Episode 138 – Meditations on the Abyss

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Lennier goes off on a secret mission and Vir asserts himself. Andy joins us to meditate on episode¬†5×14 –¬†“Meditations on the Abyss”.

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4 Responses to “Episode 138 – Meditations on the Abyss”

  1. Voord 99 Says:

    [Spoilers for And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder]

    You know how I’ve been complaining that the Mysterious Raids Storyline doesn’t move fast enough? Well, that problem is gone now, thank goodness.

    Remove Garibaldi’s alcoholism from this episode, in fact, and you’d have one of my favorite episodes of Babylon 5. This isn’t an S5 episode that feels like S1 – it’s an S5 episode that feels like the fulfillment of S1. Remember when we thought that the show would mostly be like this, high politics and diplomatic intrigue among different great powers, before it became about 1000-year old prophecies and fascist takeovers? Obviously, the 1000-year old prophecies and fascist takeovers produced some good stuff. But you know what? This is good too.

    Part of this for me is that Londo is my favorite character and G’Kar follows shortly after that. And this episode is not quite the culmination of their friendship, but close to it. One point that I think is particularly important: when G’Kar asks Delenn to make sure that his fellow-Narns read his new chapters in which he tries to correct what his earlier, angrier, self said about the Centauri. This is the closest that G’Kar ever comes to doing what Londo did in The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari – admitting his own culpability in the origins of the Narn-Centauri War. And that he’s this G’Kar now is obviously necessary for him to refuse to testify against Londo and to accompany Londo back to Centauri Prime.

    And for Londo, comically but also movingly, to end up in the same cell as G’Kar.

  2. Voord 99 Says:

    [Spoilers for Movements of Fire and Shadow]

    OK, so putting Londo in prison may have been mostly for the sake of the joke in the previous episode, since there is no compelling plot reason why he had to be there.

    Nevertheless, Movements of Fire and Shadow is, at least for me, a damn good episode. There’s a lot to like. To pick one small thing, the episode mostly follows the structure of a story in which our hero John Sheridan will save things at the last minute. Franklin and Lyta’s mission to the Drazi homeworld uncovers the truth – just in time. Sheridan has to race to Centauri Prime before the enemies of the Centauri attack the planet and get there – just in time.

    Except that it isn’t in time. There is an aspect of this that breaks usual storytelling rules. Franklin and Lyta’s discovery should affect the plot, but it’s all pointless here. But somehow, this works. I think a large part of why it works is Londo – as written by JMS and as performed by Jurasik. The scene at the end where he looks at the sky, mirroring his earlier gazing up at the Shadow vessels, makes the point. The usual storytelling rules are those of an adventure story. This is tragedy.

  3. Voord 99 Says:

    [Spoilers for Thirdspace]

    Oh look, there’s William Sanderson again. He isn’t really given much to do here, but it’s nice to know that he got another paycheck out of Babylon 5.

    Seriously, showing the ambassadors *this* after Movements of Fire and Shadow is just cruel. I mean, yes, it was shown a month later at the time, and the next real episode wasn’t for three months later. But this was when TNT had basically given up on Babylon 5, and were programming things in a way that reflected the fact that They Just Didn’t Care Any More. There is, in terms of any sane viewing experience, no reason to arrest the ongoing plot of S5 just as it’s starting to pick up the pace.

    Oh well. Thirdspace isn’t terrible in itself. Nor is it amazing. It’s basically bog-standard Babylon 5. There’s a mysterious threat to the station, the mystery is uncovered, and Sheridan is one who saves the day. I suppose one can just about justify having it here as a nice counterpoint to the older Sheridan having just failed, for once, to save the day in Movements of Fire and Shadow.

    But no. Better to watch it separately at some other point.

  4. Voord 99 Says:

    [Spoilers for The Fall of Centauri Prime]

    Londo is my favorite Babylon 5 character.

    And for me at least, he’s the character who best displays what’s worthwhile about Babylon 5 as a series. Take a second to think back to the Londo that you met in season one. Think in particular of the Londo who sets out to kill G’Kar in desperation and anger in Midnight on the Firing Line. And think of how, step by step, everything has brought him to this point. Quite a lot of the famous 5-year arc doesn’t really hold together all that well, but this part is a single coherent story.

    *And it all works.* It all makes sense, it’s all interesting to watch, it all feels like you’re watching the journey of a real person – despite the fact that Londo spends a good deal of time in the middle of his story playing the role of a cartoonish villain. I can’t think of a single bad performance that Peter Jurasik gives.

    And, for me, there’s an important moral aspect to this. Babylon 5 is often at its best when it’s the show written by an atheist that’s exploring Christian viewpoints. The key to Londo is that he does horrific things, but never entirely loses our sympathy, and it turns out that we were right to retain an element of sympathy for him even in his worst moments. Londo is the monster that we could be, which is to say that there are no monsters – just other people.

    Which is why it’s appropriate that, at this culminating point in Londo’s story, the other characters in the main cast do not know what is going on, and have no option but to think of Londo as that cartoonish villain once again. With the partial exceptions of G’Kar and Vir, the two saints – but only partial exceptions. G’Kar (explicitly) and Vir (one imagines) know that there must be more to what is going on with Londo than there appears. But they don’t know what it is.

    Only we, the viewers, know that. The episode ends with Londo alone on his throne in the ruins of the palace. Alone, except for us, the only people who know and can truly understand. For me, that’s the most powerful single image in all of Babylon 5.

    But, seriously, shouldn’t Sheridan have remembered his flash-forward from World Without End *at some point* while this was all going on?

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