Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S03E02 – Convictions

In the second episode of the third season of Babylon 5, a terrorist plants seemingly random bombs around the station, sending all into a panic. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For extended discussion of terrorism, white supremacy, and misogyny

Hey, could this show stop being relevant in 2018 for REALLY DEVASTATING REASONS.

The Bombings

Hi, this was really fucked up? I can barely believe just how many bombings there were in one episode, but I understand that they had to happen this way in order to convey the very chaos that Carlson wanted. That makes this a difficult episode to watch, even when you don’t watch this through a modern lens. Carlson just wanted people to suffer, and that’s what happens, over and over again throughout this episode. 

Of course, there’s a heavy suspicion over everything that unfolds here. Given the opening of this season and the events that ended season two, it’s not impossible to assume that there’s a political reason for the terrorism that Babylon 5 experiences. If it turned out Home Guard was behind this? I wouldn’t have been surprised. Someone retaliating against the Narn? Or the Centauri? Or the humans? Or Earth’s newfound alliances? Look, this is a VOLATILE time, and Carlson certainly exploited it. But it’s why this was so stressful, too. There’s that line from Dr. Franklin at the end of the episode where he remarks that he’s glad it wasn’t a Centauri. And it’s such a biting and painfully realistic line, particularly for some of us in the States, for example. We go through variations of this line of thought because we know that these horrific acts of terrorism are often followed by violent retaliations. I wouldn’t say that’s the same context in which Dr. Franklin uttered that sentence, but there’s still a pervasive fear here that whomever is responsible for the bombing is only going to make diplomatic matters worse on Babylon 5.

That also makes Carlson’s actual motivations fucking terrifying. Look, this was probably written with a specific intent in mind, but watching in this in 2018, when white men have committed so many acts of terror because they feel like they need to punish the world, is a surreal experience. There’s only bits and pieces of Carlson’s motivation here: he lost everything. His job. His wife. His apartment. And he relates that loss to the absurd reasons he was apparently told at the time, that it was all just part of the times. His anger may have a root cause that is understandable, but there’s nothing in the episode itself that glorifies what Carlson does. Rather, all we see is the horror he causes for about thirty minutes. By the time we get to see him and hear his reasoning in his own words, he’s a nightmare. He’s entirely unsympathetic. And it made me wonder if his story was even true. Were these things taken from him, or had he actually done something to make his wife leave? Men like him are often virulently misogynist, and we’ve seen far too many examples of this in the twenty-odd years since this episode came out. 

Fuck Carlson. Just in case I’m not clear on that.

Stuck Together

There’s a deliberate comparison throughout this episode about empathy and good will, and y’all, it is SCATHING. When Lennier is injured after saving Londo’s life, Londo does something touching: he stays with Lennier and talks to him. I mentioned on video that there are scattered scenes throughout this show that demonstrate that Londo does have the capacity for kindness. But what are those moments worth in the long run? Because this moment is immediately contrasted with Londo in the same situation—unconscious and possibly gravely injured—but with a different party in the place of the observer. There’s a terrible irony in it all. When Londo is hurt, he’s trapped with someone who he despises, who would never choose to save his life. Rather, G’Kar takes great pleasure in watching Londo die, so much so that he is willing to die, too, as long as it guarantees that Londo does. 

That’s the complicated emotional and moral fabric that’s been woven by the past two seasons. Lennier wonders if he did a disservice by saving a life that cares not for others; and G’Kar watches as his one wish in the world is snatched away from him at the last minute. It’s complicated, messy, and disturbing. But it’s supposed to be. Life is indeed unfair, but these are complex portraits of characters trying to deal with just that.

The video for “Convictions” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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