September 28, 2012

Babble On #27: "Revelations"

G'Kar returns from the rim with information of a deadly new threat to the galaxy. Londo wrestles with his conscience. Delenn emerges from her cocoon. The arrival of Sheridan's sister forces him to face his own past. Garibaldi wakes from his coma, and struggles to identify his attacker.

Now this feels more like it: while "Points of Departure" seemed like an annoying case of treading water, "Revelations" is - as its title suggests - all plot developments and answers. It feels like a significant change for the series, pulling the threads of Season 1 together and pushing the series into a unified, significantly more dramatic direction.

Ambassador G'Kar has returned, having barely survived an encounter with the mysterious alien ships that destroyed the Narn colony in "Chrysalis". He brings with him references from his culture's sacred text (the Book of G'Quan) to an ancient and dangerous race that lived on the outer rim of the galaxy 1,000 years ago. There's a marked change in G'Kar's personality here: the arrogant theatrical bluster is gone. He seems genuinely afraid.

Londo continues to waver between enthusiastically embracing the assistance of Mr Morden's benefactors and running a mile from them in terror. It's like watching a frog boil in a pot: as viewers we can see how dreadful the situation is going to become for Londo, but at the epicentre he's incapable of seeing it for himself. When he jokes to Morden that "why don't you just wipe out the entire Narn homeworld?", and Morden carefully warns him "one step at a time, ambassador", it's absolutely chilling.

Captain Sheridan's sister arrives on the station for a visit, giving the series an opportunity to further explain Sheridan's backstory - particularly his dead wife Anna, who died exploring one of the outer rim planets where G'Kar now says an ancient evil is awakening. An overt link between these two plot points isn't made, pretty much because it doesn't need to be. There's a beautifully written scene where Sheridan watches a message from his late wife. It starts off touching and sad and ends feeling very ominous.

Delenn emerges from her cocoon, transformed (eventually) into a human-Minbari hybrid. It's hard to see this as a signficiant development in the narrative, instead of (as I suspect it is) an excuse to save Mira Furlan from several hours of uncomfortable make-up application every day.

Garibaldi wakes up and, with the assistance of Talia Winters, identifies his shooter. The subsequent capture and interrogation is mostly great, and suggests a conspiracy reaching right up to new President Morgan Clark. It's all going swimmingly, dramatically speaking, until the accused conspirator smugly gives Garibaldi a salute right out of The Prisoner and it all starts to feel like lazy fan fiction. Sure it may be a momentarily amusing in-joke for fans (although it's not actually that amusing), but it kicks you right out of any suspension of disbelief. A shame.

In this episode we learn the name of the mysterious planet where the ancient race is supposed to reside: Z'ha'dum.The name sounds a bit like a Lord of the Rings rip-off, since Z'ha'dum sounds quite a lot like Khazad-dum - the bridge where Gandalf died falling down an enormous pit only to return to life to help end the war. It's probably a coincidence - it's not as if Sheridan's going to go to Z'ha'dum, fall down an enormous pit, die and then return to life to help end a war. Right? Right? Next you'll be telling me the Rangers are going to crop up in Babylon 5, or that once the Great War ends the crew of the station are going to have to deal with some Scouring of the Shire nonsense back on Earth.

This episode is such a weird contrast from the one before it. It's all story arc, all the time. It picks up the momentum that "Points of Departure" was threatening to discard, and kicks Season 2 off in a much better fashion. So two episodes in, we're at 50%.

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