Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "Chrysalis"

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Episode Information

Title: "Chrysalis"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Janet Greek
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: March 20, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


The Earth Alliance president is killed, while conflict erupts between the Centauri and the Narn and Delenn makes a major decision.

The Centauri and Narn are arguing over who has the right to Quandrant 37, which the Narn currently have an outpost in. Tempers run high among the ambassadors.

One of Garibaldi's lurker informants, Petrov, falls dead at his feet claiming that "they're going to kill him." Garibaldi is determined to find out what Petrov died for, and scours downbelow for information. Another lurker tips him off that Petrov had recently been working for a man named Devereaux. (Incidentally, we will see this lurker again in season 2.) Garibaldi finds Devereaux and his minions in the casino and brings them in for questioning. Devereaux warns Garibaldi not to get mixed up in things that are too big for him to handle. Of course, Garibaldi brushes that off.

Meanwhile, Sinclair and Catherine Sakai discuss New Year's Eve plans in his quarters. (I don't think we've seen Catherine since "The Parliament of Dreams", but she was mentioned in "TKO".) Sinclair proposes marriage, and Catherine accepts. They vow that this time they've got things worked out right.

Londo is complaining to Vir about how the Centauri government is going to give in to Narn demands about Quandrant 37. Seemingly out of the blue, Mr. Morden from "Signs and Portents" contacts Londo and sets up an appointment. When they meet, Morden says that Londo should tell the Centauri government that he (Londo) will take care of the Narn problem in Quandrant 37. In actuality, Morden and his associates will happily deal with the problem. Londo is incredulous, but Morden really doesn't give him any choice. When he asks what the price for Morden's services is, he's told he'll just have to return a favor.

Delenn appears to have nearly completed the crystal structure in her quarters that she has been working on at least since "Signs and Portents". Lennier had relayed a question from her to Kosh: Kosh's answer was "yes". Delenn rushes off to visit Kosh. She tells him that she must know for sure if the legends are true - Kosh opens up his encounter suit, and Delenn apparently gets to see what he actually looks like. She is awed, and said that now she will fulfill her promise.

It's New Year's Eve, and Sinclair and Catherine have invited Ivanova and Garibaldi to dinner. Sinclair announces their engagement, and he and Catherine ask them to be in their wedding. Ivanova and Garibaldi are thrilled, but before they can celebrate, Garibaldi gets a signal that Devereaux has disappeared. It's not clear whether Devereaux was actually in custody or just being followed, but Garibaldi explains the situation to Sinclair and goes to investigate.

We jump to Quandrant 37 and watch as two evil-looking ships (the same kind as the one that appeared to kill the raider ship in "Signs and Portents") appear and slice up the Narn outpost and ships. Within moments, everything is destroyed and the ships fade away.

Na'Toth relays the news of the destruction of the outpost to G'Kar. G'Kar immediately dismisses all known races as the aggressors: the humans didn't do it; the Centauri don't have the will; the Vorlons don't care; the Minbari wouldn't do it; the non-aligned worlds don't have the strength. I wonder why he dismisses Earth so quickly - possibly because Sinclair had recently tried to talk him into a peaceful solution? G'Kar deduces that a new power has arrived on the local scene, and by the end of the episode he has left the station in search of information on this unknown race.

When Londo hears the news about the outpost, he meets with Morden in shock. He had thought Morden's help would be more indirect, not the outright slaughter of 10,000 Narns. Morden brushes it off, since they are "only" Narns, and tells Londo that the Centauri government is praising him. This seems to be cold comfort for Londo.

Garibaldi hasn't been able to find Devereaux, so he decides to search some cargo that Devereaux recently had to leave behind when shipping things off-station. With his aide helping him, Garibaldi uncovers some type of signal-jamming equipment that is set up to be used near Io and to jam the presidential communication channels. Garibaldi knows, as we do, that the President is currently on a spaceship touring the solar system and is nearing Io.

Garibaldi quickly puts the pieces together and realizes that someone is planning to jam signals to and from the President's spaceship as part of a plan to assassinate him. He calls Sinclair to arrange an urgent meeting, and then rushes off. He is confronted by Devereaux and minions in the corridor, but Garibaldi can hardly say a word before his aide comes around the corner and shoots him in the back.

Sinclair is unsuccessfully looking for Garibaldi when Delenn stops by his quarters. She shows him the triluminary (which she acquired in "Babylon Squared"), and tells him that she knows he remembers being taken aboard the Minbari war cruiser during the Battle of the Line. Sinclair admits that he remembers some of it. Delenn tells him that there are many things that he must know, but even though we can tell Sinclair is dying to learn, he puts her off so that he can look for Garibaldi. Delenn agrees graciously, but tells him she doesn't have much time.

For some reason, Devereaux did not ensure that Garibaldi was dead, and Garibaldi manages to drag himself into a turbolift and to the zocalo, where he is found and taken to medlab. Dr. Franklin says he's lost a lot of blood, but before he can be sedated, Garibaldi manages to tell Sinclair that "they" are going to kill the President near Io.

Sinclair races to the bridge, but Ivanova has been unable to get through to Earth Force because of jamming. They watch helplessly as ISN's coverage of the President's trip shows his spaceship exploding near Io. Everyone is completely devastated.

Franklin is about to operate on Garibaldi. Sinclair gives strict orders to Garibaldi's aide, who is now in charge of security, to keep a close watch over Garibaldi. Later we see Ivanova and even Londo come by to personally watch over Garibaldi while he's in surgery.

Sinclair finally manages to contact an Earth Alliance senator (not the one we normally see him talk to) and tell her what they have found out. She doesn't believe a word of it. She scoffs at the idea that Garibaldi might have stumbled on part of an assassination conspiracy on B5, and claims that the evidence so far shows that the President's ship had some kind of malfunction with its fusion reactor. The senator orders Sinclair not to spread "rumors" about an assassination plot.

Later Sinclair is still essentially stunned by the double tragedies and is having a drink in the zocalo when Kosh shows up to remind him there's something he was going to do. He rushes off to Delenn's quarters, but he's too late. We had already seen her begin the process, and now she is encased in a chrysalis. Lennier says that she is changing, but he doesn't seem to know into what. The episode ends with Lennier keeping vigil over Delenn.

At one point in this episode, Sinclair says that he feels like they are all at a crossroads, and he doesn't like where they are heading. He wasn't kidding about the crossroads - the shit really hits the fan here, for nearly everyone.

What appears to be the most critical plot is the one involving Garibaldi's discovery of the plan to assassinate the President. Garibaldi does some nice detective work putting the different clues together. I wonder about why the jamming equipment had to be pre-set to the location near Io, and why all the equipment wasn't needed (some was left behind, yet the plan worked), but these are minor nits. A more serious issue is that Garibaldi arranged to meet Sinclair in 20 minutes to tell him... couldn't they get together any sooner than that, given the emergency? We had heard about the progress of the President's journey throughout the episode, so surely Garibaldi realized the President was in the right spot at that time?

Unfortunately, Garibaldi didn't heed Walker Smith's warning in "TKO" to watch his back. Garibaldi is exceptionally paranoid about most people, but he seems quite trusting of his own security people. I suppose he would think that of all people he could trust his second-in-command, but not in this case. This underlines how far-reaching the power is behind the assassination conspiracy - they even have security on B5 under control, just in case. They couldn't have expected Garibaldi to uncover their plan. Will Garibaldi's aide ever be uncovered? We don't know that Garibaldi saw him, and he conveniently eliminated Devereaux.

Garibaldi's painful trip to get help after he was shot shows just how determined he was to not let his information be wasted. And on a larger scale, anyone with a brain realizes that the assassination of a president is traumatic for the entire nation. The additional tragedy here is that even though Garibaldi does manage to tell Sinclair, the warning is too late. And it's not even believed after the fact by the Earth Alliance senator.

One has to wonder just why the senator was so adamant that an assassination wasn't possible. Was it just a knee-jerk denial reaction? Or does she have ulterior motives for wanting the accident story to be believed? Of course, the person that benefited the most from the assassination was Vice President Clark, who conveniently fell ill and left the President's spaceship prior to its destruction. He is sworn in as President in a scene that must have been purposely set up to mirror Johnson's swearing-in after Kennedy's assassination. Clark's first speech announces that he will be focusing more on helping the people of Earth, which seems to signal a shift away from encouraging good relations with other species.

Watching the President's spaceship explode was heart-rending. Besides the obvious political ramifications of his death, we can see that the ship is clearly huge and must have hundreds, if not thousands, of people aboard. Watching that kind of death while standing by impotently is a horrible feeling. I thought this scene resonated much more in re-watching it after having watched the horrific events on Sep. 11, 2001. I would expect the same kind of depression and mourning throughout the Earth Alliance as the US had after this event.

While the plot involving the President's assassination was the most urgent for (most of) the characters, the other plots were also very significant. Morden's "help" for Londo in wiping out the Narns in Quandrant 37 was much more significant than the killing of a few raiders in "Signs and Portents". In both cases, though, Londo did not solicit Morden's help. Morden (or his associates) have clearly chosen Londo for some kind of plan that benefits them, as we see when Morden converses with shadowy, half-seen figures in his quarters. So far, Morden's help has also helped the Centauri regain self-respect and military power. Why do Morden's associates want this?

So far, we don't know if the Narn suspect any Centauri involvement in Quadrant 37. G'Kar dismisses it, but surely rumors will spread that Londo told his government that he will deal with the situation. The Narns may not understand how the destruction could have happened, but ultimately the destruction of the outpost must inflame the relations between the Narns and the Centauri.

Londo is shocked at Morden's callous dismissal of the deaths of so many Narns. But like a true Centauri, he is quieted by the thought of gaining personal power and status. Londo is obviously uncomfortable with Morden's approach, but does he reveal to the Centauri government what really happened? No. He could have halted Morden's influence over him now, but he does not. Londo is not an idiot. He must realize that now that he's shown some kind of power, his government will call on him to use that power again. At that point, he'll have to go to Morden for more favors. The debt that he owes to Morden can only grow - what will he have to do to repay it?

The third major plot is about Delenn's transformation into something. Her transformation is apparently part of prophecy (as she discusses with Kosh), but even so, she does not seem to know what the outcome will be. She even seems worried that she may not survive it, and so she's going to tell Sinclair everything. Poor Sinclair - he finally has a chance to get all the answers he's been looking for, and it slips him by. Why did Minbari prophecy predict that Delenn would transform? What is the purpose of it? She's lucky that she got the triluminary in "Babylon Squared" in order to complete the transformation equipment - what would she have done if she hadn't? Why did she decide to do it right now?

The next season of the series can't help but have major changes. With the death of the Earth Alliance president, there are sure to be shake-ups within Earthgov and Earth Force. We don't know if Garibaldi will survive his injury, and if so, if his aide will let him live. Delenn is changing into something else. Londo has entered into a new relationship, which promises him power, but we can tell is not a good thing. G'Kar has disappeared to search for whoever destroyed the Narn outpost.

The episode's title underlines that change is coming up for the series. Obviously, Delenn is in a "chrysalis". However, we can see the seeds of change (if I mix my metaphors) within almost all of the events in the episode.

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