Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S04E09 – Atonement

In the ninth episode of the fourth season of Babylon 5, Delenn is called home to answer to her clan. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

So, I liked this episode, but it gave me such a weird feeling once it was over. I felt like the shocking new reveal that changes the show’s mythology was given more attention than… well, resolving the story itself. Despite that we do learn a few very important secrets here, it’s not really a satisfying plot. LET’S DISCUSS.

Dr. Franklin, G’Kar, and Marcus
Before we get into the main focus of “Atonement,” I did want to spend a little time on the two other subplots that we get in this episode. First, it was a delight to see Dr. Franklin deliver on his promise to provide a prosthetic for G’Kar, and that whole scene is SO COOL. I love that science provides a means for G’Kar to have this prosthetic, but doesn’t erase the fact that he’s disabled. He still is, and his prosthetic requires some adjustment. But there’s something infectious in seeing how happy G’Kar was to experience this moment, you know?

And look, I feel like Dr. Franklin hasn’t really been given anything meaty to do since his addiction storyline was resolved last season. It’s like the show didn’t really know what to do with him once that was over? Marcus is in a remarkably similar position because… well, what the hell do the Rangers do now that the Shadow War is over? The Rangers were formed to combat the rise of the Shadows, but that’s no longer a concern. Here, these two under-utilized characters are sent on an important mission TOGETHER: to meet up with the station’s allies on the Mars Colony to plot a counteroffensive against President Clark. There’s a lot of potential in this! We haven’t seen the Mars Colony up close, first of all, and I’m hoping it’ll give us some insight into the kind of regime that President Clark is running. And I’m VERY interested in seeing how the hell they’re going to counter how badly Clark and ISN destroyed them in the last episode. I AM STILL RECOVERING, OKAY.

The Dreaming

So, let me try to build towards a point here. Delenn is called home because of her relationship with John, and we are told that this is because the Minbari are forbidden from mating—both the literal act and the more metaphorical notion—with someone outside the species. Which… is that new information? I feel like it is. But let’s assume that I just forgot about this detail, and that’s totally believable because SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED ON THIS SHOW. When Delenn is confronted with this, it’s so upsetting that she decides to do two things: complete the third night of the Minbari mating ritual with Sheridan and refuse to tell him what it is she’s doing on Minbar. So, clearly, this is intense. It’s scary. It intimidates her to an extent. She’s even worried that Lennier will want to distance himself from her if he attends the Dreaming with her because of what he’ll learn. 

Thus, I got an impression that this was going to be LIFE-SHATTERING. And it’s okay that it’s not in terms of Delenn’s big secret. I actually like that once Lennier learns that it was Delenn who made the decision to go to war with the humans, he’s like, “….well, I get it.” But the energy of this episode gives us a build-up that felt huge, and then it just sort of peters out. So much of what makes Delenn’s discovery important is that it directly negates the Minbari notion of blood or racial purity, and it’s important because Delenn herself has been ostracized over her transformation into someone part human, part Minbari. This has been a longstanding issue since the beginning of season two, and so, Delenn’s flashbacks through the Dreaming are vital to understanding her decisions over the years. That was very satisfying to watch! I love getting this kind of information about a character.

And through it all, Delenn discovers something vital about her people, something that justifies what she’s done and confirms that the Minbari are not who they think they are. And for a people who pursue truth and value it so much, I find the resolution of this kinda preposterous. She just… doesn’t do anything with it? Callenn calls off the hearings, explains everything away with an ancient custom, and everyone is just happy? Maybe she reasoned that she got to have Sheridan in peace, but she’s fine knowing that the myth of Minbari blood purity is a lie? This is a really important plot thread that feels abandoned so that Delenn and Sheridan can be together? Look, maybe this will come back later on and I’ll admit that there was a bigger plan for this plot. But the end of this didn’t really satisfy me, even though I was happy that Delenn and Sheridan did not have to be separated.

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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