AERYN: What does that mean?
VELOREK: Aeryn, I know how I feel about you, and I think I know how you feel about me. When I leave here, I want you to come with me. You can be so much more.
This final line is extremely important, of course, being strikingly similar to what John will say to her in “Premiere” that will ultimately inspire her to make a different decision to the one she makes here. What’s interesting to note from the above scene, though, is the push and pull between Aeryn’s desires and her responses. Although she repeatedly maintains the facade of her Peacekeeper training, Black indicates through her performance both her passion for Velorek and the nuance that she does know what he’s saying on some level. She may not want to admit it, but she is listening. Unfortunately, her desire for him might also ironically be what dooms him.
Black adds in the commentary that the “idea of intimacy scares Aeryn” due to how she was raised and so, while her ultimate betrayal of Velorek to Crais may on one level be due to her having not been ready to question Peacekeeper authority as he was encouraging her to do, on another, the very fact that she was falling in love with Velorek might have ironically contributed to her decision to tell Crais about his plans to ruin his project, because she is so terrified by both his feelings for her and perhaps even worse, her feelings for him that this becomes a way of forcibly removing that which is making her so deeply uncomfortable while at the same time a way to both advance her career and reassure herself of her loyalty to the Peacekeepers. But while it indeed helps her secure the Prowler detail from Crais that she’d longed for, as well as make him take notice of her for the first time, her actions also lead to the execution of the man she loves, a decision for which she will never forgive herself and which was likely eating away at the back of her mind when she first crossed paths with Crichton, who challenged the boxes she had been placed in for her whole life in a similar way.
It’s also significant to note that Aeryn never did discover exactly what this secret project was in the past but realizes it now, which maintains the continuity perfectly. In short, Crais was planning on creating a Leviathan-warship hybrid, and the way Velorek stopped him was to secretly install the very wall that D’Argo would later accidentally break, thus beginning Moya’s pregnancy. This is what really brings the tale that sweep of myth I alluded to earlier, because on some level, it seems like destiny that Aeryn eventually ended up on this ship, the very ship where her potential for being more was first brought up to her, and also that she first arrived on that ship in order to transport the very Pilot who would become such a dear friend to her only a few years later. She is where she was always meant to be. She had just arrived there too soon that first time around.
Had the revelations about Aeryn been the episode’s only unexpected surprises, it might have still been a very good, or even an excellent episode. What launches it into the stratosphere, however, are the revelations about Pilot. Throughout the earlier flashbacks, he came across as a victim. He seemed to be brought onto Moya as a prisoner, grafted onto her rather than through the natural bonding process, which can take at least a cycle. He was tortured when he spoke too complexly and quickly for the translator microbes to handle, and Moya was tortured when she didn’t immediately accept this stranger in her Pilot’s den. Never in a million years would one ever expect that when he lashes out at Aeryn and rips himself away from Moya, it is also because he blames himself for what happened.
In one of the single greatest scenes in Farscape history, we learn in a flashback that when he had first applied to pilot a Leviathan, the council of his people had ruled that he was too young and inexperienced, but he was desperately eager to do so, regardless. And so when Velorek came to him with the offer to replace another Pilot, he agreed, even though he knew that she would have to die. At the time, he justified it by listening to Velorek’s words that she was going to die regardless. And Lani Tupu infuses Pilot’s line, “I just wanted so desperately to see the stars” with such yearning and awe that it strikes me speechless every time. It’s impossible not to understand the impulses that drove him. Now, however, a few years older and wiser, and no longer under such a heavy temptation, he realizes that Velorek was only able to come to him because he had been rejected by the Council. Velorek likely wouldn’t have been able to convince an older, more seasoned Pilot to betray another Pilot like that, and it’s possible that if our Pilot hadn’t accepted that he wouldn’t have found another at all. And so he had partially projected all his anger onto Aeryn, in order to not have to face his own overwhelming guilt. Another important and ironic point regarding their parallel journeys in this episode: they both betrayed someone in order to secure a pilot position, Pilot on Moya, and Aeryn on Prowler detail.
Their final scene together in “The Way We Weren’t” absolutely destroys me every single time I see it (and it also contains a bit of dark irony, since Aeryn and John have to shoot at Pilot in order to stop the DRDs surrounding him from killing them). It is such a powerhouse scene for both Claudia Black and Lani Tupu, who deserves a special commendation for bringing such brilliant life to two so diametrically posed characters in this episode, playing Crais at his worst, and then Pilot at his most emotional and vulnerable. I love how, just like D’Argo in “Premiere,” Pilot is proven to be younger than he seemed, and thus when he starts to cry, Aeryn comforts him by stroking his cheek, just as Velorek used to do to calm him, delivering the following line with such deep, honest emotion that even just typing it out is making me teary: “Back then, I couldn’t fathom why he would do a thing like that, and now, I couldn’t fathom not doing it.” And then Pilot takes the very claw he used to attack Aeryn earlier in the episode and instead strokes her cheek with it, cementing an even deeper shared bond with her than ever before, just as his new, natural one with Moya will be deeper than it ever could have in the past. In moments like this, the fact that Pilot is a puppet completely melts away. These are two living creatures sharing a beautiful, highly charged scene together that is as intimate as it is operatic in the best sense of the word.