Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "A Spider in the Web"

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Episode Information

Title: "A Spider in the Web"
Writer: Lawrence G. DiTillio
Director: Kevin Cremins
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: April 19, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


An assassin tries to foil a plan to help make the Mars colony independent.

An old friend of Talia's, Taro Isogi, come aboard B5 for negotiations. He is the head of a large corporation on Earth that is looking to expand. He has a plan to extend the corporation profitably for Mars in a way that will also benefit Mars so that the colony can become independent in a few years peacefully. He's on the station to negotiate with a representative of the Mars colony government, Amanda Carter. Talia and Isogi clearly have a very long and close relationship, with her treating him like an uncle.

We don't know of any special interest Talia has on Mars, but she is very excited about Isogi's proposal. Isogi has also hired Talia to oversee the negotiations on behalf of his company. Amanda Carter is initially very skeptical, but is easily convinced to negotiate seriously.

Other people on the station are also taking an interest in Isogi. We see a person on Earth in some kind of secret compound remotely activating an agent on B5. The agent was smuggled onboard in some cargo, and immediately begins searching for Isogi.

A senator from Earth calls Sheridan and fills him in on Isogi's visit. The senator claims that Isogi is conspiring with some of the people from Mars colony to start another rebellion and asks Sheridan to look into the negotiations. Sheridan protests that since the station is neutral territory, anyone, even humans, can negotiate there unmolested. We know that Earthgov is going to hell in a handbasket when the senator replies that sometimes principles have to be overlooked in favor of practicality in order to save lives. Sure, especially when Earthgov feels threatened!

When the negotiations are concluded for the day, Isogi asks Talia to dinner to discuss his ideas further. When they are returning from dinner, the assassin finally tracks them down. The assassin has some kind of circuitry in his hand, and he kills Isogi by gripping him and sending an electric shock. As he does, he says, "Free Mars." Talia cries out, and the assassin turns to her, presumably to kill her as well. However, Talia sees some kind of image in his mind, which seems to shock the assassin enough that he simply leaves.

Later, Sheridan questions a very upset Talia about who would want to kill Isogi. Talia says that someone from the Free Mars movement would have no reason to, since Isogi's proposal would bring Mars independence relatively soon and peacefully. Sheridan tells her that Earthgov doesn't believe Isogi's intentions were so benign, but Talia cuts him short very quickly on that, saying that Isogi was trying to help Mars. We can tell that between Talia's fierce feelings on the matter along with Sheridan's own discomfort with what Earthgov wanted him to do makes him rethink what happened to Isogi.

Sheridan orders all departing ships held until the assassin is found. He goes to question Amanda Carter, who is shocked to hear of the murder. She doesn't have any helpful information, but confirms Talia's feelings by saying that Isogi's assassin may have killed Mars's best hope for the future.

Meanwhile, we see the assassin receive instructions to kill Talia because she was a witness to Isogi's murder. The assassin tracks her down and kills her security guard. When he approaches her, however, she again sees memories from him that seem to stop him in his tracks. While he is stunned and is trying to figure out what has happened to him, Talia escapes.

It struck me in this scene that Talia might be one of the most physically INcapable characters I've ever seen. She seems to have a hard time contemplating any kind of violence, even in her own defense. It occurred to me that Psi Corps might like to keep its telepaths that way, for both obvious and subtle reasons. On the obvious side, taking the time to develop and practice telepathic skills would not necessarily leave much time for physical activities. More deviously, Psi Corps might also like for its telepaths to be less than physically capable because it gives them fewer skills they can use besides telepathy. If a telepath wanted to somehow leave the Psi Corps, she would have to fend for herself, and having physical talents might be helpful for that. So keeping telepaths from becoming physically skilled is another method of control by the Psi Corp - this is underlined by Talia's wardrobe, which is very restrictive, with tight necks and skirts.

Talia recounts the attack to Sheridan and Garibaldi. The images she saw in the assassin's mind were of him in a spaceship that was shot by an Earth Force ship - and he died. He keeps replaying that memory. Talia scratched the assassin and the resulting DNA identifies the assassin as Abel Horn - a Mars rebel leader who was killed during the recent uprising.

Sheridan puts these clues together with some rumors he's heard about secret government experiments to implant controlling computers inside humans. There were problems with the experiments, so the government scientists hit upon the idea of putting the computers inside of people on the verge of death. Sheridan believes Horn was a product of this experiment, and he was made into an assassin. He speculates, however, that Horn's programming is breaking down, which is why he failed in killing Talia.

Horn has also started to realize something's wrong with him, so he goes to Amanda Carter's quarters. He was Carter's lover years before when they were both rebels. Carter isn't happy to see him, but then he begins having seizures; he says that Talia knows what's wrong with him, and then passes out. Carter contacts Talia and invites her over to continue Isogi's negotiations.

When Talia arrives, Horn had already woken up and knocked out Carter. He grabs Talia, demanding to know what has been done to him. Of course, Talia doesn't know the whole story. Meanwhile, Sheridan has ordered station sensor adjustments to track down Horn's computer's power source - and discovers he's in Carter's quarters. Garibaldi confirms that that's where Talia is, too.

Garibaldi, Sheridan, and a security team storm into the quarters, but Horn has Talia in his death grip. Sheridan tells Horn about the experiments, and Horn lets Talia go. Then he activates a self-destruct that was implanted inside him, and the others barely manage to get down the hall before he explodes.

Later, Sheridan says he'll decline to mention Carter's previous Free Mars associations if she will continue to negotiate with Isogi's corporation to make his peaceful plans for Mars go forward. Sheridan is also determined to find out more about the organization that was behind the experiments that produced Horn: supposedly named Bureau 13.

Back on Earth, we see Horn's controller receiving the news of Horn's death. The controller is the same Psi Corps woman that Talia saw in some of Horn's memories. When Talia looks her up in Psi Corps records, she is labeled deceased.

This episode has some interesting intrigue, but a lot of it ends up feeling a bit contrived. Also, having seen the series before, I know that a lot of the secrets hinted at in this episode will not be paid off, since Talia's character is effectively destroyed by the end of this season. It does let us know that there are wheels within wheels in Earthgov, with many different levels of intrigue, and that the Psi Corps is definitely involved with some of them.

It's nice to see the continuation of the background plot involving Mars's independence. The most recent rebellion may have been quashed, be we see that independence is still a hot-button issue for all involved. It's also very realistic to show us how the Martian independence issue is not just one of what's right and wrong, but how Martian independence might affect specific companies and the economy in general.

I also like seeing Talia as more than just a telepath. We don't know how her friendship with Isogi got started, but Isogi clearly saw her as a close friend and not just a telepathic "tool". Garibaldi finally got to score some points with Talia, too. He's been working way too hard and obviously at ingratiating himself with her - but here he's finally just being a friend to her, and it's far more effective.

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