Emperor Cartagia is dead, and Londo and Vir find themselves scrambling to undo the damage he had wrought. Londo is determined to save his people by ridding the Centauri Homeworld of all Shadow influences before the Vorlons arrive. However, his reasoning is undermined at a critical juncture when an intelligence officer tells him the truth about Adira's death. It was not Lord Refa who had her killed. As the intelligence man observes, "the details are everything."
Meanwhile, Sheridan's fleet acts as a crucible between the Shadows and the Vorlons at Coriana 6. Sheridan is desperate to contact representatives of both races. He knows that only by talking to them can he hope to stop this war. But he also cannot permit the Vorlons to destroy the 6 billion people living on Coriana 6. When it becomes apparent that the Vorlons are ignoring his signal, he has to call in his trump card - the First Ones gathered by Ivanova and Lorien - earlier than he had intended, putting the already slim hope of success even further in jeopardy...
The scenes on Centauri Prime are magnificent, as always. The highlight of the episode is almost certainly Londo's confrontation with Mr. Morden. After three-and-a-quarter years of always being in somebody's power, of being manipulated, of having to watch his every step and every word, Londo is finally in control. He is both frightening and magnificent.
He casually has Morden's invisible Shadow escort executed, knowing full well that they are there. He dictates terms to Morden. Finally, when Morden makes the fatal mistake of assuming that he is still the one with the power, Londo obliterates the Shadow presence on Centauri Prime and has Morden dragged away. As Londo insolently settles back onto the throne that is not yet his, he is every inch the Emperor - and is probably, at this instant, the best Centauri emperor we have seen thus far in the series.
The tragedy here is that Londo is at his most heroic... and yet it is this moment of strength that seals both his fate and that of the Centauri Republic. As Morden cries out to Londo that the Shadows' allies will take revenge, Londo dismisses his words. He has Morden executed, and so misses his next to last chance at avoiding his destiny. Of course, he has no way of knowing that Morden has been officially classified as a “man who is already dead." Thus, Londo's moment of greatest strength will ultimately lead to almost twenty years of enforced weakness.
With the Shadows obliterated, Morden completely disintegrates. This is the first time we have seen him truly alone. Bereft of his "associates," he is no longer poised, no longer intimidating. His aura of quiet confidence is gone. He crumples, he lets out an anguished cry as he realizes that Londo really is going to destroy the island. As he is dragged away, he is made weak for the first time ever. For a man who has done the things Morden has done, one moment of vulnerability is more than enough to be fatal - and to deliver to Vir his fond wish from late Season Two.
Bizarrely enough, just about every character who is asked what they want gets it over the course of the series. Londo gets a powerful, warlike Centauri Prime, with a royal court suffused with deadly internal politics... just as I imagine the Centauri Prime of old was. G'Kar ultimately gets a Centauri Prime that is shattered. Londo gets revenge for the death of Adira. So many wishes, all of which come true. But the only character who is able to enjoy his wish when he gets it is Vir, who gets to grin and wave, just as he told Morden he would in late Season Two (and a flashback to In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum highlights actor Stephen Furst’s striking weight loss).
Londo's true patriotism and loyalty to his world is once again highlighted when Vir points out that one thing remains on Centauri Prime that the Shadows have touched: Londo himself. Just at that moment, the Vorlon Planet Killer arrives and blots out the sun. Londo barely hesitates before urging Vir to save their world by killing him and showing the Vorlons the body. Londo values his life, to be sure, but unlike Cartagia he values his world more than himself. It is this love for his people, combined with the strength of his passions, that Morden failed to take into account when he chose Londo back in Signs and Portents.
THE MIND'S EYE
In addition to the great character moments for Londo and Vir, this episode provides a character combination we haven't seen yet: Lorien and Ivanova. I enjoyed the scenes between these two characters. Lorien's mysticism and patience makes a beautiful contrast to Susan's prickly brashness. She scoffs at Lorien's claims at being "The First One" on logical grounds; no one could discover the secret of immortality in a single lifetime, and it is absolutely impossible that any living being could be naturally immortal. Lorien counters by quietly telling Susan of the stagnancy of his own immortality, and of the "remarkable illusions" that humans' short lifespan allows. He urges Susan to listen to her heart, to open herself to the illusion that "love is eternal." If Lorien has elevated Sheridan to the point where he sees the captain as almost an equal, then here he takes Sinclair's former role as a mentor to Ivanova.
It is a shame Claudia Christian did not remain for Season Five. In a way, the series would almost have been the story of Susan's development if she had stayed. She's the one who has the most to learn at the start of the series, and who is mentored by virtually every major character: Sinclair teaches her how to use strategy to fight back inside the rules; Sheridan teaches her that sometimes you have to make your own rules. Talia teaches her the pain that can come when you open yourself to the wrong person; Marcus teaches her the pain that can come when you fail to open yourself to the right person. I wonder what lessons she might have learned in Season Five, had the actress not decided to leave for (as it turned out, non-existent) greener pastures.
Which brings us to the climax of the episode, the surreal “Mind’s Eye” scenes in which Sheridan and Delenn confront the Shadows and Vorlons in a surreal dreamscape. As with many of the series' most memorable sequences, these scenes are pure theater. A darkened stage, no real stage dressing or set. Just the actors, performing on a mostly bare stage.
The Vorlons (Order) are represented by a still statue, whose lips do not move even as it communicates with Sheridan. The representative of Order does not move, does not progress, preaches blind obedience. Order tinged with nothing else is stagnant and oppressive. The Shadows (Chaos) are always moving, their very restlessness showing itself as a weakness. Just as Order cannot manage to move forward, Chaos cannot manage to be still. As Delenn argues against the Chaos argument, its representatives are unable to reason effectively. For all its motion, Chaos tinged with nothing else is unreasoning and irrational, ultimately as stagnant in its own way as Order.
Interesting, also, is the way Chaos is represented to Delenn in the guise of several characters we know: Ivanova, Franklin, Lennier, Marcus. These choices are probably no accident. Ivanova's emotions have been in turmoil from her introduction. She bottles up her feelings - and like anyone who chooses to avoid expressing emotion, those feelings have a tendency to lash out at inopportune moments. Dr. Franklin's life was thrown into disarray by his stim addiction. Marcus is a man who hides his inner pain under a jester's mask, and who spends a lot of time looking for a way to get himself killed. Lennier is caught in his own chaos - between his unrequited love for Delenn, his refusal to acknowledge a certain disdain for humans (see his "We are not the same" outburst to Marcus in Ceremonies of Light & Dark), and his increasing tendency to ride the very edge of what is allowed by the rules of the Minbari religious caste... in many ways, Lennier may be the most chaotic of all the regular characters.
And the final vision of Chaos? Delenn herself, lashing out to compel with violence what cannot be inspired through words and ideas. Probably the version of herself that Delenn most fears... the version of Delenn that cast the deciding vote that pitted the Mimbari into a Holy War that nearly ended the human race.
The end of the Vorlon/Shadow War does feel like it comes about a little too quickly and a little too easilyThere's a point, shortly after the "mind's eye" sequence and extending to Sheridan's "Get the hell out of our galaxy!" speech, in which the sense of tension that had built to a breaking point over the past six or seven episodes suddenly seems to evaporate. I love the ideas behind the resolution, and much of the execution. But at the very end, some of the individual moments simply are not held long enough, leading to a sense of anticlimax.Because of this issue - the feeling that it ends just a little too quickly, after all the events building up to it - I can't quite award this episode full marks, despite being an excellent piece of television up to that point.
Next Up: The end of the Vorlon/Shadow War is seen from a very different perspective in Jeanne Cavelos' Summoning Light.