In the sixteenth episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, everything is falling apart. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of alcoholism
You know, I’ll start here: this episode comes at such a tragic point in Londo Mollari’s arc. I am certain that one of the biggest discussions the fandom had while this show was airing and since then revolves around the notion of redemption and Londo. Can someone who was complicit in such a terrible thing ever redeem themselves? What does that redemption look like? Whatever your take is on Londo, I think that the canon presents him as someone who, at the very least, has been trying to change. The man we’ve seen in this season is most certainly very different from the Londo we met at the start of the show. But the downfall of Centauri Prime—and this seems more and more inevitable based on what I’ve seen in this season and in “War Without End”—arrives as Londo is finally on a path that isn’t littered with death and destruction. And it’s so damn tragic, y’all, because he truly doesn’t know what’s happening around him, even if he is aware that it is Not Good. At some point, the Drakh will reveal what they’ve been doing, and I AM NOT READY FOR IT.
There’s a poetry to the way that this nightmare unfolds, too. Both the script and the direction allow us to experience the full testimony of evidence while watching Londo’s descent into denial and fear. I love those shots with the voiceovers, where the dialogue is layered over Londo’s shock. It’s not hard to imagine what is going through his mind in those sequences, particularly since he must know, deep down, that his government has been hiding a massive, terrible secret. But on the surface, this is pure Londo Mollari, and once he arrives to refute the evidence, we see a side of him that reminded me greatly of what he was like in that first season. He was so heavily invested in supporting the Centauri empire; he spun stories to give the Centauri plausible deniability; and he was never, ever interested in peacemaking. His defensive reaction here is understandable to some degree, too. He doesn’t have all the information, and it seems impossible that Londo’s own government would senselessly bomb the Alliance shipping lanes. So where does that lead him? To defend his own people. It’s natural, sure, but that’s part of the tragedy. The audience knows that this is a mistake, and now, the tension comes from the inevitable moment when Londo will have the same knowledge as us.
Well, not all the tension. I do think inevitability contributes to a lot of it. Knowing what we know from “War Without End” means that, just like the Telepath War, we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. But there’s other stuff I didn’t know that made this stressful to watch. How would the rest of the Alliance react to conclusive proof of Centauri involvement? What would happen once Vir was the only well-known Centauri on the station? HOW COMPLICIT ARE THE OTHER CENTAURI? Y’all, that last one keeps messing me up because are they all being controlled??? Or did the Drakh convince the Centauri to do this for… I don’t know??? So, once Londo and G’Kar went back to Centauri Prime, I literally didn’t know what was going to happen. Was Londo finally going to be told what was actually going on, or did the minister even know the truth himself? Because what if he’s just defaulting to the authority of the Regent because that’s what he is obligated to do??? I. DON’T. KNOW. I certainly didn’t expect that G’Kar and Londo would be THROWN IN PRISON within a day of arriving. (Which is slightly funny. This is not something I would have ever dreamed of happening.) Basically: knowing an ending or a major plot point has not ruined the episodes this season at all. And that’s a damn great accomplishment.
Oh, and there’s just SO MUCH MORE going on here. Mira Furlan gives a emotional performance in “And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder,” one that puts her heartbreak and distress on display. I don’t want to ignore that she has changed a great deal since the start of the show, either, though her journey is very much unlike Londo’s… except when it isn’t. In fact, I can see a fascinating parallel between Delenn, Londo, and G’Kar, since all three needed a way to focus their anger before they were able to move past it. Yet this isn’t about Delenn directing their anger; it’s about loss. The loss of potential, the loss of hope, the loss of the promise of the Alliance because of what has transpired. Holy shit, y’all, her lines in this episode KILL ME!!! They’re so good and tragic and they HURT and they had to come from her. And I love that consistency in the writing, since she was the character more interested in unity and peace than pretty much anyone else. Once more, darkness has descended on Babylon 5, and Delenn was there to witness it.
And then there’s Garibaldi. You know, I fully expected Zack to rat out Garibaldi when he was stumbling through his explanation for why a Centauri ship slipped past the White Stars. Holy awkward, y’all, that initial confrontation!!! It was a lot to watch, especially once Zack flipped it all back on Garibaldi and didn’t let him blame other people for what he was doing. It’s probably obvious to state this, but: the longer he goes without telling the truth, the worse this is gonna get. Y’all, he fell asleep on duty AGAIN. AGAIN. The fate of two missions went terribly BECAUSE OF HIM. He does not have this under control, and as Zack pointed out, this is the worst time for him to refuse to seek help.
There aren’t many episodes left, and I don’t know how all of this is gonna be wrapped up. I will end this by saying that I miss Ivanova dearly, and I feel like a ton of this would not have gone as it did if she were around. WHERE IS SHE???
The video for “And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now up for pre-order! It comes out on May 7, 2019. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.