Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S05E20 – Objects in Motion

In the twentieth episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, the station is in motion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of alcoholism

I wonder what my take on this season is going to be once I’m done with it. I say that because I’m perplexed—not in a bad way!—about the shape of this season’s arc. This is a more poetic, emotional episode, one that examines the ways in which these characters start moving into their new lives. There’s still a lot left to be told… I think. Right? Like, what’s going on with Centauri Prime? What about the events in “War Without End”? WHAT ABOUT MY FEELINGS.

So, I think I’ll tackle this by character. STARTING WITH:

Garibaldi

There’s some action in “Objects in Motion,” but I found the introspection far more interesting. Who are these characters once they’re taken out of the realm of Babylon 5? Garibaldi has been a part of this station and it’s ever-evolving history for a long, long time. From wars to galactic scandals, he’s been associated with Babylon 5 for a huge part of his adult life. Maybe five or six years isn’t that long relative to the rest of his life, but look how much has happened! So, his transition is a complicated thing. It’s only in this episode that circumstances force him to tell Dr. Franklin and Sheridan that he’s leaving the station and going to Mars, so there’s not that much time spent reflecting on what that means. Granted, he and the others are distracted by the assassination attempt on Garibaldi and Lise, but despite that this plot takes up a lot of time in the script, JMS and Harlan Ellison still manage to tie this plot into other unspooled threads. We get to see Number One again, whose actual name is Tessa. And her role here provides us with a glimpse of a romance with Dr. Franklin as well as her future role in the Alliance. The whole set-up with the board is satisfying in an immediate sense—I love seeing assholes taken down by their own hubris—but these are all new characters who were introduced just for this episode. I cared more about what happened with those I did know. What was life going to be like for Tessa, who was fighting a different battle than the one for Mars’s independence? I imagine this is the last we’ll see her, but I’m glad we got some closure with her.

Which means that my primary focus was on Garibaldi and Lise. I’m still pleased in a general sense that Garibaldi’s struggle with his recent relapse is not wrapped up with a pretty bow. It’s a very visceral thing that we get to witness, and having gone clean early in my life, I resonated with the depiction of that in this episode. But it’s not an independent act; I loved that it was very clear that he had support and that this support was not judgmental in nature. When you’re struggling with substance abuse and addiction, a lot of the shame comes from how you believe you are or will be perceived. At least in my case, I didn’t even want to think about asking for help because I was so embarrassed. My life did not fit what I thought of as the “standard” addict. I was a high-functioning alcoholic, and I also hid it from practically everyone. Asking for help inherently meant that I had to be more vulnerable than I’d ever been. So yeah, seeing Lise’s support on-screen, knowing that Dr. Franklin and Sheridan are there to support Garibaldi? That stuff matters. It’s a sign of a real, genuine friendship! (It’s also super consistent with who these characters are.)

It’s because of this and the other events of this episode that Garibaldi feels comfortable enough to finally move on. For me, he’s one of the “Objects in Motion,” a character who is ready to settle down with Lise—for real ready—and to shift to the next stage of his life. That still involves a very Garibaldi scene in which he uses information to take down a corrupt board of executives, and Lise nearly dies from the attempt on G’Kar’s life, so it’s all very heightened drama. But it does feel like a natural next step for these people, one that’s been hinted at or openly portrayed in the past. Garibaldi has to leave; Babylon 5 nearly tore him apart, particularly in the past couple years. I’m just reading for him to have like… a nice time? I know I say this about a lot of characters but PLEASE GIVE HIM A VACATION. 

G’Kar

G’Kar has been an object in motion for a long, long time, and this season has seen him dealing with the ramifications of his soulful writing and his decision to pursue a life that is non-violent and peaceful. As strange as Lyta’s plot has been at times, I actually feel great about her being paired with G’Kar for this spiritual journey he’s about to partake in. G’Kar may be a calmer character, one who is quicker to compassion and understanding, but he’s still angry. The show didn’t take his anger away, and we saw that multiple times this season! (His episode about Na’toth is a perfect example of this.) Instead, it gave him something to do. It gave him a direction and a purpose for that anger, and he channeled it into the creation of a new mythology, a new way of life for the Narn.

But the show didn’t ignore what that mythology would do to others, particularly those who had survived multiple wars and attempted genocides and the other horrific things the Narn were subjected to. The massive following that G’Kar gained could have turned into a cult of personality, but I’m into the fact that the show didn’t go that route. Instead, G’Kar actively rejected his fame, he actively rejected being seen as an idol, and he actively denied that others should worship him. And it’s real uncomfortable, too! That scene where he’s confronted by the follower who eventually becomes so disgruntled that he tries to assassinate G’Kar is INTENSE. But what was G’Kar supposed to do? Placate the man, or give him the truth? Yes, there were still terrible consequences, but that’s the point. G’Kar acted to stay consistent with what he believed in, and sometimes, holding standards like that results in some heavy shit.

But it’s time for G’Kar to move on. Again, I have no idea if he’ll be in these two remaining episodes, but he and Lyta have no reason to stay behind. G’Kar has to leave the crowd that wants him to be something he’s not. And Lyta has to find out who she’s going to be, too! She’s made deals with Garibaldi and G’Kar to help her achieve her goal of an independent home for the telepaths, but what will come of them? Nothing if she stays on Babylon 5. She can’t move her dream forward from this place anymore. So how will she change alongside G’Kar? WIll he temper her anger or give her a channel for the anger? I DON’T KNOW.

Which brings me back to my original point. I don’t know what the hell these final two episodes will contain. Maybe one of these three remaining films will also address what happens after the series, but if not… y’all. What’s about to happen? How is this show gonna go out? While I don’t know that, I can still appreciate the dramatic beats in this episode. That last image of Sheridan and Delenn walking off towards the other end of the station is romantic and bittersweet. I feel a little safe in guessing that the next episode will feature these two leaving Babylon 5, and if that’s the case, then this is a nice moment. For the first time since they came on board, Delenn and Sheridan will walk the full five miles of the station together. It’s romantic. It’s a little sad. And they are two objects in motion who are finally about to leave this place for the next step in their life. 

Yeah, this upcoming finale is probably going to ruin me.

The video for “Objects in Motion” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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