"I can’t go back, but I can appreciate what I have right now… and I can define myself by what I am, instead of what I’m not." "And what are you?" "Alive. Everything else is negotiable."
REVIEW: Doctor Franklin finally returns to the fold in a story line that could have seamlessly fit the previous episode's themes. Like Refa, Doc Franklin runs from his problems and his shame, never confronting them head on. He left Earth because he couldn't please his father, destroyed his research so as not to face a moral dilemma, lost himself in work rather than face a loveless personal life, and then into stims when work became the problem. His "walkabout" is just another iteration of that pattern. He's gone to meet himself, and in shock from a nasty stab wound (oh the life of a lurker! say, what was that business with the nagging mother moaning about the Babylon 5 ghetto all about?), he does and isn't very complimentary about himself. It feels like Franklin is channeling his father there, which is perfectly appropriate. Later in Medlab, he's shamed into getting back to work by patients who need him, and perhaps thinks of all those he didn't help because he had selfishly walked away from the job. Franklin is correct to call himself stupid as he sits dying, becaue the truth of B5's universe - a truth he has also run away from, a near-atheist in a supernatural world - kinship is rewarded and withdrawal (I suppose that's a pun) from a larger society is punished.
The success of community is represented by the victory of the allied forces against the Shadows. They they lose twice as many ships as the forces of evil do, the real victory is in having brought everyone together, in spite of expected losses. There's a moment when we think their appeal to the Non-Aligned worlds didn't work, the Council chamber almost empty, but no one's left out of mistrust. They just need to make some calls. If there's tension even in this simple scene, it's because the episode recognizes that the heroes' goal is this, more than any space battle. But what a space battle, eh?! Huge, varied fleets (even the Shadows gain a new, hair clasp design) going at each other across multi-colored backdrops, and even the DVD encoding problems can't kill the mood. It's all much worse in scene that combine CG and people, but I still think the Minbari surround-screen is cool as hell. But as eye-popping as the action is, don't expect anyone in the Babylon 5 universe to punch the air at the end of a fight. They are more likely to grimace and quite rightly think of the price paid for even the most symbolic of victories.
Things are definitely heading for a season finale though, and Shadow Dancing's focus is more on setting things up than the kind of thematic coherence we saw in the previous few episodes. At its clunkiest, JMS feels the need to bring back Sheridan's Kosh-induced vision, no doubt because some of its prophecies are about to be realized. The characters struggle to make sense of the symbols, using hindsight and patently reaching, but it feels forced. Ivanova getting chummier with Marcus is only marginally more palatable, though her battle with Minbari beds is amusing enough. Much better is the Sheridan-Delenn subplot, specifically the way Delenn describes Minbari courting. Three nights' watchings is all it takes to see a man's true face in his sleep, and if she likes it, then she's his forever. This could be kind of creepy, but it's very sweet how Delenn just sits there with a smile of delight, though I'm pretty sure that first night they spent lying next to each other on the White Star was all it took for her to know. Obviously, this needs a complication, and at snow globe-shattering vision from War Without End comes to pass - Sheridan's wife (now played by Melissa Gilbert, so it's a good thing she introduces herself) has arrived. Oops.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Deep Space Nine's huge space battles really start with the '96-'97 season's finale, but that's still a few months off. Similarly, we won't learn of Doctor Bashir's own "running away" for a while. But the captain's dead wife returning with unknown motives? That's already happened on DS9.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Cool action and a strong (if talky) resolution to Doc Franklin's subplot, but not as satisfying as it might have been because it's really a game of setting ducks up in a row.