Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 14: There All the Honor Lies

It has been so long since I’ve seen this episode that I can barely remember it. I was just going to skip this write-up and move on to the next, but I’m in the middle of watching the next one which is the investigative reporter one and it is boring the crap out of me. It really, really is. I’ve watched episodes that threw me off wanting to see the next one and when I returned it was always better, but this is the opposite of that–I really enjoyed “There All the Honor Lies” but I got caught up in some stuff and then the Swine Flu (remember that?) kept me busy. So I searched out a recap of this episode and it’s coming back to me, so I’ll give a cursory review based on my impressions of what the characters were doing, but without any specific details. Frankly, the intrigue was confusing enough watching it live; reading about it at the website sort of made it worse. Here are the main topics of the episode with my feeble remarks, in no particular order.

The Gift Shop Stuff
I loved the gift shop stuff. Not a single part of it failed to amuse, and I enjoyed the satire of the gift shop phenomenon, even if it was blatant and cliche and easy to take shots at. Ivanova’s reaction to it seemed a little much, but not out of character, and Sheridan putting her in charge of the project was a good way to slough off some work that he really didn’t need to be dealing with. I loved the bits with the masks, where she didn’t know who was human and who was alien, and Londo’s reaction about the smooth pelvis of the Centauri Ambassador Figure was a crackup. It got me to thinking at the time if it was to make the figure suitable for children a la the Ken doll, or if the people designing the mold for the doll really didn’t know what genitalia to put. Have we seen any examples of interspecies sexual relationships? Because all the alien females have two mammary glands and wide hips, we assume that they resemble human women, but I don’t know. I’m sure that prostitutes of any species know how to service the people of every species one way or the other, but we’ve only seen Londo with his wives and with that dancing girl mistress of his. The shape of the Centauri genitals could be information inaccessible to the manufacturers. More likely, however, they were skimping on material weight to lower the per-unit cost. Adding genitals beneath the clothing would have required more plastic without adding value, and thus cut into the potential profits. As for that Sheridan teddy bear… anything that says “WORD-bear-WORD WORD” should be airlocked no matter whose initials are on the front. I hate the practice of adapting teddy bears to everything. The customize your own bear is OK for a kid activity, I suppose, but I don’t know what kind of person is shopping from the Vermont Teddy Bear company. That business model just confuses me.

Londo and Vir
Vir was right to be furious. I’m not at all surprised the dipshits who seem to be leading the Centauri down this Path of Darkness are dismissive and contemptuous of him, but I am very glad to see that Londo not only appreciates what Vir does but that he also has the attributes to stand up for him in public. Londo may have a conscience. What a relief! Even if he lacks the character to judge his own actions and anticipate the consequences, at least he can identify who the good people are and has demonstrated a willingness to follow them. Perhaps he will come to his senses just in time to call off whatever fracas he started that prevents the peoples of the galaxy from fully uniting to defend and protect themselves from their shared threat.

The Minbari Lie
Well, duh. Of course they lie. The powertripping they indulged in regarding Delenn’s place on the council and the strict divisions between the different castes is too extreme for someone to not be lying at some point. Delenn is virtuous and refuses to believe in the dark side of individuals, I suppose, but it’s not like she was being obtuse or naive. This death was a very touchy situation in a very sensitive context; there’s already one race war going on at Babylon 5, and no one needs the Humans and Minbari squaring off again. But it’s honestly not really that interesting who said what when and Lennier this and Earth that and my family my honor whatever. Long story short is someone wants Sheridan removed from his position as captain and discrediting/disgracing/imprisoning him is a good way to do it. We’ve known for many episodes now that the Dark Powers that Be at Earth aren’t real thrilled with him and that Sheridan is involved in a resistance movement against them. This Minbari character assassin, however, reveals that he is acting on behalf of a Minbari faction to discredit him, too. There is a reason that the Minbari stopped the war, and the official secret reason is that it was because the Minbari were hurting the Minbari souls that had been born into human bodies because everyone is cousins. Or so Delenn said, and since she has been painted so far as a trustworthy character, it’s probably true that was the reason. Or part of one. So this could be a petty revenge thing–Sheridan is the captain of the space station, and just instigating scandal there maybe is enough to satisfy some disgruntled Minbari on the grounds of doing something to harm those pesky humans who have gotten much farther as a species than they deserve.

I’ve seen part of the next episode, however, with that interview where Sheridan is being questioned by the journalist who insists that the Minbari surrendered to the Humans. As a viewer, I was pretty surprised to hear that. We don’t get a lot from human people’s point of view (just the corrupt politicians and the resistance leaders) and I’d never really wondered what most people thought the reason for the end of the war was. I certainly never the impression that Humans had “won” or that the Minbari had “surrendered.” I’d thought that the Minbari just withdrew and called a truce of sorts. It’s not so crazy, then, to assume that the Joe Average Minbari has the wrong information about why the Minbari/Earth war stopped. And if we’re assuming that one government is corrupt, why not two? The Council was already very mean to Delenn. I’m sure people that mean are capable of anything!

Back to Delenn
I suppose it could be revealed later that Delenn was a dirty-dealing double agent laughing at us all this whole time, but I think she is being deliberately portrayed as a sympathetic, trustworthy character. She’s taken stands, she’s made personal sacrifices, she’s inspired career-ending loyalty in her assistant, and she’s been punished by her people for her integrity. There’s really nothing ambiguous about here, and if we discover later that we were all wrong, well, the textual clues leading up to the revelation are so far faint to invisible. She may choose, at some point, the “wrong” side, but the audience will be unsurprised and probably sympathetic to her reasons for doing so if she does, and she’ll acknowledge the downside of her decision, kinda like when General Lee agreed to fight for the Confederacy in the War between the States.

That Kosh Stuff with Sheridan

Like Sheridan himself, I was really not that interested in his Vorlon Communication lessons, even if watching him try to ditch class a few times was funny in his exasperation. The lesson about the pursuit of inner peace and self-knowledge leading to moments of bliss was pretty heavy-handed, but it’s only just dawning on me now (thanks to a detail in the episode recap that I read) the rich symbolism of Sheridan handing over his insignia to the monkthing. Even as external forces were trying to strip him of his rank and he was trying just as hard to resist them, he gave it up willingly for beauty and for wisdom and was rewarded a hundredfold. The moral lesson itself in that is also heavy-handed (rank and position are not what makes the man) but the portrayal of it was quite beautiful. It was a moment of perfect writing, and worth the other needlessly complicated and frantic chaos of the rest of the episode.

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