"The Coming of Shadows" is the title given to the second season of "Babylon 5" so of course the episode bearing that title is of pivotal importance and its quality is provided by it being awarded the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Episode 31, "The Coming of Shadows" (Written by J. Michael Straczynski, Aired February 1, 1995) begins with the visit of the Centauri emperor (Turhan Bey) to the station. That means the primary concern of Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) is to keep Ambassador G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas), who finds the visit an insult to all Narns, from killing the emperor. Meanwhile, behind the emperor's back, London (Peter Jurasik) and Refa (William Forward) are plotting to expand their power in the Centauri republic. The emperor is not well, and already powers are moving to take the throne when he dies, which means it is time for Londo to decide which side he will be on. The emperor has a speech he wants to deliver and G'Kar plans an assassination attempt that will likely end with both their deaths.
Four important things happen in this episode. First, there is the both the emperor's message and its intended audience. Second, there is Londo's dream, which provides several tantalizing scenes of what might come to pass in the future. Third, there is an appearance by the Shadow Ships. Finally, Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) receives a message of his own that comes from an old friend. "The Coming of Shadows" represents a series of changes that will have both short term and long range significance for the characters and the universe in which they live. This is the episode where you can look backwards and say everything prior to this point was mere prologue.
Any episode short of the station blowing up or a major character dying would seem lesser in comparison after that one. Episode 32, "Gropos" (Written by Larry DiTillio, Aired February 8, 1995) is basically a character story focusing on Dr. Franklin (Richard Biggs), although there are things happening with regards to the coming war. Earth Alliance troops under the command of General Richard Franklin (Paul Winfield), the doctor's father, arrive at B5 and are quartered basically everywhere. General Franklin is a military hero who was a veteran of both the Dilger war and several conflicts on Earth. This meant that he was rarely around with his family, which he ran with strict military discipline. Several scenes in this episode deal with the two Franklins butting heads over just about everything.
The troop movement has to do with the Earth Alliance trying to solidify its hold on several key sectors near the Narn and the Centauri. At some point Earth is going to have to choose sides in the Narn-Centauri war, so strategic positioning is now the order of the day. There is a sense in which the father-son conflict seems rather superfluous to what is happening with the troops and the emphasis of the episode is to humanize the war by having station personnel come to know some of the ground pounders (abbreviated as "Gropos") who are going to have to do the heavy fighting on Matok at Akdor. My growing disdain for the policies of Earth continues in this episode, which just reinforces the idea that it is going to be those on Babylon 5 who take the high ground. This one gets a little heavy handed at the end, but it does serve a point in the larger picture.