Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "The Summoning"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Summoning"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: John McPherson
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: December 6, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


The other races protest Delenn's plan to attack Z'ha'dum; both Sheridan and Garibaldi return to the station. Delenn and her close friends are preparing for the attack on Z'ha'dum. Ivanova asks for a ship to search out more First Ones; she's desperate to keep Marcus from going with her, so she's been learning Minbari in order to command the crew. Delenn and Marcus smoothly convince her to take Marcus with her anyway, without letting on how bad Ivanova's Minbari is.

Delenn visits Lyta in order to convince Lyta to find out what the Vorlons are planning. Delenn (and we) are shocked at Lyta's quarters: completely bar, by order of the new Kosh. We see just how completely the Vorlons control Lyta. She's hesitant to comply with Delenn, but finally agrees.

Later when Lyta is in the new Kosh's quarters, she throws a tantrum and demands to know what the Vorlons are planning. The new Kosh brushes her off, so Lyta attacks telepathically. The Vorlon is scornful of her attack and forcibly tells her the plans through telepathic communication.

Zack uses the information Marcus brought back from the previous episode ("Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?") to track down a ship that may be carrying Garibaldi. He takes some Starfuries to investigate. The ship ejects a lifepod, and then self-destructs after minimal fire from the Starfuries. Zack brings the lifepod back to B5, and we find that it's holding Garibaldi. While he was on the lifepod, we had some glimpses of him strapped down and being forced to listen to some kind of message.

Franklin takes care of Garibaldi in MedLab - he'll be fine. Zack tells him he's been missing for two weeks, and that Sheridan died at Z'ha'dum. Garibaldi says he doesn't remember what happened to him, despite the flashes of his memories of being interrogated in a cell (from "Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?") and his Starfury being captured.

The Brakiri ambassador warns Delenn that some of the other members of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds are very unhappy with Delenn's plan to attack Z'ha'dum, so they are planning a demonstration against her. Delenn refuses to try to stop the demonstration, but she sets Lennier to watch for it to begin so she can come and speak on her own behalf.

On Centauri Prime, the Emperor is continuing to have fun with G'Kar, starting by humiliating him in public. However, he becomes increasingly displeased by G'Kar's refusal to cry out in any way when tortured. Vir had been expressing his doubts to Londo that it was necessary to kill the Emperor, when the Emperor approaches them with blood coating his hands; he explains that since G'Kar refused to scream, he took the torture into his own hands. G'Kar was still uncooperative, so Cartagia warns Londo that G'Kar might have to be killed if he doesn't scream. Cartagia's casual and callous attitude about torture finally convinces Vir that he deserves to die. I have to agree that the scene is extremely effective, without showing a single gruesome thing about the torture.

Londo visits G'Kar in his cell and warns him that he must scream for Cartagia, or else both Londo and G'Kar's plans will be upset (and G'Kar will be dead!). G'Kar initially refuses, but Londo seems confident that he won't sacrifice the entire Narn people for his pride.

Later, Cartagia summons Londo and Vir to witness G'Kar's "last chance" - G'Kar will be whipped with an "electrowhip", the pain of which increases with each stroke. On the 40th stroke, G'Kar will die - unless he screams sooner to stop the torture. As the whipping begins, Vir can't even watch, but Londo stares at G'Kar, and we can see him mouthing "scream" to G'Kar. G'Kar is stoic as the strokes add up, until he finally screams just before the 40th stroke. Cartagia is satisfied, for the moment.

While fruitlessly searching for the First Ones, Marcus strikes up a conversation with Ivanova about "someone special" he has waiting, although the person doesn't know it yet. It's not clear if Ivanova realizes he's talking about her, although she should realize it. During the conversation, Marcus reveals that he's never been intimate with a woman.

The ship picks up some strange signals, which Ivanova orders them off-course to investigate. They find, somehow hidden within hyperspace, a gigantic fleet of Vorlon ships. They can't know for certain where the Vorlons are going, but the fact that the Vorlons are on the move is big enough news that they return to B5 immediately. When Ivanova arrives, she demands to see Lyta right away, but other events interrupt.

The demonstration against the attack on Z'ha'dum begins on the Zocalo. The Drazi ambassador, among others, shout to an approving crowd about how foolhardy it is to attack Z'ha'dum. Delenn responds that if they don't attack, they will be attacked, and they are letting their fear overwhelm their reason. The crowd beings to get rowdy.

For some time, we've seen shots of an unknown ship approaching the station - the last time that happened, the ship brought Anna (last season in "Shadow Dancing"), but this time it's fairly obvious that it's bringing Sheridan. The ship uses the station's computer codes to dock automatically, so Ivanova orders an alert, and Zack musters all his forces to go to the docking bay. Garibaldi manages to tag along, just so we can see his jaw drop when Sheridan is revealed (but not to us yet).

Sheridan climbs onto the catwalk on the Zocalo just as the Drazi ambassador is claiming how everyone who attacks Z'ha'dum is destroyed, like Sheridan... and then everyone sees Sheridan. It's almost a perfect dramatic moment, seeing Sheridan standing tall and confident and seemingly unharmed, having returned from Z'ha'dum. Sheridan wastes no time declaring that they will attack Z'ha'dum, but with the biggest fleet that has ever been assembled. He tells the crowd that they can end the war with the Shadows not just for now, but for all time. The crowd ecstatically supports him. Delenn rushes to the catwalk to join him. Lorien has come with Sheridan, and is off to the side, unnoticed.

Later, Sheridan explains to Delenn, Garibaldi, and Franklin about the real history between the Vorlons and the Shadows. He has said that Lorien helped him survive at Z'ha'dum, but Garibaldi is back to his paranoid self, and isn't satisfied with that explanation.

Ivanova has finally found Lyta, and they and Marcus bring the news of the Vorlon fleet to Sheridan and the others. They might not have known where the fleet was heading, but the soon get notice that the fleet completely destroyed an inhabited planet because a Shadow base had been there. Lyta confirms that the Vorlons have decided they must destroy anyplace and anyone who has been touched by the Shadows. They all realize that now they don't have to stop just the Shadows, but also the Vorlons.

This episode was really a lot or set-up, even Sheridan's return, although Sheridan's return is also a big pay-off. JMS really did a great thing by delaying Sheridan's return from Z'ha'dum, because it was a much more important event when it came after everyone writing him off for dead and beginning to move on. In my opinion, the moment Sheridan stepped up on the catwalk and took charge, he became "The One", taking over the role from Delenn.

Sheridan also seemed to be different in his behavior, as well, perhaps more confident in what he had planned. He didn't hesitate to use his celebrity status to goad the other races into his plan. And he definitely seems to have a plan, despite the fact that he didn't tell it to us. Is Lorien part of his plan? Is that why he came along?

We can assume that since Sheridan knows about the real history between the Vorlons and the Shadows that he's using that as his basis for any plan to stop the war forever. However, the Vorlons attack planets directly raises the stakes considerably. It also shows that the Vorlons have taken one more step away from their original, balanced agreement with the Shadows.

I still have to wonder about Delenn and then Sheridan openly planning an attack against the Shadows - Delenn's attack was even going to be on a known date! - aren't they worried about Shadow spies? Perhaps in the past the Shadows might have regarded their attack as something to be ignored, but that was before Sheridan' successfully destroyed one of their main cities. You'd think they would be a little more careful. Now they will also have to worry about what the new Kosh is learning while on the station.

Will Lyta continue to support the Vorlons? We saw that the new Kosh has almost absolute control over her, so she might not have any choice. Despite being a Vorlon servant for so long, Lyta clearly does not approve of their attacks, so perhaps she will find a way to fight back. That's a tricky proposition for her, though, since the new Kosh is very strong telepathically, and could presumably read her thoughts about any such plans.

Since the Vorlons are attacking any worlds touched by the Shadows, presumably they will be going after Centauri Prime. What will Londo do? He's trying to assassinate Cartagia, but he may not realize that he's got a deadline now.

Garibaldi's return is rather anticlimactic, which I think was an intentional contrast to the fanfare surrounding Sheridan's return. His abduction and return are still very mysterious, even though we know a little more about it than the other characters do. Since the ship Garibaldi's lifepod was on self-destructed, we get the impression that Garibaldi was out there just waiting to be found. Who wants to return Garibaldi to B5, and why?

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