Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S04E13 – Rumors, Bargains & Lies

In the thirteenth episode of the fourth season of Babylon 5, Oh No, I Fucked This Up. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Well, let this stand as a lesson that viewing something through a specific lens can absolutely change your perception of it. OH NO, THIS WAS A BAD MOVE, MARK.

So, let’s start with this: Sheridan had way too much fun with this, y’all. And that levity was a much-needed tone amidst a very serious conflict. In hindsight, it feels clear that Sheridan’s manipulation of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds really only affected the leaders. I think I would have felt much different about them had Sheridan been causing mass panic in their respective homeworlds instead. That would have been a terrible course of action. Here, though, he uses a clever spin of the truth to inspire the League to reconsider keeping the White Star ships along their borders. It’s underhanded, sure, and I don’t think the show is trying to say it isn’t. But Sheridan knows that Raiders and the Drakh are looking to take advantage of vulnerable populations. They already have. And they’ve all been through this before with the Shadows!

Thus, Sheridan devises a means of tapping into the paranoia that these societies already have. His manipulation of them uses a reality that is utterly believable and would probably have happened if they hadn’t all agreed to the White Star force around their borders. And throughout it all, there’s a restrained sense of glee that’s eager to burst from Sheridan’s body. It’s like he can’t believe just how well this manipulation has worked, so he has to constantly suppress the desire to just scream out loud. (Well, until the end of the episode, that is.) It’s because of this storyline—which involves Londo, Ivanova, and Dr. Franklin all playing a part in the ruse—that I was absolutely certain I knew what was going on between Neroon and Delenn. Oh, I was so sure! This was clearly a parallel story, in which two leaders were manipulating their followers, exploiting their paranoia to get something that they needed. In Delenn’s case, this wasn’t nearly as funny, but it was so captivating.

To shed some light on this, I thought that the show was setting up Neroon and Delenn as a pair working to repair the damage done between their castes. (What’s going on with the Worker Caste, by the way? Are they just sitting on the sidelines, exasperated that the other two castes are ruining things for everyone again?) So… I guess I was the manipulated one the whole time, eh? Eh??? Y’all know I love that trope of enemies being forced to work together to achieve a common end, so I bought what I was watching. Neroon finally had the context to understand Delenn, and it was changing his perception of her. So once she said that they needed to do something to get the attention of their respective castes, I just accepted that Delenn was about to do something much like Sheridan was. Therefore, I interpreted everything here as some sort of set-up from Neroon and Delenn to get the others to see the error of their ways.

That is definitely an… interesting way of looking at this. It’s not right, just interesting. Instead, what actually unfolds here is a different parallel. First of all, we’ve got the religious caste’s paranoia getting the best of them, so much so that they’re willing to POISON THE WHOLE SHIP AND MARTYR THEMSELVES IN THE PROCESS. See, once Lennier showed up, I thought he was part of some plan, but nope! He just happened to figure out what was going on, and he nearly sacrificed himself to save the whole ship. Instead, this is about misinterpretation (HA, IT’S ME) and escalation. The religious caste is willing to believe the worst of Delenn, and they selfishly think that this is how they’ll be “remembered” by history. So, yeah, taking an interpretation and running with it without any further context is a bad idea?

But y’all, I am so MAD at that ending. I believed Neroon!!! I believed his intentions! However, he was the one manipulating everyone, all so he could get the plans that would have countered the warrior clans. DAMN IT!!! Ugh, I was so into this change-of-heart that I bought it. I WAS MANIPULATED, Y’ALL. What a DISASTER, this is entirely my fault but I’m blaming it on ALL OF YOU.

The video for “Rumors, Bargains & Lies” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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