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The Best B5 Season,
This review is from: Babylon 5: Season 2 [DVD] (DVD)
Babylon 5's first season, Signs and Portents, introduced the world of the mid-23rd Century, unveiled a host of new alien races and characters, and hinted at something more momentous to come. The first season was patchy, but towards the end gathered momentum until it reached the season finale, Chrysalis, in which the destinies of several major characters and the entire B5 universe underwent radical transformations. The first half of Season 2 picks up on the aftermath of these events. B5's security chief is in a coma, Narn Ambassador G'Kar has vanished and, most bizarrely, Minbari Ambassador Delenn is in a cocoon. A new station commander, Captain Sheridan, arrives on board under murky circumstances and at first no-one know whether he can be trusted. However, after putting his life and his career on the line for his new friends, he becomes a trusted leader for the crew. Early Season 2 episodes concentrate on building an atmosphere of dread and foreboding, with even 'typical' B5 stories like The Long Dark and Spider in the Web having dark undercurrents running through them. An early break is the semi-comical Soul Mates, but even this has a few murky subplots drumming up more paranoia and fear for both the station crew and the viewer. Then the season really kicks off with The Coming of Shadows, probably the finest episode of Babylon 5 and one of the finest episodes of SF TV ever made (and its got the awards to prove it): an almost Shakespearean tale of redemption, honour, betrayal and war, sporting still-impressive special effects and Emmy-worthy performances from Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik. After that comes the disappointing war tale GROPOS, despite its twist ending, before All Alone in the Night shows us a new side to Captain Sheridan. The season hits a new stride in its final few episodes: In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum, which reveals a lot of essential background to the series' main storylines; the truly shocking Confessions and Lamentations, the best non-arc episode of the series by some distance; Divided Loyalties, with the twist ending to top all twist endings; The Long Twilight Struggle, an even darker sequel to Coming of Shadows with a stunning performance by Jurasik and one of the best CGI shots ever filmed (Londo's face reflected in the window of a battlecruiser as it rains fire down on the Narn homeworld); and The Fall of Night, the season finale which ditches Chrysalis' cliffhanger approach for a darker, more sombre end to the series, albeit with a series of new character revelations and a suicidal assault on B5 by a Centauri warship, paving the way for the more action-driven third season. B5's second season is probably the best, with even the weakest episodes worthy of watching at least once (more than can be said for Season 3 or 4's nadirs), far superior CGI to the first and sound performances from all the cast. Bruce Boxleitner lacks some of Michael O'Hare's subtlety, but he is also far more charasmatic and believable as a leading man, whilst it remains a crime that Katsulars and Jurasik went without awards for their work on this series and this season in particular. A classic season of a classic series and very highly recommended.