It’s important that this episode establishes just how dreadful the PKs can be, because it helps balance out the fact that it also introduces us to a PK who turns out to be a kind person, arguably even traditionally “nicer”/more approachable than Aeryn. Without Durka, we might forget ourselves and wonder whether all PKs are secretly good. But instead what it’s doing is to show that the Peacekeepers aren’t a mindless, faceless military force but are instead composed of individual people, who were simply born into these roles and are often operating on information and beliefs that they received from their superiors, with no outside influence or context allowed. Gilina believes Aeryn is a traitor and Crichton a killer, because that is what Crais and the others told her, and–just as Aeryn was at the start, and, really, most would be–she is loyal to her people, believing their cause to be just.
Aeryn and Gilina’s dynamic is also fascinating, because in the past, she is someone who Aeryn wouldn’t have had the time of day for. As previously mentioned, PK warriors look down on techs for not being able to fight, even though the entire system would collapse without them. And although Aeryn grills her as if she, Aeryn, is still a Peacekeeper and of higher rank, Gilina would be the “superior” one in the eyes of the other PKs now, Aeryn a traitor and “irreversibly contaminated”. At the same time, Aeryn is jealous of her–jealous of her for still being welcome in the “home” to which she can never return, and less importantly but to a degree perhaps even jealous for being traditionally smarter than she is, at least at science. Gilina can speak Crichton’s language in a way that she can’t, and although the show is far too intelligent to center Aeryn’s complex emotions as simple jealousy over another woman attracting John, it does add an additional layer to their conflict. She never confronts Gilina about it and never tells her to “stay away from her man” or anything similarly regressive from a feminist standpoint. She barely even admits to either Crichton or herself that she even does have feelings for him–the fact that she alludes to it at all at the end is a huge step forwards for her–but to some extent, she had to have thought of it as a distant possibility one day, even if she wasn’t yet ready.
In the end, Crichton empathizes with Aeryn to an extent that he never had before, and to which she had never thought possible, which nearly strikes her speechless, inspiring her to respect him on a deeper level than in the past. She tells him he can’t possibly understand what she is going through, and he tells her that he imagines it would be something like him returning home to Earth and finding everyone he ever loved dead. Because, for Aeryn, that is really what happened here. The dead Command Carrier is a visceral metaphor for and shocking reminder of her inability to ever go back to where she originally belonged. It looks much like the place she grew up except it is wrong: decaying and full of corpses of her former comrades, and the fact that he shows that he can understand this speaks volumes about his ability to put himself in other peoples’ shoes. It is the quality that has helped him succeed numerous times throughout these early episodes, and might even deepen her feelings for him, despite herself.
Another fascinating layer to the situation is that, while Gilina mostly just reminds Aeryn of her loss in a negative way, she is also a link to John’s past life, in looking human, having a warmer, more “human” personality versus Aeryn’s initially harder/emotionless exterior, and in being a scientist like him. When he’s with her, there are moments that he can probably almost forget that she isn’t from Earth or even that he’s an effectively endless expanse away from home. In a way, she renews his optimism for being able to find his way back one day, even while he opens her eyes to there being so much about which the PKs have misled her, not the least of which that Sebaceans are unique in the universe. Sadly, however, the two of them can’t have a future together despite their immediate, intense feelings for one another–John can’t ask her to give up her life for a dangerous one on the run, being relentlessly pursued by her own people, and he can’t go back with her on pain of death at the hands of Crais. Like D’Argo’s brief taste of “paradise” in the previous episode, it is, however, fitting that both characters are able to experience some romance shortly after commiserating about their loneliness at the end of “Back and Back and Back to the Future”.
Other odds and ends:
–When Pilot fearfully tells the crew that “Moya and I are afraid of fire,” I believe it’s the first time that we realize that the two actually share emotions with each other, indicating just how deep their bond goes.
–It’s interesting that D’Argo is so reluctant to lie to the Sheyang, due to his warrior code, while Zhaan, the priest, is pressuring him to do so for the greater good. While in the moment, it’s easy to see that Zhaan is right and that it’s actually the only way to save their lives with as little bloodshed as possible, it’s also a fitting clue as to Zhaan being willing to bend morality when the stakes deem it necessary, given that the very next episode is the is the first time that Zhaan’s dark side is featured prominently on the series.
Next: “That Old Black Magic” and “DNA Mad Scientist”
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