"It was the end of the Earth year 2259, and the war was upon us. As anticipated, a few days after the Earth-Centauri treaty was announced, the Centauri widened their war to include many of the Non-Aligned Worlds. And there was another war brewing closer to home. A personal one whose cost would be higher than any of us could imagine. We came to this place because Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace. By the end of 2259, we knew that it had failed. But in so doing, it became something greater. As the war expanded, it became our last, best hope for victory. Because sometimes peace is another word for surrender, and because secrets have a way of getting out."
REVIEW: The second year of the show ends with one of G'Kar's prophecies coming true, his handshake with Sheridan does indeed herald the turning of Earth away from the Narn. No surprise that Earth would throw in with Centauri, of course. Still wounded by the Minbari War, and with the Centauri establishing a presence in various non-aligned races' space, Earth would believably sign a non-aggression treaty with the aggressors. Save itself by throwing others under the space bus. Internally, things aren't going much better. The Nightwatch has turned into a veritable Gestapo, disappearing people for anything from criticizing the government to showing up late for one's shift. This is a show that doesn't mind making Earth one of our protagonists' enemies.
As Sheridan proved to the Inquisitor, his first obligation is to saving lives, but Earthforce may no longer mean anything as honorable as that. He does everything he can to keep the surviving Narn vessel from being discovered, up to and including committing an act of war against the Centauri. He would derail the peace process because it's the right thing to do, lest we ally with monsters (but too late, we're monsters too). We should be that lucky. Instead, the Centauri will let it go so long as Sheridan apologizes, which is probably more painful than what happens just before the ceremony. Not content to leave it at that, they bomb his train car, forcing him to eject into the gravity-less center of the station. It's a pretty fun action sequence, though I'm of two minds as to how he gets out of it. Delenn appeals to Kosh who leaves his encounter suit and reveals he's an angel, then flies up to save Sheridan. We see him as a human angel, but other species see him as their equivalent, though always, it seems, a glowing, flying man. Maybe I'm responding to how cheesy the visual is, but I think it's just not something we needed to see. It was implicit, now it's a little too explicit. He was, as expected, recognized by everyone, but the words promised something more momentous. Was the vision localized? Or did the Shadows feel a tremor in the Force? In any case, Londo saw nothing at all, implying that either his world has no angels, was never visited by the Vorlons, or that the Centauri have gone over to the darkness so far, they can't experience that kind of grace. But then, are Vorlons invisible to the Shadows? I suppose the revelation had to happen sometime, I'm just not wholly satisfied with how it happened and how soon it happened.
The episode also introduces John Vickery as Mr. Welles, the Nightwatch propagandist. Though a poor man's Kyle MacLachlan, Vickery is properly slimy in the role. Welles is an expert at implicating and corrupting anyone, yet letting nothing stick to his own person. He tries to recruit Ivanova and fails, but never lets on he's been caught doing something untoward. Zack is less well-equipped to deal with him, and finds himself informing on people against his will. Welles makes it seem like it's nothing, just confirming things they knew already, but Zack has the look of a man broken under severe interrogation. And his accusations have real consequences for others, and in terms of guilt, for himself. It's in this atmosphere that Sheridan tried to keep the secret of the Narn warship, but what would be treason in this case? No doubt the officer who told on him thought she was doing the right thing. To her, Sheridan was the traitor, acting against Earth's government, in spirit if not legally. Time to weed out the unthinking loyalists, Sheridan.
And speaking of weeding people out, this is the last episode for Keffer, a "youthful" character pushed on the production by the network. Though Sheridan had forced him to put a pin in his quest for find the Shadows, he grabs the opportunity here and is never heard from again. They did so little with him, he will hardly be missed. The footage he grabbed does make it on ISN, so as a parallel to Kosh's undressing, the Shadows are exposed as well. Another piece of symmetry is Ivanova's voice-over at the very end, a dark mirror of Sheridan's opening. It will be echoed in Season 3's opener... but I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: The Vorlons having "hard-wired" the peoples of the galaxy to see them as divine beings mirrors the Founders' doing so biologically with the Jem'Hadar.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A good season finale. Though it ends on a downer, there's enough excitement (B5 gets some real damage!) that it still seems relatively upbeat.