In the ninth episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, THIS IS SO MESSED UP, EVERYTHING HURTS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent.
I gotta say that this is the point where season five feels real solid. Granted, I know I have a lot more to watch of the season, but at this junction, two brewing conflicts have now spilled forth in that morally-complicated, emotionally frustrating way that reminds me so much of the previous seasons of the show. Indeed, the start of season 5 needed to set up these plots, and in that sense, it explains why some of this has felt slower or plodding. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I feel like we’ve gotten some non-traditional episodes; we had to set up Lochley’s story; Byron and the telepaths had to have a chance to try to get a Homeworld before they delivered their terrible ultimatum; and the Drakh had to quietly begin to insinuate themselves on Centauri Prime after failing on Minbar. (I’m still assuming that’s the Drakh, but I’ll speak more on that in a second.) THIS IS ABOUT TO GET REAL INTENSE. And I, for one, would like to say that I am ready, but I am not. LET’S GO.
There are basically two major conversations to have about this plot in “In the Kingdom of the Blind,” and I want to give both of them some attention. As you’ll see on video, I was drawn to Delenn’s argument more than anyone else’s. (Well, of course, that’s Byron’s argument, too.) The Vorlons manipulated the genetic make-up of humans and created a whole bunch of telepaths for their use, many of whom were most likely instrumental in the victory over the Shadows during the War. And I also don’t dispute what Byron says about the treatment of the telepaths either. We’ve seen that terrible treatment unfold over countless episodes. They’re insulted, at the very least, and oppressed and subjugated at worst. Their life is either spent in the grips of the Psi Corps (in the organization or taking suppressive drugs forever) or running from them. They have no home of their own, no place where they can determine what sort of life they get to have. And since telepaths were used in the Shadow War and in the Earth Civil War, it really isn’t objectionable to ask to let them have the right to a home. It doesn’t! The idea of a telepath safe haven is very fair, y’all, and even when Byron drops his ultimatum, he asks for a place that is currently uninhabited. He doesn’t want telepaths to displace anyone else!
So the reaction to this request seems cruel and careless to me. Granted, there’s an emotional aspect to this, and that’s the second thing I wanted to talk about. I don’t feel like it’s all that controversial that the telepaths should get a home. It’s their methods that are so offensive and enraging to others. And look, I get that, too. The telepaths violated the consent of everyone whose mind they read, and they’re now using that information to force the Alliance’s hand. I’m assuming that they really do have secrets on all the member races of the Alliance and it’s not a bluff. I mean, we saw Byron read Garibaldi’s mind onscreen, right??? So, I believe what Byron said, and he saw this as the less violent option to get what he needed for his people. Is it fucked up? Oh, most definitely, and I don’t want to minimize this act. Byron took a calculated risk in doing this, so it’s not like I think that he believes this was harmless. No, he knows it hurts, and he knew it would piss the Alliance off.
It just didn’t go as he hoped. And as this telepath conflict careens towards what we saw in “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars,” I wish that this had not gone as it has. Delenn was right, y’all! But everyone chose confrontation over reason and negotiation. In some sense, I feel like the telepaths had their hand forced. Yes, they could have just brought their issue to the Alliance once Lyta revealed the Vorlon secret. But if I put myself in the shoes of the telepaths, I have to ask: would the Alliance have done anything? Would they have listened and cared, and would it have resulted in substantive action? That is why Byron and the others have acted as they’ve done. Hell, there’s even significant in-fighting in the group because some of the telepaths believe Byron isn’t proactive enough, that they’ve been sitting around and asking for their rights for too long. That act alone is exhausting! And to do it for years? Lifetimes? Over generations? I don’t know that I can ask that of other people, and I get that we’re talking about a fictional group. But there are real-world implications to this, right?
On top of that, I’m biased against the set-up we’re seeing: law enforcement agents who will probably unleash violence against protestors and throwing them into a legal system in response. Oh, lord, this is not going to go well, and I know that, and I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE END WILL BE.
So, as I am writing this review and organizing my thoughts, I feel more certain that the Drakh are at work here. Part of my hesitation comes from being Publicly Wrong so often—maybe I missed a crucial detail!—but also because I feel like the Drakh we saw in “Lines of Communication” looked different than the one we saw here? So, is there a reason for that? Also, based on “Racing Mars” and Captain Jack’s fate, as well as the torture of the Regent, I have all the confirmation I need that the Drakh control those parasite things, which they use to manipulate leaders of other worlds. Even then, the way the Drakh mystery has unfolded lends a terrible, terrible creepiness to this episode.
First: I have to praise Damien London, whose previously campy portrayal of the Regent has morphed into a saddening affair here, and it’s fucking brilliant. Here’s a character who has turned to alcohol to dull the effect of this parasite, whose real self peeks out of the horrible haze he is in and tries to warn Londo about the impending doom that is awaiting him. It’s astounding, y’all, and without London, this would not have been as chilling. And I also have to praise the camera work and lighting, too! Gods, that scene with Lord Jano where he’s attacked was so amazing. The way their faces were lit, the hidden Drakh, the shadow that fell over the Regent… WORK OF ART, Y’ALL.
The suspense also worked because it gave me the sense that a darkness was closing in on the palace and Londo Mollari. That’s actually a great description of what Londo’s plot has been like since last season, too. Can Londo escape the darkness he’s been fated for? Oh god, there’s the slightest hint that he might—when he tells G’Kar that he has to leave for Babylon 5—but I’m worried the Drakh will stop him. WHEW. Y’ALL. THIS IS SO STRESSFUL.
One last thing I want to note here and keep an eye on. It is certainly pleasing to see G’Kar embarrass so many other Centauri and make them uncomfortable. No doubt about that! But that’s exhausting work, too, and I do want to stay aware of how often G’Kar is asked or compelled to do this sort of work. While the thought of him being part of the Royal Court is amusing, the practice of it seems a lot more harmful than I thought. I mean, he’s still in a role beneath Londo, so it’s not like he has equal standing or power. He’s constantly exposed to terrible microaggressions and nightmares, and I kinda wish Londo would block more of those? If that makes sense! He mostly just lets them happen with few interjections.
Anyway: HI, THIS WAS SO MUCH.
The video for “In the Kingdom of the Blind” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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