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Old August 11 2012, 08:24 PM   #68
DigificWriter
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Location: West Haven, UT, USA
Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

I honestly swear that Marjorie Monaghan has been the lead in something that I've seen, but I don't recall having seen her in any of the stuff that her filmography indicates she has been in outside of B5, so she must just remind me of someone else.

I said that I was only going to review episodes 17 through 20 in this batch, but decided that, because I had the momentum, I'd just watch the remainder of the season in one fell swoop.

The Face of the Enemy
In the commentary track attached to this episode on the S4 DVDs, JMS talks about Garibaldi as being a 'judas'-esque figure for this episode, and while I certainly see the comparison, I don't really know if it was necessary to bring things to this point in terms of Garibaldi's character. I think there are other ways that JMS could've handled Garibaldi's character arc throughout Season 4 that would've still accomplished the 'end goal'. Dovetailing his sleeper agent arc with the capture of Sheridan felt rather unnecessary to me, and felt like a blatant attempt to make Garibaldi a wholly unlikeable character for the sole purpose of being able to 'rehabilitate' him in the future.

The best parts of this episode for me were the portions involving Franklin, Lyta, and Number One, because, as JMS points out in the commentary, there's a rather strong physical resemblance between Marjorie Monaghan and Patricia Tallman; I would also argue that there's a very strong resemblance between the two in terms of their characters, as both are very strong-willed women whose strong-willed nature is very much on display in their scenes together.

The final scenes between Bester and Garibaldi where Bester puts all of the pieces into place and basically gloats about having played Garibaldi like a well-tuned fiddle work primarily because of Walter Koenig's performance; he was incredibly well-suited for the role of Bester because he's got this natural charisma that makes you want to root for his character on some level while also simultaneously hating his guts.

Intersections in Real Time
I didn't like this episode at all. I didn't get it or understand what its purpose was, so the less ultimately said about it the better. It felt both unnecessary and cumbersome, which is not something you want when you're ramping up the tension of your story arc and wrapping things up into a nice little package.

Bruce Boxleitner does offer a very good performance, but it's not enough to overcome the superflous nature of the episode as a whole.

Not only did the episode overall feel superflous, unnecessary, cumbersome, and ultimately out-of-place, so too did its ending. If JMS felt it was absolutely necessary to do an episode like this, he should have simply had Sheridan pass out at the end of the episode and wake up at the beginning of the next in a different room.

Between the Darkness and the Light
The three best things about this episode are Garibaldi's redemption (particularly the scene where he lets Lyta deep-scan him and she subsequently projects what she saw into Number One's mind (which, incidentally, seems like it should've been impossible, which makes me wonder if Number One might've been a latent telepath herself, which would be a nice bit of symmetry), the scenes that lead up to Ivanova's life-threatening injury aboard the White Star, and the scene where Londo - of his own volition - organizes the League into giving the Army of Light fleet their complete cooperation. It is a stirring moment for not only the character of Londo, but for actor Peter Jurasik, and is, for me, one of the absolute highlights of the series and season.

The stuff involving Sheridan hallucinating being back on Babylon 5 was interesting, but didn't make up for what happens in Intersections in Real Time, and ultimatley loses some of its power and potency because it's inherently dependent on that episode and is therefore tainted by it.

Endgame
This episode is where it all comes together; everything that's been building since Epiphanies gets wrapped up and wrapped up in incredibly gripping fashion. There is about as much action in this one single episode as in the entirety of Seasons 1, 2, and 3 combined, yet JMS doesn't let the action overwhelm the poignancy of the story as it concerns our characters. From Marcus' noble yet completely misguided decision to give up his life force to bring Ivanova back to Sheridan's speech as he and his ships enter Earth space, the character moments in this episode are played perfectly and really compliment the action elements of the episode to a T.

Rising Star
This episode is one gigantic denouement and in lesser hands could've felt superflous. Thankfully, JMS has the skill and talent to make it feel not only relevant but also make it work incredibly well as both the aftermath of the storylines he'd been building since Epiphanies but also a bridge to both the future and to The Deconstruction of Falling Stars.

Sheridan's scene with Bester, his resignation speech, and the scene on Babylon 5 between Susan and Franklin are by far the most powerful parts of the episode, and are perfectly played.

The episode's humor is also perfectly played. Londo's ribbing of G'Kar is superbly acted by Peter Jurasik and really serves as both a nice commentary on their relationship and how far they've both come as well as a precursor to where their relationship ends up going in the future.

I really would've liked to have seen Sheridan and Delenn's wedding, but in an episode where so much else is going on, I can understand why JMS chose to have it happen offscreen and to only talk about it.

The episode's final scene, with G'Kar using his prosthetic eye to spy on Delenn and Sheridan's 'nocturnal activities' is not only the perfect way to end the episode, but one of the funniest things I think I've ever seen anywhere.

The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
I said earlier in my reviews that I didn't initially get why JMS would choose to end Season 4 with an episode like The Deconstruction of Falling Stars, but that my perspective on things was changed when I realized that, along with And Now for a Word, The Illusion of Truth, and Sleeping in Light, it forms part of a quartet of episodes that not only serve as a retrospective on the historical nature of the overall Babylon 5 narrative, but also, in many respects, a restructuring of that historical nature, and my perspective was shifted even further by actually watching the episode.

I don't know how many people here would be familiar with author Terry Brooks' Shanarra series, but this episode felt very much like that series in terms of its overall structure, execution, and what it ultimately was trying to say and accomplish. The fourth set of scenes in particular felt very Shanarra-esque to me, with Brother Alwyn taking on the role of Shanarra's Druids, and was one of the absolute highlights of the episode.

Another standout portion of the episode for me was the second set of scenes with Delenn making a surprise appearance to basically refute everything that was being said about her late husband. Mira Furlan did an amazing job in employing the 'glower' (which some people can do and some people can't), and seeing the reactions of the victims of her 'glower' only helped sell the moment.

This episode really stands out as one of the series' best, not only because of what I talked about before in terms of its symmetry with ANfaW, TIoT, and SiL, but also because it represents JMS at his finest. It is truly his finest work to date and really serves as both a fitting wrap-up to Season 4 and an incredibly succinct commentary on Babylon 5 as a whole. The episode also forms the second part of a double finale, with Rising Star being the first part.

Overall thoughts on Season 4
I loved Season 4 as a whole, with only Intersections in Real Time putting a small blight on the season's incredible quality in terms of the writing, acting, and story pacing.

There's an incredible amount of symmetry in the season from its beginning in wrapping up storylines from Z'Ha'Dum to its masterful double finale of Rising Star and The Deconstruction of Falling Stars, and the season represents some of JMS' finest work as a writer-creator. The season also brings our characters full-circle in a number of respects while also leaving just enough room for the future.

As sad as it was to say goodbye to both Marcus and Ivanova, the way that it ends up being handled is pitch-perfect and brings both characters to a place where they end up leaving on their own terms: Ivanova as a Captain with an opportunity to find out who she truly is and Marcus as a noble, if misguided, martyr who sacrificed everything he possibly could to save a woman whom he loved yet who never returned that love while the opportunity was there.

I mentioned earlier that Marcus is my second-favorite character in the series, but what I didn't mention - and didn't actually realize until right now - is that the reason he's my second-favorite character not only has to do with Jason Carter's masterful performance and JMS' incredible writing, but also because the character is, for all intents and purposes, the Severus Snape of the series, the only significant difference between the two characters being that Marcus is portrayed as a likeable guy whereas Snape was not.

***

I'll be back later with reviews of Season 5 episodes 1 through 4.
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