The second season of Babylon 5 was a story of a show that found itself, finally flipping the switch on a lot of long-simmering plot threads to allow them to come to fruition, or at least to begin blossoming. In my last write up I talked about perhaps one of the best episodes of the series ever, where the Centauri once again defeated the Narn and the aftermath of that. That could have easily served as a season finale, yet there were two more episodes to follow.
“Comes the Inquisitor”
When telling a long story, much like with a long piece of music, the idea is tension and release. This episode was very much a “release” after the last episode served as a very tense exploration of some of the future plotlines and the characters that will inhabit them. The basis is Delenn being visited by a Vorlon inquisitor, who’s shadowy purpose is to essentially torture Delenn to see if she’s worthy of the Vorlon’s help.
There’s good and bad with this. The Vorlons are seen as mysterious beings, if not a bit imposing, but have been lulled into having Kosh as a purely background character to help push the plot forward. He’s the Vorlon representative and he’s just there to put his stamp of approval on everything moving forward, so pumping the brakes while he does his due diligence makes sense, sort of. If the Vorlons are really some of the “First Ones” that date back billions of years, the viewer would be led to believe that they weren’t morons and would do this in advance of getting into bed with individuals and whole races. Whatever, we’ve got time to fill, right?
So the inquisitor is human, from London, in the 1800’s, and sort of a prick. The historical tie ends up being that he’s Jack the fucking Ripper, which is just, c’mon. Not only is he an uninspired character, but the whole drilling over destiny, chosen ones, self-doubt and whatever is just sort of boilerplate stuff. That’s fine. Delenn gets into trouble, Sheridan comes to save her, gets imprisoned and zapped himself and their “will they, won’t they” bullshit and talk of self-sacrifice for each other passes Jack the Ripper’s test, which apparently 500 people before have failed. The Vorlons must really suck at picking chosen ones. This is very much all about pushing the plot forward and tying up loose ends, which, once again, totally fine. It also paints some doubt on the Vorlons and their ability to see and know everything.
The shining moment of this episode comes from an interaction between G’Kar and Vir on an elevator. Not only does it provide interesting foreshadowing to a G’Kar elevator incident in the future, but it shows two of the best characters in a really weird situation. The episode began with G’Kar in the Zocalo giving an impassioned speech (does he do anything else?) about the Centauri attacking other races after being unchallenged in committing atrocities against the Narn. All of that while Vir watched from a walkway above, rapt with attention. While Londo’s conscious is all about being conflicted but not acting upon it, Vir is the heart and soul of Londo.
So when Vir steps into an elevator, doing his best to avoid Centauri beggars who now know that he exists and want a piece of his power, his relief is dampened by bumping into G’Kar, the two involved in a staring contest that Vir easily loses.
But, you see, Vir isn’t always a meek, meager man. Vir truly cares and absolutely opposed everything that Londo and his people did. He did try to stop it, he did everything that he, a man with no power at all, could try to do through the channels available to him and he failed. He failed miserably because nobody took him seriously. The irony being that people do take him seriously now. So he apologizes. Without anything else he can say or do he says “I’m sorry.”
What does G’Kar do? Brandishes a knife, cuts a slit on his hand and lets the blood drip down from his hand all while not breaking eye contact with Vir. While the blood drips, drip-by-drip he accompanies each droplet with the word “dead.”
“How do you apologize to them?”
“I can’t,” Vir answers honestly.
“Then I cannot forgive.”
If you yourself are an honest, caring human being of any privilege then you too probably know this feeling. Watching helplessly as horrible things happen around the world and in your own country, knowing that these things probably won’t happen to you and that deep down inside there’s some responsibility towards this within you or the people that you associate with or represent you is an oppressive feeling. Maybe you did do something, maybe you did try, but did you really? Were you fighting with the damned? Were you standing with them and showing your support? Of course Vir is culpable, he works for Londo, he’s done Londo’s deeds and Londo’s deeds led to this path of history. Vir knows that he could do better, but he was afraid to. We’re all afraid to do this and we’re all fucking Vir sometimes, because we can probably do better. We’re just afraid of failure, or losing our own comfort.
Essentially, Vir is every white person in America in 2018 who sees other white people marching in the streets, chanting about Jews, crying about “white genocide” and chanting about building a wall. It’s our uncles, fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, aunts and everyone else and god damn if we don’t feel uncomfortable with it, god damn if we don’t want these people to go away, but we look at our system that led us to this path and say “well, this is just how it is.” Secretly, there’s a shame, because there has to be, whether we admit it or not is another thing, but there’s a shame in knowing that these people can even attempt to speak for us and no matter how hard we shout that they don’t, there’s always these nagging doubts that maybe that’s not enough.
“The Fall of Night”
So while the last episode has me equating the Centauri to the Alt-Right, that probably won’t end any time soon. Damnit. Anyway, this is the season finale. The big, fat, beefy season finale and once again humanity is absolutely disappointing. The Centauri expand their grip on the galaxy, because one victory is never enough, which brings out the Earth brass to… make a treaty with the Centauri, because history has shown that’s what we do. Sheridan, of course, is opposed to this, especially with a broken-down Narn warship in B5 space asking for sanctuary while it gets repaired.
All of this while the Night Watch expands its sphere of influence on the station with poor old Zack in his ill-fitting uniform wearing that damned armband and realizing that a shop owner blowing off steam at the expense of ever-expanding Earth regulations is apparently a punishable offense to these jackbooted assholes and that he’s gotten himself into bed with some questionable people. The Narn ship causes some problems and the Centauri come looking for blood, which leads to a tense face-off between B5 and the Centauri and, ultimately, the Centauri ship being blown up by B5 when it was about to attack a civilian station over just wanting to kill a few more Narn.
Sheridan is forced to, hat in hand, give a forced apology to all of the ambassadors on the station in the garden for some reason, most likely because it’s humiliating and if he doesn’t he’ll lose his command. There’s too much at stake for him now with him being in control of the Rangers, knowing about the Shadows — oh yeah, which Keffer finally uncovers, gets video of a ship and jettisons the video before he’s killed, so there’s that — and the coming war. So Sheridan has to apologize, the only problem is that the Centauri aboard the station are angry and looking for revenge.
Sheridan, the chief officer on B5, is forced to take public transportation by the way of a tram car over to the ceremonial garden where he’s met with a timely explosive aboard that doesn’t kill him because he tosses himself out of the car at the last second. Because the station works via spin gravity he was able to toss himself out of the grasp of that gravity where he was before, but he was moving towards the other half of the station which would suck him right back down. Delenn begs Kosh to do something, because now was clearly the time for him to unveil himself to the galaxy.
Before I get into this more, I want to preface this with how this could have been really, really fucking bad. The idea of aliens as religious figures is not a new one, but it’s one that when it’s done is usually done really poorly. Was this done well? Let’s talk about it.
Kosh reveals himself to be a literal fucking angel. That’s right, the Vorlons are angels, at least to humanity. To every race he appears as something different. What this does is paints that all of the religions in this galaxy were indeed just based upon the benevolence of the Vorlons, who helped each race along to being advanced, modern beings. Sheridan is at first in awe, while Delenn talks about how the Vorlons helped everyone, then reverts to anger and how they manipulated and controlled everyone.
The big bombshell here is the implications of the Vorlons being religious figures means that they knowingly helped to craft these religions, which splintered off and became regionalized, factionalized and divided people as much as it brought them together. There could be different ways of viewing this, but that would mean that humanity’s ugliness was helped along by the Vorlons to their own end. But it could also mean that they only were responsible for their own actions, what humanity and other races chose to do with the knowledge and power that they bestowed upon them was their own choices and failings.
Regardless of any of that, the Vorlons kind of look like assholes in this. The same excuse that the Centauri made for invading the Narn in the first place, which was to “bring culture and civilization to a lesser race” was the exact same thing that the Vorlons had been doing for perhaps millions of years. The only key difference is that the Vorlons didn’t subjugate these races, but truthfully, that cannot be honestly answered just yet, can it? If the Vorlons are as advanced as they claim to be, if they are the puppet masters, if Kosh had “always been there” with Sheridan, the extent of their control hasn’t been revealed yet.
When a few aliens are discussing what they saw at a bar later on, Londo is sitting there, alone, at a table mulling over everything that had happened. When they casually ask Londo what he saw, understanding that everyone saw something different, Londo’s response is symptomatic of his own existential crisis and him realizing that his beliefs, his world and everything that he knows is complete bullshit.
“Nothing, I saw nothing.”
Ivanova closes the season out by amending the monologue from the beginning of each episode to be more ominous, that Babylon 5 was the last best hope for peace and, I quote, “We failed.” Now it’s their next best hope for… victory?