Babylon 5 #87: Endgame

"These are your sons and daughters, whose loyalty has never wavered, whose belief in the Alliance has forced us to take extraordinary means. For justice, for peace, for the future... we have come home."
IN THIS ONE... Sheridan liberates Earth. Marcus tries to save Ivanova's life.

REVIEW: It's ok if keeping Ivanova in the episode though comatose gives me some kind of hope she might not be dead after all. It makes me fight with my own soul as to whether or not I want the character saved or if her survival at this point would cheapen the best parts of Between the Darkness and the Light. Given Marcus those same hopes and digging out the old alien healing machine from season 1, well, that takes us way too close to getting her back and the side of me that used the word "cheapen" wins out. Ivanova is still off the show by Season 5, so either he fails and she does die, or he succeeds, perhaps dies himself, and she can't live with it and takes an extended leave of absence. Either way, I feel jerked around. It's well played and all, but you shouldn't try to cheat the cost of liberating Earth.

It's been a long time coming, this, and it doesn't disappoint. The Mars action features a lot of cool CG environments we're not used to seeing, and ties what's happening on the ground and in orbit very nicely. Sheridan's plan for the Shadow telepaths is to smuggle them aboard each destroyer and unleashing them on its systems, pulling the crazy Borg stuff I condemned way back when. Showing so little of it makes it work, actually, with a few sharply lit close-ups doing the most of the work. Plus, very cool in-atmosphere jumpgates, preceded by amusing banter from Garibaldi and Franklin. The resistance fighter who condemns Franklin for turning telepaths into weapons is played by a horrendously bad actress, and I can't see what her big hang-up is. Not JMS nor the casting director's best moment. But we quickly get behind this point and up in space. Mars falls, then it's Earth's turn, with a strong speech from Sheridan activating the good people of the planet against Clark's fascist regime. Clark commits suicide, shades of Hitler's bunker (Nazi Germany was always the model for Clark's Earth), and the crazy loon turns the planetary defense grid on the planet itself, with the East Coast coming very close to getting fragged. Ramming speed, last minute saves, the usual, but the usual is well done.

Sheridan's homologue in the loyalist forces is an old teacher of his, General Lefcourt, commanding the Apollo just as Sheridan is the Agamemnon (i.e. both have relieved its rightful captain). Unlike Sheridan, he is the amoral soldier. Not immoral, but completely loyal to the chain of command and for whom orders are neither right nor wrong. When Clark is alive, he fights Sheridan. When Clark is dead, he helps him. In no way does this guy redeem himself at the end; his motivation - shown to be "wrong" in the ethical context of the program - hasn't changed. We need more Sheridans and fewer Lefcourts. Surprisingly, the episode's poignant moment belongs to the ISN anchor, released from prison and broadcasting the truth for the first time in a year or more. Her tearful and hesitant words speaks for a planet overwhelmed by what it let happen and by the sudden lifting of fascist restrictions. It's rather moving, losing power as she finds a way to contain her emotion. It's the equivalent of all those Star Wars worlds throwing confetti when the Empire is beaten, but on an incredibly smaller scale, but much more effective and meaningful. We understand the evil of Clark's Earth from what its absence does to a single person.

DS9 also features a big battle with weapons platforms.

- Though I'm unsure of the Marcus/Ivanova subplot and hate that one sour note on Mars, it's a very satisfying ending to the Earth Civil War story, exciting and emotional.


Anonymous said...

"Sheridan's plan for the Shadow telepaths is to smuggle them aboard each destroyer and unleashing them on its systems"

Sheridan hides something that makes a big boom -- that's one drink.

This particular big boom is more figurative in that it causes the exact opposite of booms -- that's another drink.

Completely subverting my expectations (I never ever EVER imagined Sheridan had any plans other than to free the Shadow telepaths) -- that's chug.

Suddenly I am vary slepy

Siskoid said...

B5 would be murder on drinking games, because you'd likely have to keep drinking anytime someone makes a speech where the other person in the conversation lets them go at it uninterrupted.

Madeley said...

I have a really, really vivid memory of watching this episode for the first time, as it’s still one of the most exciting hours of anything I’ve ever watched.

JMS and his soliloquies, eh? The thing I find with him, is that with his habits and tendencies I can understand why some people can’t get on with his style. And that’s fine, not everyone is going to enjoy a particular style of writing, and I’m quite sure his style isn’t accidental. And that’s why I don’t mind the speeches: it’s his particular method of delivering story. He’s not even really trying to be naturalistic, or “realistic”, any more than a musical is trying to be with all the song and dance numbers (with the equivalent drinking game being to take a drink every time there’s a song in West Side Story. You’ll get just as annihilated just as quickly).

Ryan Lohner said...

And so the final part of Sheridan's dream is explained: he uses the augmented telepaths as helpless cannon fodder much like Psi Corps would, thus his seeing himself (from the bridge where he gave his declaration that the Shadows could be beaten) dressed as a Psi Cop.

The one big sour note here for me is Clark trying to take Earth down with him, as it betrays one of JMS' key writing tenets: the monster never sees a monster in the mirror, and everyone thinks they're the hero of their own story. As far as we've ever been able to tell, Clark's motivation is that he's extremely xenophobic, and wants to protect Earth from aliens. So his suddenly trying to destroy it makes no sense, except that he's the villain and must always do villainous things. My go-to example for this kind of thing is The Terminal, where Stanley Tucci suddenly tries to stop Tom Hanks from leaving at the end, despite that his motivation for the rest of the film has been to get Hanks out of the airport.

Regardless, this provides an awesome conclusion to the Earth Civil War, fully justifying JMS holding off a bit on the pyrotechnics during the end of the Shadow War. And of course the question becomes where does the show go from here? Well, funny story...

Anonymous said...

"So his suddenly trying to destroy it makes no sense, except that he's the villain and must always do villainous things."

This is Hitler metaphor, where Hitler's "Nero Decree" was the command to destroy Germany's infrastructure rather than let it fall into the hands of invaders. But in Hitler's case it had more to do with hindering the invaders than punishing the German people, so Clark is worse than Hitler. Maybe even worse than Lee Kuan.

Anonymous said...

"And that’s why I don’t mind the speeches: it’s his particular method of delivering story."

I could get behind that if there weren't always reaction shots of the other person standing there and blinking. That's what messes it up for me.

Madeley said...

Anonymous: That is annoying, you're not wrong there.

LondonKdS said...

Anon of 1112: a lot of people believe that at that stage Hitler had decided that the German people were a bunch of cowards and traitors who deserved to die for letting him down, so it's even more apposite. I do have a different retrospective headcanon to explain Clark's actions but it's too spoilery to explain here.

I wonder if the heavily-dropped hint last week about traitors in Sheridan's ranks was a remnant of a subplot that was a casualty of the speeding-up of the end of the Earth civil war.

On the question of Ivanova's fate - if I recall correctly even while this episode was being made they still thought Claudia Christian would still be there for the following season, if there was one. The circumstances of her departure from the role remain extremely hotly debated (ie WE DON'T WANT A FLAME WAR HERE, SO DON'T EXPAND), but it was very last-minute.

Siskoid said...

See the discussion under the next episode for the reasons for CC's departure.

As for Clark's nihilism, the simplest explanation is that he'd been corrupted by the Shadows, or possibly driven mad by both their manipulations and the PsiCorps.

LiamKav said...

In my head, I always liked the idea of Clark being a relatively simple villan. He probably does want to protect Earth, but mainly he just wants power. It's a simple motivation, but sometimes that's enough. He doesn't really hate aliens, but like Hitler he knows the power of a good scapegoat. We don't need to see him because his character is not the interesting thing. It's how he gets power and how he maintains it, and how everyone else has to react that is the intersting thing.

This episode produced a fairly long thread over the use of the phrase "ramming speed", with some people saying it's an illogical command, others saying that no, it is a perfectly logical command, arguments as to whether it's a cliche and whether it'd ever be used by real military personal and so on. Personally I think that here, at the conclusion of a story line that's been going on since almost the beginning of the show, you are absolutely entitled to call upon the gods of cool and use the phrase "ramming speed", and if you want to follow it up by having a ship fly through an explosion, then more awesome power to you. (With my critical hat on, it makes no sense that Sheridan is suddenly the only one in range when we saw everyone so closely bunched together just a few minutes earlier, but I'll allow it for the story).

(I avoided saying it back in "Matters of Honor", but I'm extremely amused by how long it takes Garibaldi to step foot on a White Star. Here, not only has Franklin beaten him, he's even sat in the captain's chair. Also, holy hell Franklin has greyed a lot over the past few months.)

Hey, look, it's Caroyln Seymour not being an alien!

I do wonder if expanding this out to two parts would help, or if it would just make it drag in places. There's some stuff that's a bit quick, like the senator and her army being ready to march on Clark the second a charistmatic beared man tells them to. Maybe something like Doctor Who does, where certain episodes get to be 10-15 minutes longer? (I know US TV makes that kinda impossible.)


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