SJ Review #502

Episode: 5/02 - The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
Director: David J. Eagle
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski

Londo suffers a heart attack and has to face his past, whilst Lennier makes a decision that will change his life forever...

B5, like all television series, has its good episodes and its bad episodes - thankfully there are more good than bad ones. However, it seems that an episode cannot go wrong if it features G'Kar and Londo Mollari as the main characters.

This is due to two things. Firstly, JMS' writing and plotting, which has built these two fascinating and changing characters over the past four years and consistently kept their dialogue witty, moving and in-character. Secondly, Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) and Peter Jurasik's (Londo) acting almost never disappoints; whereas all of the other cast members have had scenes in which they have greatly disappointed, these two consistently deliver sterling performances that outshine the rest of the cast. "The Very Long Night..." is no exception.

The two main plots - Lennier's departure and Londo's heart attack - are both dealt with superbly. The acting is superb throughout - Bill Mumy (Lennier) delivers a heart-rending performance as he explains his future to Delenn, and Mira Furlan (Delenn) is also superb, ensuring that their scenes together worked very well. Enhancing this plot was Bruce Boxleitner (Sheridan), who delivered what is perhaps his best performance in the series to date, with far more subtlety than we are used to. Stephen Furst, as Vir, also delivered one of his best performances.

The best performances though, of course, came from the great men themselves - Jurasik and Katsulas. Jurasik was superb throughout; his acting talent brings Londo to life more so than any of the other actors do with their respective roles.

Katsulas, although only appearing towards the end of the episode, nevertheless helped to improve the episode greatly. In the dream sequences he excelled, particularly with his parody of Emperor Cartagia - he captured Wortham Krimmer's visualisation of the character perfectly, with all the subtleties of voice and movement in place. His small smile at the episode was more powerful than the rest of the episode put together.

JMS' script, thankfully, was very good - much better than the "No Compromises" one. The concepts used were superb - such as the beating heart in the floor, the off-angle camera shots and the integration of the whipping scene from "The Summoning". Eagle's directing helped no end with all this; the episode was a very demanding one, and he made the most of the visual and audial possibilities thrown up - in particular, the lift scene, where the camera angle and set lighting changed almost imperceptibly as transition from ordinary to dream sequence ensued; the shot of Vir standing over Londo, lying down, during which the camera rotated until they were both standing upright and the various shots of Londo's beating heart in the floor.

It is these innovative shots which marked out the first few and the final few episodes of season 4 as being something special and unusual; it is good to see the B5 directors experimenting once more.

Christopher Franke's music was excellent throughout, particularly during the climax, when Londo and the doctors are fighting for his life. This entire scene was filmed, acted, edited and lit stunningly, in fact; it is one of the most memorable scenes in the entire series. I just hope you saw the *full* version, and not the version Channel 4 initially broadcast, which they had cut to pieces and utterly ruined, losing the power of the performances and directing.

The only minor problem with this episode is its place in the season. At the moment, things seemed to be about the setting up of the Interstellar Alliance, and this episode comes across as something akin to an annoying itch. Excellent though it is, it might have been better to have it when the arc wasn't apparently on the move so much, as it had appeared in "No Compromises". The plots involving Lochley, the telepaths, the Alliance and various other things all vanished into thin air, giving this episode a filler-feel, where it was, in fact, a very important part of Londo's story arc.

Rating: 8/10 - A superb episode, with little to complain about other than its position in the season, or series.

Best Quote:
LONDO- The bottles here are all empty....metaphor is getting a bit thick, don't you think?

Points For Discussion:
o What is the significance of Sheridan's Ranger outfit, white robes and his appearance as a being of light, as seen in Londo's dream?
o How did Londo know what an Entil'Zha-type uniform looked like?
o Is the Centauri myth about angelic souls inside demonic people at all true?
o Where was Lochley during all this?

Please comment on this review - discuss it! The whole point of this review is to generate some meaty discussion. Of course, those of you who know the answers to the Points For Discussion - don't spoil us!


Simon Jones, reviewer.

1998 Simon Jones.