35 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Atonement” Spoiler Space”

  1. I’m thinking of posting a sort of public service announcement in the spoiler-free section.

    It would say that if you’ve watched all of B5 as far as this episode, you can watch In the Beginning without being spoiled. I would add that it may not be the most satisfying place to watch ItB and that my completely personal recommendation is that you watch ItB between Seasons Four and Five, and that other positioning have their virtues, etc. But spoiler-wise, any time from now on is fine.

    But before I went ahead and did that, I wanted to canvass opinions as to whether people agree that I’m correct here, that, as far as spoilers go, there’s nothing vital to avoid after this. I feel that “Sheridan went on to create a great alliance, Delenn always at his side” is already established well enough by the Shadow War and to some extent by War Without End, but I can see that others might not agree.

    1. Personally, I would describe the ‘Great Alliance’ as the ISA, not the Army of Light so I would say that one point is still to come.

      That is the only real spoiler left, the only major minbari storyline this season is Delenn/Neroon/Starfire/rebuilding the Grey Council which is not even hinted at in ItB.

      Also the storylines of Earth, Mars and Garibaldi are not mentioned either, so my only question would be the ‘Great Alliance’ you mentioned would still be a spoiler.

    2. The final decision rests with our hosts, but I’d say yes. I would add to Voord99’s argument that Londo is wrapping up a story to a very young audience, not giving a history lecture. It’s not really any different to “and they lived happily ever after”. Foreshadowing is not spoiling.

      1. I agree that when you’ve seen the whole series it’s obvious that the “great alliance” is primarily the Interstellar Alliance.*

        But I don’t think the line is specific enough that it would count as a spoiler from my perspective: Sheridan and Delenn have put together a “great alliance” by this point in the plot, so a viewer who has not seen the end of S4 does not have the ending revealed, since it’s not obvious that it refers to anything that the viewer has not already seen.

        But since the balance of opinion is clearly against me, I’ll hold off on making the announcement.

        *It’s a bit more complicated, because the Interstellar Alliance is the formalized successor and continuation of the alliance against the Shadows, so the two are not entirely separate entities.

        1. I agree that when you’ve seen the whole series it’s obvious that the “great alliance” is primarily the Interstellar Alliance.*

          Ah, but is it? Season 5 focuses much more on the failings of the ISA than it’s merits, and we’re exposed to very few merits. Those belong to this season climaxing in the formalisation.

          I prefer ItB as a bookend myself tho if someone is this far in and watches it here I can’t see spoilers, just some narrative sleights of hand.

  2. Posted essentially this same comment in spoiler free, as without context (and different punctuation), it more-or-less is.

    But for those who know…

    Next episode is Racing Mars! Woo. Hoo?

  3. Still not done listening to the podcast, but…

    Since our hosts brought up the absence of ethnic diversity among Minbari actors, I might also note that this is the episode that highlights B5’s Minbari gender diversity problem.

    Before this episode we have seen no female Minbari aside from Delenn in a significant role since Delenn’s poet friend in The War Prayer. (I believe there may be the odd female Minbari telepath in the background of some scenes from time to time, but that’s it.) And we are never again going to see a female Minbari in as prominent a role as the three Minbari seamstresses in the Zack scene in this episode.

    And yes, they’re seamstresses, because if you’re going to have people adjusting clothing, why, they just have to be women, don’t they? So, fun as that scene is, it makes me cringe when I watch it nowadays.

    Overall, this is definitely a problem. Delenn is the only politically important female Minbari, apparently in all of Minbar. Other female Minbari are in “soft” professions (poet, seamstress, telepath), to the very small extent that they appear even to exist. It would have made a big difference if we had seen even one female warrior caste member – for instance, if the warrior caste leader (whose name escapes me) in the upcoming Minbari civil war arc had been a woman.

    These seamstresses are probably the closest that we get to worker caste Minbari expressing themselves, too.

    1. Well let me see if I can save that scene for you a little bit. Would it help if the ladies in Minbari makup for that scene were the actual costume department for the show? They didn’t necessarily choose women because they were women, that’s just who they happened to have on hand.

      The old Babylon Podcast episode 45 they interviewed the one who got to actually poke Jeff Conaway.

      Not trying to invalidate what you are saying about the underrepresentation of Minbari females in general, but for that one scene I think I can look past it knowing it was their actual costume people.

      1. I have to admit I suffer from gender blindness when it comes to background Minbari. Isn’t there a non gender performativity in play (compared to humans) in all Minbari? Even our leads when they exhibit traits, Delenns sensuality & Lenniers protectiveness, are they more muted than humans?

        1. I don’t see Minbari gender performance as muted by (western) human standards. Granted, Lennier’s gender performance is often (but not always) muted to the point that he approaches androgyny. However, Delenn’s gender performance is femininity turned up to 27, Neroon’s performance is masculinity turned up to 27, Dukhat is paternal masculinity turned up to a nine, and the rest of the minor characters don’t have enough personality to draw a conclusion.

      2. I’m not sure that really makes it all that much better, because it means that one of the rare examples of casting a woman as a Minbari is a special case. Professor Headbutt’s counter-example of the warrior caste woman in S2 is a solid one, though.

        In general, though, if you’re going to notice that there are no Minbari people of color in scenes, it’s also worth noting how few women there are.

        It’s a shame, because B5 doesn’t drop the ball here in leading roles, or in minor human roles. (The Centauri are a special case, because they’re presented as having a rather archaic set of assumptions about gender roles.) But the Minbari, with their unisex clothing and significant female major character, would be perfect for presenting a society which was completely egalitarian in its ideas about gender.

  4. Rather unsympathetic handling of Lennier in this episode. Perhaps the self-serving “nice guy” can also be someone who is young and inexperienced and confused and suffering. His tragic flaw can be tragic while still being a flaw.

    1. Seconded!

      It’s very clearly Lennier’s flaw, but he’s so emotionally repressed, and Delenn is basically the epitome of everything good in the Minbari religious caste society. Lennier was fresh out of the temple training and didn’t seem to have much contact with the real world. His closest personal friendship was Vir, so he clearly didn’t get out much even on B5. It’s understandable that he develops this obsession with Delenn, which started as ingrained respect for her high status, grew into devoted loyalty, before being twisted into the self-destructive crush we’re discussing now.

      It also doesn’t help that Delenn basically ignores many of his warning signs over the years. (Not to pass blame, of course.)

      1. I get the impression that Delenn had enough of a sheltered life herself not to know when to set boundaries or when to whack an over eager puppy on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

        Delenn definitely loves Lennier but her love is not romantic and she doesn’t have the experience to comprehend that he loves her romantically. Nor do either of them have the experience to recognize, much less get out of, codependency when they see it.

        1. Well, I think the thing is that everything Lennier says until very late in the day can be taken in a completely different and utterly legitimate way.

          So here, when he says “My place is by your side,” we the viewer can read that as romantic obsession, but by the rules of Minbari society, he’s completely correct on a different reading: his place is by her side as her loyal follower and acolyte.

          So there’s plenty of room for Delenn to delude herself. In fact, if the series had ended in S4, I think it’s an open question how many B5 fans would have viewed the line negatively – all we would know is that one scene with Marcus, and in that scene Lennier emphasizes that he does not expect to be with Delenn at any point. I think you’d have plenty of people who would want to read this line as coming from the “good” Lennier.

          This is a subtle difference from the standard Nice Guy thing. That’s associated with men who buy into the narrative in many romantic stories in which the hero “deserves” the (always physically attractive) female love interest because he’s a “better person” than the more conventionally attractive person that she’s with.

          (You can gender-flip this: The Truth About Cats and Dogs is the same plot with the genders reversed. Hell, Jane Eyre is basically this with the genders reversed and an added dose of brooding. It’s less poisonous when you do that, for obvious reasons.)

          I don’t quite get the sense that this is how Lennier views this. Instead, there’s a hint that Lennier is taking refuge in *his* culture’s narratives in that scene with Marcus, deluding himself that he can just assign himself the role of devoted acolyte.

          I’d like to have seen the story explore this in more depth: when he becomes a Ranger, which superficially seems like it might be a healthy move, is he deliberately trying to fashion himself as a Sheridanesque warrior and therefore moving more into the “Nice Guy” narrative in his own mind?

          1. Voord 99: “I’d like to have seen the story explore this in more depth: when he becomes a Ranger, which superficially seems like it might be a healthy move, is he deliberately trying to fashion himself as a Sheridanesque warrior and therefore moving more into the “Nice Guy” narrative in his own mind?”

            I think that’s exactly what he’s trying to fashion himself as. We’re told that he’s acting reckless and pushing himself too hard.

            I know I probably came across earlier as defending Lennier, but that’s only a partial defense. I can simultaneously say “poor Lennier” in genuine sympathy for his puppydog heartbreak, and also admire the good parts to his personality (and there are plenty of those), while seeing that he did NOT handle the situation in anything like a mature way.

        2. Good point, Cassandra. I am sure this will come up again when we get to “Rising Star” (S4, E21). Lennier is off to join the Rangers, and he gives Delenn the big sad heart-on-his-sleeve “Ivanova says all love is unrequited” line. How does Delenn handle it? She looks right at him and says “She is, of course, quite wrong”. (I’m doing this from memory so probably butchering the quotes, and I may be wrong about this, but I think she actually takes his hand at this point) This might have been a good time for someone who has people skills (so that would not be me) to find a tactful way to tell him to put on his big boy pants and learn to live with the fact that she loves the other guy. But that’s not how she handled it. After Lennier’s betrayal, Delenn notes that she had no idea his feelings for her were that intense. So maybe she’s also a bit clueless in this area (especially since her surprise at the depth of his feelings comes just 3 episodes after he flat-out tells her that he loves her).

          1. Wow. Great discussion. Except for…I’m really going off Delenn. She has to take some responsibility for contributing to Lennier’s eventual breakdown. You’d hope it would be in her character to do so, though 5×22 suggests he was gone beyond for good. Love mutually unrequited?

  5. Now Lennier, John and I are going to make babies, you should come watch. It’ll be good training for when you have to defend our love in the life or death Dreaming.

    How not to break it to someone you’re not interested.

  6. I wish Delenn had been held to account to a much greater extent, either in this episode or later in the series. As it is, Atonement drops two Chekhov’s guns that never fire: Delenn’s decision to start the war against Earth and her motives for attaching herself to Sheridan.

    As much as I feel the majority of EA are unsympathetic xenophobes who got what they deserved for killing Dukhat, the human characters would not see things that way and Delenn got away with living a lie by hiding her past from them. Her past should have come to light and she should have been forced to deal with the consequences of it instead of being allowed to sweep it under the rug and pretend to be the kind of person she’s not.

    It’s also interesting that Lennier’s postulate–that Delenn sought Sheridan out of guilt–is not repudiated. The answers given by the dreaming seem to be that Delenn loves Sheridan out of guilt but that she should be allowed to get away with it anyway. This does not paint her in a particularly good light because her motive for attaching herself to Sheridan is not a wholesome one.

    As for Lennier, inappropriately close relationships between high ranking Minbari and their trainees are such a common thing that they seem to be a cultural problem rather than Lennier’s individual failing.

    1. Just to add something to Cassandra’s point. One of the things that I really don’t like about JMS’s “Why would Delenn tell Sheridan?” thing is that the obvious answer is: “Dude, you’re writing drama.”

      Leaving aside the Chekhov’s Gun aspect of it (and that’s real enough), wouldn’t showing Sheridan and Delenn’s relationship being tested by this revelation and then coming through it have been a better thing to do in early S5, than, for instance, retconning in a marriage to Lochley for no plot-relevant reason aside from creating a mystery for the viewer that turns out to be a non-mystery?

      One additional problem here is that Sheridan is going to spend most of the rest of his life on Minbar. So one tends to imagine that Delenn either told him at some point or spent years walking around on eggshells afraid that Sheridan would find out.

      Of course, JMS’s own marriage was under strain at this point, so one would have to understand if this was territory that he just wasn’t comfortable exploring, and definitely wasn’t comfortable exploring in public on Usenet, and so gave a non-answer.

  7. On repeat watching’s, this episode gets an “oh no” reaction from me. It may be due to two reasons. One, I’ve never found Minbari stories all that interesting. And two, it reminds me of my first viewing of Babylon 5 and I was still in shock over the abrupt ending to the Shadow War and this was just a dull episode for me overall. Sure, there were revelations and good moments but I always thought they spend way too much time on the Minbari story without moving to other plot points.

    After the podcast, I may not dread it so much. I’ll try to be a little more open minded to it. We do get our first mention of Rebo and Zooty in this so that counts for something. 🙂

    1. It doesn’t help that any time we visit Minbar the sets just look like the interiors of a ship, and in this episode, a holodeck fuelled by opium. I’m reading the first B5 graphic novel and there’s a Minbar of sharp crystal architecture capturing light and effervescence: a better look around the planet.

      1. Minbari design is generally one of the visually strongest of the races. I recall “In Valen’s Name” has the finest art of the comics with some lovely painted panels of Minbari holy figures on stained glass windows.

  8. I loved this episode because I thought it brought substance to Zathras statement back in “War Without End”: Delenn as “the One who IS”

    I don’t think we get enough screen time establishing that Delenn is a MAJOR player in interstellar politics long before the Babylon 5 story arc. As the chosen of Dukhat, she had a lot of sway over the Grey Council for what? 15 years before her transformation.

    Her actions when Dukhat died (“no mercy”) lead directly to:
    -The Earth Mimbari War
    -Sinclair being taken aboard the Grey Council Ship & scanned with the triluminary
    -The Mimbari surrender which lead to the humans beginning the Babylon Project (to prevent another war)
    -The Construction of Babylon 4
    -Sinclair taking B4, Zathras, and the Triluminaries back in time and becoming Valen (the One who WAS)
    -The Construction of Babylon 5 and her move there
    -Falling in love with Sheridan and giving him something “worth living for”
    -Passing the torch to Sheridan as “the One who WILL BE”

    For 15 years, the universe turned on Delenn as “the One who IS” all of the events of the series can point back to what we see in this episode! I love the tragedy of the Delenn/Lenier story, but that is small part of this episode to me. This episode shows that Delenn is a GIANT.

    1. I think you’re right: and your argument makes a case for her being THE major player in the B5 story.

      Sidenote: I was just reading up on Mira there and discovered she was pregnant in 1998, B5’s final season #DelennWatch

  9. Regarding JMS changing his mind about Valen having children – JMS either changed his mind or did not tell the entire truth a few times during the rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated years. I remember asking him something about the First Ones and his answer was definitely contradicted by later events in the show. He did want to surprise us on some details.

  10. I wanted to ask – there’s a Babylon 5 game called “I’ve found her” is there any story in this game or link to the events described?

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