Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 5: "Learning Curve"

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Episode Information

Title: "Learning Curve"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: David Eagle
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
Reviewed on: July 14, 2010

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Two Ranger trainees get more than they bargained for on a trip to B5.

Two of the Ranger's Minbari teachers, Durhan and Turval, have been requested to visit Delenn on B5. The teachers take along two new trainees, Rastenn and Tannier, who are thrilled to visit the legendary station.

On the station, the confrontation between Garibaldi and Lochley that has been brewing finally erupts, as Garibaldi demands in the cafeteria to know which side Lochley was on during Sheridan's campaign against President Clark. Lochley is furious at Garibaldi making this issue so public and declares that no, she didn't take up arms against her own government. Rather eloquently, she says in effect that she lives by loyalty, duty, and honor, and if she ignored one of those then the other two would be meaningless. So even though she was on what many would consider to be the "wrong side", she makes the point of her integrity so effectively that many in the room applaud her exit. Garibaldi should have been taken down a peg with the force of her response, but he hardly seems affected. At least we've finally gotten that issue in Lochley's past out into the open.

Meanwhile, a new crime lord, Trace, has been consolidating his position among the thieves and thugs of Downbelow. He doesn't like Zack curtailing his operations, so he orders his henchmen to kill Zack.

Delenn confers with Durhan and Turval on general matters regarding the Rangers and training. The older teachers are a bit discombobulated by the new trainees coming in from all of the races in the Alliance, but Delenn smooths things over with her usual diplomacy. Turval privately warns Delenn that Lennier has been training too hard.

The two Ranger trainees have been left to their own devices to explore the station. They hear a woman Trace is about to kill screaming for help; Tannier rushes to help her, but Rastenn does not. Tannier is beaten senseless by Trace's thugs. Rastenn gets help, but the thugs escape.

Delenn and the Ranger teachers declare that as soon as Tannier is able to stand, he will go through a training exercise called Mora'Dum, the "application of terror". It's not really clear what this entails, except that apparently the Rangers are going to visit justice on the thugs that beat Tannier, rather than leaving it to station security. Lochley isn't happy with the situation, but Delenn presses the point of B5 agreeing to allow the Rangers to have autonomy. Lochley agrees, despite her reservations about the Rangers taking revenge. Delenn claims it's not revenge, but I'm not sure I agree.

While Tannier is recovering, Rastenn does a bit of soul-searching about why he didn't run to the woman's aid with Tannier. He admits he didn't want to die for a silly reason; Turval turns this admission into a lesson about acting for the right motives, no matter what might happen. This is an echo of Sebastian determining that Delenn and Sheridan were the right people in the right place at the right time in season two in "Comes the Inquisitor" because they were willing to die for another person, even if no one knew about it.

When Tannier can struggle to his feet, he is led back to Downbelow to confront Trace. Delenn explains that Tannier must conquer his fear of the man that beat him, so that he's not crippled by it - that's something I can understand. However, the confrontation isn't exactly fair. First, all of the Rangers sneak into Downbelow and create some terror among Trace and his thugs by stealthily taking them out one-by-one, until only Trace is left. Then they openly confront Trace and encircle him, telling him he must fight Tannier. They give him a Minbari fighting pike so that he's evenly matched with Tannier. Trace protests the unfairness of the fight, but Turval narrates the fight, mocking Trace. Tannier bests him easily.

Sometime later, the Minbari Ranger teachers and trainees leave to return to Minbar.

Throughout the episode, Garibaldi has been bugging Zack to look at Lochley's file, which is against regulations. Of course, we know that Garibaldi has managed to get into the computer system and get the file, which Zack discovers at the end of the episode. What Garibaldi found in the file stunned him.

We soon learn what it is, as Delenn remarks about an odd comment Lochley made concerning Sheridan. It's not clearly stated, but apparently Sheridan and Lochley were a couple at some point in the past. Sheridan hadn't yet gotten around to telling Delenn about it, and Delenn is miffed.

I've never cared much for this episode. The Ranger characters don't do much for me. I find the teachers to be pretty old and stuffy; they must have been excellent fighters at some point, but now they just seem pretentious. The trainees are pretty cliched characters. I also find some the Ranger rituals to often be given more importance than they should - I can understand the lesson in the Mora'Dum, but it was played up as being way more important and terrifying than it turned out to be.

The Downbelow characters have also been a low point for me, as the acting of these characters is usually pretty bad, and the dialog equally bad. Maybe it's realistic, but it's just not interesting. It was nice to see Trace put in a situation where he was completely helpless, but did we need Rangers to do that? Couldn't security have done the same thing? I suppose it wouldn't have as humiliating.

I find the episode more interesting for the two important revelations about Lochley. The first one wasn't a surprise, because it's been built up for awhile: she wasn't on Sheridan's side when he was fighting President Clark. Of course, that still leaves a lot of open ground: just because she didn't oppose Clark doesn't mean she approved of Clark. It would be interesting to know just what she did do: did she fight at all for Clark? Disobey any of his orders? Kill any civilians? Fight in any battles against Sheridan? I think she's representative of many of the officers in Earth Force at that time: feeling bound by duty not to act against Clark, not approving of his policies, but not approving of Sheridan's mutiny, either. It certainly was a very tough situation. Good for her for putting Garibaldi in his place for putting her on the spot.

The second revelation was more of a surprise: that she and Sheridan were in some kind of relationship. We don't know more about it yet, although clearly Delenn does, and she's not very happy about it. Whatever was between them couldn't have been too significant because we've never heard Sheridan mention Lochley, and we know that before Delenn, Anna was the great love of his life. However, even a casual relationship in the past would explain Sheridan's trust of Lochley's character, despite her position vis a vis Clark, since he knows the "real" Lochley.

Poor Zack has an especially thankless job (and head of security is thankless enough as it is). He's stuck working directly for Lochley, who definitely doesn't get along with another person he has to work with - Garibaldi. Plus, he's friends with Garibaldi, but he knows how Garibaldi likes to bend regulations, such as when he got into Lochley's file. I wonder how he doesn't go crazy?

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