The Long, Twilight Struggle
A number of meetings are taking place, one on Centauri Prime, where Londo and Lord Refa meet up, and another on Babylon 5, where Delenn suddenly starts smiling as a light fills her quarters and boisterous laughter is heard. "Hello, dear friend."
Sheridan has just gotten out of the shower when that light appears and Draal, keeper of the Great Machine stands before him. He invites the captain down to the planet to talk.
Another meeting is between G'Kar and his uncle G'Sten. G'Sten is there because the war is not going well, and if nothing changes soon, the Centauri will be victorious. They have one chance, the Centauri supply depot at Gorash 7. The assault will leave the Narn homeworld vulnerable as it will take the entire fleet to do it, but if they're quick, the Centauri are going to have to take a long while to rebuild their invasion infrastructure, which will give the Narn time to rally some help and additional defenses, which is what G'Sten and the Kha'ri are banking on... and leaves G'kar feeling extremely anxious.
The Centauri already know about the planned attack and Refa wants to make the most of it and call G'Sten's bluff: the Centauri will assault the Narn homeworld directly. Londo points out that if they just plunge toward Narn, the Narn fleet will just turn right around and then the Centauri will be up to their necks in their own blood, which is why Refa wanted to speak with Londo: he asks Londo to arrange for the outpost to be defended by Londo's "associates". Between keeping the Narn busy and possibly destroying much of the fleet outright, it will give them plenty of time and room to enact the obliteration of Narn.
Yes, obliteration. Refa and much of the rest of the militant wing of the Centaurum are done messing around, and have no intention of trying to conquer an intact Narn again like last time. This time, the Narn will be at the Centauri's feet and "will be kept there"... by using orbital mass drivers to devastate the planet into either surrendering or otherwise. Londo, although growing increasingly horrified by the scope of the plan, ultimately agrees with extreme reluctance, though he states Mr. Morden and his associates are beginning to worry him, and he says this is the last time.
Sheridan and Delenn are preparing to leave, but Garibaldi is not happy about it, and even more so about them going alone. They are both determined, and eventually he relents. As they set off, Londo and Refa also depart for the Narn homeworld.
On the station, Franklin shows G'Kar a Narn who was interrogated by the Centauri about defenses around the Narn homeword and also has information about Centauri ships being sent away without explanation. He mentions how the Minbari bypassed several Earth colonies during their war and went straight for Earth itself, and he thinks the Centauri are doing something similar.
Sheridan and Delenn arrive on Epsilon III, Delenn guiding the way to the Heart of the Machine.
G'Kar calls G'Sten and tries to persuade him to call off the attack and defend the homeworld, but they're too far along now.
Sheridan and Delenn finally reach the Heart and find Draal there. He compliments Delenn's new look and mentions Sheridan's involvement in a conspiracy of light. Sheridan tries to feign ignorance but Draal assures him his secrets are safe here.
In his quarters G'Kar is praying as the Narn fleet emerges from hyperspace. They are quickly met by Shadow vessels which begin decimating the fleet, eliminating most of them in a matter of minutes. The few remaining try to retreat into hyperspace, but their jump points are destabilized by energy emissions from the Shadow vessels and collapse on them crushing the ships caught in them. G'Kar opens his eyes and extinguishes a candle.
Draal is explaining what life is like on Epsilon III when he suddenly pauses, saying he's picking up a flurry of signals and then tells them to get back to the station. Before they go, he tells Delenn he thinks it's time to introduce Sheridan to the others. After they leave, he calls to one of the Great Machine's tenders:
- Draal: Zathras! Zathras! Never around when he's needed...
On station, Ivanova informs Garibaldi of the assault on the Narn homeworld, and tells him to be ready to lock down the station. Meanwhile, ISN starts reporting on the bombardment. As a crowd in the Zocalo watches, an angry Narn decks a nearby Centauri and a riot breaks out. Sheridan and Delenn arrive on the station to the sound of emergency sirens and he orders security to escort her to her quarters while he goes to C&C.
At the Narn homeworld, Londo watches in horror as the centauri fleet uses mass drivers to hurl asteroids down on the planet creating huge explosions and clouds of dust that are seen from orbit.
The attack lasts for days, as the station is locked down with only armed security guards patrolling the corridors. G'Kar manages to get in touch with home, only to find that the Kha'Ri intend to surrender - it's either that, or it seems the Centauri really will go through with killing everyone on the surface of Narn. But before that, they have one last order for G'Kar - "the hardest one [we] have ever asked of you". Soon after, he slowly makes his way into Sheridan's office and requests sanctuary.
Londo arrives on station and arranges a meeting of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. At the meeting, he announces the Narns' unconditional surrender. He then begins listing the terms of the surrender: The Kha'Ri will be disbanded and the members subject to arrest and trial. Sheridan requests Earth be allowed to send observers, but is denied.
Second, any Centauri murdered by a Narn will result in the execution of five hundred Narns, including the perpetrator's family.
Third, a council of the Centauri's own choosing will be set up to govern Narn. And finally, the last of the Kha'Ri, G'Kar will step down as ambassador and return to Narn for trial. Sheridan refuses this on the grounds that he has agreed to allow G'Kar sanctuary. Delenn quickly backs him up and Londo relents, but insists that G'Kar be removed from the proceedings. Sheridan says they will wait...
- Londo: NOW!!!
There is stunned silence as the two glare at each other then look at G'Kar, who slowly rises and begins to speak.
- G'Kar: No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand. The Centauri learned this lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free.
After the meeting, Londo watches the news report on the surrender and the Centauri victory celebration, as well as their plans to annex several other worlds, provoking fears of expansionism.
Sheridan meets with G'Kar and offers help in any way he can, and G'Kar accepts. Sheridan is then asked to meet Delenn in the conference room.
He arrives to find a large group of people who she introduces as the Rangers, and have been assembled to fight the Shadows. They were under the command of Delenn, but she now offers joint command to Sheridan and he accepts, promising to draw a line against the darkness and hold it no matter the cost.
This episode contains examples of:
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: After the scene of the bombing of the Narn homeworld, and the riots caused by the news reaching the station, scenes are shown of deserted corridors (with armed security in full riot gear standing guard in all of them) and Sheridan brooding in his office as ISN keeps up a running monologue describing the ongoing bombardment.
- Badass Army: Sheridan is introduced to and given command of the Rangers.
- Badass Boast:
- Draal tells Sheridan that anyone who wants to learn his secrets would have to dig through three miles of rock, and no one who tried would survive the attempt.
- Sheridan's speech at the end of the episode.
- Cassandra Truth: G'Kar warns G'Sten that the attack should be called off, but it is disregarded. Just as G'Kar fears, it proves a disastrous blunder.
- Casting Gag: W. Morgan Shepard was one of the finalists to play G'Kar before it went to Andreas Katsulas. His playing G'Kar's uncle here gives us a taste of what that might have been like.
- Colony Drop: The Centauri use illegal Mass Drivers to bombard the Narn homeworld from orbit with astroids.
- Continuity Nod:
- Londo mentions his Duel to the Death with Urza Jaddo and asks Refa how many more friends this will cost him.
- Delenn also tries to fill some of the gaps in her vocabulary, as she demonstrates to Sheridan:
- Also counts as Foreshadowing: After Sheridan and Delenn leave the planet, Draal calls for Zathras.
- During the bombardment, ISN quotes Senator Quantrell.
- The Centauri's actions in this episode lend credence to G'Kar's earlier accusations that the Centauri were using Babylon 5 as a waypoint for Mass Driver components.
- In the Council meeting after the Narn have surrendered to the Centauri, Sheridan again says that Earth reserves the right to send observers to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners, but this time Londo denies the request outright.
- In the Council chambers, there is still one seat labeled for the Markab, but there are no Markab left alive to fill it.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The Narn's entire home fleet versus four Shadow Battlecrabs. The Narn only manage to cripple one of the ships (demonstrating that the Shadows aren't invincible), but most of their fleet is easily destroyed in the battle. A handful of ships attempt to escape, but the Shadows do something to their jump points causing all of the Narn ships to be destroyed during their jump.
- Death Glare: Sheridan's gets a lot of use during the Council scene, and Delenn's isn't far behind. When the two of them start glaring in tandem, even Londo shuts up.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Londo announces that under the new Centauri occupation, the penalty for the murder of any Centauri by any Narn will be the execution of 500 Narns, including the perpetrator's family.
- Accompanied by an Eye Take from the pak'ma'ra ambassador.
- Dying Candle: G'Kar is praying in his quarters surrounded by candles while the Narn fleet mounts a desperate attack on a Centarui supply depot, but are met and quickly eviscerated by the Shadows. As the Narn fleet falls, along with it their last hope, G'Kar opens his eyes and puts out the last candle still lit.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Of a musical variety. The electronic "Psycho" Strings during the Narns' battle with the Shadows will be part of the new theme song in season 3.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The Centauri basically deliver this to the Narn, blasting the planet, as the ISN reporter and Quantrell say directly, "back into the stone age". We, along with Londo, get a bird's-eye view of it happening (though we don't get a ground view until season 3).
- Even Evil Has Standards: Not quite "evil", exactly, but in the past, the pak'ma'ra had not exactly been shown, or seen in-universe, in the best of lights (being specifically carrion eaters). During Londo's listing of terms, however, the camera takes a moment to pointedly focus on the utter disgust of the pak'ma'ra ambassador at the barbarity of the "treaty", particularly concerning the "500 Narns for every Centauri, including the family" stipulation.
- Everyone Has Standards: No one in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds even bothers to hide their repulsion at Londo's extreme terms. The pak'ma'ra ambassador, in particular, seems to be absolutely seething.
- Facial Dialogue: Londo doesn't say a single word while watching the bombing of the Narn homeworld, but the emotions he's feeling - grief, horror, shame, determination - are written all over his face. And then a (lowercase s) shadow passes over it...
- Large Ham: Draal. It's expected, as he's now played by the Klingon Hambassador from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Londo's reaction to the bombardment of Narn by mass drivers. He doesn't actually say it; he doesn't need to. His face says it all.
- Unfortunately, it didn't stop Londo from throwing his weight around in Council chambers immediately afterward, though at least some of that was a case of being the one who had to announce the official Centauri government policies and knowing that the show he was putting on there was being watched closely by the same people at home who just mass drivered a billion sentient beings to death.
- There's a spectacularly poignant shot during G'kar's speech where Londo and G'Kar's faces are the only ones in frame. G'kar is very pointedly not looking at Londo, but Londo can't look anywhere but at G'Kar. The shame and self-loathing is written in every line on Londo's face.
- Nuclear Weapons Taboo: When Lord Refa suggests the use of mass drivers against the Narn homeworld, Londo protests that they have treaties outlawing them. Refa dismisses these treaties as "ink on a page."
- Out-of-Character Alert: Centauri procedure to not move on to the next target before their current objective is secure, so when they pull warships away from several active battlezones without explanation, G'Kar is convinced that they intend to attack the Narn homeworld.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Earth and the Minbari lodge protests over the use of mass drivers, but the fact that the Vorlons also lodge one shows that what the Centauri are doing is a really bad thing.
- Prayer Is a Last Resort: While G'Kar has demonstrated his spiritual side on a number of occasions, this is the first time we see him praying. He sits at the altar where the Book of G'Quon is, surrounded by lit candles, whispering fervently. Light years away, a Narn force sent to attack a Centauri supply depot is ambushed by the Shadows and quickly annihilated. As the Shadows leave, G'Kar stops praying and extinguishes the candles.
- Realpolitik: Despite his misgivings and regrets regarding the bombardment of Narn, Londo announces the official policies of the Centauri government at the Council chambers shortly afterward. He does insist that G'Kar leave as he is no longer officially an ambassador, but he doesn't challenge G'Kar's political asylum claim despite it conflicting with said government policy.
- The Reveal: Zathras, the alien who took Babylon 4 with The One, is revealed to be an inhabitant of Epsilon III in a particularly sly manner, when Draal calls for him after Sheridan and Delenn leave.
- Rule of Symbolism: As G'Kar comes to request sanctuary, the first thing seen is his shadow, and during the scene his face is obscured by shadows as he comes to seek the protection of the leader of the Army of Light.
- As Londo watches the Centauri bombardment of the Narn homeworld, a shadow overtakes him.
- Seeking Sanctuary: Following the fall of their homeworld, the remnants of the Narn Regime order G'Kar to seek political asylum on Babylon 5.
- Standard Starship Scuffle: Completely averted for the only time in the series. The engagement starts at maximum range, and is over long before the two fleets are close enough to appear on screen together.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: Londo during the council meeting.
- Title Drop: Draal speaks of "the long, twilight struggle to come".
- The War Has Just Begun: G'Kar promises in his final speech to the council.
- Weapons Of Mass Destruction: Mass Drivers, which hurl asteroids down onto the planet.
- Wham Episode: The Narn-Centauri War comes to a sudden close with Narn's surrender, G'Kar being removed as ambassador, and Sheridan is given command of the Rangers.