I can’t quantify it. Can’t rank it. Only feel it. “Babylon 5” is a good series, one of my favorites. Ran for 5 seasons as dreamed by writer/director J. Michael Straczynski. It took the usual production arc of a long-running science fiction series: shaky 1st season with weak funding, threadbare production quality, but earnest storytelling, through a contract renewal with grander scales and bigger stories, culminating in a shaky final season where the producers didn’t know if they’d be canceled.
Thankfully, they were funded all the way through 5 seasons.
Season 1: earnest and hopeful
Season 2: new air, new enemies, new drama
Season 3: drama escalates, greatest battles to come
Season 4: long-running struggles wrap up too quickly, fearing cancellation
Season 5: littered with tail-ends of threads and arcs too long to complete in their own time
JMS and team did an amazing job considering the time, budget, and technology of the 90’s. What throws me to this day are the long-play story threads. JMS knew that if he had enough time, he could hint at something in S1 and bring it to fruition in S3 and make it a critical plot point. That’s gamesmanship.
But the last 3 episodes of season 5. Goddamn. They knew the show was ending. It was the natural way. Unlike most shows, the production team knew they had no designs to go beyond 5 seasons. The. End. And damn, did they tie the ribbon on it, and then in one forceful pull on the ribbon, completely rip it out of you. I felt that. Endings on TV don’t feel final, but this was final. You felt it. TV characters come back. But here, there was no way to come back. You felt it.
The final walk down the Zocalo had every touch and taste of every dead mall documentary I’ve seen. A shadow of the Shadow War. The voices, the fingerprints, the detritus and kipple. The darkened hallways. Finality. Fatality. Unstoppable encroaching of time. And that’s it. Threads wrap up.
I felt it.