^ I said this in another thread, but I don't personally think there's ultimately anything wrong with the storytelling and pacing decisions JMS made for Season 4, primarily because said decisions follow the precedent he set in Seasons 2 and 3 where he completely wrapped up one set of storylines (Season 2) and started a brand-new set of storylines (Season 3). The only difference is that, for Season 4, he expanded things so that he ended up wrapping up two sets of storylines within the course of Season 4 rather than the single set of storylines he wrapped up in Season 2.
Anyway, let's get to my next set of reviews.
There's a rather famous catchphrase used by a professional wrestler named Rowdy Roddy Piper that goes "Just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions", and this quote is just as apt a descriptor of what JMS does with this episode. Just when we think we know everything there is to know about the Minbari, Sinclair/Valen, and the relationship between humans and Minbari, JMS comes along and changes everything we thought we knew.
My favorite aspect of this episode was the way that it explored the relationship between Dukhat and Delenn and expanded on what we knew of the latter's involvement in starting the Earth-Minbari War. I also liked how the episode ends up answering the question of 'why did Delenn become half-human?' by telling us that she was already partly human - thanks to carrying part of Sinclair/Valen's DNA - and that the Chrysalis transformation brought the part of her that was already human to the forefront.
The best part of the episode aside from the stuff involving Delenn and Dukhat was by far the tiny nod to the Season 2 episode The Geometry of Shadows. I wasn't expecting to ever see Susan's 'Green Leader' sash again, or her cane, for that matter, and therefore couldn't help but smile when both of those items popped up in this episode. The look on Sheridan's face when she comes hobbling out of the transport tube is great, and her response of 'Don't. Even. Ask.' is almost as priceless.
I also got a big kick out of G'Kar's undisguised glee at finding out that his new prosthetic eye can operate independently of his body. It was nice to see G'Kar truly giddy about something, since it's a rather rare occurrance, and Andreas Katsulas' acting really sells the moment.
Racing Mars is really the first episode of B5 that I felt had more than two plots, with an 'a' plot (Marcus and Franklin's journey to Mars to meet with the Resistance), a 'b' plot (Ivanova negotiating to get black market smugglers to help supply the station), a 'c' plot (Sheridan's forced vacation and everything - from confronting Garibaldi to undergoing the shan'fal with Delenn - that happens during it), and a 'd' plot (Garibaldi being recruited by Wade and his shady associates).
I didn't really much care for the character of Captain Jack, who I feel came across as being a too over-the-top annoying to really make his actions as dictated by the Keeper parasite work the way they were intended to, so, for me, the highlight of the Mars Resistance 'a' plot - at least insofar as this episode is concerned - was very much the introduction of the Resistance leader Number One. I swear I've seen the actress who played the character somewhere before, but cannot for the life of me figure out where.
This episode really gave Ivanova another chance to show off her diplomatic chops - something we hadn't seen that much of since Season 2 - and I really liked the scenes of her negotiating with the smugglers.
This episode really allowed Bruce Boxleitner to demonstrate his skills as an actor, first in his confrontation with Garibaldi - particularly after Garibaldi punches him (you can really tell from the look on Sheridan's face that he wants to punch Garibaldi back but decides to take the higher road) - and then in the scene where he comes to Delenn's quarters and is caught completely off guard by the presence of Lennier and others. You can really tell that he wants to tell them to go away but, because of his respect and love for Delenn, holds his tongue and simply accepts what she tells him regarding the shan'fal ritual even though you can tell that he'd rather they were just able to do things in a much more straightforward manner.
Lines of Communication
As I was watching this episode, I couldn't help but think about what the Drakh are eventually going to do to Earth in A Call to Arms, which made me want to scream 'they can't be trusted' at the screen when Forell revealed his true agenda and had the Drakh emmisary come aboard Delenn's White Star to meet with her. Knowing what they were eventually going to do to Earth did make it particularly satisfying, though, when she made the decision to destroy their ships in retaliation for their attacks on civilian targets and the destruction of one of her White Star companion ships.
I really liked Sheridan's arc in this episode as it concerned his attempt to find a way to counter ISN's blatant lies and propaganda. I particularly got a kick out of the scene where he finally has his epiphany about what to do and comes to Ivanova's quarters in the middle of the night to talk to her. The scene had just enough humor to let Bruce and Claudia's natural onscreen chemistry manifest itself, but without undermining the true intent of the scene and its followup in the war room where he explains his plan to her.
I was a much bigger fan of the Mars Resistance stuff in this episode than I was of what happened in Racing Mars. It once again gave Franklin and Marcus some great character development, and there was some definite chemistry between Franklin and Number One (I still can't figure out where I've seen the actress who played her, Marjorie Monaghan, before). It's nice to see Franklin with some more romance in his life because it gives him more facets than just being the 'doctor', and I can't help but wonder if we'll see this thread revisited later on down the line.
Conflicts of Interest
I haven't really talked much about Garibaldi's new character arc for the season that was introduced in Epiphanies, mainly because I wasn't quite sure where things were going with it, but I did like the role he had to play in this episode. The episode seemed to me to very much be a sequel of sorts to Season 1's Survivors, which is really the last time we got to see Garibaldi getting his hands dirty with a bunch of 'cloak-and-dagger' stuff. I also liked that the episode brought back Lise Hampton, although I was surprised that Garibaldi didn't end up listening to the message she left for him. I wasn't expecting him to get a message from her husband, though, which instantly made me more interested in where his storyline might be going than I had been.
The scene between Sheridan, Londo, and G'Kar didn't really have as much impact as it probably could've with a bit of setup (it sort of comes out of nowhere) and resolution, but I really liked the acting in it from Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas.
Ivanova's interactions down on Epsilon 3 with the 'new' Zathras were funny, and Claudia Christian played them perfectly. It was also neat to see the Voice of the Resistance finally go LIVE at the end of the episode because it was a nice callback of sorts to the ISN broadcast from And Now for a Word, and to the 'newscaster Ivanova' bits from Falling towards Apotheosis, especially since it was the latter stuff that got Ivanova the job as the host of the VotR broadcasts in the first place.
I'll be back later with reviews of episodes 13 through 16.