"No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand. The Centauri learned this lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years... we will be free. "
REVIEW: The Narn-Centauri War heats up and boils right over, and here they had me thinking it was going to last forever. I guess I bought what the Narn propaganda machine was selling. But like a game of Axis & Allies, one side must use a strike fast and hard strategy, while the other must slow things down to a crawl to win. The Narn seem hopelessly outclassed in this conflict. Their only strategy is to strike at supply lines to extend the war and hope the Centauri will exhaust themselves, leaving the homeworld open to get enough ships together, and even that plan is intercepted by the enemy who sets up a Shadow ambush while it bombards the Narn planet with outlawed WMDs. Even a heads up from Doc Franklin - who naturally sides with the underdog - doesn't help. Nobody listens to G'Kar and, as usual in B5, pride does them in. Two cool space battle sequences in this one, the first showing the Shadows doing more than just slicing stuff open with a beam. They're launching fighters, combining ships into creepier shapes, collapsing boom tubes, and even taking the odd hit.
Londo swears this is the last time he'll call on the Shadows, but news at the end of the Republic annexing worlds adjacent to Narn space probably means his pal Refa will ask him to again. At his core, Londo, selfish as he is, remains an honorable warrior, and it hurts him deeply to see his people cheat their way into universal domination. He would see the Centauri fight their own battles, not resort to Shadows and outlawed weapons, breaking every treaty along the way. I'm not even convinced he agrees with the outrageous terms of the Narn surrender, except perhaps throwing G'Kar off the Council. It's an intense moment and the episode's best. G'Kar in pain, shamed by his people's defeat and having to beg Sheridan for sanctuary. His great speech about freedom. Londo harsh and angry, delivering edicts that are possibly repugnant to him, and refusing any "U.N." (Earth/Minbari) involvement. But even the asylum Sheridan grants G'Kar might be short-lived. He acted on his own authority, and if G'Kar's luck stays the same, he'll be at odds with Earth in short order.
Sadly, the return of Draal isn't as interesting. The Minbari at the center of the planet below the station has been turned into a friendly ghost, and recast as a younger man. There's an in-story explanation, which is fine, but John Schuck plays him a bit... big. It's a comedy Draal, and I don't think it's particularly funny. The idea seems to be to reintroduce the character so the audience can be reminded of him, and Sheridan can meet him, but it's all a bit tedious when watching the episodes back to back like this. There are a couple of good elements to it though. One is the exotic musical theme that accompanies his lurking through the station in the first arc. Very nice, distinctive. The other is that he makes Delenn reveal the existence of the Rangers to Sheridan, which in turn leads to a rousing speech from him to this "army of light". For all the romance between Sheridan and Delenn on the show of late, there are still things that could keep them apart. It's not the first time he's caught her keeping secrets, and for the second time in a row, she gets to react to his being in a hurry (this time with a hint of a tone?). Having to stand together against the darkness might be the best thing to happen to their relationship.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - I find Draal's return mostly tedious, but the Narn defeat is as much eye candy as it is raw emotion and awesome speeches.