The other, rather brilliant aspect about the bad guys having chosen Zhaan as their fall guy is that in the moments where she loses control of herself, she does seem nearly savage, especially when she attacks the cops trying to subdue her, and at another point, grabs her public defender by the throat, and one can see why, from the perspective of someone on this planet, it wouldn’t seem too far a stretch to believe that this violent outsider probably did it. This Orwellian, claustrophobic atmosphere, thick with suspicion and paranoia, both complements and exacerbates Zhaan’s state of mind, driving her to feelings of utter despair, loss, and loneliness.
And then we come to her visions of each of her three missing friends, each of which speaks to her varying connection with each one. John is very tender and loving, allowing her to rest her head on his shoulder and finally touching foreheads with her. Aeryn is harsh and accusatory. D’Argo is kind and wise–reflecting how she had commented in “Bone to Be Wild” on them having switched roles–“I have known thousands of warriors on countless worlds, but you, Zotoh Zhaan, you are the strongest individual I have ever known,” pointing her back towards the Delvian Seek. These moments, particularly between her and the two men are both lovely and almost difficult to watch, because Zhaan yearns for them to be there with her so much, and the knowledge that they aren’t is truly wrenching, particularly given, as far as she knows, she’ll never see them again. But it’s also what encourages her to return to her calling, and ironically the reason she doesn’t rush into their arms when they all meet again in “Mind the Baby,” although only after watching this episode do we realize that it isn’t due to any lack of caring on her part.
2) As Zhaan continues to succumb to her own fear and even madness, Chiana has to step up more than she ever has before, and it proves to be an absolutely magnificent showcase for her. When people write off this episode, I feel like they’re also disregarding one of Gigi Edgley’s best performances on the show. She does a brilliant job of navigating Chiana’s arc from her original more bratty facade to the point where she’s actually proving incredibly useful at helping Zhaan. It gives her a chance to show off Chiana’s caring side, her sensual side in flirting with Tarr, the man who framed Zhaan, to get information she needs, her comedic side in the hilarious sequence in which she takes too many energy drugs in order to compensate for her hangover, her fearful side when she’s worried that Moya has left them, and ultimately her strength. Although she begins completely out of her depth, Zhaan’s diminished state eventually inspires her to really step up, and it’s great to see.
3) Along with Chiana, Rygel also eventually steps up his game, going from his default behavior to eventually assuming the more regal, noble air he can when push comes to shove, proving himself to be far more than he seems. I love how the solution to the problem of not having evidence to prove Zhaan’s innocence lies in lying a little–thus playing to Rygel and Chiana’s strengths–by using ancient Litagaran law against them via a belief in their original holy text that says that when a rod of wood is lit on fire in a courtroom, it will burn bright when held by a witness who is lying under oath.
And so in order to add further weight to their in-point-of-fact correct case, they doctor a “Light of Truth” with the help of Pilot and Moya, who decides not to leave them upon hearing Chiana being threatened by big shot bad guy, Ja Rhumann–and reiterating the recurring motif of Moya taking a more personal interest in the lives of her passengers ever since John broke down the barriers when he addressed her directly in “They’ve Got a Secret,” and being able to see reason, particularly when it’s emotionally motivated and her friends are in trouble, despite her desperate desire to locate Talyn—but instead shines all of her bioluminescence down upon the stick, making it seem as if it’s glowing to protest the false testimony. This scenario also reminds me of how Rygel used a sacred text to argue his case in “Jeremiah Crichton,” another episode that isn’t widely loved but which does have great material for our Hynerian friend. And, of course, this is also another great Chiana/Rygel pairing.
Other odds and ends:
–One aspect that works very well about having moved the story later in the season and repurposing a dream sequence from “Re: Union,” in which Rygel imagined Aeryn being shot down by the Peacekeepers, D’Argo losing consciousness, and cracks forming in John’s spacesuit helmet, causing him to explode, and turning it into a dream for Zhaan to open the episode is that it makes it very dark foreshadowing of the events of the second season finale, “Die Me Dichotomy”. Although John technically doesn’t die, for a while, he effectively does, when Harvey subsumes him completely, and Aeryn will die, just as this vision foretells, at “John'”s hands until Zhaan sacrifices her own health and eventually life to save her. And so although this isn’t a literal vision of what is going to happen, it comments on the darkness and deaths both literal and symbolic that Zhaan can sense coming for all of them, including herself. Significantly, these fears are what have compelled her to continue to follow the Seek, and the fact that she is a Pa’u once more is what will help her save Aeryn and ultimately seem to ascend to a higher plane when she dies.
–I also love that the framing story allows for a rare instance where John and Zhaan are alone in a transport pod together, eventually opening up to each other, reiterating their spiritual, shared Unity bond. They have such a tender, lovely friendship and it’s wonderful to see, particularly knowing the encroaching darkness. And it’s also lovely to see that the lull in John’s madness continues in this episode, with him again acting in the same role that he did for Aeryn in “The Way We Weren’t,” as an emotional sounding board. I really like that this reminds us that he isn’t only this way for Aeryn due to his feelings for her but is deeply empathetic with all of his friends, at least when his head is on straight.
–The reveal that Rygel has hidden some extra Keedva BBQ on the transport pod is a great and, at this point, still relatively rare continuity callback to the previous episode–not that there weren’t always tons of continuity callbacks on Farscape but in season 2, cases where the immediately preceding episode was directly referenced in an episode that wasn’t part of a two-or-three parter is fairly unusual.
–Another scene from “Re: Union” that it is a shame to have lost is the final one, in which Pilot explains to Chiana and Rygel that the reason Zhaan has checked out and is chanting is because she’s rejoined the Seek, particularly due to how happy and proud all three of them are in her when they realize–even Rygel. It’s an understated moment but one that quietly says a great deal about what his feelings for his friends truly are, despite his often narcissistic facade. Speaking of which, the fact that the aforementioned nightmare isn’t Rygel’s also robs a bit of character from him, as it says something that he of all people would be haunted by such nightmares of his friends dying. With that said, I think it probably does suit Zhaan better, particularly given the visions she continues to have of them throughout the episode.
Next: “Out of Their Minds” and “My Three Crichtons”
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