Babylon 5: No Surrender, No Retreat
August 18, 2019 4:02 PM - Season 4, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Sheridan and B5 try to free Proxima III. Londo and G'Kar try something new. "So from now on, I guess the operational phrase is 'trust no one'." "No. Trust Ivanova; trust yourself. Anybody else -- shoot 'em!"

-Previously on B5: President Clarke is killing civilians, wantonly.
-B5 returns to wartime footing after the end of the Shadow War. Since the enemy is now fellow humans, there are special precautions in re: false orders (see pullquote).
-Sheridan calls in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds: there will now be a price for the White Star patrols of League space: every League member must contribute one destroyer to B5 defenses, and must cut all non-humanitarian contact with Earth Alliance.
-Meanwhile, Sheridan has Ivanova send 3 White Star to harry Earth Space with flybys. The goal is to freak out Clarke and have him pull his forces back to Earth Space, giving Sheridan breathing room for his assault to break Proxima III's blockade without being detected by patrols.
-Marcus Cole returns to B5 with news from Proxima III, one of the fellow rebels: they're at the brink of collapse. The colony is blockaded by six Omega-class destroyers, including two known to be firing in civilians: the Heracles (Hercules) and Pollux (one of the twins from the constellation Gemini).
-Sheridan's plan: a staggered assault that will give the less evil commanders a chance to join Sheridan's forces or otherwise stand down. The Heracles and the Pollux are well and truly hosed, though.
-Sheridan's White Star now has the B5 emblem on its side... Sheridan gives a speech about the difficulty of firing on other humans, but why it is necessary.
-Sheridan has ships jump in on both sides of the planet; the Heracles sends the Pollux and the Nemesis to investigate the other side of the planet. It seems the fiercest Clarke loyalists are keeping an eye on other commanders...
-Sheridan's standing battle orders: don't shoot first. Only shoot at ships that are shooting at you. Focus on the Heracles and Pollux to begin.
-The Earth Force ships:
Heracles (survives): led by Captain Trevor Hall, a known Clarke loyalist and civilian-killer. On the near side of Proxima III. This is the first ship to fire. One it is the only ship left in the fight, Sheridan offers him the chance to surrender; Hall refuses, since he knows he'll be court martialed for his actions regardless, and continues to fight, when his first officer Sandra Leavitt relives him of duty because the crew doesn't intend to die for him today.
Pollux (destroyed): Clarke loyalist and known civilian-killer on the far side of Proxima III. Is destroyed when a White Star, badly damaged by the Heracles, crashes into it, blowing up both ships.
Nemesis (survives): commanded by Yoshi Kanagawa, of unknown loyalty, on the far side of Proxima III. Spends much of the battle only advancing with the Pollux, but eventually opens fire on Sheridan's forces. Eventually surrenders after being blown halfway between here and hootenany.
Vesta (survives): led by Captain Edward "Mackie" MacDougan, who knows Sheridan personally. He tries to warn Sheridan not to engage in treason, but Sheridan notes that Mackie's orders are illegal and he should maybe reconsider his life choices. He refuses to fire so Hall (Heracles) tries to get the Vesta's first officer to take over; this works for awhile, aided by the first officer's PPG, but eventually the first officer is, uh, 'subdued' and Mackie stands the Vesta down and declares her non-hostile to Sheridan's forces.
Furies (treated as non-combatant): commanded by Stephanie Eckland. Unknown loyalty, do not respond to initial flybys that Sheridan tells its commander is to determine its standing. Is deemed a noncombatant.
Juno (flees): Commanded by James Mandala. Refused direct orders to engage and only ever advanced. Eventually fucked off to a jump gate without ever having fired.
-After the battle, Sheridan gives the remaining commanders -- Kanagawa (Nemesis), MacDougal (Vesta), Eckland (Furies), and Leavitt (F.O. in temporary command of the Heracles), a choice. (1) They can withdraw from the war's theatre; (2) they can defend Proxima III; (3) they can actively join Sheridan. Sheridan insists that he is not interested in becoming a dictator, but merely removing one; after Clarke is removed he promises to return full control to Earth voters, so the people can decide on their next steps.
-After some offscreen deliberation: the Furies agrees to defend Proxima III. The Heracles withdraws for repairs. The Nemesis and the Vesta will join Sheridan.
-The Voice of Resistance announces the liberation of Proxima III and encourages further defections of EarthForce personnel.
-Vir is still having nightmares about assassinating Cartagia. Garibaldi comes to his quarters, asking for Londo; Vir lets slip that he's out seeing G'Kar... Garibaldi, for his part, is pissed by Sheridan's actions and bringing the station back to wartime status.
-Londo is trying to make amends for, you know, re-imprisoning the entire Narn people with G'Kar. G'Kar is not feeling it, and is especially bitter about his own imprisonment and mutilation. Londo says he doesn't want to trade insults anymore -- he thanks G'Kar for his help saving Centauri Prime, and makes a proposal: a Centauri-Narn joint statement of support for the Earth Resistance, in the hopes of inspiring more races to support Sheridan. He offers G'Kar is drink to seal the deal, and pointedly says it is a parallel of when a euphoric G'Kar tried to drink with Londo right before Emperor Turhan died and Turhan's hopes of letting the Narn live free died with him. G'Kar refuses the drink and leaves.
-G'Kar eventually joins a despondent Londo in the Zocalo. He will sign the agreement... on a different page than Londo signs. They drink together. Later, Ivanova announces this agreement on the Voice of the Resistance.
-Sheridan asks Franklin about the telepaths in cold storage, including Bester's wife, for a future mission...
-Garibaldi leaves B5, planning never to return...
posted by flibbertigibbet (2 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As with all battle episodes, this one took a long time to recap.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:02 PM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Holy shit, flibbertigibbet, that recap is great. (That is, all your recaps are great, but this one is particularly comprehensive.)

And no one commented! But fear not: two years later, the chronic overthinker is here to waffle at length.

I'm going to focus on the Londo-G'Kar scene, which is basically an extended monologue for the excellent Peter Jurasik, with Katsulas as the fixed foot of the compass.

So in all my previous rewatches, from the first one to now, Londo was My Fave. To the point that I have a photo of him, signed by Peter Jurasik, by the piano to cheer me while I practice. (Jurasik was incredibly nice, funny and kind when I met him. He talked to me in the Londo voice. Seriously, prince of a guy.)

But on this rewatch, I feel like wearing a T-shirt saying G'KAR WAS RIGHT. Londo is a coloniser! He's the representative of a formerly oppressive government which he personally guides into being MORE oppressive, and ultimately into war and occupation. Then he feels remorse and tries to change, but the blood of millions of Narn is still on his hands personally-- not his government's, not Refa's-- his.

G'kar knows all this, because he saw it in Londo's memories during Dust To Dust. And we, as viewers, heard what G'kar said to Vir in the elevator: You can't apologise to the dead.

Not that Londo apologises. G'kar was moved to buy Londo that drink in The Coming of Shadows when he heard that Emperor Turhan (whom G'kar had been plotting to assassinate) was going to publicly apologise for the previous colonisation/enslavement of Narn. In the present scene, Londo doesn't apologise. He admits he made bad choices, he admits he "became the enemy", he says he wants to do better. But he doesn't apologise, to G'kar or to his people.

G'kar, meanwhile, after his vision in Dust To Dust and his imprisonment and torture on Centauri Prime, has gone from actively wanting Londo dead to simply wanting no contact with him (and for his world to stay away from Narn). From G'kar, that's a major concession.

But then Londo comes bustling in, trying to engineer a rapprochement on his terms, reminding G'kar:
"I promised to free Narn if you cooperated. I could have easily changed my mind... but I kept my promise! Surely that entitles me to something!"
(I don't even have to draw the obvious modern parallels to demonstrate how shitty that is: Londo insinuating that he's entitled to gratitude for ending THE WAR HE STARTED. From Jurasik's acting choices, I believe Londo is being sincere here, but I also believe he is wrong.)

Then he proposes the joint statement, and pours two drinks. Peace, on his terms.

And G'kar doesn't spill the drink out, or throw it in Londo's face. Instead he silently, carefully pours the glass back into the bottle. Again, from G'kar, that is a major concession. A reserved "no", rather than a "Hell, no". Symbolically, the drink is not wasted but potentially saved for another time (setting up the final scene).

In Season 1 and most of 2, G'kar was written as the violent, militant, unreasonable one while Londo was the fun one, the reasonable, relatable fellow. The aesthetics echo that: Londo's look is an extravagant version of human, while G'kar has the full facial prosthetics and the scale-like markings and the red contacts. And I think Straczynski leans into G'kar's anger over his people's former colonisation as a trait to make him appear unrelatable and unreasonable. He has Sheridan accuse G'kar of throwing a "tantrum" in Coming of Shadows when he refuses to attend the reception for the Centauri Emperor, and one gets the sense that Sheridan is intended to be the viewers' surrogate there.

But in 2021, G'kar reads very differently. We learn in And Now For A Word that his parents were enslaved, and so was he as a child; that his father was killed in a barbaric way by their enslavers. So the former Centauri occupation of Narn only ended within G'kar's lifetime. His anger is justified, his demands for justice and recognition constantly ignored, laughed off or treated as an inconvenience. But we, in the future, we see him. G'kar is always about justice; his revelatory vision only changes the way in which he pursues it. He leaves vengeance behind, though the wrongs he wanted to avenge still can't be undone.

...And I've written a wall of text. Babylon-5 has been such a boon in lockdown, and I'm immensely grateful to flibbertigibbet for these posts, and to others for their commentary.
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:52 AM on May 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

« Older Podcast: The Report: Part V: R...   |  The Rain: Full Season 2 - Netf... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments