Babylon 5: Z'ha'dum
February 9, 2019 1:19 PM - Season 3, Episode 22 - Subscribe

Anna makes an offer. "All of life can be broken down into moments of transition, or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both."

-Anna Sheridan has returned. She undergoes tests in Medlab to prove that she is the same 'ol Anna to whom Sheridan was married, but she makes it clear: she is here to bring John Sheridan to Z'Ha'Dum, which Kosh warned him about ("You will die at Z'Ha'Dum"). There is one caveat: there's some scarring at the back of her neck...
-Sheridan and Delenn have a confrontation. He believes she lied about Anna being alive; she counters that they truly believed she would refuse the Shadows and therefore had died. Sheridan feels betrayed; he had come to love Delenn, the first woman he had loved since becoming a widower, only to discover she was keeping a secret about his late(...-ish) wife.
-Anna's scars? A match for the telepaths they recovered from the Shadows.
-Sheridan asks Anna what happened. She says the leader of the expedition, who had previously discovered the mad Shadow ship on Mars, had lied to get her aboard; they were going Shadow-hunting. She says an accident destroyed the Icarus; the Shadows were too weak, and too newly awakened, to do much, so they struck a mutual deal to tell no one of the Shadows in exchange for being able to study Shadow tech.
-G'Kar shows Ivanova a crapton of untranceable nuclear warheads he's gotten onto B5. Ivanova approves; they can use them to create an anti-Shadow minefield.
-Londo tells Vir he is being 'promoted' to an advisor for Emperor Cartagia. He doesn't see it as a promotion; they are keeping an eye on him.
-A Shadow agent tells Londo to get the hell out of Dodge (off B5) if he knows what's good for him.
-Sheridan asks Garibaldi to get the crew off of the White Star. There's an additional order on a datapad that takes Garibaldi aback, but Sheridan asks Garibaldi to trust him. Sheridan mentions that he will 'talk about the weather' when he gets back; Garibaldi hands him a 'weather report' from Earth.
-Sheridan, with two weapons hidden on his person, leaves on the otherwise-empty White Star with Anna Sheridan, but not before seeing a vision of Kosh saying that he will die on Z'Ha'Dum.
-Anna realizes that the White Star is partially based on Vorlon tech; the Shadows are superstitious about that, believing that any Vorlon tech touching their world will mean they will die. Sheridan promises they'll use the B5 shuttle they used to board to descend to the planetary surface.
-Anna takes weapon #1 from him, and ushers him into a room with Morden and the kindly, elderly "middle man" Justin in it.
-B5 is surrounded by Shadows; Ivanova issues a red alert and launches fighters. The Shadows do not attack, however. Communication to Draal has been blocked.
-Justin tries to convince Sheridan that he is standing in the way of human glory; how the humans would be perfectly positioned after the Shadow war, how the Vorlons have been manipulating younger races for centuries and are the cause of human telepathy. How Sheridan is currently a linchpin, a fulcrum in the combat: to kill him would only make him a martyr. Sheridan needs to side with the Shadows or they will remove his "support."
-In contrast to the manipulation by the Vorlons, the Shadows believe in open conflict as a means of advancing the younger races. Start some wars, see who wins. The Vorlons want control and order in the galaxy, instead.
-Sheridan asks if Anna had a choice. She did; she chose not to serve the Shadows, and was instead turned into a Shadow pilot (the scarring Franklin noted and correlated to the telepath-pilots). However, the Shadows realized that they had made a mistake, and brought her back to help appeal to Sheridan.
-A Shadow appears behind Sheridan as it becomes less and less likely Sheridan will defect. Sheridan takes out his hidden weapon and shoots it.
-On B5, G'Kar notes that two of the nukes are missing...
-Sheridan left a message for Delenn: about how he went to the future. How they had a child, but something happened to him. How they were imprisoned; how Lando was enslaved by aliens. How future-Delenn told him "don't go to Z'ha'dum." How he thinks by going to Z'ha'dum, he can prevent that future. How he knows he is walking into a trap.
-As Sheridan, wounded and bleeding, goes out onto a balcony outside the room, Anna confronts him and Delenn watches the last bit of Sheridan's message: he loves Delenn. Delenn, distraught, collapses to the ground, crying at the loss of the man she loves. Anna pleads with Sheridan to join them, that she can be a woman he can love; he activates the two stolen nukes on the White Star and orders it to crash into the planet.
-Just before the White Star hits, Sheridan hears Kosh's voice: JUMP. He does, jumping into a gigantic pit below him.
-The Shadow ships around B5 jump away; Ivanova knows this means that Sheridan is dead.
-G'Kar gives a voiceover, partially reproduced in the pullquote, about fighting against chaos.
-Garibaldi was on one of the fighters; he has not returned. It is revealed, to the audience alone, that he and his fighter are in a Shadow ship, heading to Z'ha'dum...
posted by flibbertigibbet (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I love this episode so much, especially Justin's explanation of who he is:
"Who are you?"
"Now, that's really not important."
"Who are you?"
"Who decides that the workday is from 9 to 5, instead of 11 to 4? Who decides that the hemlines will be below the knee this year and short again next year? Who draws up the borders, controls the currency, handles all of the decisions that happen transparently around us?"
"I don't know."
"Ah! I'm with them. Same group, different department. Think of me as a sort of middleman, and the name is Justin. Come in, sit, sit. The tea is getting cold."
I still quote that sometimes, heh. Right along with 'Jump! Jump NOW!'
posted by mordax at 3:33 PM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

My top 5 of s3:

5. Passing through Gethsemane
4. Dust to Dust
3. Z'ha'dum
2. Severed Dreams
1. And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:49 PM on February 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

My top 5 of the series to date:

5. Severed Dreams
4. The Long, Twilight Struggle
3. Babylon Squared (like I said last time: Zathras, always with the comings and the goings; its sequels were unfortunately burdened with having to clear up a continuity mess)
2. And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place
1. Comes the Inquisitor
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:52 PM on February 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

G'Kar's voiceover at the end was powerful:

"All around us, it was as if the universe were holding its breath, waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.

G'Quan wrote 'There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.

The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain'."

Dispersed across Babylon 5 are, what are bound to be, JMS's philosophical, existential musings. This is probably one of them.
posted by kmartino at 6:48 AM on February 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

This was the first B5 I ever watched. I didn't need three seasons of back story to recognize that Sheridan calling down fire on his own position to wipe out the creepy giant spider aliens was the most badass move I'd ever seen in science fiction television.

Instead of bitching about how the rest of the B5-verse failed to equal this crowning moment of awesome, I'll just praise this episode as the one to watch if you're only gonna watch one episode.
posted by whuppy at 7:17 AM on February 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think everyone who Is a fan of show has their own moments of when the show said or did something that moved them. I know I do.

Z’ha’dum certainly delivers some great moments. For me the best moments in this episode are Sheridan’s subtle yet epic side eye of Anna on the White Star; Justin’s introduction; Anna’s scream as the White Star comes crashing in; and G’Kar’s wonderful voiceover at the end.
posted by nubs at 7:01 PM on February 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Among the moments that have stuck with me over the years from B5 is the one in here where Justin tells Sheridan that the pilots are changed but they do what they're told - and so will you! Not in the precise words, but in the feel. The casual explanation of subjugating people and the breaking of them and the angry demand that now you're going to suffer the same thing. Something in that moment of the previously smooth but malevolent authority and the mask slipping ever so slightly in the face of defiance.

I have a number of problems with JMS as an artist and as a human being, but the way so many things come together here in a clearly planned way and the way some seemingly odd unexplainables are handled[1]... it's pretty amazing in its deftness.

1: From the Lurker's guide: "1) Why has Z'ha'dum not been destroyed by the Vorlons et al in one of the previous wars to prevent the Shadows return?"
Funny,'d think maybe there was something of interest there.

posted by phearlez at 8:45 AM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

How future-Delenn told him "don't go to Z'ha'dum." How he thinks by going to Z'ha'dum, he can prevent that future.

There's a lot of well deserved praise for this episode here but am I the only one who thinks this logic is batshit crazy? He sees a future he wants to prevent, gets told to avoid doing one thing that he did in that timeline, and then says "I know! If I do this thing it will turn out differently?"
posted by mark k at 7:32 AM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's hard to think of a more human tendancy than the belief that, forewarned, you'll just know to do it right this time. See: basically every person ever who repeatedly chooses the same dumb-assed course of action despite every previous failure.
posted by phearlez at 9:16 AM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think too that there was some understanding at this point that if he didn't go, pretty much everything got far worse than what he saw in his flash-forward. He also thinks based on that jump forward that he does go to Z'Ha'Dum and survives, that it leads to that set of outcomes. So he plans his trip to Z'Ha'Dum as a suicide mission in the hopes of changing that future, not knowing that it is the precise course of action that leads to that future.

Time is a closed loop is what the show is arguing, anyways - they have to steal B4 because they've always stolen B4; Sheridan has to go to Z'Ha'Dum because he always goes to Z'Ha'Dum with this plan.
posted by nubs at 11:44 AM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah. Though I do think Ivanova knowing instantly what happened is a little much.
posted by corb at 1:26 PM on March 30, 2019

So we get another fakeout, along similar lines to Londo's in "And the Rock..." where the reveal also comes in the form of a character's recorded message.

And in both cases, the fakeout genuinely hurts a character we love.

Delenn reaching out to touch the screen with John's face is my entire year of Zoom friendships. A contact where no contact is possible. It's a recorded message, so he's not even present to see her do it. She knows that, but she still does it.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:30 PM on April 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

And-- oh god it just hit me-- I'm here, watching the sadly deceased Mira Furlan reach out her hand and touch someone who's not there on her screen, and she's no longer there either. All we can do is reach out.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:47 PM on April 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

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