In the twenty-first and penultimate episode of the fourth season of Babylon 5, the pieces fall into place. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief
I’ll repeat what I said after the episode ended: I get there being another season now. Totally! The Drakh War, the Telepath War, this new Interstellar Alliance… there’s so much story left to explore! And I’m excited about that.
HOW THE HELL IS THERE ANOTHER EPISODE IN THIS SEASON
There are some fine performances here—in particular, Beata Pozniak does an incredible job as the interim Earth President—but Claudia Christian gives the performance of THE WHOLE DAMN SHOW in this episode, and I am in continual awe at her talents. I was so happy that the scene occurred in the presence of Dr. Franklin, too, someone who understood the complicated intersection of health and fragility, of grief and celebration. And he has flat-out known her for such a long time! Ivanova crouches on the floor, just feet from Marcus’s body. He’s covered in a white sheet. Still. He’s a body. And there she sits, alive, life flowing through her own veins, and none of it makes sense. She was ready to leave, to finally pass on, and then Marcus—stubborn, loving, dedicated Marcus—pulled her back to life by flinging himself into the void of death.
Her reaction here is one of terrible grief. It is made up of lost opportunities: this is now the second time that someone Ivanova had developed feelings for is gone before things could ever become more. That lost potential is what makes this feel even more tragic. What if she hadn’t been afraid to open herself up to Marcus? What if she had believed that she’d been worthy of receiving love? The “what ifs” and “maybes” are extra knives to the heart, piercing and draining her, and there’s nothing she can do about it besides grieve. It makes sense, then, that she takes a position off of Babylon 5 for the time being. How can she be on the same station where Marcus gave his life for her?
HI, WHY DOES THIS SHOW KEEP HURTING ME AND SUSAN IVANOVA.
So, we’ve got the answer, however brief it is: Sheridan did find out the full extent of what Bester did to Garibaldi, and he doesn’t seem to blame Garibaldi for what happened. Okay! That’s good. I would like to see the two of them interact since the truth was revealed. What is their relationship like now?
As for Garibaldi himself, his role in “Rising Star” is relatively small. I admit that I felt that he and Lise would be reunited, since she wasn’t killed off during the assassination of Edgars. So, as inevitable as it was, it seemed like a fair turn of events. Garibaldi had finally stopped running from his problems, and instead, he had actively tried to acknowledge them and fix them. Even after being brainwashed for Bester’s use, he still held himself accountable, and he did whatever necessary to save Lise.
As I’d expected, much of “Rising Star” deals with ramifications and consequences. Which is a great summary of Babylon 5! The show consistently deals with the aftermath of what comes before it. So what happens after Sheridan turns himself over to Earth Force? What does the Earth look like then? One smaller detail that helps provide a portrait of this is the ISN broadcasts that we get. Honestly, after years of propaganda, it was surreal to see the news report.. not propaganda??? But it’s a start, and this start continues to grow over the course of the episode. Sheridan is questioned for what seems like days on end, and he’s even confronted by Bester, who has the audacity to threaten Sheridan’s life over Carolyn. Like, Sheridan isn’t a fool! There’s no way he would have let Carolyn be used for his attack on Clark’s forces! But Bester is that self-centered, and it’s why he deems it necessary to pay a visit to Sheridan. He just has to make sure that his interests are still protected. UGH, BESTER, YOU’RE THE WORST. God, the way that Walter Koenig plays Bester whenever he’s talking about Carolyn… it makes my skin crawl.
Anyway, enough of Bester. I’m not surprised by the reaction to Sheridan. It makes perfect sense that Earth Force members would be split down the middle, some seeing Sheridan as a hero, while others saw him as a traitor to be executed. Even President Luchenko, who admits that Clark was out of control, sees Sheridan as an annoyance. She’s written in such a fascinating way: she’s thankful Clark is gone, but she seems irritated that Sheridan did what he did to get rid of him. She maintains that Sheridan’s way was the “wrong” way, but at no point does she ever say what the “right” way would be. My guess? She cares about the process. About organization. About institutions of power. And how could she not? She’s a part of one, and there are no answers that occur to her outside of those institutions. Sheridan found a solution without the support of any of these people or organizations, you know?
Thus, their response is one that protects them. Sheridan will either resign Earth Force and his crew is granted amnesty, or Earth Force will bring them all before a tribunal, one she basically guarantees will be biased against him. In that moment, I was furious. This was their reaction? Yes, Sheridan always knew his actions would have consequences, and yes, he was always willing to pay that price to do what was right. But this response felt so cruel, you know? They wanted to wash their hands of Sheridan or leave him out to dry. No nuance, no in between.
Thus, the resolution of this is SO GODDAMN SATISFYING because it catches everyone by surprise. It caught me by surprise! But it’s not without its foundation, and that’s the brilliance of the introduction of the Interstellar Alliance. It’s absolutely true that Sheridan, Delenn, G’Kar, and Londo have all been slowly working to unite all the races and cultures in a way that’s fair and respectful. That happened towards the end of the Shadow War, and it was certainly a focus of the middle of season four. Thus, turning them all under the jurisdiction and purview of the Rangers, who are now a peace-building force, is the most logical next step. What if peace isn’t enforced but created? What if these nations seek solutions to their problems that aren’t centered around the military? It’s such a chilling rebuke to what Earth Force gave Sheridan. He resigned, as they had asked him to, ONLY TO BE MADE PRESIDENT OF THE ALLIANCE LITERALLY HOURS LATER. God, what a beautiful joke, and what a beautiful development. Sheridan fulfills his promise not to do what grants him power over Earth, but what is right. And in doing so, this universe moves a little closer to an ideal. One that seems daunting and, according to Delenn’s voiceover narration, will be challenged in the next year by multiple wars. But it’s a start. And that’s all we can ask for, right?
The video for “Rising Star” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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