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G'Kar's uncle G'Sten, a military leader among the Narn, tells G'Kar that the Narn are losing the war badly, despite the good appearance they try to promote to their people and the other races. The Narn leadership have decided to make one all-out offensive on a critical Centauri supply world, Gorash 7, in an attempt to make the Centauri back off for awhile and prolong the war past the Centauri desire to fight it. As G'Kar points out, the problem with the plan is that it leaves the Narn homeworld nearly defenseless. Nonetheless, since the fleet will only be away for a short time, the Narn government has decided to risk it. G'Sten also makes a point of emphasizing that G'Kar's position on B5 is crucial for the war effort, since they need alliances and public opinion in their favor.
Unbeknowst to the Narn, the Centauri have received intelligence about the Narn plan. Refa has called Londo to Centauri Prime to inform him of the Centauri counter-offensive: while the Narn fleet is at Gorash 7, the Centauri fleet will attack the Narn homeworld. When Londo points out that invading the Narn homeworld would be extremely costly (in casualties) to the Centauri as well, Refa reveals that they are not planning to invade: they are planning to use mass drivers in order to wipe out the Narn. Refa tells Londo to tell his "associates" (the Shadows) to destroy the Narn fleet at Gorash 7. Refa gloats that the war will be over in a matter of days, but Londo is horrified. He tries to protest that he is worried about how strong his associates are and that they could be problematic, and that events might be spinning out of their control.
Refa uses all the right approaches on Londo to soothe him and get his cooperation. Refa scoffs at the strength of Londo's associates, saying that they need the strength. He claims that the plan is too far along to stop, saying that the Centauri fleet is standing by in hyperspace, but this is a complete lie: until Refa was sure the Narn would be taken care of at Gorash 7, that Centauri fleet was definitely recallable. Refa cajoles Londo with duty and patriotism. In the end, Londo caves, possibly realizing the old proverb: in for a penny, in for a pound. However, he tells Refa that this is the last time they will utilize his associates - we can tell Refa is thinking what we are: "Yeah, sure, it is."
On B5, Delenn and then Sheridan are contacted by Draal on the planet B5 is orbiting; we last saw Draal when he took control of the planet last season in "A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 2". Draal is now much younger and more vigorous in appearance, which he claims was due to the rejuvenating effects of the planet's controlling machinery (and is a nice cover for the change in actor). Draal is now much more grandiose and arrogant, possibly as a result of of all the knowledge that is at his fingertips, as he will explain later. Draal invites Sheridan to visit the planet as soon as possible, bringing one other with him. A conference between Sheridan, Garibaldi, Ivanova, and Delenn quickly leads Sheridan to the decision to go to the planet with Delenn.
Dr. Franklin tends a wounded Narn refugee that seems to have critical information. The refugee dies, but Franklin quietly conveys that information to G'Kar: the Centauri questioning the refugee seemed unusually urgent in demanding information on the defenses of the Narn homeworld. G'Kar worries that the Narn plan has been discovered and tries to dissuade G'Sten from carrying out the attack, but cannot.
Refa and Londo travel on one of the huge ships attacking the Narn homeworld. The special effects of the mass drivers are excellent, showing just how devastating they can be. Mass drivers are mechanisms on the ships that launch large chunks of matter at the planet, presumably small asteroids. An asteroid roughly 50 meters in diameter caused the impact crater called Meteor Crater in Arizona (Wikipedia entry); if the ships are launching objects of this size at the planet, the effects would be horrific. There does seem to be an inherent limitation in this weapon, though: transporting all the "ammunition" must be very bulky and costly. I'm not sure it's as practical a weapon as the episode makes it appear, but that's a small quibble.
As Londo watches the attack, we can see that he is horrified. Although he didn't directly plan and approve this attack, he knows that ultimately it is his decisions and actions that are blame for bringing the Centauri to this position in the war. When Londo told Morden what he really wanted last season in "Signs and Portents" - for the Centauri Republic to return to glory - did he really know how many millions of people were going to pay for that?
While G'Kar prays in his quarters, we see the Narn fleet jump into the vicinity of Gorash 7. The are immediately set upon by Shadow vessels. The Narn ships put up a fight, damaging one Shadow ship. Two of the Narn ships survive long enough to open jump points to escape, but the Shadows fire a weapon that somehow destabilizes the jump points, causing them to collapse and destroy the last Narn ships.
On the planet under B5, Draal and Delenn have a happy reunion. Sheridan is awed by the technology controlling the planet. Draal says that with the technology controlling the planet, he is able to observe many things far and wide; he has been observing Sheridan's command, and he thinks that Sheridan is doing a good job. He mentions Sheridan's "conspiracy of light aimed at [his] own government" (cf. "All Alone in the Night") with approval, which Sheridan denies because Delenn doesn't know about it.
Draal reveals that he wants to ally himself (and the planet) with Sheridan and Delenn. This is a nice revelation, because last season in "A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 2" when Draal said the planet was off-limits until the right time, that is often used in story-telling to mean "never". We didn't have to wait that long!
Through the planet's controls, Draal receives information about the Centauri attack on the Narn homeworld. He realizes Sheridan is going to be needed on B5 and tells them to leave immediately. He urges Delenn to tell Sheridan about "the others". Once they leave, Draal calls for one of the beings who lives on the planet, Zathras. This is the name of the strange guy on Babylon 4 when it reappeared and disappeared last season in "Babylon Squared", a clue that perhaps Draal and/or the planet was involved in that incident.
Garibaldi has his security forces ready to button down the station as soon as the news of the Centauri attack becomes public. Sure enough, the Narn and Centauri begin rioting. Even so, the situation seems to be brought under control pretty rapidly. ISN reports tell us that the Centauri bomb the Narn homeworld for at least four days, and with power and medical care nonexistence, the economy and infrastructure are collapsing. Even though the violence on the station may have been quelled, the mood on the station is extremely bleak.
Someone from the Narn government contacts G'Kar and says that they are going to have to surrender to the Centauri. G'Kar wants to return to his family, but the government orders G'Kar to stay on B5 and ask for sanctuary. G'Kar does as he is ordered, shuffling into Sheridan's office in shame. G'Kar might have to bend his neck to ask for sanctuary, but it's a very smart order on the part of the Narn, since G'Kar's presence on B5 is very influential with the other races. G'Kar himself tried to convince other Narn of the importance of allies in "Acts of Sacrifice", and it seems that they've finally listened.
Londo returns to B5 with significantly more pomp than is usual, and a lot of security on Garibaldi's orders. Londo may have called Garibaldi a friend in the past, and maybe Garibaldi was one even, but events have certainly swept that away. Londo calls a meeting of the B5 Advisory Council.
In the meeting, Londo declares that the Narn have surrendered unconditionally. The terms are that the Narn ruling body will be disbanded and put on trial for war crimes; the murder of 1 Centauri by a Narn will cause the execution of 500 Narn; and that G'Kar must be removed as Narn ambassador to B5 and returned to Narn. Sheridan announces that he has given sanctuary to G'Kar, so he can't be shipped off, but Londo shouts for his removal from the Advisory Council. Until this point, G'Kar had been hanging his head in utter defeat, but he manages to pull himself together and make one of what will become is trademark eloquent speeches: that no one can imprison a race forever by force, and the Narn will one day be free.
This scene is electrifying, because the emotions and stakes in it are perhaps the highest we have ever seen. We have seen Londo shout in anger and laughter and annoyance before, but his absolute implacability and imperiousness in his demands here are astounding. He may not be happy with how the Centauri have won the war, but he is continuing to give his all to represent the Republic. The other representatives are essentially speechless. G'Kar rises to the occasion to defy Londo, but can't look him in the eye.
After the meeting, Sheridan private tells G'Kar that all of his resources are at G'Kar's disposal in order to try to free the Narn. Presumably, these are Sheridan's "personal" resources as commander of B5, since I don't think he could commit all of the Earth Alliance at this point. Nonetheless, G'Kar realizes that this is a small victory.
Later, Sheridan is asked to meet Delenn. When he arrives, he finds Delenn, Garibaldi, and the "others" that Draal mentioned: the Rangers. Delenn explains that the Rangers have each pledged themselves to fight against the coming darkness, and Garibaldi says they've been coming through the station for some time providing information. Delenn is in command of the Rangers on the station, and now she gives Sheridan equal command authority. Sheridan gives a nice impromptu speech about how he, the Rangers, and B5 will fight against the darkness. This gives at least a bit of a positive ending to the episode.
This episode has completely changed the political landscape of the series, with the Narn subjugated. Although the Centauri claim they have no further plans for conquest, we do find out at the end of the episode that they have annexed some smaller worlds. Can the other powers really believe that the Centauri will stop there? After all, if they truly wanted to end the war only, then they could have obliterated the Narn and walked away. Instead, they chose to take over the Narn homeworld as a "protectorate". They would only do that if they wanted the spirit of conquest.
The Centauri may not have much choice, though, if Londo refuses to call on his Shadow associates again. Do the Centauri have enough power to continue to conquer on there own? Perhaps, if they only attack the weaker races. On the other hand, we have the impression that the Shadows have been encouraging and helping the Centauri for a reason. If Londo turns his back on them, it seems unlikely that they will go away. Surely another ambitious Centauri, like Refa, would be happy to take Londo's place with the Shadows.
Even if the Centauri continue their aggression, Delenn has noted that their conquest of the Narn was probably a major goal of the Shadows. Now that it is accomplished, what will the Shadows do now? Will they continue their diversionary and divisive tactics and urge the Centauri onto a war with one of the remaining major powers? Or will they move on to the "real" war, whatever that will entail?
G'Kar has continually had the problem of knowing about impending disaster, but having his warnings ignored. As far back as last season in "Mind War", he gave his first warning, which was for Catherine Sakai not to visit Sigma 957. In that case, even though she ignored him, he was able to rescue her. Earlier this season in "Revelations", G'Kar warned about the presence of the Shadows, but the Advisory Council ignored him. Now he warns his military that the attack is doomed, and is ignored. He must feel very impotent as he watches his homeworld be destroyed. Certainly in the future he will be motivated to do as much for his race as he can to make up for his ineffectiveness now.
It's nice to see Draal return. We don't really know that much about how he can help Sheridan, but certainly his surveillance capabilities are enormous. It seems a bit odd that he is willing to help out Sheridan's plot against the Earth Alliance government - why would he get involved? This may be a hint that the problems in Earthgov are part of the wider evil presented by the Shadows.
Sheridan's intelligence-gathering capabilities also expand with his introduction to the Rangers. Between the Rangers and Draal, Sheridan should start getting very good information about almost everything. However, he still doesn't really have the ability to do anything about what he learns. B5's offensive forces are limited, and he must operate either with the cooperation of Earthgov or covertly.