Hobsonphile (hobsonphile) wrote,

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"The Fall of Centauri Prime"

Grade: A+

There are so many enduring images in this episode: G'Kar and Londo clasping arms; Vir's confusion; Delenn's goodbye; the review of Londo's life; Londo's voice and the look on his face when he told Vir he was ready and the way he steeled himself before turning away from the window; Londo's walk through the rubble to the Centaurum amid the bells honoring the dead; and Londo in the darkened throne room, alone.

It seems almost appropriate that Londo would wear white. After "The Coming of Shadows", they changed Londo's costume to the black to reflect Londo's corruption, his inner darkness. Now he is firmly in the light- he has submitted himself to 15 + years of suffering and pain to atone for his own sins and the sins of his race. As JMS says in his commentary, "Londo sacrificed himself to save the lives of *billions.*" And thus he fulfilled the very thing Varn, previous guardian of the Great Machine, had seen in Londo many years before- the capacity to sacrifice oneself for a loved one, a friend, or a cause.

Peter Jurasik's acting is absolutely *stellar* in this episode. He has always excelled in conveying Londo's emotion through his face, and "The Fall of Centauri Prime" is no exception. I *feel* Londo's anguish and all the other conflicting emotions as he prepares to take the throne, I *feel* his disgust at looking upon the Keeper, and I completely break down when I see his utterly broken expression in the end.

As promised, here is my essay on the Londo and G'Kar romance. *g* It is a compilation of things I've said in various emails plus some new thoughts.

Enemies and Allies:
Londo, G’Kar, and the Relationship that Inspired the Title of this Website.

by Hobsonphile

I have always believed that Londo and G'Kar's arc (they are joined at the hip, those two) is the emotional core- the *soul*- of Babylon 5. Whenever I cry over this show, it is, with only a few exceptions, because of these two characters. The other characters and the other storylines certainly have their moments, but no other threads consistently throb with the passion and the pain that live within these men and the relationship that evolves between them. I think if Delenn were here, she would nod in agreement when I say that, in a strange way, Londo and G'Kar are soul mates, destined to struggle, to fight, to bleed, to seek redemption, and ultimately to die together. G'Kar knows Londo better than anyone else (except, possibly, Vir), and vice versa. At the risk of fomenting controversy, I believe Londo and G’Kar, even when they despised each other, had more chemistry in their earliest scenes than Sheridan and Delenn ever achieved in their multi-year romance.

So Very Much Alike

“My people… we have a way, you see. We know how, and sometimes even when, we are going to die. Comes in a dream, eh? In my dream, I am an old man, it’s twenty years from now, and I am dying… my hands wrapped around someone’s throat, and his around mine. We have squeezed the life out of each other. The first time I saw G’Kar, I recognized him as the one from the dream. It will happen- twenty years from now, we will die, our hands around each other’s throats.”

-Londo, “Midnight on the Firing Line”

And thus, the unity of Londo and G’Kar is established. It is interesting, really, how very *similar* Londo and G’Kar are in the very beginning. They are both focused on vengeance, both fiery and passionate patriots, and both untrustworthy and rather libidinous. To the eternal frustration of Commander Sinclair, they are both unwilling to cede ground, to bury the hatchet and seek peace between their peoples.

G’Kar, however, is the ambassador with the clear advantage in the first year. G’Kar is a member of the Narn ruling body. The Narn are on the rise and are enthusiastically taking advantage of the Centauri’s concurrent decline. G’Kar blackmails Londo in the pilot and the Narn very nearly get away with the attack on Ragesh III. Sensing this power asymmetry and deeply resenting it, Londo fights back using petty disrespect. In “Born to the Purple,” Sinclair has to chase Londo down in one of the station’s clubs to remind him of his duties regarding the negotiations over the disputed Euphrates sector, and even after this chastisement, he keeps everyone waiting for over an hour the next morning while he enjoys the company of Adira. In fact, one gets the impression that throughout the first year, Londo spent more time drinking and gambling than engaging in constructive diplomatic activity. In “By Any Means Necessary,” Londo taunts G’Kar with his G’Quan Eth, mocking his rival’s religion and ignoring even Sinclair’s entreaties until Sinclair brings down the force of import law and the Holy Days of G’Quan are at an end. A joke among his own people, the only instrument Londo possesses to exact his own revenge is irritation- he incessantly pushes G’Kar’s buttons. It is the arrival of Morden that radically changes this dynamic, as Londo is given a dangerous, overwhelming power he did not previously possess.

Enter Morden

“What do I want? The Centauri stripped my world. I want justice.”
“What do you want?”
“To suck the marrow from their bones. To grind their skulls to powder!”
“What do you want?”
“To tear down their cities, blacken their sky, sow their ground with salt! To completely, utterly erase them!”
“And then what?”
“I don't know! As long as my homeworld's safety is guaranteed, I don't know that it matters.”

-G’Kar and Morden, “Signs and Portents”

“All right. Fine! You really want to know what I want? You really want to know the truth? I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy! I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars! I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power! I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or to look forward! I want us to be what we used to be! I want - I want it all back the way that it was! Does that answer your question?”

-Londo, “Signs and Portents”

Londo and G’Kar both answer Morden’s question- they are the only two ambassadors who do- but it is Londo’s answer, with its more unfocused, more nebulous ambition, that is most compatible with the goals of the Shadows. G’Kar is very fortunate that he is not selected, for there is every indication that he would’ve used the power offered by the Shadows to realize his genocidal vision.

But it is in “The Coming of Shadows” that Londo and G’Kar’s paths, while still intimately tied to one another, truly begin to diverge. G’Kar readies himself to assassinate the visiting Centauri emperor and thus exact his revenge, but in another stroke of good fortune, Emperor Turhan’s hearts give out and he collapses before G’Kar can strike the fatal blow. G’Kar, of course, sees this as a disappointing inconvenience until Dr. Franklin brings him the message that Turhan had come to apologize to the Narn. For the very first time, G’Kar sees hope where before he saw only blood.

Meanwhile, Londo, who has now attracted the attention of a group of ambitious men in the royal court and who is now in possession of a massively large gun, makes his first truly conscious choice to use the Shadows to strike the Narn. Throughout the episode, it is very clear that Lord Refa makes Londo feel profoundly uncomfortable and Londo’s own actions make him feel profoundly guilty, yet the opportunity to achieve his vision is a temptation that proves to powerful for the weaker Londo to resist.

With G’Kar suddenly hopeful that a century of racial hatred can be transcended and Londo acutely aware of what is to come, we have one of the earliest defining scenes of their relationship: G’Kar gleefully buys Londo a drink and a horrified and guilty Londo accepts. In one moment, a painful “might-have-been” is brought into sharp relief. A chance for genuine peace has been lost.

The Narn/Centauri War is a powerful arc because it is all so very *personal* for both Londo and G’Kar. Fellow writer Selena recently observed that the first thing G’Kar latched onto in his rage upon learning of the attack on Quadrant 14 was *Londo’s betrayal*. In a similar fashion, after the bombing of Narn, it is *G’Kar* upon whom Londo focuses his aggression and shame. It is fascinating how Londo and G’Kar are so strongly focused on each other even as their relationship evolves from bitter dislike to true, and sometimes violent, hatred. It is interesting too how each and every turning point in the lives of both characters seems to hinge upon their relationship with the other.

Epiphanies and Necessary Alliances

In “Dust to Dust,” G’Kar has hit the very bottom of his well of desperation. Seeking any means to drive the Centauri from his world and end the increasingly brutal occupation, G’Kar takes a drug that enhances his telepathic abilities, beats Londo almost to death, and rapes Londo’s mind. He gains an emotional advantage in this violent encounter in learning the root of Londo’s shame, and, even more importantly, in receiving a revelation from Kosh that drastically changes his outlook for the rest of the series.

“We are a dying people, G’Kar. So are the Centauri. Obsessed with each other’s death until death is all we can see and death is all we deserve.”
“The Centauri started it.”
“And will you continue until there are no more Narns and no more Centauri? If both sides are dead, no one will care which side deserves the blame. It no longer matters who started it, G’Kar. It only matters who is suffering.”

-“Dust to Dust”

Understanding now that personal vengeance must take a back seat to greater concerns, G’Kar is now truly ready to make the sacrifices necessary to save his people, including putting aside his hatred and forging necessary alliances with his enemy.

Throughout the third season, Londo has gradually come to learn the terrible price the Shadows demand for their help. He has lost loved ones. He has lost much of his soul. And as the fourth season opens, he is now in danger of losing his homeworld, the very thing for which he embarked upon this dark path to begin with. Now determined to set things right, Londo includes Vir in a conspiracy of equals to kill the mad Emperor Cartagia. G’Kar lands in the middle of this conspiracy when he is captured by Centauri guards in “Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?” and delivered to Londo as a gift.

The scene that follows is another defining moment: Londo drafts G’Kar in the plot to assassinate Cartagia and in return, he agrees to free Narn. This scene, and all the other scenes between Londo and G’Kar in the early fourth season arc, are absolutely stunning in their quiet intensity. In all of these scenes, we see G’Kar’s power over Londo, despite being the prisoner, and the first signs of genuine sympathy and concern for G’Kar from Londo.

“… And eventually, as they make a mountain of your parts and pieces, you will die.”
“Does this please you?”
“No. No, it doesn’t. Once… long ago… No, not even then. You have never been a friend to me, G’Kar. But what he would do to you, I would not wish on anyone.”

-“Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?”

Londo’s turn to the light began when he followed through on his bargain with G'Kar and freed Narn. That was move that he *knew* would win him political enemies, and it was a move that he could very well have backed out of. G'Kar actually made a stunning leap of faith in agreeing to this bargain in the first place, and Londo *honored that faith* and kept his promise at political cost to himself.

Following this comes a slow and painful rebuilding of a shattered relationship. My younger brother, who is also a fan, looks at me cross-eyed whenever I assert that Londo and G'Kar completely upstage the battle at Proxima 3 in “No Surrender, No Retreat,” but I have always believed that the strength of Babylon 5 lies in those two person, character-driven moments. And when those moments are brought to life by actors with the talent of Katsulas and Jurasik, so much the better! The scene in which Londo proposes an alliance between the Centauri and the Narn intended to assist Sheridan in his war with Earth is truly one of Jurasik's finest moments in a whole slew of fine moments. Watching Jurasik as Londo struggling with his feelings of guilt and his sincere desire to repent, but also with that tenacious strain of personal pride that stops *just* short of saying sorry... the bursts of self-justifying frustration, the way he can't quite maintain eye-contact with his old enemy, the catches in his voice... it is truly a wonder to behold. And that brief scene in the episode tag, when G'Kar agrees to put aside old resentments (though not entirely) for the greater cause, is also stellar. The look on Londo's face in that moment- all the emotions that flicker through his expression in that *one* take- is just breath-taking. It is a first step- gradually, Londo and G’Kar become comfortable with each other, if perhaps not entirely willing to call themselves friends. They settle into a routine of cordial sparring, two old men who have been through so much together, have seen each other in their weakest moments, and have spilled so much blood between them that the prospect of more hatred is simply too exhausting to accept.

Love and Grace

Just as G’Kar’s revelation depends upon his relationship with Londo, Londo’s own epiphany in “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari” depends upon Londo’s relationship with G’Kar. With Londo near death due to a failure of his left heart, Londo and G’Kar meet in Londo’s mind once more, G’Kar being the manifestation of Londo’s conscience. In another fiery, violent encounter, Londo’s-conscience-as-G’Kar forces Londo to come to terms with his own sin. At last, Londo breaks down in his dream and awakens from his coma whispering an apology to the real world G’Kar. From here, Londo and G’Kar’s relationship continues to deepen, helped along by Delenn’s surprise assignment of G’Kar as Londo’s bodyguard.

Londo loves his homeworld in a very real but also very abstract sense. But his vision, his increasing power, has alienated him from the people he has *sold his soul* to serve. He has very few real friends among the Centauri. Londo himself actually observes this explicitly in "The Hour of the Wolf" in his conversation with Vir: "It is a terrible truth that as one accumulates power, one loses friends. One only has those who wish to use you, and those you wish to use." And G'Kar, ever perceptive, notices this in "Wolf" as well- in his opening narration, he calls Londo the "loneliest man in the universe."

I think this is a major element in Londo's drive to seek companionship with G'Kar, because G'Kar *understands* that alienation. G'Kar himself is a leader among his own people- and yet is apart from them. When Narn is free at last in “The Long Night,” G'Kar stands before his people, who are heady with freedom, and finds a lack of comprehension of what he has learned and what he has suffered.

Londo and G'Kar's stars are on different tracks, but they are both gaining influence at this point in the story. And this is bringing them very closely together. They tease and banter and seek each other out to alleviate the isolation of power. And this bond persists until the very end, when Londo's star takes a tragic turn.

G'Kar's role as things begin to go very wrong for Londo and the Centauri is incredible. He essentially becomes Londo's only ally (save Vir). The scene when G'Kar stops by Londo's quarters in "And All My Dreams..." and tells Londo that he will not testify (even though he did see, as he reminds Londo, that things were very wrong on Centauri Prime), that he has no intention of becoming a spy for others, and that his mission is to be a guardian for Londo is one scene among many that make me cry in this final stretch.

Somewhere along the line, Londo and G’Kar have moved from hating, to tolerating, to *loving* each other, and their protectiveness of each other in Londo’s final months as a free man are deeply touching.

“The warrior in me is protecting your body, but the Narn in me has decided that your spirit is the most in need of protection.”

-G’Kar, “The Ragged Edge”

“I told them, where you go, I go. It has become a matter of principle.”

-Londo, “Movements of Fire and Shadow”

Consider: When the Narn and the Drazi begin their assault on Centauri Prime in “The Fall of Centauri Prime,” *the first thing Londo does is save G’Kar’s life*.

The final significant scene between Londo and G'Kar in “The Fall of Centauri Prime” is the Best. Scene. Ever. Period. *Nothing* in the entire run of Babylon 5 makes me cry as hard as this final meeting. We have Londo in despair, his voice husky and threatening to break, mystified at the strength of the emotion he feels for G'Kar, yet unable to deny those feelings:

"After tonight, I don't know that I shall ever see you again. And I wanted to... say goodbye. I don't know why that should be important to me now, at a time like this, but it is."

And then we have the warning that Londo will not be the man he is now:

"In the months and the years to come, you may hear strange things about me, my behavior. Well... they say the position... changes you..."

And then we have the reflection upon Londo's life to this date, one of the definitive quotes of the series:

"Isn't it strange, G'Kar? When we first met, I had no power, and all the choices I could ever want. Now I have all the power I could ever want, and no choices at all. No choice at all."

And then we have G'Kar's forgiveness and the clasping of arms- the very last sweet moment in Londo’s life.

Full Circle

In the very first episode of the series following the pilot, we are told that Londo and G’Kar die strangling each other. We are lead to believe that this will come out of hate… until “War Without End.”

In “War Without End,” the truth is revealed: that Londo will *ask* G’Kar to kill him, an act of sacrifice to save his world. It is a stunning reversal of expectations, but one we come to understand by the end of Babylon 5’s fifth season.

Londo’s death is an act of love- Londo’s trust in G’Kar, G’Kar’s love of Londo, and Londo’s love of Centauri Prime.

“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.”

-“The Shadow of His Thoughts”

This has been posted in an update of Enemies and Allies along with an essay and the Timov story by selenak and a Vir story by neuralclone.
Tags: babylon 5, e&a

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