Largely a standalone episode, this installment nevertheless provides a lot of genuine entertainment with some sparkling character bits.
Since it became operational, Babylon 5 has been "a port of call for diplomats, entrepreneurs, hustlers, and wanderers." In the wake of Kosh's rescue of Sheridan - which resulted in religious visions for most of those present - it has also become a destination for religious pilgrimage. Among the new arrivals are Brother Theo (Louis Turenne) and his followers, who feel that Babylon 5's fluid human and alien population makes it the perfect place for them to pursue their quest of finding God "in all of His forms."
Theo is not the only one on a quest, however, and not all quests are so benign. A crazed bomber is seeking to spread his message of chaos by planting bombs throughout the station. And if Sheridan and Garibaldi can't track him down in time, he may just blow up the station itself!
Convictions marks the return of Louis Turenne to the series for the first time since A Voice in the Wilderness in Season One. In that 2-parter, Turenne played Draal, Delenn's elderly Minbari tutor, who had a date with destiny in the form of the Great Machine on Epsilon 3. Sadly, health problems prevented Turenne from reprising the role in Season Two.
Fortunately, as the actor's health recovered, JMS was able to create another meaty role for Turenne. Brother Theo is exactly the kind of genuinely spiritual man who gives religion a good name. He's the antithesis of the Jerry Fallwells and Pat Robertsons of the world. Theo is low-key, tolerant, gently humorous, and extremely practical. He does not get offended when Ivanova questions why people so qualified in practical fields would accompany him. He simply points out, in a way that makes her question seem ridiculous, that while his followers are skilled workers and are highly sought-after in their fields, "they also believe."
This episode marks one other welcome return to the series. This is the first episode in a very long time where the humor has felt like a natural part of the episode. Though I loved most of Straczynski's humorous digressions in Season One, the humor in Season Two was often intrusive and jarring. In Season Three, he seems to have found the right balance again. Convictions is a primarily serious episode, but I laughed a lot during itů which went a long way toward making me enjoy this story as much as I did.
There are some terrific character moments sprinkled about in this episode. Long-suffering Lennier, forced to endure the presence of that obnoxious guy you sometimes meet in airports who stubbornly clings to the belief that he is much better company than he truly is, finally sacrifices a tiny portion of his principles by chasing the man away with a well-chosen lie. Lennier feels fleeting guilt, promising that he will "do penance later." But given what we know becomes of Lennier by the series' end, this small compromise of his previously unshakeable principles may be the first foreshadowing of what is to come for him.
Lennier is definitely starting to question some of his beliefs. He acts according to his beliefs when he saves Londo's life at the site of the second bombing. At the end of the episode, however, he questions whether his actions were truly correct. He may be reflecting that he saved Londo once before, in The Quality of Mercy, from the results of an incident that may have cost Londo his status as Ambassador. Had Lennier not lied to Sinclair to protect Londo's dignity, then Londo may not have been in a position to call upon Morden to precipitate the Narn/Centauri War. Lennier may be wondering what new consequences Londo's third (?) chance may bring when he states that he fears he may have "served the present at the cost of the future."
In an episode where one of the series' most admirable characters questions the efficacy of Londo's survival, it is ironic that Londo himself is more likable than he has been in some time. Londo feels a huge sense of responsibility when Lennier saves his life, and acts on it. He comes to Medlab, not only when it serves his image (when others can see), but when it serves no purpose for him at all. He sits with Lennier, apparently for hours, talking to the comatose Minbari, on the off chance that it may help Lennier to recover.
The best scenes of the episode, unsurprisingly, are the scenes between Londo and G'Kar. Trapped together in an elevator by a bomb blast, the two are forced to endure each other's company. For G'Kar, in this situation, it is a pure pleasure. Londo wants to escape, to preserve his life. "We must work together!" he urges G'Kar, reasoning point-by-point that there is fire outside the elevator, that help may not be coming, and that if they don't get out of the elevator they will probably die. G'Kar acknowledges and agrees with every one of his points - but refuses to help. He wants to live, he admits to Londo. But at this point in time, G'Kar would prefer to watch Londo die than to work with Londo to save himself.
This showcases just where G'Kar is in his evolution as a character. He has come a long way since the seemingly one-note villain who sneered his way through The Gathering and Midnight on the Firing Line. He is a stronger individual, who has in his suffering gained a strong measure of nobility. To a very large extent, though, he is also still the same Narn who, when confronted with the question, "What do you want?" was only able to think of revenge against the Centauri. His entire life has been clouded, choked, and stunted by his hatred of the Centauri. Given the choice between working with the Centauri who shook his hand and drank with him on the eve of war, or giving up his life but getting to watch that Centauri die, he considers it a privilege to refuse to act and watch his enemy die.
Oh, and a brief mention for the scene where Zack, accosted by Drazi missionaries determined to "touch everything" that has been blessed by their holy being, distracts the Drazi from poking him by pointing out a nearby plant that has been even more blessed than he was. Not quite "Green/Purple" for the heights of Drazi humor, but still worth a hearty chuckle.
The actual main plot, with the bomber, feels vaguely generic. The bomb expert Garibaldi suddenly has on staff for just this episode (and who, if I recall correctly, is never so much as mentioned again) feels less like a character and more like a plot convenience. Also, the character of the bomber, when Sheridan finally comes face-to-face with him, is ever so faintly annoying. Had Sheridan told him to go ahead and blow them up, just as long as it stopped him whining, I'd have honestly felt some sympathy.
Still a good, solid, entertaining episode. And I like Brother Theo enormously.