Babylon 5 #102: The Ragged Edge

"I have always said this about you: nothing so improves your company like the lack of it. Perhaps you can make some money from this: Ten credits for you not to be there for an hour, a hundred credits for you not to be there for the day. And for you not to be there for the rest of your life, well, they could never afford it."
IN THIS ONE... Garibaldi fails to secure a witness to the mystery raids. G'Kar's book becomes a bestseller.

REVIEW: They didn't wait long to show Garibaldi screwing up from drinking. A string of bad decisions makes him lose the one lead the Alliance had to the identity of the mystery raiders plaguing the shipping lanes (and at this point, the Alliance's political survival hinges on their proper defense). He doesn't bring best bud Franklin around for fear of his drinking habit being discovered (the sponsor is about to get sponsored). He sleeps while his old friend and contact is killed. And the witness he's trying to contact is killed before he talk. The universe throws Garibaldi a bone in the shape of a Centauri uniform button, ripped off a mystery cultist, which momentarily throws suspicion Londo's way, but G'Kar defends his friend and would rather keep him out of the loop lest the Centauri P.M. get assassinated for his outrage and prying. Sound choice. Or it may lead to tragedy, we'll see.

The Garibaldi sequence provides plenty of action, but also our first look at the Drazi homeworld, which is basically the universe's Maghreb, a Mediterranean feel and cramped streets. Not necessarily what I would have chosen for them, but there you go. The talk of traditions that aren't necessarily helpful today is embedded here - the thing about buttons being on different sides for men and women blew my mind, by the way - and takes on more meaning as we go. The palace button Garibaldi finds is part of this (that's some pretty bad covert work, right there), but the G'Kar subplot is too.

While he was away, Ta'Lon started distributing "the Book of G'Kar" and it's become an overnight sensation, to the point where G'Kar has become a religious icon. But are they enamored of the man, or the message? G'Kar refused the political leadership of his people, in part because they were talking revenge as soon as they were free from Centauri, but as a writer, he's had a more positive impact. Now thousands are flocking to his call for peace and tolerance. Ta'Lon has to convince him to heed the call. According to his own philosophy, he should be bringing HIS particular talent to the cause, and that's as a teacher, just as Ta'Lon's is to be a warrior. Despite Londo's claims that the best way to appreciate G'Kar is when he's not there, he soon gets a number of followers. But not everyone has the benefit of having been "touched" by a Vorlon, and we're quickly shown a follower with a literal understanding of the Book, whom G'Kar just as quickly puts in his place. To be successful, G'Kar will have to create a new tradition without it losing all its relevance, as so many do. I think I'm going to like this thread, especially if it's written with this much acerbic wit.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Seeing cloaked cultists attack Garibaldi sent my mind right back to the pah-wraith monks on Deep Space 9. G'Kar as a religious figure recalls the Sisko, of course.

- Well-written, with barbs pointed at politics and religion alike, while also doing a good job of making Garibaldi screw up.


LiamKav said...

I was not a fan of the Garibaldi-drinking subplot. Compared to Franklin's similar addiction storyline, I thought it had too many contrivances. Garibaldi's relies on him being the only person in the entire universe doing his job. They never made out that Franklin was the only doctor in Medlab, it was just the stims/his personality that made him try and do too much. That doesn't apply to Garibaldi. The part where his friend was killed because Michael was drunk-sleeping? He could have just been regular-sleeping.

Franklin's addiction basically allowed him to do his job, but forced him to take on too much until he made a mistake. Garibaldi's STOPS him doing his job, and as the Interstellar Alliance seems to run it's entire security division around one person, the whole thing just seems ludicrous.

Remember Bastion! (It's a great game and pretty cheap on XBox Live.)

Madeley said...


Ryan Lohner said...

The episode's title doesn't actually refer to any of the plot elements, but JMS' state of mind while writing it, having gotten only a single break from writing the show in three years, and now also trying to get a whole spinoff off the ground (which would turn out to not really be worth it anyway).

His family has a long history of alcoholism, and so he was quite pleased when Jerry Doyle saw this storyline begin and asked him if they could truly go all the way with it, and show the condition just as bad as it really is, something you can't just get over after a week or two. Of course, that was the idea anyway.

Another bit of reality subtext is that G'Kar's discomfort with his newfound worship is based on JMS' own to seeing fans at conventions bow to him and call him the Great Maker. He'd often have to go online afterward and find someone insulting him to even it out (luckily, the Trek boards were always a reliable source of it).

Here's a tortured reference for you: People don't remember Brian for how he lived, but how he died. How he did die.

LiamKav said...

On a cross, while Eric Idle hung next to him singing "Always look on the bright side of life"?

I don't have any problems with how alcoholism is portrayed in the show (at least, I don't recall. I can't quite keep up my enthusiasm for season 5 so I'm a few episodes behind. I'll see when I get there.) It's more the plot mechanics. As I said, Franklin's worked for the overal plot, wheras Garibaldi's don't. But season 5 does seem to suffer from tiny cast syndrome anyway.

Ryan Lohner said...

Actually, it's a reference to Brian's Song.

LiamKav said...

I've seen it now. I rememeber a complaint at the time that Garibaldi shouldn't have fallen asleep, since alcoholics are usually really good at handling their booze. As he'd just started drinking again though, it's fine. Even him going by himself was fine, but why did Sheridan want to send Franklin, other than to force Garibaldi to refuse? The only reason Franklin went on the covert missions to Mars in season 4 was because they wanted someone on the command staff to represent them, and they were at war with Earth and had limited resources. Now, they're running the galaxy, and the best person Sheridan could think was a doctor who has plenty of other work to be going on with. (This is actually a situation where Marcus would have been useful, if he weren't bedeaded.) As I've said before, season 5 suffers from having a smaller cast despite them being in charge of exponentially more.


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