In the first episode of the fourth season of Babylon 5, everything STILL hurts, in case you didn’t know. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For talk of grief/death, ableism in regards to mental illness.
This is already not going the way I thought it would, I AM NOT READY FOR THIS.
Wow, this episode is not fucking around when it comes to what the previous finale delivered to us, and I appreciate that. There is no cheesy handwaving here; there’s no anti-climactic resolution. For the characters on this show, John Sheridan is dead. Garibaldi is missing, and there is not a single clue to his whereabouts. And by the end of “The Hour of the Wolf,” the survivors must accept that it might very well be time for them to move on. There’s a terrible parallel in this to a moment in “Z’ha’dum,” and I can’t ignore that Sheridan spoke just an episode ago about having to move on from the “death” of his wife. Years do not go by, though, and in the week or so since the events of the finale, grief takes hold of most of these people.
Except G’Kar. The image we get of him is an emotional one, and his only big scene in this premiere still packs a punch. It’s amazing how much just a few minutes caused me to reflect on the journey both G’Kar and Garibaldi have taken. From despising one another to thinking that they’re just annoying, and then to their growth together in season three… this is earned. It makes perfect sense that G’Kar, of all characters, would spearhead an attempt to locate Garibaldi while everyone else is trying to either search for Sheridan or mourn the loss of him. There’s no hint of where he is here, but that’s okay. I like the potential given to us with this, and I look forward to seeing what G’Kar does.
The Emperor’s New Plan
Finally, after constantly hinting at him or talking about him, Babylon 5 has given us Emperor Cartagia. Played with a terrible intensity by Wortham Krimmer, Cartagia’s true introduction comes with a horrifying hint at the future. This whole plot is fascinating to me because I genuinely can’t tell if we’ve seen everything of the prophecy that Lady Morella provided Londo. Sure, there are pieces missing, but now I’m doubting that we actually saw the final branch in his path. Because for all appearances, it seems very clear that Londo is actually going to try to do something right for a change. Granted, his desire to expel the Shadows is self-serving, sure. He wants to save the Centauri people, but he’s not all that caring about other races. Still, even when tempted and threatened by Morden (OH MY GOD, IN THE GROSSEST SEQUENCE YET), he still plans to unseat Cartagia and get the Shadows off his world.
Which brings me to something fascinating about how royalty works in Centauri culture. Now, part of my analysis of this is of the writing itself; I certainly don’t expect a show from over twenty years ago to have the understanding of ableist language that we do now. (I was like thirteen when this aired, and I certainly had no fucking clue about this stuff.) From a more modern perspective, I know why distancing ourselves from the terms used to describe Emperor Cartagia is important: it contributes to the stigma around mental illness. It blames certain behaviors on mental illness when it has nothing to do with that, too.
Which is more of my second point. While I don’t think there’s necessarily anything out of character with Londo’s reaction to Cartagia (at least in tone), I found it a little strange that he would consider Cartagia “insane” for wanting to be deified. The emperor’s ambition for power is directly in line with how power is sought and gained throughout Centauri history. Nothing about it is uncharacteristic of the Centauri, right? This is what they’ve done for years! So, maybe it’s indicative of something else: Is Londo finally coming to understand that the way that the Centauri pursue power is deeply, deeply flawed? I think that’s the case because, not too long ago, Londo was given similar opportunities. He chose to ally with the Shadows to boost his own status and to “help” the Centauri people. So, he’s got a personal perspective on this that Cartagia does not have. He knows what’s at the end of this path. Emperor Cartagia might achieve his goal, but Londo is now the only one aware of the price that one must pay.
Well, not the only one. I admit that I’m very excited about the notion of Vir and Londo trying to subvert the emperor and get rid of the Shadows. I feel like that’s also setting up a different path, one that’s been foretold and shown to us: Londo becoming emperor. Is this how it actually happens? Or is Londo changing the future, too?
Sheridan is Dead
I’m fascinated by the commitment to this story while, at the same time, the show also demonstrates the exception. Sheridan is dead, and this episode takes us through a painful attempt at determining whether Sheridan is alive or not. And after the deeply, deeply disturbing sequence in which The Eye tempts everyone, Lyta confirms that Sheridan is nowhere on Z’ha’dum. He’s dead.
And then, moments later, we see him walking around the depths of the chasm that he jumped into at the end of the last season.
That’s fascinating to me. As much as I can tell, these characters have to move on. There’s no timeline given on Sheridan’s return or even if it’s going to happen. Thus, what option does Ivanova have? We are shown how deeply into grief she has slipped, and that’s where the episode title comes from. She has lived in “the hour of the wolf” for seven days before this rescue attempt is put into place. Delenn doesn’t eat for a week straight, and thus, both of them leap at the opportunity to prove that there’s even a shred of a justification that Sheridan is alive.
That’s what is so bold about the decision to show us that he’s technically alive? I don’t know how else to describe this. Because is he alive? Is what we’re seeing real or not? Who is that tall person with the creepily long fingers? (HATE THOSE FINGERS, Y’ALL.) Is this a dream or another realm? It might be, but all we know is that Lyta could not find Sheridan. So, to them, Sheridan is dead. They will continue to mourn him and grieve him, and I’m guessing that’s what we’ll see in the next episode. Who will these people become now that Sheridan and Garibaldi are gone? Who will run the station? Station security? Will they throw themselves into work to avoid feeling grief? And y’all, what the hell is going on between Lyta and Kosh’s replacement? What did they do to her? Why must she “carry” a Vorlon from time to time???
WHAT IS GONNA HAPPEN WHEN THEY ALL FIND OUT SHERIDAN IS ALIVE? Oh god, is he alive??? Why have all of you done this to me???
The video for “The Hour of the Wolf” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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