Babylon 5: The Face of the Enemy   Rewatch 
May 23, 2021 2:04 PM - Season 4, Episode 17 - Subscribe

The battle to free Earth from the Clark regime continues. Sheridan attempts to rescue his father. Garibaldi commits a betrayal and learns some devastating truths. “I think the last guy got thirty pieces of silver for the same job.”

There's a LOT of plot here, so this recap is lonnngggg. Next episode's will be much shorter!

On Mars, Garibaldi informs William Edgars that Sheridan’s father is now in custody. The trap is baited. Now the call has to be made. Edgars promises to reward Garibaldi's loyalty. Garibaldi responds with the quote above.

In space, near Earth: Sheridan, the White Star fleet and rebel Earth ships are fighting other Earth forces loyal to President Clark. The loyalist ships are outnumbered and outgunned, but they refuse to stand down or surrender: they believe Sheridan will execute them all and replace their crew with Minbari (an extension of the fake story done by ISN in The Illusion Of Truth).

Captain “Mackie” Macdougan (former Academy instructor who defected and joined Sheridan in No Surrender, No Retreat) gets on the line to assure Clark’s fleet that he and all his crew are alive, free and well, and it’s safe to surrender.

Just then, a jump point opens and an Earth ship arrives: it’s the Agamemnon, Sheridan’s old ship, come to join the Resistance. Sheridan is delighted and goes aboard to meet with his former crew. 

While he’s there, a call comes in. It’s Garibaldi. Sheridan’s father is in custody… but Garibaldi has a plan to get him out. Can Sheridan meet Garibaldi on Mars… alone? Sheridan agrees. No one else thinks this is a good idea, but Sheridan goes anyway, leaving Ivanova in command.

Elsewhere on Mars, Stephen arrives at the Resistance's underground base with Lyta and the cryogenically frozen telepaths. Number One, the Resistance leader (whom we last saw sharing a night of passion with Stephen on his previous mission to Mars) is enraged that Stephen would bring a telepath to her base, let alone MANY telepaths.

Lyta gets the cold shoulder from many in the Resistance. Stephen doesn’t know why, but she does. Lyta explains that EarthGov and the Psi Corps have a “Bloodhound” program where anyone suspected of being in the Resistance can be detained and scanned without consent. Lyta saw a lot of things back when she interned with the Psi Cops. She predicts that there will soon be a war between the telepaths and the “mundanes.”

Sheridan arrives on Mars and meets Garibaldi in a dodgy bar. “What do we need to do?” “I’ve already done it.” Garibaldi slaps a tranquilliser implant onto Sheridan’s hand. In an extended sequence, Sheridan, tranq’d to hell, tries to fight his way past the bunch of guys who’ve come to bring him in, and gets severely beaten. Garibaldi just watches.

News of Sheridan’s capture goes out on ISN and is seen by the Resistance fleet. The bulletin praises Garibaldi as a hero for turning him in.

Back at Edgars’s compound, Garibaldi demands to be told the truth. Edgars comes clean at last: he has engineered a virus that attaches itself to the gene for telepathy. It’s 100% contagious and 100% fatal. He’s also come up with an antidote, but it needs to be administered every two weeks. Every telepath will depend on it for life.

(Lise Edgars is listening to all this, concealed behind a column.)

Now that Clark is distracted by that capture of Sheridan, Edgars plans to begin releasing the virus. “The telepath problem will finally be over.”

Edgars exits; Lise rushes away separately. Garibaldi, alone in the room, extracts a tooth from his own mouth… with a transmitter inside.

We next see Garibaldi sitting in a train car at a Mars transport station. Lise comes in, horrified by Edgars’s plan, and asks Garibaldi to help her stop him. Motionless and expressionless, he tells her to go home.

As the train leaves the station, someone else enters the car. It’s Bester! He extracts the information about Edgars’s plan from Garibaldi’s mind. Garibaldi doesn’t move or speak. Bester professes himself stunned by the scale of the virus scheme, but says that now “we’ll stop it.”

So now we learn what was behind Garibaldi’s personality change after his capture and return. The Shadows captured him, but Bester managed to get control of him once they left. Bester amplified Garibaldi’s resentment of authority and tendency to be suspicious of everything, and used this to turn him against Sheridan and his old comrades, so he could operate independently and get into Edgars’s confidence. The colourful static messages Garibaldi received on B5 were subliminal “adjustments” sent by Bester.

As a tool, Garibaldi has now served his purpose. Bester muses: what to do with him? He takes out a gun: he could kill him… or keep him imprisoned forever… but no. With his revenge on both Edgars and Sheridan complete, Bester decides to be magnanimous and set the “real” Garibaldi free. The car doors open and Bester strolls out. 

Garibaldi is assailed by flashes of memory. He comes out of his catatonic trance, screaming and beating his head against the wall. He then returns to the compound to find the place trashed, Edgars and Wade dead and the virus gone. Lise is nowhere to be found.

Ivanova is told Garibaldi has tried to contact Babylon 5. She tells them to block his calls, and if he arrives “I want that son of a bitch shot on sight.” She vows to finish what Sheridan began: the liberation of Earth.

Lurker’s Guide page for this episode
posted by Pallas Athena (5 comments total)
This is a very powerful episode.

It has some great shots used to display the psychic condition of the characters at that point in time. The first is when Sheridan is tranqed and tries to fight his way out. The second is after Bester releases Garibaldi from his mental prison.

The ISN news bulletin is so well written and the anchor reads it very convincingly! Ivanova never did her Voice spots as well.

Walter as Bester, great casting! Garibaldi being freed is a very powerful moment. He's betrayed everybody, but it was because of Bester! Oh!
posted by Fukiyama at 3:00 PM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

It is a shame how B5 got screwed by the network. The Clarke regime really needed more time to breathe.
posted by Stuka at 6:38 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, S4 is full of moments that are really good, verging on great, that suffer because the whole thing feels rushed because of the fear that this was the last season the show would get. The end of the shadow war, plus the rebellion, all in one season - it's just too much.

Loved the reveal of everything to Garibaldi; Bester remains one of the best recurring semi-villainous characters of SF for me - in large part because Walter does such a fantastic job bringing him to life.
posted by nubs at 7:29 AM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seconding the love for Walter Koenig as Bester. Just a fantastic character-- his job is to enforce order (of a sort), but he brings this uncanny element of unpredictability to every episode he's in. Koenig plays the role like a virtuoso plays a Stradivarius.

Bester's revelation scene with Garibaldi is set up by Lyta's moment with Stephen, where she reflects on her time with the Psi Cops. Because of all the running/jumping/punching/shooting/revelation stuff that happens in this episode, that moment can get a bit lost... but to have a rogue(ish) telepath remind us of what the Psi Corps and their enforcers stand for gives Bester more power at his surprise entrance later.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:30 AM on May 28, 2021

It has some great shots used to display the psychic condition of the characters at that point in time. The first is when Sheridan is tranqed and tries to fight his way out. The second is after Bester releases Garibaldi from his mental prison.

Michael Vejar directed this episode and it shows. He was pretty much the only B5 director to have something approaching a distinct visual style. It really works in this episode.

He also directed a bunch of Trek episodes, which similarly stand out.
posted by neckro23 at 8:37 AM on June 9, 2021

« Older Movie: To Catch a Thief...   |  Movie: Army of the Dead... Newer »

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