Babylon 5 #70: The Summoning

"Do you know that we assigned him one of our best pain technicians? - Pain technicians? They used to be called torturers. But ever since they got organized, it's 'pain technicians'."
IN THIS ONE... Ivanova and Marcus find a hidden Vorlon fleet. G'Kar is tortured. Garibaldi is retrieved. And Sheridan returns to life and the station.

REVIEW: The series is growing ever more serialized, and as a consequence, we may be getting more of these episodes where every single member of the cast is featured (a rarity to date). And not all of them are on the eponymous station. G'Kar, Londo and Vir, on Centauri Prime, are at once in the most dramatic story line, and yet the blackest comedy. As promised, G'Kar's torture and humiliation are brutal, and his having to sacrifice his honor and pride to the cause (yet waiting to the fatal last second) is heart-wrenching, but there's also something darkly comical in Emperor Cartagia's sadism, getting his own hands bloody when G'Kar refuses to scream, and feeding Narn blood to his potted plants. G'Kar as an S&M court jester is also an image that's at once amusing and disturbing. Cartagia's behavior needs to be extreme so Vir will go along with the assassination plans, but again this is played as a comic about-face. If we weren't allowed to smirk at the scenes, the whole thread would probably be intolerable to audiences not yet numbed by Game of Thrones.

Between Centauri and Babylon 5 is space, and several characters have taken to the void to find others. Zack follows a lead to Garibaldi, who appears to have been programmed by PsiCorps to do God knows what. We know they have this ability - Talia's personality implant and the "dead" cyborg assassin from Mars are two examples - so this is just the most recent case of JMS using tech introduced in earlier stories to ramp things up. Garibaldi is quick to distrust Sheridan's new ally - and I must say, I'm not sure we should trust Lorienn either - but he's the sleeper agent in their midst and doesn't know it. Meanwhile, Ivanova and Marcus are off an a White Star to find more First Ones - not sure why this is such a great idea seeing as the last batch hasn't answered any calls - but they run afoul of a gigantic Vorlon fleet instead (more on this in a second). Their relationship has certainly thawed since the last time they were thrown together, and Marcus' revelation that he is saving himself for the perfect woman (Ivanova, though she doesn't know it yet) is interesting, though not that surprising when you consider he is essentially a monk figure. An oath of celibacy would certainly be in keeping with that idea and his Minbari training.

On the station, the League of Non-Aligned worlds has more or less disbanded and won't rally behind Delenn's plans to attack Z'ha'dum, having lost hope now that Sheridan is dead. Their conjecture that it's a suicide run motivated by her grief isn't entirely off-base, to be fair. In the kind of coincidence that only happens on TV, Sheridan shows up right as it's turning into a riot and kills the mood (that mood being despair). Props to the production for waiting 35 minutes to reveal the captain had survived the previous episode's harrowing events, though it was just a matter of when, really. The troops are reenergized and the lovers reunited, sweet. But the epilogue raises more complications. That Vorlon fleet, with more than a thousand ships, some several kilometers long, has been cutting the Shadows out like an infection, and have destroyed at least one whole planet to date, its 4 million non-Shadow inhabitants just unfortunate casualties of war (Centauri Prime, take note!). The one Vorlon we could ask, not-Kosher, has been acting like a real villain, with his telepathic slave, Lyta, trapped in an abusive relationship with the entity. Looks like she's ready to jump ship too. Because now the war with the Shadows has turned into a war with both Shadows and Vorlons, as their conflict has escalated, and our poor lesser races will be treated like anthills on a battlefield if we don't put up some resistance. Whether we believe in Order or Chaos, the First Ones' absolutism is the real danger and the root of the evil they're visiting on the galaxy.

You know, I never mentioned the fact both B5 and DS9 have a LEE-TAH (Lyta and Leeta, respectively). There. Now I have. DS9's has an abusive employer too, but she dealt with it. You think the Vorlons would let Lyta unionize?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The stakes are getting even higher, but there's still a whole lot of waiting around in this episode, for Sheridan to arrive, for First Ones to manifest, for people to be found. While the down time allows for character development, and the big moments are big enough, the structure doesn't always keep the energy up, with the exception of the Londo-G'Kar material, which in naturally excellent.


Anonymous said...

G'Kar's recent story started with him voluntarily wearing a stupid hat (Garibaldi's), and now he is forced to wear a different stupid hat. The lesson: don't wear hats.

Ryan Lohner said...

The most hotly debated part of Sheridan's dream from All Alone in the Night was Garibaldi's line "The man in between is looking for you." After the season 3 finale, the most popular theory is that this referred to Justin, given how he describes himself as a "middleman." But in fact, JMS meant it to mean Sheridan's future self, the man who could do something like what we see here (and note that he's on the same upper walkway he saw himself on at the time). After all, he just got back from being between tick and tock. Though in one of his more endearing moments (and why I'm more inclined to side with him than certain other writers I might name), he does acknowledge that the Justin theory makes just as much sense and he's fine with anyone who continues to hold it as their personal canon.

Andreas Katsulas really despised the jester hat, and begged JMS to not have to wear it. Which of course is exactly what he was counting on, and that hatred for it absolutely comes through in the scene.

Patricia Tallman immediately picked up on the sexual implications of her line "You didn't have to pull out of me so fast, it hurt me." Implications that were completely unintentional, and JMS reportedly turned beet red once he realized what she was talking about. Another case where you don't have to notice something, but it's there if you want.

LondonKdS said...

That's a really interesting revelation from JMS. I always wondered if it was actually Lorien - in between the Vorlons and Shadows, looking for someone who could possibly help rebel against them.

LiamKav said...

So, er, is Delenn running the station at the beginnin of the episode? She's standing around in C&C, giving orders to Zack... was Corwin in the loo?

Also, as well as being the most Firstest of all the First Ones, Lorienn has a side business as a barber. Obviously realising that if Sheridan needs to deliver a rousing speech then he can't do it with a mullet, he's trimmed his hair. (Apparently John doesn't think much of his haircut, as he goes and gets a more servere one by next episode.)

LiamKav said...

Oh, and at the time I thought it was sweet, but looking at it now, Marcus's approach to Ivanova screams "nice guy". He's a virgin who's "saving himself" for a special woman without actually telling the woman that it's her he's interested in... he follows a romantic ideal of love without wanting to get dirty with the messy realities.

LiamKav said...

I always thought it was Justin, just because Shadow Dancing made a point of having everyone stand around saying "Who IS the man in between?" and then next episode we get Justin referring to himself as a "Middleman". If JMS meant for it to refer to Sheridan himself (and that would explain why it's another, harder looking Sheridan in his vision), why is season 4 Sheridan looking for season 2 Sheridan?

Oh, and I know that everyone is really distracted, but the Lurker's Guide makes an excellent point... Geribaldi had been missing for two weeks and thenwas found on a ship that blew itself up, and Sheridan was apparently dead but has now returned with an unknown alien who's following him everywhere. They really should have gotten Lyta to give them both the once-over.

Siskoid said...

Once the station left Earthforce, the chain of command probably incorporated Ranger 1.

I can't justify the lack of security concerning the two missing guys' status though.

LiamKav said...

I can see Delenn being vaguely involved in some command decisions, but I have no idea how it'd work on a practical basis. What exactly is she doing in C&C? Checking docking schedules? Running through maintenance drills?


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