Final 4 episodes of Season 2 of Babylon 5
Here's my first reactions to the Final Four, with spoilers.
by Kathryn A
As with the underground railroad in "A Race Through Dark Places", Ivanova seemed to be the logical choice for the person they were looking for. Paranoid about being scanned, hating Psi Corps, who better to be a spy than the last person people would suspect of working for the Corps? But I wasn't sure. It seemed too obvious for someone as devious as JMS. And as soon as Ivanova confessed to being a latent telepath I was sure it couldn't be her. (And along the way this vindicated various people's suspicions that Ivanova was a telepath.)
But I was as much taken by surprise as anyone when it turned out to be Talia - and I should have guessed. After all, I was in possession of two pieces of information that weren't in the episode - I'd read the comic, and had seen the revealing scene which showed an unconscious Talia being processed in a machine on the Psi Corps base on Mars - and I'd been told that Andrea Thompson had a part in another TV series - and I never guessed!
But once you know, Talia is obviously a much more logical choice than one of the others. After all, it's much easier to process one of your own, and much easier to place them where you want to put them.
Does this explain why Bester started becoming friendly to Talia, or was that just what it seemed? And if he is part of Bureau 13 (which I suspect), then did he know that Talia was Control or not?
People have argued about the questionable morality of activating Control if it meant the death of the host's personality; that they should have done something different, or that they should have considered beforehand and argued about the morality of basically killing someone to find out if they were a traitor. But there was no other way of finding out, and they weren't even sure if it were true or not. It was like being told that there was an unexploded bomb on the premises, and the only way to find out if there were a bomb (because it was so well-hidden) would be to broadcast the short-range trigger signal and see if something explodes. One person would be dead, but they were doomed the day Psi Corps planted the personality in them in the first place. And at least the threat of that "bomb" would be gone. Of course, that doesn't mean that there might not be some other bomb on a different trigger frequency...
One thing seems certain: whoever Psi Corps next assigns to B5 won't be trustworthy.
A worry: Talia had been keeping Ironheart's gift a secret. That won't be the case any more. Suddenly our Ace-in-the-hole against Psi Corps has changed suits. A bit like a game of Othello. Talia Winters is dead. Worse than dead, someone else has stolen her body, raped her mind and spat on everything she was. Horrible.
A hope: We have Garibaldi's recollection of the recording Kosh made in "Deathwalker". I had assumed it was in order to have a hold over her because she could be a threat because of Ironheart's gift, or simply because she was a telepath and Vorlons were wary of telepaths. But was it a recording of Talia's personality for a rainy day - or what? And what good would it do anyway? You'd have to be able to put it back somehow. And how would Kosh have known anyway?
And, recalling Ironheart's gift, could Ironheart not have known about Control? How could he not have known? And if he knew, did he take steps about it? Could he have?
Afterthoughts (much later):
I have now been persuaded that, in fact, Talia is the least likely person to have been Control - and not just the flub-up in SPIDER IN THE WEB, either - that Control couldn't order its own death - since jms covered that by saying that there was more than one agent called Control. We have the problem with Ironheart, as I said above. We also have the inconsistencies, even within the episode, of what exactly Control was capable of. If Control was able to influence Talia by whispering in her dreams, then why the heck didn't Talia make up with Garibaldi - someone full of valuable information, who was just panting to have her smile at him - rather than chasing after Ivanova, who wouldn't give her the time of day, and probably didn't know as much as Garibaldi did?
Other inconsistencies within the episode - Ivanova resisted Lyta's sending, and Talia was taken completely by surprise. What? As if Talia - who hadn't had great experiences recently with Sheridan, what with him trying to trick her into scanning Morden in SHADOW OF ZAHADUM - would walk into Sheridan's office with her telepathic shields down? And not be able to resist the sending of a fellow P5, even if Talia wasn't something more than that, after Ironheart's gift. And then Ivanova, by contrast, resists Lyta's sending, even though she probably isn't any more than a P1?
I am really convinced now, that Ivanova was meant to be Control, and that jms quickly switched it to Talia when Andrea announced that she was leaving. The bit in the comic was apparently put in after the script had been written, we just happened to get it here before it was shown.
The other thing, which really really gets me, the more I think about it, and to me, marks the beginning of the cracks in Babylon 5, was the way that Talia was offed.
I consider personality erasure to be a fate worse than death. Literally. It would be better to die cleanly, than to be still alive, and yet dead, because the you that you were is no longer there; someone else is possessing your body. And yet that is the fate that is given to Talia: to be Xed (to borrow a term from Madeline L'Engle).
Talia is set up as the ultimate victim: she is become the enemy, with all her talents given over to those she opposes, her mind raped and possessed, completely, utterly, helplessly, hopelessly, pointlessly. jms compared her to Boromir, simply because he died unexpectedly. But he is talking through his hat. If Talia had been like Boromir, she would have (a) transgressed, (b) repented, (c) sacrificed herself and (d) died. Instead, she did nothing wrong, and she was possessed by the enemy.
Definitely anything but a favourite now.
THE LONG TWILIGHT STRUGGLE
This one didn't stand out to me as much as the others. Its memory is fading even now. The Epsilon Erdani plot (I dunno, that Minbari guy irritates me with his laughter), Delenn says "Abso-fraggin-loutly dammit!", and the fall of the Narn Homeworld. Yet another disaster that might have been prevented if certain people had made other choices.
COMES THE INQUISITOR
This was my other favourite. I can well see why JMS compared it to "And The Sky Full Of Stars", though I'm not sure which of the two I like better.
At the start, I was certain of two things: (1) Delenn would pass
(2) There would be a twist in the test. I actually thought that the twist would be something like she would succeed by failing: that she would take off the manacles, admit failure, and thus be proved humble enough to pass. But I didn't find that satisfactory; if they had done exactly that, it would have been too weak. It was only a guess. All that I was sure of was that whatever the Inquisitor appeared to be testing for, it would really be something else, something unexpected. So I was very pleased with what it turned out to be: something better and deeper than I had imagined, and something I agreed with: that if you put any Cause before the people close to you, then you've lost the way. The ends do not justify the means, because the means influence the ends; attitude is just as important as action.
The revelation of the identity of the Inquisitor was not tacky or gratuitous (as some people would think if they were told without having seen the episode). It was fitting. It was poetic justice. He was the perfect Inquisitor, having been guilty of the same sin he was testing for, and knowing the abhorrence of it.
And this also put another layer on the love (platonic or not, who cares?) between Sheridan and Delenn which we've been seeing building up more obviously in the last few episodes, particularly in "Confessions and Lamentations" but touches also in other episodes. Now they know they're willing to die for each other.
Some, of course, argue against the Inquisitor's methods - but there are several reasons for it.
(1) If the test is willingness to die alone and unpraised for another, then it has to be real: they have to not know that that is the test, and they have to know that the threat of death is real. And the threat is real - because it was quite clear from Kosh's statement at the start that this was a test to destruction - those who fail, die. [So, indeed, it was a twist like I thought it was - at the start, she would rather die than fail, but at the end, she would rather fail by dieing, than to see Sheridan die instead of her: her task, her mission, was less important than his life.]
(2) It wasn't just Kosh who needed to know that they were the right people at the right place at the right time - they themselves needed to know it - know it in their guts, not just as an intellectual conviction that could waver when the going got tough.
Getting back to point (1), it seems his aims were threefold (or
more, probably): (a) to see if Delenn would doubt herself enough to
give up and take off the manacles, (b) to see if she had any
friends who cared more for her than for the Cause, and (c) to see
if she cared more for a friend than for the Cause.
Note that Lennier came for her first, but he left her when she told him to. Perhaps if he had stayed, he might have been the one whose life was threatened. Or perhaps the Inquisitor was waiting for Sheridan in particular - who knows? But when Sheridan arrived, the next phase of the test began. It's also interesting to note that Lennier begged Sheridan to ask Kosh to intervene - but instead Sheridan came himself to rescue her. Did he go to Kosh first? I doubt it.
FALL OF NIGHT
Again, some people were blown away by this episode, but I wasn't, though it was terribly interesting. I think a number of the surprises didn't astonish me because of various things people had said before I saw it.
- I wasn't surprised that we saw Kosh, since I knew we would see him/her/it before the end of the season, and since we hadn't seen it yet, logically, we would see it this episode.
- The whole thing with everyone seeing someone different was also not astonishing, since that had already been hinted at on the nets.
- We'd already guessed that Kosh was an angel or angel-like being ages ago.
So it was not astonishing.
Another thing that didn't really surprise me was the treaty - though I had fun muttering, as the characters expressed their optimism, "Boy are you in for a big surprise." It wasn't even the mutterings about peace by the grey-haired guy that tipped me off - it was simply the fact that the officials were from the Ministry of Peace rather than somewhere like the Department of Defence, who would be more likely to have the authority and agenda to agree to military action. (Okay, so it might have been the correct department, but the whole government policy so far though the series has been to stay out of war. They weren't going to suddenly change their minds, were they?) All the rest simply confirmed my suspicions.
Of course the parallels with WWII were evocative. Ivanova's narration at the end is spot-on: sometimes peace is the same as surrender. Garibaldi's comment was very pertinent too: Londo is terrifiedly hanging tightly onto a wild horse.
Now for comments on the Kosh incident.
People seem to have overlooked what forced the issue in the first place: the bomb in the transport. I suspected that that Centauri was up to something because of the way the camera kept on focusing on him. But I thought he'd just beat up or stab Sheridan, not blow up the transport. And we don't know why he did it - was it political, military, personal, or something else?
Apart from the obvious, I noticed a few interesting things. I'll have to double-check, but Sheridan didn't see an angelic human - he saw someone bald with Delenn's face. Does that mean that one sees someone you love and/or worship?
Londo saw nothing. Does that mean that Centauri in general would see nothing, or is that an effect on Londo only? If Londo only, is that because he is touched by darkness? Would Morden see nothing? If all Centauri would see nothing, what does that mean? Have the Vorlons not visited their world in the past, is that why they would see nothing? Would this tie in with the apparent lack of Centauri legends about Shadows? The Minbari have legends, the Narn have legends. The humans don't have any obvious legends, but is that because Earth was not a part of such conflicts, or because our legends have been garbled beyond recognition?
Have the the Vorlons manipulated other races to have an instinctive reverence for Vorlons and an instinctive revulsion for Shadows? Does that make the Vorlons wicked, pragmatic, or the victims of a natural tendency to deify that which is not understood? Even if the Vorlons aren't 100% good, I'd much rather chuck my lot in with them than with the Shadows. Wiping out all those Narns could never be justified. Give you what you want? Maybe, but they don't care if it destroys you in the process.