In the final part of Season Two of Babylon 5, the series enters arguable it’s darkest moments (up to this point). Throughout the season, we’ve seen the descent of Londo Mollari in the darkness of his own ambitions, regardless of the consequences. We’ve seen EarthGov slipping further and further into a dictatorship. And we’ve seen the galaxy at large going straight to hell as the Shadows begin to sow seeds of chaos everywhere. But there are moments of light in all of this darkness.
There are only four episodes left from the second season that I haven’t covered and I want to make sure each of them gets their due, because these change the game, so to speak.
First among them is “Divided Loyalties”, which reintroduces the character of Lyta Alexander, played with verve by Patricia Tallman. Patricia Tallman’s character of Lyta was first introduced in “The Gathering”, the two-hour TV movie/pilot for Babylon 5. She was written out of the show since she wasn’t available for the first season when the series was picked up, which is where the character of Talia Winters comes in. Andrea Thompson’s work as Talia is something I want to focus on for a moment. She wasn’t given much work over the two seasons she was on the show but she managed to make each of her appearances count. She was the point-of-view character for the Psi Corps stories, making her question her loyalties and what she was willing to tolerate to be part of that organization. This episode turns all of that on its ear as it’s revealed she has a sleeper personality embedded in her mind that wiped her personality completely, replacing it with one that is loyal to Psi Corp and Earth (in that order). The tragedy of the episode is that this is where Ivanova and Talia’s relationship finally reached the point where they (implicitly) became lovers.
One of the major story arcs during the second season is the Narn/Centauri War, which has been raging since the episode “The Coming of Shadows”. As the war progressed, the Narn were becoming increasingly desperate as they were shown to be outclassed by the Centauri. In the episode “The Long, Twilight Struggle”, the war comes to a devastating end and Londo Mollari is in the middle of it. Londo expressed some regret when Morden’s allies destroyed 10,000 Narns to remove an outpost of the Narn Regime at the end of the first season. Here, Londo bears witness to mass destruction as the Centauri bomb the Narn “back to the Stone Age” as one character refers to the event. From a character perspective, though, this is the start of G’Kar’s transformation into a different character than what he began as. The change doesn’t get cemented until the following season but the seeds are planted here. The B-plot of the episode involves Sheridan being brought up to speed on the Rangers, a group of Humans and Minbari who have been trained to fight the Shadows. As I mentioned at the start of this essay, even in the midst of all this darkness that is consuming the galaxy, strands of light are piercing through.
“Comes the Inquisitor” is an interesting episode for a couple of reasons. First, we get our first inkling that the Vorlons are not the “good guys” we’ve been led to believe up to this point, mainly through the introduction of Sebastian, a Human from Victorian-era London that has been in the service of the Vorlons for centuries. Sebastian arrives and demands a private audience with Delenn, where he spends the majority of the episode torturing her. This is not an easy episode to watch for that very reason. As an audience member, one has to wonder why the Vorlons, who are supposed to be fighting the darkness, would have such a person in their employ. Wayne Alexander portrayed Sebastian and did a masterful job at it. There are moments where you can see the madness that lies behind the stoic exterior of Sebastian and that is due in large part to the performance of Alexander. But the interrogation serves a purpose by confirming that both Delenn and Sheridan are fighting this war for the right reasons rather than for vanity or glory. The methods are reprehensible but the mission is an important one. The reasons for performing an action are just as important as the action itself. If one pursues as goal for the wrong reasons, the results can be disastrous (which the audience sees on display in Londo’s arc from this season).
Last but not least is the season finale, “The Fall of Night”. Sheridan finds himself in the unenviable position of hosting The Ministry of Peace (a division of EarthGov tied to the NightWatch program that has been growing in strength throughout the season). And if that isn’t the worst part, a severely damaged Narn Heavy Cruiser pops out of hyperspace and requests sanctuary, which puts Sheridan in a difficult spot. Since this is Sheridan, he does the right thing, which brings him into conflict with Londo and the Centauri. The episode also shows how far EarthGov has fallen when Mr. Lantze (the representative from the Ministry of Peace) signs a non-aggression treaty with the Centauri Republic. This can be seen as a direct parallel to the Munich Agreement (otherwise known as the Munich Betrayal), where many of the European powers signed an agreement with Hitler’s Nazi Germany to avoid war. The conflict reaches a head when the Centauri send their own Heavy Cruiser to capture the Narn ship. Sheridan puts himself and the station in harm’s way to assist the Narn, which results in the Centauri vessel being destroyed. The end result of this fight is an assassination attempt on Sheridan’s life, which is only averted by Ambassador Kosh leaving his encounter suit, revealing what the Vorlon looks like (at least what they want the other species to see them as).
The second season of Babylon 5 pulls the show in a new direction, away from the standalone episodes of the first season and more into the overarching plot that will come to define much of the show’s run. As Ivanova puts it in the closing of “The Fall of Night”, Babylon 5 was built to maintain the peace but peace can sometimes be another word for surrender. Sometimes, the right kind of peace can only be found on the other side of war through victory. The pieces are set by the end of this season but there are still more moves to be made before the endgame is reached.