Again with the double-posting (sorry).
In the Kingdom of the Blind
I really wish I knew the title reference for this ep, because it's neat and I'd like to know where it came from.
Although we don't have much, if any, information about Byron's backstory at this stage, this episode really conveys this sense that there's something personal driving his insistence on dealing with things in a non-violent fashion, which adds to his character and, for me, makes him even more interesting than he already was. There've been some comments up-thread that he and the rest of his fellow telepaths weren't sympathetic, but I have to disagree. I think Byron is plenty sympathetic, even if he and his group get themselves into an extremely untenable situation by trying to force the issue of a Homeworld of their own.
With the telepath story ramping up, JMS needed to introduce another major crisis in order to keep the story momentum going, and that's exactly what he does with regards to unknown raiders attacking ISA member world shipping lines.
I loved actually getting to see the very scenario that Londo described when Delenn told him about the plan to send G'Kar back to Centauri Prime with him as his bodyguard play itself out. The reactions of various denizens of the Centauri Royal Court were great, as was G'Kar's response to their uncomfortableness. You could see the undisguised glee in his face as Vitelli and others glared at him and whispered behind his and Londo's backs.
I find myself really wanting to know why the Drakh want to keep Londo alive, although I'm also wondering why Londo didn't see the silouhette of the Drakh that saved his life because, despite the darkness of the corridor, he was close enough to have been able to get at least a vague glimpse at the creature.
This is the episode where we finally see for ourselves a good majority of what Londo tells Sheridan and Delenn in War without End concerning the Keepers, which I thought was neat because it gives just enough away for astute audiences to start drawing connections, but doesn't give everything away quite yet, leaving some questions unanswered.
A Tragedy of Telepaths
There is nothing so dangerous as a man or a group with an agenda or a cause, and this episode really drives that point home. Every one of the characters that has a major role to play in it has an agenda or cause of some kind, from Byron and his group to Londo and G'Kar.
Byron's little goodbye speech to Lochley was really well-acted by both Tracy Scoggins and Robin Atkin Downes, and you could see her attitude starting to shift just a bit even though, by this point, she's already 'called in the hounds', as it were, by contacting Bester and the Psi Cops.
I loved the interaction in this episode between Londo and G'Kar; it's good that their road to the point where they can call each other 'old friends' isn't smooth, and you can really see that G'Kar is so outraged by the thought of Na'Toth being locked up and forgotten that he's almost ready to go back on his word to protect Londo. Londo, to his credit, takes everything in stride, and, in perhaps the best indicator we've gotten to date of just how much he's changed and just how noble he truly is, doesn't flinch at all in the face of G'Kar's outrage and agrees to do everything that is within his power to get G'Kar the outcome he wants even if he can't do things the easy way and simply order her release.
Sheridan's gamble of putting White Stars out there to serve as 'watchdogs' was neat and well-intentioned, even if it ended up exacerbating tensions rather than easing them. As good of a soldier as Sheridan was, I think I like his arc in Season 5 the best because he really does make an excellent political figure.
I want to revisit that scene in Brown Sector between Byron and Lochley; as noted earlier, you can really see her attitude towards Byron and his group changing as he says goodbye to her, which adds a lot of additional emotional weight to the situation once the escalation of violence by the telepaths who walked out on Byron before he and the rest of his group sealed themselves inside Brown Sector forces her to actually rely on Bester, since you get this sense after her little chat with Byron that she might've been regretting her decision to ask for help (or at least I did).
There is nothing so dangerous as a person or a group of people with an agenda or a cause, and this episode is proof positive of that. Every single person who has a major role to play in it has an agenda or a cause that is driving their actions, from Lochley and Sheridan's desire to end the crisis to Garibaldi's attempt to kill Bester to Byron's desire to atone for the atrocities he was forced to commit as a Psi Cop.
Speaking of which, I really liked the scene where he tells Lyta his history and why Bester has such a personal vested interest in apprehending him. It was a really powerful scene that was perfectly acted by both Robin Atkin Downes and Patricia Tallman.
There was bound to be a point at which Bester's smarminess and inflated sense of his own self-importance was going to come back and bite him and others in the butt, and there's therefore a bit of grim satisfaction in actually getting to see it happen.
It was great to see JMS finally reveal the exact circumstances of the telepath hostage situation he teased in The Deconstruction of Falling Stars, and the part of the episode where Byron makes it into the Medlab and shoots Thomas is really powerful. I loved the solution he came up with to resolve the entire situation, but, in typical fashion, nothing ever runs smoothly, and Bester, as I mentioned above, finally pushes one button too far.
Byron's decision to kill himself and the rest of those responsible for the violence was really powerful and made me sad because you can truly see the despair in his face as he makes the decision and tells Lyta to walk to safety.
I knew that Garibaldi's alcoholism was going to rear its ugly head thanks to the S5 introduction, but wasn't quite sure whether or not it would make sense, and I'm happy to say that JMS proved me wrong. There's something kind of perversely funny in the fact that Bester knew exactly what he'd eventually want to do and made sure that he couldn't, because it only makes the mistakes that Bester ends up making with regards to the Byron situation work even better. I loved the scene between Bester and Sheridan where you can, for the first time, truly see the humanity in the character as he realizes that, this time, he went too far and, in the process, killed any shred of goodwill he might've had with anybody aboard B5. It's too bad that he doesn't end up learning from the situation and letting it change him for the beter, though.
The Ragged Edge
As one storyline ends, another begins. This episode was the perfect way to kickstart the second half of the season, arc-wise.
The character stuff in this episode was excellent. From Garibaldi slowly sliding back into the bottle to G'Kar discovering that Ta'Lon and others have turned him into a religious figure, this episode had a lot of great character-building moments for everybody. I loved the way that G'Kar dealt with the question of just how much of the content of the 'Book of G'Kar' is and should be regarded as set-in-stone gospel; there's just something hilarious about the mental image of G'Kar slamming a book on someone's head, and it's great that we actually don't see it happen.
I loved the scene where Londo provides the key to the whole mystery surrounding the attacks on Alliance member world shipping lanes. The decision to keep him out of the loop afterwards was really well-played by all of those involved, especially since you just know that, at some point, it's going to backfire on them somehow.
I really liked the scene between Sheridan and Franklin where Franklin essentially tenders his resignation as head of Medlab and a member of B5's crew. I liked the references to Dr. Kyle and the revelation that his (Kyle's) position on B5 was meant to be finite from the beginning because it helps provide some context to the character's departure and the changes that were made to things between the shooting of The Gathering and the shooting and airing of Midnight on the Firing Line.
In closing, I want to update my 'essentials' list:
The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
The Paragon of Animals
Secrets of the Soul
Day of the Dead
In the Kingdom of the Blind
A Tragedy of Telepaths
The Ragged Edge
I still stand by what I said earlier about S5 being the best of the series, and am really interested to see how the rest of the story plays itself out.
I'll be back later with reviews of episodes 13 through 16.