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Z'ha'dum [Season 3 Finale]

This episode is a masterpiece in its own right, and it's up there with Severed Dreams. The viewer is thinking back to Shadow Dancing - who is this person going up to Sheridan's quarters, huh? And, more importantly, how the hell did she get in? I know I'd lock the door if I had Delenn in for the night.

It's Anna Sheridan. Possibly the last person we were expecting. "The humans have a phrase...what is past is prologue… The Minbari also have a phrase, what is past is also sometimes fate." True enough - the past has come back to haunt Sheridan, and it's payback time.

I've got to say, for a loving wife, if we believe what we've been told, Anna Sheridan is pretty harsh for a first meeting. It's been five years since she went, does she expect John to wait for her forever? I suppose she expects Delenn should have told John, but why didn't she? She seems awfully confrontational - I am human, and I can prove it.

These thermonuclear mines G'kar has got. It's nice to see JMS doesn't give into technobabble. Nuclear weapons should be perfectly good to destroy anything, and we don't need any quantum torpedoes with phase shifting thingymajigs.

So it appears Anna is actually Anna. These scars are somewhat suspicious, and at the time I was screaming out to the TV 'She's a Shadow, the scars, the scars!' On reflection, her DNA sequence is completely correct, so is her physical appearance and, according to Franklin, every test agrees. You got to admit that a few scars aren't much compared to every test Franklin's got.

Naturally, John is not happy about this, and he argues that Delenn should have told him about Anna, and given him the choice to go to Z'ha'dum or not. The thing is, if Sheridan did know that Anna was on Z'ha'dum alive, he would have gone off like a shot and been killed as well. It was a hard choice for Delenn to make, but the right one.

You got to pity Londo. He's a nice guy most of the time, it's just that he's been presented with a series of difficult choices. He's tried to get away from the Shadows once, who simply took him back again, and now he's being sent back to the homeworld. The messenger makes it pretty clear that Babylon 5 is going to be attacked, and the viewer knows there's not much Babylon 5 can do against a concerted Shadow attack.

Anna isn't very forthcoming about what happened to her, but Sheridan manages to find out that they bargained with the Shadows to keep their lives. The Shadows were of course very weak, even though they were controlling event from Season 1. Well, there you go. "Delenn, Kosh and the others have mislead you again and again. It's time to learn the truth." Does she expect Sheridan to believe her just like that? Oh - Delenn's only kept all her promises and, hmm, Kosh has died fighting the Shadows. So of course they're all lying, and Anna is completely trustworthy. Sheridan manages to put up a good performance of being convinced by her, as the more astute viewers will realise he already knew Anna had been transformed by the Shadows. A cunning man (… as cunning as a fox from Oxford University).

Sheridan has obviously put something quite nasty on the White Star, and it's going to be those mine they were talking about at the beginning. It's all set, and Sheridan sends a time-delay message to Delenn. The J+Ders know that they'll get back together, no problems. Even if, as Kosh says, 'If you go to Z'ha'dum you will die."

They get to Z'ha'dum with little hassle, and get down to the human quarters. But what is behind that locked door Sheridan's not allowed to go through? Maybe some Shadows? Who knows.

Unfortunately, Sheridan seems to be too cunning for his own good. He reckons that if he goes to Z'ha'dum, Centauri Prime wouldn't be destroyed. But (there was going to be a but) she would only tell him not to go to Z'ha'dum if he actually did go. Or else she wouldn't have had to. I think.

You can tell that Anna, Justin and Morden have carefully prepared this conversation. The back and forth, reinforcing each other's points proves it. And what they're saying makes sense. Precipitating conflict will undoubtedly advance technology. The Shadows are looking at the big picture, and who cares if a few people get killed? If the Shadows had their way, the galaxy would be continually at war. The Vorlons have, on the other hand, manipulated the galaxy from the background. They're just as bad, but that doesn't make the Shadows any better. It's a case of the lesser of two evils at the moment.

Shadow ships arrive at Babylon 5. Not a lot, but more than enough to destroy the station. You can't intercept slicer-beams. About their communications being jammed so they can't get through to Draal - why don't they just use that fancy laser narrow band device? Frankly, I wonder if we'll ever get to see Draal's wondrous technology. I suppose that JMS doesn't really want to use deus ex machina like Star Trek, or else we'd see Draal just destroying everything that comes near B5 in the last few seconds.

They don't want to kill Sheridan. If they did, they could have done it years ago on the Station. No, he's a nexus (critics of Sheridan on Deconstruction of Falling Stars should take note). He can't be killed and turned into a martyr. He can take the hard choice and fight against the Shadows, or he can just join them. Then Sheridan reveals that he knows about Anna. So, the Shadows decide to give up being nice and take him by force. Which is when he quickly gets out.

Uh oh - two nuclear mines are missing. I wonder where they've gone…

The Shadows' city looks pretty damn cool. Looking up at the ceiling, he realises he can get the White Star in. Very cunning.

When Sheridan sees the Shadow city, it's as if he's seeing insurmountable, awesome foes. What can he do? The music reflects the terrible majesty of the sight. But the run up to the very end is one of unspeakable sadness. It begins slowly, quietly, the descending White Star flying its last flight. The music shows his awful dilemma, but then it betrays him. We know what's going to happen. He's got to die. There's nothing to save him now.

The music echoes his predicament - no time, no choices. He has a choice, to join the Shadows, or to die. Maybe it sounds like an easy choice, but not when the price both ways is your life. He jumps. The White Star crashes down through the ceiling in an incredible set-piece, and the city is wiped out. The Shadows flee Babylon 5.

It's a moment of revelation, and a moment of transition. Everything hangs in balance, waiting. Sheridan has gone, and Mr. Garibaldi has disappeared. "Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril, we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain." I'll never get tired of watching Babylon 5 if JMS can keep this up.

This was the other episode I bought the soundtrack CD for, and really, it was only for the last 3 minutes when Sheridan is in the Shadow city.

One very small gripe. When Anna is talking with Justin and Morden, did anyone notice how after she stopped talking, her face went into a peculiar smirk? It's very strange.

Arc Rating: 10

What do you expect? Could there be a greater arc than this, where the plans of the Shadows are revealed?

Episode Rating: 10

A true contender to Severed Dreams for the Hugo award. It's a shame they can't award two Hugo awards for Babylon, such was the quality of this episode.