Coming of Age: The Growth of Vir Cotto
Beginnings: Capable of a “Well-Deserved” Humility
In the second season episode There All the Honor Lies, Vir reveals that his family sent him to Babylon 5 to be rid of him, and that previous to his assignment as Londo Mollari’s attaché, he had held a number of positions that were ultimately personally isolating or disastrous. Vir is, at the start, a failure by noble Centauri standards, fundamentally lacking the ruthlessness and ambition required for advancement in the royal court. Held in contempt by his family and ignored by his countrymen, Vir is also, I believe, a deeply lonely figure desperately seeking some place where he can fit in.
It is true that when Vir first arrives on Babylon 5 a fat, meek, clumsy, stammering young man in a seemingly perpetual terror of Londo, he is not much to look at. Still, even as early as The War Prayer, we see that there may be something more to Vir than his outer childishness- that he’s not beyond quietly holding a subversive notion or two. In a later episode, he is pegged as a radical for his beliefs on romantic love in particular, but the term “radical” is, in my opinion, inaccurate. Vir is too mindful of authority to wear that label.
A Reformer, Not a Radical
No where is Vir’s lack of radicalism more clear than in the second season, when he is faced with the central moral dilemma of his arc. Presented with the choice of rebelling against Londo outright versus seeking a change from within, he chooses the later. At every opportunity, Vir strenuously dissents from Londo’s course of action against the Narn, pleading with his superior to make a different choice. Yet still, while on Babylon 5, he obeys.
Many may understandably find this early caution frustrating. I, however, see it as a correct decision given the circumstance. All through the second season, Vir is negotiating from a position of powerlessness. Frank rebellion would’ve resulted in Vir being turned out into the wilds of obscurity or worse, leaving him subsequently unable to influence future events.
To be sure, there is little evidence to show that Vir is consciously influenced by these political considerations. Hands down, Vir’s principle motivations for staying the course are personal and emotional. Extremely uncertain of his own talents and capabilities, he hangs back. But even more importantly, he loves Londo and cannot bring himself to leave him behind.
(Jump cut for length.)