Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "Endgame"

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Episode Information

Title: "Endgame"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: John Copeland
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: February 15, 2010

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sheridan's fleet wins its campaign to re-take Earth.

Sheridan's rescue and Ivanova's victory of Clark's advanced ships (in "Between the Darkness and the Light") has rapidly accelerated the plans for the final fight against Earth and Mars. On Mars, Number One, Franklin, Lyta, and Garibaldi coordinate the secret transport of a frozen telepath to each of the three dozen Earth Force destroyers orbiting Mars waiting for Sheridan.

After that's done, the Mars resistance strikes quickly and takes over some key bases on Mars. Conveniently, Number One, Franklin, Lyta, and Garibaldi are all in the same strike team (it's a little top-heavy). Lyta is hooked up to head-gear that looks a lot like the cybernetic implants on the frozen telepaths; the gear will help amplify her telepathic transmissions so that she can wake up the telepaths on cue.

We finally find out Sheridan's plan for the telepaths: they will be awakened and do exactly what Sheridan knows they'll do - link into the computer system on each ship. They'll virtually take over the computer systems on the ship, just as they did on B5 last season in "Ship of Tears". This will incapacitate the ships until the telepaths are neutralized - hopefully enough time for Sheridan's forces to capture them and end the fight at Mars before it even begins.

Sheridan orders the first part of the plan to commence: Marcus jumps his White Star into real space extremely close to the surface on Mars, and takes out some specific targets, then jumps away again. Meanwhile, Sheridan's main forces are waiting in hyperspace. The bulk of the fight will be done by the White Stars and their Earth Force allies, while the League of Non-Aligned Worlds' ships will wait in reserve and defense.

General Lefcourt is in command of the Earth Force ships around Mars. He taught Sheridan at the academy, knows how he thinks, and has even admired Sheridan in the past. Even so, now he plans to win at all costs. When Marcus's White Star attacks, Lefcourt knows it's a preliminary fight and/or diversion and isn't distracted. However, he's bothered by the fact that Sheridan must have some trick, and he can't figure out what it is.

The trick reveals itself: Lyta begins waking up the frozen telepaths on the Earth Force ships. As expected, the telepaths quickly enmesh themselves in the surrounding computer systems. About two-thirds of the Earth Force ships are affect by this - systems that fail, lack of communications, navigation, weapons, etc. - including Lefcourt's. About 10 ships remain, and Sheridan orders the White Stars to disable the ships quickly. This happens with remarkable ease, and Sheridan orders the League ships to stay behind and guard the captured ships (and presumably the telepath-disabled ones, once they get fixed).

Ivanova had been transported back to B5 before the fight, and Marcus can't help thinking about her. Some comments by Lennier make Marcus think that there might be some type of experimental treatment available on B5 that could save Ivanova. He secretly does a computer search and finds Franklin's records about the alien healing device that he came into possession of in the first season in "The Quality of Mercy". Marcus sends Lennier to Delenn's ship on a false errand, and takes his White Star back to B5 at full speed. Delenn and Lennier quickly figure out Marcus's plan is and contact Sheridan, but because of the Earth Force jamming, they can't contact B5 and warn them. Sheridan says there's nothing they can do, because they must finish the fight now.

Sheridan orders his fleet to jump into normal space around the Earth and immediately begins sending a message to everyone on Earth. He calls for anyone who is against Clark's regime to rise up now against him, because Sheridan's forces are there to support them. The planetary defense grid begins firing on Sheridan's fleet, and the ships fire back to destroy the incoming missiles. On the surface, some military and government people (including a Earth Alliance senator) try to break into Clark's office. We see Clark write some kind of message, and then shoot himself to death.

The Senator and troops break in, and the Senator wastes no time in completely decoding Clark's cryptic note, which is broadcast to the entire fleet: Clark has turned the planetary defense grid inward, and in 10 minutes it will fire and destroy about 40% of the Earth's surface. The command cannot be overridden in this amount of time.

Immediately Sheridan orders his fleet to destroy the planetary defense grid satellites and calls in Delenn with their reserve forces. The satellites are apparently extremely numerous and well-armored (good qualities in a planetary defense grid, I suppose), and so the fight is very difficult.

The Agamemnon is approaching the specific satellite that is warming up to fire on the eastern coast of the (former) US, and it is hit and damaged by other defense grid fire. The Agamemnon can no longer fire its weapons, but it's the only ship close enough to that satellite to be able to destroy it before its imminent fire. You can see Sheridan thinking that they are so close to re-taking Earth, and now he's going to die. Even so, he orders ramming speed toward the satellite. Suddenly General Lefcourt's ship jumps into normal space (having received the messages about Clark's last act), fires, and destroys the satellite. The Agamemnon passes through the debris unharmed.

And just that fast, the fight is over. Clark is dead, and apparently the Senate has taken over the government in the interim.

The next day, the first broadcast of the "true" ISN journalists is given, relating how many of them had been imprisoned and interrogated under Clark's regime since ISN's take-over by Clark last season in "Severed Dreams". The journalist makes a point of saying that there was pain and suffering on both sides of the fight, but now everyone from earth can get back together.

Sheridan's presence is requested by the government as soon as possible. Gee, no kidding.

As soon as the battle was over, Franklin grabbed a White Star to head back to B5 as soon as possible, reviewing the information Marcus might have uncovered. He's going to be too late, though. In the final scene, we see the chaos Marcus must have caused rampaging through MedLab looking for the alien healing device. We focus in on him and Ivanova, hooked together by the device. Ivanova is still unconscious, but Marcus seems to be fading. He professes his love before he closes his eyes, and the episode ends.

This is an amazing episode. So much happens, and the conclusion of the fight against Clark is unexpected, but still satisfying.

First, the tactics of Sheridan's fight against Earth and Mars: it's not clear to me what the point of Marcus's surface attack on the Mars base was. However, using the frozen telepaths as a diversion on the Earth Force ships was brilliant. As Franklin said (in a scene that was a bit too expository), it was a completely unexpected way to disable most of the ships and thereby probably save thousands of lives. But we can also see that Franklin has forcibly convinced himself that this trade-off is necessary, because we can feel the same horror he must have when Sheridan first told him about the plan (in "The Exercise of Vital Powers"). Yes, sacrificing a few dozen people to save thousands of people makes logical sense, but we know that the telepaths involved are in no way volunteers. They are just acting instinctively, and Sheridan is taking advantage of it. We also know that in the middle of a fight, the Earth Force crews aren't going to be gentle in stopping the telepaths - they are as good as dead. It's quite a horrible act to send them to die in cold blood, yet it's something that a commander may have to decide to do. Franklin and the others have accepted Sheridan's authority to make that kind of decision.

As a result of the telepaths, the fight at Mars is very underwhelming, which was one unexpected part of this episode.. And it was pretty funny for Lefcourt to point it out to his crew so furiously.

The fight at Earth turned out to be completely different, with nothing to fight except the planetary defense grid. I don't know how much information Sheridan had indicating that government and military forces were ready to rise up and turn against Clark, but his message was extremely effective and could have ended the whole fight without firing a shot.

Clark's final act of commanding the defense grid to fire at the Earth itself only served to undermine any moral or social message he might have been trying to make with his regime. After all, committing suicide and then trying to kill the entire world population is clearly the act of a madman. It's hard to defend anything he did prior to that time, too. Who knows when he started going crazy?

This brings me to probably my main complaint with this episode: how in the world did the Senator interpret Clark's crazy message so quickly and know exactly what he had done. The term "scorched earth" might clue one into the defense grid attacking the Earth, but there's no information about the time limit, how much of the Earth would be affected, or that the command is irreversible. I wouldn't think that kind of command would even be allowed by the defense system - was Clark planning ahead on his irrational act?

I'm not sure I think that the fight against the defense grid should have been so difficult, because it seemed like there were even more ships than defense satellites. I suppose the time limit is the main reason why the fight was so desperate - the ships that were a little too far away might not have been able to get close enough to help in that short a time. Sheridan shows yet again that he is willing to die for his cause - fortunately this time he doesn't have to. The arrival of Lefcourt's ship just in time was convenient, but given the drama of the moment, I can accept it. And again, since Clark was clearly looney-tunes, there's no question about Lefcourt coming to Sheridan's aid.

There's going to have to be some major governmental and social rebuilding on Earth after this. Clark is gone, but all of the people and agencies he put into power are still there. Again, since Clark revealed himself to be crazy at the end, the people who rebelled against him should get a little sympathy. Even so, there has been a lot of hatred and pain on both sides of the struggle for a year or more, and that's going to be hard to patch up.

Sheridan in particular is going to have some problems. Clark's insanity demonstrated that Sheridan was correct in principle, but he is still an Earth Force captain that committed mutiny and treason. Many in the government and Earth Force are going to be very unhappy with him. He's also very visible and probably being acclaimed as a hero after this last battle. What can Earth Force do with him? Thinking even more about it, Sheridan's accomplishments and abilities now go far beyond the rank of a captain. He's orchestrated extensive military campaigns in two major wars (against the Shadows and then against Earth), in the process coordinating forces from disparate groups. And at the same time, he's governed an independent state (B5) and kept it functioning economically and diplomatically. Really, he should get a promotion!

He's far too visible and popular for the government to think about punishing him or imprisoning him, but on the other hand, staying in Earth Force would be completely untenable. What will he do? I would imagine Delenn might want to have a say in his plans, too.

The same general ideas apply to the others on B5's command staff (Ivanova, Franklin, Zack, etc.), but they have a good cover: they were following orders. We all know, and so do many in the government and Earth Force, that none of them were really compelled to do so against their will, but it would be a convenient way to overlook what they've done and shepherd them back into the Earth Force fold.

This episode really had a bittersweet ending, though, because of Marcus's sacrifice for Ivanova. As we learned back in season one in "The Quality of Mercy", for fatal injuries, the alien device will have to completely drain the life-force from one person in order to save the injured person. (Talk about setting up a major plot pay-off way in advance!) No doubt Marcus knew this, but was willing to make the sacrifice anyway - as Delenn told Marcus last season in "Ceremonies of Light and Dark", he's been looking for something to die for, because he feels guilty for being alive. Well, now he's found it. There's no magic in this ending: in order for Ivanova to live, Marcus will die. We don't know that Franklin won't get back to B5 in time to stop the process, but it seems unlikely. This plot line had to end badly anyway - we just expected Ivanova to die instead.

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