The introductory post was here, The Soul Hunter was covered here, and Born to the Purple was coveredright here. After that was Infection. Then came The Parliament of Dreams. Following on its heels was Mind War.
This week: War Prayer! You can watch it here.
It’s very difficult to discuss this show without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), or referring to the pilot; if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the watchin’, see you after the cut!
We begin with the obligatory zoom-in shot of Babylon 5. We see Delenn sharing wine and memories with Shaal Mayan, an old friend of the ambassador’s. There is just enough talk of poetry for us to gather that Shaal is a poet before the conversation turns toward the subject of regret. (Note: Pay attention! Regret, it turns out, will be the major theme of tonight’s episode.) Delenn admits that she sometimes regrets her life’s decisions, while Shaal says that she would rather choose to be who she is than have regrets for her missteps. It is worth noting that Shaal seems happier and more content that Delenn.
After saying goodnight, Shaal departs into the station’s corridors, only to be violently attacked. She is stabbed in the stomach and then branded on the forehead as the unknown assailant warns, “Stay way from Earth, freak!” The brand is the astrological sign of our own planet, Earth.
And then we cut to: Opening Credits.
As we reenter the action, Delenn is confronting Commander Sinclair, who – and I’m just going to say this right up front here – has the most enormous eyebrows I have ever seen in my life. Delenn demands justice for the attack on her friend. (Good news! Despite the vicious nature of the attack, Shaal has survived and is expected to make a full recovery.) Delenn is especially incensed that this crime of violence was directed at a renowned poet known for her love of peace and harmony. Sinclair tries to assure her that they’re doing everything they can, which is probably good practice that will come in handy in our next scene, where…
Sinclair is accosted by G’Kar regarding the very same attack. It turns out that the attack on Shaal was but the latest of several attacks on B5 aliens by humans. G’Kar attempts to intimidate the commander by threatening bloody retribution if a Narn is attacked the way Shaal was. However, G’Kar’s bluster is no match for the mighty eyebrows of Jeffery Sinclair! The commander lets the ambassador know in no uncertain terms that no one plays hardball like the humans. If G’Kar makes a ruckus, Sinclair promises, he’ll have the entire Narn population thrown into the brig.
[Chronicler’s side note: This is one of those instances where I can’t help but wonder about the shows writers. My sense is that we’re supposed to have a “You tell ‘em, Sinclair!” reaction, and if this is the case I find it a little troubling. As B5 is an allegory for our own times and tribulations, it’s hard not to replay this scene in my head replacing “Narn” with “black,” “Jew,” or “Muslim.” Like this: “You try that, Mr. Malcom X, and I’ll throw every Negro in the county in jail!” When you replay the scene with those words, Sinclair seems less Capt. Kirk-y and more B-movie-Nazi-colonel-y. ]
Later we see Garibaldi interviewing Shaal in sickbay. He is hoping to get a lead on the attackers, but there is little to go on. She didn’t really see anything, and can’t imagine why anyone would want to attack a poet such as herself. After Garibaldi leaves, the doctor tells Shaal he can remove the brand’s scar, but Shaal waves him off. Now that it’s there she kind of digs the look, and she recognizes it as the political statement and fashion conversation piece that it is. Mimbari are more like humans than we first imagined: It turns out their poets are hipsters too.
Cut scene to… Oh God, there’s a giant cockroach outside the station! Kill it! KILL IT!!!! … Oh, wait. My bad. It’s just a ship that looks like a cockroach. Turns out it’s a ship that needs some good old-fashioned investigatin’, but none of the staff really wants to go to the shipping dock to do it. Apparently on Babylon 5, investigating ships is like changing the copy toner on Earth. Garibaldi convinces Ivanova to fall on the sword by threatening to out her black-market coffee operation.
Ivanova goes to check out who’s on the cockroach ship and is surprised to find that it is Winnie Cooper, who apparently is now a Hari Krishna and a Centauri. She is there with a young Centauri male. Ivanova, understandably distressed to see Winnie Cooper with a boy who isn’t Kevin Arnold, has them both detained.
And as soon as they are taken away by guards, we see why no one on Babylon 5 ever wants to go to the shipping dock: The B5 Shipping Dock Ex- Theorem. The B5 Shipping Dock Ex- Theorem states that any time a major character is hanging around the shipping dock, they will inexplicably run into their ex-. Seriously, can anyone on this station not go to the shipping dock and run into an ex- who just happens to be passing through? How does this keep happening? They’re out in the middle of frigging nowhere! Is B5 where you ask to be stationed if you have very determined stalkers?
Anyway, Ivanova runs into her ex-, whose name is Malcolm Briggs. Malcolm proceeds to blow my mind, as he becomes the first extra to be cast for the show that can actually act – despite being from the soap opera General Hospital. Ivanova asks what he’s doing there and he implies he’s there to see her, because he’s never stopped wanting her. (See what I meant about the whole stalker thing?!) Ivanova is not impressed.
Meanwhile over at the commander’s office, Vir is giving us the back-story on Winnie Cooper and her boyfriend who turns out to be Vir’s cousin.
(Interesting Side Note: It appears Vir has led his entire family to believe that he is the Ambassador of Centauri. Obvious Question Raised by Interesting Side Note: Do the Centauri not have Internet or newspapers?)
It turns out that Vir’s cousin and Winnie Cooper are on the lam, running away from their impending arranged marriages. They love each other very much, but have each been promised to other families’ children. “Love?! What does love have to do with marriage?!,” demands an exasperated Londo, who then gives the Centauri version of the Tradition Song from Fiddler on the Roof. I get that I’m supposed to side with the two young lovebirds, but they are whiney and I find myself wanting them to be separated for the good of everyone.
At the café, Ivanova is hit on again by her ex-, Malcolm. She again rebuffs his creepy, creepy advances.
While Ivanova has been playing Issue The Restraining Order, the Centauris have been star-crossing lovers, and Sinclair has been (I can only assume) working out his eyebrows at the gym, Garibaldi has been getting s**t done. While everyone else has been dicking around, he has arrested a man who is the prime suspect in the attack on Shaal. More important than that, this man might actually be the single worst actor in the history of the universe.
[Chronicler’s side note: Seriously, if you’re reading this and you haven’t watched the episode, you need to go watch it now just to see this guy. He’s so bad that it’s kind of hard not to be impressed. Imagine a director just taking some guy off the street, declaring him an actor, and then telling him, “In this scene, you’re being accused of a very serious and heinous crime… so I want you to play it as a sassy, Will & Grace-era stereotypical gay hairdresser type. But I also want you to put special emphasis on random words as you say your lines. Oh, and if you have a multisyllabic word, it’s very important that you say each syllable as if it were it’s one individual word, like this: I, cut, my, self, o, pen, ning, a, crate.”]
Garibaldi books the suspect on an illegal weapons charge, and hopes forensic medicine will be enough to tie him to the stabbing. Aaaand we break for commercial.
Once the commercial ends, we hook up with Sinclair as he goes to visit the Vorlon ambassador, Kash. Entering the ambassador’s quarters, we note that Kash has apparently stolen The Guardian of Forever and is using it as a nice wall hanging that really brings the room together. Sinclair was hoping that Kash would help him with the investigation, but Kash says he can’t be bothered. Sinclair begins to try to talk Kash into changing his mind, but stops when he is distracted by the Vorlon’s advanced filmstrip technology. Sinclair notes that the images are from Earth, and Kash says that he is studying our planet.
Meanwhile, Ivanova is leaving her quarters when she finds a gift from Malcolm: it’s a roll of gift-wrap paper! Which, when you think about it, is damn thoughtful. It’s one of those things you always need for a birthday party or a going away party or some such thing, but you can’t ever find any in the house – and then you have to run all the way to some Walgreens a half hour before you’re expected to be at the party to get a new roll of gift wrap, which is a royal pain in the ass. So score one for Malcolm. Oh, and the gift-wrap also has a nice rose with it, which is a nice touch. Ivanova smiles to herself, and stalkers everywhere have their hopes buoyed the tiniest bit.
Later, Sinclair talks to Ivanova about Kash’s poisoning from the first ever B5 episode, and they wax nostalgic about the Pilot’s massive plot holes. They suddenly realize that the only two crew members to ever actually see a Vorlon are the same the two characters from the Pilot who focus-grouped poorly and were completely rewritten with different actors. Coincidence? Hard to say. It is the general consensus that those Vorlons are a pretty inscrutable bunch.
As this is going on, Londo explains marriage to Vir in a scene that further cements my growing opinion that Peter Jurasik isn’t simply a wonderful actor in comparison to the other dreadful actors on B5. He is wonderful period. He really is a joy to watch, and as I’m viewing these episodes for the book club I’m finding that I look forward to seeing him in any scene.
Then a series of quick scenes that come one after the other:
Garibaldi lets Sheridan know that he let the suspect go, hoping said suspect will lead security to the anti-alien terrorists. Ivanova, unable to resist a man who knows gift-wrap, has dinner with Malcolm. Human terrorists attack Winnie Cooper and Vir’s cousin. G’Kar attempts to incite an anti-human riot, then oddly gives it up when Garibaldi points out that he could be seen as inciting a riot. A group of aliens attack the suspect Garibaldi freed and nearly kill him. (I am assuming they are alien television critics and the attack is a case of bad-actor retribution.) Ivanova is just about to do the horizontal bop with Malcolm (she really likes that wrapping paper) when she is called to Sinclair’s office.
In the sickbay, Londo and Vir visit the young lovebirds. Londo remains steadfast in his belief that tradition should come before love. Shaal, who just happened to be hanging around, points out to Londo that he has had to live without love. Londo looks shaken by this realization. (Has this really never occurred to him before now?)
But other events are going on in sickbay as well! It turns out that the bad actor is friends with none other than Malcolm. Garibaldi (who has been spying on them with video surveillance) notifies Sinclair, who in turn notifies Ivanova. She looks crushed, but rallies. When Sheridan concocts a plan to entrap Malcolm and get him to out his co-conspirators, Ivanova says she wants to be there to see him go down. When she is alone, Ivanova symbolically throws the rose Malcolm gave her in the trash. She keeps the roll of gift-wrap paper, though; Susan Ivanova is nobody’s fool.
Londo is brooding in the gardens; it is clear that Shaal’s words have deeply affected him. Quoting his father, he tells Vir his shoes are too tight and regrets that he no longer knows how to dance. It sounds silly when I write it down, but it’s actually quite charming.
At an ambassadors’ shindig, Sinclair brushes off the Sea Monkey ambassador and manages to convince Malcolm that he hates aliens and wants to join the Humans Only Club. They slip away to Ivanova’s quarters and plot to kill all of the alien ambassadors. Malcolm says that he will introduce Sinclair to his fellow conspirators soon. Later, Sinclair tells the council of alien ambassadors to get over themselves in an attempt to draw Malcolm’s conspirators out.
Londo visits Winnie Cooper and Vir’s cousin, and offers to make them “sponsored” by his family, which will allow them to get out of their arranged marriages. Since his family is so highly regarded, Londo knows that everyone involved will see this as a win. (With the possible exception of the dumped fiancee, of course. But screw them. If they wanted a happy ending, they should have been cast as extras.) After their sponsorship, they will be allowed to marry whomever they choose. Love wins the day and we see yet again that, deep down inside, Londo is an old softy.
Sinclair and Ivanova meet Malcolm in a cargo bay, where they are introduced to the rest of the conspirators. We also learn that the bad guys have invisibility suits obtained from Earth intelligence, which suggests the troubling possibility that Earth’s government might be connected to the anti-alien terrorists. Before Garibaldi’s forces can come to make arrests, however, Malcolm asks Sinclair to prove his loyalty by assassinating the Sea Monkey ambassador, whom the terrorists have kidnapped for just this purpose. This gives Sinclair no choice but to give up the ruse and turn on the conspirators. A firefight ensues. Our two heroes are badly outnumbered. Still, they quickly make mincemeat of the terrorists and everything is well in hand by the time Garibaldi’s men arrive.
Later in the shipping dock, it is time to say our various goodbyes. The lovebirds go off to find love and destiny in the land of indentured servitude. Ivanova kisses off the in-custody Malcolm, who is furious that the woman he stalked faithfully for so many years betrayed him. He questions her loyalty to humans; she responds that a lot of the aliens she has met are the most human creatures she knows.
[Chronicler’s side note: Which, again, is a tad troubling when I stop to think about it long enough. Picture a guy defending his business relationship with some African Americans by saying, “Some black people are the whitest people I know.” Ya know?]
So, what did everyone think?