there’s more time spent on saving Londo’s reputation. It’s an odd choice, but I also admit that I don’t have a great grasp on Centauri society. I know I’m missing a lot of the details, but that also means that this episode never came across as willing to grasp with the issues it brought up.
The video for “Born to the Purple” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff