Bigotry and intolerance rear their ugly heads as a wave of attacks targets the aliens living aboard the station. The Homeguard, a xenophobic organization seeking to promote Earth people's supremacy, tries to infiltrate Babylon5's command staff through an old acquaintance of Ivanova, and is uncovered and defeated by Sinclair.
This simple and sometimes predictable storyline is the vehicle for some of the character threads that will develop along the way.
One concerns Ivanova: we learn that some time previously she choose her career over the relationship with Malcom, although at a high personal cost. In the intervening years she seems to have become wary of personal attachments, as testified by her reticence when the man approaches her trying to revive the old liaison. Yet we see her careful delight at the prospect, which makes her disenchantment all the more crushing as she discovers that Malcom is an agent for the Homeguard, and his romantic overtures just a ploy to gain a beachhead among the higher ranking officers.
Ivanova's troubles with personal relationships, coupled with her total loss of family ties, strongly inform her character, so that watching this episode I wondered if this particular incident, together with another that will happen at the end of Season Two, is one of the last bricks in the wall she builds around herself, making her impervious to romantic feelings. With the consequences that will become painfully clear at the end of Season Four.
Then there is G'Kar: his vehement reaction to what is happening on the station leads him to a rabble-rousing speech that – again on hindsight – foreshadows his transformation into a charismatic leader. Here he appears only as a trouble monger, and is dealt with as such, yet there is so much passion in his words, such strong conviction, that it's impossible not to project it into the future developments, and see the birth of a different G'Kar in this very moment.
The secondary story-line, that of the two Centauri teenagers trying to escape from arranged marriages, offers wonderful opportunities for both Londo and Vir. The ambassador is at first quite adamant in returning the two fugitives to Centauri Prime, and does not care about the youngsters' protestations about wanting to marry for love. When he shouts "What has love to do with marriage?" it's intended as a funny moment, of course, but this being Londo it's not hard to understand there are also sad personal considerations underlying these words. First he mentions his three wives – Pestilence, Famine and Death – offering an opportunity for bittersweet fun, but then, veering into a different mood, he suddenly remembers his father, and a particular incident. It's a very touching segment, one of the best in the episode: Mollari senior, in his son's recollection, was crying in the dark, probably regretting a life spent – or rather squandered – following duty and obligations, as he said "My shoes are too tight but it doesn't matter, because I have forgotten how to dance". I wonder if it's because of his meeting with Adira that Londo is finally able to understand the significance of that incident and relent, helping the young lovers fulfill their dream.
There's a beautiful quote here, in a dialogue between Londo and the poetess Mayan:
Mayan: Ambassador, I have traveled far and seen much. And what I have seen tells me that all sentient beings are defined by their capacity and need for love.
Londo: And she will learn to live without it!
Mayan: As you did?
Londo's face, at this point, speaks volumes. Hat off to Peter Jurasik...
Vir – bumbling, fearful Vir – shows a very different side of himself here: his belief in love, and justice, compels him to stand up to Londo defending the runaways. Londo's surprise is evident, as is his quick re-assessment of his attaché. There is a new respect in the Ambassador's stance toward Vir, one that will lead to a new and deeper relationship between them, and one that also foreshadows Vir's future growth.
Last, but not least, a small moment between Delenn and her guest Mayan: as they reminisce about their youth, Mayan asks Delenn if she regrets her choices, the ones that have brought her to Babylon5. The Minbari Ambassador replies that she does sometimes. Knowing what her plans are, what the future will bring, this little interlude speaks volumes for her and what makes her tick.