The Long Night
I've kept bringing up comparisons to Battlestar Galactica in some of my reviews, and it's a trend that's going to continue with this next batch of episodes.
As I watched this episode, I kept having flashbacks to the second half of BSG's 4th season, which is effectively one single narrative spread out over the course of 11 episodes. The Long Night (and the very next episode, Into the Fire) really brings home the idea that JMS is telling one continuous story and bringing it to its conclusion over the course of several episodes, ramping things up consistently and building towards a definitive end. This episode also reminded me very much of the 'present-day' portions of the BSG S4/series finale Daybreak.
Beyond the sense of things 'coming to an end' that permeates this episode and begins to draw in everything that's happened since Z'Ha'Dum, what makes this episode shine is its moments of character. From Sheridan knowingly and tragically sending Ericcson and his crew to their deaths to Londo and Vir ramping up their plot to kill Cartagia (with Vir ultimately having to do the deed after Cartagia surprises Londo and grabs him by the throat) to G'Kar's newfound ability to perceive the unperceivable, this episode encompasses and encapsulates every aspect of JMS' philosophy that good story comes from character (IOW, you deal with the characters first, and the story comes along).
Into the Fire
Along with the previous episode, this episode really reminded me very much of the BSG S4/series finale Daybreak; it also reminded me of the conclusion of the first season of Caprica.
Like The Long Night, this episode succeeded not only because it continued to convey a sense of things coming to a close, but also because of its character development. In drawing both the Shadows and Vorlons into one area and forcing a confrontation of words as well as a confrontation of force, Sheridan truly demonstrates for the first time the leadership qualities that will later come to define his character and truly lets him shine as an equal to Delenn and Lorien.
Speaking of Lorien, I absolutely loved his attempt to convince Ivanova to open her heart again, primarily because you get the distinct impression that he knows about Marcus' undisguised affection for her and senses that she returns those feelings even if she's not yet ready to admit them to anyone, least of all herself.
Another highlight of the episode for me is the scene where Londo confronts Morden. There is this sense that Londo recognizes, at least subconsciously, that he's ultimately responsible for getting his people into this mess and that the first thing he needs to do is deal with the most tangible evidence of his complicity, that of course being Morden. The scene also leads rather nicely into the scene in the courtyard where the Vorlons are on approach and Vir helps Londo see, consciously if not subconsciously, that, even in getting rid of Morden and the Shadow vessels he brought with him, he hasn't gotten Centauri Prime out of danger quite yet because he himself is still present and still represents a rather significant threat to the Vorlons. The scene not only serves as a great counterpoint to the earlier scene where Londo confronts Morden, but also serves as a rather poignant foreshadowing of what ultimately ends up happening as per the final scene of Epiphanies and the future flash sequences of War without End P2 where an older Londo tells Sheridan and Delenn about what happened to Centauri Prime as an unintended consequence of the Shadow War.
As I watched this episode, I got the distinct sense that it is in a number of ways the Babylon 5 equivalent to the BSG episodes Sometimes a Great Notion and A Disquiet Follows My Soul, both of which were centered around the aftermath of the events of the episode Revelations and which were very much about 'wrapping things up' in a sense, since there's this sense of things starting over in both of those episodes and here in Epiphanies.
The three episodes do serve as a bit of a counterpoint to each other, though, because, despite President Clark's manipulating of the situation to make Babylon 5 perceived as a threat once again and Bester showing up on Babyon 5 to stir things up, Epiphanies very much conveys a sense of things being peaceful, which is fitting given how much crap is about to start coming our characters' way in the next episode.
The only complaint I have about the episode is that, for the first time, it feels as if JMS is trying overly hard to make Bester an integral part of every bad or ominous thing that ends up happening to our characters on Babylon 5, which does the character a bit of disservice. The coda of Bester talking to the cryogenically frozen Carolyn really wasn't needed and sort of undermined the episode for me because it seemed to be a bit too 'on the nose' in terms of saying 'Bester is once again playing our crew'.
The Illusion of Truth
As I was watching this episode, I realized something that probably shoud've occurred to me much earlier, which is that it is as much the antithesis of And Now for a Word as it is a follow-up to that episode and a combination of both that episode and the BSG episode Final Cut and the next piece in an evolving tapestry of episodes (which also includes The Deconstruction of Falling Stars and Sleeping in Light) that, when looked at in context of one another, form a crucial piece of the Babylon 5 narrative that is ultimately unrelated to anything else that happens as part of said narrative.
If there's an area where this episode ultimately falls short, it is in not showing us Sheridan's response to his misguided attempt to play fair with ISN, underestimating the extent of their corruption to the point that it ends up imperiling and sullying the one pure thing he had in his life, that being his relationship with Delenn. It would've strengthened his character very much if we'd seen his reaction, and not showing it somewhat ruins what I think the entire point of the episode was in terms of imperiling that relationship.
Prior to watching this episode, I had been questioning whether or not it made sense for JMS to end the season with The Deconstruction of Falling Stars, but, as I watched this episode, it became crystal clear to me that there ultimately wasn't any other way to end the season except with an episode like TDoFS, especially not after I realized that that episode is both a follow-up to this episode as well as part of JMS' attempt to shape the B5 narrative as a retrospective on and, in some ways, reshaping of, history, not just as it occurred, but as certain individuals would like others to believe that it occurred.
I'll be back later with reviews of/comments on episodes 9 through 12.