"Ring of Truth" Review
by Mike Helba
Before watching "Ring of Truth", I already had an idea for the first sentence of my review: "The problem with Joe Straczynski's intriguing story arcs is that the non-arc stories stick out like a sore thumb." Obviously, I wasn't planning to give "Ring of Truth" much of a chance. The preview at the end of the previous week's episode increased my doubts. The bare-knuckle boxing match reminded me of "TKO", one of the least stellar episodes of Babylon 5's first season.
However, I am surprised to find that "Ring of Truth" is mildly entertaining in an odd way. At the beginning the story makes a small concession to the story arc. Jeremiah and Kurdy are traveling with directions provided by Theo. They are rightfully unsure of whether she is paying Jeremiah back for saving her life or whether she is leading them into a trap.
Regardless of Theo's motives, Jeremiah and Kurdy end up at a brothel populated by a cast of outlandish characters... or caricatures. Here we learn something interesting about the show Jeremiah. The hero of the show spends the night with a prostitute. It's a risk to take, because many in the audience can't help but project their own morals onto Jeremiah. However, this scene serves to reinforce the fact that Jeremiah's world is very different from ours and has a different moral code even for the "good guys". In case this isn't enough, writer Sam Egan falls back on having Polly imply that she would spend the night with Jeremiah even if it wasn't her job.
Meanwhile, Kurdy tries his luck with a young woman named Cassandra. In the pilot episode, Kurdy's experience of sex without romance left him feeling empty. This time the scene is played for laughs when poor Kurdy must resort to seducing his own companion.
Jeremiah learns of Polly's desire to leave the brothel and see her daughter, who is part of a traveling circus currently in a nearby town. The only way to win her freedom is for someone to fight for her, and Jeremiah promptly volunteers for this task. Kurdy, keeping his promise to watch Jeremiah's back, sucker punches him and takes his place in the first Ring of Truth, because he knows that Jeremiah would not survive.
The second Ring of Truth is the circus ring, where Polly must come to terms with her ex-boyfriend and her daughter. I found the use of minor characters to further this part of the story refreshing. Polly and Kurdy each have enlightening conversations with circus workers.
"Ring of Truth" has quite a bit of humor beginning with Jeremiah and Kurdy's hallucinations after eating the wrong mushrooms and continuing with Jeremiah's adamant assertions that he saw an elephant. The brothel owner's portrayal as a flambouyant drag queen adds even more laughs.
I do not completely buy the need to fight for Polly's freedom. In the world of Jeremiah when everyone lives on the edge, could the brothel owner really afford the resources to hunt down Polly if she just runs away? Also, the boxing match seems gratuitous. Maybe every Straczynski show needs a boxing match in the first season. Still, despite these reservations, there is something odd but appealing about this episode. I like the humor, and the message of hope is deftly worked in... and hope is what Jeremiah is all about.