If you’re new to the book club, links to the previous episodes can be found here.
This week, it’s Season 2, Episode 21: Comes the Inquisitor
It’s difficult to discuss this show without occasionally wanting to discuss the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), or referring to the pilot.
If you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them. Hey, if you use Firefox, there’s a simple plug-in that makes this as easy as highlighting text.
Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!
We open with G’Kar doing the only thing he can do in his present circumstances: rabble-rouse. He denounces the Centauri in the Zokolo, but he gets no love from the humans listening.
Meanwhile, Delenn is having a corridor meeting with Kosh. Kosh, in a rare moment of linguistic clarity tells her that an Inquisitor has been dispatched to test her. When Delenn asks who it is, Kosh goes back to being cryptic.
While Delenn fills Sheridan in, G’Kar meets with an arms dealer. They exchange pleasantries and threats.
Up at Ops a Vorlon ship arrives at the station and it’s passenger is – human. The anachronistically-dressed man names himself Sebastian. Sebastian wants to get down to business, but Sheridan has questions. Sebastian sneers a bit, paraphrases A Few Good Men, says he’s from Victorian London. It would seem the Vorlons have a longer reach than we realized.
On the topic of long reaches, Garibaldi has heard about G’Kar’s arms purchases and takes a carrot-and-stick approach to keeping B5 out of it. The stick is a threat to not pass weapons through B5, but the carrot is a secure alternative.
But now it’s Inqusition time – after all everyone expects the Vorlon Inquisition. Here’s the deal – Delenn wears shock brackets and if she answers badly or demurs on a question she gets shocked. She can take the bracelets off at any time – but that counts as conceding.
Sebastian has one question for Delenn – Who are you? She gives her name and title, but Sebastian doesn’t care about those things he wants to know who she is to herself not what she presents to others. This causes her some consternation. As far as Sebastian is concerned this is only going to end one of two ways: Delenn will concede or her pride will lead her to die rather than relent.
We cut to Vir, who is a little harried and gets into an elevator with G’Kar. Vir tries to apologise for recent events but G’Kar points out (rather vividly) that Vir can’t.
Back at the Inquisition Delenn and Sebastian debate the subject of destiny. Delenn believes we are all placed where we are meant to be, while Sebastian sees this as self-serving bias. He asks Delenn if she has ever had doubts and she admits that sometimes she does. This the first thing Sebastian has reacted to positively during this episode and possibly ever.
G’Kar is having some leadership problems. The other Narn aren’t so sure he’s up to the task of running a resistance network. They set him a test and he accepts.
Sebastian has moved on to the subject of sanity – he sees Delenn as defective product and demands she be a good Minbari and conform. She refuses, saying he is nothing but a broken thing that tries to bring everyone down to his level. This seems to strike a nerve and he tortures her some more.
G’Kar goes to Sheridan and Garibaldi for help in getting a message to Narn. Sheridan tells Garibaldi to put the Rangers on it. After all, why have a clandestine force and not use it?
Lennier finds Delenn crumpled on the ground. She tells him to go, which he does. In fact he goes to Sheridan and tells him what is going on. Sheridan confronts Sebastian, but it doesn’t go well. Now it’s Sheridan’s turn and Sebastian turns to the subject of sacrifice. Delenn says that she would give her life to save life, without fame or glory. This is the answer Sebastin has been waiting for and he lets them leave.
The whole experience has left Sheridan in a pensive mood, he asks Ivanova to use Space Google to find out more on Sebastian, based on the little information he has tendered.
It seems the Rangers came through because G’Kar gets his message. This mollifies the Narn and they now back him to lead the resistance.
Sheridan and Sebastian have a last conversation. It would appear that Sebastian disappeared the day after the last of Jack the Ripper’s murders. You see, he believed he had been chosen to purge the corruption of London. But the Vorlons showed him he was wrong. In the subsequent 400 years they have used him to weed out other people making the same mistake until he could finally locate one needle in the universe’s largest haystack. He knows all too well what it means to think you have a destiny, and what it costs you when you are wrong. Now he has finally found what he was looking for, he hopes he can finally die.
I find this a fascinating episode because of how it treats the concept of The Chosen One. First off, the Vorlons are too canny to assume that everyone currently in place is up to the task. Imagine you were in charge of a really important IT project, but the only people you can hire to do the actual work were Visigoths. You’d expend a goodly amount of effort ensuring those were the best Visigoths you could get, instead of just accepting whoever they thought was best for the job. And Delenn’s case is even worse because A) there’s a way bigger gap between Vorlons and Minbari than us an Visigoths and B) Delenn has been rejected by her own people, so not even the Visigoths think she’s any good.
Secondly, this is the first episode that gives us any real insight into the Vorlons. In fact in may ways, we know more about the Shadows than we do the Vorlons, even though we haven’t heard a Shadow speak and have had no more than a brief look at a couple of them. The reason for this disparity is that Kosh is utterly inscrutable, but we have gained an understanding of the Shadows from their chosen agent – Mr. Mordin.
Sebastian is Mr. Mordin’s Vorlon counterpart – a human agent that interacts with the young races of the galaxy in ways their respective client species find difficult and/or irritating. The similarities and differences between these men say a lot about their masters. Mordin’s job is to give people things – to recruit unwitting allies by offering them illicit power. But Sebastian doesn’t give – he takes away. His role is to act as Devil’s Advocate, in the classical sense of the Catholic advocatus diaboli, only he tests would-be saints while they are still alive. He confronts those who believe they have a grand destiny before them, and shows them why they are wrong. A false Chosen One could be a disaster, and Sebastian’s job is to weed them out.
There are also similarities between Sebastian and Mordin – in the exercise of their duty they are diligent, focused and utterly ruthless. As much as the Shadows have been painted the Bad Guys here, Sebastian is at least as bad as Mordin is. They are also both conscripts to their respective causes – it appears neither side has much use for personal autonomy. They also both lead by asking people one question. The Shadows want to know what you want, the Vorlons want to know who you are. Neither party explains themselves, but it seems to me they are trying to discover people’s intrinsic motivators – the things that drive you internally. I get the impression that neither party really understands the younger races, which is probably why they are using proxies in the first place.
Tune in next week, when I will be covering the season final – The Fall of Night. In the meanwhile, what do you think Sebastian meant by “Who are you?” and how would you have answered?