Review: Babylon 5 1.22

by on Sep.19, 2008, under Babylon 5, Reviews by Bill Thompson, Television

Chrysalis

Review: Babylon 5 1.22 b5 chrysalis 1 300x248

Cocoons for everyone, or as the high brow types call em, chrysalises. Getting shot in the back sucks, but there are worse things that someone can do to you from behind, like hit you in the head with a salmon! Oooh, I am so not funny, so not funny. The Shadows are here, and they are more transparent than shadowy, but it’s not a perfect world. All puns aside, this is a great episode, and of course my review is nowhere near as great, or even good, but it’s the effort that counts!

Written By: J. Michael Straczynski
Directed By: Janet Greek

Bare Essentials:

A Plot – Shenanigans are afoot aboard Babylon 5. One of Garibaldi’s informants is killed and this sets Garibaldi on the trail. He uncovers the plot to assassinate President Santiago before it takes place but he is betrayed and shot in the back by his second in command, Jack. Garibaldi’s life hangs in the balance while Jack goes about killing the men Garibaldi was tracking and thus ending the conspiracy theory on B5.

B Plot - Londo and G’Kar are going at it again, and Londo enlists the aid of Morden and his associates to deal with the Narn situation in Quadrant 37. They deal with it by completely obliterating the Narn presence. Londo is initially appalled but he realizes the great victory this was for his people and he becomes a name to watch out for in the higher ranks of Centauri politics.

C Plot - Delenn reveals to Sinclair that she knows that he remembers some of the events from the missing hour of his life during the Battle of the Line. She also decides to use the chrysalis she has been building all season long and ends the episode in a cocoon.

More Arc, Less Arch:

The machine that we have seen Delenn working on in various episodes throughout season one is finally complete. The final piece was a triluminary and once together the machine spun out a substance that encased Delenn in a cocoon. This allows a major change to begin to occur in Delenn that will be revealed in Revelations.

Morden’s reaction to Londo’s inquiries about his associates getting credit for their actions is the first major indication that they are up to more than meets the eye. This is enforced by the scene with Morden and the Shadows later in the episode. It isn’t until In The Shadow Of Z’ha’dum that their secretive ways will be somewhat revealed and it isn’t until Ship Of Tears that they will begin to move openly among the lesser races.

Kosh reveals himself to Delenn and all we see is a luminescence and the sounds of wings flapping. Kosh as a being of light was previously seen in Midnight On The Firing Line. Meanwhile the flapping wings will be explained in The Fall Of Night.

The friend of Petrov’s that talks to Garibaldi is more than he appears to be, his true nature will be revealed in A Race Through Dark Places.

Vice-President Clark’s decision to leave EarthForce One with the flu is an act that will have repercussions throughout the rest of the series. His coming down with the flu will be brought up as the central focus of Hunter, Prey and will be a nagging doubt against him in the public eye throughout his tenure as President.

The Senator’s complete non-reaction, or reaction of anger, over Sinclair’s suggestion that President Santiago was assassinated is a continuation of the running thread of dubiousness that is present in EarthGov at this point in time. This will continue to be a major theme until the end of season 5 itself, although it reaches it’s apex in seasons 3 and 4.

President Clark’s first speech is a dramatic shift in tone from former President Santiago. The speech takes on an isolationist tone that will continue to build and build until it reaches a head for Babylon 5 in Severed Dreams.

Delenn’s transformation, or beginning of her transformation, harkens back to events in Soul Hunter, And The Sky Full Of Stars and will deal with events to be revealed in Points Of Departure, Revelations, and In The Beginning. Also her question to Kosh will be revealed in In The Shadow Of Z’ha’dum.

The first Shadow Battle Crab Class Attack Cruiser that appears and fires upon the Narn forces at Quadrant 37 may appear to be just any ship, but it’s actually quite an important one, although no one in the entire fricking world had any idea about who the CPU of that specific Battle Crab was when this first aired, or even that said person was the CPU when they finally made their presence known in the season 2 episode Revelations. Either way, I’m not going to name the person, but if you read The Passing Of The Techno-Mages: Book I: Casting Shadows you will be quite shocked to find out who the CPU is controlling that Battle Crab.

Who Are You? What Do Yo… Hey, I’m Asking The Questions Here!:

How exactly can the Senator order Sinclair to remain silent? She is well outside the chain of command and has no direct authority over Sinclair.

Idiosyncratic Musings:

When Londo pours himself a drink and then pours the drink back into the bottle it is a beautiful moment for his character and within the episode. That is the moment that Londo quits being the drunk joke and becomes the man with a destiny that everyone fears. That one moment completely defines how his character is changing and it is so wonderfully done.

Sinclair’s point about what the Narn have become is incredibly true. It’s a point I have touched on before in Legacies, and it’s a point that is hammered home in Chrysalis. The once conquered and oppressed Narn have now become the conquerors and the oppressors themselves and they don’t see the difference at all. Someone like Sinclair can see it, but unfortunately I think this point flew over the heads of most fans. They view the Narns as completely sympathetic and choose to ignore that the Narn became exactly like the Centauri and were responsible for just as much death and destruction and oppression against other races as the Centauri were against them.

Londo’s reaction to what the Shadows have done is very telling of Londo as an individual. On the one hand he is extremely repulsed and wants the action to be erased from history. But, he also begins to weigh his personal repulsion with his nationalistic pride and what the Shadows actions have done to help the Centauri. That is what wins out in the end because for as much as Londo may be personally taken aback by the actions of the Shadows his pride in his own people will always beat out what he feels personally.

I See What You Did There:

Mr. Morden is officially given his namesake in this episode.

G’Kar’s fascination with human women has been shown before in Born To The Purple and will be shown a few more times.

Every PPG has a serial number stamped on its inner coil that is impossible to remove. If a PPG is without said serial number then it was produced that way and is the property of a special EA security agent.

Sinclair flashes back to And The Sky Full Of Stars after Delenn shows him the triluminary.

It’s Not Kosher If It’s Not Kosh:

“And so it begins.”

Say It Again Mac:

Londo, “But, this, this, this is like being nibbled to death by, uh. What are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet, go quack?”
Vir, “Cats.”
Londo, “Cats. Like Being nibbled to death by cats.”

Londo again, “There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be.”

G’Kar, “There’s someone else out there, Na’Toth.”

Morden, “Ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million, what’s the difference?”

G’Kar again, “We were at a crossroads and there is no going back.”

Sinclair, “Nothing’s the same anymore.”

Yes, I Am A Fleet Junkie:

In the Shadows attack on Quadrant 37 we see just how destructive the Shadow Battle Crabs can be. They shrug off fire from a number of Frazi’s like nothing. They then destroy many of those Frazi’s with one shot and a few T’Loth Cruisers before the T’Loth’s can even get a shot off. They also showcase their ability for effective planetary bombardment as they fire a few shots onto the colony on the planet below and then take off having completely annihilated said colony.

It’s Your Cultural Imperative:

There are fifty gods in the Centauri pantheon.

Chrysalis gives us the first proto-image of the Shadows. At this point all we see is that they have a very insect like outline, sort of like a praying mantis. They also speak in garbled, unintelligible noises.

I Think This Might Be Based On Something:

President Clark’s swearing in is an almost exact recreation of when Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States in 1963.

You Look Mighty Familiar:

Cheryl Francis Harrington, the Senator, had a long running gig as the voice of Ms. Mambo Garcelle on The PJs.

James Kiriyama Lem, a names less medtech, played Gen. Ming in the episode Sugar Dirt of Space: Above And Beyond.

Casting Ahead:

Ed Wasser is back as Morden.

The woman who screams when she finds Garibaldi in the transport lift is Fumi Shishino, and she played a security guard in And The Sky Full Of Stars.

This is Marianne Robert’s final appearance in the series as Tech #1, the women with the close cropped hair and the hard to decipher accent in the Observation Dome.

Gary McGurk makes his first appearance as Vice President Clark, and he will make a few more as President Clark.

James Kiriyama-Lem makes his first appearance as a nameless med tech, he will reprise that role a couple more times.

Maggie Egan is back yet again as Jane, the ISN news anchor.

Macaulay Bruton is back, this time as Garibaldi’s second in command and traitor extraordinaire, Jack.

This is the last appearance of Julia Nickson-Soul as Sinclair’s love interest Catherine Sakai.

Douglas Netter is back in photograph form as President Santiago.

While the character of Na’Toth will be back, this is the last appearance of Julie Caitlin-Brown in that role as a series regular. She will be back to play the role much later in season 5 while a different actress will take over the role in season 2. According to Brown she left because she had the chance to take some larger roles and she couldn’t deal with the prosthetics messing up her face and ruining her chances for those bigger roles.

Say goodbye to the male lead of the show, this is the last time that Michael O’Hare will be on Babylon 5 in the role of Commander Jeffrey Sinclair as a series regular. He will be back later, and he will appear in at least one novel and assorted comics, but this is it for him as a series full timer. There have been multiple reasons given for his departure, all of which are plausible, but there isn’t one definitive reason that has ever been proven true. Personally I tend to believe the one that says it was mutual. JMS wanted a different lead for the different direction the series was going in, while O’Hare wanted to do other projects.

That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen:

There is a minor mistake in the scene where Garibaldi is examining Devreaux’s crates. He’s trying to open a small case, he manages to open it, the camera cuts away, but when it cuts back he’s still struggling to open the same small case.

The Ombuds Have Decided:

Chrysalis is a tremendous episode and a stupendous season finale. It truly left you with the feeling that everything has changed and that it was completely up in the air as to what the show would be like in season 2. The acting, writing, pacing, tone, direction, everything came together for one fantastic episode. There were a few flubs and mistakes, but nothing big enough to do any major damage or stop Chrysalis from being a great episode.

I love the direction and shot choices in Chrysalis. Going to a wide shot of the transport lift as Garibaldi desperately crawls to reach it. The fade from Garibaldi to reveal his shooter. The layering of people that are observing Garibaldi in the medlab with his attacker being the most prominent. Londo, all alone in the garden, etc.. There are so many shots in Chrysalis that are done masterfully to create a perfect foreboding mood for the episode and to say what is going on in the episode without having to actually say it in words.

Chrysalis also excels in the way it foreshadows everything that will happen within the episode. It’s not just the actual foreshadowing though, but rather it is the way that the foreshadowing is handled. You aren’t hit over the head with heavy foreshadowing, instead it’s all subtle and quiet so that you only realize the foreshadowing was there all along once the episode is all over.

The flashing of the date/place indicator on the bottom of the screen at periodic intervals helps to build the tension in Chrysalis. Chrysalis moves at a slow speed to start off but as the drama builds the pace quickens only to reach the climax and then a very quiet and muted aftermath is shown. The dates/place indicators really help to add to that and help to add to the flow of the episode.

I’m a fan of the acting by Macaulay Bruton throughout the entire episode. As Garibaldi is figuring everything out you can tell through the look on his face that he’s getting upset about it. He also does a great job later in the episode of putting just enough of a knowing sneer about what really happened to Garibaldi every time the camera is on his face.

As good as the direction was throughout the episode, there were moments when the CGI was off the charts fantastic. The battle scene between the Shadows and the Narn was good. But, the shining moment of the episode was the way that Garibaldi getting shot in the back turned out. It was a brilliant mixture of light and texture to create a wonderful effect.

Another masterful bit in Chrysalis was the use of light and shadow during Garibaldi’s crawl to the transport lift. The fact that after he is shot he is instantly immersed in shadow is a great play on the fact that the Shadows are now starting to exert their will over the universe at large. But, outside of that bit of musing it is wonderful how he is in all shadows when he is in trouble, near death, and crawling towards the lift. He is then immersed in light upon reaching the salvation of the transport lift that now offers him the chance to live.

The music is superb in Chrysalis, this is the episode that really made me take notice of how great of a composer Christopher Franke really was. This is especially evident in the scene where EarthForce One explodes. It goes from an ominous overbearing sound when you see EarthForce One on approach to a frantic and manic sound while you watch Sinclair racing to the Observation Dome. It then goes back to ominous and overbearing as we watch EarthForce One destroyed.

The entire scene of the destruction of EarthForce One is perfect until the waning moments. The tense atmosphere followed by quiet disbelief and finally the shock and sadness is really gripping. The acting is great, as is the pacing. The only problem is the end of the CGI during EarthForce One’s destruction. The CGI is actually great right up until the very end until EarthForce One completely evaporates leaving no wreckage. There’s not a single piece of debris, and I am not a fan of that very unrealistic effect. Also on the CGI front is something I’ve complained about before, the passing CGI shots that take place in the transport tube. They are incredibly fake looking every time they appear in the series, and Chrysalis is no exception.

Delenn’s time ultimatum to Sinclair seems forced and doesn’t make much sense. Why would she have to enter the cocoon right that instant? There doesn’t appear to be any reason that she couldn’t have waited a few more hours to talk to Sinclair. This ends up being the only major thing I thought was wrong with Chrysalis, but it really, really irks me.

Rating:

97/100

A

That wraps up the episodes proper of season one of Babylon 5. I will be back next time for an overall season one review. See you then.

Cheers,
Bill

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Next – Season 1: Signs And Portents (1994)


5 Comments for this entry

  • Byron Pennyworth

    Lyndon Johnson was sworn in in ’63. That’s the year Kennedy was shot.

  • Byron Pennyworth

    And (sorry about the double-post) perhaps Dellen had to go into the Chrysalis so quickly because she suspected the Grey Council was going to come and try to stop her (as they ended up doing, too late).

  • Bill Thompson

    Thanks for the correction on the LBJ date.

    I’ve heard that theory for why Delenn went into the Chrysalis so early, but I don’t buy it. Some of the Grey Council did support her, and in the end that whole thread came across to me as the one bit of sloppy storytelling in an otherwise excellent episode.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  • Viviana Chung

    Heya i got to your site by mistake when i was searching bing for something off topic here but i do have say your site is really helpful, like the theme and the content on here…so thanks for me procrastinating from my previous task, lol

  • Paul Talon

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