Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S05E18 – The Fall of Centauri Prime

In the eighteenth episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, it hurts. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent

Well, I got THAT wrong. For what it’s worth, I understand why I assumed that the Drakh’s focus was on Sheridan and the Alliance. He was the one responsible for the destruction of Z’ha’dum, and these attacks seemed to be intended to break up Sheridan’s Alliance. But my focus was wrong; Sheridan isn’t the main character in this conflict. It’s Londo Mollari, and this one episode is perhaps one of the most important for his five year character arc. Lady Morella’s prophecies are pretty much true, now, and we are almost to the events we saw in “War Without End.” But there’s a particularly devastating line in this episode that sums up Londo’s journey: he began this show as one with little power and all the choices in the world. In a tragic bout of irony, he’s now ascended to the most powerful position in his world, and what choices does he have?

I don’t think he has zero. I think he has the least he’s ever had, but he makes a choice in this episode that demonstrates that he is still willing to protect his people, even if it means hurting people he loves. It’s a tragic situation, no doubt about that. Londo has grown so much over the course of this show, and I don’t know if the Londo of four seasons ago would have made the same decisions as he does here. When faced with the reality of the Drakhs, the Keepers, and the ramifications of his actions, Londo does not run away from them; he doesn’t blame them on anyone else; and he ultimately chooses to protect his own people, at least in the interim. And while he’s doing this, he’s also pushing away those he cares about. I saw that as an act of protection, too. He doesn’t want Vir to get mixed up with the Drakh, just as much as he doesn’t want G’Kar, Sheridan, or Delenn to. Those are choices he made that I believe he was not forced or compelled to by the Keeper. 

Even then… lord, this was such a disturbing episode, and it made Londo feel like a character out of a Shakespearian tragedy. The whole reveal of the Drakh and the Keeper to Londo was brilliant acted by both Peter Jurasik and Damian London, and I have to YELL about the writing, too. Again, the sadness of the whole affair is overflowing from London’s portrayal of a man full of regret, but eager for the relief of death. It’s a dark turn of events, and I appreciated that the show did not shy away from that. The Regent—whose name we never actually learned!—did nots peak up when he should have, and so there’s this sense of resignation as he dies once the Keeper leaves his body. He saw himself as deserving of this fate. Did the Centauri people deserve this fate, too? Maybe not, and maybe there’s a tiny part of the Regent that felt comfortable passing along this nightmare to someone like Mollari, who found his own ways to resist the crushing obedience of Centauri culture. Perhaps he knew that Mollari might be able to stage his own rebellion.

But all of that is subtext at best. (Such fun subtext to consider, though!) JMS wavers between tragedy and body horror in these scenes, y’all. I loved SO MUCH that the Keepers are actually SCALES FROM THE BODIES OF THE DRAKH. There’s something so deeply sinister and gross about that! There’s another angle to the Drakh that I never thought about until this episode: this feels like the first time that they’re not subservient to someone else. The Drakh we meet spoke so highly of the Shadows and their “loving” relationship with them. However, I got the sense that they loved serving the Shadows. Here, they are in control; there are no masters to serve, and the dynamic is finally flipped with the Centauri. But these are not loud and public oppressors like the Centauri were with the Narn. They want everything to happen in secret and in private. Which is fascinating! They want this home for themselves on Centauri Prime, but do they eventually want to take it over? Do they enjoy controlling the Centauri with Keepers (I assume there are more Keepers out there), and thus will “take over” Centauri Prime while the Centauri still live there?

I don’t actually know. But it’s so unnerving to think about, y’all. BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHERE THIS SHOW IS GOING NOW. We still have a few established events to reach, but some of them are far in the future! How much time will pass in these remaining four episodes??? We also don’t have the fulfillment of the prediction for Lennier, that he’ll betray the Rangers. He certainly doesn’t here. (Though he awkwardly confesses his love to Delenn when he believes they’re going to die. Wow, that was uncomfortable.) And while the Alliance now knows that Shadow technology was used to control the Centauri ships, NO ONE BUT LONDO KNOWS ABOUT THE DRAKH. Will they ever find out?

This episode is gonna haunt me for a while. That image of Londo walking post-inauguration while completely alone just HURTS. He is utterly alone on this journey, with no allies or friends. He’s pushed them all away. And I get why! But… lord, what is gonna happen? How is there more of this show? WHAT HAVE Y’ALL DONE TO ME. 

The video for “The Fall of Centauri Prime” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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