And then there’s Rygel, who shares the video with Pilot, even though everyone else had agreed it was something he should never see. Rygel’s actions are morally dubious in the extreme here. On the one hand, perhaps he is telling the truth and he truly thinks that it’s his ethical duty to make Pilot aware of what Aeryn did, but on the other, Chiana could have hit the nail on the head with her theory that he simply did it so that Pilot would owe him one. Or it could be both, which might be more likely, given how complexly characters’ personal agendas are woven into even their more selfless actions on Farcape. I’d also add to that list that he probably also wanted to punish Aeryn. When he called her a “Peacekeeper murderer” and tried to lunge at her, it had been the first time he’d expressed such anger at her since he attacked her all the way back in the second episode, “I, E.T.” In that moment, all of their subsequent experiences together washed away and once again he thought of her only as a monster, and in the heat of that anger, he desired revenge. Even under the best case scenario, it’s a selfish action, because revealing that truth, while it may alleviate Rygel’s conscience, suits no purpose other than causing Pilot pain, possibly robbing him of his closest friend other than Moya over a tragic event that cannot be taken back.
And not surprisingly, when Pilot does learn the truth, he is furious, but what might surprise first-time viewers is just how furious he actually is, demonstrating unfettered rage unlike we’ve ever seen from a creature who, as John comments, could only “muster…a few snotty remarks” when one of his arms was chopped off, but here–thanks to artful lighting–is most literally red in the face with fury, his first impulse being to lift Aeryn by the throat and nearly throttle the life out of her, a truly frightening moment of extreme intensity and emotional turmoil. And, again, the saddest part is that Aeryn agrees with him. As far as she’s concerned, she does deserve to die for what she did.
But episode writer Naren Shankar refuses to allow the situation to remain that cut-and-dried. Over the course of the hour, a number of flashbacks unfold that repeatedly challenge our assumptions about the characters, even within this episode. While the teaser sequence certainly paints Aeryn in as dark a light as possible, other scenes set in the past peel the layers back from that initial impression, showing that even back then, she demonstrated glimmers of the potential that she has finally begun to realize in the present day (even if she ultimately succumbed to darkness back then). For starters, it reiterates the fact that, while Aeryn should be held just as culpable for her actions as any person “just following orders,” that up until this point, she really didn’t ever have any opportunity to imagine an alternate life for herself. She was indoctrinated at birth. Furthermore, as Claudia Black describes in the DVD commentary, Aeryn was “brought up like a test-tube baby…[who couldn’t ever] be touched”. She had no idea how to process an emotion such as love nor the slightest notion of what challenging authority even meant. She had always learned to compartmentalize guilt from actions such as the first Pilot’s murder that she may on some level have known to be wrong. Questioning was trained out of her.
At the same time, Aeryn did have emotions, as evidenced by the brilliant exchange when she describes her sexual dalliances while a Peacekeeper to John:
AERYN: Most Peacekeepers are bred and reared for one purpose: military service. Procreation is assigned. There’s no such thing as a lifelong mate.
JOHN: But you have relationships–the male/female kind?
AERYN: Of course. As many and as often as you want. Peacekeeper High Command understands the troops’ biological needs. Only you don’t connect with anyone openly, and never with any longevity. I guess the point is my relationships back then tended to be somewhat…
Even if she may not have been able to fully define it at the time, even just realizing that she had some level of yearning for a true, long-lasting connection with another person indicates that she was never the average Peacekeeper. As we learned in “Family Ties,” her mother had snuck into her bunk one night when she was a child and had told her that she had been created out of love, which likely planted a subconscious seed in her head that there is another way other than the Peacekeeper way, and that it might even be a better one. At the same time, she had no tools in her arsenal to actually address this. And as we will ironically learn in Season 3, her mother ultimately never had the bravery nor skills to really confront this either, nor to break free from it.
But Velorek senses something special in Aeryn–Velorek, who is an even kinder soul than he may have seemed in the opening sequence. Interestingly, however, he isn’t woobified, either. He does some reprehensible things, such as convincing our Pilot to take the old Pilot’s place before she is dead (more on that later), inorganically bonding Pilot to Moya, and torturing Moya into accepting him. However, he is also doing so in order to survive as a Peacekeeper, outwardly obeying Crais’ orders while secretly sabotaging his plans, in order to protect both Moya and Pilot. And he also seems to love Aeryn deeply and encourages her to question her lot in life. Being a fairly high-ranking military tech officer (ironic and darkly fitting that Aeryn fell for a tech, given her disdain for most of them, though her hatred towards them now might also be due to her own guilt regarding Velorek), he would be able to get Aeryn assigned to his postings, and he asks her to go with him, and to carry on a secret romantic relationship, as what they have has clearly already passed beyond mere recreation:
VELOREK: High Command doesn’t always make the right decisions…There’s something about you, something special, and I think you know it.
AERYN: No. No, I’m not special.
VELOREK: Don’t take the Peacekeeper hard line, Aeryn. You understand what I’m saying. Can you honestly tell me all you want is to fly Prowlers like a thousand others? And serve a madman like Captain Crais?
AERYN: That is outright insubordination!
VELOREK: No, it’s not. It’s observation. Think beyond the box the Peacekeepers put your mind in, Aeryn. Crais is a maniac, and his coveted “project” is an abomination.
AERYN: No. I don’t know anything about Crais’ project, and I don’t want to know.
VELOREK: The project will likely kill this Leviathan, and I cannot let that happen. Will not.