Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "Knives"

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Episode Information

Title: "Knives"
Writer: Larry DiTillio
Director: Stephen Posey
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
Reviewed on: June 9, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Londo reunites with an old friend, and Sheridan is possessed by an alien.

This episode has two distinct plots, so I will go over them separately. Londo and Vir are comparing their favorite parts of Centauri opera, joyfully singing together. This scene made me think of how layered this series can be: on the surface, the scene is funny because the characters are being silly. However, we know that there is a war on, so the scene also demonstrates how people can't usually be depressed or scared or angry continually - that there has to be some kind of release. On another level, the scene may also show how disconnected the Centauri nobility are from their fighting soldiers and the dying Narn, that they can frolic without a care. At any rate, Londo's old friend Urza Jaddo sneaks up on Londo and pulls a prank on him by pretending he's going to kill him. Oh, very funny.

Londo and Urza meet later for drinks, and they reminisce about old times for a bit. They were childhood friends and dueling partners, and their families have been allied since the beginning of the Republic. Urza mentions how Londo is coming into favor on Centauri Prime, and Londo speaks favorably of the war. However, Urza was a follower of the late emperor's policies toward Narn ("The Coming of Shadows") and believes that the war is not beneficial to the Centauri. He also mentions that the late emperor's prime minister was murdered after the emperor died - Londo had been told it was an accident, but we know from "The Coming of Shadows" that he was murdered on Lord Refa's order. All of this political talk culminates in Urza's revelation that the Centauri government is about to declare him and his family traitors to the Republic. Londo can't believe that this is possible, and promises to use his influence and connections to prevent it. Urza is thrilled and promises a banquet to celebrate their reunion.

Londo contacts Lord Refa, who is appalled that Londo is friends with Urza. Refa claims that it's too late to stop the declaration of Urza's family being traitors, and he warns Londo that if Londo tries to help Urza, Londo could be dragged down with them, and their plans will be for naught. Londo snaps that he was the source of power for their plans, and when he ends the conversation, he vows to Vir that he will pay more attention to events in the Centauri government.

Londo and Vir attend Urza's banquet, which certainly is lavish. Londo tells Urza that he has fixed the problem, but Urza says that he didn't - the declaration is about to be passed. Londo is confused, since he told Refa what to do, but Urza hisses (almost literally!) that Refa was the source of the declaration. Urza seems disgusted that Londo would associate himself with Refa, but Londo says he is fulfilling his destiny and return the Centauri to their rightful place in the galaxy. Urza says he's seen war, and he hopes to never see any more again.

The mood has been spoiled, and Londo intends to leave, but Urza presents Londo with the gift of a short sword, and then challenges him to a duel to the death. Londo accepts, and they break for two hours to prepare.

When they duel, they fight almost to the exhaustion of both of them, causing minor injuries. Urza knocks Londo's sword away and makes a dramatic move for a death blow, but Londo grabs his own sword and impales Urza. Urza dies in his arms within moments, after extracting a promise from Londo to adopt his family. Londo agrees, which we find out is standard procedure for a duel to the death. Urza had chosen the duel and then lost on purpose in order to protect his family from the shame of being declared traitors. Later, Londo reflects that perhaps not all of his choices have been for the best.

In the other plot, Garibaldi mentions in passing to Sheridan about some odd occurrences in a section of Grey Sector, which causes Sheridan to go check it out, alone. He encounters the body of a dead Markab, and as he reports it on his link, the body's hand reaches up and grabs his head. This totally spooks him out, but when Franklin checks out both him and the dead body later on in MedLab, he doesn't find any problems. The Markab died of bashing his own head into the pipe he died beside.

Sheridan heads back to his normal routine, but begins seeing odd things. He is woken up in the middle of the night when some kind of creature (that he had encountered once on an alien planet) appears in his room - he shoots at it, and then it disappears. No one else can find any sign of it. Later, he sees a vision of the Icarus exploding, like Kosh projected to him in "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum". Finally, he sees images of his parents.

He does report his initial "visions" to Franklin, who puts him on medical leave for a few days. By the time Sheridan "sees" his parents, he thinks he knows what's going on. He takes off in a Starfury for sector 14, which is where the Markab's ship came from and where Babylon 4 was seen again briefly last season in "Babylon Squared". His absence is noted, and Garibaldi takes off after him. When Sheridan gets to sector 14, an odd disturbance in space shows up, and suddenly some kind of energy begins draining out of Sheridan's body into the space disturbance. Sheridan is knocked out, and Garibaldi uses his Starfury to tow Sheridan's back to B5.

When Sheridan comes to on B5, he explains that he realized he was being inhabited by some kind of being who wanted to return to sector 14. Apparently the Markab picked it up and couldn't handle the visions, and then it transferred to Sheridan.

The main plot of the episode, involving Londo, is reasonably interesting, but it's pretty slow and rather obvious. However, in retrospect, I think the obviousness is because Urza had planned out the whole scenario. Although Urza claimed to be surprised that Londo was working with Refa, someone who had the contacts to learn the truth about the former prime minister would also know about Londo and Refa. I think Urza staged the reunion and then manipulated Londo throughout the episode to the duel. I enjoyed watching the actor who played Urza in this role, since I am most familiar with him as Jacob Carter in Stargate SG-1.

Urza's whole story was ultimately a tragedy that may serve to open up Londo's eyes to what's going on on Centauri Prime. Although we had some hints that Refa was up to more than he was telling Londo, Londo apparently didn't have a clue. Refa may not really appreciate how powerful Londo's associates are - if Refa and Londo fight, what will happen?

The plot involving Sheridan's "possession" was pretty much a waste. Sheridan claims the alien's visions were images of home, but except for the last vision of his parents, I can't agree with that. The idea of a noncorporeal lifeform is an interesting one to introduce, and it will be used again later in the series, but it really doesn't do much here.

There were some incidental points of note:

Overall, this episode was a disappointment when it followed upon the excellent "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum". One might think Sheridan would still be coming to terms with all he learned in that episode about his wife's death and the Shadows, but there's hardly a mention here. I realize that's partly due to the episodic nature of the series, but it's still a let down.

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