In the twelfth episode of the second season of Babylon 5, this is REAL sad. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of imperialism, genocide, police violence, bullying
So, again, it’s hard for me to talk about this because I really don’t know the full history of the conflict between the Narns and the Centauri. Do I need to? Sometimes I feel that way, and the events in “Acts of Sacrifice” were, at times, confusing or frustrating. Many times by design! I can tell that this episode is supposed to fill us with an immense sadness over G’Kar’s attempts to resolve things in as peaceful manner as he can. And it’s unfortunate to watch him try so hard, only to receive almost nothing in return. He’s thankful for that, sure, but is it enough?
So I still found it striking, then, that the vast majority of the ire and frustration is directed at G’Kar rather than Mollari. His people are, in this specific instance, the aggressors. They’re the ones who destroyed the listening post, and here, they clearly attacked a civilian ship, then tried to manipulate the truth in order to justify their attacks. The skirmishes aboard Babylon 5 are because of Centauri aggression, too. Those Centauri goaded on the Narn, first by being xenophobic towards them, violently insulting them in public, and then when one of them taunted a Narn, knowing that one of the security guards would fire upon them. Which… y’all, does Garibaldi’s security have to aim for the head/chest? WHERE ARE THE DIFFUSING TACTICS? Why is no one aiming for legs or arms? And that part is completely not addressed at all in the episode! Not that I really expected it to be.
Yet the frustration felt so one-sided. There is virtually no sympathy given to the Narn from many of the people in this episode. Now, there’s a part of me that wonders if that is intentional, too, rather than an oversight. What if this is all a commentary on political alliances and the ways in which they can fall apart? What if we’re supposed to see the humans as flawed because they have difficulty sympathizing with other species? I actually think that’s possible, but there’s a part of me that worries that it’s not true. There’s that line where Sheridan remarks that he doesn’t care who started this, but oh lord, that context TOTALLY MATTERS! It’s the same sort of shit that teachers and adults used to say all the time when I was a kid. It was always in response to bullying. And in those moments, they smoothed down conflicts, flattening them into the nonsensical claim that “all violence is bad,” including reactions to violence. That emboldens bigots and bullies. If their targets can be taken down with them, it’s worth it for them to keep needling away, trying to get them to react. In the end, their actions are protected, and the root cause is never addressed.
So, I see that flaw in the approach of the humans, even if they mean well and are trying as best as they can. But there’s such an undeniable tragedy in this episode, one that hints of a dark road to come. Many of the Narn did not appreciate G’Kar’s approach to dealing with this conflict; is this going to happen again? Will they seek revenge at any cost, and will diplomacy disappear? While G’Kar does win the respect of the Narns on the station, what’s the end result of that? He stops the fights, but do the Narns gain the support of the humans or the Minbari?
Practically speaking: no. Neither government wants to get involved, and there’s an unfortunate parallel at work. Both Delenn and Sheridan do not have the power that G’Kar expects of them. Because of volatile movements and shifts within their own worlds, their own spheres of influence have changed. Yes, they do try, but it’s not lost on me—particularly once I think about that heart-wrenching scene of G’Kar in the hallway, sobbing—that this isn’t what G’Kar needs. It worries me! The Centauri are expanding, growing, and changing, and they’re doing so by destroying the Narn. Where the hell can this go from here? There are many acts of sacrifice in this episode, but what the humans and the Minbari sacrifice is too little. Is it also too late?
I can read a different interpretation of the title into that other subplot of this episode. Looking back on it now, it’s a little strange that such a somber and sad episode has one of the most ridiculous plots in it. It’s jarring, isn’t it? Because the Lumati are THE WORST. But their politics and their philosophy… seems a little familiar, doesn’t it? Even if they’re part of a comedic plot, the notion of species inferiority plays directly into the horrible things that we see perpetrated on this show. It’s certainly an element of the insults that the Centauri yell at the Narn, right?
Anyway, bless Claudia Christian forever, and bless this show for being so openly weird, y’all. I LOVE IVANOVA.
The video for “Acts of Sacrifice” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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