Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "Comes the Inquisitor"

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Episode Information

Title: "Comes the Inquisitor"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Mike Laurence Vejar
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: June 29, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Kosh tests the purity of purpose of Delenn and Sheridan's devotion to their cause.

In typical cryptic sentences, Kosh tells Delenn that he has sent for an inquisitor to "be sure" about her and that she must submit to him. Delenn makes the arrangements with Sheridan for the inquisitor's arrival, explaining that Kosh must be sure she has committed to their cause for the right reasons. Lennier tries to be more charitable of Kosh's motives, saying that he wants "confirmation". Delenn tells Sheridan not to interfere.

The inquisitor, Mr. Sebastian, arrives in a Vorlon ship. He is wearing nineteenth century clothes, including a top hat and walking stick. Sheridan meets him, filled with questions. Sebastian says that he lived in London in 1888, when he Vorlons scooped him up and began using him for their purposes. He says the Vorlons "preserve" him when he is not needed. When he glimpses the teeming life on the Zocalo, he shakes his head at the "immorality" and "chaos", saying that nothing ever changes. Sheridan arranges for Sebastian and Delenn to use an empty deck where they will not be disturbed.

When Delenn arrives, Sebastian provides her with pain-givers for her wrists. (Pain-givers seem to give some kind of electric shock; we saw versions of them in season 1 in "Born to the Purple" and "The Parliament of Dreams".) The key point Sebastian makes is that Delenn is putting on the pain-givers of her own free will, and she can remove them any time she chooses. However, if she removes them, she will be admitting that she has failed and she is not worthy. Delenn agrees to the terms, and they begin.

Sebastian begins questioning her with "Who are you?" and we can quickly see that any answer Delenn might give is going to be unacceptable to him; he is simply using the repetitive question to break down her initial resistance and begin to get through her defenses with repeated shocks. He says he knows who she is: someone who thinks she's on a mission from God and that she cannot die, because the universe will save her. Eventually Delenn says that she believes that she and everyone has a destiny, but he scoffs at that. He asks her what she would say if he world said she was wrong - she says then the world was wrong. Finally, after Sebastian has accelerated the questioning and the pain, he asks her if she's ever considered that she might be mistaken about her destiny - and she admits that she has wondered about it sometimes. Sebastian seems taken aback and gives her a short break.

When the questioning continues, Sebastian seems bent on convincing Delenn that she is wrong about her destiny, giving her repeated shocks. Delenn stands up to him and accuses him of being a pitiful person who wasn't worthy enough on his own, so he must prove others are also not worthy, and gets too much joy from the pain he inflicts. Sebastian triggers the pain-givers mercilessly, claiming that he is within a hair of killing her.

After a change in scene, we see Lennier track Delenn down and being aghast at her condition. She refuses to leave, because that would be failure. Lennier flees and runs straight to Sheridan, telling him that the inquisitor is killing Delenn.

We return to Sebastian toying with Delenn, since she appears to be extremely weak and possibly close to death from the pain-givers. Sheridan arrives and points a gun at Sebastian. Sebastian apparently has been expecting Sheridan, and he uses his walking stick (which also controls the pain-givers) to knock Sheridan out.

The next thing we know, Sheridan is manacled and strung up for questioning. Sebastian begins questioning Sheridan about his commitment to the cause - what he would be willing to sacrifice, his friends, his family? Sebastian punctuates each question with a powerful "slap" from his stick, which is some kind of forceful shock to Sheridan. He seems to be progressing much more quickly in the pain he gives Sheridan.

Delenn has recovered enough to demand that Sebastian stop, saying that if Sebastian needs to kill anyone, it should be her. Sebastian asks what will happen to her cause if she dies right then; Delenn replies that "This is my cause. Life," implying that her cause would be served. Not only that, but another would come to take her place.

Suddenly, both Delenn and Sheridan are released and Sebastian has appeared near the entrance. He tells them that they have passed the test, because they were willing to give their lives for one other person just to save that person, not for any kind of fame or glory.

Before Sebastian leaves, Sheridan does some historical research on him and confronts him with the findings. Sheridan discovered that Sebastian was Jack the Ripper, a serial killer in 19th century London. Sebastian tacitly admits it, saying that the city was filled with corruption and he was trying to send a holy message. But the Vorlons showed him the error of his ways, putting his zeal to their own purposes. His only hope now is that since he's finally fulfilled his goal (finding the "chosen ones") that the Vorlons will let him die.

A secondary plot throughout the episode is G'Kar's efforts to help his people. He wants to keep the Narn's plight visible to the other races, so he speaks at length in the Zocalo to anyone who will listen. He uses money donated by Narns who escaped from the Centauri to purchase weapons to be smuggled back to their homeworld; because he agrees to Garibaldi's demand that the weapons do not go through B5, Garibaldi gives him a tip about another transfer point he can use for free. Some of the other Narn on the station doubt his leadership in this time; as proof of his capabilities, G'Kar promises to get a message from one of the other Narns' families on the homeworld. Secretly, he turns to Sheridan for help with this; Sheridan uses this as a test mission for the Rangers. The Rangers smuggle the message, and G'Kar's leadership is confirmed.

We see Vir continue his own journey in his episode. We know that Vir was opposed to many of the Centauri acts, both starting the war and during the war. We saw Vir stand up to Morden in "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum". Now, we first see Vir watching G'Kar speechify on the Zocalo, then later he accidentally gets into the same lift with G'Kar. He gives G'Kar a stammering apology, saying there was nothing he could do. In a stunningly effective demonstration, G'Kar slices open the palm of his hand and as the blood drips off, he says, "Dead. Dead. Dead...." Then he says if Vir can't apologize to the dead, then he cannot forgive Vir. How much longer can Vir continue to obey Londo and continue participating in acts he can't condone?

This is a very compelling episode because it doesn't pull any punches in its treatment of the characters, especially Delenn. However, I feel as though the motivation for the inquisitor was somewhat contrived. We know that Kosh (and presumably the other Vorlons) are telepaths. Why couldn't Kosh demand that they allow him to probe their minds so that he could search for any hidden, impure reasons for their choices? A possible resolution to this puzzle is that not only did Kosh want the reassurance, but by conducing the "test" in this way, it also gave Sheridan and Delenn the same reassurance.

Although the test was purportedly of Delenn, Sebastian really didn't seem to go anywhere with it until Sheridan showed up as well. Sebastian did beat at Delenn's sense of destiny, which was a nice connection with the vision she spoke of in "Confessions and Lamentations", but Sebastian couldn't get to the point of the test until another person arrived so she could offer to sacrifice herself.

Thus, the test seemed to be about the joint purpose of Delenn and Sheridan. Each one of them offered their lives for the other; Delenn explicitly, and Sheridan implicitly when he arrived to save Delenn by force. Sebastian seemed to think that their offer of sacrificed proved their purity of purpose, although one might think they "cheated" a bit, since they are falling in love; it must be easier to die to save someone you love rather than a stranger. Surely Sebastian must have known about their friendship, so I guess it didn't matter.

I also found it odd that Delenn has been in cahoots with Kosh for some time (at least since the end of season 1, and one would guess way before that, too). Now Kosh has doubts about her, after she's gone through the transformation to become partly human? If that doesn't show her commitment, what would? (This episode, I guess.) However, I think this again shows that Kosh also wanted to test Sheridan. Delenn has been a "chosen one" doing many things behind the scenes for Kosh's cause for a long time. Sheridan is a relatively unknown quantity, and Kosh wanted to know more about his commitment and purpose. This points to Sheridan being a pivotal person in Kosh's plans for their cause in the future.

On another aspect of Sheridan's personality, we see Sheridan immediately put the Rangers to work, despite Garibaldi's concerns. As Sebastian said, Sheridan is foremost a soldier, and a soldier utilizes his forces to the best advantage. Sheridan doesn't ponder too much about using the soldiers, but makes the decision, emphasizing his decisive nature as a commander. This would seem to be in contrast with Delenn's more contemplative attitude, which is often one of waiting to see how events will turn out or what a person is like. Did Delenn realize that Sheridan's different character would complement her abilities, leading to more effective use of the Rangers?

I found the idea of Sebastian being Jack the Ripper to be unappealing. It's not exactly a cliche to bring Jack the Ripper into stories, but nearly so. I'm not sure it was necessary for Sebastian to be Jack the Ripper and not just a creepy guy.

On the other hand, the implications of Sebastian being Jack the Ripper are enormous. As Sebastian said, it means the Vorlons have been to the Earth. One would think they probably didn't come just once to pick him up, so that means they've been there a lot. What have they been up to? Are their past visits to the Earth the reason why Kosh says in "Hunter, Prey" (I think) that "everybody" would recognize him?

What they have not been up to is benevolently spiriting away all serial killers, since there have certainly been many since Jack the Ripper. That confirms Sebastian's statement that the Vorlons thought he was "ideally suited for their needs", as an inquisitor. His talents at interrogation are obvious. We also see at the end of the episode that he fits the exact description that he made of Delenn: someone who believes he's on a holy mission and that he's chosen by God. The Vorlons showed him he was not, and they are certainly twisting the knife by forcing him to seek out the actual chosen one.

On a related note, what gives the Vorlons the right to snatch up humans and force them to work or the Vorlons? Obviously removing Jack the Ripper was a blessing, since it stopped the murders, but how many other humans have they whisked away for their purposes? The Vorlons are powerful enough that humans certainly can't stop them, but one has to wonder about their moral superiority when they are kidnapping people.

This episode nicely shows G'Kar growing into his role of helping his people as a representative and facilitator, instead of directly as a soldier. He is learning when to be loud - keeping the Narn's plight in public view - and when to be more subtle - arranging for weapons to be smuggled. He has learned not to lie to potential allies, like Garibaldi. I'm not sure why he had to earn his leadership of his people on B5 again (after doing so in "Acts of Sacrifice"), but he did it with persuasion and compromise, rather than force.

We have also recently seen G'Kar's verbal skills grow, first with his speech upon leaving the Council in "The Long, Twilight Struggle" and here in his personal "conversation" with Vir. He may find that the pen is mightier than the sword for saving his people.

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