As the Vorlon rampage continues, the inevitable Shadow retaliation occurs. Ivanova shows Sheridan a recording of some...thing that resembles a black cloud engulfing a planet, which reduced a population of millions to nothing. She wonders just how they're going to get through this.
On the Narn homeworld, Londo is explaining his plan to a number of ranking Centauri ministers, but they are reluctant to go along with it; they are after all talking about killing their own ruler, but Londo, along with Vir, is adamant.
- Londo:There is no choice. By the end of this day, either Cartagia is dead or Centauri Prime will be destroyed.
Ivanova comes with a report that ten more ships have joined them and is looking forward to seeing them in action, but Sheridan has other ideas. He wants her to go back out and find the remaining First Ones. She can do it with Lorien's help, but she's reluctant to leave. She tells him about the last time she saw her mother before she took her life, telling her to go next door and she'd come for her later, but she never did. Ivanova is tired of people not coming back and makes him promise her that she'll be there at the end. Sheridan agrees, and she sets out to find the First Ones.
Cartagia's court is being entertained by a jester as Cartagia tells Londo he's decided to make him his high priest. That the two of them will watch Centauri Prime burn from a distance while they wait for the Shadows to rise and reward them. The place goes silent as he realizes the jester was mocking him, but seems to laugh it off. Londo excuses himself to check on some "arrangements".
He comes to G'Kar's cell, astonished to see him missing an eye. G'Kar dryly comments, "My eye offended him.". Londo explains what will happen at the execution, his chains have been weakened, Londo's people put in place, guards bribed, but G'Kar must not harm Cartagia, or the Centauri will exact terrible retribution on the Narns. Londo must deal with Cartagia himself.
As he leaves, he hears a strangled cry and sees the body of the jester being dragged off. Cartagia swaggers around the corner and glibly comments, "Humor is such a subjective thing, don't you think, Mollari?"
Some time later, Vir finds him with a small package. The package is a tool of assassination, a kind of needle that delivers a dose of neurotoxin to the victim. It's a very small dose so it has to be delivered directly, right between the hearts, where the toxin will essentially cause a fatal heart attack. The entry wound will then be covered by an organic sealant which will disguise its appearance. The effect is almost instantaneous.
- Londo: Almost? How fast is almost? Time enough for him to stagger back out into the main room and cry out, "Londo killed me?" Or maybe just enough time for him to say, "Londo killed...augh!"
Vir: Or maybe he won't even get that out. Maybe he'll just go, "Lon..augh!" Or maybe he'll be totally delirious and say everything backwords and say, "Kill Londo! Augh!"
The humor killed, Londo says, "It's time."
As G'Kar is marched out, Cartagia speaks to the assembled Narns telling them to remember what they see him do, for it is the stuff of legends. He then comments to Londo that he ordered G'Kar's chains replaced since they looked weak. As G'Kar stands before him, he lays out a laundry list of crimes G'Kar has been accused of, violence against the Centauri Republic, insurrection, murder, sedition, treason, and others, the penalty for which is death by vivisection. "How do you plead?"
G'Kar slowly reaches up and, to the astonishment of all present, pulls the chains off and attacks the guards. Chaos erupts as the Narns and Centauri in the room get into a brawl, and Londo pulls Cartagia into another room. The emperor is not happy, and ranting about how he'll have to have everyone killed, so loudly the entire planet can probably hear them over the fight. When Londo tries to get him to shut up, Cartagia smacks him, causing him to drop the needle. Cartagia condemns Londo to burn with Centauri Prime for this slight then turns and runs right into Vir, who sticks the needle into Cartagia's chest. He collapses a moment later, still ranting, "I was to be a god, you understand? A god..." A pair of guards come up and Londo tells them the emperor has collapsed and sends them for a doctor.
Some time later, Londo enters the court with the news that Emperor Cartagia is dead. Londo makes the case that the fact that two emperors have died while dealing with Narn is a sign from the gods that they should have nothing more to do with this place. The rest of the court agrees and names Londo Prime Minister to deal with the current crisis back on Centauri Prime.
On Babylon 5, Lennier comes in with reports on Shadow movements, that they're making essentially hit-and-run attacks, escorting their planet-killers in long enough to destroy a world then leaving, but they're not actually engaging the Vorlons. Sheridan explains that they have rules of engagement they're abiding by, but he doesn't know what they are. A signal comes in from a White Star over a planet where the Shadows are using a planet-killer. The Ranger in command, Ericsson, sends a probe down which records the cloud firing thousands of missiles deep into the planet's crust then detonating thermonuclear warheads right in the molten core, which causes the planet to start tearing itself apart from the inside out.
- Garibaldi: Anyone want to tell me how the hell we're supposed to stop that? We are outclassed, boys and girls. If we at least knew where either side was going to hit next, we could...
Fortunately Lennier already has that information. Tracking the Vorlon fleet, they've calculated their next strike will be a world called Coriana 6, with a population of over 6 billion. Sheridan tells Ericsson to keep a line open then has Delenn convene the League, and make sure they've seen the recording.
Londo finds Vir in his room, having a drink...several actually. He's quite drunk by now, and he wants to know when he'll stop seeing himself in the mirror. Londo tells him he did what was necessary, but Vir is still haunted by his actions. Vir begins lamenting his situation, he never wanted to have to see or do the things he's done. Londo recalls that when they first met, he was not kind to Vir, thinking that he was envious of Vir, who still seemed to find the joy in life, while Londo had simply resigned himself to it. He can't promise that Vir will ever forget this, all he can do is assure him it was necessary.
- Londo: But you still have your heart, and your heart is a good one. You would not be in such great pain otherwise. It means there is still hope for you, and for that I find I still envy you.
The sounds of fireworks is heard as the Narns begin celebrating the Centauri withdrawal. Londo thinks they were always more trouble than they were worth, and he gave his word to G'Kar, and his honor is all he has left. He reminds Vir to be at the ship when it leaves then walks out as Vir goes to look at the fireworks.
- Vir: What was it all for, I wonder? What was any of it for?
The League has assembled in the War Room to view the recording, and Sheridan comes in and addresses them. He gives them the rundown, that they are out of time, and they need to move. The first part is a series of hit-and-run attacks on Vorlon forces to slow them down long enough to get the main fleet into position. They will also have a few First Ones to support them, how many, they don't know. Then Sheridan drops the big one, he's inviting the Shadows to their little party. They and the Vorlons have been dancing around each other this entire time, and he thinks he knows why. So he's going to lure them into the same system.
He calls Ericsson to give him a mission, attack a small Shadow outpost with a few other ships. he also sends information about a new base they're bringing online at Coriana 6, information he wants the Shadows to get ahold of so they'll attack it, but it needs to look like they're trying to keep it out of their hands...
- Sheridan: You're not a married man, are you Ericsson?
Ericsson: No. No sir, I'm not.
Sheridan: Well, there's that at least.
The other ships will be there in ten or twelve hours, they will make the attack, then Ericsson will cover their escape. He gives his assurances that he'll get it done, then closes the line.
The Narns are still celebrating, trashing the throne room, when G'Kar comes in and demands to know why they're celebrating. They seem to think they drove the Centauri off through strength, but have a strange desire to emulate them in certain ways. One of them, G'Lorn, even wants to make G'Kar their ruler, but he will have none of it.
- G'Kar: I did not fight to remove one dictator just to become another myself!
G'Lorn: But the Centauri...
G'Kar: ARE A LOST PEOPLE! They are to be pitied. They are already on a course for self-destruction. They do not need help from us!
He advocates rebuilding and getting themselves back on their feet, but G'Lorn is bent on fighting the Centauri again. Disappointed, G'Kar turns to leave, when G'Lorn calls him a coward, asking what he's had to endure while Narn was occupied. G'Kar gives him a hard stare, then walks off laughing to himself.
In his office, Sheridan listens to Ericsson's final transmission. The Shadows have taken the bait. Now the die is cast, and he and Delenn head out on the White Star, the truly massive fleet following them.
- Sheridan: Captain's personal log final entry: We're going into the heart of the fire, on one side the Vorlons, on the other the Shadows, and us in the middle. Whether any of us will come back, I don't know. When I took command of Babylon 5, I found a note on my desk; someone had left it there for me. It was a poem by Tennyson. I still remember the last part of it:
"tho' We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
This episode contains examples of:
- Batman Gambit: Sheridan's plan to draw the Shadows to Coriana VI relies on them defending themselves against the White Stars and wanting to attack an Army of Light base before it becomes fully operational.
- Big "NO!": Cartagia, looking down at the poisoned needle in his chest, grabs Vir by the throat yelling,"NO!" moments before collapsing.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: We find out here that Centauri have two hearts.
- Breaking the Bonds: G'Kar pulls his chains apart just as he is about to be sentenced, even though Cartagia had ordered them strengthened beforehand. The emperor is visibly astonished.
- The Centauri ministers remind Londo that Prime Minister Malachi could have stopped Cartagia if someone hadn't killed him.
- Londo assures the ministers that Lord Refa has paid the price for his actions.
- In trying to persuade the Centauri to leave Narn, he reminds them that Emperor Turhan also died while dealing with the Narn.
- Sheridan sends Ivanova out to round up the last of the First Ones.
- Londo and G'Kar are on Narn now to enact their plan.
- When Londo asks what happened to him, G'Kar simply says, "My eye offended him."
- The Centauri had a replica of the imperial throne room made on Narn.
- Conspicuously Public Assassination: G'Kar causes a distraction in the main hall, while Londo drags Cartagia off to kill him, but they're still pretty exposed.
- Continuity Nod:
- Sheridan got a little taste of Sinclair's love of Tennyson when he arrived.
- No one thinks Vir can do anything really dangerous or subversive. Last time he did Londo made sure no one heard of it.
- Continuity Snarl: Ivanova has mentioned several times that her mother made telepathic contact with her. In Midnight on the Firing Line she said that her mother was on the sleepers for 10 years. Here she says that she was 10 when she died.
- Crucified Hero Shot: As mentioned under Does This Remind You of Anything?, G'kar is chained to a wooden beam with his arms outstretched and paraded through the streets of Narn by Space Romans. Possibly one of the most spectacularly unsubtle examples of this trope ever put to film.
- Death Glare: Vir gives one to Cartagia when G'Kar is brought in.
- Determinator: After Cartagia has read the charges against G'Kar the latter shows that he isn't having any of this. How? By breaking his chains and throwing the cross beam at the guards.
- Didn't Want an Adventure: While Drowning His Sorrows Vir tells Londo that all he wanted was just a good job with a small title and a wife he could love. Maybe someone who could actually love him. After having just killed Cartagia and knowing that he will be The Emperor that simple life is even further away.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- As G'Kar is marched to his death, fastened to some kind of cross beam restraint, he stumbles, and takes the opportunity to offer comfort to his people.
- There are 6 billion sentients living on Corriana VI. When this aired the human population on earth hadn't reached 7 billion yet.
- Drowning My Sorrows: After killing Cartagia, Vir drinks to his health, several times. When he shows up at Londo's room, staggeringly drunk, he asks how many before he can't see himself in the mirror. Londo, in one of his more profound moments, offers some comfort, telling him the pain will probably never go away, but that that's a good thing, as it means Vir still has a heart, and that his is a good one, and that Londo himself envies him for that.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The Shadow Planets Killers are brought into action, firing nuclear missiles deep into a planet's core and tearing it apart from the inside out.
- Eyepatch of Power: G'Kar now sports one.
- Eye Scream: At some point between the episodes this happened off screen to G'Kar.
- Face Death with Dignity: Ranger Ericsson and his crew.
- Friendship Moment: This episode demonstrates yet again that Sheridan and Ivanova are True Companions to the very end. Sheridan quietly telling her how much she means to him, and how proud he is of her, is one of the tenderest moments seen between them to date.
- Government Conspiracy: Londo, Vir and a collection of Centauri ministers, who have to face the unthinkable - they need to assassinate a sitting Emperor of the Republic.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Londo admits that his early mistreatment of Vir was because Vir was still a Wide-Eyed Idealist, and he envied that Vir could still think that way. He admits he still envies Vir's idealism and good heart, but at least now he's trying to protect it rather than lash out at it.
- Heroic BSoD: Vir has one after killing Cartagia.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The Rangers on the White Star.
- He Who Fights Monsters: G'Kar refuses the Narns' attempts to make him their ruler because he does not want to become another dictator after fighting to depose one.
- I Gave My Word: Londo promised G'Kar he would get the Centauri off of Narn, and his honor is all he has left.
- It's All About Me: Cartagia once again, telling the Narns that what he does is the stuff of legends.
- Kangaroo Court: Cartagia is mainly concerned with getting G'Kar's trial over with quickly so he can become a god.
- Karmic Nod: Londo acknowledges that there will be a reckoning for him when he dies.
- Kick the Dog: Not content with plucking out G'Kar's eye, Cartagia has the jester killed for mimicking him. As the body is dragged away, he swaggers around a corner and comments, "Humor is such a subjective thing."
- The Kingslayer: Londo was expecting to be the one to kill Cartagia, but circumstances led to Vir actually being the one to do it.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Cartagia comments that the replica of his throne room on Narn is "almost" the same. In fact, it's exactly the same, as they simply used the same set, with a red tint on the "windows" to signify the Narn sky. Even Londo and Vir's bedroom is exactly the same.
- Lethally Expensive: Invoked by Sheridan and the Rangers, in order to lure the Shadows to Coriana 6.
- Literally Laughable Question: When G'Lorn demands to know what G'Kar endured while they were under Centauri occupation, G'Kar, bearing scars from his beatings and still-raw eye socket, glares at G'Lorn with such righteous indignation that G'Lorn staggers somewhat), then G'kar proceeds to start chuckling to himself.
- Long Last Look: At the end, right before heading out to the White Star, Sheridan takes one more last look around his office, since he may not be coming back. Again.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: The poison used to kill Cartagia is intended to mimic hearts failure.
- Meaningful Echo:
- G'Kar accuses Londo of having an empty heart early on in the episode, an accusation that Londo does not answer directly. Later on, he speaks to Vir, saying the latter still has his heart—and it's a good one. In the same conversation, Londo muses that his honor is all Londo has left, implying that he felt G'Kar was correct in his assessment.
- When he was sending Vir to bring Morden to him to start the second Narn-Centauri war Londo said that he didn't have a choice. Here he says the same thing about killing Cartagia. Bonus points for relying on Vir both times.
- Mood Whiplash:
- After getting the poison needle, Londo and Vir have a moment of levity impersonating Cartagia in his last moments until Vir unwittingly reminds Londo that this could go very, very wrong. The next scene is G'Kar being paraded through the city.
- Later in the episode we get Vir's explanation to how he got drunk.Vir: I was toasting Emperor Cartagia. And since he wasn't here, I drank for him. And then, I couldn't be rude, so I had to drink with him. So first it was me drinking to him. And then him drinking to me. And then I kinda got into this kinda cycle. And then, clumsy Cartagia, his glass broke. Or maybe it was my glass. Would you like some? 'Cause I think this is Cartagia's glass after all, so it would be quite appropriate, don't you think?Londo: You're drunk.Vir: Absolu- Positi- Oh, you betcha. I figured it always worked for you, Londo. Lemme. Lemme ask you something. How much more before I can look in the mirror and not see myself? Because I keep looking and I'm always there. And right now I don't want to see me.
- Not Afraid to Die: The Rangers who allow themselves to be destroyed as part of a gambit to draw the Shadows to Coriana 6.
- Oh, Crap!: Cartagia's reaction when G'Kar breaks the "unbreakable" chains.
- Orbital Bombardment: The Shadow planet-killer fires thousands of nuclear missiles into a planet's core and detonates them, causing the planet to come apart.
- The Promise: Sick of not being able to be there for the people she loves, Ivanova makes Sheridan promise her, one soldier to another, that she'll be with the fleet when they face the shadows.
- Rage Against the Reflection: A variant is used. Vir doesn't break any mirrors, instead he attempts to get drunk enough for his reflection to disappear.
- Rage-Breaking Point: Londo telling Cartagia to be quiet causes the emperor to lose it, grabbing him in a choke-hold, and basically condemning him to death. Fortunately, Cartagia is dead less than a minute later.
- Reveal Shot: As Cartagia turns around it's revealed that Vir had picked up the needle and was ready to aim it between Cartagia's hearts and push the button.
- Spanner in the Works: A double example, in that each side created one for the other in rapid succession. The plan was originally to have the chains weakened so G'Kar could break them. Unfortunately, Cartagia noticed that the chains looked weak, so he had them replaced. Despite this, G'Kar still broke the chains.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Vir, the last person you'd expect.
- Tempting Fate: Londo says that Vir is incapable of doing anything really dangerous or subversive.
- These Hands Have Killed: Vir
- Tyrannicide: Londo manages to convince several ranking Centauri that Cartagia must die or their homeworld will be destroyed.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Zigzagged. Londo tells us what the plan is and it looks like it's going to succeed. Then Cartagia knocks the needle out of Londo's hand and Vir has to finish the job.
- Villainous Breakdown: After G'Kar breaks free, Cartagia starts ranting about how he'll need to have everyone who failed him killed, and everyone who saw this killed, and finally turns on Londo as well.
- We Need a Distraction: G'Kar breaking his chains is used as a distraction to get the Emperor out of public view so the assassination can happen.
- What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: Vir "Lincolni" Cotto looks out at Narn and wonders what any of it was for. This echoes what Emperor Turhan said in The Coming of Shadows.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Londo reflects on how Vir was when they first met, thinking he treated Vir badly because he was still an idealist, while Londo himself had already been reduced the The Cynic.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Londo tells Vir this by reminding him that he helped save Centauri Prime and that he still has a good heart.
- You Are in Command Now: Since they need immediate action, and appointing a new emperor would take too long, the court names Londo Prime Minister so he'll have the authority to make decisions for the entire planet.
- You Did the Right Thing: Averted. Even when Vir (while drowning his sorrows) is practically begging Londo to say something like this, Londo says only that Vir's action was necessary, and the pain would likely never go away...but that means there is still hope for Vir.
- You Have Failed Me: Cartagia intends to do this to all the "incompetents" who let G'Kar break free, but he doesn't live long enough to make good on it.