In the twenty-first and penultimate episode of the second season of Babylon 5, I CONTINUE TO HURT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of imperialism, torture, abuse.
HELP ME, WHAT WAS THIS EPISODE.
I can already tell that watching this is going to be rough, but I appreciate that the show is openly talking about the difficulties of occupation. We get a real sense of isolation here, that the Narn on Babylon 5 are so deeply cut-off from their homeworld that even simple communication is impossible. I imagine that when Centauri does allow communication again, it’s not going to be open and free; it’ll be highly monitored. So there’s a value in what the staff manages to help G’Kar achieve here, and I was pleased to see what lengths Sheridan and Garibaldi were willing to go to help G’Kar.
But of every scene in this episode, it’s that chilling one in the elevator with Vir that is most memorable. It’s striking not just for its emotional intensity, but because of the way it digs into the notion of complicity and penance. At the start of the episode, we see that Vir is watching G’Kar’s impassioned speech about the Centauri, and we know that he did try to voice his distaste with what the Centauri (and specifically, Londo) were doing in the past. So it makes sense that upon being in an elevator with G’Kar, Vir would feel a compulsion to be kind to G’Kar. He is perhaps the only living Centauri that we know of that hates what has happened.
But that sentiment is largely useless to G’Kar. What does being sorry actually do? How does it help the countless dead Narn? What exactly did Vir do to stop the slaughter from happening? In the face of what happened, Vir’s words are a gesture, nothing more. They don’t help him at all, not like the Rangers do at least. So I saw that as a powerful chance to demonstrate to Vir that his discontent is meaningless unless he’s actually ready to do something.
You know, I didn’t really think about this until the episode was over, but this all demonstrated to me just how messed up the Vorlons can be. There’s an undeniable sense of superiority here, and it’s present not just because of Sebastian and who he really is. Right from the beginning, the doubt is there: the Vorlons are not sure that Delenn is right for the upcoming battle with the darkness. But there’s no doubt in the opposite direction. Granted, they are the only species here that’s been around since the initial wars with the Shadows, so I understand that on a surface level, but I do think that this episode provides a necessary reminder that the Vorlons may want to fight the Shadows, but they’re kind of fucked up on their own.
Plus, it’s hard not to read that into this episode after THAT experience. Sebastian arrives on the station and is immediately rude and condescending to Sheridan, which is just a red flag warning of the NIGHTMARE that is about to unfold. And I expected some difficult interrogation scenes, but I didn’t think they’d devolve into outright torturous abuse. Even if I might understand the Vorlon’s intent here, I can’t say I’m at all comfortable with the execution.
Delenn is tortured. Period. Later, Sheridan is, too, and the fact that this is all done at the hands of a penitent serial killer is just… immensely fucked up? And I feel like that’s intentional, too; I don’t get the sense that JMS didn’t think we’d recoil and grimace and watch in shock as Sebastian tried to break Delenn down. This whole interrogation was meant to make Delenn feel isolated so that she would get to a point where she felt so was truly alone. At that point, the test would be administered: would she still give up her own life to save another, even if no one else was watching, even if she’d never be remembered for it?
It’s horrifying to watch, but now I’m thinking about what that actually means. Do the Vorlons expect that a major sacrifice will need to be made to win this war? In general, sure; I’m going into these remaining episodes fully expecting that pretty much NO ONE in the main cast is safe. But is there some other aspect of this fight that I don’t know about that would require a sacrifice?
I’M SCARED, Y’ALL. Also: holy shit, this episode was STRESSFUL.
The video for “Comes the Inquisitor” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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