Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "The Long Night"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Long Night"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: John LaFia
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: December 14, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sheridan plans to force the Vorlons and Shadows together to fight. Emperor Cartagia is assassinated.

Once again, this episode is split between events on B5 and on Centauri Prime, so I'll follow each plot individually.

The Shadows have shown that the Vorlons are not the only super-race capable of destroying whole planets, as they being using their own planet-killer. Ivanova has gotten video of the weapon in action, and it's absolutely chilling to watch, because we really can't interpret what's happening, but know it's bad. It's as if a black swarm was moving over the face of the planet, scouring it clean. I'm glad that there was no technobabble explanation given for it, because it would have lessened the power of watching it.

Sheridan is continuing to gather ships for the ultimate fight. He orders Ivanova to take Lorien and find the last of the First Ones, but she is afraid she won't return in time for the fight. She makes Sheridan promise to wait for her and to not hold her back. Sheridan agrees with almost a patronizing look of tolerance, a far cry from previous episodes where Sheridan and Garibaldi had schemed to protect Ivanova.

As news of the Shadows planet-killing spreads, so does the feeling of hopelessness and ineffectiveness - after all, how can even their huge fleet counter beings who can destroy planets? The next target of the Vorlons is Coriana 6, a planet with 6 billion people. Sheridan decides that that's where they will bring the Shadows and the Vorlons together. In order to do so, he plants some information in a White Star ship and instructs the Ranger commanding it to put up a fight against the Shadows so that they won't realize the information is bait. The representatives from the League of Non-Aligned Worlds watch Sheridan give these instructions, and everyone knows that the crew of the ship is going to die. This scene underlines the seriousness of the situation and just how important Sheridan thinks it is for both the Vorlons and Shadows to be there. By the end of the episode, Sheridan has received confirmation that the Shadows have taken the bait, and so he orders his fleet to Coriana 6.

This plot is all set-up for the next episode with what would appear to be a three-sided showdown between the Vorlons, the Shadows, and Sheridan's fleet. Of course, Sheridan's fleet is completely out-classed and doesn't have a chance of standing up to either the Shadows or the Vorlons, let alone the two forces together. The episode did a good job of making that very clear... which leads to the question: how does Sheridan expect to win? Although he's not overly cheerful nor optimistic, we also don't get the impression that he's sure they are going to lose, so what trick does he have up his sleeve?

In the plot involving the Centauri, Cartagia and his court have traveled to the Narn homeworld for G'Kar's trial. Londo secretly meets with other major politicians and confirms that this is their last chance to kill Cartagia, because they are running out of time before the Vorlons get to Centauri Prime.

When Londo visits G'Kar to give him his final instructions, he is shocked to see G'Kar's missing eye. G'Kar seems to have gotten over the loss, and the experience may have even given him another revelation, as he speaks about being able to see even better than before - we get the feeling that he means in a metaphorical sense. Londo tells G'Kar to break through his weakened chains and distract the guards - but not to touch Cartagia, because Londo will take care of him.

The preparations continue as Vir brings Londo the assasination weapon: a spring-loaded needle with poison on the tip that acts almost instantaneously when pricked into a Centauri's hearts. This leads to one of the funniest, blackest scenes of the series, as Londo and Vir joke about what Cartagia might say in the second or two before he dies. It's a release of their tension as they prepare for what must be done.

G'Kar is paraded into the imitation throne room chained onto a wooden yoke that makes it look very much like he's on a cross. Cartagia confides to Londo that he had G'Kar's chains replaced, just in case. Nevertheless, once Cartagia sentences G'Kar to death by vivisection, G'Kar manages to snap the chains and go on a rampage. While Cartagia's guards try to stop G'Kar, Londo hurries Cartagia into a small room behind the throne for protection.

While Londo prepares the poisoned needle, he forgets to speak with deference to Cartagia, and Cartagia becomes enraged and attacks Londo, unknowingly causing Londo to drop the needle. Londo manages to break away from Cartagia, and Cartagia whirls around, running right into the poisoned needle in the hands of Vir, who had just picked it up. Cartagia knows he's dead and wraps his hands around Vir's throat, but dies before he can take his revenge. Vir is horrified, but Londo has the presence of mind to hide the needle and call for medical help.

Fortunately for Londo and his conspirators, Cartagia is really dead. They all put on a good show of mourning, but waste no time in putting things in order. Londo is made prime minister by acclamation, a surprise to him. He orders the Centauri to leave the Narn homeworld for good. He does a nice job of putting all of his orders in terms of what Cartagia would have wanted and ways to honor Cartagia.

Later that night, Vir breaks down from the guilt of killing Cartagia. Londo tries to assure him that what he did was necessary, but that's little comfort for the pain Vir feels. They quickly pack up and leave with the rest of the Centauri as the Narn celebrate.

G'Kar visits the imitation Centauri throne room after the Centauri have left, to find Narns gleefully destroying it. The Narns ask G'Kar when he will lead them to strike back at the Centauri and can't believe it when G'Kar says they will not. The Narns there want to make G'Kar their Emperor, but G'Kar says he will only join a restored Kha'Ri. The Narns are dissatisfied with what they perceive as G'Kar's weakling responses and complain that they suffered under the Centauri - what did G'Kar endure? I honestly can't believe the Narn could say that to G'Kar while staring at his missing eye, but G'Kar also sees the absurdity of the question and breaks into uncontrollable laughter.

This plot was overall very well done. We got the satisfaction of seeing Londo's plan to assassinate Cartagia succeed, while also getting the surprise of Vir doing the assassinating. Vir's subsequent breakdown was very true to character. It's amazing that Vir has gotten into such a position while remaining such an innocent.

I did have a couple small quibbles with the assassination scene. First, G'Kar's breaking of his chains took too long... I know that we were focused on G'Kar's hands clenching, but couldn't the others see that as well, especially since he wasn't answer Cartagia's question? It's also hard to believe that one of Cartagia's guards didn't have some kind of blaster and just shot G'Kar dead. Second, I thought that Cartagia was left alone with Londo behind the throne for too long. Yes, it was just seconds, but I would think Cartagia's guards wouldn't want to let him out of their sight at such a time. These issues didn't ruin things for me; I have chalked it up to a bit of dramatic license.

G'Kar and Londo may have both freed their worlds as they wanted, but the aftermath of Cartagia's assassination and the release of Narn should have long-term effects. The initial gleeful riots of the Narns are certainly understandable, but how will they pull their civilization together? From all indications, the Centauri essentially dropped everything and just walked away. The Narn infrastructure was destroyed, so presumably the Centauri were supervising the infrastructure that remained. The Narns will have to get organized and make sure that the basic necessities of food, water, and power continue to be provided. They've got the huge challege of rebuilding, which G'Kar realizes even if the others do not.

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