Babylon 5 #86: Between the Darkness and the Light

"Who am I? I am Susan Ivanova, Commander, daughter of Andrei and Sofie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance, and the boot that is gonna kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart. I am death incarnate and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
IN THIS ONE... Garibaldi springs Sheridan out of jail. Ivanova's last stand against Shadow-modified Earth vessels.

REVIEW: The incredible second half of this episode made me forget all about the first half's many weaknesses, so I may struggle... As expected, Garibaldi is his old self enough to want to make things right by rescuing Sheridan. Of course, he's now Sheridan's infamous betrayer so it takes a telepath's seal of approval, impossible to get unless one has Vorlon-enhanced powers, which Lyta most definitely has. Thankfully, she's on Mars, and Doc Franklin, though ready to let Number One execute his old friend wants to be sure they're not making a mistake. From there, a rescue attempt which will hinge on security being rather more lax than we'd expect at the interrogation center, but some fun use of Lyta unleashing her powers on the guards (PAINNNNN!) and getting the codes from them. Lyta is otherwise problematic, however. I laughed out loud when she grabbed a machine gun and starting shooting in the air - it seemed completely ridiculous - but scratched my head at the "comedy" scene where she wants to sue whoever ever said she was a good liar. It dawned on me then that I really didn't know who Lyta was. A tool of the Vorlons, someone who keeps getting disrespected for no visible reason, and a character that might as well be JMS' own private deus ex machina, with powers useful for moving the plot along, or ignored when they would make things too easy. But I don't think the writer or the actress really know what makes her tick, and so these scenes come off as random, getting the wrong impression from the audience. Garibaldi gains redemption not because he acts to undo the damage he did, but because he manages to be cool doing it. He would hate to "go out" as a traitor, and talks circles around the nitwits guarding Sheridan's prison. Once again stabbed in the back, it's now a symbol of his penance for what he did to his former captain. As for Sheridan himself, I do wish they'd switched out interrogators again, and that the effects of torture - and drug-induced mind manipulation! - would have had a more lasting effect on him. He empties a magazine into a dead guard and that's catharsis enough that he can then get into the captain's chair again? I hold out hope for a sequel to his treatment, but at the rate things are going (JMS still thinks it's the last season), I'm not TOO hopeful.

Back on the station, Londo and G'Kar are meeting with the League of Non-Aligned Worlds and convincing them to join their ships to Sheridan's fleet. They even provide political cover for Delenn by excluding her so no one can say she was in a conflict of interest. Nothing sinister here. Rather, we're seeing how Sheridan's greater message, his preaching the power of alliance, has reached these various alien races. Babylon 5 HAS become our best hope for peace, and even its most warlike participants are now acting on this hope, not selfishly, but out of honor and reciprocity. Sheridan showed them the way with DEEDS, not just words, and they are repaying his service and sacrifice. With the aliens banding together, in part to deny Earth the possibility of isolating itself or one day lashing back (WWII Germany-style), and Sheridan getting rescued, we may indeed believe in hope. That's when JMS sandbags us with the opposite sentiment.

Now, I do find the Shadow-enhanced Earthforce battleships a little silly. I mean, it's the darkest battle ever with those black hulls, but the urchin quills don't seem to serve any purpose except to make us understand what's going on. But it's fine. The space battle is awesome and Ivanova gets to go for broke, willing to fight to the last man so this fleet loyal to Clark can't get away. At this point, Ivanova is looking haggard, even after Marcus tricks her into getting some sleep. That fatigue only accentuates her natural irritation, and from that irritation is born the most kickass speech this show has ever had (and I certainly wouldn't expect something like that from Star Trek!). She makes good on her divine promise, but can't avoid a large piece of debris hitting her ship. Now, my limited hindsight was working overtime. I knew Ivanova wasn't part of the 5th season, but I couldn't remember why. As the large piece of debris tumbled into view, it seemed to go in slow motion. I had time to play back in my mind how she'd just gotten this awesome moment, how she'd finally acknowledged Marcus' feeling for her, and her certain departure from the program. Ivanova was going to die. I was in tears. It's heart-wrenching that she survives this moment to essentially say her goodbyes to Sheridan, that she'll survive less than a week in some hospital bed. And like Londo and the NA League, her thoughts here, at the end, are for her friend, not for herself. She begs him not to add to his guilt, that her death is not on his head, and further gets a promise from him that he'll command the Agamemnon in the final battle - a place of psychological safety, surely. Unless the warning about traitors making believed they'd joined his cause are on that very ship... Like I said, at this point, I've lost track of whatever didn't work in the first half.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A powerful and touching end to one of the main cast. I'm more than willing to overlook the episode's weaknesses.


Ryan Lohner said...

The opening sequence of Garibaldi being interrogated was the one I talked about last time, which started out in the script for Intersections before the wild coincidence with the two episodes' running times. And it certainly fits much better here; you'd never know how it happened without JMS telling us about it.

Bruce Boxleitner was outraged that he just got the line about not remembering why he's mad at Garibaldi, and to this day he has a chip on his shoulder that Sheridan never got to punch Garibaldi back after the one from Racing Mars. Why yes, he does vote Republican, why do you ask? Also, he originally just shot the guard once, and the repeated shots are all the same one, created in the editing room after JMS decided he needed to make more clear that Sheridan was far from the "fine" he claims.

Ivanova's final scene was another one where about the whole crew showed up, and there reportedly wasn't a dry eye in the house afterwards. Of course, another big part of that was them thinking the show was almost over, much like the funeral scene from Firefly.

JMS spent half a day coming up with Ivanova's challenge, wanting something that would make any opponent, no matter how much better their position, think to themselves "Maybe we should just go." It certainly paid off well and became one of the show's most popular scenes.

Anonymous said...

I can't fault anyone for liking Ivanova's Speech Of Ultimate Badassery, but it didn't do it for me. I go the other direction, where I'm unnerved by the other person being so confident that they don't have to puff up.

"But you have no weapons, no defenses, no plan!"

"Yeah, and doesn't that scare you to death? Rose -- I'm coming to get you." ::switch off::

Siskoid said...

Not everyone can be the Doctor!

LiamKav said...

This episode is great, so I'll obviously spend my time focussing on small, unimportant bits.

I'm amazed at the full circle Londo has come. One year ago he was saying that the galaxy could burn. Now, he's bringing everyone together to save Sheridan. Whether he's truly sorry, desperate to avoid his fate, trying to shore himself up politically, or all 3, Londo continues to be a fascinating, multi-faceted character.

As to Lyta, I like the character and the actress, but I do agree wihh her being somewhat problematic. She seems to flip between being badass and in control ("do you want me to show you hell?") and doing things by the seat of her pants (the aforementioned grabbing of the rifle and screaming). It probably doesn't help that, because her arc was essentially taken up by another character during season one and two, we didn't get a couple of years of character building before she got pushed to these extremes. I think the point of the "why gulped" scene is more to establish that Garibaldi is back to normal, and so we get a little bit of Gari-banter (you see what I did)? I don't think the "I'm gonna sue" bit is funny, but I do think it's kinda sweet, and I like her little growl of annoyance at the end when she is once again not taken seriously. (Okay, I might have a slight crush on Lyta/Pat Tallman.)

Oh god, the resistance member who leads Garibaldi and co to Sheridan played the teacher/giant praying mantis in the first season of Buffy!

I think Franklin's "why can't we ever go anywhere nice" is a good example of humour being relevent and working in the situation, probably because he doesn't pull a massive Ivanova-face while doing it. On the other hand, "Marsquake" took me right out of it. I think the phrase "earthquake" is too generic, and it's likely to travel to wherever humans who speak English end up. Seriously, what would Draal say? "Epsilon III-quake"?

Hang on, either Garibaldi brought his old EA uniform when he came to Mars, or he had one made up whilst hiding with the resistance that had the exact correct department, rank insignia, stat bar, wings, an whatever that patch is on the other shoulder. The bit where the guard says that the media is controlled by a "liberal elite" and Garibaldi says that he couldn't agree more is pretty funny when you consider Doyle's political leanings.

I'm trying to see the flipside of Marcus's loveof Ivanova, but I'm still bumping up against Nice Guy Syndrome. When he runs his hand over her face and says "you'll never know", it just seems creepy. Seriously, dude, just ask her out rather than putting her on an unobtainable pedestal.

This is also a great showcase episode for Ivanova. She gets to be tough, commanding, emotional, sweet, and kickass. So it's unfortunate that the whole thing is slightly undercut by me wondering exactly where she got that tan from. The season was wrapping up in a month, Claudia! Couldn't you have waited before going on holiday?

Cradok said...

I never liked how fast the Resistance change their minds once Lyta does her thing at Number One. Nobody trusts telepaths, they definitely don't trust Garibaldi, and they're probably not too hot on Franklin, but one scary telepath look later, everyone's good with everything. Perils of compression, I suppose.

Marcus, yeah. It was interesting when I was a shy 15-year old who had trouble talking to girls he fancied, but now that I'm about Marcus' age, it mostly just comes across as creepy. It is mentioned a few times that he's somewhat emotionally damaged, and his comparing himself to Galahad, chaste and noble, is telling. Either that, or JMS has a pretty poor view of how people work.

Siskoid said...

The scene with the guard and liberal media is a little absurd because the media is at this point a propaganda tool of the fascist right wing. But then, he doesn't watch TV so maybe he missed that. I'd have thought watching FOX--I mean ISN, would have been mandatory.

The problem with Marcus isn't that a person could keep himself from revealing his feelings out of fear of being rejected or making a working relationship awkward - that happens all the time and to people of all ages - it's that he was originally characterized as brazenly hitting on Ivanova, so he obviously didn't have confidence or awkwardness problems then. It doesn't ring true for HIS character (but it's fine with Lennier, for example).


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