I'm back with reviews of/comments on episodes 1 through 4 of Season 4.
The Hour of the Wolf
My first thought when I finished watching this episode was just how strong of a resemblance it has to the Battlestar Galactica episodes Scattered (from Season 2) and Sine Qua Non (from Season 4). Like Scattered, it picks up on events from the previous season's finale (which, in the case of BSG, was Kobol's Last Gleaming Part 2) and, like Sine Qua Non, it forms the first portion of a multi-part 'aftermath' story.
However, where it sets itself apart from either Scattered or Sine Qua Non is that it also does a tremendous amount of setup in and of itself in terms of the new storyline for the upcoming season (which Scattered didn't, being fairly standalone).
There's one final aspect to the episode, though, that also sets it apart from either Scattered or Sine Qua Non, and that is due to it being a 'payoff' episode in addition to a setup episode by making manifest what I believe is the final part of Londo's dream/vision from The Coming of Shadows (and doing so brilliantly, I might add) and also answering the mystery surrounding the final scene of last season's Passing through Gethsemane (not to mention the other instances in which said scene was repeated during S3).
Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?
I said above that The Hour of the Wolf forms the first portion of an aftermath story similar to Sin Qua Non and The Hub, and WHtMG? forms the second portion of that story, serving as the B5 equivalent to The Hub in the same way that THotW serves as the B5 equivalent to Sine Qua Non.
However, what WHtMG? does that The Hub does not is leave things unresolved, because, where The Hub served to tie up the aftermath story from Guess What's Coming to Dinner, WHtMG? doesn't really resolve any of the leftover story threads from Z'Ha'Dum, but only prolongs and stretches them out a bit, instead becoming a vehicle for further setup insofar as it concerns the ongoing storyline for the season while also revisiting and building towards the circumstances surrounding Londo's eventual death as mentioned in Midnight on the Firing Line and as seen in War without End Part 2.
The Summoning, like The Hour of the Wolf and Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?, forms part of the B5 equivalent to Sin Qua Non and The Hub, and more or less is the equivalent of what might've happened if The Hub had been a two-part episode, since it's primarily about not only resolving the lingering story threads from Z'Ha'Dum, but also resolving the story threads from The Hour of the Wolf and Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?
However, what JMS does here that RDM didn't is that he doesn't actually telegraph The Summoning's status as a 'resolution' episode in any fashion, instead playing it as another 'setup' episode and only bringing in the resolution at the last second and springing it on us with both Sheridan and Garibaldi's returns (particularly Sheridan's). It is a brilliant storytelling strategy and once again demonstrates JMS' prowess as a storyteller.
Falling towards Apotheosis
Falling towards Apotheosis struck me as being the Season 4 equivalent to Season 3's Messages from Earth arc (Messages from Earth, Point of No Return, Severed Dreams, and Ceremonies of Light and Dark), but done in microcosm, because it effectively compresses the turning points represented by those four episodes into the course of a single episode, but does so without any of the turning point moments it deals with losing any of their potency or impact.
There were, for me, three 'turning point moments' in particular that stand out. The first is the episode's beginning, with Ivanova doing her best impression of a newscaster; the second is Londo being backed into a corner in terms of the Shadows being sheltered on Centauri Prime and Cartagia's madness causing him to deviate from what the Shadows want to see done in terms of protecting Centauri Prime and their ships from the Vorlons; and the third is the episode's ending, with Sheridan taking a stand against Ulkesh, Delenn finding out how and why he is alive, and his proposing to her in his quarters. The latter moment in particular stands out as not only a highlight of the episode, but also of the season and series, with the moment being brilliantly played by both Mira Furlan and Bruce Boxleitner.
I also want to mention how glad I am that JMS chose to leave the actual physical act of G'Kar being maimed to the audience's imagination, because to do otherwise would have been incredibly gratuitous. I think the fact that we don't actually see G'Kar lose an eye, or find out which eye he loses, makes things more tragic and poignant for the character, but without making the act of maiming him seem over-the-top.
I'll be back later with reviews of/thoughts on episodes 5 through 8.