Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Objects at Rest”

…not that there’s much left to be spoiled about! There’s only one TV movie and one episode left in Babylon 5 proper! But if you’re new to the show and want to speculate about those episodes, here you are. For spoilers, go to the other place.

13 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Objects at Rest””

  1. Where does the time go? / That way
    The new board at Edgars is made of Garibaldis.
    That shot: Good to see Corwin up there. I sobbed.
    Lennier’s diary on Tuscan is read and relayed quickly.
    Emperor Mollari is acting with supreme duality as friend and betrayer. A memorable performace by Jurasik.

  2. “All the original people have been replaced.”
    Poor Corwin. Poor overlooked Corwin.

    I remain more positive toward Lennier. I never got an “entitled” vibe off of Mumy’s performances, and that sideways attempt to connect him to the “incels” whom we have seen in the news would require Lennier to have a resentful attitude toward Delenn. His attempted passive killing of his “rival” was certainly the very worst in him coming to the surface (which contradicts Delenn’s earlier statement that he became someone else. Our darkest impulses are a part of who we are), but he is hurting and confused and painfully young and naive. He is in love, but does not have the maturity or experience to deal with the situation properly. That is not the same as being entitled.

    1. I didn’t detect in our hosts a reference to the incels (or MRA types, etc.).

      Nice guy-ism is a much broader category than that. And older – it has roots that go back at least to courtly love in the Middle Ages, and which are marbled into an awful lot of our romantic narratives. It’s quite compatible with the man displaying it being in his own mind (N.B!) an exemplar of left-wing feminist sensitivity and virtue.

      If you meant the part where they commented on finding the notes in Lennier’s quarters and the standard narrative in modern news media of some incident being followed by the discovery of writings that should in hindsight have been a warning signal — that sounded to me much more like the kinds of narratives that we’ve become accustomed to in connection with mass shootings than a specific commentary on incels as such.

      Back to nice guy-ism. This has been one of the best strands in commentary for me in our hosts’ discussions of the show. I’ll add that classic nice guy narratives were much less questioned in the ‘90s than they are now: the (at the time praised) Adam Sandler vehicle The Wedding Singer does one absolutely straight, for instance. (In fact, Babylon 5 is arguably guilty of one in the Ivanova-Marcus romantic subplot ) So the sensitivity that JMS displays to just how unhealthy Lennier’s feelings are is very striking in context.

      But I think it’s a little strange for anyone to think that this final plot development came out of left field. I can see how someone might feel that the entire storyline was a bad idea. accepting that the show has introduced Lennier’s feelings, had him join the Rangers because of them, had him confess them to Delenn without real resolution — that JMS would pay that off is surely not a surprise?

      And there are only so many ways that you can resolve this. One of the main ones (Lennier wins Delenn, i.e. actually do the classic nice guy narrative) is obviously foreclosed (aesthetically – I’m leaving aside the moral ickiness of it) by Sheridan being the romantic hero of this particular story.

      You could do the whole “Sheridan and Lennier have to work together and bond, and Lennier comes to see that Sheridan is the right person for Delenn” thing. (Again, I’m talking aesthetically. That would be a horrible narrative, because it really would reduce Delenn to a token that Lennier realizes that Sheridan “deserves.” But as a resolution to the plot and nothing else, it works.) But the story would have to have laid the groundwork for that – establishing a Sheridan-Lennier rivalry. While in fact Sheridan has hardly figured as a person, as distinct from an obstacle, in B5’s presentation of how Lennier feels about Delenn.

      So basically, we’re only left with option 3: Lennier tries to act on his feelings, and it goes wrong. And for obvious reasons of drama, it has to go *very* wrong.

      Essentially, the only ways out for Lennier at this point were (a) for this to be a dangling plot thread or (b) for him to move on to a spinoff, so that this could become part of the backstory for what would functionally be a new character (because part of a new story). At that point, the story could be about him finding a new (and actual) relationship.

    2. I’m also positive towards Lennier. Babylon 5 has reminded us from time to time that not every culture or species has the same beliefs and values: slavery among the Centauri, G’Kar fighting to maintain his position among the Narn, that alien couple who killed their child after Franklin performed surgery.

      So when our hosts were demanding that Lennier must do this and that afterwards, my inner voice was shouting “See the head bone? Not human!” Heck, there are probably cultures on Earth that would be satisfied with his explanation.

    3. I think the saddest part of this chapter of Lennier’s story is that it’s so abrupt, and that it’s never explored further. Although the clues are clearly there in hindsight, it’s almost too subtle for casual television (even today), and it’s so contrary to the development of protagonists most popular media.

      Yes, there were plenty of hints along the way about how Lennier felt, and even this action was foreshadowed (heh) by Morden.

      Those flaws could’ve been addressed if we had more time to explore Lennier’s reaction and reflection afterward. I can see two opposite arguments that both have precedent in B5 lore:

      1) Lennier did indeed “become someone else,” doing something antithetical to everything he’s done in his life. This is never explicitly stated, but I believe Delenn is vividly remembering her own actions that started the Earth-Minbari War. And the story has effectively forgiven her.

      2) Lennier’s actions were the logical and purest expression of all his secret beliefs and emotions, or at least of an important facet of his personality. Londo answering Morden’s fateful question is similar (though less obviously harmful in the moment). The story never truly forgave Londo, even though he’s redeemed himself in some ways since then.

      In either case, the meaning of Lennier’s actions hinges on what comes after. And since it’s the end of the series, we never get to actually explore what happens. Intellectually, it all makes sense when you look backwards. But it’s not very satisfying, even if it’s entirely believable.

      1. I must admit, I disagree that the story doesn’t forgive Londo. It seems to me that when G’Kar says that he forgives Londo, the viewer is not expected to go, “Hold on, you’re wrong,” but to endorse G’Kar’s position.

        This is separate from a couple of related things. Londo doesn’t in the story get a happy ending – but that’s only equivalent to the story not forgiving Londo if one assumes that the world of the story is one in which the universe automatically sees to it that happiness matches up with morality.

        Second, it’s not to say that the story *should* forgive Londo. I think it’s very arguable that JMS exploited the passage of time (and benefited accidentally from the further delay of the final episodes), in that memories of what Londo did in S2-S3 could be allowed to lose their vividness. I’d be interested in hearing if people who first saw the series by binge-watching find this problematic. But Babylon 5, for better or for worse, tends to be the Christian show written by an atheist, and I think in its terms sincere repentance – Londo is the only character where that gets a full-episode exploration – has an awful lot of weight.

        [I’ll add a little in the spoiler thread.]

        1. Good point about forgiveness versus a happy ending. I guess I could clarify that as viewers we forgive him, but he still can’t escape the consequences of his actions the way Delenn arguably has.

  3. This episode has one of the biggest plot holes in the entire series, in my opinion. (Though it’s not limited to just this episode, it’s most glaring here.)

    Sheridan saw the future in “War Without End”. He told Delenn about it at some point, since future!Delenn said she’d “never truly believed” the story. He saw the destruction on Centauri Prime, and he saw Londo’s Keeper. He heard Londo explain that the Keeper couldn’t tolerate alcohol.

    I can easily believe that Sheridan (and Delenn) didn’t suspect the Centauri involvement in the war ahead of time, and wouldn’t immediately connect the dots during the fighting. But in the aftermath, with leftover Shadow technology, massive destruction on Centauri Prime, and now Londo himself acting very strangely and asking for alcohol… it strains credulity that Sheridan didn’t realize that future history was repeating itself.

    Did Sheridan truly miss all these obvious clues? Or, to consider a darker possibility, did he give up on trying to change the future after his experiences on Z’ha’dum?

    B5’s metaphysical approach to time travel is generally consistent: “what did happen, will happen”. Despite the dramatic potential of changing the future or the past, there are never actual changes to the timeline. Yet here, preventing changes in the future seems to require that Sheridan be an idiot.

    1. Yes. Cassandra used to make strong points about this sort of thing, and she basically convinced me that the series had a plausibility problem here.

      Note that Franklin and Marcus are also given some information about Keepers when on Mars in S4, which they should pass on. It’s not much, but knowing that this exists at all should make it something of a priority, one would think. One would start keeping a file. And Sheridan is normally portrayed as the kind of person who would connect the dots.

      It doesn’t bother me too much, because at the time, this stuff was spaced out between episodes and not dwelled upon. Fridge logic, really. I think it’s one of those cases where there’s a tension in stories between making things obvious to the viewer/reader while not obvious to putatively intelligent characters.

  4. I was pretty much shocked at Lennier’s betrayal the first time I saw it, it seemed so sudden and out of nowhere. Over the years and rewatches I’ve come to accept it, but I still can’t say I like it. I believe the pacing is a big part of it, unlike with most other things in B5, there’s really no time for aftermath.

    But then, Babylon 5: The Next Generation is one of the greatest scenes of the entire series, and makes me teary-eyed every time as well. Even though I have to admit that effects-wise it’s a bit dated, that White Star texture wouldn’t have passed in a video game ten years ago.

    There’s something very meta when JMS wrote to the last page of the last script produced for the series, after suffering from various degrees of sleep deprivation for five years: “I think I may even sleep in tomorrow.”

  5. Good old Lennier…. I never had an issue with his storyline here and the act – although I think it comes so left-field due to the specific execution we witness of the story. The way it was setup and then presented his opportunity didn’t sit right, but its a minor quibble. I would have liked it to occur earlier in season 5 however so that there was more visible fallout between the characters rather than a one scene discussion. But it is what it is and doesn’t ruin anything in the big picture.

  6. The crowd scene in the Zocalo is quite special. Loads of crew there as humans and aliens in the crowd. As mentioned in the podcast, Peter Jurasik was there without makeup (and easily seen). JMS has said Bill Mumy was also there without makeup. I spotted Lou Anders who wrote many magazine articles on B5 (including in the B5 Magazine). Sandy Bruckner, who was with the B5 Fan Club (and died last year) is in the crowd somewhere.

  7. Glad Chip pointed out Jurasik there in the crowd. Shame they didn’t mention that really annoying looking extra who’s just over Furlan’s shoulder during her speech. He’s so distracting. Terribly framed shot.

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