An episode I had very little memory of, prior to reviewing it. Much to my surprise, Walkabout is actually quite an important episode, even if it does tend to get overshadowed by the HUGE episodes surrounding it.
No, I didn't forget War Without End. It is fairly well-documented that this episode was originally intended to come before War Without End, and was moved to avoid splitting a 2-parter on opposite sides of a hiatus. The episode also fits much better here than in the slot where it was originally aired. This episode essentially feeds off the events of Ship of Tears and Interludes & Examinations - much of it acting as a direct epilogue to Interludes - so it simply makes more sense for it to fall here, where it was originally intended to fall.
In the wake of Kosh's death, the Vorlons have sent a replacement Ambassador. This Ambassador is also to be referred to as "Kosh" to preserve the illusion of Vorlon invulnerability. But this new "Kosh" has a very different, much darker personality - as Lyta discovers in their violent first meeting.
As the new Vorlon settles into Kosh's old quarters, Sheridan decides to pursue Garibaldi's theory from Ship of Tears. They need to know if Garibaldi is right, if telepaths really can be used against the Shadows. To that end, Sheridan initiates a mission to an area that has suffered many Shadow attacks. He will take the White Star and Lyta. They will find the Shadows, and Lyta will attempt to disable a Shadow vessel. It's the definition of a high-risk mission. But as Sheridan notes, they need to know if Garibaldi's theory holds water before trying to use telepaths in a major engagement.
Meanwhile, Stephen has left not only Medlab, but his quarters too. He is going "walkabout," determined to walk the length and breadth of the station until he meets himself. His search for himself is interrupted, however, when he meets a beautiful singer in Down Below, a woman with one request for Stephen: that he get for her a very expensive prescription pain-killer known as Metazine.
From the very beginning, Babylon 5 has built its story around two central questions: "Who are you?" and "What do you want?" This episode concerns itself very much with the first question.
Stephen's entire current plight is centered around his crisis of identity. As he told Sheridan at the end of the last episode, and tells Garibaldi again in this episode, he no longer knows who the man in the mirror is. He has identified himself so strongly through his job - through trying to heal and fix the problems of others - that he has lost track of himself.
However, it takes more than just leaving his job and his drug addiction to defeat his problems. "I think I have a problem," he told Delenn in Ceremonies of Light & Dark. He was referring to his drug addiction, which he has now acknowledged. That was just a symptom of his larger problem, though: his obsession with "fixing" things. That is an issue he hasn't even seriously begun to deal with yet. Sure enough, as soon as he meets Cailyn, Stephen instantly starts looking to "fix" her, never asking if her situation is one that she even wants changed.
It starts right away, when Stephen states his opinion that Cailyn is "too good" for Down Below. Stephen never considers asking why she is in Down Below, or if she wants to be in a more respectable club. He just assumes that she's there because she hasn't been able to find anything better. After all, she couldn't possibly have a good reason for being there.
His assumptions don't stop there. When Cailyn requests the metazine from him, Stephen is all too quick to rush to judgment - just as he was with the alien family in Believers, with the healer in The Quality of Mercy, and with Arthur in A Late Delivery from Avalon. He mounts his Great Moral High Horse once again and gallops into action, instantly casting her as a drug addict and throwing in a reprimand for her drinking, as well.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Stephen asks her in Medlab after he has learned the truth (and after he has questioned the judgment of the doctors treating her with metazine - again, apparently never considering that there might be doctors other than himself who know what they're doing). What she doesn't say - but what was clear in my mind - is that Stephen never asked. Just as he never considered that she might have a perfectly good reason for being in Down Below, so did he never consider that she might have a perfectly good reason for needing a (quite legal) prescription pain medicine. He's proved wrong in his assumptions (again). But how many times is he going to need to learn the same lesson? For a smart - even brilliant - man, Stephen is an exceptionally slow learner.
"Who are you?" is a question that comes up in other plotlines, as well. It is a question that Sheridan and Lyta find themselves contemplating about the new Vorlon ambassador. The new ambassador tells them to call him "Kosh." Even in private, he is "Kosh." However, it is clear that this new ambassador is nothing like Kosh. He is dismissive of Sheridan, his silence holding a distinct wisp of contempt. He is cruel with Lyta. Where there was a sort of ecstasy and intimacy in Lyta's exchanges with Kosh, her scenes with the new Vorlon are painful. The Vorlon brutalizes her, choking her and declaring that she "failed" for not being with Kosh when he died (as if Lyta could have contributed anything to that scene save for an extra corpse). Then, having emotionally reduced her to nothing, he orders her to "follow," and leaves her no choice but to obey. The old Kosh gave Lyta meaning; the new Kosh abuses her and strips away the meaning she has found.
We have had intimations that the Vorlons were not pure goodness and light before this. In The Gathering, the Vorlons were willing to destroy Babylon 5 unless Sinclair was turned over to them for what would certainly have been a terrible vengeance. In Deathwalker, the Vorlons didn't hesitate to destroy the shuttle that presumably carried not only Deathwalker, but innocent pilots as well. Comes the Inquisitor gave the impression that there may be some dispute among the Vorlons. I forgot to mention it in my review (because it was from an early scene and I plain forgot about it when I wrote my review of that episode), but when Kosh first announced Delenn's appointment with the inquisitor, there was something - something in the unusually discordant sound effects, or in the tone in Kosh's voice - that led me to believe that Kosh was not entirely happy about this "test." The test itself was brutal, and the instrument of that test was a maniac. We were told that many who had been previously tested by Sebastian, courtesy of the Vorlons, died - not as a result of failing to keep their faith, but as a result of refusing to surrender it. Only Sheridan's last-minute interference ultimately saved Delenn (she would never have had the chance to offer self-sacrifice - the tipping point for Sebastian - had Sheridan not stumbled in there); without Sheridan, she would have been just as dead as Sebastian/the Vorlons' previous victims.
The Vorlons may appear as angels. But as Sheridan noted in the last episode, "I don't buy it." In their own way, the Vorlons are just as scary as the Shadows are. Perhaps scarier - at least the Shadows have the decency to present themselves as monsters, not as angels. "Who are you?" is a question that has been asked many times of the Vorlons. As of yet, they have refused to answer.
The question is applied to G'Kar, as well. G'Kar has grown tremendously as a character since the series' start, as we are often reminded. Nothing makes that clearer than his scenes with Na'Kal. Na'Kal is not a bad man; he is presented as perfectly honorable. But the cold, pragmatic Na'Kal is a mirror image of early Season One G'Kar. He refuses his assistance to Sheridan's mission, stating that "if Sheridan dies, then he dies." His willingness to sacrifice Sheridan reflects G'Kar's willingness in The Gathering to sacrifice Sinclair. Na'Kal's eagerness to strike back against the Centauri recalls G'Kar's own desire to "cleanse the universe of the Centauri, and carve their bones into flutes for Narn children." Seeing this mirror of the old G'Kar on-screen with the current G'Kar shows much more vividly than platitudes from Delenn just how incredibly, staggeringly far this character has come.
He still has room to grow, however, as Garibaldi reminds him. Disgusted at G'Kar's acceptance of Na'Kal's refusal, Garibaldi storms violently into G'Kar's quarters, rejecting the Book of G'Quan - and symbolically rejecting G'Kar along with it. He reminds G'Kar that he is the leader of the Narn on Babylon 5. Just as Sheridan has the moral authority to order men into battle, G'Kar has that authority as well. He was given that authority by the Tau'ri when he was appointed to Babylon 5; he claimed that authority for himself when it was questioned in Acts of Sacrifice; and he was granted that authority once again by the station's Narn in A Day in the Strife. He is the leader of the free Narn on Babylon 5. For all his newfound humility, it is a position G'Kar must live up to. Na'Kal can only refuse to serve if G'Kar allows it; and if G'Kar allows it, then in Garibaldi's eyes - and, ultimately, in G'Kar's own eyes - he will not be a spiritual leader, but a coward who defers his responsibilities to others.
"Who are you?" is a question that needs to be applied to Lyta. Lyta Alexander is a woman who has always had an assigned role in life. When we first met her, she defined herself in terms of the Psi Corps. When we caught up with her in Season Two, she still defined herself in terms of the Corps - only now, as a rebel against them. In Season Three, she has defined herself as a reflection of Ambassador Kosh. Now that Kosh is dead, she cannot do that anymore. She has to claim an identity for herself. In the absence of that - in the absence of even asking the question, of even having anyone who cares enough about her to ask it of her - she falls back on another pre-assigned identity, as the aide to the Vorlon ambassador. Despite his abuse of her, at the end of the episode Lyta chooses to remain loyal to Kosh's replacement, giving him information that she knows it's best he doesn't possess.
Finally, a random note occurred to me watching Sheridan's interactions with Lennier on the White Star. Lennier really doesn't like Sheridan at all. At least in this episode, it was all over Lennier's body language in the White Star scenes. I seem to recall similar non-verbal reactions from Lennier in the episode where Sheridan and Delenn had dinner. Lennier may respect Sheridan; but on a personal level, the impression I get is that Lennier absolutely can't stand him. It was something I never picked up on first time around (and Sheridan certainly seems oblivious to it). But assuming I'm not imagining it, superb nonverbal acting by Bill Mumy, and terrific foreshadowing by J. Michael Straczynski.
Again, not too much stands out as bad here. Perhaps the first scene of Cailyn singing goes on just a bit longer than it needs to (I started feeling like I had accidentally tuned into American Idol). And though it ties in with the identity theme that permeates the episode, Cailyn's habit of holding up a glass to reflect Stephen's soul seemed just a bit too precious. Still, these are minor nit-picks at best.