I like her best because I know her best

I’ve finished season 1 now, and I’m itching for season 2, partially because I find the plot fascinating, but partially because I just adore Ivanova. She has a sarcastic edge to her that makes her feel more like a real person and less like a plot construct. Actually, she has a personality to her that makes her feel more like a real person and less like a plot construct.

Where Sinclair has plot points and Garibaldi has an attitude, Ivanova has a history.

We know things about her– she’s Russian, she’s Jewish, she hates mornings, she’s sarcastic, she hates the Psi Corps. We don’t know any of these kinds of things about the other main humans. Okay, Garibaldi struggles with alcoholism, but…that’s all we know. Sinclair doesn’t even have that. Sinclair has a hole in his mind, has A Destiny, but we have no idea who he is. He Seeks Peace but we never see emotion even when war seems imminent. It’s not that he hides his feelings– Ivanova does that, and it actually makes her seem more human– it’s that he doesn’t seem to have any.

I think this distinction is clearest when we consider their personal lives. Sinclair has an off-again-on-again girlfriend who is currently so on he’s going to marry her. Garibaldi has a quasi-niece and an ex-lover. Ivanova has no one. But Ivanova’s no one is more completely realized and compellingly told than either of the other two’s!

Sinclair’s lady, Katherine, is introduced realistically enough– Garibaldi recognizes her, Sinclair dithers a bit, they meet again…and then they literally say to each other, “We meet every few years and hook up if we’re both single, but it’s never going to work out.” They say this again and again, without any reasons or examples, and I couldn’t see why they were attracted to each other or why they kept splitting up. They said something about both of them being busy, except that they’re both still quite clearly busy and yet “this time” they think they’ve “got it right.” The next episode, we see Katherine almost die, get saved by G’kar, and…not talk to Sinclair once, as far as I can remember. Then we don’t see her again. Theoretically they’re still together– Ivanova mentions it at one point– but we see neither hide nor hair of Katherine again until the final episode of the season, when she and Sinclair decide to get married. I think probably she’ll die later and make Sinclair very sad, because otherwise I don’t see any point in having her in the story– she has no personality, and she and Sinclair never do anything together. She just disappears and reappears according to the plot; she is not a person in her own right.

Garibaldi gets a lot closer to believability with his relationships. In both cases the women show up for only one episode, but they come equipped with reasons: reasons that he left them, reasons that they were never in touch, and reasons why they leave and never meet again. In both cases, he leaves due to his own feelings of failure after the accidental death of his friend (the quasi-niece’s father). He leaves the “niece” because he can’t face his feelings of responsibility for her father’s death, and he leaves his girlfriend on Mars because he still thinks he has something to prove. The silences make sense too: the niece does blame him, and rather hates him, and he doesn’t want to face that. And the girlfriend was furious with him for leaving; he doesn’t want to call in case she hates him (forcing him to let go of his hope) and in case she still loves him (forcing him to choose between her and Babylon 5). And both women are never heard from again because the first, the niece, has her own job to do, and she’s still only starting to forgive him, and because the second has married someone else.

Fundamentally, all three women are controlled by the plots of their given episodes, but at least with Garibaldi’s girls, I can explain the reasons. (I’m hoping we’ll see something about the niece, who worked in Presidential security, after what happened in the last episode of Season 1, since presumably she was there, but…I’m not going to hold my breath.) It’s as if the characters themselves forget about these supposedly-beloved people until the Plot reminds them.

Except for Ivanova! Oh, Ivanova.

As a woman, naturally her personal connections are male, but they are much less predictable and much more interesting.

First, there is her father. I adored the episode in which we learned about him, because it told us so much about her. She secretly used the Gold Channel to call him in the hospital, to be “there” when he died, but refused to tell even Garibaldi what she was doing. Her last talk with her father was incredibly moving, because we could see how much pain was between them, and also how little she was willing to talk about it.

When we didn’t hear much about him afterwards, it made sense, since she is so intensely private, but within a few episodes we saw that she had not forgotten– her rabbi from home came to help her mourn, and we learned that we heard little about her father because she didn’t mention it, not even to Sinclair or Garibaldi, not even to get leave to attend his funeral. I cried again, as we watched her recollect her relationship with her father and, eventually, forgive him. She cried, finally, and I was so sad with her, but also so happy for her, because she had people with her to help with her grief.

There was a bit of a change in her relationship with the others after that, I think. Sinclair was more likely to call her Susan, and it seemed like she was able to be friends as well as coworkers. She joked with them more, let her hair down more (literally!), because her character remembered her history.

In the same vein, there is her obsession with the Psi Corps, another character trait that is remembered and consistently presented, but it is almost too obvious. Sinclair and Garibaldi have no analogues, no personal events that have led to passionate causes (which is, in itself, a good example of how much better fleshed-out Ivanova is) but they all have had personal interludes at some point, and Ivanova’s was so much more telling that I felt it noteworthy.

Man, I love that woman.

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2 Responses to I like her best because I know her best

  1. Patrick says:

    Nicely put! I’ll try to avoid spoilers here.

    Regarding Garibaldi’s relationships: the ex does show up again as a recurring character in year four. We never hear from the “niece” again.

    I agree with you completely about Sinclair. He’s very much at the mercy of the plot, rather than an active participant. He has his Big Destiny… and that’s about it.

    And believe me, Ivanova’s awesomeness only grows as the show progresses.

  2. Adrienne says:

    Hello there. I came accross a link to your blog on Hathor Legacy. I have been recently rewatching Babylon 5 and was reading some of their stuff on it.
    And it turns out you are just starting to watch the show! You are in for a good ride, trust me. I look forward to reading your future posts as you watch more and more of the series!

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