Babylon 5 #109: The Fall of Centauri Prime

"When we first met, I had no power and all the choices I could wish to make. Now I have all the power I could ever want, and no choices at all. No choices at all."
IN THIS ONE... Centauri Prime is devastated and Londo falls under the spell of the Drakh.

REVIEW: While a lot of this was inevitable - we knew Centauri Prime had to fall (and not just because of the title), Londo become an Emperor with a Keeper on his back, and so on - how Londo reacts and how Peter Jurasik plays it makes up for a lot of the predictability. His narrative having been written by the new-and-meh-I-guess-kind-of-improved Drakh (no, I don't like them better), he's painted as the hero who wrested control of the Empire from a mad dictator, but he BECOMES a hero when he chooses to allow the Drakh to put a Keeper on him (eww, the Drakh grow them in their own bodies? and by eww, I mean cooool) rather than let them nuke Centauri population centers. From there, Londo essentially isolates himself from everyone he loves or respects - much as the Regent had under similar circumstances - sends them away (to safety), forgoes public appearances, and though it's under Drakh orders, pulls out of the Alliance he co-founded, feigning outrage. At the end end, we have a Londo who is so far removed from himself - the fun-loving social animal - that it wouldn't have been any more tragic if he'd died. And in a sense, he has. How else should we interpret the ghostly giant hologram of him addressing his people? Very few episodes left, but his story's essentially done. I can't imagine needing to see him again.

One thing I will miss, however, is his relationship with G'Kar. Here they have a heartfelt moment where G'Kar says he could never forgive the Centauri for what they did to the Narn, nor the Narns forgive the Centauri, but that he could forgive Londo. And that's all Londo ever really wanted from G'Kar, isn't it? In an episode that expressly references how war breeds war - the destruction of Za'ha'dum and exile of the Shadow agents, weapons caches of fallen regimes falling into the wrong hands, etc. - G'Kar becomes someone who finds a way to interrupt the cycle of violence. And that's key to the peaceful universe we know exists a million years hence.

And I'd want to end the review there, because that's really everything I care to remember about the episode. I certainly don't want to think any more than I have to about the Lennier-Delenn scene where, just before they think they're going to die, he admits his love for her only to live on in awkwardness. Delenn gives him a few outs so he can save his honor and dignity, in the Minbari way, but we've been down this path before with Marcus and Ivanova, and the whole "what happens in hyperspace stays in hyperspace" conversation goes on way too long. When everything's been said and the scene keeps going, well...

- "Resolving" the Delenn-Lennier relationship is an unwanted element in an episode that's all about arcing Londo, and doing so in a beautifully tragic way.


Anonymous said...

Londo's sacrifice was god damn heroic, who woulda thunk it? As the saying goes, dying is easy (Marcus Cole), comedy is hard (JMS), but wearing a Keeper is the worst of all.

Lennier and Delenn ... sadly, this is a case where the only way to write the scene well would be to have the wisdom and cultural smarts of the Minbari, or at least a really really insightful human.

Ryan Lohner said...

The episode is directed by Douglas Wise, son of the legendary Robert Wise. He'd been an assistant director for the show's whole run, and often in the industry that's a hard position to move on from, as there are few enough people who are really good at it that the temptation is to keep them right where they are. But as is clear by now, JMS is all about letting people reach their full potential, and like Mira's husband two episodes ago he was finally able to convince the execs to give Doug a shot.

Here is to me what really makes seeing this story worthwhile, no matter how predictable it is: Londo spends most of season 5 the happiest he's ever been in the entire show. He's a hero, he's a success, and he even gets to watch his protege Vir start to come into his own. Ending his story where it was in season 4 may have still been dramatically satisfying, but emotionally the tragedy comes in seeing him fall from that new height, his own greatest moment of triumph turned against him as the Drakh plant their own bombs.

JMS also really doesn't like the Drakh, calling them "the Skeletor species" and admitting he choked a bit among the numerous issues that plagued the writing of this season. The line describing them as "a shadow of a Shadow" is quite a bit more true than intended. But Peter David was still able to do some great work with them in his Centauri Prime trilogy.

Cradok said...

Despite how generally dreary season 5 is, I've always thought that overall, it's worth watching for the Centauri plot, and Londo and G'Kar in particular. Jurasik's performance in the scene where he receives the Keeper is possibly his best in the series.

I did grin a bit at you talking about how Thirdspace never gets mentioned again, when I knew the only other mention of it was coming up next.

LiamKav said...

Ryan's point above is why I Londo is my favourite character, and also what makes season 5 worthwhile. Knowing that this episode was to come, it actually made the past year much harder. As Ryan says, since freeing his planet from the Shadows he's become much happier, and you've seen moments where it looks like he believes he's actually escaped his fate. He's made amends for all that he has done, and he will get to have a good life. The fact that he's wrong hurts so, so much, and the only consolation for the character is that although he doesn't get to save Centauri Prime from the Drakh, he does, though his actions, allow Vir, Sheridan and the rest to do so in twenty years time.

LiamKav said...

- You're right, the Drakh aren't really much better. The only real attempt at improvement they make is to get Wayne Alexander to play one, and as good as he is, he can't make up for the absence of any sort of character.

- Oh god, the bit where G'Kar forgives Londo makes me tear up. Just beautiful.

- So, Sheridan, G'Kar and Vir all see Londo acting apparently out of character. They have literally JUST DISCOVERED Shadow technology that allowed a small device to control a Centauri ship. They know that the Shadows have allies. Is it really such a jump for them to go "hang on, maybe this 'The Regent did it' was a cover story? Maybe it's these Shadow Allies?"

- Also, Sheridan's "you WILL pay reparations, even though it will ruin your planet" makes him come across as an arse. Granted, the Centauri did (apparently) kill lots of civilians, but the Narn and Drazi are also guilty of war crimes (something that they seem to get away with).


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