Alrighty folks, lets push on through these next two episodes (good as they might be) and get to the real fun of Nerve/A Hidden Memory. By which I mean, of course, Scorpius.
Farscape one-off episodes are a distinct mixed bag, representing the best and the worst of this innovative series. For every Crackers Don’t Matter, there’s a Jeremiah Crichton or a Taking the Stone. But at this point in season one we come to two episodes that demonstrate how well the series has evolved so far in its short run. A far cry from the lackluster efforts of the first half dozen or so stories, “Through the Looking Glass” and “A Bug’s Life” show us a Farscape that at last seems somewhat more at ease in its sense of self. Admittedly, that sense of self is kinda warped and a little bit deranged. But that’s why we love this show.
Through the Looking Glass
Though it arguably has a less important role to play in terms of setting up later plot point, “Through the Looking Glass” (as one commenter here said a couple posts back) really is the ur-Farscape episode. If there’s one thing that contributes to the Farscapian success of this episode is how FUNNY it is. From John and Aeryn doing charades to D’Argo’s disgust at John vomiting in Pilot’s den (“I do NOT want that here!) to Rygel’s song about Hynarian Dominars (if only we had the complimentary dance!) this is the first episode of the season to be genuinely fun.
Farscape is an incredibly funny show. Sometimes it’s a dark comedy, but a comedy nonetheless. But, really, there’s not exactly a lot of laughs in the first season. The show always embraced strange creatures and, at least from DNA Mad Scientist and the later revelation that our spaceship is pregnant, it has offered a distinctly off kilter style of space opera. But it hasn’t been … funny, aside from an occasion light-hearted moment here or there. Through the Looking Glass changes all that as the series realizes its own comedic potential. More than anything, I think that newfound comedy–or more specifically just a sense of irreverence– changed the tone of the series for the better. The writers haven’t yet figured out what a comedic talent they have on hand in Anthony Simcoe, but all in good time I guess.
I have to give special mention (of course … have you met me?) to the Crichton/Aeryn exchanges in this episode. While Crichton spends his time trying not to throttle Rygel and Chiana, reasoning with Zhaan, or in mutual agony with D’Argo … he and Aeryn seem to actually be enjoying working together. There is a light playfulness to their interaction we haven’t seen before. As well as the delightful “I thought you left me” “I’d never leave you” exchange. Let us not forget the events that transpired in A Human Reaction.
At the end of the day, though, it’s the framing meals on either end of the episode that capture the feel of Farscape. This is a crew that bickers and argues, but at the end of the day has learned how to come together as something of a family. They can celebrate their “good days”, even if a good day just means staying alive for the moment.
Which brings us to … A Bug’s Life
No doubt about it, this is a very strong episode, and also helping define this sense of Farscapian space opera that’s beginning to emerge. Rather than going into an in-depth analysis, though, I just one to highlight one moment. The moment John sits looking at the body of the woman he bludgeoned to death while under the influence of the body-snatching virus. On any other sci-fi series up to this point, John’s actions would have been brushed off as nothing to feel guilty over–he wasn’t in control. But Farscape doesn’t let him off the hook nearly so easily. Ever honest, Chiana comforts him with some line about how “it wasn’t you … well, it was, but not really…” It is comfort of a sort, but far short of a full absolution. And rightly so. We are souls and bodies, and we cannot fully divorce ourselves from what our physical selves do, just because our mind was not in control. An important point to keep in mind for season two… (Unrelated sidenote, my interest in this point my possibly be traced to my frustration that Garibaldi, though contrite, never experienced any personal consequences for his actions through season 4 of Babylon 5. But I digress…)
I’m less interested in the story of the episode than I am in the character beats. Although this episode would feature prominently in my drinking game of “take a shot every time D’Argo swears he will never be taken prisoner again.” For all that the rest of the crew give Crichton a hard time for his perhaps foolish plan to impersonate peacekeepers — they did all go along with it. This has to show that in some way he has earned their respect and their trust. Can we imagine Crichton pre-Till the Blood Runs Clear pulling off something like this? Not a chance. He is already a darker, harder person than the one who came through the wormhole at the start of the season. This episode might also be the first classically Farscape example of Crichton saving the day and making things infinitely worse by following the conventions he is familiar with from growing up on a diet of classic science fiction.
It’s worth noting particularly the interaction between Aeryn and Laraque. On the one hand, a part of me wonders if we’re seeing Aeryn open up too fast, too soon with Laraque, especially given what we will learn eventually about her emotional background. On the other hand, I kind of love it. I love that we get to see Aeryn for once so comfortable and at ease, once again at least playing at being a peacekeeper. It is a reminder to us that Aeryn, even as we encountered her at the start of the season, was not just a fundamentally hard shell of a being. She was hostile at being thrust in a world she did not understand and cut off from everything she had ever known. Let us recall that Crichton can be a distinct jerk at times. So, I tend to think her openness is less about Laraque himself and more about what he represents her longing for the life she once knew. That’s not out of my investment in the Aeryn/John relationship (plenty of time for that). I just don’t see Aeryn as the type to let herself get swept up by a guy that quickly.
All in all, this is a good showing, but most notable for how it sets the stage for the major events that will bring the season to a conclusion. Also, we cannot let it pass that this episode brings us the leather pants. Farscape has truly been born, my friends. Surely that makes up for Ben Browder’s bad accent, right?