"These are volatile times: practicality is more important than principles."
REVIEW: While the war with the Shadows is brewing, on the home front, the Earth Alliance is intent on keeping Mars from seceding. That's at least as interesting a plot line, and I'm glad to see it spring off the headlines and into the show proper. If Mars is to emerge as a separate power, then Babylon 5's neutrality makes it a useful catalyst for its peaceful independence. Except it's not that simple. It never is. There's a conspiracy there too, by something called Bureau 13 that may be connected to PsiCorps and THAT whole thing. Likely, it's what's behind Santiago's assassination and possibly even Sinclair's kidnapping and VR torture. It cyborgs and brainwashes a former Martian terrorist to have him assassinate people who would help Mars, framing an extremist group for their actions. Even official channels are screwy, and it seems Earth Alliance's policies are at odds with Babylon 5's mission, which puts Sheridan in an awkward position.
The episode is very much about giving Talia Winters a reason to be featured more. Not just because she uncovers the conspiracy and can remain connected to it, but by having characters in the main cast warm to her (or her to them), she'll be in a better position to earn character-building scenes with them. Her previous relationships were founded on antagonism - Ivanova hates telepaths (Sheridan hilariously rolls his eyes at that particular quirk), G'Kar has a gross fixation with breeding with one, and she couldn't stand Garibaldi's lascivious thoughts - which kept her away from simple social interaction (and it doesn't help that she's not part of the B5 staff per se). So here, Ivanova gives her a recommendation and at least trusts her, the relationship with Garibaldi warms up significantly, and Sheridan shows empathy for her kind. So in story that brings her closer to the rest of the group, we also have her lying about what she saw in Abel Horn's mind. Is she more loyal to PsiCorps than to justice after all? Or rather, will she try to solve this mystery on her own, an internal matter, as it were?
Otherwise, some strong guest-stars this time around, including Adrienne Barbeau as the Martian leader and Jessica Walter (better known now than then) as an Earth senator. We also get to see the San Diego Wasteland, which is a shocking sight that puts Bureau 13 in the proper context. Some Earth factions may well have reason to mistrust aliens, the Minbari especially, and anyone who would wage war against the Alliance, even from within (i.e. Mars). San Diego stands (barely) as a monument to that idea. Other eye candy I want to mention: We're getting more and more (and better) shots of the city built inside Babylon 5's cylinder as vistas you can look at through office windows. Unusual, and not always clear from on-set evidence, but definitely an interesting visual. The show continues to rely a bit too heavily on characters recounting back story, which can be a clunky way of building the world. Here, I'm not even sure Sheridan's first contact story is all that relevant to anything. And the scene with Sheridan and Garibaldi pushing buttons to scan for energy sources makes me realize the show doesn't have a "techy" character in its cast, which is a major difference from every version of Trek ever. Obviously, some tech in C&C should be doing this, not the station's captain. Hey, if it helps B5 remain mostly technobabble-free, I'm not complaining.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Bureau 13 outpaced Section 31 by about four years.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Adds an important plot thread and amps up the paranoia, while also strengthening a much-ignored character in the cast.