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londovir- by iamsab

Continuing a B5 discussion…

From neuralclone’s LJ:

In hindsight it's astonishing that we took [Londo] to be a comic buffoon during the first season - the characteristics which lead to his downfall were well in place by the third episode of the first season!

I think it was a hair bias. *g*

In all seriousness, I never saw Londo as a comic buffoon, even with the table mounting drunken revelry, the casual use of his genitalia, etc. Because alongside all of those scenes were darker, sadder moments. What was funny about Londo's anger and desperation in
Midnight? What was funny about the wistful Londo we saw not only in Purple, but also in The War Prayer and A Voice in the Wilderness? What was funny about Londo's reply to Mr. Morden?

Hmm, I feel a longer rant coming on. Because when it comes to B5, I just don't see “teh funneh” where other fans seem to…




Arguing for Vir’s Infrequently Acknowledged Second Season Depth

From what I remember of the old fan commentary, most fans didn't really acknowledge Vir's seriousness until third season- or sometimes even as late as fourth season. But I believe Vir emerged as a serious character in The Geometry of Shadows.

I’ve already covered Geometry to some extent in the Londo & Vir relationship essay. Although glimmers of Vir’s independent mind can be seen as early as The War Prayer, in Geometry it takes center stage with his nonverbal discomfort with Refa and with his subtle yet relentless attempts to steer Londo in the right direction. When Londo asks Vir about fate, what results is not simply humorous Vir-ish babble. Between the lines is an argument against following what appears to Londo to be the obvious path- and the arguing persists as the episode moves forward. “It won’t work, Londo, they’re not for sale,” Vir insists later when he returns from his encounter with Elric and Londo demands that he try again. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea to get between them and where they’re going.” Here we see a Vir who is a remarkably intelligent judge of behavioral signals- he accurately reads Elric’s menacing façade as a serious demand to keep out. This is not cowardice, but humility.

How do we know it’s not cowardice? Well, Vir’s behavior before Elric’s monster is a powerful clue. We can hear the panic creep into his voice and can safely assume that Vir is quivering on the inside. But he doesn’t wet his pants and he doesn’t run away. In fact, when you compare his reaction to Londo’s open cringing at the mages’ sound and light show, Vir comes across looking stronger and braver than his master. I believe this, combined with the quiet wisdom of Vir’s other scenes, firmly overshadows his alcohol-induced comic pratfall, which was indeed played purely for laughs.

In fact, while Vir’s role in Soul Mates was purely comic, when you look at the rest of the second season, most of the scenes that featured Vir in a central role tended towards seriousness.

In The Coming of Shadows, also covered in the earlier essay, Vir’s misgivings about Refa and about Morden are brought into even sharper focus. The central scene for Vir in this episode is deadly serious, his suspicion evolving into fear and righteous anger. When, to Vir’s horror, Londo makes his first conscious decision to utilize the services of Mr. Morden, there is no “Maybe you shouldn’t”- there is only “Don’t!” And when that falls on deaf ears and Vir’s desperation fades to resignation, the anger remains:

“No, I will go. I will find him and I will bring him back. But one day, I will remind you of this conversation and maybe then- then- you’ll understand!”

-Vir to Londo, The Coming of Shadows

At the end of the episode, with the choice made and the deed done, Vir icily refuses Refa’s cup and can only look at his friend with profound disappointment. This is no buffoon.

There All the Honor Lies, the next episode that features Vir in a prominent role, also bears a repeat mention:

When Vir receives word in There All the Honor Lies that Centauri Prime is seeking a replacement for his position, he is driven to seek solace in liquor for the first time. In one scene, Londo is given a glimpse of the turmoil that Vir has been sitting on since The Coming of Shadows. Vir doesn't know what he feels. He is angry with Londo, angry that he is being pulled down with him, and a part of him would like nothing better than to escape. But he can't add another failure to a life filled with failures, and he can't go back to the loneliness and disdain that defined his early life. For all that Londo is and for all that Londo has done, he at least occasionally treats Vir like a person. Drunk and on some lines close to tears, Vir pours much of this out before an unprepared Londo and stumbles away, apologies on his lips.

Putting aside the admittedly comic element of Vir getting plastered on only two drinks, the implication that Vir’s previous family life was an empty, if not downright hostile, one and the jumbled mix of anger, confusion and despair that comes through Stephen Furst’s underrated performance make this storyline a deeply poignant one.

“Every generation of Centauri mourns for the golden days when their power was like unto the gods. It’s counterproductive. Why make a history if you don’t learn from it?”

-Vir to Londo, Knives

The trend continues as Vir takes on the role of wise confidant and comforter in Knives and stands up to Morden in In the Shadow of Z’Ha’Dum.

Vir’s confrontation with Morden in In the Shadow of Z’Ha’Dum is wildly famous in fandom and legitimately so. Vir’s cheery wave is irresistibly funny. But we shouldn’t forget the seriousness of the feeling behind it, nor how truly gutsy a move it is. The Shadows don’t consider Vir a threat, but Vir doesn’t know that- all he knows is that Morden is ruining his friend’s life and, by extension, his own and he’s not going to shrink back and take on the mantle of politeness. Sweet little innocent Vir wishes for Morden’s death in this scene, and it’s a rather brutal death at that. If circumstances were somewhat different, he could’ve been killed for his impudence. Imagine the sheer power of the emotions that must’ve driven Vir to take such a risk! Vir is a shy, gentle soul, but still waters run very deep. He may be male, but Vir’s actions in this scene call to mind a mother protecting her cubs, something with which I, as a woman with her own strong familial ties, identify.

The next time we see Vir in the second season (Comes the Inquisitor), Narn has fallen and G’Kar is shouting to all passerby that the Centauri are coming for them next. The crowds in the Zocalo are distinctly reluctant to accept his warnings. In fact, the only one who is listening and taking G’Kar’s words to heart is Vir, whom we see standing overhead on the catwalk. The payoff for this comes several scenes later when Vir boards a transport tube and discovers that G’Kar is the other passenger. In a thematic echo of The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari, Vir pushes through his shame and apologizes to G’Kar. And in a moment that stands among the best of the series, G’Kar turns around, slices his hand, and forces Vir to face the permanence of what the Centauri have done, leaving the sweet-natured Vir in tears.

Vir’s arc in second season closes with a light moment of camaraderie between Vir and Lennier (The Fall of Night), but on the whole, Vir’s second season cannot be considered a comedy and Vir himself cannot be considered a comic buffoon. There is too much content here for anyone to argue otherwise. The Vir drawn by the events of B5’s sophomore year is a bit innocent, confused, not terribly smooth in social situations, and not always especially confident, but he is also thoughtful, kind, fiercely protective of his friends, and surprisingly brave. In short, he’s a normal, decent young Centauri just trying to muddle through in an extraordinary world.



Published on Enemies and Allies.
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Comments

Comedy and tragedy

I never saw Londo as a comic buffoon in season 1, either. And it always angers me to read reviews of the Centauri Prime trilogy saying that they can't buy Vir's characterisation because the reviewers still see Vir "as the bumbling fool he was on the show". (Not that I don't have some serious criticism of the Centauri Prime trilogy myself, but certainly not that one.) While JMS never stopped giving either Londo or Vir funny moments (such as Vir's "what is the matter with you people?!?" outburst in The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari), he presented the more serious side of Londo pretty much from day 1, and of Vir, after some foreshadowing bits in season 1, definitely from season 2 onwards. Vir is the one character whose integrity is never compromised, something which isn't even true of Lennier or Sheridan and Delenn.

I think what might be throwing some viewers is that a)both Londo and Vir lean towards the pouchy side (in Vir's case, start as as downright fat), and sadly the tradition for "serious" characters is that they have the square-jawed hero look, plus the Centauri hair style takes some getting used to, and b)JMS giving the two of them both funny and tragic moments, in the best Shakespearean tradition, was unusual at a time when genre TV tended to separate between comic relief characters and serious heroes. (It's different now which I mostly credit to Joss Whedon.)

Grr.

And it always angers me to read reviews of the Centauri Prime trilogy saying that they can't buy Vir's characterisation because the reviewers still see Vir "as the bumbling fool he was on the show".

Oh, don't even get me started on that! Has it ever occurred to them that smuggling thousands of Narns to safety requires a considerable ability to plan and organize? And were they sleeping during The Long Night or Movements of Fire and Shadow?

I think what might be throwing some viewers is that a)both Londo and Vir lean towards the pouchy side (in Vir's case, start as as downright fat), and sadly the tradition for "serious" characters is that they have the square-jawed hero look, plus the Centauri hair style takes some getting used to

I think appearance plays a major role. And Vir has the additional disadvantage of having a soft, high pitched voice. Heroes are baritones- and they don't generally stammer or babble or fiddle with their hands either. In Vir's case, the viewers may be confusing a stumbling delivery and constant hand movements with a lack of substance.

and b)JMS giving the two of them both funny and tragic moments, in the best Shakespearean tradition, was unusual at a time when genre TV tended to separate between comic relief characters and serious heroes.

Also true. In many cases, Londo and Vir had scenes that were funny and poignant/tragic simultaneously. You laugh, but on the second level, you realize the seriousness behind it. The scene you mentioned from The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari was funny on it's face, but when you stop to think, you realize that Vir was actually very upset. Then you start thinking about why Londo's illness addled him so much and look! The elephant in the living room- namely, that there's a lot of very real passion in that relationship.

PS: Not to be a review whore, but...

... I'd be very interested to hear your impressions of the completed Missing Light. I imagine that post is way off your friends list by now, so feel free to reply here. *g* Your opinion is one I trust.

Missing Light: The Missing Sections *g*

Calling was fascinating and again, plausible. I could see Vir staying on Minbar and organizing the resistance later on. Equally, I could see Londo failing with the plot against Cartagia without Vir's support (and not just because Vir wouldn't have been there at the crucial point), though of course Londo's ensuing execution would annul his death vision. (Considering JMS himself gave us the "prophecy is just a guess which comes true; otherwise it's a metapor" line, that still works out with canon.)

Vir's ultimate failure and death without Londo's support, though, for the first time in this series, is not an inevitable consequence. Barring nasty surprises like the Drakh inflicting a keeper on Vir, I could see him successfully managing to turn the tide of events for the Centauri. However, I don't think he'd have been a happy or fulfilled person afterwards; being Vir, his guilt in regards to not having returned to Londo in time would have haunted him for the rest of his days, and he wouldn't have reached out to another person again.

This, btw, is not a criticism to your ending. Which also works but feels more like the Romeo & Juliet type of tragedy, i.e. coming about through a series of tragic circumstances, then like something coming through decisions and character alone.

The epiloge is beautiful and a gentle final note after the angst. Go you!

Thank you *g*

(Considering JMS himself gave us the "prophecy is just a guess which comes true; otherwise it's a metapor" line, that still works out with canon.)

And considering that "Needless Sacrifice" would also annul Londo's death vision...

Yes, I generally interpret the canonical prophecies as possible futures, even though, in canon, they were generally fulfilled.

Vir's ultimate failure and death without Londo's support, though, for the first time in this series, is not an inevitable consequence. Barring nasty surprises like the Drakh inflicting a keeper on Vir, I could see him successfully managing to turn the tide of events for the Centauri.

I think you're basically right on this. However, I think it would've been even harder and more dangerous for Vir to succeed without Londo, the reason being that in canon, Londo was feeding Vir inside information on the sly. I came away from reading the Legions of Fire novels believing that the bond of trust between the two of them factored pretty heavily into Vir's ultimate success:

"He was speaking to me in a code," Vir told them. "I'm positive."

"What sort of code?" Adi asked suspiciously.

"The kind of code that only two people who've known each other for years could get away with..."