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londovir- by iamsab

Episode #7 in the Era of No Vir: G'Kar's tough love and Londo's romanticism

"A Tragedy of Telepaths"

Grade: B

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!

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Bringing comfort to both of you (1)

A couple of years ago, when I was in the US for a visit, I was lucky enough to get one of the "Amazing Stories" copies which contained JMS' Londo short story, The Shadow of his Thoughts, set a few days after Londo became Emperor. It's really a love declaration to the character and provides a bit comfort with all the hurt. Three crucial parts:
1) Beginning of the story:
"The dream was the same. It was always the same. The chakat lay on the ground before him, its four legs bound by ropes, horns scratching the dry ground beneath its head. The sun was hot overhead. A voice, always the same voice, whispered from behind Londo. You know what you have to do. What you have always done Londo stared at the creature, and its gaze met his own. The eyes that looked back at him were fierce, proud, unbowed. And somehow familiar. In the dream it said to him, soundlessly and wordlessly but with absolute clarity, It is duty. You cannot fight duty.
I can't do it, Londo thought back, and looked down. The sword was in his hand. Yes, you can, it thought at him, and it struggled to raise its head, exposing its throat. Waiting for the death blow. Sobbing, Londo brought down the sword, and watched the life fade away in the creatures eyes."

In the course of the story, Londo meets a young seer, Shiri, and her ambitious and greedy mentor, Delasi.
2)"'And how long have you been a prophetess?' Londo asked. The countryside passed slowly outside the carriage.
'She has been able to see since she was barely a child of three seasons,' Delasi said.
'An advanced case, to be sure,' Londo said. 'You would almost think that a child who could see at three could be allowed to speak at sixteen.'
Delasi's lips pursed in a way Londo found most satisfying. With her silence won, for the moment at least, he looked back to Shiri.
'What can you tell me of my future, child?' he asked. (...)
Shiri considered her words carefully. 'I see little joy, and much sorrow,' she said at last. 'I see fire and death and pain. I see you betrayed by almost everyone you have ever trusted.'
'Almost everyone?'
'Your greatest enemy is also your greatest friend, and the trust you place in him is rewarded at the end of days. He is your freedom, and you are his. And in the end...' She hesitated, then forced herself to continue. 'In the end, you die in the arms of your friend, and he dies in yours, that a world might live.'
For a moment, Londo felt the world slide out from under him. The image she had described was a dream that had always been with him, the dream of his own death, in which he and G'kar of Narn ended their long and strange relationship by strangling one another to death. (...) Until this moment, he had always believed that the dream pointed to a final act of vengeance by one against the other. But now, in her words, for the first time he allowed himself the possibility of hope. That a world might live, she had said. But which world? Narn or Centauri Prime?"

That is my favourite sentence as well.

And I'm so glad JMS wrote it for Londo to hear. I think part of my problem with the Centauri Trilogy hails from reading it and this story pretty much simultanously, and while David usually is a good writer (though I maintain that by any standard, the trilogy isn't his best, not in terms of storylines but execution), nobody can write Londo the way JMS writes him.

In other news: you two have inspired me to some speculation about Sheridan-less later seasons. See lj.