Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S04E07 – Epiphanies

In the seventh episode of the fourth season of Babylon 5, the calm after the storm is ruined. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For talk of consent

What the FUCK!!!!! Well, I guess I now have a much better idea of what might happen in season four, but STILL. Y’all, the Shadow War JUST ended, and there’s already another disaster. One that makes sense, I should note; it follows that after the Shadows leave the galaxy, President Clark and the other adherents of the Shadow philosophy are aware that they’re next. Oh lord, this season is going to be about the defeat of Clark and Psi Corps, right???

LET’S TALK.

Leaving Home

It’s clear that “Epiphanies” lurches into new plot arcs while gently hinting at others. The Shadow War is definitively over, but what remains in the wake of such a long and violent struggle? There’s a power vacuum on Centauri Prime, and I was surprised that no one rushed to fill it. As far as I can tell, the Centaurum genuinely realized that maybe they shouldn’t rush to choose an emperor after the last few have gone so… poorly? That’s an understatement, but you get what I mean. Londo’s minister gets named the Regent, which felt like a nice gesture to reward someone who had been loyal and dutiful during all of this. And so, Londo leaves one home for another, returning to Babylon 5 and delighting in the experience. Indeed, until we see him in his chilling confrontation with G’Kar, it was clear that Londo was overjoyed to be back on the station. He missed poking fun at Zack, bartering with people in the Zocalo, and being amongst so very many people who, I’m guessing, had nothing to do with Centauri politics. 

And then he has to face G’Kar, and in one moment, that joy is broken. As it should be! Londo escaped from the Shadow War virtually unscathed, and then, standing before him, is someone who very much suffered great personal loss. Literal and metaphorical, I should note! G’Kar’s reminder is key, too: they are not friends. They are not even allies. For G’Kar, Londo was a means to an end, and now that that end has been achieved, there is no other reason for them to interact with one another… unless Londo gives them one. 

Oh god, we’re still on track to much of that possible future, aren’t we???

Propaganda

As I said, it makes sense to me that immediately upon “winning” the Shadow War, a new threat crops up in the lives of those on Babylon 5. It’s why there’s no congratulations from Earth to Sheridan and his people upon completion of the war. President Clark was complicit, and many of those running Earth still believe in what the Shadows put forth. Thus, the reaction to the Shadows leaving is nearly instantaneous. Earthforce, Psi Corps, and the Ministry of Peace are now going to unite with one goal in mind: discredit Sheridan and destroy Babylon 5 and what it stands for.

It’s an easy first step, too, particularly when you control the flow of information. Look how quickly the news of “terroristic threats” was put on ISN. How do you counter news like that? President Clark can easily say the information is classified; he can easily claim that Earth needs to protect itself; and for those who bow to the authority of the government, why would they ever question the information they’re getting? That’s one thing I enjoyed about “Epiphanies.” It’s so searing in its use of propaganda and showing how difficult it can be to combat it. 

Self-Serving

It’s not impossible, but even in talking about how the Babylon 5 team defeats the first round of propaganda, it’s impossible not to talk about how that plot is intertwined with Bester’s immensely fucked up story of love and dedication. It really does not matter that certain of Bester’s choices result in “good” conclusions because they’re so wrapped up in his need to manipulate the people around him to get what he wants. I figured that Bester wasn’t going to play this straight and do as his superiors demanded of him; Sheridan had helped him before and they still had Carolyn onboard. And for Bester, that’s enough. He’s not interested in saving Babylon 5 because it was wrong to persecute them or to slander Sheridan. He probably would go along with it if they didn’t have the one thing that he wanted. 

Thus, he sets out to defy his orders, and he does so by leaking the black-ops plan to frame Babylon 5 for murder. In exchange for this information, he asks Sheridan to return to Z’ha’dum in order to find technology that might heal Carolyn. It’s such a bold twist! Y’all, they’re done with that place! And like I said on video, why test the whole NO ONE COMES BACK FROM Z’HA’DUM thing twice? That just seems like a bad idea. A cosmically bad idea! 

And yet.

AND YET.

There are two major developments that come from it, and both of them hint at possible stories to come. Which I love about this show! I’ve just accepted that stories swirl together in these complicated narrative fabrics, and the show will get to things as needed. So: who was evacuating Z’ha’dum? I think the easy assumption is that the same race who left the planet is the same one who appears to have quietly invaded Centauri Prime and given the Regent that… thing. WHATEVER IT IS. We know that thing controls a person and violates their willpower, so… is this yet another “cost” of winning the war???

And then there’s Lyta, who gets a fantastic story that feels alive, challenging, and thrilling, which I’m happy for because I don’t know that she got all that much depth outside the Vorlon plot. Hell, this episode kinda calls attention to that? She’s always existed onscreen to be used for her powers, and no one even goes to see her unless they want something from her. But with “Epiphanies,” a few things are seeded. First, there’s the “secret” that Bester knows that he uses to try to threaten Lyta. Even better, he’s doing this while COMPLETELY UNAWARE of what she’s actually done. LYTA ISN’T A P-5 ANYMORE. It feels obvious that this is because of the Vorlons, but Y’ALL. She was able to block Bester’s scan on the station; she was able to send a telepathic probe to Z’ha’dum in order to activate sensors that would destroy the planet; and she did all of this without Bester being able to read her. HI, SHE’S REALLY DAMN POWERFUL, ISN’T SHE? So powerful that she actually enrages Sheridan with her actions, and wow, was that scene awkward. Sheridan made it clear that she can’t intervene, particularly for personal reasons, in command decisions like this again. Has that relationship been tarnished? Will he be able to trust her next time, or will she have to work to regain that trust? I DON’T KNOW. But season four continues to take a new shape, and I’m intrigued. 

The End

And then there’s Garibaldi, and I DON’T FUCKING GET IT. I’d been operating under the impression—which I thought was obvious!!!—that he was a spy for the Psi Corps. SO WHY THE FUCK DOES HE QUIT? Wouldn’t that deny him access to the inner circle of command? Wouldn’t he be far away from exactly the sort of information that the Psi Corps would want? Even more perplexing is that his reasoning for quitting makes a lot of sense. It’s not entirely out of character, is it? He wants happiness; he’s tired; he believes that there’s something more for him outside of being security chief. That’s not a radical notion! And maybe that’s the point? I don’t know, y’all, I just feel bad about this, and I am SCARED. 

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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