MIDNIGHT ON THE FIRING LINE:
A big improvement on the pilot already with the addition of Claudia Christian to the cast as well as the addition of Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters. Its interesting to see how cold Ivanova is towards Talia considering where their relationship ends up and I have to think this was also planned by JMS because it works so well. Its also interesting to see the fun-loving Londo Mollari who does wish for greater glory for the Centauri Republic but in the meantime spends his time partying, gambling and drinking heavily and generally being friendly to everyone even if he's obnoxious about it. While in contrast G'Kar is shown to be bitter, driven for revenge at nearly any cost and anti-social to not only Londo but everyone non-Narn as well. Only when he is trying to be a slime-ball con man does G'Kar show any sense of friendliness to outsiders. And G'Kar is shown again as he was in The Gathering to be the villain of the episode which I actually didn't remember him being so villainous when he was introduced. Again, a great contrast to how they both end up at the end of the series. We are also Introduced to Stephen Furst as Vir Cotto who is obviously at this point just there for comic relief...for now.
The attack on Ragesh 3 is something that continues to referenced and used as motivation for the hatred between G'Kar and Londo and spurs further events in the series but honestly, I didn't remember that this was the attack that had such an effect on the series. At the time, I wasn't used to serialized storytelling in my television shows so I wasn't paying as close attention. I assumed most events were self-contained as they were on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Its great to watch these now and see the foundations being laid out.
This was an episode I didn't care for the first time I saw it, but watching it now I'm not sure why I didn't like it. Perhaps it was the out and out religious implications of a soul that I wasn't used to seeing in Science Fiction television. I'm not sure.
We are introduced to Dr. Stephen Franklin in this episode and Richard Biggs gives an very good performance right from the get go. And we also get a great performance from W. Morgan Sheppard as the Soul Hunter who played Blank Reg in Max Headroom.
Already there are references to Delenn being a part of the Grey Council which I didn't remember being revealed this early on as well as Sinclair finding out about it. And also the Soul Hunter reveals to Sinclair that he shouldn't trust Delenn and that the Minbari are using him.
BORN TO THE PURPLE:
This is the first episode not written by JMS but by Larry DiTillio. I really can't tell the difference which is probably a credity to JMS and Harlan Ellison for keeping the show consistant.
Basically this is a Londo love story which is actually very refreshing in that a man who is not your traditional romantic male lead has an actual romance on a television show. Londo is older, a bit overweight and not really good looking at all and yet here he is being shown as falling in love. Usually if male characters like this have a significant other at all, they are usually part of an old married couple and there's no real romance. Granted we later find out that Londo does already have 3 wives but they are loveless marriages.
We also learn why Ivanova is so cold sometimes with the death of her father and the already revealed suicide of her mother and now they also reveal her brother was killed in the Earth-Minbari War which we got to see in In the Beginning.
An old friend of Franklin played by David McCallum who played Steel in the British tv series Sapphire and Steel is part of the main plot of this episode. This is the beginning of the episodes that feel more like standard tv faire. Just filler really. The episode was a basic monster lose on the station epsiode and we had already seen Sinclair and Garibaldi in similar situations hunting somebody down on the station several times by this point. This story is basically a commentary on ethnic cleansing but honestly I've seen much better stories with this same subject matter. And this one was written by JMS surprisingly. It does give Franklin the spotlight and shows his tremendous moral fiber but its just not very good.