15 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Into the Fire” Spoiler Space”

  1. During one of the last two spoiler zones (can’t remember which), I think one of the hosts asked if the shadow war felt like it was prematurely ended. Just throwing my 2 cents in, but I think that if they had stretched the shadow war out for the rest of the season, it probably would have felt like it was unnecessarily stretched out (“The Hobbit”, “The Hunger Games”, and Harry Potter are good examples of “too much”).

    1. Possibly. One thing that would definitely have been lost, I think, is the sense that the poop has hit the fan and the whole dern galaxy is going haywire. I’m reminded of Louis’ line in Ghostbusters 2 (don’t mock me, it’s a fun movie and I like it): “She said she was going to the museum to get the baby back and there was an eclipse and the whole town went dark and everybody’s nuts!”

    2. I don’t think extending it to the end of a season would have been a good idea, but giving it a couple more episodes would have been, for me, welcome. As I’ve said in another comment thread, I think Into the Fire would have been better if it had given the entire episode to the conversations with the Vorlons and the Shadows.

      And count me in the camp that *hates* (hates, hates, hates) “Get the hell out of our galaxy!” It’s not that the line is necessarily a bad line in and of itself, but there’s something about the combination of that line with Boxleitner’s delivery that makes me cringe.

  2. Actually, the subversive in me really likes that the Shadow War seems to end early, and seems to end because of talk rather than an overwhelming show of force of arms. I’m sure there’ll be some comments from the “it ends too quickly and conveniently” contingent, but deep down… I like that it perversely subverts all expectations of a giant shootout.

    And, of course, we know that the Shadow arc isn’t completely dead: Drakh, Keepers, Centauri Prime, Crusade, etc. etc. …the Shadows remain a presence on the stage.

    1. I saw JMS give a talk at a convention several years ago, and he said that he had always been interested in the question of what happens the day after. His whole idea of the Psi Corps was a big “and then what” to the notion of telepaths. Where telepaths come from is less interesting to him than the question: how do we go on with life and manage the affairs of running our world the day after? Given the way that we usually do things these days, probably by creating a big government organization to try and impose control, but with negative long-term consequences. So I’m okay with the condensed schedule giving him some more room to ask “and then what” about (sort of) defeating the Shadows and Vorlons.

  3. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with roughly where the Shadow war ended or with the fact that it ended with a conversation rather than a battle.

    What I think was woefully lacking was the execution.

    It’s very hard to get emotionally invested in the A-plot in ItF because the only people at risk are redshirts who we’ve never seen before and will never see again. Indeed, the proximate objective of the battle at Coriana 6 is to save a planet of redshirts. Who are these people and why should I care about them?

    In ItF, the fate of the galaxy is at stake, but that’s an abstract concept that the episode didn’t make sufficiently concrete by involving enough characters and/or places that the audience cares about.

    Another issue I have with the execution is the lack of character beats (a fault that plagues B5 in general) to establish the magnitude of the A plot battle. There isn’t any real acknowledgement, either before or after the battle, for the uncounted number of people who died fighting. Instead, we get the tonally inappropriate scene about Ivanova ‘hauling ass’ that makes Sheridan look totally oblivious to the fact that he’s sending a few thousand people to their deaths. Sympathetic leaders care about their people and Sheridan’s absence of revealed concern makes him unsympathetic.

    I don’t feel there was enough setup to justify the Shadow and Vorlon willingness to suddenly listen to reason given that they’re worked up enough to be destroying planets, but I don’t think there’s any way to fix this, either. The motives of higher life forms may well be completely inscrutable, so this is a relatively minor complaint.

    Finally, while the the first phase of the discussion with the Shadows and Vorlons–the telepathic conversation inside Sheridan and Delenn’s minds–was well done, the second phase, with the Shadow and Vorlon avatars on the stage of White Star 2, was awful. “Get the hell out of our galaxy” is deservedly infamous and reducing the Shadows and Vorlons to whimpering children (“will you come with us?”) was quite bizarre.

    1. I’m going to defend Sheridan and the ‘hauling ass’ remark. Military leaders have to not only be confident, but project that confidence to everyone around them. The allied fleet beat the Shadows but only with heavy casualties, and since then we’ve seen that morale isn’t great now that the Vorlons have revealed their planet killers. It is entirely appropriate for Sheridan to act as though this will be easier than it really will be.

      As for concern, Sheridan does not start by shooting. His initial action is to try and talk to the Vorlons, get them to call off the destruction of the planet. But he didn’t bring a giant fleet with him just to look impressive: if talking doesn’t work, then it seemed clear to me anyway that they’re going to try and stop the Vorlons by force.

  4. Hey All. Long time listener and huge B5 fan here. I don’t get to post as much as I like but wanted to discuss this episode.

    During my first viewing of Babylon 5, I remember my feelings well about this episode and how the rest of Season 4 turned out.

    I remember feeling really let down on how the whole shadow war played out. From the odd representation of Vorlon’s and Shadows to the Shadow’s weak like of “Will you come with us?” to Sheridan and Delenn looking out the window of their ship at Babylon 5 and weakly reflecting on the future.

    And the next 8 episodes or so, I just felt so empty. I always thought “The Illusion of Truth” was one of the worst episodes ever because it was just so poorly written. I never cared much about the Minbari Civil War or Minbari focused episodes and I really only found the Garibaldi arc interesting and his calls with the then unseen Edgars very mysterious.

    On first viewing, Season 4 seemed so cold and dead to me.

    Flash forward to today, after many re-watches, I find Season 4 the strongest season overall, now that I know how it plays out. Sure, I still struggle through Minbari focused episodes (Atonement is tough for me) and “The Illusion of Truth”, but I love the slow build up to Sheridan’s capture and Garibaldi arc. Intersections in Real Time is one of my favorite episodes and look forward to it.

    And looking ahead to Season 5, I find the Byron stories more tolerable…what’s wrong with me??? Uggggh….

    1. What made the Byron arc more tolerable for me was when I encountered the story online that Byron and his followers were based on a cult that JMS himself had been involved with.

      When I started thinking of Byron as possibly intended to come across as disturbing and creepy, the whole thing started to work much better for me. It will never be my favorite part of Babylon 5, but I really don’t find the storyline as irritating as most people do, or as I myself did at the time.

  5. Oh Steven. Steven Steven Steven. Poor misguided Steven.

    On the subject of humans messing everything up after the “parents” leave, I don’t see this as a vindication of the Shadows point of view so much as a reflection of JMS’s anthropology. As has been mentioned many many times, B5 is “The Not-Trek.” Star Trek is known for its deep optimism regarding the inherent goodness of humanity, to the point that Roddenberry wanted the show (especially early TNG) written without there being any real interpersonal conflict on the ship, because we’re supposed to have gotten past all that (fortunately, many writers disobeyed that particular rule). JMS has a darker, and in my view more realistic, view of human goodness, reflected in Dr. Franklin’s statement way back in “The Long Dark” that it’s going to take more than a hundred years to evolve a better human. We are combination of both nobility and savagery, altruism and groupish tribalism, reason and rationalizing. A hundred years from now, that is what we will still be. Five hundred years from now, that is what we will still be. This is one of B5’s advantages over Star Trek. So the fact that humans continue to stumble and fight and do things wrong after the First Ones leave does not mean that growth and strength come from eternal cycles of war. It means that humans remain human… at least until we evolve into encounter-suited energy balls.
    And who knows? If the Vorlons and Shadows remain flawed creatures even after all this time, who is to say that energy ball humans won’t stumble and fight and do things wrong a million years from now?

    On another topic, I have an extended professional rant about the “Great Man” theory of history, but I will save that for “Deconstruction of Falling Stars.”

  6. “How will this end?”
    “In fire.”

    Of course the Shadow war had to end sooner rather than later, there’s not much more to be told after Z’ha’dum opened up the philosophies and early season 4 episodes showed that the Vorlons aren’t any better than the Shadows. However, I remember “that’s it, what now?” being a very common reaction to Into the Fire back in the day. I think this and the end of season four made many people think that the show is over, and that colored their perception of season five and made them expect only improvised filler. Sure, the first half suffers a lot from losing Ivanova and having to do new setup, but the second half is still great.

    There’s a lot to like in Into the Fire, and I do think it’s good, but it has severe problems with pacing. Until my recent rewatch I had totally forgotten how rushed it actually is. Where B5 always excelled was taking its time with the setup and not hurrying to get the payoff in 44 minutes. Into to Fire is not like that at all, it has to get everything done and then some before the end of the episode. Another way too rushed episode is Rising Star, because it actually has to wrap as much as possible.

    I really do like the idea of making the war philosophical instead of who has a bigger gun, but it all happens just too fast to get a good feel of it. The big problem for me is that Into the Fire lacks an emotional climax, unlike the other big end of the war episodes, The Long, Twilight Stuggle (which is one of my favourites from the entire series) and Endgame.

    Overall the big problem with the fourth season after this first third is that it’s not many plots in parallel as it was before, but mainly one plot for a few episodes, then another one plot for a few episodes. This switch from parallel to sequential storytelling makes every storyline seem to go way too fast when it’s its turn. Minbari civil war is handled in barely two episodes, blink and you miss it. Perhaps it also suffered from a sort of binge-watching we did in the 1990s, always six episodes at a time every few months, it isn’t that bad when you watch one episode a day, for example.

    Not remembering season 5 that well seems to be a common problem. For me as well, but then again, when season 5 started I had watched most of the earlier episodes already 3+ times, so of course I remember them quite a bit better. But I would say that in season 5 Delenn is definitely shunned, she becomes more like a faithful wife of the Big Damn Hero with very little to do by herself.

    Into the Fire seems to make for a great discussion, though, this may have been the Audio Guide episode I’ve enjoyed the most.

    1. Agreed. This is a pivotal show because the entire mood of Babylon 5 changes from this point on, so yes, this episode deserves some very good discussion. For those who may be on their virst viewing, they may feel cold to the next episodes leading up to Intersections in Real Time. I sure was…I just didn’t like the direction the show was going. On repeat viewings, I look forward to the slow, methodical build up to Sheridan’s capture.

  7. Chiming in on the “is B5 binge-able television” question at the end of the spoiler section: That’s basically how my girlfriend watched it for the first time, sitting down with the five DVD boxed sets and charging forward. She’s that kind of person (and going through B5 with her at her preferred pace is what proved once and for all that I’m NOT that kind of person) who can watch hours and hours of a show if given the chance. And she came out of it loving the show to pieces.

    What got me through the experience was, of course, the joy of watching her experiencing this show, one I already adored, for the first time. Heh.

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