"On my world, we have learned that an inauguration is simply a signal to assassins that a new target has been set up on the firing range."
REVIEW: If the fifth season is "denouement" in a normal 5-act structure, just how interesting can that be spread over two dozen episodes? We're past the climax here! Obviously, this isn't Season 5 "as planned" because JMS crammed everything he could into Season 4, etc., which could exacerbate the problem. They can still salvage this, however, if they go back to the political drama that made up the best of Season 1, as we watch the new Alliance take its first steps. The other stuff we've been told will happen - the telepath wars, battles against the Drahk - can act as background for this, but I can't get too enthusiastic about it. The show got a bit spoilery when it thought Season 4 was the end, and though I'm hopeful we'll get some surprises, it feels like we'll be watching a lot of the "process" of getting from one known point to another. Certainly, the new opening sequence is the worst of the lot by a big margin, using a recap strategy that's not altogether successful instead of the more epic proclamations of the past, and the music... what is that? The new Alliance's anthem? Fine if it is, but it's not very exciting.
Replacing Ivanova in the cast and Sheridan in the role of station captain is Tracy Scoggins' Captain Lochley. I like her, though there's definitely the sense that she's being written much as Ivanova was, and Takashima before her. Is this the only female officer JMS can write? She's a strong woman, but cold and blunt. She lacks Ivanova's humor (to date, anyway), but might make up for it in a stronger streak of no B.S. I enjoy. The question of which side she was on in the civil war seems clear, so I wouldn't call it a developing mystery. I was surprised, but encouraged, that Sheridan really did leave her to do the job without any backseat driving, something contrasted by Garibaldi's micro-management of Zack. Mr. G gets to save the day, balancing the scales when it comes to Sheridan, and gets a new job as covert ops intelligence guy for the Alliance, which will keep him in the loop and able to travel to Mars (and other places). That's a good evolution for the character, moving forward and not back. Note Lochley's attitude towards Garibaldi: She dresses him down for trying to be an insider when he has no official capacity, but then seems ambivalent about how his new job makes him an insider. Her playbook is the chain of command, rules and regulations, efficiency. She has no skin in the game; hopefully, her arc will have her discover B5 isn't that simple.
Sheridan hasn't been marginalized, of course, and he basically wants to be Action President. A new kind of leadership? That's perhaps the point he's trying to make early on in his domestic scene with Delenn, telling the nonsense story of a former C.O. who washed his own socks so he'd always have a task to come back to alive. Nonsense because Sheridan's pledge to do the same so long as he was in uniform doesn't resonate now that he's OUT of uniform, and should give Delenn more of a twinge seeing as it's about living forever when they both know his days are counted. The inauguration thread features some excitement and dovetails nicely into the telepath colony story. I do wish the assassin had been better characterized - turning it into a personal revenge story is far less interesting than misguided patriotism for a fallen regime or retribution for the deaths Sheridan DID cause in the Civil War - and that security on the station wasn't its usual level of abysmal - the assassin gets in with a weapon after being scanned, the young telepath just runs in, the guards can't shoot for crap, and a Starfury is easily stolen and only Garibaldi notices. Sheridan's life is saved by a young telepath at the cost of his own, projecting the assassin's murderous thoughts to everyone in range. This sets up both a reason for Sheridan to owe the exiles and give them some space on Babylon 5 and opens the telepaths up to a greater variety of powers (not just for Lyta, conspicuously absent from the proceedings), which might make the coming war more interesting. The things I most like about the inauguration story are the political details, like G'Kar being asked to draw up the declaration of principles, and the fact Sheridan has to swear on a combination of every Alliance world's holy texts. That after standing tough with no protection from the assassin's Starfury, they finish the job with a comic anticlimax doesn't make the most sense, but does get us out of more speechifying. I guess I'm glad about that.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A perfectly fine premiere, moving some pieces around and introducing new ones. Anything after Season 4 would probably seem anticlimactic.