June 23, 2013

Babylon 5: Season 2 in review

Just as common wisdom would have it, Babylon 5's second season is definitely a step up from its first. I think a large part of that is the reduction in the number of non-arc-related episodes written by people other than J. Michael Straczynski. He's still a very uneven writer, but he definitely (and understandably) has a better handle on his own series that other writers do.

Another big change in Season 2 was definitely replacing the deliberately calm, closed character of Jeffrey Sinclair with the far more emotional, open and humorous John Sheridan. Bruce Boxleitner energises the series with his presence, and seems to allow a lot of the regular cast to shine a bit more as well - either that or they're simply a lot more comfortable in their roles in the second year.

The rest of my thoughts are, as with the Season 1 review, probably best summed up in dot point.

  • What a difference a year makes. It's amazing that from Season 1 to Season 2 G'Kar and Londo have effectively swapped places. This sharp character arc has made them even more integral to the show. I wrote in my Season 1 review that I found them to be the highlight of the series; that goes double for Season 2.
  • Talia Winters is gone. I felt that she was a pretty extraneous character to begin with. The writers always seemed to strain to fit her into episodes, and she didn't appear in too many to begin with. It's notable that in the last few episodes of the season she isn't really missed.
  • The situation is even worse for Lieutenant Warren Keffer: shoved into the series at Warner Bros' behest, written with visible resentment by Straczynski and killed off in the season finale. I think there was a potentially great character here, but he simply never got the chance.
  • Babylon 5's strength is its story arc, so it's no surprise that an increasing reliance on that arc has led to an increasing quality of story.
So which stories were the good ones? I'd have to say the top 5 for me were (in broadcast order):
  • "The Coming of Shadows"
  • "And Now for a Word"
  • "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum"
  • "Confessions and Lamentations"
  • "The Long, Twilight Struggle"
Refreshingly, there were only two episodes in Season 2 that I genuinely hated. They are:
  • "Spider in the Web"
  • "Gropos"
 I'll be taking a break from reviewing Babylon 5 so that I can catch up on reviewing some other shows, but I will be back - sooner or later - with my thoughts on Season 3.

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