Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 3: "Passing Through Gethsemane"

Warning: all of my reviews contain spoilers.

If you have any comments on this review, please email me at the address at the bottom.

Episode Information

Title: "Passing Through Gethsemane"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Adam Nimoy
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: August 9, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


A former serial killer is tracked down by his victims' relatives.

At the beginning of the episode, we see Sheridan playing chess with Brother Theo, leader of the group of monks who came to work on the station earlier in the season in "Convictions". We meet one of the other monks, Brother Edward, who is inoffensive and self-effacing, almost to a fault.

Brother Edward becomes the focus of the episode, as odd things begin happening to him. First, a black rose mysteriously shows up in his things in public. Then, he returns to his quarters to find the words "death walks among you" written on his wall in blood. By the time he gets Garibaldi to come and look, the message has disappeared; nonetheless, Garibaldi promises to have his people do an analysis.

Later, he visits with Delenn and Lennier to discuss Minbari religion, as the purpose of the order of monks to learn about all of the names and faces of God from alien races. This is a pleasantly refreshing religious discussion, as it is purely about sharing beliefs and not about who is right or wrong and forcing conversion. When Edward leaves, he bumps into a Centauri, and then he soon begins hearing a woman screaming. He runs to find and help her, but the scenery becomes somewhat surreal, and he stumbles into the body of a woman with a black rose in her mouth and hears sirens.

Edward is confused and scared by these events, and even Brother Theo cannot comfort him. He says he's starting to have memories that can't possibly be his, but they are. Theo suggests that Edward have faith and not pursue these memories, but Edward can't help doing a computer search on the information he's gotten from the memories.

Theo goes to Sheridan and asks him to do a similar search, in the hopes of finding out the truth before Edward does so that if Edward really did do something horrible in his past, they can help him. They eventually discover what Edward has already uncovered: Edward is the Black Rose Killer, who had killed some nine women and was tried, convicted, and sentenced to the death of personality (we saw this sentence given at the end of season 1 in "The Quality of Mercy").

Garibaldi's investigations have also discovered what while there was no blood on Edward's wall, there had been a message written in some kind of liquid that looks like blood, but then disappears. His personnel also tracked down the bag Edward lost, which had a recording device that recorded the woman's screams (that Edward thought were in his mind only) - someone had hacked into the public address system in that section.

Sheridan, Garibaldi, and Theo realize that someone is trying to make Edward remember his past, and Sheridan figures it's someone looking for revenge. Since it's extremely difficult to overcome the mind wipe associated with the death of personality, he also realizes that a telepath must have been involved - probably the Centauri that Edward bumped into.

Theo tracks down Edward to try to calm him, but Edward already considers himself to be lost. He says that he has a killer's soul, and so he has to pay for his past crimes - he also realizes that someone is here for revenge. Theo's pleas for Edward to trust in God fall on deaf ears. The direction and lighting in this scene are especially evocative - Theo and Edward are separated by some kind of grating, like bars. Edward's eyes are completely shadowed and black, either evoking evil or the lack of a soul or conscience in Edward's past life.

Sheridan and Garibaldi bring in the Centauri telepath for questioning, but he refuses to reveal who paid him for the job. They put a bag over the Centauri's head, and Lyta enters to pull the information from his mind. (I'll discuss the plot with Lyta below.) Now they know where to look, but they have to find Edward before whoever is after him does so.

They are too late. We see Edward praying (in a chapel, it appears), and a number of his victims' relatives file in. One of them, Malcolm, says that he's there to finish their revenge, even if the others back out. Sometime later, during the search, Theo finds Edward strung up in a mock crucifixion. Sheridan calls MedLab, but Edward is mortally wounded and dies in a few minutes with Theo absolving him in last rites. Garibaldi's security team, under Zack, catch Malcolm sneaking out - when brought before Sheridan, he proudly admits torturing Edward for revenge.

We jump to a few weeks later, after the trial, conviction, and sentencing of Malcolm (since he put up no defense). Malcolm has been sentenced to the death of personality. Theo introduces the new Malcolm to Sheridan as the newest monk in their order, who is heading back to their brothers on Earth.

The second plot in the episode starts out with Kosh's ship returning to B5, bringing Lyta Alexander. Lyta meets with Sheridan, Ivanova, Garibaldi, and Franklin and cheerfully announces that she'll be working for Kosh now. As she said last season in "Divided Loyalties", since she scanned Kosh in "The Gathering", she has felt compelled to go to Vorlon space. She got dropped off on the border of Vorlon space and was almost out of air when the Vorlons finally picked her up. They took her to the Vorlon homeworld, which she can't tell them about, and now she's Kosh's aide. The others all know there's a lot more to her story than she is revealing, but on the surface, there's nothing wrong.

Lyta is still considered to be a rogue telepath by the Psi Corps, but she is confident that Kosh will protect her. Now that she's no longer bound by the Corps' rules, she is free to help Sheridan by scanning the Centauri telepath to determine Edward's location. It's not going to be any secret to Londo who the female telepath that roughed up his telepath was, but again, what can he do against someone that works for Kosh?

At the end of the episode, we see Lyta in Kosh's quarters (with gills so she can breathe), and streams of light are traveling from Lyta to Kosh's encounter suit. Did Kosh's noncorporeal form inhabit Lyta somehow? How much did the Vorlons alter her, beyond adding some gills and improving her overall health?

This excellent episode is deeply tragic, and touches on a whole host of ethical and spiritual questions relating to the death of personality punishment and souls. The most basic question is: what makes up a person's soul (assuming that souls exist)? Is a soul irrevocably "attached" to a specific body? Is it the combination of body and mind? Is it the person's personality?

The view of human society in the B5 universe seems to be that the soul is connected to a specific body. If it wasn't, then the death of personality punishment wouldn't make sense. If a soul is the person's personality, then destroying and replacing it would be like murder itself. The death of personality punishment seems to assume that there is something fundamental in the person's body and brain that still deserves to be punished, even if the original, evil personality is destroyed. (I discussed whether or not there was any difference between executing a person and the death of personality in my review of season 1's "The Quality of Mercy".)

Edward's discovery of his past was hugely traumatic. Given his new personality's devotion to peace and to holding the lives of others as sacred, I think his reaction - to allow himself to be killed - was pretty logical. Perhaps he should have followed Theo's advice to trust in God, but Edward did not kill himself or harm anyone else with his actions. If, as Edward pointed out earlier in the episode, Christ himself could wait and allow himself to go to certain death, then how could it be wrong for Edward to do so himself? I don't think Edward could have lived with himself any other way.

The interesting emotional issue concerning Edward's situation is how the other characters react to it. Theo, Sheridan, and the others only know the "new" Edward, with his life goal of serving others. Therefore, they want to save Edward at all costs. But what if they had known Edward as a serial killer? How would they feel about the situation then? We see the flip side of this issue when Sheridan is confronted by the mind-wiped Malcolm at the end of the episode - Sheridan has to be prompted by Theo to remember that the "new" Malcolm is not a killer.

We learned a little more in this episode about Minbari religious beliefs: a person's body is a receptacle for a person's soul. This fits in with what we found out about their beliefs in season 1's "Soul Hunter" and last season's "Points of Departure". Given these beliefs, I would have been very interested to know Delenn's opinion on the death of personality punishment. We got the impression in this episode that Delenn doesn't approve of capital punishment, but would she consider this to be such?

More generally, how do Minbari deal with psychopathic criminals? The typical SF answer is that they find all such problematic individuals before they commit any crimes, but that always seems like such a cop-out. Even if that's the case now, how did they handle them before they had such screening? Minbari believe that when a body dies, the person's soul is eventually born into a new body. If a person is a psychopath, is that defect of the soul that will occur each time the soul is re-born?

In the bigger picture of human society in the B5 universe, I'm not sure that the death of personality punishment is practical. Once the criminal is mind-wiped, how are they kept from seeing any information about themselves? I realize that the episode says the idea is that the criminal will be moved to somewhere far away, but it still seems like they could run into some information. (I could also envision news stories to the effect of "Where is the Black Rose Killer now?") As stated in the episode, there is supposed to be some type of supervision of the mind-wiped criminals in their new lives, but that seems like quite a drain on resources. Plus, it seems like there would likely be people morally opposed to mind-wiping that would make it their goal to tell mind-wiped criminals the truth about their pasts.

A specific aspect of this episode that I find implausible is the devotion of Malcolm and the other victims' relatives in tracking down Edward after some eight years. Yes, I can see that some of the victims' relatives would bond and find a purpose in revenge, but I find it hard to believe that so many of them would keep up the chase for so long. In addition, they cooked up quite an elaborate plan to reactivate Edward's wiped memories - it's hard to believe that they had the ingenuity or patience to pull it off.

Return to my Babylon 5 reviews page.