Babylon 5 #69: Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?

"If you're falling off a mountain, you might as well try to fly."
IN THIS ONE... G'Kar is looking for Garibaldi, but is grabbed and taken to Centauri Prime. Sheridan is trapped between life and death where he talks to the first First One.

REVIEW: Fall or fly? Sheridan's words in his log (and logs and journals seem particularly important to this season of B5, just as "history is ending") prefigure his fall at Z'ha'dum, but also inform everyone's situation. Essentially, when you're desperate, you have nothing to lose by taking a risk. Will you die a slow inevitable death, or risk it all to win it all or lose it all in one go? Sheridan is going through this dilemma literally, or if you will, metaphysically. The others are doing so figuratively. Delenn, inspired by his words, calls the Rangers together for one big (suicide?) attack on Z'ha'dum (in 7 days, so you know it happens in the next episode). Garibaldi - who appears for a single scene almost a half hour in despite being named in the title - won't give in to his PsiCorps captors, but are they loyal to Bester/Earth or Santiago/the Shadows? G'Kar leaves the sanctuary offered by the station to look for Garibaldi and is taken to Centauri Prime, where he and Londo ally, neither holding the long end of a stick, both desperate in their own way and both playing for the biggest of stakes, freedom from tyranny for each of their peoples. In each case, the test will be whether they're able to risk all for the ultimate reward; none appear ready to live with the evil they know.

Sheridan is only the exception because we're taken on his philosophical journey from one point of view to the next. We're in zen territory, like something out of a more mainstream Jodorowsky film, and what we're seeing is essentially a dream, and the reality is Sheridan's dream of struggling in the grasp of an energy entity's tendrils. For all intents and purposes, the entity is God, or in this mythology, the very First One, older than all the rest, who considers the Vorlons and Shadows his children (and he asks both their questions). In fact, Z'ha'dum is his home (so is he Satan instead?) and the Shadows go there to worship him. To Sheridan, he is an immortal philosopher who encourages him to give in to death and trust that he will be saved. Schrodinger's Sheridan could live or die, it's not yet decided, but so long as he clings to life, and does so for what God (ok, let's call him the rather Middle-Earthian name Lorien) thinks are the wrong reasons, that outcome will remain unknown. Does he dare follow his own advice and attempt flight? Lorien promises (well, not "promises", but he does give hope) that Sheridan can be resurrected, Phoenix-like, from his ashes. But he must fall/fly towards something in front of him, not pointlessly hold on to the mountain face, which represents the past, or in this case, the idea that he is needed to sacrifice himself for the army of light's ideals. The Shadows are wrong, we know that, but are the Vorlons when they preach self-sacrifice? What saves Sheridan in the end isn't sacrifice so much as his love for Delenn. There lies his future. It's also about the shedding of fear, to face that future, and from Sheridan's old message, we know he sees his love for Delenn as another unknown, another leap of faith that may yield disaster as well as success. Judeo-Christian myth is all over this thing, with writerly concerns thrown in as JMS makes Lorien expound on word, thought and creation, while also asserting again (but it rings false from him) that some people/characters have some kind of free will that gives them the ability to change the world beyond the writer (or Writer)'s ability to control them.

G'Kar's personal quest for Garibaldi, whom he views as one of his few friends, actually makes more friends still come out of the shadows. Marcus wants to follow him (and gets a badass interrogation scenes), but is sent away, so as always happens in B5, the one who refuses help and isolates himself from others is bound for failure. The fire fight makes you think G'Kar really can take care of himself, but alas, it's a trick and he's taken to Centauri in chains. There he finds an unexpected friend in Londo, who has never been a sadist and no doubt sees before him an abbreviated life filled with the poetry of sycophancy. For G'Kar, he sees violent torture and humiliation. Since they are both dead (falling), they might as well try to fly, together. The price G'Kar asks is unsurprising, his people's freedom, but then, he has past the point of selfish needs if he ever really had them. This is the man whose first words to his imperial captor were about Mr. Garibaldi. G'Kar thinks of others, always. In the darkness, these characters have hope, and so does the audience.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Deeply interesting, literally and figuratively, as the characters are pushed to the edge to see if they'll jump.

10 comments:

Ryan Lohner said...

Lorien is quite interestingly played by Wayne Alexander, using pretty much the same voice he had as Sebastian the Inquisitor. And it's perhaps the best alien design the show ever came up with; I especially love his fingers and have no idea how they were made to look so real.

Interesting that you picked up on the Psi-Corps badge, as it was designed to be a treat for particularly sharp-eyed fans. It's right there onscreen, yet the camerawork brings no attention to it, so people not scanning every bit of the screen tend to not notice it.

Cartagia is of course based on Caligula, but more specifically John Hurt's portrayal of him in the classic miniseries I, Claudis. In fact, for a few years I falsely remembered a certain line of his with Hurt's voice, which I'll note when it comes up. This is also the point where JMS had finally had it with the Centauri hair that Peter Jurasik's little joke had saddled him with, so he came up with a reason for them all to just have short hair for this storyline.

Andreas Katsulas particularly loved this storyline, as he hardly ever got to play a hero in his career thanks to his quite threatening looks while he was out of makeup (outside this show, he's likely best known as the one-armed man from the film version of The Fugitive, and I have an odd affection for his final role as the corrupt mayor of Los Angeles in the 24 video game). He and Peter Jurasik had flipped a coin at the start of production to see who would play the hero and villain, and fans are STILL debating who actually won.

Cradok said...

It's easy to miss it in amongst everything else, but this episode is where we get to hear a third question, after the Shadows' 'What do you want?' and the Vorlons' 'Who are you?' Lorien asks Sheridan 'Why are you here?', and his probing deeper 'Do you have anything worth living for?' Asking not what you believe yourself to be, or what you desire, but asking you to look beyond the basic, and onto what your purpose is, and what you mean to others.

Ryan Lohner said...

And it's also one of the times where you really miss Sinclair, as it would have tied into the question Garibaldi asked him back in Infection.

LiamKav said...

To avoid me the pain of going back to rewatch Infection, what was the question?

Cradok said...

Not so much a question, more a statement. He points out that Sinclair seems to be looking to die a hero, in a blaze of glory, because it's easier than finding something to live for.

I do agree, though, Sheridan was never plagued by the self-doubt and lack of direction that Sinclair lived with. He was always the confident cowboy.

Siskoid said...

Liam: Is it worth it?

Cradok: The whole ambivalent, in-between thing would all have worked better with Sinclair, but needs must.

LondonKdS said...

There's an additional parallel to "Comes the Inquisitor" that makes it even more explicit - Sebastian and the Vorlons challenged Sheridan to die for Delenn, Lorien to live for her.

Siskoid said...

Nice point!

LiamKav said...

There's a musical echo that works nicely... the music playing as Sheridan says that everything is getting darker is same music from the end of And The Rock Cried Out when Sheridan first sees the White Star fleet, experiences hope, and also kisses Delenn for the first time. So subconciously you're mind is already going to the word "Delenn" even before John says it.

Have you got the CDs by the way, Siskoid? I own Volume 2: Message from Earth, and it's very nice. Contains the first 4 titles sequences without narration (with season ones being extended), and it also contains "suites" of music from the show, rather than specific episode clips.

Siskoid said...

I don't have any B5 product other than the DVDs, no.

 

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