In the second episode of Crusade, the crew fights a dragon, and I love that this is 100% true thing I get to type. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Crusade.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of terrorism and colonialism
This is a strange but endearing episode. (For the most part, I should say. It’s a little sketchy towards the end, and almost none of the other characters show up, but more on that in a bit.) I enjoyed that Crusade has wasted no time going for the weird, and it makes me excited about what other strange shit we’re going to see across the universe. Seriously, the cold open reveals that a base of humans is dealing with a dragon. A DRAGON. From here, the script delves into something I wanted from Crusade: further exploration of the Technomages. WE FINALLY MEET ANOTHER ONE.
Yet I found myself captivated by the story of the one Technomage who refused to leave the universe prior to the Shadow War. Alwyn is one of the coolest characters in the Babylon 5 canon. He’s thorny. (Sort of like Gideon, which is probably why they clash at the beginning.) He’s intensely moral. And he absolutely believes it was a terrible for the Technomages to not stick around. His declaration that they were cowards is integral to understanding who he is as a character. Alwyn does not shy away from conflict. Indeed, he chose this human colony because he could meddle. Because he could teach. Because he could guide! For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s very much worldbuidling done to explain how this is an agrarian society. We see some costumes that look like a vaguely Western set, and we hear about the farming and the livestock, but we never see it.
That being said, that’s not really the focus of this episode. The conflict here is that an EarthGov operation is being beset with acts of vandalism and intimidation, and it seemed real clear that the local community was trying to make the invaders leave. And that’s what they are: invaders. There’s a strong metaphor here for colonialism, though it’s made even more fucked up when you realize that this was a human colony. So it’s humans fucking over the lives of other humans, not some indigenous human race. Not like the latter is any damn better! But I’m so used to this storyline or versions of it happening between humans and aliens in science fiction shows.
Regardless: I found it virtually impossible to sympathize with the invaders here. Humans founded this colony to escape technology, to pursue a life that was “simpler.” And while I would have loved to see what that actually meant, I understood why were dropped into this conflict with a limited demonstration of that world. This was about the desperation that this colony was driven to, as well as the dependent relationship they’d developed with Alwyn. So, we’ve got two conflicts unfolding. Captain Daniels is the most obvious antagonist here. He sees the antiviral agent in this planet’s mineral as something that Earth should enjoy no matter the expense that others pay. He does not care that his actions have displaced the farmers on this world. Even worse, when he’s given proof that his mining is releasing toxic levels of the antiviral agent, he is still unmoved. He was literally told it’s going to start killing people, and his response was basically, “But the mining is going great, so maybe we could deal with this later? KTHX, good talk, everyone.”
Seriously, he’s terrible. Skeet shooting. He likens the villagers to SKEET SHOOTING when he tells his officer to go HUNT THEM! Then, he has the absolute fucking nerve to try to lecture Gideon when Gideon reveals that Alwyn is going to fire on Daniels’s ship. He actually says that he wants to know if Gideon is okay with all that blood on his hands! GIDEON JUST TOLD YOU HOURS AGO THAT YOU HAD BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS AND YOU WERE OKAY WITH IT.
UGH, anyway. The other major conflict concerns the way the villagers treat Alwyn not as an ally and asset, but as someone to exploit. I sort of understood that the script was trying to draw a parallel between these two forces, to show us how exploitation works. And certainly, the way the leaders of the hostage effort expected Alwyn to just solve all their issues was a problem. But it’s not really on the same level, and during the final act, things felt a little rushed. The reveal of the poisonous effects of the antiviral agent coming in so late was weird, because it’s like fifty dominoes fell at once. Namely, it came off as a means to make the villagers feel bad for trying to expel the mine. But, if anything, that moment made me sympathize with them more? Yes, they totally needed to become self-reliant and to stop expecting Alwyn to swoop in to save them. However, this invading force had ruined their life and was now killing them! How am I supposed to judge them for resorting to violence to save their lives? One group in this scenario had all the power, so I couldn’t feel bad for how these villagers reacted to violence done against them with violence.
Anyway: I did love seeing Galen getting to interact with another of his kind. My favorite scene was the holodemon attack sequence. Galen and Alwyn just stood there, casually discussing their craft, while HOLODEMONS attacked Daniels’s forces. INCREDIBLE. It demonstrated a closeness, a sense of respect, and humor all at once. I’m hoping we see Alwyn again, since he survived. Or other Technomages! I’d love to meet one that isn’t as overjoyed to see Galen. I’ll also say that I’d love if it the rest of the cast could feature more prominently in future episodes. I still barely know them!
The video for “The Long Road” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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