Saturday, April 2, 2011

Classics: Farscape 1:22 - Family Ties

Overall: 9.8

If this episode doesn't make you cry at least once, you have no soul.

Plot Synopsis:

Farscape World has a summary here.

The Skinny:

This episode starts out normally enough. Rygel defects, which is not altogether suprising given how much he was complaining in the last episode, and the rest of our ragtag band is suddenly forced to come up with an on-the-spot plan to avoid recapture. Sounds like the writers are setting up a standard action-packed season-ending cliff-hanger, yes? Well, there is action - Crichton lights a whole moon on fire, for example - and there is indeed a cliff-hanger - the episode ends with Crichton and D'Argo drifting in space with hopes for their rescue dwindling. But this episode catapults into feature territory on the strength of its in-between moments, which, when put together, amount to an extended love letter to the main characters. (And yes, that includes our wayward Rygel.) In this episode, imminent danger forces our heroes to realize how much they have come to depend upon each other, and that inspires a near continuous stream of sentimentality that threatens to ruin the viewer's composure at every turn. One of my online correspondents identifies this episode as the series' "most optimistic," and I think she's absolutely right. (Which just goes to show how dark the canon is as a whole.)

The warm fuzziness starts early. Within the first fifteen minutes, D'Argo shares his affection for Chiana, Crichton tells Zhaan that he has come to see her as part of his "Jerry Springer family," and Aeryn basically vows to protect Moya's offspring no matter the cost. And I have to say that the last is especially touching to me. Maybe it's because of Pilot's big, beautiful, puppy-dog eyes. Maybe it's because the scene in question is the culmination of Aeryn's softening over the whole of the first season. Maybe it's because the scene once again brings Moya's personhood to the fore. Maybe it's because of the underscore, which is really very lovely. I don't think I'll ever be able to put my finger on it precisely. What I do know is this: I start sobbing - SOBBING - the moment Aeryn strokes Pilot's face and makes her promise.

And I don't really recover for the rest of the episode because the aforementioned quiet interlude between Aeryn and Pilot is really just the first of several stellar - and touching - two-character scenes. The long highlights section is loooooong for a damn good reason. Consider, for example, Chiana's making a pass at Crichton. I really feel for Chiana there. Why? Because the writers have enabled me to understand her. She comes from a background that is so broken - so disordered - that it makes sense (from a characterization perspective) that she would seek to express her gratitude through sexual contact. She really doesn't know any other way. And I love how Crichton responds, too. You see, Crichton also recognizes what Chiana is actually trying to do, and so he responds to the emotion behind Chiana's actions, not the actions themselves. Moreover, he takes the time to gently guide Chiana in a different - and healthier - direction. Very nice.

Crichton is indisputably the episode's moral center, and he fits into the role like the proverbial round peg. In the space of forty-odd minutes, he exemplifies several heroic virtues, including:

  • Fortitude and Selflessness. Though it is true that Crichton is partially motivated by the fear that he will once again be subjected to the horrors of Scorpius' Aurora Chair, he also fearlessly risks his life and limb for the good of his shipmates. "I have people who rely on me," he says. "People I care about... I have a job to do, and I am not afraid." No viewer can watch that monologue and not see it for what it is: an expression of genuine courage.

  • Kindness and Consideration. We see this in Crichton's scene with Chiana, but we also see it in the way he speaks to Moya at the very end of the episode. My heart nearly cracks in half, in fact, when Crichton thanks the great ship for everything she's done.

  • Forgiveness and Mercy. When Rygel expresses honest remorse over his decision to betray the others, Crichton accepts it (with a kiss). And when Crais offers Crichton a sort of apology, Crichton immediately gives him a chance to prove that he means it. Yes, Crichton gets burned when it comes to Crais, but that in no way diminishes Crichton's praiseworthy choice.

And speaking of Crais, we have now officially reached the second phase of his growth as a character. Now that Scorpius has successfully stripped Crais of his status as a Peacekeeper, Crais decides to become the "man without a country." As I've said many times before, I think this is an excellent choice on the part of the writers. Crais' current volatility fits into the renegade mold quite neatly. And as you'll see, the fact that Crais runs off with Talyn opens the door for some very interesting plots down the line.

Whew! As you can see, this is a doozy of an episode. Farscape may have had a bit of a rocky start, but the close of its first season definitely lives up to the series' fannish and critical plaudits.

Writing: 10.0 WITH A BULLET!

The characterization is phenomenal. But perhaps more importantly, the writers here have managed to pen a script with a hell of a lot of heart. Again, if you don't find this episode profoundly moving, there is something wrong with you.

Acting: 9.5

I wouldn't say the acting is utterly flawless, but it is awesome nonetheless. Browder in particular is an impressive - and under-recognized - talent.

Message: 10.0

This episode enthusiastically embraces the idea that heroism is a reality and is packed full of enough brotherly love to make your heart explode. How could I not love it?


(Look below the cut!)

Pilot: Rygel! Please respond! Your Eminence, I beg you! Respond! (Rygel does not.)
Aeryn: (calling via comm as she jogs down a corridor) Remember, Rygel, Moya’s baby has weaponry! (She, D'Argo and John reach the Command where they take turns appealing to Rygel via comm.)
Pilot: Rygel's already too distant, and the asteroids block a clear salvo.
D'Argo: Rygel, listen to me, and listen very, very carefully. (He then utters a non-translatable Luxan curse.)
John: What the hell did you just say?
Chiana: Something about his corpse and a - body function.
John: Oh, that'll help. (LOL!)

John: Well, I can tell you this for free - I will not be taken alive. I've been in the goddamned chair, and I am not going back in it.
D'Argo: I know of the concept, but there is no Luxan word for it.
Aeryn: Suicide?
John: (speaking over Aeryn’s comment) I am not talking about suicide. But it doesn't look like we're gonna get out of this one, and if we're gonna go down, I wanna go down swinging.
D'Argo: (with fraternal sincerity) Then we shall do so together.
Aeryn: Ugh! Just to be in the warm glow of all this testosterone! (Heh.)

D'Argo: Listen, Chiana, it is the only way.
Chiana: Why do you care? You'll be dead!
D'Argo: (picking up the cuffs and approaching her) You are the only one of us who the Peacekeepers do not hunt.
Chiana: I went down to their base with Crichton. They know who I am.
D'Argo: That is why you must wear these restraints.
Chiana: (attempting humor unsuccessfully) I doubt I'll be able to subdue them with those.
D'Argo: When they board Moya, lock yourself in one of the cells, slip these on, and maintain no matter how many times they ask that we forced you to help.
Chiana: (furious, loudly) Don't tell me how to lie! It's one of the best things I do!
D'Argo: (shouting) You are a real pain in the eema! (softly) But one I have grown to enjoy.

Zhaan: John? I've made new family here, surrounded by all of you. And now I sense it's coming to an end.
John: Well, it's a Jerry Springer kind of family. But for what's it's worth, Zhaan -- you are family.

Pilot: I - appreciate your concern, Officer Sun. But I no longer require a chaperone.
Aeryn: Are you sure Pilot? You seem quite upset.
Pilot: Yes. Moya is terrified for her offspring and for herself. That anxiety translates through her being into mine. Combine it with my own fear and -
Aeryn: Pretty potent adrenaline surge for you. I understand.
(There is a pause.)
Pilot: Officer Sun... Aeryn. You and I - we've shared quite a lot in the time we've been together.
Aeryn: DNA for one. You helped me learn some rudimentary science.
Pilot: You've kept me alive when no one else could. (A beat.) There's - no reason we all need to be recaptured. You have your Prowler. (He watches Aeryn with his big, soulful eyes. Awwwww.)
Aeryn: Hmph! Don't think that option hasn't entered my mind! (But after a moment, she shakes her head.) I'm not going anywhere.
Pilot: Moya wants to know - have you come up with a name for her offspring yet? In case something happens, she doesn't want her son named by the Peacekeepers.
Aeryn: (taking a deep breath as if fighting back tears of emotion) Please tell Moya that it remains my honor to name her son. And it will be a good, strong name that he will bear proudly -- (She reaches out and strokes Pilots face.) -- in freedom, if I have anything to say about it. (As I said, this is the point at which I completely lose it.)

John: Dad. This is probably the last note in the bottle you're going to get. Things are going bad here, and, uh... (Then he turns off the recorder and growls in frustration.) Why don't I just start screaming and leave him a really happy memory? (Then he sees Aeryn standing at the doorway.)
Aeryn: Is he anything like the man I met?
John: Oh, nonono. The man you met was an alien who had taken the form of my father.
Aeryn: But he was constructed from your memories and - was it accurate?
John: A little idealized, but, uh, mostly yeah.
Aeryn: You're lucky you know? When I was very young, one night a soldier appeared over my bunk. Battle-hardened. Scarred...
John: Cool. Your father.
Aeryn: My mother. (Heh.) She told me I wasn't merely an accident, or a genetic birthing to fill the ranks, that she and a male that she had cared about had chosen to yield a life. Mine.
John: And what about your father?
Aeryn: I know even less.
John: Well. (He slides the recorder to her.) Leave him a message. You never know. They might get it.

D'Argo: You knew. You knew all along. Tell them. Tell them!
Crais: Ka D'Argo did not commit the crime that he was imprisoned for. (D'Argo delivers a vicious kick to Crais, who continues with some difficulty.) His mate was killed by someone else.
Aeryn: Her own brother. A Peacekeeper.
John: You knew, and you kept him in chains.
Crais: No matter what I knew, only a Tribunal Order can release a convicted murderer.
John: Easy answer.
Crais: (from where he is laying on the floor, panting) There is much in life that is unfair. We are all proof of that.
John: If life was fair, you'd be dead. (Ouch!)

Aeryn: D'Argo, perhaps there won't be much time later.
D'Argo: I know.
Aeryn: We've had our differences, but - you've become someone I rely on now.
D'Argo: I've become similarly affected.
Aeryn: I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to meet your son, Jothee.
D'Argo: I miss being a part of his life more and more each day.
Aeryn: Your blood runs though him, D'Argo. That's influence enough. I'm sure he's very much like you.
D'Argo: Hopefully his mother’s nose. (They both chuckle. Then there's a long pause.) I thought I would live much longer.
Aeryn: I never thought I'd live this long.

John: How're you doing?
Crais: Why would you ask?
John: I look at you -- and I get homesick. I'm desperate for human, male-to-male conversation. And I figure cars, football -- they're out of the question.
Crais: Do you think it's an accident that our species are so much alike?
John: You know the answer to that?
Crais: No. It's one of the mysteries I will miss solving.
John: Yeah. Kinda makes you feel your mortality doesn't it? Being in there. That's what it's like for us every day. Every hour. Every minute. Every second, with you riding our asses.
Crais: I understand you didn't mean to kill my brother. It was an accident. I realize that now, as I look back and try to understand it all.
John: (a tear runs down his cheek as he wearily watches Crais) Do you have any idea what you put me through? All of us through?
Crais: (regretfully) I thought it was about my brother. It should've been about my brother. Somewhere along the way my priorities -- decayed. I realized I'd become more concerned with my own image and career.
John: If you mean to help, now's the time.

D'Argo: It is not open for discussion!
Aeryn: You're being ridiculous! We were going to draw lots!
D'Argo: I did draw lots! I lost! Matter closed!
Aeryn: You are not the captain here!
D'Argo: No one is! It is anarchy! And today is my day to rule! (LOL!)

Aeryn: You know, you amaze me being a priest. To live in such a violent world and yet somehow manage to keep your center.
Zhaan: The instant I committed murder I sacrificed my right to exist. Since then, I view every microt as a generous yet undeserved gift from the Goddess.

(I've included the above video clip mainly because I want my dear readers to hear a bit of the score for this episode. And yes - it's also a very good Chiana scene.)

Rygel: You're not joking? I can have your possessions?
John: If I die and you don't - yeah. Have at it.
Rygel: (suspiciously) Why?
John: Well, you're a material kind of guy, Rygel. Have some material.
Rygel: What does that mean?
John: It means, Sparky, that you're a soulless bastard.
Rygel: I am not.
John: Hey, who knows? Maybe you'll get lucky. We'll all die and you can have all our stuff.
Rygel: (in a low tone, genuinely offended) That's not fair.
John: Sparky, Spanky, Fluffy, Buckwheat XVI -- (He crouches down and yanks the hoverchair, with Rygel in it, closer so they are face to face.) -- you tried to sell us out.
Rygel: But I didn't - did I?
John: They weren't buying - were they?
(Rygel tries to escape, but Crichton jerks him back.)
Rygel: (hanging his head) No. And I became convinced that after I turned you in, I would be next.
John: Aw. Now how does that taste in your mouth?
Rygel: (regretfully) Look I-I know I can be selfish, but given a chance I can usually -
John: Do what? Do the right thing?
Rygel: Yes.
John: Rygel, I figure the right thing starts at the beginning of the day. Not after you've been caught. (And then he kisses Rygel, which is so cute.)

John: One other thing, Dad. You remember the day I left? You told me that every man has a chance to become his own kind of hero. Well, I don't think I'm ever coming home, so I won't get that ticker tape parade, and I doubt that I'm ever gonna have kids, so I won't get the chance to be a hero to them. But I think I know what you meant. (He chuckles a bit and taps the DRD sitting in front of him.) I've got - a strange life here, Dad. It's different, but it's my own. I have people who rely on me. People I care about. People who mystify me, and people who have become allies. Friends. And people who teach me patience. And people who teach me -- other things. Well, you said the time would come, and I think it has. I have a job to do, and I am unafraid. That's what you said when they asked you what it was like to walk on the moon. (He turns Jack’s lucky puzzle ring over in his fingers.) You did good, Dad. You taught me well. (Then he signs off:) This is John Crichton, somewhere in the Universe.

(In the transport pod.)
John: How you doing?
D'Argo: I have to pee. (ROTFL!)

D'Argo: I've set a crash collision course with the frelling moon. It's time we got out of here.
John: Hey - D'Argo. How come I'm not afraid?
D'Argo: Fear accompanies the possibility of death. Calm shepherds its certainty.
John: I love hanging with you, man. (He holds up Jack’s lucky puzzle ring on its chain.) My Dad’s good luck charm.
D'Argo: Does it work?
John: I'm alive. (He hands it to D'Argo) So far.

Rygel: Crais! What the yotz are you doing?
Crais: (on Talyn) Saving myself, Your Eminence -- I'm sure to your envy.
Zhaan: Talyn is not mature enough to starburst! If you attempt this, you will damage him! You may die!
Crais: Thank you, priest, but I know that. We'll be fine. Where no one can follow us. You or the Peacekeepers.
Aeryn: (in her Prowler) Crais! You listen to me now! You stop what you are doing and you leave the ship now!
Crais: (briskly) Officer Sun. If by some strange quirk you survive your current situation and we manage to encounter each other again, I hope that our relationship away from the Peacekeepers will be a much different one next time.
Aeryn: You cannot take a child from its mother!
Crais: You forget. It was done to me. And it was done to you. Good bye, Officer Sun.

John: You guys gotta get out of here. Starburst now.
Zhaan: We cannot leave you and D'Argo!
Rygel: No. We can't and we won't.
John: Rygel, this is not the time to give up selfishness. Starburst!
Chiana: But Aeryn's not back yet, either!
Aeryn: I'm not leaving John and D'Argo.
John: Aeryn -
Aeryn: Pilot - starburst - save as many as you can.
Pilot: I believe that too is now impossible.
Aeryn: Why?
Pilot: Because Moya will not leave without her offspring. She fears Talyn does not understand what he is doing by listening to Crais' orders.
Chiana: The Peacekeepers are nearly in position to block our path.
John: Pilot, patch me through to Moya.
Pilot: Ah - done!
John: Moya, listen to me. We know how much you care about your baby. We feel the same way. That's why we've gone to all this trouble. It's not just to save ourselves, but to save you and him. Your only chance of rescuing him is to save yourself first. (A beat.) Moya -- thanks for everything. Now do what you have to do.

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