Babylon 5: The Coming of Shadows
June 2, 2018 5:27 AM - Season 2, Episode 9 - Subscribe

[major arc; titular episode of the season] Emperor Turhan, of the Centauri Republic, comes to Babylon 5 to make an announcement. Londo and G'Kar pass each other, like ships in the night... "Oh, enough [regrets] to fill a lifetime. So much has been lost, so much forgotten. So much pain, so much blood. And for what, I wonder? The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us. And our lives slip away, moment by moment, lost in that vast terrible in-between. But there is still time to seize that one last, fragile moment. To choose something better, to make a difference, as you say. And I intend to do just that."

-Emperor Turhan (not named in this episode), and his bevy of precognizant wives, arrives on Babylon 5 to make a grand announcement. It turns out he is dying of a disease and wants to apologize to the Narn and attempt to make amends. Refa and Londo plot a counterspeech, which they'll take pains to make sure will accurately predict the future, but...
-Turhan fails to give his apology publicly because of his illness, but tells Franklin to tell G'kar of his plans. G'Kar is humbled, and in a fit of optimism and hope buys Londo a drink to attempt to bridge the divide between their people.
-Meanwhile, Londo and Refa are plotting against Turhan, who they believe to be the cause of the Republic's weakness. To sway their supporters on Centauri Prime, Londo and Refa plot to attack a Narn colony. Londo, against Vir's advice ("But someday I’m going to remind you of this conversation, and maybe then you’ll understand."), gets Vir to contact Mr. Morden to pre-bomb the colony for the Centauri attack. The attack succeeds, and as far as the Narn know the Centauri took the colony--alone.
-Back to that drink. G'Kar tries to make friends with a very guilty-looking Londo. Londo knows, but G'kar doesn't, that Londo is responsible for the deaths of another few thousand Narn.
-Turhan meets Kosh, which he had hoped to do at the beginning of the episode.
Turhan: How will this end?
Kosh: In fire.
-Turhan whispers something to Londo just before he dies. Londo and Refa spin this as a mandate to 'take [his] people back to the stars' and return the Centauri Republic to its former glory; Londo privately admits that Turhan actually said that they were damned. Refa replies, "Well, it's a small enough price to pay for immortality."
-Meanwhile, they've had the prime minister assassinated on Centauri Prime.
-Londo dreams. The attack either Ragesh III (episode 1) or the last time he used the Shadows to attack a Narn outpost. "Keep it up, G'kar, and soon you won't have a planet to protect!" A hand reaching out of a sun. Londo seeing the strange many-legged Shadow ships flying over Centauri Prime. Londo being crowned Emperor. A decrepit, grey, coughing, and liver-spotted Londo on the throne, as an eye-patch-wearing G'kar chokes the life from him. Londo awakes, and says, "The time, what is the time? [looks at a clock] ...It has begun."
-G'kar has found out about the attack and straight-up tries to kill Londo in a state of utmost grief (even breaking his stone table in two), but is restrained before he does anything irreversible. The Narn declare war on the Centauri.
-Meanwhile, Garibaldi is being followed by a man who has a message from Sinclair (now the ambassador to the Minbari). It turns out he is a Ranger, a member of an "army" who have been on B5 for about two months.
"The bearer of this message is one of my Rangers. Some are Minbari; most are human. Their job for now is to patrol the frontier... to listen, to watch, and to return with reports too sensitive to trust to regular channels. They are my eyes and ears. Where you see them, you see me. They've been drawn here to learn to work together and prepare for the fight ahead. In the name of our friendship I wish that you give them every courtesy and co-operation. I wish I could tell you more. I wish I could warn you. But the others don't think it's time yet. Stay close to the Vorlon... and watch out for Shadows. They move when you're not looking at them."
posted by flibbertigibbet (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The big Ranger reveal, as if there haven't been enough examples of JMS riffing on Tolkien. Somewhere I recall reading that you can actually spot that distinctive Ranger pin on background extras earlier in season two, but I'm having trouble finding that reference now. (No wait, found it, TV Tropes lists it under Rewatch Bonus in this episode's recap.) That kind of subtle worldbuilding is easy when you have 5 seasons worth of plot outlined, and while it's the norm today, that was revolutionary at the time.

This was also the winner of the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the first time a Hugo had gone to a TV episode that wasn't from The Twilight Zone or Star Trek. it beat out Apollo 13, 12 Monkeys, Toy Story, and an episode of DS:9, The Visitor.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:31 AM on June 2, 2018 [8 favorites]

Oh yes, I forgot this subplot -- before G'kar cheery about face, he intended to sacrifice himself to assassinate the Emperor. So the arc of the episode goes: G'Kar tries to kill a high-ranking Centauri with complete clarity of purpose -- G'Kar tries to befriend high-ranking Centauri -- G'kar tries to kill another high-ranking Centauri while in a maelstrom of grief and rage.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:36 AM on June 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

So I just finished watching (first watch for me) an episode late in season five. And it really reminds me how much I enjoy the relationship between Londo and G’kar, which is so strong in this episode. I’m constantly impressed with how much acting Andreas Katsulas does under all that face makeup. (Peter Jurasik is also good but only had the goofy hair to act past).
posted by nat at 9:08 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

This episode is so good. I also wonder when the Sinclair parts were filmed...
posted by corb at 12:06 PM on March 20, 2019

I recall reading that they were filmed at the tail end of S1, but can't find a source for that right now.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:59 PM on March 20, 2019

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