In the fourteenth episode of the first season of Babylon 5, one of Garibaldi’s old friends visits the station; Ivanova deals with the death of her father. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death, grief
While I don’t quite understand why this was moved closer to the finale (which can serve as my reminder to make sure to link to the official viewing order for this project!), I found that experiencing this so long after “Born to the Purple” made for a satisfying story. Months after Garibaldi caught Ivanova speaking to her father, his death has had ramifications on her life. There’s a part of me that wonders why Garibaldi wasn’t part of her sitting shiva, since he was so helpful in protecting her privacy earlier in the season, but I do get it. He was a little busy with Walker Smith the whole time, and it’s not like Rabbi Koslov’s presence was some big deal, right?
But let’s talk about Walker first, since I’d like to get REAL EMOTIONAL in the second half of this. Perhaps because I’m adapting to the kinds of stories that Babylon 5 tells, I spent most of this episode anticipating the other shoe dropping. Did Walker have an ulterior motive for all this? Did Caliban have one, too? Was there some weird exception or twist waiting for me? LOOK, I WAS TRYING TO STAY PREPARED. Instead, “TKO” ends up being… genuine. And that’s weirdly satisfying! Walker really was framed for doping and kicked out of his sport, and he honestly wanted to compete in the Mutai in order to revitalize his career. The straightforward nature of this made “TKO” more pleasant in hindsight, you know? This dude really just wanted to make one last stand for himself, regardless of the outcome. If he lost to Gyor, he could accept that his fighting career was over. But if he won, this would be the validation that he needed, and it would hopefully lead to more opportunities.
Thus, it’s so fitting that Walker neither won nor lost. By having the match come to a draw, this becomes about respect. I think this is the first time we’ve seen non-humans so furious about the presence of other humans in the galaxy, and I believe that adds another layer to the story. Because the match came to a draw, Walker won Gyor’s respect, as well as the respect of the Muta-Do. And how much did he change the perception of humans in just one match? Now that humans can participate in the Mutai, Walker very well could have changed the minds of countless of other species, and that’s a huge deal.
I’ll admit, though, that this was an emotionally jarring episode. I enjoyed Walker’s parts, but I was also busy being DESTROYED by the plot involving Ivanova. Look, I have so much to say about this, so lemme start by saying what a goddamn treat it was that “TKO” was so cultural specific. It made this episode a million times more impactful because it delved into Ivanova’s Jewish heritage. I said this on video, too, but I can’t really recall ever seeing such an in-depth exploration of a Jewish protagonist in a science fiction show. Now, I can’t speak to the authenticity of what’s onscreen or how this is all portrayed, and I’ll leave that to those better qualified in this. But I wanted to talk about seeing something else here that is rather rare in fiction in general. Ivanova’s journey over the course of this episode is difficult, complicated, and emotional. That’s woven into her rejection of sitting shiva for her father, something she sticks to until the final act of the episode. And why does she do that? Is it because she’s too busy? Does she feel a distance from her heritage and her faith?
No, “TKO” goes in a much different direction. There’s a scene where Rabbi Koslov gives Ivanova her family’s samovar, and she finally admits to him why she had such a difficult relationship with her father. As you probably imagined, this resonated with me because HI, HELLO, DIFFICULT THOUGHTS ON PARENTS AND LOVE AND ABANDONMENT. Like??? Oh my god, there was a character on this show who expressed anger and disappointment towards a parent because that parent did not love them as they needed. And I appreciated that distinction, too, because that’s what it really comes down to: some of us need love in very specific ways, and our parents fail to see us that way. In this case, as Ivanova’s mother and brother pass away, she needed her father to express love to her directly, but he couldn’t do it. So, to her, that felt like abandonment. I get that, y’all. I GET IT SO MUCH. And it makes Andrei’s eventual behavior so much worse to Ivanova, and I UNDERSTAND THAT, TOO. When he claimed that Ivanova abandoned him when she signed up for Earth Force, it was nothing but a tragic irony to her. He abandoned her first, yet her actions are the one worth scorn and criticism?
I also don’t disagree with Rabbi Koslov about the nature of mourning and forgiveness. It’s wild that I just watched this episode because it was only a few days ago (relative to when I’m writing this review, I should note) that I had an in-depth conversation about forgiveness of my mother. A close friend of mine asked if I ever thought I would get closure between myself and my mom, and I admitted that I hold no such illusions any more. And because of that, I don’t imagine that I could ever, ever forgive her. Forgiveness has to come on the harmed person’s terms, though, and throughout this, despite his persistence, Rabbi Koslov understands that he cannot force the act. It has to come naturally.
And when it does, oh my god. IT BREAKS IVANOVA. (And me. It broke me, too.) Through the shiva, she was able to find the parts of her father that she did love and miss, and it was the first real step towards mourning that she has taken since “Born to the Purple.” This episode was a beautiful and real examination of grief, told through Ivanova’s faith, and I’m so happy for it. THIS WAS GREAT. MORE LIKE THIS.
The video for “TKO” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff