SJ Review #405
Episode: 405 - The Long Night
Director: John Lafia
Guests: Wortham Krimmer (Cartagia)
Ericsson (Brian Cranston)
Londo finally puts his plan into action whilst Cartagia is visiting Narn. Back on B5, Sheridan and Delenn are working on their plan to defeat the Shadows and Vorlons.
This episode marks a return to form, after last week's somewhat disappointing 'Falling Towards Apotheosis' (although it's hard to pin down exactly *why* that particular episode was disappointing...).
Straczynski seems to be a much more capable writer than he used to be. In-depth character scenes, such as Ivanova's discussion about her mother with Sheridan, would not have been anything like as well done a season or two ago. This highlights a general trend in Babylon 5 - that of it maturing. Seasons one and two could have been classed quite easily as "kid's programmes" (apart from the plot arc, that is). Season three marked a change, and season four has finally managed to deliver *proper* drama. This is probably because of a combination of things - better scripts, better acting (better guest actors, too!), better special effects...I could go on.
The scenes on Narn were both exhilerating and mildly disappointing. Whilst the actual plot was excellently carried out, I was rather disappointed not to see more of the Narn streets. I was hoping for a good effects scene, with the Centauri marching G'Kar through the streets that are seen in the various scene-setting effects shots. Unfortunately all we saw was them wandering through a dark alleyway, which looked far too much like a darkened indoor set for my liking.
Other than that, the scenes on Narn were exemplary. Do I even need to bother to mention that Peter Jurasik's (Londo) and Andreas Katsulas' (G'Kar) acting was superb? Also excellent was Wortham Krimmer as Cartagia, and it is a pity that we will not be seeing any more of him.
More surprising was Stephen Furst as Vir. Previously in the series, Furst has had to put up with being in mainly comic-relief scenes - albeit pretty funny ones. This episode marked the first time he gets a chance to really show he *can* actually act. Hopefully we'll see Vir's character being fleshed out ever more in the coming weeks.
The other major plot strand in this episode was also handled excellently. Thankfully, a good actor was found to play Ericsson (Brian Cranston). Although this was a short part, it was important enough to mean that an inferior actor would have spoiled the tragedy of the events. Indeed, the scene when Sheridan ordered Ericsson to sacrifice his and his crew's lives was perhaps one of the most poignant in the whole B5 series.
In my previous reviews I have stated that the arc is being rushed along too fast. I am not so sure now. Every week since 'The Summoning', I have expected the major attack to take place - and it hasn't. This tension has built up to almost unbearable levels by now - if the big battle does not come next week, I suspect my brain will explode. This is a great little touch by Straczynski - despite the rushing along of the Vorlon/Lyta Alexander plot, this particular plot strand has progressed at exactly the right pace.
There were surprisingly few flaws in this episode, in fact. The only minor criticism is not to do with this episode, but more to do with season four as a whole. Basically, why hasn't Sheridan's escape from Z'ha'dum been explained yet? I sincerely hope it will be, otherwise the believeablity of the show will suffer greatly.
One more thing: Am I seeing things, or has the entrance to the docking bays enlarged massively? First Lorien's ship somehow managed to fit through it, and now Sheridan's Earth transport looked minute in it, whereas they used to virtually fill it up. Personally, I think this is a good thing - the entrance was always too small in the past.
Overall, possibly the best episode of season four yet. It had everything - outstanding acting by all, great effects (except for the 'missing' Narn street scene), very good dialogue and nerve-shattering tension. It leaves us begging for more.