In the sixteenth episode of the first season of Babylon 5, Sinclair must deal with the ramifications of past actions. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent, brief mentions of terrorism
Y’all, there is so much in the previous episodes that informs what happens here, but I don’t want to suggest that this is the only reason why “Eyes” was so compelling. It’s a huge part of the value of this story, but it’s also a gripping story of someone abusing their power and nearly getting away with it. Colonel Ari Ben Zayn is one hell of a villain, and aside from one odd moment toward the end, this is an incredible episode and will remain one of the best of season one for me.
SO LET’S START WITH THE OPENING. This script pretty much immediately tells the audience that Ben Zayn has an ulterior motive and that Gray is not necessarily comfortable with what’s about to unfold. It’s an interesting move, but I must admit it added a layer of tension to this episode that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. We know this isn’t necessarily about loyalty; Ben Zayn uses the cover of the chaotic situation around Earth and Mars in order to push through this specific investigation. Which is so creepy! There’s some heavy shit going on back home, and as this season progresses, that conflict is spreading further and further out into the galaxy. If I heard correctly, there was a terrorist attack on the Mars Colony, and it’s why Sinclair wanted to keep an eye on any weapons transportation.
Thus, we’ve got a volatile situation; the new President wants his trade and immigration bill passed, but he’s up against the xenophobic factions in the government and the Earth populace. And with the latest attack on the Mars Colony, everything is precarious. So, it’s the perfect breeding ground for Ben Zayn’s vendetta. He can operate under the plan Earthforce set up to determine the “loyalty” of their officers and soldiers in order to get back at Sinclair for something… he didn’t really do? That’s such a striking thing to me, too, because while Bester’s influence through the Psi Corps is important as well, all of this was because Ben Zayn believed the he deserved the position of commander on Babylon 5. It’s horrifying, isn’t it? He wanted to subject the whole staff to these invasive telepathic scans just to get back at Sinclair and take his job.
Of course, there’s a lot more going on here, and I love how deeply complex “Eyes” ends up being. Y’ALL: IVANOVA. I just??? Have so many feelings about her? I admit that I wish Talia Winters had been a part of this episode, as I think she could have provided an interesting take on all of this. I’m actually confused why she wasn’t around. (Also, I’m selfish; I wanted to see her interact with Ivanova, especially after Gray caught Ivanova thinking about her. I CAN DREAM, OKAY.) But I was still deeply fascinated by her past. That revelation about how close she was with her mother? HI, I’M A MESS. And how does it relate to that trippy, distressing dream that she has? She clearly misses her mother and resents what happened to her, but what was that repeated message? WHAT IS HAPPENING.
I got the sense that Ben Zayn brought chaos with him, that he came specifically to disrupt everything, and he didn’t care who he hurt while he did so. Hell, he wanted to hurt people!!! Like, why include Ivanova? Why hurt her? It’s so fucking evil, y’all, and in his path for revenge, he’ll lay to waste anyone. The Babylon crew does an incredible job finding every way to resist Ben Zayn, but holy shit, can we also discuss the pacing for “Eyes”? I love a story that progresses rapidly while still being believable, and I’m absolutely lobbing that compliment at this script. The odds/stakes are raised consistently, and every time I thought this episode was going to settle down, NOPE. EVERYTHING GOT WORSE. By the time Ben Zayn relieved Sinclair of command, I was panicking. HOW WAS ALL OF THIS HAPPENING IN A SINGLE EPISODE.
In the end, though, this is all about consequence. Previous events inform what happens here, so this doesn’t feel like a standalone story. What Sinclair did, what Ivanova experienced, and what happened aboard Babylon 5 ripped outwards, and it created the perfect storm for “Eyes.” The only nitpick I have is that there did not seem to be a ripple for Gray’s choice during the climax, which I thought was a big deal. He used his telepathy to cause a human pain, and I feel like that’s probably a Psi Corps violation? Maybe the fallout will happen later, but I would have loved to see that addressed.
Otherwise: HOLY SHIT. This was utterly fantastic.
The video for “Eyes” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff