The cause of what is happening to Moya isn’t immediately apparent, however, and in the meantime, D’Argo has some sexy fun time with the rejuvenated Nilaam–completely understandable given how long it has been since either has been with a member of their species, and for Nilaam, in particular, these are feelings she hasn’t felt in countless cycles. Once they realize with 100% certainty that Moya’s deterioration is a result of Nilaam’s spell, she seems to do whatever she can to make things better for Moya, which does seem to indicate that she didn’t intend to hurt her, however it doesn’t necessarily mean that she was completely in the dark about the fact that she was taking something that she shouldn’t have. And while episode writer Grant McAloon does manage to mine a little comedy out of the situation, such as Chiana getting caught in Moya’s suddenly-solidified amnexus fluid whilst trying to do laundry, and Rygel getting sucked into a crack that forms in Moya’s inner hull, with his rear end and middle section plugging the hole, his butt sticking out into the vacuum of space, as the episode progresses and Moya’s situation becomes increasingly dire, it atmosphere becomes genuinely tragic, particularly when the youthful Pilot ages along with Moya into a decrepit, dying state.
At the end of the episode, he shares a beautiful scene with Aeryn in which she demonstrates all of the compassion and kindness she has felt towards him since joining Moya:
AERYN: Pilot, what is the normal lifespan of a Leviathan?
PILOT: May have lived over 300 cycles.
AERYN: What about your species?
PILOT: Normally, 1000 cycles or more. However, when we bond with Leviathans, we live no longer than they do.
AERYN: So when Moya eventually does die–
PILOT: I will go as well. I would not have it any other way.
Which speaks volumes about the Pilot/Leviathan bond, making it even more significant than we would ever realize before this point. The concept of a creature that can live a millennium willingly opting for a shorter lifespan in order to share his life with a living ship–or any other creature, really–is a beautiful one, and speaks a great deal regarding how rewarding this life is for him, as well as how much he loves Moya. The deeper reasons behind why a Pilot would make this decision are explored further in “The Way We Weren’t,” which also leaves a significant impact on Aeryn and Pilot’s relationship, which has grown so close here that he reveals things such as this to her that he would discuss with no one else.
Returning to D’Argo, however, this episode is perhaps the best demonstration up to this point of the extreme shift in how the characters treat one another, because if this same plot had happened in the first season, we as viewers might genuinely have questioned whether D’Argo would shift allegiances from his ship and shipmates to Nilaam. Although the other people aboard the ship aren’t certain that he hasn’t turned on them, which makes sense, given past behavior, the thought never enters his mind. He seems to be in denial for a little while, particularly due to Nilaam’s reassurances that she can fix the problem, but he never truly considers allowing Moya to die for Nilaam to retain her new vitality. When she argues that “it is just a ship,” he refuses to let her think of Moya as an object or a thing, yelling, “MOYA IS NOT JUST A SHIP. She‘s alive. And you are taking her life to restore your own.” And so D’Argo doesn’t go on the emotional journey in this episode that he might have in the first season of having to analyze his own priorities and allegiances to his friends vs. another of his species. He has already made his decision before Nilaam and he ever crossed paths, and she isn’t going to change it.
At the same time, the situation is incredibly difficult for him because he does have feelings for her but knows what has to be done. If Nilaam won’t willingly surrender her life, D’Argo might have to take it, and this is where the episode’s emotional crux truly lies, and it culminates in an absolutely gorgeous scene between Crichton and D’Argo which is hugely significant for being–at least in my opinion–the moment when the two guys truly become best friends. They’ve been through a great deal together, including many arguments, some laughter, and odd moments of bonding, and yes, their experience together at the end of “Family Ties” had a profound impact on their relationship. They risked their lives for one another and floated together in space, holding hands. However, this is when they begin to really open up to each other emotionally. For the first time ever, their roles flip.
When they first met, D’Argo, the seemingly fierce, unbending warrior, was constantly judging Crichton and finding him inferior. Now, he’s the one begging John to understand the pain he’s going through. “Moya, Pilot, Aeryn, they will never forgive her. They may never even forgive me,” he says. “But you…you must understand.” This is such a gorgeous moment because it’s the first time D’Argo reaches out to John in this way. He is the unsure, confused one here, and he truly wants his friend to help him. When John tells him that whether or not Nilaam’s intent was innocent isn’t the point, what is is that she’s hurting their friend and protector, the scene acts as an echo of what he told to Rygel in “Family Ties” about doing the right thing, and similar to Rygel’s voice cracking in response, D’Argo breaks down in tears in front of him, “Don’t you think I know what has to be done?” and John sits close to him, silently. And after a few moments, just knowing his friend is there, supporting him, helps restore D’Argo’s resolve. D’Argo knows what he has to do. He just had to hear it from John.
Who ever could have imagined this happening in “Premiere”? In “Till the Blood Runs Clear,” John and he seemed to confirm that they could never be friends, and now each has grown into possibly the best male friend either has ever had, so much so that as D’Argo goes to Nilaam–who has finally accepted the truth–and performs the death ritual with her, John, in the other room, quietly cries for his friend–a moment of astounding power and empathy unlike any I’ve seen on almost any other TV show, particularly coming from a straight male lead of a sci-fi series. But John truly mourns his friend’s loss along with him. He is going through a great deal of emotional turmoil himself and understands how lonely it is in the Uncharted Territories, cut off from your entire species and the life you knew, he knows what happened to his friend’s last love, and his heart hurts for him. In the final moments of the episode, when John asks D’Argo if he wants some alone time, D’Argo tells him that he will later, but “not yet,” meaning for now, he wants his friend there with him, a far cry from the initial “every man for himself” philosophy of the early episodes. And it’s reflected through a beautiful friendship between two strapping, heterosexual male characters who are unafraid to share their emotions with one another. Yet another reason Farscape will always be my favorite space opera.
Next: “Taking the Stone” and “Crackers Don’t Matter”
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