Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "The Face of the Enemy"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Face of the Enemy"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Mike Vejar
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: February 11, 2010

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Garibaldi betrays Sheridan and then William Edgars.

Garibaldi has followed through on the plan to track down Sheridan's father and have him taken into custody as bait for Sheridan. Edgars is pleased with this, and doesn't seem to notice how Garibaldi's attitude is extremely unhappy. Again, Garibaldi almost acts like he's being forced to his actions, when there's really no one forcing him (except himself).

Sheridan's campaign against Earth Force has been successful in general. In the latest fight, he can't understand why the disabled ships won't accept his offer of surrender. Finally one of the captains says they won't surrender because they know what Sheridan does to his prisoners: summary executions. It's amazing that anyone could believe this - apparently the truths that I speculated Sheridan was hoping to spread by releasing the captains in "No Surrender, No Retreat" didn't very far. Fortunately for Sheridan, Captain Macdougan (who allied with Sheridan in "No Surrender, No Retreat") is there to prove those rumors wrong.

At the end of the fight, Sheridan's old ship, the Agamemnon arrives - apparently they've been trying to track down Sheridan in order to join them. Sheridan gleefully heads over to his former ship, over Marcus's objections - it could be a heck of a trap! Luckily, everything seems to be as advertised on the Agamemnon; interestingly the ship's current captain says that the crew voted to join Sheridan. Since when did Earth Force become a democracy?

While Sheridan is on the Agamemnon, he gets the message from Garibaldi, saying that Sheridan's father has been captured. Garibaldi plays his part perfectly, saying he doesn't agree with Sheridan all the time, but this situation goes beyond that... and so he has a plan to spring Sheridan's father, but Sheridan needs to meet with him and his operatives. Sheridan agrees, over Ivanova's, Marcus's, and the Agamemnon's captain's objections. They all smell a trap, and I think Sheridan probably does, too, but he couldn't live with himself if he didn't go. Ivanova leaves B5 to take Sheridan's place commanding the fleet.

Sheridan's meeting with Garibaldi is to take place on Mars; Sheridan gets there using a fighter from the Agamemnon. They meet in a seedy night club playing "futuristic" rock music that reminds me a lot of the music from the movie Strange Days (a highly underrated SF movie). Sheridan has hardly sat down when Garibaldi slaps a tranquilizer patch on his hand and warns him not to fight or he'll get hurt. Sheridan is dazed almost immediately from the drugs, but John went-to-Z'ha'dum-and-came-back-alive Sheridan is not about to go down without a fight. The scene is very surreal, with the camera angles, slow motion, and lighting evoking the drugged perception that Sheridan must have. He fights, but in the end he can't overcome 6-to-1 odds.

His dirty deed done, Garibaldi demands that Edgars finally give him the rest of the story. Edgars reveals that yes, his company has developed a cure for a disease that only affects telepaths.... but only after they had first developed that disease. (This fits in nicely with the dying people we saw Edgars visiting in "The Exercise of Vital Powers".) Edgars plans to infect telepaths with the disease and then keep them under control by administering the antidote, without which they would die. Oh, and that will also topple President Clark, since his power source is the Psi Corps. We see that Lise has secretly heard the conversation.

Apparently Garibaldi has reached the goal of his programming, because once Edgars leaves, he breaks out a fake tooth and sends a signal. Then he goes to a transport tube train and waits. Lise finds him and frantically asks what to do, but Garibaldi is in zombie-mode and just tells her to go home. Then Bester arrives.

Bester orders Garibaldi to tell him everything he's found out. Oddly, we almost get the impression that Garibaldi does this verbally, even though Bester could surely gain the information more quickly and completely by scanning Garibaldi. Bester is horrified at Edgars's plan, but is sure he can neutralize it in time. Then he muses about what to do with Garibaldi, and in the process reveals just what happened to Garibaldi since the end of season three when he disappeared in "Z'ha'dum".

The Shadows had realized that if they couldn't convince Sheridan to join them, then they'd have to kill Sheridan and someone else would take his place. Of the candidates (Delenn, Ivanova, Garibaldi), they thought they could manipulate Garibaldi, so they picked up his Starfury. The plan was for their minions, the Psi Corps, to program Garibaldi to support the Shadows. Taking advantage of Psi Corps bureaucracy, Bester diverted Garibaldi's programming to his own purpose: to find out who was planning to destroy the Psi Corps. The details, such as Garibaldi's resignation, were not programmed, but the ultimate goal was - and now Garibaldi had reached it.

Bester decides not to kill Garibaldi, but to restore his memories and let him know just what he's done to his friends. Bester reasons they will never forgive him, and so Garibaldi is doomed. Bester leaves, and over a few moments Garibaldi assimilates the new memories and screams at the realization of what he's done.

He races back to Edgars's compound, but Bester's minions have gotten there first: Edgars is dead, Wade is dying, and the telepath disease and antidote are gone. Bester desperately asks Wade what happened to Lise; Wade manages to say that Lise wasn't there, and then he dies.

Ivanova has assumed command of the fleet, just in time to hear the ISN report that Sheridan has been captured. To emphasize Bester's last thoughts, when Ivanova hears that Garibaldi contacted B5 again, she orders him to be shot on sight if he arrives at the station.

In a second plot line in the episode, Franklin and Lyta arrive on Mars with a load of many frozen telepaths. The head of the resistance, Number One, is less than pleased to have one conscious telepath and many unconscious telepaths in close proximity. Franklin tries to smooth things over, assuring Lyta that she is part of their mission, but fails.

Lyta explains that the people on Mars have recently been under siege by a new tactic of Clark's and the Psi Corps': Bloodhound Units. These special telepathic units wander around, scanning people at will, searching for rebels. She goes on to explain that sometimes telepaths have to violate the law in order to protect themselves. When she was an intern with the Psi Cops, they had to track down a guy who was killing telepaths. Supposedly no "normals" cared all that much, so they violated a number of laws about illegals scans in order to track him down. Once they found him, they couldn't really explain how they'd found him, so they implanted horrible visions in his mind that he sees constantly. To this day, he is in a mental institution, where he is protected from clawing out his own eyes. (Interestingly, Lyta threatened to do something similar to Londo in season 3 in "Passing Through Gethsemane" (I think), if Londo didn't stop bugging her about the Vorlons.) After that, Lyta decided to become a commercial telepath instead. Her experiences, though, make her think that a war between telepaths and normals is inevitable.

This episode had a major pay-off: what's been going with Garibaldi. The explanation is hugely satisfying, since it fits in with all the pieces that we've been getting in episodes all season. I have a few nitpicks with it, which are relatively minor. First, the scene explaining everything was way too expository - I think it needed to be shortened or changed somehow. Second, it's hard to believe that the Shadows had this plan to replace Sheridan with Garibaldi and then just kind of forgot about him. I realized that the war with the Shadows ended relatively soon after Garibaldi was snatched, but I still find it a little unbelievable. The third nitpick is that the goal Bester gave Garibaldi - to uncover the threat against the Psi Corps - seemed too vague to really be effective. Bester didn't seem to really know any of the specifics of Edgars's plan, so he was pretty much shooting in the dark. At any rate, these are minor issues that I can get over.

The fact that Garibaldi really was programmed by Bester is just such a satisfying revelation. It's good to know that all the odd things Garibaldi has done this season haven't really been his own wishes. The next question becomes: what will Garibaldi do now? So far, he's looked for Lise and contacted B5. This seems to indicate two desires: to find Lise (duh), and to reconcile with his friends on B5. The first may be easier to do, since Lise doesn't have anything to hold against him (well, no more than usual). As Bester predicted, it seems unlikely that Ivanova and the others will forgive and forget, especially since Sheridan really is in Clark's hands now.

The revelation of Garibaldi's programming also brings to mind some incredible foreshadowing from the first season: in "The Quality of Mercy", Garibaldi and Talia have a quiet conversation, and Talia mentions the "terrible things" that live inside us. Then, she was referring to the serial killer, but it also foreshadowed the hidden personalities planted in both of them (hers was revealed in season two in "Divided Loyalties").

In the bigger picture, it's astounding that anyone could contemplating unleashing a disease on an entire population of humans, as Edgars was planning. Even with an available antidote, the panic among the public would certainly lead to violence and death. Not to mention that telepaths with a "deadline" (literally!) would certainly take drastic and violent measures to try to get control of the antidote. And if the telepaths refused to cooperate, would Edgars really have withheld the antidote? For how many deaths? I don't usually agree with Bester, but it's certainly better for the world that Edgars's plan was thwarted. A final question: Bester now has Edgars's telepath disease and antidote. What will Bester do with it? It seems inconceivable that Bester himself would release it, perhaps believing himself safe since he hast the antidote, but one never knows what delusions that sort of power might cause. Would having this disease give a researcher the basis for developing the opposite disease: one that affects only normals, and not telepaths?

Ivanova is determined to continue with Sheridan's campaign. However, we still don't know what Sheridan had planned with the telepaths on Mars. Does Ivanova know? Will that plan continue without Sheridan? Will they make any attempt to rescue Sheridan?

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