Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S01E13 – Signs and Portents

In the thirteenth episode of the first season of Babylon 5, WHAT THE FUCK. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.

Trigger Warning: For talk of colonialism/imperialism

What just happened? What is this show gonna do to me? THIS IS YOUR FAULT.

The Eye

So, I’m gonna try my best to sort through the many signs and portents that this episode just gave me. (I couldn’t resist, NOT SORRY.) It’s the first major update to some of the larger arcs that the previous episodes either hinted at or, in the case of Sinclair, whole episodes were devoted to. There’s a sense of chaos and bewilderment throughout this script, and lord, it was a trip to experience. It’s clearly intentional, too! We’re supposed to see all these disparate parts and wonder how they converge, AND THEN THEY DO AND I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND IT ALL. 

So, I’m starting with The Eye. Why? Because there’s something here I do understand: the Centauri, and particularly Londo Mollari, desperately wish for the glory days of their empire. That’s something that’s been made explicit over the course of the first half of the season, and by the time Morden finally confronts Mollari, it’s outright told to the audience. The Centauri Empire is in shambles, and because they no longer hold the same power within the galaxy, they’re scrambling to regain that foothold. It doesn’t help, of course, that matters at home are so complicated and fraught. (Which I notice is a repeated motif; we get the same sense of both Earth and Narn. It seems that only the Minbari are doing okay.) The current emperor hasn’t shown their face in a year, the senate is a mess, and The Eye promises to at least give the current emperor some credibility.

But it’s all glimpsing toward the past, isn’t it? There’s nothing here about moving into the future but, rather, a desperate grasp at history. That history is so far away, and it slips further from the Centauri with each passing day. Given the events of the previous episode, we know there’s still a ton of animosity between the Narn and Centauri, and that’s why the end of this episode worries me so very, very much. Londo is not the sort of character who seems ready to resist the return of an empire. He absolutely wants it back! So how do we reckon with that? If Londo is so deadset on the idea of Centauri dominance, is he always going to make choices that advance his own people? And will he do that at great expense to others?

The Investigation

There aren’t so much red herrings in this episode as there are subtle hints and nudges. We are supposed to care about Sinclair’s vulnerable request of Garibaldi, so I wouldn’t say it’s a misdirect that it opens the episode and is then completely unaddressed until the final few minutes. Rather, it sheds light on the episode’s other plots… I think. I’m only at the theory stage, since so much of “Signs and Portents” leaves me with more questions, but I feel like Garibaldi’s discovery explains Delenn’s actions, which I’ll get to in a moment. It was creepy to find out that the Minbari rejected every candidate to run Babylon 5 until Sinclair’s name came out, since that pretty much confirms that he’s part of some sort of conspiracy by the Minbari to… well. I don’t know. That’s where my theory ends on Sinclair’s part of this, but he is either perfectly suited for something the Minbari need to happen OR they did something to him during those 24 hours onboard their ship. UGH WHAT THE FUCK.

What Do You Want?

I’m realizing in hindsight how insidious and creepy the design for Morden was. In many ways—and I’m not even sure if Morden is human, so that’s a fun thought—Morden appears as a tempter. As someone ready to make a deal. As one who can drift in and out of the shadows at a moment’s notice. Thinking back on it now, he’s designed in a way that reminded me of how Satan is often depicted in human form, and I wonder how much of that was intentional. Regardless, what he says is what intrigues me the most, because my theory here is that he really was tempting these three species. 

He approached the Narn, then the Minbari, and then the Centauri, and each time, he asked what they wanted until he got what he wanted: the truth of what each species might actually desire. The Narn, through G’Kar, wanted safety. Granted, G’Kar expresses that through a desire for genocide, but when Morden presses G’Kar further, the real want comes out in the end. When Delenn is questioned, she immediately notices how the light changes in her quarters, and I’m assuming that she recognized Morden as one of the Shadows. (I don’t know if that is their official name or just what Lady Ladira calls them, but I need some means of referring to them, so HERE WE GO.) So: a rejection of the Shadows. Londo does not recognize Morden, and after much pestering, gives up his desire: for the Centauri people to be returned to their former glory and power. It wasn’t a surprising revelation, but I didn’t understand what it meant. (Which is not to say I currently do, either; I am working with very little to go on here.) The Vorlons… well, Ambassador Kosh rejects Morden, too, and apparently gets into some sort of altercation that requires their suit to be fixed???? DID KOSH BEAT MORDEN UP? 

What I think happened is that the Shadows, through Morden, offered their services. The Vorlons and the Minbari outright rejected them, and the Narn were an appealing target. But Morden offers Mollari a piece of what he wanted, and before disappearing, suggests that the Shadows can offer more. What for… I don’t know. I have no fucking clue where this is going, but I think this is the first major piece of a much, much larger puzzle. Does it mean that the Centauri will work with whoever these Minbari are? No, but I think Mollari might have opened a door he wasn’t even aware existed prior to this. 


The video for “Signs and Portents” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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