I'm back with more reviews.
Rumors, Bargains, and Lies
A good alternate title for this episode would've been Manipulations, because that's precisely what this episode is about. From Sheridan cannily manipulating the League of Non-Aligned Worlds into doing exactly what he wants them to do to Delenn manipulating Neroon and Neroon manipulating Shakiri, there's a lot of manipulation going on in this episode.
The 'b' plot involving the Religious caste sinking to the low of actually conspiring to undermine Delenn and take their own lives and the lives of everyone else is also great, although it's not great in and of itself but because of the character development it allows JMS to put Lennier through. The episode really hammers home both Lennier's loyalty to Delenn and his willingness to lie to protect her and others, even if there's no real profit in doing so.
Moments of Transition
JMS and Walter Koenig once again prove that Alfred Bester is one smarmy bastard, although I did feel that JMS once again tried a bit too hard to let the audience see that there was more to what Bester was doing than meets the eye. I think it's pretty obvious by this stage that Bester never does anything straightforward, and we really don't need to have him reminding us of that.
This is the episode that officially made me like Neroon; I thought the character was interesting and likeable, even if his positions put him at odds with either Sheridan or Delenn, but this was the first episode - ironically also the character's last episode - that I really saw just how noble of an individual he was. His completely unsolicited gesture of sacrifice was extremely poignant, and John Vickery played the moment perfectly. I also really liked the symbolism inherent in the Starfire Wheel ritual, as well as in Delenn reforming the Grey Council, particularly since, as we found out in Atonement, she carries a piece of Valen - the original founder of the Grey Council - in her DNA. With her having reformed the Council, she's effectively become 'Valen returned' for her people, which I think is a neat bit of symmetry.
Although Talia Winters is still my favorite of the two main telepath characters in the series, I also love Lyta Alexander, and this episode really gives her something to do besides just being a pawn in other people's schemes. Even if it's not the way she would've wanted to do things, she's now taken control of her own life back, and I like that. It would've been nice to have gotten to see her actually get to work for Garibaldi once before William Edgars forced him to pull the plug on their relationship, but I digress.
No Surrender, No Retreat
This episode really reminded me of the Pegasus arc from Battlestar Galactica (Pegasus and Resurrection Ship Parts 1 and 2), with Sheridan having to go up against members of Earthforce the same way that circumstances forced Adama to take a stand against Cain.
I think my absolute favorite part of the episode was the lengthy conversation between Londo and G'Kar. Over the course of a single scene, JMS, Peter Jurasik, and Andreas Katsulas encapsulated the entire complicated and tumultuous relationship between these two particular characters, and did so in brilliant fashion. What makes the scene even more powerful is that, despite Londo saying that he and G'Kar will never be friends and G'Kar being incredibly hostile and standoffish, we as an audience know that the relationship between these two will eventually evolve to the point where Londo is able to call G'Kar 'my old friend'. The bookend to the scene where G'Kar comes and has a drink while Londo is also drinking and telling him that he'll sign the mutual support agreement is also brilliantly written and acted and is also enhanced by what we as an audience know is eventually in store for these two characters as far as their relationship is concerned.
The Excercise of Vital Powers
I really don't like William Edgars; the guy is too self-assured for his own good and is just as much of a megalomaniac as President Clark is. He also doesn't have the charisma that somebody like Alfred Bester, who's also somewhat of a megalomaniac, to make you like him even though you're supposed to hate him.
I understand what JMS is trying to do by associating Garibaldi with a guy like Edgars, but there are so many red flags going up as Edgars draws Garibaldi into his net that seeing Garibaldi slowly let himself be drawn into said net really doesn't do his character a whole lot of favors because not only does it make him rather unlikeable, it also makes him look rather stupid since it's clear he's being played and yet he doesn't seem to see that he's being played.
I love seeing JMS put characters into situations where they have to do things that are clearly against their moral fiber, and he and Richard Biggs hit one out of the park in this episode with the 'b' plot involving Franklin finally making some headway with the telepaths rescued from the 'ship of tears' - thanks to some help from Lyta - only to find out that the reason Sheridan wants him to make said headway puts him in an extremely uncomfortable position. The scene towards the end of the episode where he and Lyta are in the hallway outside MedLab is brilliantly written and acted.
I really liked this batch of episodes as a whole, because they really mark the 'coming together' of the various storylines that JMS has been setting up since Epiphanies and start to put us into the 'home stretch' as far as the season's second-half narrative is concerned.
I'll be back later with reviews of episodes 17 through 20.