Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 7: Soul Mates

Season 2, Episode 6: “Spider in the Web”
I’m Back in Bab Business! I am relieved. I was starting to miss my fine friends, but this, that, and the other thing happened and then there was all that TV on TV and I just sort of lost track of time. It didn’t help that I was pretty underwhelmed by the last episode, “Spider in the Web,” to the point that it took me days to watch and minutes to forget. All I remember now is that San Diego was in it and it cracked me up. I also remember that it was about Talia, who doesn’t thrill me as a character, and that it had a guest star in it who made the guest star from “The Long Dark”–already fantastic in my mind–inflate to mythic proportions. Mars stuff, conspiracy, crazy flashes of memory, animated corpses… you’d think I’d remember more. I don’t. Fortunately, whatever key pieces of information are located in the episode will probably resurface in my memory when I need them to. I suppose, too, that the Talia stuff was a mini-story arc to make the Garibaldi/Talia stuff more poignant in the “Soul Mates” episode. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Episode 7: Soul Mates
So how relieved was I to see that Mira Furlan’s hair was elevated to the level of plot point? It made me feel good to know that we were back on track, and I decided to like the episode immediately no matter what happened in it. I felt a little bad that Ivanova was called in to give beauty lessons, because of that women officers not being taken seriously as strategists thing, but then I realized that Susan also has beautiful hair and who else to better service Delenn than someone who understands it? And it’s not like she was called off the bridge to tend to someone’s concubine–the ambassadors are not equal in rank but I’d say that they are almost equal in authority to Sheridan (unofficial, yes, but their influence is strong, especially among the residents). Plus hair is very important when you have beautiful hair, so it was an acknowledgment of Ivanova’s skill and expertise–Delenn called on the best. Nothing demeaning at all in the exchange. In fact, it feels good to be recognized as an expert, and I think Susan’s expressed concerns about Delenn’s hair were very sincere.

I have to interrupt this riveting analysis to say how cute Fella looks all asleep on the couch. He’s never fallen asleep on the couch before. Sleeping on the couch in the middle of the day is a glorious enterprise, and if I didn’t think he probably fell asleep on the couch because he just doesn’t feel that good then I would be very happy for him.

I also found quite charming the entire Londo’s wives subplot. I know it was a complete rip-off of King Lear (and I think it was an obvious tribute to it) and I appreciated seeing it. The women were stock characters–The Crone, The Manipulator, The Blushing Bride–but they did bring some personality to their roles. (At least, the first two did. I thought Blushing Bride’s Virgin/Whore thing was pretty obligatory and wooden, and the bit with G’Kar unnecessary, even if he does shine in every one of his scenes.) I predicted the outcome at about the thirty-minute mark, before The Crone went to donate blood but not much before. I don’t even think it was supposed to be that big of a surprise, though–Londo plays it up but he’s old. She’s old. They have history together, and to a large degree he is where he is because of her (not that she was necessarily acting overtly on his behalf, but because they likely matured together). The scene at the bedside cinched it, of course. Unlike Lear, Londo has his wits about him and understands what message The Crone is delivering (so the show ends with no hangings and no eyeballs poked out). The Crone doesn’t lie. It must be a relief for the ambassador to have someone like that in his life.

This was very good character development for Londo. He appreciates integrity, and–despite all his ranting and raving about cutting off the exes–has a soft spot in his heart. Of course, we already knew about the soft spot from the episode with Winne Cooper and the episode with his dancing girl, but these are women who were actively deceiving him and trying to manipulate him. Londo, we now know, is not punitive. Maybe that’s not the right word. But I think he is more sensitive than he lets on. I don’t know how much we actually know about Centauri culture, but it’s pretty heavily influenced (artistically, not in the show’s background) by medieval/Renaissance culture. It could go very badly for divorced noblewomen, and cutting them off without an allowance would probably ruin their lives. I’m sure they’ll lose social standing, but I’m also sure there’s probably not a career they could step right into to take care of themselves. Londo never wanted them, and it doesn’t seem like they had a lot of choice in the matter, and it’s a relief to see that he appreciates their plight. My memory is bad, and I expect to be notified soon of an error, but I don’t really remember seeing Londo carry a real grudge or kick a fallen enemy. That business with G’Kar is mostly posturing. It’s true that their peoples do not get along and that there is bad blood between those races, but personally there’s nothing really for them to be angry about between each other.

The Londo subplot also brings in that artifact, which ties into the main plot with Talia and her PsiCorp Ex. We’ve got another mysterious planet mentioned, which reminds me an awful lot of that mysterious planet G’Kar talks about and that mysterious planet that the nerve eating thing came from in “The Long Dark.” I know they can’t all be the same mysterious planet, but whatever civilization we call this Babylon 5 sphere of sentience is having some serious problems at its borders. (Don’t forget the creepiness inside hyperspace or wherever that ship was). I can’t decide if I should suspect that PsiCorp Ex brought that artifact on board the station on purpose to knock out Londo; that feels awfully complicated and too reliant on coincidence. I know G’Kar is ruminating about the likelihood that The Manipulator had the poison all planned out, but he’s also in the company of the just-banged Blushing Bride, and is talking bad about someone she is in opposition to. I really don’t expect to see Manipulator again. Plus it would be very contrived, I think, to have two secret plans for one secret agent to be carrying out, and I think PsiCorp Ex was on Babylon 5 for the sole purpose of getting Talia back to PsiCorp, and the artifact was just a pretense. Unless there is some really big over-arching conspiracy that I have been too stupid to see. But the PsiCorp stuff seems strictly human, and the Londo stuff strictly Centauri. The Centauri are going to play to their own interests in the end, and I can’t imagine that they would care at all about PsiCorp, or Mars, or any human concern. If there’s a problem with the Centauri, it will be when everyone else tries to work together to fight off the Dark Presence and the Centauri eff it all up by refusing or taking sides because they think it will help them conquer the galaxy.

It probably won’t. But knocking out Londo AND kidnapping Talia in one mission? Too much for a forty-two minute Plot A with a Plot B and C included.

The Talia/Garibaldi bits were quite funny to me. Talk about tapping into the 1940s vibe! All that talk about “instant connection” and his mobster protectiveness of her gentle, blond self. I was cracking up after she came into his room to apologize in that dramatic, cross the room, stand with her back to him way. The scent of the femme fatale has always clung to her, with the long skirt and jacket and the hair and the gloves. She had some nice character development, too–we learned how she secretly (perhaps a secret to herself until now) despises or fears the PsiCorp and would love for someone to take her away from all of this madness. Her fear, too, about facing the future if she isn’t part of PsiCorp is interesting. I don’t know what I would do, either. It’s hard for me to tell if the future as portrayed in Babylon 5 is more liberating or more stratifying. We really only get the points of view of people moving in highly regimented and stratified organizations: The military, the ambassadors, the PsiCorp… the doctor, maybe, is entrepreneurialish, but I suddenly think he’s military. Captain Sinclair’s fiancee was like a regular businessperson, but she’s probably off of the show. If Talia leaves the PsiCorp, she actually might have nowhere to go. Fear of leaving might not betray a lack of gumption as much as a lack of opportunity. That’s getting back into the 1940s. I still don’t really care for her, but there’s a lot to think about that surrounds her. Maybe she just hasn’t had great screen time, yet. Perhaps to love, love, love her you must know, know, know her.

It made me happy to see Lurch on TV.

If Susan and Delenn get on the same cycle it’s going to wreak havoc on the plumbing.

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  • nevermore  On December 27, 2008 at 3:06 am

    “Spider” was really a pretty big waste of time. The only important things I can think of is that it gives a bit of insight in the situation on Mars, and it highlights the Psi Corps machinations, including the information that they’ve experimented with brain implants. Oh, and the Earth senator’s idea that “practicability is more important than principles”, tells us yet again that there are some problems with this government.

    Peter David, the screenwriter of “Soul Mates”, noted that Londo’s wives were named “pestilence, famine and death” in that first season episode where they were first mentioned; three of the four apocalyptic riders – which leaves the fourth, war, to Londo himself. What I liked about the Delenn subplot was that it really showed the everyday problems her metamorphosis brought with it, and that with all her knowledge of human politics and culture she was clearly unprepared for them. Sometimes the most simple things turn out to be major obstacles.

    As for Talia, she can’t leave the Corps as long as she is a telepath, hence the attraction of Stoner’s offer. Human telepaths basically only have three choices: Join the Corps, go to prison, or take the sleeper drugs. Otherwise they are persecuted. Prison and sleepers aren’t really alternatives worth considering. Maybe removing oneself from humanity forever, like that telepath girl who chose to serve on Minbar in season 1 did, would be an option. But they can’t live an ordinary life among humans outside the Corps.

  • Karen  On December 27, 2008 at 10:19 am

    You came back! And I am so glad to be right about that “Spider” episode. Lame-dash-O.

  • nevermore  On December 27, 2008 at 10:38 am

    I’ve kept reading your entries; even though I didn’t comment, I enjoyed them.

    I think I said earlier that actually “Soul Mates” was supposed to air *after* “A Race Through Dark Places”, for reasons of Talia character development. The network mixed it up, and both Hulu and WB with the DVDs didn’t bothered to correct it. It helps to keep that in mind when watching “Race”; otherwise Talia’s behaviour in these three episodes (6-8) doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Have fun with #9, “The Coming of Shadows”. It’s one of the best episodes overall.

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