"I am a Ranger. We walk in the dark places no others may enter. We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass. We live for the One! We DIE for the ONE!"
REVIEW: Though it narrowly avoids becoming one of those "monster" episodes, by almost surprisingly NOT casting Robert Englund as the blade-fingered killer, I'm rather ambivalent about Grey 17 Is Missing, not the least because the title gives away a major plot point. With the Grey Council broken and a power vacuum needing to be filled, the title could have combined some of those words into a better umbrella for the competing plot threads. In any case, while I'm no longer against Garibaldi-centric plots (go back to Season 1 for a different attitude), it's the Delenn/Rangers material that best succeeds. 'Porting over the previous episode's mirroring theme, Neroon sees himself when he looks at Delenn, and believes her breaking of the Council (didn't realize that was permanent) and ascension to a leadership position in the Rangers (if she's now the One, I expect Sheridan will need to take up those reigns one day) is some sort of plan to become supreme ruler of Minbar. As so often happens when people project attitudes and intent on others, they're really saying "in their place, I would do such a thing" instead of the more useful, more empathetic "if I were them...". He's wrong about her just as he's wrong about humanity, and it takes a human to teach him, in the only language he understands: Warrior's honor. Obviously, that's going to be Marcus, who only just walks away from a brutal (but atmospheric) fight. If Lennier could have wiped the floor with him, a great general in the warrior caste is going to do a lot of damage, and does. That they share a laugh together at the end is proof enough that they now have something in common.
Garibaldi's story is rather more annoying. I like the bits where he's puzzling out where the missing floor is, nicely procedural as these things go, but again, the title gives it away. That missing floor is like Sebastian's workshop in Blade Runner, and a surreal alien Howdy Doody dummy shoots him up with a drug, just so he can listen to Englund's psychotic soliloquy. It's nothing we haven't heard before because it's Franklin's foundationalism turned into a cult that believes they should return to the stardust from which they came via the perfect predator. So from monster poop to stardust, presumably. JMS tends to lose me with his psychotic villains and their scripted rants. Garibaldi takes it, cracks wise and eventually unleashes his inner gun nut to shoot the monster down. It's all reduced to a joke by the time he gets to Sheridan's office, deflecting the actual serious matter of yet another security failure aboard the station, almost resulting in Delenn's assassination. Yeah, yeah, you love a good mystery. Guys, nobody leave an Agatha Christie novel lying around while he's on duty, ok?
While I think the stories are either a bit predictable, rather disposable and/or actively irritating, I will give the episode props for exploring a theme in an usual way. That theme: Where we come from, and what our roots mean to us. It connects to the show's greater themes by showing us how those roots can create common ground, IF we choose to see it. Neroon refuses to, at first, but he must eventually accept the shared heritage Valen created between his people and humanity, and how that heritage is a clear inheritance from Sinclair/Valen to Delenn. Garibaldi's roots are represented by the old-fashioned pistol that used to belong to his Boston P.D. grandma (a nice detail), and it saves the day. He's not acting alone, his own family antecedents give him the help he needs. Think of this as an intimate version of the past-present-future scheme of the the One. The lurker cult takes the idea the other way, citing the Big Bang as our common root, but they pervert it into a suicidal breed of nihilism. They see the terrain d'entente, but don't know what to do with it. In a small way, even the subplots link back to this theme, and invoking Doc Franklin's underground railroad as a source of Shadow-sapping telepaths is mining the show's more recent past the same way Garibaldi is mining is his family's, and so on.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Grey 17 proves you can't replace story with theme, because while the latter works, a good deal of the plot is clunky at best.