Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "Grail"

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Episode Information

Title: "Grail"
Writer: Christy Marx
Director: Richard Compton
Rating (out of 4 stars): * 1/2
Reviewed on: February 27, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


A seeker of the Holy Grail changes the life of a young man on B5.

We see one of the biggest criminals, named Deuce, on B5 threaten a young lurker, named Jinxo, who owes him money. Deuce shows Jinxo a "Vorlon", who reaches out a tentacle and "sucks" the brains out of a woman who crossed Deuce. Deuce calls the "Vorlon" Ambassador Kosh, but those of us who have been watching the show can be reasonably sure that first, Kosh wouldn't do something so petty, and second, he doesn't have tentacles. Jinxo, however, falls for the display and promises to get Deuce the money.

Meanwhile, Delenn and Lennier inform Sinclair and Garibaldi that a person of some importance is arriving at the station. Garibaldi scares up an honor guard, and they all go to meet Aldous Gajic, a member of a religious order that searches for the Holy Grail. When the Grail is mentioned, Sinclair and Garibaldi obviously think Aldous is off his rocker, although the continue to treat him respectfully. Delenn asks Sinclair about this, saying that since Aldous is a "true seeker", he should be respected. Aldous's order (although he's the only member at this time) has begun searching off-world for the Grail, since it hasn't been found on Earth, so he's on B5 to talk to the ambassadors about it.

While Aldous is in the Zocalo, Jinxo pickpockets him, and Garibaldi catches Jinxo. (What's Jinxo doing with something as small-time as pickpocketing? With the huge amount of money Deuce wants, he could pickpocket for the rest of his life and never get enough.) Garibaldi hauls Jinxo before the Ombudsman and takes Aldous along as a witness. Because of Jinxo's repeated offenses, the Ombudsman bars Jinxo from the station. Jinxo becomes frantic, saying that if he leaves the station, it's doomed. Aldous is intrigued and talks the Ombudsman into releasing Jinxo into Aldous's custody.

The woman who's brain was "sucked" by the "Vorlon" did not die, but she is a mental vegetable and can no longer testify against Deuce. The Ombudsman has to dismiss all the charges against Deuce, much to Garibaldi's consternation. The female witness is not the only victim of mind wiping recently, and Garibaldi is convince that Deuce is behind it somehow. Franklin's examination of the woman turns up evidence that some kind of creature (rather than a device) may have been the cause; through some sleuthing he and Ivanova figure out that the cause may have been a creature called a na'ka'leen feeder from Centauri space. When Sinclair asks Londo about the feeders, Londo is only to happy to share all the information he has on them, if there might be one on the station. Then he barricades himself in his quarters.

In the meantime, Aldous and Jinxo get acquainted. We learn that Jinxo worked on the construction of all five Babylon stations. When he took leave during the construction of the first two, they were sabotaged and destroyed. When he left during the construction of the third one, it was also destroyed. He stayed on Babylon 4 for the entire construction period, but when the crews were leaving the station, it disappeared. Now he's afraid that if he leaves B5, it will be destroyed somehow. Aldous says he's lucky, not a jinx. Jinxo has never really had any kind of appreciation from others, and we can see him take seriously what he feels he owes Aldous.

The two visit Delenn and Lennier, who regretfully tell Aldous that they have not found any information about the Grail being in Minbari space. Later, they visit Londo and Vir with the same request for information. This scene is a hoot, because Londo typically waxes on about how the search will be expensive and time-consuming, and then Vir pipes up to say he's done it already, and oh, here's the information.

Jinxo asks Aldous about how he started on his search for the Grail. Aldous used to be in high-level finance, but a freak accident on Mars killed all of his family except him. He found that his job was no longer fulfilling, so he chucked it and went out on his own. He ran into his predecessor, who was searching for the grail and took him in. When he died, Aldous succeeded him. Even though Jinxo is too oblivious to see it, we can tell that Aldous is grooming him to succeed him.

In downbelow, the feeder in a Vorlon suit asks Deuce for more "food", and Deuce orders his henchmen to kidnap Jinxo and the Ombudsman. The thugs snatch the Ombudsman without too much trouble, but when they approach Aldous and Jinxo, Aldous uses his walking staff to beat them off. Garibaldi finds out the Ombudsman is gone, but the initial searches are fruitless.

Aldous leads them to their last appointment, to visit Kosh. (Why not the Narns?) Conveniently, Aldous doesn't mention Kosh's name until Jinxo gets a glimpse of him at the same time. Jinxo panics, since he saw "Kosh" suck brains in downbelow and runs off. Aldous chases after him and tells him that if he knows something that involves Kosh, he must tell Sinclair. Deuce's thugs catch up with them again, and this time they use a shock device on Aldous, but Jinxo gets away.

Deuce sets up the Ombudsman to be given to the feeder while Aldous watches. Aldous somewhat spookily commands the feeder to show itself, and it does so, leaving the Vorlon encounter suit. In the meantime, Jinxo frantically finds Sinclair and leads him (and the security teams) to Deuce's lair. Sinclair, Garibaldi, and security burst into the section, and a firefight erupts. The feeder runs off and stealthily sucks a few brains from Deuce's thugs.

Jinxo tries to untie the Ombudsman during the firefight. Aldous sees a bad guy taking a shot at Jinxo and steps in to take the shot. The feeder is eventually shot into a pulp, but Deuce gets away. As Aldous is dying, Jinxo volunteers to continue his search; Aldous names Jinxo his legal heir.

When things have quieted down, Delenn, Sinclair, and Garibaldi see Jinxo and Aldous's body off the station.

This episode was a disappointment for two big reasons. First was the sheer obviousness of the story. JMS is well known for saying that the end of the story isn't always the most important part - the journey might be. Well, in this case, the journey was pretty obvious, too. Who didn't know that Aldous was grooming Jinxo to be his successor? Who didn't know that Aldous was going to die heroically? Who didn't know that Jinxo really had a heart of gold? Most of the story was pretty cliched. Maybe I didn't think so the first time I watched it - I don't remember - but I do now.

The second reason the episode was disappointing was because it had almost nothing to do with the regular (or even recurring) characters on the show. The interaction of Delenn and Sinclair with Aldous had some minor interest and character development, since we got a look at Minbari views on "true seekers", but that was about it.

In addition, the special effects for the na'ka'leen feeder were only so-so. When it was still, or showed just a single tentacle, they were OK, but the motion of the whole feeder just didn't seem right to me.

Some smaller points. I liked the look at the justice system on the station. The Ombudsman seems to be both judge and jury with pretty broad authority. Does he deal with all legal issues, or only those involving humans? Does he handle all cases, or are important ones sent back to Earth?

The presence of a crime underground on the station, along with the lurkers, is probably realistic, but it's not necessarily very interesting. Maybe it's because the characters usually seems so cliched and the actors portraying them are poor. Deuce did almost nothing except spout the usual threats; I will give him credit for the clever "Vorlon" idea, however. I wonder how long Deuce could have kept the feeder under control - seems like before too much longer the feeder would have just started feeding on whoever was closest.

Garibaldi repeatedly asks Sinclair for permission to clear the criminals and lurkers out of downbelow. Sinclair refuses, since he believes most of the lurkers are essentially jobless, homeless people with no options. How true is that? How many lurkers are there? Even if his beliefs are true, I find it hard to believe that the closed-system ecology of the station can handle a lot of surplus, unaccounted-for people. After all, those people need air and sanitation supplied by the station, not to mention food and water. Given the tight budget of the station (as seen in "By Any Means Necessary"), how can the lurkers be maintained?

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