Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S05E15 – Darkness Ascending

In the fifteenth episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, Lennier makes a discovery; Delenn and Sheridan disagree for a short time; Garibaldi lies; and Lyta attempts a strategic deal. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For consent, alcoholism

So, I said this in the video for this episode, but it’s a good place to start here: I understand why some of the events in the previous episode needed to happen so that this could happen. We needed Lennier to be in exactly that place (and had to establish his incredible oxygen-preserving ability) for this episode to be grounded in that reality. Garibaldi’s brief scenes in “Meditations on the Abyss” are the set-up for the return of Lise and their uncomfortable conflict. I still don’t get Findell’s inclusion, though, and I wouldn’t say that this made the previous episode more exciting. 

That being said: OH MY GOD, I LOVED THIS EPISODE. It’s complicated and messy and somehow begins the closure of a story that was hinted out YEARS AGO??? This show is RUDE.

The Deal

Let’s just start with Lyta because HI HELLO HOW ARE ALL OF YOU HOW IS THIS HAPPENING. I certainly forgot the offer that G’Kar made to Lyta all those episodes ago, yet what I love about this callback is that it places these characters where they were years ago—as a reminder, that is—and then immediately grounds them in their current incarnations. Neither Lyta nor G’Kar are the same character anymore, and yet, they still cycle back to this deal to exchange genetic information for compensation. But this isn’t something offered as an exploitation or a chance to get ahead at the expense of someone else. No, it’s Lyta taking up the promise she made to Byron’s people and doing what she can (to a point!) to make that promise a reality. And I love that this season is consistent about Lyta’s growth here. She has gone through such hell over the years, and now we see her completely dedicated to her own destiny and the destiny of other telepaths. She isn’t willing to take shit from others; she knows what she wants. She is tired of waiting for other people to allow her into their spaces; she is carving her own.

Of course, I can’t ignore that her comfort manifested in a messy way in this very episode. At the opening, we watch her enter Garibaldi’s dreams without his consent, and then she uses her powers to try to mask the experience as a dream. That’s… super messed up??? Right? I didn’t feel like the show was telling us she was allowed to do that, but STILL. LYTA. MAYBE DON’T DO THAT. 

The Decline

The dream did give us a further glimpse into Garibaldi’s subconscious, though I feel like at this point, this is conscious thought now. He knows what he is doing, and he knows that he is lying to Lise. He seemed far more upset that he got caught than anything else! So, he’s defensive throughout this episode, and because of that, he says a lot of ridiculous shit. Like, how can he keep saying that he’s in control when he literally messed up a major mission due to his drinking? Actually, I know exactly how can say something like that because I went through a similar stage of denial with my own alcoholism. I’ve written about it before, but for context, I was bizarrely private with my alcohol consumption because I was deeply ashamed of it. And while I didn’t have someone like Lise in my life trying to get me to stop, I certainly told myself over and over again that I was in control of my life and my drinking when I ABSOLUTELY WAS NOT. It’s so easy to slip into that kind of denial, too, to convince yourself of a reality that isn’t happening at all! So it’s frustrating to see, not just because I hated seeing Garibaldi lie to Lise, but because I felt PERSONALLY ATTACKED. It’s that whole meme of, “I am in this photo and I don’t like it.”

So, here’s a question: Was Garibaldi’s dream his subconscious’s way of warning him? I felt like that was the point. Even if that’s obvious, is he going to heed that warning? Will this oncoming war with the Centauri sober him up or not? 

The Secret

I just want to state that I’m so here for this show depicting Sheridan and Delenn as a complicated but very loving couple. They fight and disagree, but them being together is not the conflict itself. Rather, the show explores the complications of marriage and diplomacy, and it does so in a way that keeps these two together. Sheridan didn’t want to send Lennier to the Centauri border to protect him and Delenn; Delenn secretly sent him anyway in order to protect Sheridan and give him plausible deniability in case something went wrong. THEY DID THIS ALL FOR LOVE. And love can make people do messy, complicated things!!!

But this story goes beyond that. As I had mentioned before, there’s a tension in Lennier’s mission because the audience knows the truth and knows that if he succeeds, he’ll only discover half of the secret. Even then, this episode gives us one of the most monumentally messed up scenes in the whole show: Lennier latching onto a Centauri ship and watching hopelessly as it destroys life. Y’all, I just didn’t even think about this possibility, but it was there all along! He was always tasked with getting evidence of these attacks, which means that he’d inevitably see one happen and be unable to stop it. That would be devastating to watch for anyone, but for someone like Lennier? NO. NOPE. TRULY TERRIBLE. 

God, what’s going to happen next??? I don’t know! We have a few scenes from past episodes to guide us. Like, at some point, Delenn and Sheridan have a child, and they’re also going to be imprisoned on Centauri Prime. But how much of what we’re seeing is Drakh control or Drakh manipulation? What is Londo going to do??? Will he try to protect the Centauri or is he going to accept that his people are doing something terrible? I GENUINELY DON’T KNOW.

The video for “Darkness Ascending” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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