And although there are lighter moments after that scene, particularly with Crais, that is the turning point after which John really starts to snap. Whereas before, he was doing his typical Crichton thing of trying to act like everything’s fine by mocking the situation, this is when he starts getting desperate. When confronted again with everyone from the fantasy, all of whom continue to maintain that nothing is out of the ordinary, he takes out a gun and starts shooting at them. This is a step up from the relatively cartoonish violence of tossing Rygel, and of driving the car that he, “D’Argo,” “Chiana,” and “Aeryn” were riding in into oncoming traffic (particularly given that that shot was filled with visual clues that there would be no consequences, such as Scorpy riding the windshield and the deliberately bad green screen job indicating that it wasn’t real). There’s something much darker about this–particularly because he doesn’t know this is all in his head yet and so he is instead trying to kill a group of people who very well may be enemies wearing the faces of his friends–and yet just as with the earlier situation, his efforts are completely ineffectual. The bullets hit the walls and picture frames immediately behind them but pass through them entirely, without any reaction from them.
And that’s when things get darker and weirder. John’s best friend, DK, slashes his wrists and blames John. John imagines he’s a child back in the 70s and his parents are both fighting over him, his dad calling him a loser. John’s mom dresses in provocative lingerie and hits on him–again, all of his most uncomfortable moments in this episode revolve around his mom. The Scarran is hitting him where it hurts most. And then there is one moment where another character acknowledges his real persona. D’Argo and John are sitting in a car together, and D’Argo is speaking in an outrageously high, gay voice and hitting on John, before dropping it down to a deep, masculine baritone, telling him that it’s a “Luxan bonding ritual” and that “Chiana wants to watch”. Again, the Scarran is messing with John. But, at the same time, on some level, the most private corners of John’s mind might contain a homoerotic thought about D’Argo. After all, close heterosexual male friendship does have homoerotic elements, and I love the show for going there, as well as for having D’Argo run the gamut from a stereotype to a full-on “masculine” (for lack of a better word) growl. This also sets up the moment when what seems like the real Aeryn appears to rescue John, and yet she also turns out to be an illusion, as well.
And, then, after a truly dizzying final act in which John comes the closest to snapping as we have seen yet, Harvey finally saves him ironically by killing him. He shuts his brain functions down for a short time, which causes the Scarran to think he’s killed John, and afterwards, Harvey revives him. John then plays dead, secretly pressing his finger down on his pulse rifle to overload it, and just when the Scarran comes close to inspect him, stuffing it in the creature’s mouth and blowing his head off–a great moment of continuity for the show, paying off a situation in which John accidentally did that in “Throne for a Loss” in the first season but leaving it for the audience member to have seen and remembered that episode to understand why it worked.
As far as Harvey, this also explains in retrospect why it seemed that Crichton’s brain had been “overridden” when he jumped into space without a suit in “Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think”. Harvey is indeed capable of taking him over, and doing whatever he needs to “protect” him, or more accurately, protecting the data in his head, including shutting him down. And we end on the phenomenally creepy moment in which Harvey erases John’s memory of him, saying, “I won’t trouble you again. Until I need to…I leave you to your shipmates, John, but, rest assured, I’ll be with you always. Keeping you safe.” And for a split second, John stutters and slurs while trying to say the word, “Mental chip,” foreshadowing how his speech will slur when Scorpy has his actual hands in his brain in the season finale. The irony of all of this is that Harvey seems to protect John from going mad in this episode when the truth is that he’s only protected him from the Scarran’s attempt to drive him mad. His very presence is causing John to lose his sanity, and things will only get worse further down the line.
Other odds and ends:
–Although I said before that the idea that the dreams should be taken as literal representations of what John actually thinks is a red herring, what further complicates the issue is that some of the characters’ appearances are reflections of what John thinks of them, albeit exaggerated versions. Zhaan being a psychiatrist fits her spirituality as well as the calmness that she seemed to embody when John first met her. She is often a guide for him and someone he looks up to, as well as someone who he sometimes can’t understand at all, which is reflected in some of her completely impenetrable “shrink” statements. Meanwhile, Crais is a completely ineffectual, silly cop with rules that seem Lewis Carrollian in their illogic, a humorous, funhouse mirror version of his original role as John’s pursuer, Rygel is a big corporate muckety muck, which reflects his deposed ruler status, and Chiana is a sexually experimental, bisexual art student, which comments on her free-spirited nature as well as foreshadows the fact that she actually is bisexual.
Aeryn is the only who really doesn’t fit the pattern, since the role of doctor doesn’t really jibe with her being a Peacekeeper. However, that’s different for a specific reason–as the first character appearance, she is meant to be the one who might, for even the shortest time, could have potentially sold John on the possibility that he had hallucinated his adventures aboard Moya, and so doctor was really the best option. It’s at least reflective of Aeryn that she was a doctor and not a nurse. Furthermore, the (for lack of a better word) slutty guise she puts on later that is at such odds with her doctor guise also speaks to Aeryn similarly often suppressing her emotions and desires beneath her cold PK facade.
–The episode contains numerous moments that foreshadow the Scarran reveal, including lots of bits in which John is shown to be either sweating, or staring up–often at the mirrorball–which parallels the stance of a person being attacked by a Scarran heatwave, as established with Cargn in “Look at the Princess”.
–The final scene is also a direct, dark parallel/counterpoint to “A Human Reaction”. Each episode in which John is on a false Earth ends not with John returning to Moya but with him alone in a room with a male character who explains to him what has happened. In the former case, however, it is a warm, paternal figure, whereas in this episode, if anything, it’s a dark father figure who promises to “protect him” as a dad should but instead only for his own nefarious ends. And while both episodes arguably set John on a darker path than he had been on before, the first alien figure reaffirms his humanity while the second views him as nothing but an object to be used for his own ends.
Next: “The Locket” and “The Ugly Truth”
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