Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "Into the Fire"

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Episode Information

Title: "Info the Fire"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Kevin Dobson
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: December 31, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sheridan ends the war between the Shadows and the Vorlons.

Sheridan's fleet is en route to Coriana 6, where the Vorlons are heading and the Shadows have been lured. Meanwhile, Ivanova and Lorien have been searching for the rest of the First Ones; Lorien insists that they succeed in finding all six. Once they do, they head to join the fleet. Sheridan and the others know that the Vorlons are also heading for Centauri Prime, but the more populous Coriana 6 must take precedence.

Londo and Vir have returned to Centauri Prime, and Londo as prime minister takes charge very naturally. He quickly gets the government moving for his plans to get rid of the Shadows on Centauri Prime.

In a moment in his quarters, the Minister of Intelligence tells Londo that the late Emperor had ordered him to investigate the death of Lord Refa (last season in "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place", since there had been allegations of Londo poisoning Refa previously. In his investigation, he traced the events back to Adira's death last season in "Interludes and Examinations". However, unlike Londo, he was able to discover the true murderer of Adira: Morden. The Emperor ordered him not to reveal the information to Londo - why he chose to do so now is a bit of a mystery, because Londo surely couldn't be happy about it. Londo is shocked and enraged, and once the minister is safely out of the room, he unleashes his rage by smashing everything within reach. Londo couldn't have had anything good planned for Morden anyway, but now he's not likely to show any mercy.

Sheridan's fleet arrives at Coriana 6 and prepares for the arrival of the Vorlons and Shadows by setting nuclear mines in strategic places. Sheridan comments that their fleet may be the largest in history, but it's still not big enough to win - the inability of the younger races to beat the Shadows and Vorlons was highlighted in the previous episode ("The Long Night"). Some of the others seem puzzled about what they are trying to do then, showing that Sheridan has not revealed his plan, except perhaps to Delenn and Lorien. Lorien transfers from Ivanova's ship to Sheridan's.

On Centauri Prime, Londo has Morden brought before him, and asks Morden to remove the Shadow ships from the planet. Morden refuses, still confident the Vorlons would not attack such a populous world. Londo orders his guards to shoot into the area on either side of Morden, killing Morden's Shadow escorts. Again, Londo asks Morden to have the ships removed. Morden is more agitated now, but he still refuses.

In one of the best dialog sequences in the series, Morden sneers, "What are you going to do Mollari? Blow up the island [where the Shadow ships are located]?" Londo replies, "Actually, now that you mention it..." and pushes the detonator for explosives that destroy the island. Londo's satisfaction and Morden's shock are themselves very satisfying. We learn that Londo has been busy as prime minister, removing all but a few Centauri from the island to minimize casualties. Londo has Morden thrown in a cell, and Morden raves about revenge by the Shadows' allies as he is dragged away.

At Coriana 6, the Vorlon and Shadow fleets arrive and dive right into fighting each other as if Sheridan's fleet doesn't even exist. Sheridan orders some of the mines detonated, which succeeds in turning Vorlon and Shadow attention on his fleet. An all-out three-way battle begins. Sheridan tries communicating with the Vorlons, but is ignored. Lyta tries telepathically signaling, but also fails. As the Vorlons' planet-killer spaceship moves into position, Sheridan has no choice: he signals for the First Ones to help. The First Ones appear and join the fight, destroying the planet-killer, but the battle continues.

On Centauri Prime, Londo directs Vir to the garden, where a "gift" is waiting for him: Morden's head on a pike. Vir gives Morden a little wave, just like he told Morden he wanted to do way back in season 2 in "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum" - a nice payoff for the viewer. Londo signals the Vorlons that the Shadows on Centauri Prime have been destroyed, but still they can see the Vorlon planet-killer spaceship approaching. Vir realizes that Londo has been influenced by the Shadows, so that may be why the Vorlons haven't left. As the planet-killer moves into place, Londo desperately orders Vir to kill him, but Vir wails that he can't - and the Vorlon ship moves off. Unbeknownst to Londo and Vir, the Vorlons have called all their ships to Coriana 6 as reinforcements.

The Vorlons and Shadows finally notice Lyta's telepathic signal, or just deign to answer it. First, the Vorlons speak through Lyta and paralyze Sheridan in some kind of energy field. Then the Shadows do the same to Delenn. Lorien keeps Lennier and the others on the ship from interfering, knowing that Sheridan and Delenn talking to the Vorlons and Shadows is crucial to ending the conflict. He somehow connects with Sheridan and Delenn so that the others in the fleet are able to see what is happening to them.

Both Sheridan and Delenn are confronted by metaphorical representations of the Vorlons and the Shadows. The Vorlons are represented by a veiled woman inside a glass box. The Shadows are represented by people that Delenn knows, but constantly changing the person representing them.

Sheridan argues with the Vorlons about their purpose: to guide the younger races. Sheridan tells the Vorlons that they have lost their sense of purpose and now only act for vengeance. He rejects the idea that the younger races still need the Vorlons or the Shadows to guide them.

Meanwhile, Delenn argues with the shifting faces of the Shadows in much the same way. The Shadows try to lure Delenn to their side by pointing out how much stronger the Minbari became after the last great war with the Shadows, so surely they will profit again. Delenn rejects the idea that the younger races can only grow through conflict.

Both Sheridan and Delenn finish their arguments with the idea that the Vorlons and the Shadows just want the younger races to say that they are right - to choose sides. Sheridan and Delenn reject making a choice.

The Vorlons and Shadows inadvertently find out that Lorien has been broadcasting their conversations, so in effect their secret is out. Lorien removes Sheridan and Delenn from the communication state, just in time for the Vorlons and Shadows next move: some kind of dark cloud begins surrounding the fleet, making the ships so cold that they will stop functioning within minutes. (Scientific aside: this is silly. The temperature of space is near absolute zero anyway. It can't get much colder than that, and the ships are just fine.)

The Vorlons and Shadows pause to give Sheridan and Delenn a final chance to choose between them. Sheridan tells them that the younger races will no longer continue with the cycle of wars, and that they don't need guidance any longer. Sheridan forcefully tells them to get lost.

However, the Vorlons and Shadows are convinced that the others in Sheridan's fleet are just following for Sheridan's sake, and that they don't believe Sheridan's attitude toward the Vorlons/Shadows. They begin attacking Sheridan's ship, in order to kill the messenger, so to speak. However, the smaller ships in Sheridan's fleet move to intercept any missile strikes, at the cost of their lives. Delenn declares that if the Vorlons/Shadows resort to killing everyone there, then they have failed as guardians.

Lorien finally steps in and tells the Vorlons/Shadows that it's time to relinquish their roles and move on as the other First Ones have done. With some little discussion, the Vorlon and Shadow fleets leave, along with the other First Ones. Lorien charges Sheridan and Delenn with guiding younger races than theirs, and says that he and the other First Ones will be waiting beyond the Rim for when they are ready to move on. Then he transforms into a ball of light and disappears.

And the war is over! Sheridan and Delenn return to B5, contemplating how the galaxy has changed so much in just a day, and the responsibility they and their races now have.

This episode leaves the viewer with a bit of a strange feeling. The Shadow war is finally over - but without the bang that the series seemed to have been building up to. The ending of the war is logical, but not necessarily satisfying. We had the fact that Sheridan couldn't win the war through force demonstrated to us and told to us by the characters, and yet somehow one wants the "good guys" to win in a glorious battle. For awhile, we did indeed get quite a battle. And then things turned philosophical.

I said that the ending of the war was logical. Sheridan (and Delenn) basically used reasoned arguments to bring the Vorlons and Shadows back to their senses and force them to recall the original reason for their conflict: a balance of opposing philosophies for guiding the younger races. Neither the Vorlons nor the Shadows were purely evil - something that I'm not sure anyone or anything could be - they just got carried away. They don't really want to wipe out humans and the other younger races - as Sheridan pointed out, they could have done that long ago. They could have wiped out each other as well. So Lorien and the other First Ones played the part of peers, calling the Vorlons and Shadows to task for forgetting their duties. Seen in that light, the Vorlons and Shadows had no choice but to pack up and leave.

And so the war is over, leaving the characters and the viewers with a feeling of triumph, but also emptiness. After all, the driving purpose behind most of our characters (and perhaps the series) has ceased to exist - what are they going to do now? This is a very realistic feeling, which occurs in reality after major events, such as political contests, athletic events, and wars. The characters need to gather themselves and redefine their purposes. After all, there are still problems back on Earth with President Clark and the Psi Corps, on Narn with rebuilding the world, on Centauri Prime with rebuilding their government, and on Minbar with the split between the castes.

How will Sheridan be treated after this? The alien races already accord him near-mythical status because he returned from Z'ha'dum. Now he has brought together the biggest fleet anyone has ever seen and personally faced down the Vorlons and the Shadows. The other races should give him a lot of respect - what will he do about that? However, the Earth Alliance has been kept nearly in the dark about the Shadow war, so Sheridan's own people have no idea what he's accomplished. On a larger scale, it's interesting that Delenn had always claimed that humans were the key to the future, including winning the Shadow war, but very few humans were involved in the Shadow war, since the Earth Alliance was out of it. Nonetheless, the key humans of Sheridan, Ivanova, Garibaldi, and Franklin were in the right place.

The scenes on Centauri Prime are almost more satisfying than the end of the war, since we get to see Londo and Vir give Morden and the Shadows everything they deserve. We see Londo be willing to die for his people literally, but poor Vir being unable to kill him - the only way Vir could kill anyone is accidentally, like he did with the Cartagia in "The Long Night".

We have seen time and time again that Londo's basic motivation is the good of his people. Now he's essentially in charge. Will he keep the good of his people in mind? His ease in taking control of the government is useful, but a little disturbing. And giving Vir the "gift" of Morden's head on a pike is a little too much like the capricious gifts given by Cartagia. Only time will tell what happens to Londo next - as Vir says, they deserve some time to be happy.

One final bit I want to discuss is Lorien's conversation on B5 with Ivanova before they go to Coriana 6. Lorien claimed that he was the last remaining member of the first race of First Ones - and that his generation was naturally immortal. He opines that human beings' short lifetimes are a gift - because they have to take full advantage of the little time they have, so they really live. Somewhat cynically, he says that only a mortal being would claim that love is eternal, because an immortal being knows better. This is a common theme in science fiction: that mortality makes humans what they are, and that if humans were to become immortal, they would become somehow less.

One small science nitpick: some of the special effects include an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the Eagle Nebula. The image is gorgeous, and I appreciate that the series is using real space imagery. However, the image was made using special filters to highlight different processes occuring in the nebulae. That means that the colors in the image are not how they would appear to the eye. To the eye, the nebulae would appear reddish or pinkish. To show you the difference, here is the Hubble Space Telescope image used as the basis for the special effects: Astronomy Picture of the Day, 2007 February 18. And here is a true-color image of the nebula: Astronomy Picture of the Day, 2008 July 19.

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