Scorpius, my friends. Scorpius.
If there is one thing that defines Farscape as much as John Crichton’s insanity, amazing Jim Henson creatures, and twisting sci-fi conventions, it is the masterful villain Scorpius. This despite the fact that he does not show up for nearly the entire first season. There is much to say about Scorpius and I’m sure there will be ample opportunity on this blog for such discussion. Suffice it to say at the moment I was impressed on this repeat viewing by the degree to which Scorpius is clearly designed as a do-over for what the writers were trying (if unsuccessfully) to achieve in the character of Crais. In Crais, we have an antagonist irrationally fixated on Crichton, willing to pursue him in defiance of all reason and who will be deterred by nothing. The problem is … that just wasn’t sustainable or compelling beyond a couple episodes. Crais was too unjustified in his motivation, for all that the writers tried to give compelling reason why he was so protective of his brother.
Enter Scorpius. Suddenly, we have Crichton’s other half. He is a scientist. Though the reasons remain yet to be seen why his is so obsessively focused on wormholes, right now it is enough merely to know that he is–at the very least for the military advantage they might allow. The latent wormhole knowledge the Ancients imparted to John will, first of all, give John a goal to work towards in getting home beyond aimlessly wandering around the galaxy. But it also gives Scorpius an active reason to unwaveringly hunt down this hapless human. We don’t know yet quite what makes Scorpius tick, but Wayne Pygrim plays his role with such conviction that we’re clear Scorpius has motivations for his actions beyond just, “Grrrr! EVILLLL!” This climactic 2-parter sets up the compelling John-Scorpius dynamic. Two scientists who will battle one another on an intellectual playing field. They are a proper match for one another. A good villain should indeed reflect something of the protagonist against whom he or she is at odds. For that reason, Scorpius will truly become one of the great sci-fi villains, not just for his own sake, but as a result of the compelling dynamic the writers will craft between Scorpius and John.
Beyond Scorpius, there is just too much going on in these episodes for me to possibly do them justice (also, I have about 45 minutes before I need to head off to catch a plane and probably won’t be able to update this blog for a week…) Let me just highlight a couple things worth mentioning:
—Gilina: Not only is Gilina a wonderful character, and practically helpful to Crichton’s attempt to infiltrate Scorpius’s base. Bringing her back was a brilliant way for the writers to show in just a few brief seconds how much Crichton has changed in a dozen episodes. There was a time when Crichton was innocent, just looking for someone he could have a connection with in this strange, alien world. Now he is much darker. Not that he does not care for Gilina at all. He just has already been too broken, too damaged to be the John Crichton Gilina herself is pining for. It is sad to see a John Crichton now who’s first impulse upon seeing Gilina again is to pull out a gun. But, lets be honest, that Crichton is a lot more interesting to watch.
Also, it has to be said that for all that I am an unapologetic John and Aeryn shipper, I love the way the love triangle is so … not played out through the episode, despite Gilina’s best efforts. Gilina demands to know the state of John and Aeryn’s relationship, which neither will wholly deny but possibly just because they honestly can’t be bothered to worry about it in the middle of a dangerous rescue operation. I especially love how Chiana reads the situation and is just blatantly willing to lie to Gilina about Crichton’s feeling because …. dang it, she has more important things to worry about at the moment!
—Stark and the Aurora Chair: Stark is another character who will provide us ample opportunity for discussion. Is he the most annoying person in all of Farscape, or is he perhaps a sign of the show’s brilliance? I’m not sure I have a firm opinion on that question here. But I will say this. Crichton is broken in this episode in a way we have not seen him broken yet before. It’s as if the whole season was building up to this moment when the last tenuous threads keeping Crichton’s sanity together would finally be cut as Crichton’s mind is fully, and irrevocably violated by Scorpius’s chair. But he is not wholly defeated … yet. Stark is Crichton’s reminder of There but for the grace of God. “My Side! Your Side! My Side! Your Side!” … Will Crichton remain on the side of the functionally sane, or will he descend into that state of abject madness?
Chiana: At this point, the writers are still playing Chiana as effectively another Rygel. Self-serving and a foil for the rest of the crew as they are coming to form more positive relationships with one another. I prefer Chiana more as the seasons go on, but I do appreciate seeing her usefulness here (just like it’s always nice to be reminded that Rygel has his uses). And to realize that when people believe in her, she is actually able to accomplish a lot … like successfully delivering Moya’s baby.
John and Aeryn: Part of why I enjoy the love story between John and Aeryn is that often it is played in the subtext, not in the text. Ben Browder and Claudia Black have stated repeatedly that long before the writers decided to bring that relationship to the forefront of the story, they were already committed to the romance in their performances. And for all that I appreciate how the emerging romance between John and Aeryn does not overpower everything else going on in these episodes, there are moments when it is clear what these two mean to each other. The handshake as John comes to say goodbye where their thumbs ever so slightly brush one another’s hands. And, as Aeryn bursts in to John’s cell: “That … is the Radiant Aeryn Sun!” Let us never forget that Aeryn is and always will be John’s defender.
But #1 moment goes to Aeryn’s encounter with Crais: “Everything I lost isn’t worth a damn and I don’t want to go back to your life!”
If I didn’t know better, I’d say she has learned that she can be more!