Babylon 5 #104: Meditations of the Abyss

"If I take a lamp and shine it toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search for truth, for understanding. Too often we assume that the light on the wall is God. But the light is not the goal of the search; it is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the sense of revelation upon seeing it! Similarly, someone who does not search, who does not bring a lantern with him, sees nothing. What we perceive as God, is the byproduct of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light, pure and unblemished, not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes we stand in front of the light and assume that we are the center of the universe. God looks astonishingly like we do! Or we turn to look at our shadow, and assume that all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose; which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty... and in all its flaws. And in so doing better understand the world around us."
IN THIS ONE... Lennier's training takes him into space. G'Kar gets a new eye. The Drazi bug Londo's quarters. Vir gets promoted to Ambassador.

REVIEW: It's a character-building episode that tunes in to various lives, and is directed by Michael Vejar, so I'm pretty happy with this one. The Lennier thread takes up the bulk of it and provides the action beats, so let's start there. When it begins isn't my cup of tea - Delenn being sexually harassed in some brown sector dive, her thin reasons for keeping her meeting with her former aide a secret from Sheridan, and AGAIN seeing the First Couple in bed together, which JMS is completely obsessed with - but Lennier as way-too-competent Ranger trainee is pretty cool. We finally get to see what it's like inside a Minbari fighter, and he aces all the tests thrown at him, both those planned and those provided by a recruit who got into the Rangers for the wrong reasons. The organization really is a kind of sophocracy, where wisdom rules, and the solutions brought to bear by both Lennier and Captain Montoya are great examples. Obviously, I could do without whiny recruit Findell, but his attitude helps highlight what is actually pretty great about the Rangers.

There's wisdom elsewhere as well, what with Franklin crashing one of G'Kar's talks. The light metaphor reproduced above is a very nice parable, though I wonder about the less successful river metaphor that tags the scene. The acolytes are puzzled by the former, but accept the latter without explanation. Is it a cultural touch stone? Or is JMS saying once again showing "followers" of a religion as literal-minded nitwits craving platitudes? If so, G'Kar lets them get away with it this time. Just feels like there should have been more dialog there, perhaps between the Narn prophet and Franklin. Not that I mind ambiguity now and then, mind you. Very nice make-up work on the eye replacement by the way, and video effects as well - there really is a camera inside that eye. Vejar likes to add a lot of cool factor to scenes like this (note also the lighting in the Minbari fighters, and something as simple as our POV coming out of hyperspace; "MARIA" painted on the side of the White Star looks like a CG guy getting over-zealous though).

As for the Centauri stuff, it's meant to fill the episode's comedy needs and move the political story along. The Drazi make paltry spies, and Londo has some fun torturing them. Vir gets his due - he will always be one step behind Londo in position, it seems - but only "deserves" it once he gets the respect he craves. It's a bit over-played - look at that comedy snarl - but it's Vir unleashing his wrath on a fruit stand with a sword, what's not to like? Putting an end to a long string of indignities has certainly been a long time coming. Speaking of indignities, we also catch up with Garibaldi at the very end. He wasn't in the episode much because he's super-drunk. At least he's a happy drunk these days. I'm sure misery will soon follow.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High
- Some great zen wisdom in here, and direction to match. Not perfect, perhaps, but makes good use of a large segment of the cast, and adds to our overall understanding of the B5 universe.

2 comments:

Ryan Lohner said...

Lennier's story is all about hiding the tragedy of the character inside a basic action story. Findell is actually a mirror of Lennier himself, having joined the Rangers for utterly the wrong reasons. Lennier is able to get him to see this and he heads off a happier person, but unfortunately he refuses to see that he is in the same position himself.

JMS wanted to do more with Montoya, partly because of the dearth of Hispanic characters on American TV then and now (though Jane the Virgin is now making up for it quite satisfyingly), but of course with so little of the show left there was less than no room to throw a completely new character at us more than once. Maybe he could have shown up on Crusade if it had lasted.

LiamKav said...

This show really loves to have someone slowly remove a hood. It happens 4 times in the first 5 minutes. (Granted, two of those are in the opening credits, but still.)

- More mention of Lennier betraying the Rangers. I sure hope that turns out to be a big deal and not a damp squib.

- The Maria's name "isn't official, and you won't find it on any documents", but they've been allowed to write it in large letters on the side of the ship? And why can't they name the White Stars, anyway? I'm pretty sure other Minbari ships get individual names.

- I took the scene with G'Kar's metaphors to be a comment on how people always want the easy answer. They want the secret to longer living, the 5 stocks that will make them rich, the one true answer to all of religion. But these things are complicated, with complex answers. And when those complex answers are provided, people ignore them in favour of the soundbites.

- Doesn't everyone join the Rangers for the wrong reasons? Findell, Lennier, Marcus...

- Sausage, pepperoni and sun-dried tomatoes make up a "suicide pizza"? What sort of wussy pizza standards exist in 2262?

 

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