In the twenty-second and final episode of the second season of Babylon 5, night has come. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
This sure is a strange show to watch in 2018.
I’m writing this the day after the mid-term elections here in the United States. Because of that, I’ve got a lot on my mind, particularly the notion of complicity and selfishness. While I’m sure in the days to come, pundits and experts everywhere are going to delve in deeply into the reasons why the election went the way it did, but even in just half a day, we’ve already seen a familiar pattern emerge: certain people were more than willing to vote in favor of their own interests (often racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic interests, of course) at great expense to others. They aligned themselves with white supremacy because it kept them safe. And their own personal safety mattered more than pretty much everything else. Who provided that safety? Ah, it’s no big deal that most are neo-fascists and neo-Nazis; all that matters is that some people got what they wanted. Fuck the rest! They’re not our community or our people. Why should we care about them?
Many of the events that unfold in this devastating episode have long been foreshadowed. Seriously, I should have known that an organization called the Night Watch was going to ally itself with such a terrible darkness. And all the grumbling back home was a sign, too: Earth was ready to protect itself at great cost to others, no matter unjust the Centauri had been. Of course, it’s going much further than that, and the Night Watch has taken previous warnings about its reach and purpose and made them terribly, terribly real here. They only want their version of peace, which is anything but peaceful.
So, where do I even start when analyzing an episode that is all about broad strokes and unfinished stories? This is clearly the marker for a new chapter in the Babylon 5 saga, so I know there’s a great deal of story left to tell. But it also works as an endcap to season two, a point at which the season-long struggle against growing war and subjugation has been lost on some points but won on others. I think it best to start with the Night Watch and the Ministry of Peace, whose presence here is to provide an antagonist that is easy to hate. Well, not only that, of course, and I am sure this is not the last we’ve seen of Lantz and Welles. But wow, y’all, they are the fucking worst. I think it’s their certainty that’s so aggravating, more so than anything else. The two of them waltz about the station with so much confidence, and it’s because they know no one can stop them. Take Welles’s “informal” meeting with Ivanova. At the time, I wondered why the hell he was so bold about asking her to become a spy! It’s because HE CAN. He can do it, and he’ll get away with it, and there’s nothing that Ivanova can do to stop it. If she reports Welles to her superiors, he’ll probably get a pat on the back. There is an institutional power here that these people are working against, and it terrifies me.
It’s only going to get worse. We’ve already seen how willing members of the Night Watch are in reporting things to the Night Watch, and it’s how the existence of the Narn war cruiser is spoiled. I’m drawn back to the same questions I had “Divided Loyalties.” How can these people possibly recruit new members? Can the Rangers even grow if there’s this pervasive threat of the Night Watch hanging over them all?
And then there’s the Centauri. Just as I felt enraged about the Night Watch, I couldn’t help but feel infuriated by what the Centauri have done and how Londo is so willing to go along with it. You know, perhaps Garibaldi’s interpretation of Londo is right. Maybe he’s just too afraid to let go of the reins, to challenge the machinery that he is a part of. At this point, though, there is just too much blood on his hands for me to generate much sympathy for him. I don’t know that I can afford to feel sorry for him. As G’Kar warned in the previous episode, the Centauri were never going to be satisfied with just claiming Narn’s homeworld. Their expansion was always a part of this, and they’ve pretty much outright stated that they want other races to bow before them. Ideally, that is.
But what happens when the Shadows ask them to bow down? What is that going to look like? That part of this story is inevitable, no matter how much Londo or the Centauri want to ignore it. With Keffer’s sacrifice now ushering in public knowledge of, at the very least, the warships of the Shadows, how can they continue to avoid the fact that they’ve allied with a terrible force? Well, I imagine it’s easy to ignore such complications when you’re busy reaping the profits of your warmongering, when you’re still doing your best to conquer worlds around you. The Centauri seem not to care about the cost they’ll have to pay, and that even includes the warship that explodes in their petty fight with Babylon 5.
But all is not dark and lacking hope. Most of this episode is pretty damn distressing, I won’t lie. However, I felt renewed by Sheridan’s constant commitment to what is moral and right. There is so little reluctance on his part, y’all, and I admire that. He knows that he can help the Narn by protecting that cruiser, and even when his own government tries to stop him, he still persists. That makes me feel like Sebastian’s judgment at the end of “Comes the Inquisitor” was right! Well, and that he’s a good person in general. JUST SAYING. What I’m leading to, though, is Ambassador Kosh’s unreal display in this episode. Y’all, I fully expected that we either wouldn’t see a Vorlon until the end of the series, or that we would NEVER see them. I CERTAINLY DID NOT EXPECT TO SEE AMBASSADOR KOSH OUTSIDE OF HIS ENCOUNTER SUIT THIS EARLY. As Delenn says, it’s a way for the Vorlons to demonstrate that they’re serious about the fight that is to come.
It’s says more than that, too. I’m interested in the fact that Londo says he saw nothing; did Kosh do that on purpose, or is that a sign that the Centauri are doomed from the start? What if they have no being of light within their mythology? I’m also fascinated by Sheridan’s interpretation of the Vorlons being a manipulation. I don’t think he’s far off-the-mark; they did integrate themselves across multiple cultures so that when those cultures “saw” them, they would inherent trust and believe them. That’s pretty creepy. But if that’s a strategy that they have to win against the Shadows, then the events of “Comes the Inquisitor” make more sense. Just how desperate and terrible will this other side have to be in order to defeat the Shadows?
The video for “The Fall of Night” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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