Babylon 5 #105: Darkness Ascending

"Barring an act of God — and since I don't believe in God, that kind of narrows the odds a bit — by this time tomorrow, we're gonna be at war with the Centauri."
IN THIS ONE... Lennier gets proof the Centauri are the mystery raiders. Garibaldi gets a visit from Lise. Lyta makes a deal with G'Kar.

REVIEW: Okay, plausible deniability is a better argument than what we've previously heard for Delenn not telling Sheridan about Lennier's secret mission, but really, would anyone believe the husband wouldn't know what the wife was doing. The perpetually-in-bed couple (yes, again), are too close, in relationship and power, for this to be a proper excuse. Delenn somehow turning this around to say Sheridan is equally at fault for NOT sending Lennier on a secret mission would make more sense if it had ever been an option. I mean, the guy left to train with the Rangers and is still in training. It just doesn't work. And because Delenn didn't treat him as an equal partner, he went and interfered with the mission, causing Lennier to go rogue (because Delenn > Rangers... surely this isn't the prophesied betrayal?) and almost die. Lennier does get the evidence and survives, all by his lonesome (give or take a carbuncle ship's A.I.), which in a sense is unfortunate because it turns the promising character of Montoya into a glorified day player with only expedient plot points to serve up. Evidence of Centauri ships is not evidence of Centauri per se - as a Centauri minister is quick to point out to Londo - but a big ol' base being in on it is more damning. Londo goes from out of the loop to pretty obviously cut out. We know him to be guiltless, but his lack of agency as he faces these charges reminded me of Emperor Turhan (assassinated in The Coming of Shadows), a sympathetic king whose ruthless court is actually in control. There's a touching moment of kindness when Delenn gives Londo a hug, her first and likely her last, making the point that she certainly doesn't believe he's responsible, but for political reasons, she will have to give up their friendship, such as it is. Will war break out and is that why Centauri Prime was left vulnerable to Shadow agents according to War Without End?

The coming conflict is prefigured in an opening dream sequence with Garibaldi feeling trapped on a destroyed station. How Lyta fits into things - just another dream or is she really dream surfing? - is anyone's guess at the point, but I'll choose the former for now. As she shows later, she has too much integrity to invade others' minds without their permission. Call it another symbol of Garibaldi's fears and anxieties then. Something else he can't trust, and perhaps foreshadowing of the telepaths acting in a Vorlon-like capacity in the coming conflict. It's also a contrast to his own feelings of inadequacy, which have sent him back to the bottle. Lise crashes his party and gets some pretty loopy drunk logic from him. He drinks because he NEEDS to lose control after the trauma of being mind-controlled. Look, anyone who says they can do without alcohol for the weekend and proceed to dump the object of temptation into the sink is lying to you and themselves. And in fact, he can't. They go to that fancy Fresh Air restaurant and his spikes his coffee (after an extended sequence of the snobby waiter refusing to serve him a cup of coffee WITH dinner... what the hell?). Dialog-wise, Garibaldi is on full expository recap mode.

And Lyta? She's carrying on Byron's quest for a telepaths' homeworld, but much more sensibly. It's the old activism vs. lobbying argument, and the latter seems to be getting better results. Not with Earth corporations who have contracts with the PsiCorps, but the Narns don't have telepaths and much more to gain from making a deal with her group. She takes G'Kar up on the offer he made way back in the pilot, offering DNA for money and ships so they can find a proper homeworld. Pervy JMS can't help but remind us the original offer had a leering G'Kar suggest the DNA could be harvested through mating, which Katsulas seems a little uncomfortable with. Thankfully, the scene isn't entirely poisoned with talk of Lyta's pleasure thresholds, because the new G'Kar is more interested in her integrity than her lady parts.

- The plot is advanced suitably and most of the performances are strong, but there are way too many contrived scenes and expository dialog.


LiamKav said...

Oh god, that scene with the waiter... JMS says it's based on real experiences, but I can't imagine a single waiter anywhere who would INSIST on someone having alcohol. There are a million and one reasons as to why someone might not want alcohol, up to and including "I don't really fancy a drink", and unless the Fresh Air Restaurant has a "rude waiter" gimmick, the whole thing seems forced. Never mind Lise having a drink RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE GUY STRUGGLING WITH ALCOHOL! Show some god damn courtesy, Lise.

And yeah, I never got Garibaldi's reason for drinking either. I don't know if that's the point, that he's just looking for an excuse, but after everything that's happened to him over the past 4 years, including being shot in the back by his own second and being forced to betray Sheridan, the thing that pushed him over the edge is being unable to personally kill Bester? Sorry, not buying it.

LiamKav said...

Also, "Darkness Ascending"? Is that the laziest Babylon 5-title that ever Babylon 5-titled?

LiamKav said...

And JMS speaking on the Lurkers guide:

"How would a human and Narn mate, anyway?
Well, as G'Kar said in the pilot, there would have to be rather substantial genetic manipulation and adjustment to allow for the different DNA structures to mix.

After that, it would require the usual: dinner, flowers, and being willing to sit through a chick-flick...."

Aside from the oh so hilarious casual sexism, I can't really see ANY of the women who have been a main character according to the title sequence being into chick flicks.

(Sorry, didn't get much sleep last night. But this episode annoys me.)

Anonymous said...

It's been a while since I saw this episode, but I remember feeling that G'Kar recounted his original sleazy offer not because he was proud of it, but because he felt the need to take responsibility for it. I don't recall whether the dialogue went into too much detail this time, though I suspect it did and I've mentally edited it out.

If I had to write G'Kar's line, I might say: "Long ago I made an offer that was beneath your dignity, and should have been beneath mine, about introducing your telepathic potential to the Narn gene pool." That hints at what the sleazery was all about, without being too on-the-nose.

About dinner / movie / chick flick: perhaps JMS was simply trying to be funny rather than sexist. JMS generally has to tell you when he's making a joke, because you'd never figure it out on its own merits. (But it's all the actors' fault if his boffo yuks don't work, amirite?)

About Garibaldi. I generally lay off him because he's important to the plot and such, but I imagine his genesis was something like this, with JMS on the phone:

"Okay, now top security guy -- I'm thinking we make him a no-nonsense sort, maybe an Italian name like Garibaldi. You know Bruce Willis? That's what we want: Bruce Willis, but no charisma. No, I didn't say 'less' charisma, I said NO charisma! Also, he wears a hat and likes Daffy Duck because it's hilarious. You heard me, HILARIOUS!"

Madeley said...

Myself, I can buy that being unable to kill Bester is the thing that pushed him over the edge. The possibility of killing his abuser was the one thing keeping him straight after an unimaginably hideous experience. Finding out he couldn't do it would easily be the thing to knock the last leg out from under him.

LondonKdS said...

Personally, I enjoy the fact that even after his spiritual growth, G'Kar still can't stop hitting on humanoid women. It makes him more 3D.

Siskoid said...

On alcoholism: When you have this disease, you're always on the cusp of that first drink, and from that first drink, into a downward spiral of constant drinking. Garibaldi is an addict, and we don't need any more justification than that. Of course, he's the kind of guy who DOES need a justification and he gives it here. Do we buy it? We don't need to. he's lying to himself as much as he is to Lise.

On G'Kar: I like him as a ladies' man, but not as a predator. It works when the ladies flock to him, but sleazy pick-up lines from disinterested women doesn't. I think you're right, Anon, to say G'Kar is taking ownership of his past sins, but that's probably more a function of the performance than it is the script.

Ryan Lohner said...

There are two whole exchanges here taken directly from JMS' own life. The waiter who refuses to accept a guy just doesn't want a drink is one, and the other is the "building up a good mad all day" line which one of his old girlfriends said to him (for an offense he's long forgotten, but the oddness of the line itself always stayed with him). Because of stuff like this, he likes to warn fans that anything they say to him might end up in his work someday.

LiamKav said...

I'll accept the reasons for his starting drinking, but I'm still not buying that waiter. Even in universe, Garibaldi has been to that restaurant before, so I don't think it's that unlikely that the staff would be aware that he doesn't drink. But even apart from that, it still rings completely false to me. I'm still astonished that it once happened to JMS, but if the author has to tell me that it happened to him for real for me not to think the scene seems incredibly false, then something is wrong.

Plus, the title is still season 2 "The Dark Shadows of Long Darknes are rising and falling and coming" level of cliched.

Siskoid said...

Oh, no argument from me there, Liam!

Anonymous said...

"I'm still astonished that it once happened to JMS, but if the author has to tell me that it happened to him for real for me not to think the scene seems incredibly false, then something is wrong."

This. It makes me think that what happened to JMS wasn't exactly as reported, like he ordered something that came with a side of cole slaw and he didn't want the cole slaw but they brought it anyway.

LiamKav said...

I imagine that they asked him what he wanted for his dinner, and he launched into a 5 minute monologue about how when the darkness comes it will consume us all unless the light of our hope shines against all that will destroy of our humanity, because unless we build communities (which we are good at), then the coleslaw will not go with the ribs to Z'ha'dum and on and on and on and on. The waiter, not being a Babylon 5 character, didn't realise that he was just supposed to stand there and listen, perhaps interrupted JMS after 5 minutes to ask whether than meant that he did or did not want the coleslaw, and thus the story of the obnoxious waiter was born.

LiamKav said...

Remember Byron! Remember Marcus Coleslaw!

Anonymous said...

I would eat at a B5 theme restaurant. Your server is a Vorlon, and instead of asking about appetizers and drink orders, he says "And so it begins".

Just don't tell him what you want, he'll get really pissy.

LiamKav said...

"Do you recommend the fish?"
"The noise of the song drowns out the music of the singers."
"The fish is off."

"the oddness of the line itself always stayed with him"

JMS thought the line sounded weird? JMS? The guy has many strengths, and I get that everyone in B5 speaks in a certain stylised way, but that line doesn't sound weirder to me than half the stuff he has his characters say.

Anonymous said...

TRUE STORY. Today at Olive Garden, near the end of the meal, the server asked whether we wanted any more salad or a refill of my Coke Zero. I told her we could use more breadsticks, and she said, "okay, breadsticks and a Coke Zero".

I bet that's what happened to JMS.

OTL said...

It occurs to me that, given Lennier's statement in "The Quality of Mercy" about Minbari and alcohol (namely, that it causes them to go into a psychotic homicidal rage), it should probably be a standing principle for any restaurant or bar on Babylon 5 to say "if the customer doesn't want alcohol, don't force it on them!". (Yeah, I know: Snooty Waiter could tell Garibaldi was human, but, really, if he doesn't have the sense to know some humans don't drink alcohol, I can imagine him pulling the same attitude with other races...)

LiamKav said...

I think the thing that throws me about Garibaldi's drinking is that for the previous 4 and a half years he seemed to be perfectly in control. He had no moments of weakness, even when (as I mentioned) he got shot in the back by his trusted second. At the start of the season he seemed fine, he was getting along with Sheridan, he'd been given a new job. Even his first encounter with Bester in season 5 was played partially for laughs. I dunno. Maybe if there'd been a few more instances of him staring at a drinks bottle before this, rather than going for "Dramatic Drink Pouring" of so many made for TV movies.

LiamKav said...

- How did Lise not notice that Garibaldi had been drinking the moment she walked in? His room must stink of booze. Never mind that she then kisses him straight after he wakes up, which is an unpleasant thing to do in any circumstance. For that matter, have none of his friends stopped by his room? (Again, the Franklin arc made more sense. He's someone who shows stress anyway, Garibaldi DID notice that something was wrong, but an ancient war with beings from beyond time and splitting away from their home planet got in the way. Here... is Garibaldi THAT good at covering his tracks? Because considering his drunk pizza ordering last episode, it doesn't seem like he should be.)

- Sheridan fins out that Delenn has been talking to Lennier. Hey, Delenn, maybe don't have your super secret conversations in your husband's office. The office that has no door.

- I still can't believe it's taken Lyta this long to respond to "humans won't deal with unregistered telepaths" to think "hey, maybe I should try working with some non-humans".


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