Monday, December 10, 2012

B5 Rewatch: The Coming of Shadows

Good day! Welcome to my Babylon 5 rewatch, and thank you for dropping in! Today we'll be taking a (spoiler-filled) look at the ninth episode of the second season, "The Coming of Shadows." This episode shares a title with the season's story arc, so I expect we'll see some interesting things! Shall we?

Let Me Sum Up

The Centauri Emperor decides to pay a visit to Babylon 5, despite his declining health. When the residents of the station learn about it, G'Kar is extremely upset. He goes so far as to try to intimidate Sheridan into refusing the visit. Sheridan isn't having it, however. He tells G'Kar if he is really that upset and insulted by the Emperor's presence on the station, he should keep to his quarters for the duration. Sheridan adds that he hopes, however, that G'Kar will consider actually talking to the man and taking the opportunity to open a dialogue that might help both of their peoples. 

Londo and his friend Refa, meanwhile, are plotting to use the visit to Londo's advantage. An audience with the Emperor has been scheduled for Londo and the plan is for him to make a speech that will be recorded and broadcast to the Centauri people. It will condemn the Emperor's actions and set Londo up as the prime candidate for filling his shoes eventually. Refa does not believe the Emperor will live for much longer.

A secretive man arrives on the station and takes an interest in Garibaldi. With security heightened due to the visiting dignitary, Garibaldi takes the man into custody. The man insists that he has something important to tell Garibaldi but the security chief has other things to occupy his time.

G'Kar contacts his government and gets approval from the highest circles to attempt an assassination on the Centauri Emperor. He never gets the chance to act, however, as on the way to his reception, the Emperor falls (suffering an apparent heart attack) and is rushed to MedLab. It is clear that he has very little time left, and Franklin is frustrated there is nothing he can do to save the man. The Emperor is unconcerned with his approaching death, however, and asks Franklin to deliver a message for him. He came to Babylon 5 specifically to meet with G'Kar and apologize to a Narn for all of the wrongs his people have done to theirs. He has realized that the animosity between their races will never end until one of them steps up and says they are sorry, so he is taking that step. G'Kar is floored by this revelation.

Unfortunately, Londo, unaware of the Emperor's intention to make peace with the Narn, destroys all possibility of it ever occurring. In an attempt to secure his eventual succession, he declares that he will destroy a Narn colony on the edge of contested space, taking it back for the Centauri. He reaches out to Morden to request the attack. He has misgivings, knowing it will mean certain war with the Narn, but he feels it is a necessary step if the Centauri are to reclaim their former glory.

After hearing the Emperor's message, G'Kar extends a hand of friendship to Londo, which seriously unsettles the Centauri, since he knows what's about to happen. When G'Kar does learn of the attack, he feels even more betrayed and he goes into a rage. Sheridan manages to talk him down, telling him to think about which means more: saving the lives of his people or getting his revenge. 

Garibaldi's prisoner, meanwhile, finally convinces Garibaldi to hear him out. He says he has a message from a friend and plays it. The message is from Sinclair, who explains that the man is a Ranger, one of a group of humans and Minbari that Sinclair has been working with. They patrol the galaxy keeping an eye out for the Shadows, hoping to do what they can against the coming darkness. Sinclair wanted to make Garibaldi aware of the Rangers and that they are his people, and also to warn him to stay close to the Vorlon, and keep an eye on the Shadows. 

The Emperor dies after being told of the attack on the Narn colony. With his last words he tells Londo that he and Refa are damned, but as this was whispered in Londo's ears, no one else knows that. Londo says that the Emperor blessed the action and told them to continue. While Londo is not named the new Emperor, Refa has arranged things (including ordering an assassination) so that the Emperor's nephew is given the position. The new Emperor is young and malleable and sympathetic to Refa and Londo's cause. 

The Narn government refuses to let the Centauri attack go unchallenged. They see it for the first step in a move toward enslaving their race once more. Despite Sheridan using Garibaldi's information that the Centauri are working with the Shadows to get Londo to agree to release all of the Narn survivors, the Narn declare war on the Centauri. 

Garibaldi escorts the Ranger off of the station, thanking him for the help in saving the captive Narn. The Ranger asks if Garibaldi will cooperate with them and let them move freely through the station. Garibaldi agrees, provided the Rangers share whatever information they glean with him. He promises to keep their presence on the station a secret and asks if anyone else knows about them. The Ranger says just one person and we see that it is Delenn. 


Huh. So I guess a benefit to being Emperor of the Centauri is that you don't have to wear ridiculous hairstyles. Yeah, yeah. I know the hair is a symbol of status, but that makes it no less ridiculous.

Oh, he's going to B5. G'Kar is furious, wow. Though, yeah. I'm with Sheridan on this one. This is a tantrum. Although it does an excellent job of illustrating how deeply seated is the Narn animosity toward the Centauri. 

Oh G'Kar. I know you are capable of being a reasonable individual. Please stop and think before you act, okay?

Ooh! Zack is in this episode, huzzah!

Londo is meeting with the Emperor and they are recording the meeting? And the Emperor doesn't know what the meeting is actually about? Uh oh. Vir's face when this guy implies the Emperor will be dead soon. Wow. At least he knows the score. They are walking along the edge of a seriously deep trench.

"This conversation makes you uncomfortable?" (Londo)
"Yes. Yes it does." (Vir)
"Then for once we have something in common." (Londo)

Well I am glad to hear that Londo is uncomfortable by the implications of his plots, though I know it won't stop him from carrying them out.

So, whatever G'Kar is planning, he's gotten approval from the highest levels of his government. I feel like this is a fake out meant to make us think he's going to attempt assassination, but really he's going to make an overture of peace. Let's see if I am remembering correctly or just making stuff up, shall we?

Of course, he's got that big knife and is talking about striking and killing and being killed. Hmm. Though you know with him saying there are only three possibilities, none of those things will come to pass.

Getting a peek into Sheridan's psyche. Interesting. 

The Emperor certainly is being played up as a sympathetic character, which is very interesting to me, given how unsympathetic the Centauri culture comes off as a whole. There does seem to be a lot of examination of predestination versus free will with the Centauri characters. 

Ooh, telepath security system. That is actually pretty cool. Also, much better than what I assumed, which is that they were his wives.

Will you hear what he has to say G'Kar? Will you really?

Heh, Ranger, dude. You can't out-sneak Garibaldi. Also, our first Ranger, huzzah! Hopefully this means Marcus will be making an appearance soon.

Yup, none of G'Kar's three possibilities coming to pass, because the Emperor doesn't even make it to the reception. This spoils the plans of many people. Of course, Franklin is just all grumpy that he can't save his patient.

Londo. Londo no. Oh crap. G'Kar is not going to react well. Also, you'll put yourself deeper into Morden's pocket. Listen to Vir!!! Sigh. Nope, not gonna do it.

"There's no turning back once you start down that road." (Vir)
"Do I have to go find him myself?" (Londo)
"No. No, I'll go. I'll go and I'll bring him back. And someday I'm going to remind you of this conversation. And maybe then, then you'll understand." (Vir)
"I understand just fine." (Londo)

Vir is so much more wise than anyone, especially Londo, gives him credit for. 

G'Kar, dude. Really. You want him to get better so you can kill him yourself? Sigh. Message for G'Kar, which the Emperor knew none of his people would ever deliver. An apology to the Narn. Should have been listening to Sheridan earlier, huh?

Londo's death dream! I don't even know that we've heard mention of that in a while. I love how it is absolutely not at all what Londo thinks it is, too. Of course, we don't know that yet. 

I think it almost makes it worse that he had the briefest notion to call off the attack. Because that makes this just so much more tragic. It was a hasty and bad idea and he knows that now. But he can't take it back. So when this elevates him among his people, he has to live with what he did to get there.

Ugh. I hate the idea of climbing to power by harping on the past and trying to reclaim former glory. Just.  The past is the past. Things change for a reason, and just because you think it was better back then doesn't mean that it was. The past is never viewed with absolute clarity. 

Poor G'Kar. He has no idea what's about to hit him. And Londo is just sideswiped by his sudden friendliness. He knows what he's done, and what it will do to G'Kar. Second thoughts are a bitch, aren't they? That's why you should think things through before you act. Just saying. Also, maybe don't destroy an entire colony of innocent people just to further your own career.

Hello Zack! Yay! 

Garibaldi, you have no idea. Although, "I have a message, I believe it will explain everything," is a bit unnecessarily cryptic, huh? Sinclair! Huzzah!

Oh, there's a great darkness coming, eh? Yet another person saying that. Maybe we should start paying attention?

Rangers! I love the Rangers, okay? They are awesome! Also, how cool is it that there's now a cooperative human-Minbari group?

"Stay close to the Vorlon, and watch out for the Shadows. They move when you're not looking at them." (Sinclair)


Thank you Sheridan, for adding that bit that G'Kar will need help. Because it lets him know that you're just as pissed about what happened as he is. 

It is very interesting to me that the series started out as painting the Centauri as the more sympathetic race and the Narn as the violent sneaky bastards. I like the way they did it so that it looks like that to the audience and to the characters themselves. But then as things progress, the audience starts to see the veil pulled back so that we understand that all is not as it seems. The Narn are violent in reaction to the Centauri, and they are working to overcome that, while the Centauri are trying to get back to their tyrannical ways. We are getting to the point now where a lot of the characters are starting to see this truth as well, and the balance of power and opinion is shifting. I just, I think this is a really awesome example of writing. 

The poor Emperor. Man, he really just wants to see a Vorlon. Also, has anyone actually told him about the attack on the Narn colony? I suspect that will just make him so deeply sad. There's not even anything he can do about it at this point, either. 

"How will this end?" (Emperor)
"In fire." (Kosh)

Well, at least he got to see a Vorlon. 

Sheridan sees an opportunity in Garibaldi's new information. He gets a chance to be a smartypants, you know he likes that! Also, it's good to see that Sinclair has managed to ferret out that the Shadows are working with the Centauri. I wonder if they'll be able to bluff Londo?

Dude. The Emperor SO isn't going to give you his blessing. 

He is, apparently, going to whisper in Londo's ear and then drop dead. That's convenient. 

Londo, I don't believe you. I don't think the telepaths do either. Ah. You're both damned. Well, that sounds more like it. 

Hello there, G'Kar. How's your existential crisis going? At least he's willing to attend the council meeting. 

Eep. Earth, don't be strong-arming your way in to this mess. Oh, this is your bluff! To get the Centauri to give up the Narn captives. Well, that's good. Although it may be too little, too late.Yup. The Narn have declared war. 

Wow. When Vir gives you a "screw you" look, you may want to reevaluate your life choices. 

So, someone sympathetic to Londo and Refa on the throne now. Glory hungry Centauri all being positioned into power and a war with the Narn officially underway. Things are going to be getting grim.

Huzzah for the Rangers now being in play! Only Garibaldi and Delenn know about them so far, but I suspect that won't last for too long. We at least need to get Lennier, Ivanova, and Sheridan in on their existence. Soon, I hope!


Well, there we have it. Thanks for reading! Please join me again tomorrow as I look at the next episode, "GROPOS."

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