Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 13: Hunter, Prey

So this was a great episode to have in the middle of the season. Obviously the underlying tensions caused by Earth politics have been prevalent throughout, but it is easy to forget (read: easy for me to forget) exactly what is going on. I’d forgotten all about the explosion/assassination and the conspiracy theory about the Vice-President-Now-President helping to orchestrate it; I’d forgotten all about the mysterious Kosh and Sheridan’s dream that he’d visited; I’d forgotten about Sarah Whatsername, and her reports from the bombed-out carcass of San Diego; I’d forgotten that Garibaldi owned a fedora. I also enjoy the marketplace/bazaar scenes, and appreciate the appearances of the downtrodden, so even though we’d just seen them, they added to the richness of this episode, too.

I’d gotten halfway through this episode last week, and really couldn’t remember if I’d finished it or not, and was not particularly enthusiastic about rewatching it, but I did, and it makes a big difference with this series when I sit and watch for details instead of having it on in the background while I’m doing the dishes. The series is well crafted and the plot is well written, but I have to confess that I don’t find the scripts very inspiring. When you are just listening to silly remarks like, “And you want that with mayo, too?” or hearing the dialogue delivered stiffly because it is so flat to begin with, you get impatient. This whole show felt like a stage production during season one, and I wasn’t too excited about how it fit in the television format. The lines are still a little stilted and the conversations don’t feel very authentic most of the time, but the setting and the detail of this show has definitely made up for it in season two. When you focus on the screen, you see that red ribbon tied around the girder that alerts Sheridan that Sarah is in town. One split-second image transmits so much information about their relationship, about Sheridan’s role as a captain and as a revolutionary, about the limitations of the space these characters move through. Having the market stall owner–the seedy one who gets his eyeballs threatened by Garibaldi–close up shop by drawing curtains evokes a very non-sci-fi time and place, and brings the context of espionage and intrigue a la Indiana Jones and Casablanca into the program, which adds oomph to the scenes of desperate chase and subterfuge.

(I wonder, however, just how inconspicuous Garibaldi was in that fedora. Maybe his security people really don’t see past his uniform to his person, but he was walking around with the ship’s doctor who was wearing a purple bomber jacket.)

As for the actual content of the episode…

The title was “Hunter, Prey,” but it seems too obvious for those words to refer only to the hunt for Dr. Jacobs by Mr. Cranston. Hunting and prey, if people are involved, seems very Dangerous Game-y. I know the straits were the most dire straits of all the straits, but the politics of it undermine the animal power that the words make me think of. Sure, the sides were sort of mismatched, but considering that Sheridan’s people showed up very early on in the pursuit to assist Jacobs’s escape, it made it more complicated. All the focus on Kosh, and establishing the deliberate mystery about motive and identity, and why Kosh was following Sheridan into his dreams, and just what war against legends that Sheridan needs to train for makes this still-unnamed danger lurking in the borderlands a better candidate. People wax enthusiastic at me about how everything in this show eventually ties in to the big picture, so I am always looking for where the details actually are headed. And for all that the introduction narration before the credits has changed from season 1 to 2, they both refer to Babylon 5 station being “all alone in the night.” Anyone who has seen even a trailer for a slasher movie knows that all alone in the night never means you’re all alone. Things so bad that they are only know within legends are out there, and Sheridan–the leader of this last, best hope of galactic civilization–is ill-prepared to fight it. That’s the real hunter, I think. What I am most eager to learn right now is if this hunter is specifically after this prey or if it just attacks whatever is in its path.

The Vorlon obviously have more information than humans. That is some background I am looking forward to getting, too. You could consider for a little while if the Vorlon are so secretive because they are casing the joint before attacking–like a hostile force helping its victim become a worthy adversary–but they were positively maternal in this episode. Part Patience, Young Grasshoppa and part Cradling Womb, the Vorlon prodded Sheridan to find his true self and sang lullabies to Dr. Jacobs until the danger passed. It’s obvious to me that the Vorlon have access to information that the ordinary sentient beings on the station do not (can they tap into extra dimensions? are they a race of ancients?), so I am interpreting that Kosh’s decision to help Sheridan hide his fugitive confirms (in case there was any doubt at all) that Earth People are bad and the revolutionaries are good. Compared to how reticent the Minbari and Earth governments were about interceding to help masses of Narn refugees even without getting involved in the war, this is very personal, intense intervention in another species’s problem. Of course, if it has to do with the dark forces gathering in space, it may be that it is a matter of such great importance that personal, intense intervention is required. In the grand scheme of things, the latest Narn/Centauri conflicts could be meaningless (although I predict they are very ill-timed and will get in the way of finding solutions to the bigger problems).

That’s it for the episode. I ended up watching on YouTube a video compilation of all the opening credits of the pilot and the five seasons of the show, or at least the pilot and seasons 1 and 2 (I don’t want spoilers!). It was a nice little trip down memory lane to see what was emphasized in each of the different seasons. Londo narrating the pilot was a big surprise; of course when I watched it I didn’t know who anyone was, but now I actively wonder just who he becomes to have such status and authority as to be able to announce that he was there before it all the hit the fan, that he lived to tell the tale, and that he was given the platform to do so. I also wonder who the audience of this story will be, and how much I ought to be suspect of now that I know who is ultimately in charge of the telling. That technomage shows up in the credits of the first seaons–I had totally forgotten about him. I remember analyzing him in one of my write-ups (although I can’t remember right now what I said). That’s a group of people I’d really like to see again.

But Londo as the final storyteller is making me think. I figured he would be redeemed in some way, because they’ve already got Vir sitting in judgment on him and he already feels sorry about his villainous lot, but to be entrusted by the show’s creators with the history of all the people involved with Babylon 5? Wow. No narrator can be totally objective. I wonder what it will mean to the story to have it told through Londo’s filter. It’s positively literary! I feel very good right now that I can use my MA to watch TV. Lord knows I have so few occasions to use it.

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