"And so, it begins."
REVIEW: I don't know whether to call it the end of a season, or a springboard for the next. Chrysalis is perhaps the season 1 episode that most feels like it's part of a serial, with no real attempt to tell a complete story. It advances story lines in a way that's fairly common on television today - and great for DVD devouring - but only the purview of soaps at the time. That the first time the show does this is just prior to a hiatus between seasons must have been maddening, and yet perfect for fans to invest further in the show, spinning off theories and getting hungry for more during those Babylon-less months. The most complete story strand, for example, is the assassination of president Santiago. Garibaldi investigates and uncovers some portion of the plot, but though he manages to tell Sinclair about it before being taken into surgery, our heroes can't prevent it from happening. Failure isn't a sign of an incomplete story, but by the end, we still don't know who was responsible. The Home Guard is a likely suspect, but how far does the conspiracy go? Garibaldi's security force has moles/traitors, but why does Earthforce refuse to believe the president's death was anything but an accident? Is the VP and new president Clark in on it? His first act is to reverse Santiago's position about humanity's openness to alien influence. With no villains getting their comeuppance, and no resolution to the mystery, this stands as one of many cliffhangers, and there are so many, it may make more sense to call them simply developing stories.
The president's ship isn't the only explosion, of course. A whole Narn outpost is destroyed by the Shadows at Londo's unintentional behest. The finally-named human agent of the Shadows, Mr. Morden, more or less tricks him into owing a huge favor and at the same time corrupting him. Londo is a lot more squeamish about the death of 10,000 Narns than one might have expected, but then, he's always talked a better game than he's played. Self-preservation is such a strong trait in Londo, it may well be dawning on him that he's let the genie out of the bottle (a wish granted but perverted) and gotten into bed with the wrong people. If we can call them people. Our first look at the Shadows, as insectoid-shaped, LITERAL shadows has a high creep factor that whets our appetite for Season 2 as much as anything else. G'Kar's reaction is also surprising. He doesn't blame the Centauri, but fears something new is on their doorstep. He's wrong. It's something old AND a certain Centauri had a hand in it, but perhaps this is why he's suddenly ready to believe his species has been acting like angry abused children. Something "adult" has come back to the universe for a harsh scolding.
Are the Shadows responsible for Delenn's transformation as well? We know she can sense them, and in this episode, she goes to see Kosh - a member of the other most ancient race on the station, those who know something of the Shadows - seeking confirmation of SOMETHING. It's a mysterious scene in which Kosh opens his encounter suit for her - are Vorlons related to Shadows, somehow their cousins or opposites, as we did see light behind a screen in the pilot? From there, she makes her teary goodbyes and goes into a cocoon to become... what? There was a reason we didn't see more than her hand in Babylon Squared's future sequence. Sinclair gets to her quarters too late for her to explain, as promised, what happened during his lost 24 hours. Having just gotten engaged to Catherine with a rough but realistic marriage proposal, he set himself up for a fall. Everything starts to fall apart around him. However, and this is the sad part, Michael O'Hare will leave the show for medical reasons, so though Sinclair may return at a later date, his eventual fate is far less immediate, and his departure must take place in between seasons, off-screen. But that's a disappointment for next time.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: This same year (1994), Deep Space Nine also ended its season with a dangerous "new player" joining the galaxy's political fabric - the Dominion. It too had been presaged earlier, of course.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Lots of stuff happens to change Babylon 5 forever, but the most important, to my eyes, is the format, as the show finally seems to abandon discreet episodes in favor of a serialized saga.