In the second episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, Londo deals with his past; Lennier makes a life-changing decision. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death, genocide.
Holy shit, this show hurts me? Wow. WOW.
I’m still unaware of any outside factors or JMS’s motivations for structuring this show like this, but I’ll say this: I like that season 5 already has so much room for introspection. There’s space here in just these two episodes for characters to think about their place in the grand scheme of things. And if the first episode was more about Garibaldi and Sheridan’s place in the station, then this episode examines both Lennier and Mollari. I’ll start with Lennier, though, whose love for Delenn has kept him by her side all these years. It’s a love that has been outwardly expressed before, so it’s not like the motivations for Lennier’s shocking decision are confusing. He loves Delenn, that love is not reciprocated in the way that he desires, and thus, his heart is calling him to leave, to pursue something else. (Though… am I to understand that triads are common on Minbar? Is that what Delenn’s line meant???)
It’s an interesting choice, then, that Lennier wants to work with the Rangers to take Marcus’s place. It does make sense, as we know the two of them had a friendship. But I want to know how this decision will change Lennier. What’s he going to be like by the time we get to the end of the season? Will he still love Delenn in the same way, or will time and distance change his feelings? I say that because he says that he is trying to get Delenn to respect him in a few new ways, and I am hoping that he doesn’t think he can “win” her affection if he changes into what he thinks she wants. It’s not gonna happen!
That being said, I don’t really think that’s the angle JMS is taking here? I feel like Lennier knows he needs to leave and become his own person, one separate from Delenn. (But seriously, triads. Triads???)
The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
So, I’m just gonna start with what I realized towards the end of the episode and brought up on video. I’ve seen a lot of dream sequences on television over the years, and I’ve written about a ton of them for Mark Watches. I generally like them as a storytelling technique because there are things you can do in them that allow for important emotional insight that might otherwise not happen. But dreamworlds and the physical world are often kept very separate, which is why I was so floored by the events of this episode. The story doesn’t separate the two of them, and as Londo’s heart attack ravages his body, his subconscious mind is perfectly in sync. The things he chooses and says and believes in the dreamworld have a direct effect on his physical body.
And that’s fascinating from a craft perspective. It allows the show to explore guilt and complicity in a way that has a real-world cost. The more Mollari refuses to atone, the more his body turns against him, and the closer to death he gets. But it’s also one of the most direct ways in which this show addresses Mollari’s history in a substantive way. There’s no doubt that over season four, Mollari made much better choices, and he started doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do, rather than acting for his and his people’s benefit. Even then, the specter of Mollari’s past felt larger than what we’d seen him actually deal with. He’d begun a reconciliation with G’Kar, sure, but was it enough?
So I like that this episode forces Mollari into a very direct sense of atonement. He is visited by people in his life, each of whom remind him of the lives that he has taken, of the blood on his hands, of the people he has never truly apologized to. And each time, right up until the end, he refuses to utter the word we’ve never heard him utter; he refuses to turn around and face the figure that looms behind him. Even then, it’s fascinating to see what each of these figures represent in the dreamworld! Delenn is like a soothsayer, spiritual and prophetic and damning; Sheridan moves between various leadership positions he’s held until he’s… well, whatever that final figure was. Dead??? Some sort of religious figure??? Even Vir, who frequently was Londo’s voice of reason throughout this show, transforms in this dreamscape, becoming the angry figure who derides Londo for not facing the truth and choosing to live.
But it’s all those scenes with G’Kar that really make this episode so incredible. Even if it’s in a dream, we still get to see G’Kar confront Londo and speak the necessary truth: that Londo was complicit in the near-genocide of the Narn and the torture of G’Kar. I love that inactivity is cast as it is here, because Londo’s inability to even say a word of protest is not shown in a positive light. And it shouldn’t be! He never spoke up to stop a second of the torment of the Narn, and it’s why his conscience turns on him as it does throughout the episode.
I am now deeply interested to see what happens outside the dream. We get a glimpse of that in the emotional scene in which G’Kar finally gets an actual apology from Londo. Granted, it’s just, “I’m sorry.” But it’s a necessary start. Where does Londo go from here? Will he be permanently changed by the experience as is sometimes the case according to Centauri mythology? Has his spirit put him on the right path?
WHEW, THIS WAS A LOT.
The video for “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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