Babylon 5 #80: Rumors, Bargains and Lies

"Yes, we've disagreed, even fought, but I would rather have someone who opposed me out of an honest belief in the rightness of his cause than someone who is always on my side because it was expected and required."
IN THIS ONE... Sheridan uses reverse psychology to manipulate the Non-Aligned worlds into letting him patrol their space. Delenn enters into a partnership with Neroon, seeding mistrust among their respective castes.

REVIEW: I love the con game, and I love what Michael Vejar does with the camera, so no surprise I liked this episode a lot. Sheridan's solution to the Non-Aligned worlds' refusal to let their space be patrolled by the White Star Fleet or contribute ships to that fleet, is both fun and brilliant, and I don't think it makes the League look too stupid. They're comic relief, but not acting illogically. Sheridan just stimulates their paranoia about a very real threat, and let's them do the work. Now, I guess he got Londo and G'Kar's good will behind the scenes? Or did I sleep through a scene in a previous episode? Maybe I made the wrong inference about the ellipsis at the end of their scene together. Regardless, the plan is elegant, roping in various characters to tell the League nothing's happening so they'll believe the opposite is true. Their participation becomes their own idea, with them thinking they're manipulating Sheridan. Well done.

Delenn and Neroon may be playing a similar game when they team up against their angry castes. There is such sincerity in the mutual respect they show each other, I don't want to believe in Neroon's betrayal at the end. After all, if both castes make false assumptions based on partial information (just like the Non-Aligned ambassadors did), why should we? There seems to be a lesson there. The warriors over-react and knock Neroon upside the head, and only Lennier's intervention prevents the religious caste from blowing up the ship in an act of foolish zealotry, with both sides regretting every doubting their leaders. I think that gives us permission to trust Neroon in this case (or if you'd rather, Delenn's faith in him), lets we also feel foolish. I guess I'll be disappointed if Neroon really is a short-sighted warmonger. Lennier once again comes up on top, sacrificing a piece of lung not to save the zealots from themselves, but to save Delenn the shock of knowing their betrayal. His love for her and for her unique perspective is quite touching.

Direction-wise, I love how Vejar makes his camera is always lurking behind people and things. Revealing Neroon behind his men, while Delenn is front and center creates a powerful contrast; you'd think the warrior caste would be braver. The lens whirls around paranoid delegates and loses sight of Sheridan in a mob of people. It keeps the eye consistently interested and plays up the idea that we're getting partial information, that no one gets a complete picture (though some get a fuller understanding). And while our two heroes, Sheridan and Delenn, do not consider themselves gods, perhaps the director does (if not gods, then saints, or great charismatics). Why else light Delenn with a bright light on her head so she has a halo? Why else shoot Sheridan in the center of a starburst?

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: In the Pale Moonlight will have Sisko trying to manipulate other powers into an alliance with Starfleet which less success.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High
- A great combination of plot, dialog and picture-making, and that's no lie.

5 comments:

LiamKav said...

Back when Sheridan and Ivanova made their planto the League regarding protecting B5 after it broke away, I was remembering this episode to come. In that one (A Late Delivery from Avalon, I believe) they basically put togethera briefing as to how it would benefit everyone. I thought that was much more grown up that what was presented here. Now that I actually get to the episode, I do admin that it's fun. And Franklin is slightly poking the fourth-wall with his "It seems every 4 months we've got to start over" comment. My only real issue is that there's no reason for Sheridan not to tell Marcus and Ivanova what he's doing. Even that though, I think ties into Sheridan's increased agency (and it also means that Garibaldi isn't completely incorrect in his accusations).

The Minbari civil war seems to be one of the arcs most hit by the need to potentially end at season four. But we'll get more into that tomorrow.

Lennier has a habit of being in the right place at the right time. He finds out about the Religious Caste's treachery by being nearby, and then later he catches Neroon sneaking out. Either that, or he's deliberately following people.

Siskoid said...

He's a stalker alright. Also, the character who is most a ninja space elf despite JMS' dislike for the trope.

As for Sheridan's agency, it makes sense for him not to share his plan with too many people, lets the secret got out. Looks like Franklin knows what he's doing, but you'd keep motormouth Marcus out of the loop, and "everything shows up on her face" Ivanova as well.

Ryan Lohner said...

In the introduction to this episode, JMS notes that this second half of season 4 is often cited by fans as the show's best period, which he attributes to having passed the point of any hope, and instead deciding that if he was going to fail to get his five seasons, then he was going to go down with the biggest bang possible. And so he was now spending far more time isolated in his office (not the same one that was burning his brain out), which he notes is why there are far less personal stories about the cast and crew from him during this period.

Though Sheridan's behavior in this episode was a very personal touch. After three and a half years of running the show and writing what would usually be considered a quite unreasonable amount of the episodes himself, he was really starting to go loopy. The opening scene is directly based on the crew's reactions to his own random bursts of giggling as he worked through tricky story points, and that isolated setup is also reflected in Sheridan refusing to let anyone in on what he's doing.

The Drazi representative is played by Wayne Alexander, rather a step down from roles like Sebastian and Lorien, but it's nice that they still kept him around in whatever way they could.

Cradok said...

You're mixing up your Drazi, there. Alexander doesn't play one until later in the season, but he's an important one. This Drazi is played by Ron Campbell, and has been around since the start of the season instead of the usual one played by Kim Strauss. I'd guess that Strauss was mostly unavailable during season 4, although he does show up as a Narn in an episode where Campbell is the Drazi Ambassador, but not the first episode Campbell is in, so... I got nothing.

LiamKav said...

I quite like the idea as presented here behind Rebo and Zooty, as a pop cluture point where we are missing all the references. It's the same as if someone came from another planet to the US, offered to build a nuclear power plant and got confused as to why everyone started laughing everytime he pursed his fingers and described things as "excellent".

Pity about where it ends up, but there you go. At the moment, it's a perfectly cromulent idea.

 

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