Friday, December 29, 2006

Babylon 5: 2x03-2x05

After the supercharged start of the season, things slow down a bit and retreat back into a standalone episode structure. I didn't love any of these, but they were stronger than comprable episodes from season one because each episode is somehow tied in to the developing story of the Shadow War.

Based on the title, 'The Geometry of Shadows,' I was expecting a big episode, but what we get is an episode with some good stuff, and a story that doesn't really work. The dud is the Drazi conflict. It's meant to be nonsensical, but it winds up making them look stupid. If anyone could just take the sash and become leader, wouldn't that be a better battle strategy than just attacking each other? I suppose the point is they're so stuck in a specific worldview, they couldn't think outside the box in that way. But, it doesn't really work.

Better is the story with Londo. The best scene of the whole episode is actually the first, where Londo meets with a representative of the Centauri government, and they talk about his potential rise to power. I like the new decorations in his room, particularly the picture of himself on the wall. You get a real sense of the new power going to his head, something that will likely figure large in the character's future.

The technomages are potentially interesting, I'm assuming they'll turn up again in the future. The most important scene is sthe final one with Londo, where Elric drops some hints about what will happen to Londo, and it's not looking good. I do have to say that the name Elric is pretty cheesy, this isn't supposed to be Dungeons and Dragons.

Next up is 'A Distant Star.' This is my favorite of the three episodes. For one, we get a guest appearance by Twin Peaks' Russ Tamblyn. I like the relaxed feel of the episode's opening. By avoiding any major conflict, we're able to get a better sense of the characters. Sheridan is clearly uncertain about being stationed on Babylon 5. He's an explorer and a warrior, not a diplomat. That's why he delegates more of his duties on the station than Sinclair did. He not only wants to empower Ivanova, he also can't be bothered to deal with these petty alien disputes.

Things pick up towards the end of the episode, with the well executed hyperspace rescue sequence. Again, we get a hint of the shadows' power, with their quick destruction of the squad leader. I thought that Warren would wind up being taken captive by the shadows, leading to an extended Battlestar style subplot, but that's not to be. He returns and we get a pretty happy ending, with a sitcom style wrapup to the diet plotline, a plotline that is quite funny. But, underlying this happy ending is our knowledge of what's out there and the destruction it promises for the crew. That development at the end gives the episode a relevance beyond just the standalone story.

There's a similar relevance to 'The Long Dark,' but the A story is season one level. The guy playing Amis is absurdly over the top and just doesn't work with the story. He crosses from the line from insane to just goofy. I get the point they were trying to make, but it just doesn't work, and even tying the story to the Shadows at the end doesn't help much.

The story involving Mariah and Franklin isn't much better. The show's strength so far isn't romantic drama, particularly when it's clearly for a standalone episode, not a long developing relationship. I'd like to see some of the major people get romantically involved, but this kind of story is contrived to serve the standalone plot, not build on long term character development.

So, these three weren't the best, but they never reached season one levels of bad. The Shadow threat continues to build, and hopefully we'll get some payoff soon rather than just these hints. In particular, I'm hoping to see more of G'Kar. His brief appearance in 'The Long Dark' is good, but we still haven't gotten a followup on his suspicion that Londo was involved in the attack on Quadrant 37.

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