Hobsonphile (hobsonphile) wrote,

Londo and Vir, Part Two

Apologies for the delay- here is part two of the Londo and Vir essay. It has been published (with pictures) at Enemies and Allies.

Away from the Fold

As the second year comes to a close and the third year opens, not only has Vir come to love Londo in a troubled, very complex fashion, but Londo has come to love Vir in return. This, however, presents a problem for Londo, who is at this point so deep in the pit that the light seems very far away indeed. Vir is speaking his mind with even greater relentlessness, and while the younger Centauri remains loyal, disappointment is ever present in his eyes. Everything in Vir’s demeanor says “You are better than this,” and it is this expectation that cuts to the bone more than anything. Convinced that his damnation is pre-determined and no longer able to stand Vir’s reproachful gaze, Londo does the only thing he thinks he can do- he puts Vir away from him and convinces himself that he is doing it for Vir’s benefit.

“Over the past two years, to my considerable surprise, I find I have grown very fond on Vir. Sometimes in his eyes I see a younger version of myself before… Well, he would be better off away from here. Away from what must be. He would only get in the way.”
“I think, perhaps, you need him.”
“Need? No, I don’t need anyone. He is an inconvenience to me- a blight, a pox, a stone around my neck. Here, I give him to you.”

-Londo and Delenn, “A Day in the Strife”

“Londo, if I leave, you’ll be alone.”
“Pah. I have always been alone.”

-Vir and Londo, “A Day in the Strife”

Delenn in her wisdom understands what is happening, and Vir does as well. It is with great reluctance that Vir accepts the position on Minbar. Poignantly, as Vir departs, he keeps looking back at Londo as if to ask, “Will you be okay? Really?” Londo nods, but as he walks away from customs, we know he won’t be.

The process of Vir’s belated adolescence continues on Minbar. His horizons are broadened, he comes to appreciate the Minbari as a people, and, as we find out later, he is empowered in his new position to act on his beliefs. But with this growth seems to come a new determination to fight for Londo’s soul.

“A darkness carried in the heart cannot be cured by moving the body from one place to another. I don’t think there is anything that can be done for him now.”
“That’s because you don’t know him. One day he will surprise you.”

-Lennier and Vir, “Dust to Dust”

In “Dust to Dust,” we are given another extended chance to evaluate the state of Londo and Vir’s relationship. Interestingly, while Vir’s confidence is rising daily, he still seems somewhat dependent upon Londo’s affirmation. He brings his reports to his mentor, and, predictably, frustration results (This becomes the running joke of the early-mid third season). One wonders whether Vir might be attempting, subconsciously, to steer Londo towards his point of view. But touchingly, despite the increasing rockiness of the relationship, he stands before Delenn and Lennier and declares his faith in Londo- his belief that Londo will find the light again. And, after both Londo and Vir are assaulted by G’Kar, Vir gets out of his bed in Med Lab, ignoring his own injuries, to stay by Londo’s side.

The final scene between Londo and Vir in “Dust to Dust” is heartrendingly sad. You almost wish Vir could stay a few more days. Because as much as Londo may verbally deny it, he *does* need Vir very much- especially at this point, as he works through the shame G’Kar’s mind rape has brought to the surface. But Vir has own his responsibilities and his own life to live, and Londo acknowledges this to some degree with an incredible parting gift:

“Good. Good. They are seeing the value of your position. It should never be a joke to them, Vir. Never let them think that.”
“I won’t”

-Londo and Vir, “Dust to Dust”

Londo gives Vir the one thing we have just learned he has never received- the belief that one’s life and one’s work *matter to someone*.

However, the acknowledgement is not complete, for while Londo’s affection for Vir is very real, he still cannot quite see Vir as anything other than his protégé. This belief is challenged as the third season continues, first by Lady Morella’s prophecy, which leaves Londo and Vir amusingly suspicious of each other for a time, and second by the exposure of Vir’s activities as Abrahamo Lincolni.

“Sic Transit Vir,” to my mind a vastly under-rated episode, finds Londo once again in the father role. For one scene, we are thrown back to an earlier version of Londo- he can barely contain his glee as he introduces the unsuspecting Vir to his new fiancée. (I feel my own rush of maternal affection when, in his shyness, Vir attempts to hide behind Londo’s hair. *g*) This paternalism takes on a darker edge, however, when Londo learns of Vir’s efforts to aide the Narn:

“Well, I suppose it is my fault as much as yours. I was foolish in sending you to Minbar before I had finished your training. You fell in with bad company- free thinkers, anarchists, Minbari. They took advantage of your naivete. Well, it happens. Sometimes the bird leaves the nest and flies away. And sometimes it falls onto its beak and needs to be helped back into the nest for awhile. That is you.”

-Londo to Vir, “Sic Transit Vir”

What’s interesting about this scene is not Londo’s protracted scolding so much as Vir’s reaction. Where before Vir might’ve been completely cowed by Londo’s tongue lashing, he now sits in a not particularly apologetic silence. The days of Vir’s unstinting obedience are over. And as we come to see in “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place,” Londo, on some level, has come to realize this as well. Londo knew upon launching his scheme to dispatch Refa that Vir would probably have to be threatened ruthlessly if he was to comply.

I Thought I Knew You

There’s some dispute in my mind as to when precisely Londo hits rock bottom. Part of me believes bottom comes in “The Long, Twilight Struggle” with the bombing of Narn and the humiliation of G’Kar. Part of me believes bottom comes in “A Day in the Strife” with Londo taunting Na’Far and sending Vir away in an attempt to hide from his own conscience. And part of me believes bottom comes after the murder of Adira in “Interludes and Examinations,” when Londo rekindles his association with Mr. Morden and arranges Refa’s death in an attempt to avenge her.

To put it in the most blunt manner possible, in “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place,” Londo threatens Vir and his house, forces Vir to lie for him, and sets Vir up to be mentally assaulted by a telepath- and he does all this in the name of vengeance.

“You used me.”
“Of course I used you. I knew Refa had a telepath with him.”
“Londo, they could’ve killed me!”
“Nonsense, you’re not important enough to kill.”
“But I’m important enough for you to lie to! I thought I knew you, Londo, but I guess I never really did know you, did I?”

-Vir and Londo, “And the Rock…”

Londo’s actions in “And the Rock…” could have utterly destroyed his relationship with Vir. Recall that what Vir needs most is to feel that he is needed and trusted, and Vir’s anger becomes even more understandable. In essence, what Londo has done, whether he intended it or not, is imply that Vir *is* dispensable given an appropriate cause. *This* is what hurts Vir more than anything. It’s not that Londo is capable of manipulating people, and it’s not that Londo is capable of seeing to someone’s grisly demise. Vir knows these things already. It’s that Londo would be so willing to betray Vir’s trust.

It is a true testament to Vir’s strength and compassionate character that *even this* does not drive him to abandon his friend. However, there *is* a disturbing finality to his words in that last scene. Though Vir remains at Londo’s side, one senses the end of an era in their relationship, a sensation that grows more acute as the fourth season begins.

A Conspiracy of Equals

“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 yet, through all of this, you have somehow managed to walk through the corridors of power and not be touched. I can only assume you have not been paying attention. But still, the hideous truth is, you are the closest thing I have to a friend. I am as shocked and dismayed by this as you are, but there it is. I need a friend, Vir, and I need a patriot, and you are both. Will you help me?”
“If you had any doubt what my answer would be, would you have asked me to come this far?”

-Londo and Vir, “The Hour of the Wolf”

How Londo and Vir achieve a reconciliation after the conflict in “And the Rock…” remains unknown. But it is clear from the above scene that Londo’s impression of Vir has changed remarkably. Londo does not order Vir to assist him in the conspiracy to assassinate Emperor Cartagia- he *asks* him to as a friend. And Vir is clearly touched to be treated with such respect and regard. The significance of this shift cannot be overstated.

The traumas of the early fourth season forge the relationship between Londo and Vir into something even deeper, more poignant, and fiercer than before. As author Selena has observed, for the first time, the two Centauri find themselves working towards a common goal- ridding Centauri Prime of the Shadows’ influence. Londo begins to turn away from the evils of his past, and Vir ages at least a decade in the space of six episodes.

“The Long Night” has always been a favorite, particularly because of the Centauri-Narn arc. The “parade” of G’Kar ending with G’Kar breaking his chains through sheer determination is, of course, a powerfully enduring image. (Londo says in Armies of Light and Dark that “it may well be the most remarkable thing that ever was,” and I don’t think that is excessively hyperbolic.) But the story on Narn is also defined by the two major scenes between Londo and Vir, the first endearingly funny and the other sweet and sad.

"How fast does the poison work?"
"Very quickly, he said almost instantaneously."
"'Almost'? How fast is almost? Time enough for him to stagger back into the main room and cry out: 'Londo killed me'? Or maybe just enough time for him to say: 'Londo kill… aargh'?"
"And then he won't even get that out, I mean, maybe he’ll just go: 'Lon… arrgh'. Or maybe he'll be totally delirious and then say everything backwards and say: 'Kill Londo! Arrgh'… I was just making a play on…"
"Well, it's time."

-Londo and Vir, “The Long Night”

I’ve always found the above scene to be so emotionally true, especially for the inexperienced Vir. Anxiety can induce funny things, including oddly-placed hysteria.

“Don’t you know that all I ever wanted was just a good job… A small title, nothing fancy… Maybe a wife I could love… maybe even one who could actually love someone like me. I never wanted to be here… I never wanted to know the things that I know, or to do… To do the things that I’ve done.”
“I know… I know, Vir. I never wanted you in that hole. I never wanted you to… I remember when you first arrived on Babylon 5. You were so… full of life… innocent. I was not kind to you. I treated you poorly. I think that I did that because I was… envious of you. Envious that you had come so far and yet were still… innocent, in your way. You still believed. I, on the other hand… I cannot tell you that your pain will ever go away. I cannot tell you that you will ever forget his face. I can only tell you that it was necessary. You may have helped to save our people. You did a hard thing… but you still have your heart, and your heart is a good one. You would not be in such great pain otherwise. It means… there is still hope for you. And for that… I find I still envy you.”

-Vir and Londo, “The Long Night”

The above is a wonderful, *wonderful* scene with stellar performances by Peter Jurasik *and* Stephen Furst, who generally gets fewer opportunities to display his acting chops. Not only does this scene serve to define the true strength of and the profound affection within the relationship between Londo and Vir, it is also *the* pivotal moment in Vir's mini-arc. There is a difference between innocence and *virtue,* and Vir's story is about revealing that difference. Vir arrives an innocent- untested, naive, obedient, and uncommonly gentle, but not truly *virtuous* because he has never really seen evil and has never been presented with the choice between evil and good. Throughout the first three years, we see Vir start to go through a profound transition from the innocent to the virtuous man- arguing with Londo, then apologizing to G'Kar, then *acting* on behalf of the Narns as Abrahamo Lincolni, etc. This scene in the early fourth season marks the *end* of the transition in a moving and painful way. *Here*, Vir becomes an adult at last. But, as often occurs when one grows up, Vir grieves for the loss of the innocence and the simplicity of his childhood. And Londo, like many parents, grieves for the loss as well.

As I’ve mentioned before, Londo is an old romantic at heart. He believes in true love, no matter how many times he publicly tries to deny it. He dreams of chivalry, heroes, bravery and past glories- he has a touchingly wistful line way back in the first season in "A Voice in the Wilderness" that encapsulates this marvelously:

"When I was a young and foolish Centauri, I *swore* that I would die on my feet doing something noble and brave and futile. Perhaps that was not so wild a dream as I thought. Or as foolish."

-Londo, “A Voice in the Wilderness”

I have no doubt that in all of his studies of human culture, our heroic epics would resonate with Londo the most.

The romantic in Londo desperately wants to preserve Vir *as is*- "full of life… innocent." He doesn’t want Vir to become like him- old, jaded, hopeless, and doomed. As he says to Delenn in the early third season before sending Vir to Minbar, "Sometimes, when I look into his eyes, I see a younger version of myself, before…" I think a big part of him believes that in saving Vir, perhaps, in an odd way, he is saving what *he* was. I'm sure it tears at Londo's heart here to see Vir attempting to drown his sorrow in drink in a sad parody of himself- the last thing he wants is for Vir to follow in his footsteps. But the Universe doesn't allow one to preserve another like a butterfly under glass, no matter how hard you fight to do so.

Further ensuring that the bond between Londo and Vir will be eternal is the events in “Into the Fire,” particularly their shared moment of terror as the Vorlon planet killer eclipses their sun. I think Selena’s treatment of this is the perfect treatment. In this moment, we see a relationship defined by honesty (although it saddens him to do so, Vir does not back down from pointing out that Londo has been corrupted as well) and trust (in a stunningly noble moment, Londo asks Vir to kill him for the sake of their planet). Although Londo’s paternal feeling never completely disappears, by the time Londo and Vir share a sweetly awkward hug at the end of “Into the Fire,” their relationship is quite firmly one between two adults.

We get one more chance in the fourth season to reflect upon the maturity of the relationship between Londo and Vir in “No Surrender, No Retreat”:

“I don’t always like the way Londo does things… well, me and most civilized worlds, but you know, sometimes he’s right. So I force myself to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

-Vir to Garibaldi, “No Surrender, No Retreat”

This is not blind faith or loyalty. This is open-eyed, unconditional love.

An Eternal Love: The Later Years

“Do you want to live?”
“What difference does it make? Is there anyone back home who truly cares if I live or die?”
“Almost certainly not.”

-Londo/Delenn and Londo, “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari”

“You must let go of this, or you will die here, alone, now.”
“Perhaps that is for the best then.”
“No. Not for the best.”
“Why not?”
“Because… I will miss you.”
“And I suppose… that I would miss you.”

-Londo/Vir and Londo, “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari”

The larger drama of “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari” deals with Londo coming to terms with and atoning for his sin. But there is something else going on here too. Londo is coming to terms with the fact the he *matters* to someone- so much so that he is *obligated* to face the demands of his own conscience and survive. It is Londo’s subconscious awareness of Vir’s love for him that ultimately spurs him to “turn around.”

Does Vir even know how much of an impact his love has had on Londo?

The relationship between Londo and Vir is somewhat eclipsed by the relationship between Londo and G’Kar during the rest of the fifth season, but we are still treated to glimpses of its strength. For example:

Vir being willing to accompany Londo to Centauri Prime in “And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder” without a second thought;

Vir rushing to Centauri Prime to make sure Londo was all right in “The Fall of Centauri Prime”- in fact, being so desperate to see him that he almost knocks *G’Kar* over in the hallway (Interestingly, this scene suggests that the relationship by this point has achieved such a degree of openness that it is not unusual for Vir to walk into Londo’s room without announcement.);

And Vir trusting that Londo had a “good reason” for delivering the speech he did in “The Fall of Centauri Prime.”

The Legions of Fire trilogy continues the relationship between Londo and Vir in much greater detail than the fifth season provides- and, with Londo now under the control of the Drakh via the Keeper, the events in these novels put the relationship to some very severe tests. While I don’t believe all the elements in the Legions of Fire series were equally effective, I was very touched by how willing both characters were to risk life and limb on behalf of the other. Again and again, despite repeated warnings from Londo and from the technomages, Vir’s thoughts return to saving Londo. And Londo in return fights to protect Vir at all costs.

“He stood over Vir’s prostrate form, and naturally, as he had already expected would occur, Shiv’kala emerged from his state of perpetual hiding. Never had the Drakh seemed more grave than he was at that moment. ‘This one must die,’ Shiv’kala said.
‘No,’ Londo said.
‘Pleading will not help.’
‘That was not a plea. That was a statement.’
Shiv’kala looked at him with pure danger in his face. ‘Do not defy me.’
Without a word, Londo crossed the room to a sword hanging on the wall- ornamental but nonetheless lethal. He pulled it from its sheath and turned to face the Drakh. He held the sword firmly in his right hand. His intent for its use was clear.
‘I defy you,’ said Londo. ‘I will kill you if I have to.’”

-The Long Night of Centauri Prime

“’…So… swear to me that you will not speak of these matters again. That you will return to Babylon 5, and keep your head out of the line of fire. Can you swear that to me, Vir?’
Vir gave it a long moment’s thought.
‘No. I’m sorry, Londo… I can’t,’ he said finally. ‘I will never stop hoping that you retreat from the road that you’re walking. I will never stop searching for a means to turn you away from it. And I will never stop being your friend… even if, eventually, I find I have become your enemy.’
At which point Vir firmly expected that the manacles would be reattached to his hands, and that he would be tossed back into his cell, to be forgotten by all.
Instead, Londo smiled. Then he patted Vir on the shoulder and said, ‘Close enough.’”

-The Long Night of Centauri Prime

“’Londo cannot be trusted. It’s that simple.’
‘It’s more complicated than that,’ Vir shot back. ‘Despite everything that’s gone on- in fact, now that I know the truth, it’s more like, because of everything that’s gone on- Londo is my friend. He-‘
‘He cannot be trusted,’ Galen said, indicating that the subject did not warrant discussing.
‘It’s not just a matter of trust. We need to help him.’
‘You wish to help him? Kill him.’
The cold-bloodedness of the suggestion was horrifying to Vir. ‘Kill him. Just like that,’ he echoed with incredulity.
‘Just like that, yes.’
‘I, personally, don’t expect you to do that, Vir,’ Gwynn said with a glance to Galen, ‘but, in many ways, you would be doing him a great favor.’
‘Forget it. He’s my friend.’”

-Armies of Light and Dark

Although the mages were right in the sense that killing Londo would’ve saved him from many years of suffering, I believe Vir’s dedication ultimately led to the best result. Vir’s resistance depended upon access to inside information- inside information that Londo, in his own covert way, provided. It also depended upon Vir’s life being preserved, something else that may not have happened without Londo being alive and willing to risk torture to safeguard Vir’s person. The mages didn’t “get” it, but Vir, crucially, did. In a sense, it was the love between Londo and Vir- the closeness and trust that they shared- that saved Centauri Prime.

In other news, I've learned over the past few days that it is possible to get into a raging flame war with people online about the weather of all things. A lot of people get really testy about their hurricane forecasts, it seems.
Tags: babylon 5, e&a

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