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Old August 12 2012, 06:26 AM   #69
DigificWriter
Rear Admiral
 
Location: West Haven, UT, USA
Re: Re-watching Babylon 5 (* SPOILERS *)

I was hoping to avoid another double-posting situation, but sometimes you don't get what you want.

No Compromises
With Season 4 wrapping up storylines into a neat little package, and with Claudia Christian leaving the series, Season 5 requires another 'restart', and that's exactly what we get with No Compromises. However, unlike in Season 3, there really are no minor story points that JMS can use to help flavor or enhance the episode, so he's forced to introduce some new ongoing story threads and he does so brilliantly.

I may be in the minority, but I really like the characters of Elizabeth Lochley and Byron. Like Ivanova, Lochley is a hardass, but she's a different breed of hardass than Ivanova and is actually perfectly suited to commanding a place like B5 because she's uncompromising, and Byron has the charisma of somebody like Alfred Bester and the softspokenness of a Ranger, which makes him an interesting wildcard.

The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
I really liked this episode. Even though it's largely standalone, the insight it provides into Londo's psyche is absolutely essential.

I love that the people Londo saw in his internal 'dreamscape' were Sheridan, Vir, Delenn, and G'Kar because they have had the most significant impacts on him directly. There is one slight issue with regards to Londo's apology to G'Kar, though, in that this is actually the second time he's apologized (he also.did so last season in No Surrender, No Retreat, although, in that instance, G'Kar rejected the gesture).

The 'b' plot involving Lennier served as a neat counterpoint to the Londo 'a' plot and once again brought back the story thread of Vir and Lennier meeting at the same bar counter and conversing, and injected a bit of humor into the episode courtesy of Lennier's hilarious reaction to Vir hugging him.

The Paragon of Animals
This episode was excellent from top to bottom, and really lets some of the characters shine.

G'Kar as a bureaucrat speechwriter is a nice change of pace for his character, yet doesn't feel anathema to the character as he'd been used in previous seasons, and the closing scenes with him coming into the conference room and confiscating the copies of the ISA's Declaration of Principles was hilarious.

It was good to get some more interspecies/interplanetary intrigue and conflict injected back into the series, and the plight of the Enfili and the Drazi's complicity in it make for great drama and give Sheridan an opportunity to assert himself in his new role, which is great.

I said earlier that I really like Byron; the actor they cast in the role is really good and imbues the character with just the right amount of fire, charisma, and selfrighteous anger that you can't help but be drawn into his worldview. His scenes with Garibaldi and Lyta were highlights of the episode for me and really help sell him as this guy who could cause some trouble but who is inherently a good guy. He actually rather reminds me of Gaius Baltar in many respects.

A View from the Gallery
These types of 'lower decks' alternate-POV episodes can be really hard to pull off, and, for the most part, JMS is able to successfully do so. There are a few places where it felt like the characters of Mack and Bo were shoehorned into interacting with some of the major characters, but that's sort of the nature of the beast when you're doing an episode like this.

Beyond JMS' writing, what ultimately makes the episode work is the fact that Mack and Bo are genuinely likeable 'everymen'. I particularly liked their interactions with Byron and Delenn, although it did seem somewhat convenient that they'd get 'herded' directly into the area where Byron and his fellow telepaths were holed up.

Their commentary on Londo and G'Kar's relationship was also a highlight for me, especially since JMS actually references it in his commentary for The Deconstruction of Falling Stars.

I'm also going to bring back my 'essentials' list for the season after it went away for Season 4 on account of not being needed due to every episode of S4 being essential (even if I didn't personally like Intersections in Real Time):
No Compromises
The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
The Paragon of Animals

I want to close this post by making the following observation:
In the DVD introduction to the season, JMS laments having to start the storylines for the season without any momentum, but I personally don't think he needed any, as he was easily able to successfully do a cold restart thanks to the strength of the show's characters both old and new.

***
I'll be back later with reviews of episodes 5 through 8.
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