In a lot of ways, this episode mirrors the events of last season’s “The Hidden Memory” and “Family Ties”: once again, John is in the hands of Scorpius, strapped to a device as he tries to probe his mind; once again, he’s in this incredible danger because he had been trying to save a friend, the difference being that this time he had gone in with the intention of handing himself over to Scorpy, rather than not having any clue what exactly he was walking into; once again, Crichton’s friends, headed by Aeryn, mount a rescue effort to save him, although now they’re backed up by a crew of mercenaries; and once again, it culminates in a huge explosion that completely takes out the enemy facility in which he was being held, although this time around they’re still on the planet when it happens and in danger of blowing themselves up with it. Last time around, one almost couldn’t imagine a darker situation for Crichton and Co. to find themselves in, because it was the darkest the series had ever been up to that point. This episode, however, dials the intensity of each of these situations up to eleven. Last time, Crichton was tortured and weakened yet still had a great deal of fight in him and the resolve to survive. This time, he has so lost himself that Aeryn needs to knock him into unconsciousness into order to save himself from himself, and D’Argo has to carry him out. During the final battle, all John can do is sit on the floor, practically in the fetal position, while all of the action occurs around him.
The thing that’s scariest about this is that it isn’t until those final moments that things get quite this bad for him. Earlier on, he still has the wherewithal to try to resist both Scorpy and Natira. He’s certainly more beaten down that we’ve seen him before, and he’s made fully aware by Harvey that Scorpy isn’t going to let him leave here alive after he gets the wormhole technology out of his brain, but he continues to defiantly quip with both of them, and even manages to convince Natira that Scorpius is going to turn on her, as well, likely as punishment for her attempt to kill him. But although there is still a remnant of the old him in there, by the end, it is all but completely driven away by Harvey–Crichton’s desire to destroy Scorpius being nullified by the voice in his head compelling him to put down his weapon and return to Scorpius. This war within him is tearing his mind and soul apart. And the darkest irony is that it reaches its apex once it seems that they have finally killed Scorpius once and for all. After the explosion, Harvey launches an even more intense mental attack on John than ever before, punishing him for having abandoned Scorpy just when he was so close to getting the wormhole data and/or thinking he killed him. (In the next episode, Harvey has John send a signal to Scorpius, thought it’s not clear whether he knows Scorpius survived, due to either some sort of lifelink or just knowing Scorpy very well, or whether he was just being optimistic and following protocol, just in case.) The first time that we were given full confirmation that John was actually seeing and communicating with a Scorpius in his head, it was while he was playing a complex board game with him. The show returns to that imagery again in the culmination of this episode, only now Crichton is too far gone to even place a piece on the board without his hand shaking out of control.
After two episodes of D’Argo being furious with John for seeming to have betrayed him, he finally realizes the true depth of John’s love and devotion for him and his son in this one, but by the time he is actually reunited with Crichton and able to thank him, he realizes it might be too late. He might have now lost him forever, and on some level, he has to blame himself for the part he indirectly played in Crichton having nearly sacrificed himself. But that is the kind of friend John is. As I’ve said before, he’s a deeply empathetic, sincere, truly lovely person, which makes it all the more difficult to see him in this state. Even the fact that this trilogy ends on such a down note is remarkable. Due to the general structure of these sorts of three-part mini-arcs, we are meant to expect that the story will end triumphantly, and yet here it both does and doesn’t. All of the major goals have been accomplished, and yet it still ends on the most disquieting, disturbing note of any episode yet, which launches Crichton’s story directly into the breathtaking, grandly operatic season finale.
Also extremely significant is the fact that, after waiting a decade to find his son again, shortly after D’Argo reunites with Jothee, he starts to get the first indications that things aren’t going to be nearly as smooth between them as he had always hoped. Jothee is no longer the sweet little boy that he sent away to save him from the Peacekeepers. He has had a hard life on the run and, according to him, has had to do many things he wasn’t proud of in order to survive. Ironically, the same could be said for D’Argo, but rather than being a point that could unite them further, it drives a wedge for numerous reasons, the most prominent probably being that Jothee fears he hasn’t lived up to what he believes his dad wants of him, and perhaps even more importantly, the resentment that Jothee can’t help feeling towards him and his mother. Although he intellectually knows what happened to them isn’t their fault but that of the corrupt, racist system under which they all live, his life has still been made unspeakably difficult due to his mixed-species status and that is not easy to shrug off or forgive, particularly given that father and son have been apart from each other for so long that they don’t really know each other anymore. All they have are memories of each other, and ideas of one another based on those far-distant memories, and so that leads to the first rumblings of tension that will get worse in subsequent episodes. D’Argo is initially hurt and surprised when Jothee refuses to help him rescue John, especially given that John gave himself up for him, but by the same token, Jothee isn’t being unreasonable. He has just been through a great deal and had only just been rescued. From his perspective, it’s understandable that he wouldn’t want to plunge right back into that nightmare a moment later for a man he doesn’t know. He does come around as the episode proceeds, but it’s a significant point for D’Argo that makes him realize for the first time that his expectations for his son and the person his son actually is do not coincide, or at least not yet.
One of the episodes’ greatest surprises is how honorable most of the gang of mercenaries they assemble end up being, particularly given how combative they are at the start of the episode, upon first realizing that Moya’s crew has no money to pay them. But from the moment that Aeryn calls the Zenetan Pirates cowards to their faces, particularly for trying to steal Moya–as she says, a sick, half-burned Leviathan–from them, everyone but the pirates fall in line. The Zenetans end up working for Scorpius, but all of the non-human-looking ones prove beyond trustworthy.