"Only those whose lives are brief can imagine that love is eternal."
REVIEW: They made us wait a long time for the big battle, but it was worth it. So much eye candy! But of course, this is Babylon 5, a series that's essentially about people TALKING, and so the climax becomes a philosophical debate between the three parties. As it should. The battle is suspended as all sentients present experience Sheridan's conversation with the Vorlons and Delenn's simultaneous conversation with the Shadows, both in a JMS' favorite set, the dark room mindscape. The alliance is asked to choose between Order (frozen in ice and unchanging) and Chaos (ever-shifting conflict and evolution), but omit a third possibility which the alliance insists on. What if they don't choose? What if the pieces on the board refuse to play the game any longer? What is exposed is the reason why the Vorlons and Shadows never attacked each other directly in the past. It was never about destroying one another, but about proving they were right about the nature of the universe. They would always have needed someone at which to gloat. By refusing to participate in this costly argument, the alliance makes the point moot, and effectively stop these forces for history. "It was the end of history."
The First Ones make their exit from our galaxy - or at least, the Vorlons and Shadows do, touchingly asking Lorien to go with them - in an echo of the Elves leaving Middle Earth "into the West", leaving younger races to forge a new civilization. This is grand myth. The older races are never able to answer their own questions in the end - Who are you? and What do you want? - but in leaving they can try to create a new answer for themselves. They may have forgotten their previous answers, but their new situation forces them to ask them anew. These shepherds are no longer needed because the flock has found itself, people who can now answer those questions for themselves. Under the Vorlons and Shadows, there were expected answers; now, anything is possible. Is there less magic in this world without them? Like Delenn, I don't think so. The universe used to be a coin offering a bipolat choice; now it's a die with an untold number of sides.
The First Ones' departure puts Londo's victory on Centauri Prime in a different light, doesn't it? If they were all going to leave momentarily, he needn't have nuked the Shadows or killed Mr. Morden. The great moment when a Vorlon planet killer eclipses the sun, preparing to destroying the world because of Londo's own tainted nature, but then leaves at first seems like it's thanks to Londo's sudden and rare impulse of self-sacrifice. But in the context of the entire episode, we may better understanding it as the Vorlons abandoning their mission. And if Londo didn't have to destroy the Shadows, then Mr. Morden is surely the "man who is already dead" from his prophecy. Remember, he has three chances to save his soul and has squandered the first two: Save the eye that cannot see (too late, that was G'Kar's), and not kill the one who is already dead (Morden). Obviously, these are satisfying moments, with Morden's invisible Shadows getting shot up and a whole island going up in mushroom clouds. Londo comes off as a great patriot, even ready to die for his people, though we might think back to G'Kar and how his selflessness went a step further, refusing to elevate himself to the role of ruler. Londo cannot even see this possibility. Morden's death might have been required to stave off the Vorlons, but Londo really does it for selfish reasons, to get revenge for the death of his love (I still think he was rather blind not to see it before, but do appreciate being used as a puppet is Londo's greatest nightmare and the acting is all about that). The only scene that rings false in the whole show is Vir fulfilling his promise to Morden that he would wave gleefully at his head on a pike. It happens here, which would seem to indicate Vir's told Londo about this dream of his, but if you're going to include a hard flashback to the promise, you need to contrast it with gut-punching reality. As it is, we see Vir promise to do something, and then he does it. More interesting perhaps would have been to see him revolted at the reality of Morden's death and what his own dark thoughts have wrought.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Action fans will get gorgeous space battles and excitement. Writing fans will get great myth and irony. Can't believe this comes so early in the season because it's got Series Finale written all over it.