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The main plot in this episode focuses on Delenn and the Minbari civil war. As we begin the episode, we see the capital city of Minbar in smoking ruins. Lennier reports that forces of the Warrior Caste have surrounded the city and are demanding that they surrender or be destroyed.
Neroon meets with the leader of the Warrior Caste, Shakiri, to receive his next orders. Shakiri is filled with the imminent victory and pontificates about how the Religious Caste is unfit to lead the Minbari. Neroon comments on the cost of the war, but Shakiri shrugs this off, saying that buildings and cities can be rebuilt, and those that died will be reborn into the next generation of Minbari. He claims that a true warrior does not fear dying, since it's just a release from one's obligations.
Delenn and the other leaders of the Religious Caste signal the Warrior Caste that they are ready to surrender. We see Neroon convey that message to Shakiri. Neroon suggests the location of the surrender: an ancient temple used to choose leaders and settle disputes in the time before Valen. Shakiri agrees, and reveals that once the Religious Caste has surrendered, Delenn will have a convenient accident on her way back to B5.
The day of surrender arrives, and Delenn gives Lennier some sealed instructions for later. Clearly Delenn doesn't think that the end is near. Delenn, Shakiri, Neroon, and others enter the main platform of the temple. They are surrounded by many Minbari, and one gets the impression that the proceedings in the temple are being broadcast throughout the Minbari people. Delenn officially surrenders on behalf of the Religious Caste.
Shakiri begins gloating about how the Warrior Caste will begin rebuilding and changing their society, but Delenn interrupts, saying that neither she nor the other members of the Religious Caste has given up their rights to form a new government for the Minbari people. She declares that if the Warrior Caste wants to return to the old traditions from before the time of Valen, then they should return to the tradition used to choose the leader of the Minbari: the Starfire Wheel.
A small hole opens in the ceiling, shining a bright beam of light on the floor. Delenn says that in ancient times, Minbari vying for leadership would step into the light of the Starfire Wheel. The Minbari that could last the longest in the light - even to death - was the one most deserving of leadership, and his/her caste would lead. Delenn steps into the light from the Starfire Wheel, inviting Shakiri to join her.
Shakiri is obviously hesitant, but tries to talk over it. The Starfire Wheel slowly opens farther and farther, increasing the intensity of the light. Neroon asks Shakiri if he is afraid to step into the light, and quotes Shakiri's own words back to him about how a warrior should not be afraid of death. Shakiri finally steps into the beam of light, and desperately tries to talk Delenn into leaving the light with him and sharing the power of leading their people.
Delenn refuses, and Shakiri cannot take the pain from the beam of light so he leaps out. Delenn remains, raising her hands upward as if in religious ecstasy. Neroon frantically asks Lennier what Delenn is doing, because their agreement was that after Shakiri left the beam, Delenn would leave. Lennier believes that Delenn is remaining in order to prove her dedication to all Minbari. As the Starfire Wheel opens farther, Delenn collapses within the beam. Neroon leaps into the beam of light and lifts Delenn, handing her to Lennier. Neroon remains in the beam, declaring that he has realized the calling of his heart is religious. When the Starfire Wheel opens fully, he is vaporized (in a horribly cheesy special effect).
Sometime later, Delenn is only partly recovered from the effects of the Starfire Wheel, but manages to pull herself together to address the new Grey Council. She has decided that the Grey Council will now consist of five members of the Worker Caste and only two members each from the Religious Caste and the Warrior Caste. She says that the workers are the backbone of Minbari society, so they should be the true guide in their government. She says that the tenth spot, the leader's spot (last occupied by Dukhat as seen in "Atonement"), will be reserved in Neroon's memory for "the one who is to come". Then she leaves.
This plot is a satisfying end to the Minbari civil war, and it's really fits in with Minbari culture and Delenn's personality in particular.
The end of "Rumors, Bargains, and Lies" left us wondering if Neroon was really going to honor whatever agreement he had made with Delenn. In fact, we aren't really sure until after Shakiri leaves the Starfire Wheel and Delenn doesn't, and then we find out that Neroon was acting as he and Delenn has planned. Once we know that, Neroon's actions earlier in the episode take on a different light.
When Neroon questioned Shakiri about the cost of the war, we can see that he was wondering about Shakiri's attitude toward taking Minbari lives. Later, he's the one that takes the initiative to make the arrangements for surrender - presumably in keeping with his agreement with Delenn. Even at that point, I don't know that he had committed to completing his plan with Delenn, but when he prods Shakiri about his (Shakiri's) intentions toward Delenn, I think his intentions had firmed. By that time, he had seen that Shakiri's attitude toward Minbari life in general and specific person's lives were completely different than Delenn's attitude. He also could see Shakiri's desire for power, in contrast to Delenn's relative modesty. I think that he decided that Delenn's attitudes and beliefs were more in line with his own and that Delenn would ultimately be a better leader for the Minbari. Thus, his desperation when Delenn did not leave the Starfire Wheel after Shakiri. He believed that Delenn was so much more worthy than Shakiri or even himself that he rescued her and very purposely let himself be killed in order to make Delenn's point. Neroon's last-minute conversion from the Warrior Caste to the Religious Caste should also help the healing of the Minbari people.
Delenn demonstrated her willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice to bring peace to her people. I have to wonder how long she had been planning to die in the Starfire Wheel. Was it since she made her original plans with Neroon, or was it a spur-of-the-moment decision because of how far the civil war tore the castes apart? I'm hoping the latter, since otherwise it seems pretty inconsiderate of her vis a vis her relationship with Sheridan. He thought she was going to help end the Minbari civil war, not kill herself.
At the end of the episode, Delenn displays quite a dichotomy: a willingness to employ a lot of power within her government, but also a willingness to forsake that power. She had no problem giving the Grey Council an overhaul, changing it after 1000 years. She even pronounced what almost sounded like a prophecy - that the leader's spot was for someone in the future. What could she have possibly meant by that? I suppose it's suitably vague that someone in the future will appear to step into that role.
At the same time, after Delenn used this power to make such big changes, she simply walked away from that power. She is apparently content to return to her life and role on B5. I think that if Neroon had been alive, her actions would have confirmed his faith in her - she doesn't just want power for the sake of power.
I also loved one of Delenn's statements when she reformed the Grey Council: that religion and war should serve the people, and not the other way around. How true that is in society today.
Now that the Minbari civil war is over, they have a lot of rebuilding to do, both physically and spiritually. But this also means that they will be returning to the galactic stage. How will the Minbari react to Sheridan's handling of the raiders that are bothering the smaller worlds? How will the Minbari react to Earth Alliance's internal divisions?
The other smaller plots are all on the station. Lyta is running out of money, and she has been trying to hire out her services (largely in a commercial capacity), but because she is a rogue, she cannot get Psi Corps' approval, so she's not getting hired. To make her life (and everyone else's) worse, Bester arrives on the station. He convinces the command staff that he's there on personal business, so he's left on his own recognizance. Meanwhile, Garibaldi is continuing his private "locate anything" business, as well as doing jobs for Edgars on the side.
Bester stops by to chat with Lyta, saying that he can put her on a list of undercover agents - so she'd be able to get a Psi Corps work reference - if she signs an agreement to give the Psi Corps her body when she dies. He suspects the Vorlons have enhanced her abilities, and he wants the Psi Corps to be able to figure out how by studying her. There is a nice reference to how the Psi Corps hasn't been able to enhance telepaths, and indeed we've seen their failures, such as the effects on Jason Ironheart in season one in "Mind War". Lyta flatly refuses.
Garibaldi and Zack have an argument when Zack notices Garibaldi sneaking more stuff past customs. Garibaldi tells Zack to get lost, but his argument in his defense is pretty irrational. Zack is worried about Garibaldi, so he asks Lyta to scan him. Of course, Lyta can't do that without Garibaldi's permission, but it does give Lyta the idea of asking Garibaldi for a job.
Garibaldi doesn't trust telepaths, but agrees to hire her just to annoy Bester. Bester drops by just to tell Garibaldi he's no longer worth his (Bester's) time, but then he scans Garibaldi. Lyta picks up on it, and Garibaldi takes off after Bester to teach him a lesson... only to be picked up by security.
In the middle of the night, Garibaldi's sleep is yet again interrupted by a message from Edgars. Edgars orders Garibaldi to fire Lyta, or he will fire Garibaldi. Edgars simply says he doesn't trust telepaths, despite allegedly developing a cure for a telepath disease ("Conflicts of Interest"). In a well-done scene, we watch from a distance in the Zocalo as Garibaldi breaks this news to Lyta. Lyta has no choice but to sign the agreement with Bester, tearfully putting the Psi Corps attire back on.
Before Bester leaves, he gives a monologue about how he succeeded in pushing Garibaldi farther down the path he wants, and brags about achieving all his goals on B5 - even getting Lyta's agreement.
In the final scene of the episode, Ivanova storms into Sheridan's quarters with video from a transport going to the colony on Proxima 3. The transports were unarmed and carrying civilians. The video shows Earth Force ships destroying the transports. Sheridan is even more incensed than Ivanova, saying that they are going to take the war to Clark and they aren't going to stop.
The plots involving Bester, Garibaldi, and Lyta involve more intrigue than the relatively straightforward Minbari plot. From Bester's monologue, we gather that his main purpose in coming to B5 was to provoke Garibaldi. Since he's apparently guiding Garibaldi in some way, it seems to be clearer than ever that Bester is at least complicit in Garibaldi's "programming". However, we still don't know the ultimate purpose that Garibaldi is intended for.
Likewise, we still don't know what Edgars' intentions are in regard to Garibaldi. He's employing Garibaldi for relatively penny-ante jobs and putting off bringing Garibaldi to Mars. Why? And why is he so distrustful of telepaths that he won't even let his employees employ one?
Poor Lyta gets the short end of the stick, as always. As I said in my review of "Epiphanies", Sheridan is really missing an opportunity by ignoring Lyta. As Bester notes here, Sheridan and the others are supported by the bureaucracy of the station, but Lyta is not. Sheridan could certainly change that, but he hasn't. So now Lyta has been forced to return to the Psi Corps. Sure, Bester says that she'll only be Psi Corps in name, but we know that once the Psi Corps gets its hooks into someone, they will work harder and harder to control that person. Especially Lyta, whom Bester knows has special abilities. How long will Lyta be able to tolerate any association with the Corps?
Sheridan has finally gotten mad enough at Clark's actions that he has decided to stop beating around the bush and finally go to war against Clark. From the episode, we can see at least some of what has been holding Sheridan back: the reluctance to fight against Earth Force. But now Sheridan is so outraged by the attack on the civilian transports that he summarily declares that any Earth Force officer following orders to conduct such an attack is a war criminal.
This is a huge step - declaring that some of your former comrades are war criminals for following orders. I believe that there is contemporary precedent for this in the events following World War II, but it's certainly a fine line. Who decides exactly when following orders is going too far and committing war crimes? Apparently Sheridan believes it's OK for him to decide that here, and he's going to go make the case for it as he takes the war back to Earth. How many other Earth Force officers will take his side? He's definitely built up the reputation and developed the charisma to be very persuasive. Even so, I don't think his (former) superiors in Earth Force are going to look very favorably at one of their captains making such decisions. If and when B5 and Sheridan return to Earth Alliance, Sheridan's future in Earth Force is not looking very good.