In the third episode of the second season of Babylon 5, Ivanova is promoted; Garibaldi has doubts; Mollari ascends. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Tonally, this is a bit of an odd one, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s jarring at times as the episode tips from humor to dire warning, but there’s a part of me that appreciates just how weird this all is. Technomages, magical creatures, a warring species, ambitious ambassadors… there’s just so much going on here! But it gives us a sense for how lively, strange, and complicated life is aboard Babylon 5.
Ivanova the Diplomat
I think one reason I wasn’t bothered by the tonal swings is because it was so entertaining to see Claudia Christian get to use her incredible sense of comic timing. I love characters who use humor and sarcasm to talk about heavy shit, and it’s like Ivanova was made specifically for me. So, after getting promoted to commander (and I did appreciate that this reminded me the rank of these characters, as I believe I referred to Sheridan as commander in the past when he’s the captain), her first responsibility ends up being the most absurd thing we’ve seen on the show yet. As it turns out, every five years, the Drazi arbitrarily split into two “sides,” determined by drawing either a green or a purple sash, and then fight until one side defeats the other. That’s it. Then the winning side “rules” the Drazi for another five years until the next round.
If that sounds ridiculous, what transpires here is somehow even more visually ridiculous than the description. And it’s meant to be that way. In a rather scathing scene, one of the Drazi leaders insists humans do the same way. When Ivanova remarks that humans do not, they point out that humans go to war over flags all the time. OH. OH. It’s a humorous simplification, of course, but it felt like a direct dig at nationalism, but also at what is probably going to come. I can’t ignore all the hints at war, so this humorous plot was suddenly… wow, not all that funny anymore. While I sense that what’s to come is not going to be nearly as arbitrary, it still got me thinking: was there a path that could have been taken to avoid this?
It seems a little obvious looking upon this episode with that lens: Mollari could have not allied with Morden and the Shadows. But he didn’t, and the more I watch him go down this path, the more I realize no character was better suited to this journey than him. His ambitious is almost infectious, and it is certainly all-encompassing. No matter how many times he is warned or sees the ill-effects of his little “deals,” he continues to press on. Even here, when he tries to get the blessing of the technomages (I LOVE THEM, MORE OF THEM PLEASE), his attempts backfire on him horribly. Does he learn a lesson? Alter his behavior? Maybe only time will tell. Maybe after Elric’s warning, he’ll reconsider what he’s doing. But his desire for power, for his empire to be an empire again, is so damn strong that I worry Elric’s warning is going to seem like an encouragement. Those billions of screams of Londo Mollari’s victims might be a price he is willing to pay.
I admit I found the other two plots more interesting than this one, though I understand why it happened. If Garibaldi’s plot had been given more time—this episode juggles so much!—perhaps I would have felt different. But this came off as a bit more surface-level than I would have wanted. What sort of guilt did Garibaldi feel beyond the obvious? Did he feel like he failed President Santiago, too? Did he consider himself responsible for the assassination of all those people because he didn’t figure out things quick enough? I thought that this is where the episode was going, but it mostly resolved Garibaldi’s struggle after he helped Ivanova and got the validation of the rest of his staff. Look, I might have to eat my words if this comes up in a later episode. That is actually totally possible, and this show has continued stories in later episodes more times than I could count at this point. Still, this was just… okay. Nothing spectacular.
The video for “The Geometry of Shadows” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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