“I’m Butch. This is Sundance.”

The theme of this round of episodes is revelation — specifically character revelations. A reminder to us that in the world of Farscape, you can take nothing an no one at face value. Again, it has to be said that Farscape resists trying to teach the audience moral lessons. But perhaps that in itself is the deeper thought one might take away from episodes such as the world is too complicated for easy categorization and black and white moralizing. Zhaan is a priest, but she is far from innocent. Crichton is our hero, but he can be astounding un-heroic. D’Argo, well, lets talk about D’Argo first shall we…

They’ve Got a Secret

I haven’t spoken much at all about Anthony Simcoe’s D’Argo yet in this re-watch. It is fair to say much of what makes Farscape … Farscape … is how much the actors contribute to the development of their characters. Obviously, Ben Browder and Claudia Black deserve a tremendous amount of credit in this regard (it was largely their own choices that drive the romantic relationship forward so unambiguously early on). However, Anthony Simcoe’s contribution to the role of D’Argo cannot be overlooked. Originally, D’Argo did seem like little more than a off-brand Klingon — easy to enrage and adamant about resisting future imprisonment. It was the depth Anthony Simcoe brought to D’Argo that convinced the writers that the character deserved a more interesting backstory than the alleged crime of killing his superior officer (though, we may return to that point later…).  Thus was born the story of D’Argo’s wife Lo’La and their son Jothee. It allows us to see the sadness that lies just under the surface of D’Argo’s aggressive blustering. The only thing that remains to be seen is the incredible comic potential of the character. Oh, D’Argo, you are the best!  …I’ll just leave this right here: Who’s your daddy.

I suppose one also needs to address the pregnant leviathan in the room. Having the ship become pregnant is perhaps the most infamous gimmick of Farscape. Even before I had started the series, I knew this happened at some point. On the one hand, it could so easily seem to be just that–a gimmick. What you can’t tell at this point in the series, however, is how much emotional resonance the writers will be able to draw from this storyline. It works dramatically (the same might be said for the other BIG storytelling risk that happens in season three–Scapers you know what I’m talking about! What could be a jump-the-shark moment becomes the emotional core of the series). Moya’s pregnancy is everything we love about Farscape–insane risk-taking that somehow manages to pay huge dividends. On a much more basic level, though, the pregnancy provides a convenient mechanism for the writers to create tension in a given episode when Moya will not cooperate in a helpful manner.  That works well on a show like Farscape where the writers don’t actually *need* to have leviathan physiology worked out but really can just make it up as they go alone.

It has to be said on a personally level, I remember feeling great sympathy for Moya during my own pregnancy. It really is like your whole body just stops working right.

I also feel compelled to make note of the greater degree of intimacy we see between John and Aeryn in this episode, which makes sense given events of DNA Mad Scientist. You’ve gotta love Aeryn’s bafflement at why John would want to return to his disease-ridden homeworld, but we can oh so easily understand his resigned, “Well, you guys don’t have chocolate.”

Also, I always forget how for most of the first season they really were pushing that whole D’Argo/Zhaan romantic tension, weren’t they?

Till the Blood Runs Clear

When I started watching Farscape, a friend told me the key to the series is that John Crichton is not a hero. He’s just a crazy man in space. Till The Blood Runs Clear starts to shed light on our impressively un-heroic hero.

This is no immediately what you might think of as a character episode, certainly not like the episodes that precede and follow it. But it does shed light on a side of Crichton we haven’t seen much up to this point–namely his obsessiveness and selfishness. Crichton is almost pathalogically self-serving. It is easy to make excuses for him, especially given the utter desperation we’ve seen in Crichton up to this point. Still, that does not make it any easier for the people around him to deal with his obsessions: earth and wormholes. He is willing to fly into an unstable wormhole, regardless of what that might mean for Aeryn. You can almost see the betrayal in Claudia Black’s performance–it’s hard to tell whether she is more hurt by John recklessly bringing her into danger or by how readily he will abandon her when the chance to go home presents itself.  The seeds of Crichton’s deep flaws are planted here, and they will only grow as the series moves on.

Two other important points of Crichton’s character emerge here. First, there is a delightful ambiguity in John’s obsession with wormholes that runs through the series–is he obsessed with them as his way home or as a scientist fascinated by his research. Certainly academics of all stripes run the risk of becoming deeply self-involved in their research and it again speaks to the selfishness of Crichton’s character if his push to explore wormholes has as much to do with his own quest for knowledge as his attempt to return to his friends and family.

Second, to put a slightly more positive spin on Crichton’s pig-headedness, we can see that what defines him is that inability to be defeated. He persists in his ruse with the blood trackers longer than he really should.  His willingness to torture D’Argo shows just how much he is willing to carry a plan to the end. It might not have been the right decision, but it does lead to a minor success by the end of the episode.

Side-note: I do love the progress of John and D’Argo’s relationship here, as they come to some sense of mutual respect and understanding. I’m not going to lie, I get a little misty-eyed every time I hear the line “We’ll never be … friends.” The John/D’Argo bromance is a beautiful thing.

The episode does push forward in what might arguably be called the long-form “meta-plot” of Farscape: the attempt by various factions to make and control wormholes.  It is questionable to call that the main plot of Farscape, as it is secondary to the overarching story of the characters and their ongoing struggles as they simply try to get by (if there is a main story of Farscape, I would argue it is the story of John and Aeryn, but some non-shipper types might disagree). But it provides the major source of dramatic action nonetheless. Due to his own obsessiveness, John will find himself caught up  in the struggle for wormholes, but in a way that is amazingly passive. He reacts to the larger forces happening around him and which are done TO him, rather than necessarily driving the action himself. Not only is he not a “hero” in the conventional sense of the word, he may not even be a protagonist in the conventional sense of the word.

Oh Right … photogasms. Sigh…

Rhapsody in Blue

Ok, so … I have to confess to not being a big fan of this episode or of Delvians in general. Given my predisposition then to gloss over this episode a bit and the migraine I’m recover from since writing the comments above, we’ll breeze past this one a little lightly.

When I’m up for it, I’ll discuss Delvian spirituality and Farscape challenge when it comes to religion (the only thing that consistently irks me about the show). For now, lets just note: “I am now a 10th level Pa’u with the power to protect!” … Really?

But it is good to be reminded that there is this darkness in Zhaan. Of all the prisoners and exiles on Moya, she is the only one truly guilty of an offence, though she has been the most benevolent to this point. I should also comment that Virginia Hey brings just as much to Zhaan as Anthony Simcoe brings to D’Argo, but writers just have a harder time figuring out what to work with Zhaan. A topic we will return to on another day.

On a related note: Hey, look! John gets mind-frelled yet again! That’s not going to be a recurring theme at all.

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5 Responses to “I’m Butch. This is Sundance.”

  1. Andrew R. says:

    Reverend Kessler! Can we have more Farscape? (Yes, I know that you have a congregation and wriggling infant–but I want my Farscape reviews!)


  2. Charlene says:

    I agree with you that the main story is the one about John and Aeryn! This article also makes some great points about how it’s science fiction’s greatest love story: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/02/farscape-told-science-fictions-greatest-love-story.

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