Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 10: GROPOS

You have no idea how fervently I count my blessings every day that I didn’t take upon myself the task of blogging about Lost. Christ, that show is complicated! It’s not helping me, either, that everyone’s name starts with the same frikkin letter. Don’t get me wrong–I’m loving it–but I’m just riding that wave. I have no original insight, and I never predict anything correctly, and mostly I just want to go to Hawai’i. And figure out what brand of eye makeup Richard Alpert uses so I can get it, too.

But I am blogging about Babylon 5, however sporadically, and there my responsibilities lie. I’ve stumbled on another episode I didn’t particularly care for, but rather than let it throw me off for weeks, I want to write it up and move on to the next one. GROPOS was OK; I didn’t hate it, and I did like it more than the Spiderweb one, but it was all function and very little plot or character. It had purposes to serve, and I appreciate why a story this intricate needs to pause for a moment and do some explicit storytelling (especially when there are events happening at the galactic scale and we really only ever see one station’s perspective). But it felt like an obligatory episode, and I feel like this is an obligatory write-up. Mostly I’m keeping things professional because I just found out from my mother that my aunt discovered this blog and sent her the link. I am already afraid of getting in trouble when she figures out how much time I spend writing this damn thing, and I have my fingers crossed that I haven’t said anything bad about my family on any of its pages. I don’t think I have. My brother might be annoyed at that bit I wrote about him and his old stuff, and the part where I copied and pasted from an email he sent to me, but he’s probably annoyed at me for other things. I think, anyway, that his girlfriend would laugh.

The GROPOS, I finally figured out, are the ground pounders, or the general infantrymen that run around and make a lot of noise with their feet. One of them is a kick-ass chick. Four of them die in an ill-fated attack that anyone could have seen coming, except the obstinate, arrogant, warmongering generals back on Earth. Well, more than four of them die, but we only get closeups of the good ones, the chummy ones, the ones with steel exteriors but hearts made of honey and love. Jumping to the end of the episode, I did think the scene where Garibaldi and then that other guy were reading the casualty lists was vaguely reminiscent of that scene in Gone with the Wind where the Atlantans are hanging out in carriages in the heat of the day waiting for the death lists to come off the telegraph from Gettysburg. It’s a terrible, sad situation, and I thought it was filmed well, at least so long as they were on the station. The gathering of people to witness a horror is a very universal experience, and the reactions of Garibaldi and the other guy (I am so sorry that I can’t remember his name; I actually don’t think I even know it) were very well played. Garibaldi really didn’t know Dodger, and the other guy had some rollicking good times with those fellows but they weren’t really friends. It’s sad to think of lives you’ve touched being extinguished, but the relative lack of grief for these people reflects how easy it is to be distanced from war–and thus how easy it is for conflicts to escalate far beyond what is necessary. It is a shame these vibrant people died. It’s a shame in theory, though. These were anonymous numbers sent far away to do some unpleasant stuff that no one really wants to talk about. So they let it go on.

Compare these scenes of mild disappointment (I am not criticizing these men) to the scenes of G’Kar’s balls-out anguish and hysteria. I don’t know if the producers of the show were trying to make a statement about the general public’s lack of understanding of the horrors of war–the blase’ attitudes people can take–but it was a very sterile treatment. I mean, the people of Babylon 5 were upset about it, but they made I-told-you-so predictions. No one is feeling it yet. They assume that bad things will happen because of it, but they aren’t viscerally anticipating them. Say what you will about G’Kar, but he thought his assassination plan through. He knew exactly what would happen. Babylon 5 is in a tricky position, and can’t really put up more of an argument against the troop deployment than it did, but they are still detached in a way that will take them further down the road than they mean to go. I am starting to speak in generalities, and I don’t have a firm mental hold on what my thoughts are, but there just didn’t seem to be a lot of personal involvement in the fate of those ground troops. My feeble predictive powers tell me that things will get worse before they get better, and hindsight will be 20/20, and regrets will happen. I am unhappy with my inability to get at my feelings and impressions better.

So I’ll stick with the simple stuff.

1. We learned that the doctor is a man of principle. We already knew that. Redundant. There was no reason to make the general the doctor’s father, unless down the road the doctor will have to choose between family and duty or something. We didn’t need the character development. And who was that actor anyway? He was like a poor director’s James Earl Jones.

2. We learned that the Earth government is arrogant and ignorant, and makes bad decisions.

3. We learned that war is hard.

4. We learned that Garibaldi is a sensitive man who takes women seriously, and who is capable of forming serious romantic attachments. We already learned that Sheridan was a worthy, eligible bachelor. Garibaldi has been sort of the bumbling fellow who doesn’t appear romantic, so this business of respecting the woman too much to want to hurt her (and this business of being completely unaware of what a woman wants) sort of plays against character (and sort of doesn’t). It’s a complexity, people! But we also hear quite a few unnecessary (to Dodger) details about his past attachments, and it’s not the first time we have heard of the woman who was swallowed up by Mars, so this sort of was a vehicle for getting us to think about his past and maybe–feeble predictive powers at work–learn what happens to her in a significant way. A little bit of bad Earth government, a little bit of Mars reminder… stuff is going to combine. I feel it!

5. We see an early version of the kick-ass sci-fi chick. They are a dime a dozen nowadays (Starbuck being a prime example), but I’m not sure when they first made their appearance. Well, there was Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien, but I think there was a long dry spell after that. Not that I’ve watched a ton of sci-fi, but the kick-ass chick is a fairly new phenomenon. So this was sort of a groundbreaking character as far as I can tell. I guess Dodger also was the lesson that war stresses people out and that women and men can be the same. The one thing that saved her from being totally cliche was her quick leap to the defense of Delenn. I don’t know exactly how badly Delenn was going to be hurt, but I really got the impression that something very bad had happened to Dodger in the past that made her ultra-sensitive to what those men were capable of. She sort of reminded me of the Susan Sarandon character in Thelma & Louise–that kind of history. But her character was way overwritten and the actress seemed too old to be playing a grunt. There was absolutely no reason for her to be plain old infantry–she could have been given age-appropriate responsibility without changing any significant plot points. The disconnect sort of was distracting, and detracted from her character. I dunno… maybe that was just the hair and makeup aging her. It doesn’t really matter.

6. We see that there are now two major conflicts involving Babylon 5, or the Earthlings, which is bound to cause problems. As the characters pointed out in the show, Babylon Station will lose credibility on one front if it arms itself too powerfully for another.

I don’t want to call this episode filler, exactly, but it was far more function than fun. 1440 words may contradict the next statement, but I don’t really have a lot to say about this episode. But I watched it, and I wrote about it, and I accidentally learned a minor spoiler while researching Marie Marshall’s age (and which I never found), and now I can move on.

I ate a lot of popcorn tonight, which means there’s a lot of salt in my system, and I am thirsty. This is as good a stopping place as any, I suppose.

/blogging

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