The Modern Tragic Character: Londo Mollari
I like to think I have seen plenty of movies in my young life. I also like to think that I’ve seen plenty of television, having over 128 seasons of television on DVD. While I have not seen all the great movies, or all the great TV shows, I’m reasonably comfortable in the title of this blog post. Across all the characters I remember from the many hours I’ve sunk into modern entertainment, none come across to me as tragic as Babylon 5’s Londo Mollari. Certainly there are other characters that give Londo a run for his money – Dukie from The Wire to name one – but none are so grandiose in scope – so Shakespearean without the melodrama – than the life of Londo Mollari. From “Midnight on the Firing Line,” the very first episode of Babylon 5, we know of Londo’s fate: He will die being choked by G’Kar, another main character of the series.
His character throughout much of the first season follows most closely to that of a comic relief: a drunkard, a womanizer, and a gambler. Slowly but surely, though, we learn of the man behind the laughs. Londo is a patriot. Much of the time the audience hears him go on and on about how nostalgic he is for the more glorious days of the (Centauri) Republic. The man wants power, not merely for himself, but for his people.
As the first season winds down, the comic relief side of Londo disappears as his actions – and thus he himself – become more central to the overall story of the show. It’s hard to describe Londo’s journey without giving too much away, but I don’t think it’s revealing too much to share what he had to say after it all: “When we met, I had no power, and all the choices I could ever want. Now I have all the power I could ever want, and no choices at all.”
Here’s to you, Londo, for being so inspiring in your devotion to your people, yet so despicable in many of the actions you take in your long, predetermined journey. Thank you for being so humorous in your own way, and showing others how small mistakes can lead to big failures. After all these years I still feel sorry for you.