Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "Falling Toward Apotheosis"

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Episode Information

Title: "Falling Toward Apotheosis"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: David Eagle
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: December 13, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sheridan has the new Kosh killed; Londo must step up his plans to assassinate the Emperor before Centauri Prime is destroyed by the Vorlons.

I'm going to discuss the plot on the station first, and then the one centered on Centauri Prime.

Sheridan's return from Z'ha'dum has given him almost messianic status, especially among the members of the Non-Aligned Worlds. He hasn't really told anyone what happened to him, but it is widely rumored that he returned from the dead - which is actually true. Garibaldi is a bit cranky about Sheridan being stand-offish toward him, and he's especially suspicious about Lorien, who continues to be a close confidant of Sheridan. In fact, Sheridan and Lorien seem to be comfortable enough together that they can debate the moral and philosophical issues they are facing almost in shorthand - Sheridan is determined to try to save as many people as he can, despite Lorien's insistence that he'll fail.

The Vorlons have increased their attacks on worlds touched by the Shadows, a fact which is given a sense of urgency by the periodic video announcements by Ivanova. Ivanova lists the worlds with which contact has been lost, where refugees can go, and what is known about where the Vorlons are going next. It's sobering when from report to report more of the previous havens for refugees are lost.

Sheridan and Delenn finally get some time alone, where Delenn finally confesses her guilt in essentially forcing Sheridan to go to Z'ha'dum. She has been worried that Sheridan couldn't forgive her, but Sheridan assures her he does, and the thought of her is what kept him going at Z'ha'dum. Of course, he still hasn't told her everything, as we'll learn later.

Ivanova, Franklin, Garibaldi, and Zack meet in the war room to discuss the station's situation: they are almost overwhelmed by refugees that are searching for safety or for others that they have lost. Garibaldi predicts that the situation is going to get much worse. Franklin suggests sending the refugees to the planet below, where they will probably be safer from a Shadow attack anyway. Sheridan enters in time to hear he suggestion, and orders it to be done.

With little preamble, Sheridan tells the others that they have to get rid of the new Kosh. His reasoning: they don't know how telepathic Vorlons are, so any planning they do to fight the Vorlons might be known immediately. For that reason, Sheridan has been avoiding Garibaldi, so the new Kosh can't read Garibaldi's thoughts - this should be somewhat obvious and reassuring to Garibaldi, but of course he's not happy about it. Sheridan orders Garibaldi to take a small team to ask the Vorlon to leave, and to use force if necessary. Garibaldi knows they would have no chance at forcing Kosh to leave, and somewhat disturbingly Sheridan agrees. This is apparently just a ruse to make the new Kosh complacent, but it could potentially be deadly for Garibaldi and his team.

Sure enough, Garibaldi and his team visit the Vorlon, who refuses to leave. Garibaldi knows that they've got to start a fight, but I'm pretty sure it's Zack who steps up to make the first shot (and potentially get the brunt of the Vorlon's response). The team fights valiantly, but the Vorlon creates some kind of high frequency noise that shatters the masks on their breathers, so they have to retreat.

Well, now that the new Kosh has been given what he expects, what is Sheridan's actual plan? He has enlisted Lyta to lure Kosh into a killing zone within the station. Lyta tells the Vorlon that she knows of someone who still has a piece of the original Kosh; the new Kosh is so upset by this that he follows Lyta to the killing zone. A large assault team begins firing at the new Kosh and Sheridan orders electrical current from the station itself to be directed at the Vorlon, eventually overwhelming whatever defenses the Vorlon's encounter suit has.

The new Kosh emerges from the suit as a large energy being and begins attacking. Sheridan jumps to block an attack on Delenn and is caught by the Vorlon. Meanwhile, the new Kosh's ship is creating a ruckus and is permitted to leave the station. The piece of the original Kosh in Sheridan leaves Sheridan and takes up the fight against the new Kosh. The two energy beings move outward through the station and into the Vorlon ship, which explodes. Both Koshes are now dead.

Sheridan has been left on the floor, drained. Lorien uses some ability of his to replenish Sheridan's life force, much to Delenn's astonishment. Delenn knows now that something is going on with Sheridan, but she doesn't get the whole story until later in his quarters. Lorien explains that Sheridan was dying at Z'ha'dum, so Lorien used his own abilities to revive Sheridan and extend his life. Lorien estimates that Sheridan has about 20 years to live, and then "one day, he will simply...stop."

Delenn does not take this news well, and she has one of the most selfish reactions I think we've ever seen from her - she didn't want to fall in love with Sheridan only to lose him after such a short time. Minbari are naturally more long-lived than humans, but Sheridan had assured her that humans live to 100 years or so. Now she is devastated. Interestingly, Sheridan has already come to accept his fate; I suppose the 20 years are 20 more years than he probably expected to have when he went to Z'ha'dum. He assures her that all he wants to do with those 20 years is spend it with her - besides winning the current war, of course. He gives her an engagement ring - a human tradition.

This episode clearly shows us that things are not going to return to normal now that Sheridan is back, because Sheridan has definitely changed. He now seems to be completely comfortable in his role as a leader (and "The One"), even to the extent of accepting the near-worship some of the other races give him. And despite his assertion to Lorien early in the episode that he wants to save everyone, he seems to be more calculating about using people for jobs that must be done but nonetheless might get them killed.

Sheridan certainly doesn't have any qualms about killing the new Kosh. I think that this is mostly because he now knows the reasons behind the Shadow war and no longer gives the Vorlons the same respect that he did in the past. The original Kosh wanted to teach Sheridan to fight legends - perhaps Sheridan has learned better than Kosh might have wanted him to. Of course, I wonder if the original Kosh would have supported the Vorlons attacks against all worlds touched by the Shadows.

The revelation by Lorien that Sheridan will only live another 20 years is the other shoe that I've been waiting to drop concerning Sheridan's "rescue" from death at Z'ha'dum. It would be way too easy, in a story-telling sense, to just return him back to life - like all epic characters, he has to pay a price. And it's quite a price - certainly the "terrible, terrible price" the future Delenn referred to last season in "War Without End, Part 2". Twenty years sounds like a lot, but not once you've begun living it. For example, if he were to have a child right now, he would hardly live long enough to see that child grow up. I'm surprised that Sheridan has accepted this fate so easily. Will knowing his maximum lifespan let him live life more fully?

Another interesting aspect of the plot to kill the new Kosh is that Lyta was willing to go along with it. In the last episode ("The Summoning"), she was certainly upset by the Vorlons destroying entire worlds, but she still has invested her entire being into following the Vorlons. I suspect that she was willing to help kill the new Kosh because the piece of the original Kosh inside Sheridan was also in favor of the plan. I think Lyta may have realized that her loyalty and devotion to the Vorlons was really to one specific Vorlon - the original Kosh - despite the Vorlons' assertion that "we are all Kosh". Will the other Vorlons know that she helped kill the new Kosh? What will she do now?

On Centauri Prime, the news has arrived of the Vorlon attacks. Londo is aghast, and insists to Emperor Cartagia that the Shadows leave Centauri Prime. Morden is there (looking a little more healed than in "The Hour of the Wolf") to assure them that the Vorlons would never destroy such a heavily-populated world as Centauri Prime. Cartagia seems happy to agree to use Centauri ships to defend the Shadow base on Centauri Prime if necessary.

Once Morden leaves, Cartagia takes Londo to his secret place to tell Londo his true plans. Londo receives double confirmation of Cartagia's insanity: first, he gets to witness Cartagia's collection of heads, which he talks to; second, Cartagia says he has no intention of defending Centauri Prime in any way - the Vorlons will turn their world in to a pyre to celebrate Cartagia becoming a god. The horror on Londo's face is plain to see, but fortunately Cartagia is too swept away by the vision of destruction that he doesn't notice.

Londo calls B5 to confirm the pattern of the Vorlon attacks, and learns Centauri Prime has about a week left before the Vorlons arrive. Londo has to hurry any plans to assassinate Cartagia, and so he thinks quickly. He convinces Cartagia to take G'Kar to the Narn homeworld for trial and execution, so that the Narn can witness and remember Cartagia's greatness, since all Centauri will be dead. Cartagia thinks it's a smashing idea, and so Londo sets his plan in motion.

Unfortunately, he is too distracted by those plans to really pay attention later when Cartagia is torturing G'Kar yet again and is offended by how G'Kar is looking at him. He asks Londo for a suggested remedy, which Londo waves off. So Cartagia simply orders the guards to pluck out one of G'Kar's eyes, and even uses a little rhyme to randomly pick which eye. (Now we know why G'Kar was missing an eye in Londo's dream in season 2 in "The Coming of Shadows" and in the flash to the future last season in "War Without End, Part 2".) The episode ends on the door to G'Kar's cell swinging shut as a guard moves to take the eye, which is one of the most chilling endings to any of the episodes.

I don't have too much to add to this plot, because it's clearly set-up for the next episode. It's not obvious to me why it would be easier to assassinate Cartagia on Narn, but I suppose that no matter what the guards do, the security could not be as good there. We don't know yet how Londo plans to kill Cartagia, but he must have worked it into the plans for going to Narn.

It's really disturbing just how crazy Cartagia is. He can converse relatively normally, but the topics he discusses can range from the usual to torture to godhood, all in the same casual tone. His craziness along with his total power over his people is so incredibly dangerous, both to the whole planet and to individual people as he can have people killed or maimed at his whim. One has to wonder if once Cartagia is gone if the Centauri will re-think their form of government to prevent another madman from ever being so powerful.

From the title, "apoptheosis" means "deification". Obviously, Cartagia plans on being deified, although not if Londo has anything to say about it. However, there are other godhoods figuring into this episode. The Vorlons were considered to be near-gods by the younger races, but now they are no longer being so exalted - one might say that they are "falling from apotheosis". More interestingly, the rumors surrounding Sheridan's return from Z'ha'dum are nearly according him godhood. In this series, being considered a god doesn't seem to bode well for a character, but Sheridan already knows what price he's paying.

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