In the fifth episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, adjustments are made onboard the station. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
I enjoyed this episode, but it’s paced sluggishly until the final act. I’m all for a good build, and I feel like that’s what this episode tried to do. It’s about the multiple threads of growth and how they intertwine with one another. Each story is a learning curve, but it takes a long time for those threads to reach a vital point, and it just felt like a little too late? If that makes sense? LET’S DISCUSS.
I found this plot interesting more for the worldbuilding elements than the story itself. I assumed that Lennier would play a part in it, given that he’d returned to work with the Rangers, so perhaps it’s my bad that I expected him to be here beyond the mention of him. It’s a little more challenging to care about characters who are brand new than ones we’ve known for multiple seasons, so there was already a high bar in place here. Tannier and Rastenn are interesting, but do we ever go into depth with them? Tannier has a sense of humor we don’t often see in the religious caste, and Rastenn, from the warrior caste, struggles with purpose outside of well-defined missions. That’s an intriguing premise! But spread out over the three major plots in “Learning Curve,” these stories end up being a little thin, and we don’t get a whole lot of screen time with them. (This is why Trace’s story suffers as much as it does, but more on that in a second.)
It’s not until we get to the concept of “Mora’dum” that this episode truly solidifies into something concrete. After being brutally assaulted by Trace and his men, Tannier is left with the possibility of terror overpowering him. It’s such a fascinating idea, and the cultural practice is akin to a cleansing of fear from one’s body. There’s an incredible scene between Rasteen and Sech Turval that demonstrates a quieter version of this, and Sech Turval delivers a hell of a monologue about purpose and death. So, by the time we get to Tannier’s confrontation with Trace, we’re grounded. We know why Tannier’s fear exists, and we know why it’s important for him, as a ranger, to purge it. He has to know that Trace and his men do not have power over him. Plus, on a purely personal level, it was real satisfying to see Trace get his ass beat.
I say that while also fully aware that Trace is a one-note character, one who has no real depth, and who kinda doesn’t make any sense? I get that he was made so that Tannier would have a chance to deconstruct what a bully was. He needed to know that people like Trace were ultimately cowards, that they spread terror to get others to do what they want. But independent of Tannier—and there a lot of scenes in which they don’t interact—Trace is just a cardboard cutout. We don’t really know how he arrived on Babylon 5 or what sort of racket he actually runs. One of the men executed amassed a gambling debt, so… Trace works around the casino? Or everything? There’s literally no specificity here, and it’s odd because Babylon 5 is all about the specifics. Even when we get his backstory, it’s a LOT. The dude just murdered everyone in his way until someone agreed with him? And he just didn’t get arrested or apprehended or anything? That story is hard to believe when the Rangers incapacitated Trace and his men in less than five minutes. Granted, they’re trained, but surely another force could have done something? But they didn’t? So, his backstory feels thin. And I guess I get it? Like, he has to be terrible for him to be a foil for Tannier, but that doesn’t make him all that interesting on his own.
Oh, lord, THIS STARTED OFF AS A MESS. I actually found this subplot to be engaging the whole time, though it was easy to be captivated when Garibaldi and Lochley were both trying to one-up one another. We get a definitive answer on which “side” Lochley was on, and she supported President Clark. Which doesn’t surprise me! I would have been shocked if she’d secretly been part of the Resistance. Rather, this fits the character we’ve seen so far. She cares deeply about rules and regulations, about loyalty and duty, and it figures that she would have stuck with that throughout the struggle against Clark. Do I agree with her? Oh, no, I’m too personally biased against the military to ever believe her whole bit about how you have to follow the chain of command until an unethical dilemma is presented to you. Like, exactly how much demonic shit did she see, but she chose to ignore it because she wasn’t personally given the order to carry it out?
At the same time: GARIBALDI, WHAT ARE YOU DOING. I mean… he’s being himself! This is what he does! He suspects everyone, and he has great difficulty trusting any newcomers. He did it with Sheridan, and now he’s doing it with Lochley. But now that I know the truth—Lochley and Sheridan once had some sort of relationship—I’m not sure there’s any other secret she’s holding. That’s a pretty big one, and it certainly explains why Sheridan was so willing to trust her. It’s also a BIG OL’ MESS, and y’all, I feel bad that Delenn had to find out the way she did. Is this news gonna go wide? Will Garibaldi keep it a secret? Will he use it to try to discredit either Sheridan or Lochley? UGH THIS IS A LOT.
The video for “Learning Curve” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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