Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "Gropos"

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Episode Information

Title: "Gropos"
Writer: Larry DiTillio
Director: Jim Johnston
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
Reviewed on: April 27, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


General Franklin brings 25,000 troops aboard B5 for some final planning before a dangerous mission.

A small fleet of Earth Force ships arrives at B5, bearing General Richard Franklin and 25,000 troops. General Franklin orders Sheridan to prepare quarters on board the station for a few days. It makes sense to give the troops a little time off and change of scenery before a mission, but I can sympathize with Sheridan's reaction about where he's going to squeeze in that many soldiers.

General Franklin subsequently briefs the command staff on his mission: to aid the government of the planet Akdor in putting down a rebellion. The mission is a secret (they are ostensibly on their way to Io) while Franklin prepares his final tactics and Earthgov makes an announcement. Sheridan has been to the area in question on Akdor ad says that it's a deathtrap - Franklin says that's why they came here, so he could get Sheridan's experience while finishing his planning.

Incidentally, Franklin's ships bring new defense weapons for B5 and plan to install them before they go. Once installed, the station should be able to hold off a full-sized warship. As a soldier, I'm sure Sheridan appreciates the firepower, but he does protest the idea of heavily arming a station whose mission is peace. Franklin replies that the Narn-Centauri war is sure to stir up other aggression, so the station must be prepared.

General Franklin is Dr. Franklin's father, but they have very strained relations. When they finally meet, the general wants to know why the doctor doesn't put his medical skills to better use on Earth on humans, and the doctor ends up accusing the general of murder when he kills aliens in battle. They storm apart.

The 25,000 troops have been fit onto the station by crowding them in with crew and staff already on the station. Keffer gets a couple "gropos" (ground-pounders - infantry) in his quarters: the Veteran, who never stops telling war stories, and the Newbie, who hasn't been in battle yet. Keffer warms to them, and in the station bar, he stands up for them to another gropo, the Loud-Mouth, which eventually ends to a fight involving the entire bar.

Previously, the Loud-Mouth and his friends had decided to pick on Delenn for her unusual appearance, but a female gropo named Dodger intervened on Delenn's behalf. When Garibaldi eventually tells Dodger she was defending the Minbari ambassador, she's floored. Dodger and Garibaldi eventually head back to his quarters, but he's too hung up on Lise ("the woman he had a chance with") and Talia ("the woman a guy like me doesn't stand a chance with") to let things go very far. Dodger is initially insulted at Garibaldi turning her down, but they become friends before Dodger has to leave.

In a nice scene, Dr. Franklin gets together with Ivanova to let off some steam about his father. Ivanova can certainly sympathize with having a strained relationship with one's father (as we saw last season in "Born to the Purple"). Ivanova also knows, which Franklin does not, that General Franklin's upcoming mission is much more dangerous than is publicly known, and she encourages Franklin to patch things up with his father now while he still can.

Meanwhile, Sheridan has been giving some father-son advice to General Franklin. Frankly, this conversation seemed a little too weird to me - I can accept a more casual commander/subordinate relationship among soldiers that have been working together for some time, but that's not the case here, and it just feels too contrived. At any rate, the two Franklins do talk again and put their relationship back together. They realize that they both respect and love each other, even if they don't always agree with each other's jobs or principles. The mushy stuff here is just a little heavy, but I certainly think it's very realistic to have a relationship where the people involved really do care, they just can't seem to say anything right.

Earthgov announces the mission to Akdor, which Sheridan describes as the rattling of sabres. The Earth Alliance is letting the other races known that they are not an easy target, and by helping the government on Akdor, they will be able to establish a strategic base there. The 25,000 troops move out just as quickly as they arrived.

ISN broadcasts from the battlefield: Earth Alliance was successful in its mission. We see General Franklin, alive and in once piece, making a report. When the casualty reports come in, the result may be obvious but is nonetheless heartbreaking: all of the gropos we met in the episode were killed. The shot panning over their bodies on the battlefield reminds us that death is the great equalizer, and no matter who you are or what you do, you can still die. The sobriety of Garibaldi and Keffer when the read the reports is a nice counterbalance to the cheers celebrating the victory.

This episode is not unpleasant to watch, since there is some nice dialog and humorous scenes. I enjoyed the sergeant-major's cajoling of his troops. However, most of it is just too obvious. The gropos we meet are largely stereotypes, as I've named them above. We even got a traditional bar fight that has to happen whenever there are a lot of troops around. The initially strained but later fixed-up relationship between the two Franklins was way too predictable.

The consequences of the Narn-Centauri war are still rippling outward. No doubt the fighting between them will spill over into conflicts with the other races. It makes sense for Earth Alliance to try to strengthen their strategic position. Will Earth Alliance take a side in the war? If so, which one? The weapons newly-installed on B5 certainly could come in handy in the future.

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