I again apologize for the double-posting, but when you're not feeling good, the only thing you can really do besides sleep is watch TV. This post will, as mentioned earlier, cover my reviews of S3 episodes 1 through 4, as well as some observations I had on the structure of B5 as a whole based on the end of S2 - as outlined in my last post - and the start of S3.
I figured I'd start out with said observations, since they sort of inform my reviews of/thoughts on the first four eps of S3.
I've heard B5 the series described as a SINGLE 'novel for television', but I think it is better described as a pair of 'novels for TV', with the S2 finale The Fall of Night being the end of the first 'novel' and S3 marking the beginning of the second 'novel'.
Now, my reviews.
Matters of Honor
I mentioned above that I thought B5 was better described as being a pair of 'novels for TV', and Matters of Honor is the primary reason I came to that conclusion. I mentioned in my review of The Fall of Night that I felt it wrapped up the S2 storyline rather succinctly, which effectively makes Matters of Honor a 'new beginning' for the series as well as the start of the third season and, as I mentioned, makes it feel very much like the start of a new 'novel' that follows on from events in the previous 'novel' but is also very much its own thing. The introduction of Marcus Cole and the White Star contribute to this sense, and the episode's ending, with Morden being on Earth, sort of cements it.
With Matters of Honor marking the start of a new story for the series as well as S3, JMS bought himself the storytelling capitol to do a 'slow build', and he is therefore able to justify Convictions being a standalone episode that further builds on the show's existing characters as well as bringing new characters - or old characters come back - into the mix. He more than takes advantage of the opportunity afforded to him, providing what I would consider to be the best standalone episode of the series.
A Day in the Strife
Although largely standalone, A Day in the Strife takes character threads from both Seasons 1 and 2 and uses them to start building towards the future. Its 'b' story also does this with regards to Dr. Franklin, and also gives us some great moments for other characters as well, particularly Ivanova and Sheridan.
Passing through Gethsemane
JMS packs a LOT of symbolism into this episode, and also gives us a unique opportunity to see more of the way religion works in the B5 universe. Brad Dourif is fantastic, making Brother Edward one of the best one-off characters to appear on the series to date, and the episode's ending not only provides an excellent character moment for Sheridan, but a bit of mystery as well insofar as it concerns Lyta and her relationship to and with Kosh.
Edit: In order to avoid triple-posting, I am adding reviews for episodes 5 through 8 to this post.
Voices of Authority
And so it begins in earnest. After a 'slow build' with standalones for episodes 2, 3, and 4 of the season, JMS kicks the next chapter of the series' story - and that of the season - into high gear with an episode that rivals the best work by other prolific writer-creators such as Joss Whedon and Ronald D. Moore.
There are so many callbacks to earlier story threads and seeds that are planted for the future in this episode that it's hard to know what to focus on, so I'll just mention two things:
1) Zack Allan has really gotten himself into an untenable situation, and the question of whether or not he can get himself out of it makes for supreme drama.
2) The Sigma 957 First Ones' reaction to Ivanova 'name-dropping' the Vorlons provides excellent subtle humor while also letting Ivanova do what she does best.
Dust to Dust
There was so much going on in S2's A Race through Dark Places that I didn't even mention Alfred Bester in my review of that ep, but he was a lot more subdued in that ep than he was in his first appearance in Mind War, and certainly more than he is here.
Even having been injected with sleeper drugs, the man is a smarmy bastard, and the way he tries to bait nearly every character he interacts with only process just how incredible Walter Koenig is as an actor because it takes someone of incredible skill and charisma to make you hate Bester but want to root for him at the same time. In fact, this ep is where Bester truly becomes the Tom Zarek of the B5 universe, cementing himself as one of the series' most memorable yet hated characters.
Sticking with the comparisons to BSG characters for a moment, this ep is the place where G'Kar becomes the Gaius Baltar of B5, setting the stage for a transformation into something far more than just a simple antagonist character.
After two incredibly great arc episodes, we're back to what is nominally a standalone, albeit one that also provides a fair number of arc-centric character moments due to its significant focus on Marcus and its 'b' plot concerning Ivanova subtly scouting Lt. Corwin.
The episode also struck me as having a very Star Trek-like vibe to it in terms of the Vindrazi parasites, which struck me as being what the parasite alienns from the TNG episode Conspiracy might've been had they been non-hostile.
Messages from Earth
JMS really knows how to up the ante. He did it with The Coming of Shadows and In the Shadow of Z'Ha'Dum in S2, and he does it again here, finally tightening the noose around our characters and forcing them into a situation where desperate measures have to be taken, thereby setting the stage for what I would consider to be one of the best cliffhangers in TV history (I would rank it up there with Angel transforming back into Angelus and the Cylons invading New Caprica) in President Clark's declaration of martial law.
The episode also features some great character moments for Sheridan, Delenn, Marcus, and Ivanova, significantly advancing both of the eventual relationships involving the four characters and providing a bit of 'breathing room' to balance out the game-changing events with which the rest of the episode's plot deals.