The Byron situation continues to escalate as Bester is called in. The Alliance threatens to shatter due to the attacks on the shipping lanes. And in the third plot, we see Caitlin Brown's Na'Toth again in an emotional reunion. Yay!
I want to focus on this third plot because, while it was probably the least important plot in the episode, it was also very insightfully constructed. In a very short amount of time, JMS managed to summarize the entirety of Londo's character.
Londo is not soulless or sadistic or inherently amoral. He's shortsighted, he's ambitious, he carries the baggage of decades of racial hatred, and most importantly, he is weak. Listening to Londo insist that imperial orders cannot be disobeyed or countermanded, it becomes clear that Londo knows the right thing to do, but feels powerless to do it. There's the rub. There's no better soil in which the seed of evil can be planted than that of perceived powerlessness.
In this episode, we begin to see how absolutely vital G'Kar is to Londo- in fact, you almost wish someone like G'Kar had been there earlier. While Vir was certainly at Londo's side every step of the way, reminding him of the evil of what he was doing and appealing to Londo's essential goodness, Vir was also a subordinate who was altogether too gentle to forcefully press the issue. Londo needed an equal, like G'Kar, who could intimidate him- light the fire under his ass, if you will. Vir's mercy was absolutely necessary, but Londo also needed tough love- someone willing to shout in his face, "Don't tell me you can't do it!", as G'Kar did this morning. There's no motivation quite like being threatened to be burned alive.
What Londo said to G'Kar as they watched Na'Toth depart, meanwhile, strongly echoed the Londo we saw piloting that shuttle with gleeful abandon in "A Voice in the Wilderness" way back in season one. Londo has changed so much in the intervening time (as G'Kar has changed), but, poignantly, he still retains some his inner romantic (as G'Kar has retained his sexual xenophilia)- the part of him that longs to be dashing, that seeks the thrill of heroic battle, that fancies himself swooping in to save the damsel in distress and riding off into the sunset with the maiden on his arm. This is a big reason why, when all is said and done, I like Londo and feel his tragedy so keenly. If only he had come to understand sooner that he did in fact have choices- all the choices he could ever want, as he says later- I believe he had the potential to become something extraordinary. The core of nobility, the compassion, and the capability for self sacrifice were there.
Oh, Great Maker, I can feel myself getting sad again, and we haven't even gotten to the worst part yet!