In the sixth episode of the fourth season of Babylon 5, I’m still in shock, and I AM INCREDIBLY WORRIED. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Hi, what the hell, how is there still any of this show left? Okay, so we’ve got a few loose ends—Garibaldi’s condition, that future we saw in “War Without End,” and a few other things—but this truly felt like the bulk of the show? I’M SCARED. WHAT IS THIS SHOW GOING TO DO NEXT???
The Rejection of Londo Mollari
This episode really is one giant rejection, even if it occurs in two different contexts and two different places. And I find that fascinating: so much of the “resolution” of this story arc, seeded over the course of three complete seasons, is an emotional and moral thing. That being said—and I’ll go into greater detail later—it’s still very physical, so it’s not like the show presents us with an anticlimactic solution. THIS IS A LOT AND VERY INTENSE. Hell, even Londo’s solution to the problem of the Shadow ships is deeply physical: he blows up the island that they’re all hiding in, even sacrificing some willing Centauri along with them so that the Shadows would buy the deceit.
Yet nothing is simplistic here. WHEN IS IT EVER WITH THIS SHOW. There’s a layered meaning to Londo’s actions and to his fate, too. It is, on the surface, admirable that he rejects the Shadows and Morden, that he understands what they represent. It is just as hard to ignore, however, that Londo often is pushed to a self-serving place. It’s only after he realizes that Vorlons will destroy Centauri Prime that he finally puts his endgame into action. He’s pragmatic, yes, and I’m not saying that there was necessarily a better time for him to assassinate the emperor. But even here at the end, with the possible fate of Centauri Prime hanging in the balance, did he do what he did because it was right or because it kept him alive? Up until THE THING, I wasn’t actually sure! It was a trip to watch him become so… well, so energized. It was like doing the right thing for once gave him a burst of life that we’d not seen from him before. At the same time, I love analyzing this character to see what his true intentions are. Was this all because of guilt? Now that he was in power, was Londo going to go back on his word? Institute rules or policies that were of the same nature as his predecessors? As far as I could tell… no. He wasn’t. He was acting quickly to save his homeworld, and he was doing so openly and truthfully. And perhaps that’s all in response to that CRUSHING moment early in this episode when Durano revealed that Londo had been played by Morden. Perhaps that is true motivation for how he seems in this episode.
But I feel like you can go over this FOREVER. I FEEL LIKE THE FANDOM HAS DISCUSSED THE CHARACTER IN GREAT DETAIL. And how could you not? There’s so much to analyze! The thing I wanted to focus on, though, was that horrifying scene in which Vir realized that Londo had not done everything to expel every influence of the Shadows. It’s such an obvious point, one I had not thought of until that Vorlon ship blocked out the sun, and look… I do not believe Morden’s claim at all. The Vorlons would have absolutely wiped out that planet if they’d not been called away to join the rest of the fleet at Coriana 6. But in that moment, when Londo is convinced Vir was right—and I think he was, too!!!—he doesn’t save himself. In fact, he begs Vir to kill him if it will save his entire planet. It is perhaps the most pure expression of altruism we’ll ever see from Londo, and I admit to being shocked to even see it happen. It’s real. It happened. I guess the question is, though: Will he follow through? Is that the Londo Mollari we’ll see from here on out, or was the future in “War Without End” much closer to the truth?
The Third Age
So, y’all know I love meaningful and emotional resolutions, so I don’t think I would have been disappointed if there had not been a massive battle to mark the end of the Shadow War. This resolution feels sudden only because I expected this war to last at LEAST until the end of this season! YET HERE WE ARE, SIX EPISODES IN, AND IT’S OVER. But I am now realizing that we had to see a battle here for another reason: to understand the terrifying length these sides were willing to go in order to prove their point “right.” The way “Into the Fire” distills this war down to its most basic parts is so incredible to me because it keeps it in line with what we’ve known of the older races. The First Ones guided the races that were young to them, and from that came the bitter conflict between the Vorlons and the Shadows. Those races are given a very particular analogy here: they are like warring parents who don’t care that their children are the collateral damage.
From that, we get the immensely satisfying order of events that comes from this struggle. Here, the ultimate rejection occurs: none of the younger races wants anything to do with the Shadows and the Vorlons. And I can see why this crucible is so effective! Both sides were convinced that progress was achieved their own way, that there was a dichotomy of thought between the two. What makes this so meaningful to me was that this wasn’t just about rejecting one’s parents, so to speak, but rejected forced binaries. There was no other way to live or progress or better oneself in the minds of the Vorlons and the Shadows. And you can see that during that scene where Delenn and Sheridan are taken by the Shadows and the Vorlons, respectively. (And bravo for them thinking to broadcast that conversation to the fleet. It showed how stubborn, petty, and immature these two sides had become.) The Vorlon argues with Sheridan about obedience and what’s best for the younger races, despite that they’ve done such obviously monstrous things. How can extermination and genocide be best for any culture or race? The Shadows talk about how conflict brings out the best in people, but cannot possibly acknowledge how fucked up it is that they cause conflict but do not welcome it themselves. Seriously, if you love war and conflict so much, why are they so furious that they’re losing a war? GUESS YOU DON’T LIKE YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM SO MUCH WHEN IT IS APPLIED TO YOU.
So this resolution was more than just words, and it was solved with more than just an idea. It had real weight and meaning; it was the natural development from what we saw at the beginning of the show. Humanity struggled to understand its place in the universe, and this allows them to explore and grow and mess up without outside manipulation. The same goes for the other species! That right to exist free from the tethers of these older species is everything. It’s what our heroes have been fighting for. And look at what they did to accomplish that! They united practically every known species in the galaxy to make a stand at Coriana 6. ALL OF THEM.
Y’all. This was so great. THE WEIRD SHIPS THAT THE FIRST ONES HAD. The First Ones leaving the galaxy permanently! (This also means Lorien can’t give any life force to Sheridan, sooooooooooooo.) A ton of shit was packed into this episode, and somehow, there are sixteen more of them in this season alone. HOW.
The video for “Into the Fire” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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