Farscape 3.21-3.22: “Into the Lion’s Den,” Part 2; “Dog with Two Bones”

After continuing our journey with John Crichton last week with “Fractures” and “Into the Lion’s Den,” Part I, our Farscape re-watch continues this week with the final 2 episodes of Season 3.

Just one important note: if you are new to Farscape, you may NOT want to partake of these posts, as I plan on including potentially major spoilers for later events. They are written not for the Farscape virgin but more for the viewer who–if not as obsessive about the show as I am–has at least seen it once through and can appreciate the bits of foreshadowing and long-term arc progression that the show sets up often far in advance.

3.21: “Into the Lion’s Den, Part II: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” Original airdate: 28 January 2002

"Into the Lion's Den, Part II: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"

“Into the Lion’s Den, Part II: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”

And once again, we’ve come to one of those episodes of Farscape–one of those series-defining, all-time-best-level hours that, to this day, still legitimately blow my mind with their epic scope and cinematic visuals. “Into the Lion’s Den II: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” is Farscape at its most awe-inspiring: dark, epic, heartbreaking, breathtaking space opera with a mythic sweep and depth of drama and character that put most sci-fi blockbuster films to shame. This episode has indelible moments that have never left me since the night it first aired, along with shots that it is still difficult to believe were produced a basic cable genre program. How could a 22-episode-a-year TV show pull anything off this incredible? To this day, it boggles my mind.

The episode’s brilliance begins right there in its name, which ingeniously twists the idiom that is its subtitle, along with the characters’ positions from the previous episode. The names of both parts of “Into the Lion’s Den” refer to our heroes. In the first one, however, they are labeled as victims, as “Lambs to the Slaughter”. The second, however, casts Crichton in the role of the titular “villain” against Scorpius. He is a “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” (a phrase usually applied to a baddie), pretending to help Scorpy realize his dream of dominance over wormhole technology but actually planning on betraying him all along. And what’s so incredible about the depiction of both characters is that, although as viewers we are completely rooting for Crichton, as always, this episode also might inspire us to feel a measure of sympathy for Scorpius, and to an even more significant level than in his origin story in “Incubator”. As stirring as that one is, it mostly focuses on the horrors Scorpy suffered, as well as his anger, both of which certainly have an impact but aren’t as affecting as a far more subtle, unexpected emotion we see from him in this one, namely awe.

When Crichton prepares to fly his module through the wormhole the Peacekeepers have created, he asks if Scorpy might want to come along with him, and although the Leather-Clad One initially shrugs it off, John soon begins to appeal to his innermost desires: “C’mon, Grasshopper, come with me. You spent your life in search of wormholes. Let me introduce you to one, up close and personal. Unless of course you’re too scared…” And for a moment something truly approaching a childlike sense of wonder crosses Scorpius’ face and remains there throughout their journey together in the wormhole. For a brief time, you can see not only joy and awe cross his face but deep gratitude to Crichton for bringing him what he had desired for so long. Wayne Pygram has always been amazing in the role, but here he reaches heights unlike any he had in the past, because as great as it can be to see him gnash his teeth and snarl, instead catching the character in this quiet moment of utter happiness is unlike anything we basically ever see from villains in sci-fi. He isn’t malevolently gloating over defeating an enemy or evilly plotting. Instead he’s just happy because a goal he has longed for his entire life is finally within his grasp. It’s a stunningly naked moment, and that’s why it’s difficult to not feel a little bad for him, knowing what Crichton and his friends have planned. 

Because the thing is, yes, Scorpius is unequivocally a bad guy who has done hideous things, and it would be horrible beyond words for the PKs to get their hands on this technology. At the same time, Scorpius isn’t entirely wrong about how advantageous this would be against the Scarrans, and furthermore, underneath his nasty exterior, he is still that scared, wounded, angry little boy who discovered that everything he had thought about his existence had been a lie. This ride with Crichton very well might be the closest he’s ever felt to another living soul, and it’s actually just a ruse to distract him. And that’s sad, even if entirely deserved.

Because, of course, the major reason it happens in the first place is his threatening John’s home planet and all of its residents. John has no way to tell that his nemesis won’t make good on his threat. The very idea and magnitude of the threat itself indicates that Scorpy definitively can’t be trusted. And, interestingly, just as Crichton loses any faith in Scorpy’s “humanity,” so to speak, he gains it for the first “insane military commander” who chased him–namely, Bialar Crais, who, while John is off distracting Scorpius, enacts the plan to destroy the Command Carrier that had once been his. But not before doing something that makes John thinks he is betraying him all over again, and that is reporting to Scorpius that Crichton and his friends had planned on blowing up the enormous ship, which naturally infuriates John…until, that is, Aeryn and Crais later explain to him why he did what he did: he knew that the only way to take out the ship, particularly in such a way that would spare the lives of most of the 50,000 people aboard, would be with Talyn, but with his access to Talyn forbidden by Scorpius, he knew that the only way to get inside Talyn would be to completely distract Scorpy. He had to convince Scorpy that he was not on Crichton’s side, and therefore used Crichton’s very real reaction of hatred towards him to sell this ruse. That way, Scorpius would believe that Crichton’s plans had failed and, furthermore, would focus most of his attention on John, thereby allowing Crais to work his magic whilst the Scarran half-breed’s attention was fully occupied.

What’s most remarkable about Crais’ plan, however, is that it revolves around an act of self-sacrifice. He tells John that he has chosen to go aboard Talyn and order him to initiate starburst within the command carrier. With nowhere for the built-up energy to go, it would decimate Talyn and himself within him and cause a series of explosions that would take out the entire Command Carrier but in a gradual manner, allowing most of the people to abandon ship via the copious amount of escape pods and ships. What an enormous distance Crais has come from the fully self-centered, nearly deranged-with-power commander he was in the first episode to someone willing to give up his own life in order to save the galaxy. It has been a long, arduous, very gradual process, marked by fits and starts the whole way, and in the end, it’s more than fitting that the very last time Crichton and Crais interact, it begins with Crichton believing he’s been burned by him yet again, only by the end to finally be truly astounded by the change in him that Aeryn had hoped for years ago. And, as I mentioned in “Infinite Possibilities, Part II: Icarus Abides,” likely the most truly remarkable thing about it is that the other Crichton is the one who likely inspired this action, first by showing him the destructive power of what wormholes could do in the wrong hands, and then by dying in exchange for protecting potentially countless billions of people. Crais doesn’t have anyone in his life, really. He lost his parents and his beloved brother, the woman he loves will never feel the same way in return, and his foster-son-of-sorts, Talyn, has such mental damage that he would need to be fully erased and reborn in order to survive. That isn’t to say that there wouldn’t have been a chance for Crais to find happiness under different circumstances, but that this lack of ties explains why he finds himself able to do this, and prove himself to his comrades and himself in the process. And the fact that, despite his loneliness, he still demonstrates care for other people who he doesn’t know and never will–that is huge. Meanwhile, it also offers redemption for Talyn, who now won’t get that second chance but who, on the other hand, wouldn’t have been the same being when they were done with him, anyway. This way, he gets to leave the world on his terms, heroically, using his destructive power for good, and also ironically against those who created him, and in a way that doesn’t even doom the people aboard the Command Carrier.

At the same time, while Crais and Talyn share this redemptive act, Crais also manages to go out fully as himself. He may be saving the world and dying in the process but it doesn’t mean that he is suddenly pure as the driven snow. In some ways, he uses his former persona as a form of protection for himself and the PK woman he had had an affair with in the past. Although the previous episode seemed to set up a situation where she might have betrayed him and/or he might have had revenge on her, in the end, she warns him that she’ll have to inform Scorpius if he plots against him–indicating she really does care–and he responds by publicly punching her, and yelling, “Tell Scorpius it’s not going to work! Next time he sends someone to spy on me, send someone I care about!” The always brilliant Lani Tupu does an amazing job of blending both sides of Crais in this moment. Outwardly, he is being a bastard and yet by so doing he is also saving her life by distancing her from him, and you can see the sadness on his face, seeming to indicate that he’s sorry that she probably won’t ever know for sure that he did care and, as with Crichton, had only done what he did to save everybody. And then there is, finally, his positively epic sign-off when he gets to save the world from PK wormhole mastery and finally has his revenge on Scorpius for stealing this very Command Carrier from him at the same time. “I am standing in your heart,” he says, “and I am about to squeeze…You are the most repellant of creatures, Scorpius. You weren’t born into the Peacekeepers. You weren’t conscripted against your will.You  chose to be one…The last time I left this ship, my ship, I did so under a veil of secrecy. You forced that situation. You took away my command. You stole my life from me! Well, this time, Scorpius, I’m not leaving quietly…Talyn…Starburst.” What more is there to be said about that?

And in typical Farscape style, that grand, climactic, incredible moment isn’t actually the culmination of the episode but is instead only about halfway through and yet, even with that, the rest isn’t simply falling action. There is plenty of more epic to come, including the rapturously beautiful shot of the serene lake from the “outdoor park” aboard the Carrier turning violent, as it comes crashing through a wall and rushing in the form of a raging waterfall down a staircase on which Scorpius is standing, operatic music playing in the background, as his world falls apart around him. As executive producers Rockne S. O’Bannon and David Kemper explain on the episode’s DVD commentary, this was a one of a kind shot that, due to the ungodly amount of water involved, had to be done in one take. That isn’t CGI. It’s real water, and the drama feels all the more visceral and tangible because of it. In a way, it references Titanic, the film about the destruction of another famously “unsinkable ship,” and yet it has such majestic beauty that it also stands entirely on its own as likely the single most breathtaking moment of the entire series. How often does a show really allow you to feel a villain’s loss? In the story of Scorpius’ life, as told by him, he is a tragic hero, and for this moment, you can feel his utter devastation, as everything his life had been building to literally washes away around him. It’s also so powerful to see this sort of image on a spaceship. In these sorts of filmic events, we usually expect fire and explosions, not water, even though there would have to be vast tanks of it on board, and it’s yet another example of Farscape thinking both outside the box and more ambitiously than the general genre show.

Returning to Crais, just as Talyn-John’s bravery inspired him in his final moments, so does his selfless act inspire Crichton, who–in another astounding bit of dramatic irony–uses the Aurora Chair, the very monstrosity that began this entire nightmare for him all the way back in Season 1, on another person but not to hurt him but to help him. To possibly save his life. The only person on that Command Carrier besides Crichton–for whom the missing wormhole equations begin to subconsciously unlock as he works on them, just as happened to the other Crichton, sans external help from Jack–who now carries the wormhole knowledge in his own mind is his fellow scientist, Strappa, who worked with him every step of the way, and they both realize that, even with the Command Carrier falling to pieces around them, that Scorpy could still hunt down Strappa along with John to get the information, and so he willingly sits in the Aurora Chair in order to continue to keep the knowledge out of PK hands, and John operates it to protect him from that fate, although you can see the pain on Crichton’s face for having to inflict the pain he suffered on another. But, again, at a time when the ship they are on is falling apart and it is crucial to leave ASAP, he risks his life to save this man, and that is why we love John Crichton. He isn’t a big, epic, stereotypical sci-fi hero, but paradoxically, he’s more of one because of that. Because, in many ways, other than his brilliant mind, he is a fairly normal guy who has managed to survive due to his resilience, loyalty, love, optimism (despite it being horribly tested over the years) and human spirit. His is the sort of heroism that others in real life could aspire to, because if you strip away the pulse pistols and the spaceships and the wormhole tech, he’s simply a deeply kind individual who does the right thing, even when it could cost him everything.

Furthermore, having witnessed his former enemy, Crais, truly turning a new leaf and proving himself in ways he never could have imagined, Crichton is compelled in turn to, by the end, also have more compassion for Scorpius than he ever could have dreamed possible. In their final scene together in the episode, the two speak remarkably peacefully with one another, Scorpius almost impressed by John’s tenacity, despite himself, and John sorry for having had to destroy Scorpy’s dreams. The most striking thing about it all might be that Scorpius tells him he’s not going to go after Earth. Part of him may want to kill or punish Crichton for what he did, but a stronger part realizes that there’s no point. The only vengeance he ever truly cared about was against the Scarrans. It’s why he pursued John with such singleminded resolve. And with that revenge now taken away from him seemingly forever, he can’t even find the strength within himself to hate John Crichton. A 60-cycle voyage just to get back at him? Not worth it. Which really puts Scorpy’s motivations and intelligence into perspective. He’s a villain but he never got off on being evil. He was always driven by a single purpose and now, that purpose is gone. Also, ironically, his quest to destroy that “evil” race that composed half of his biology only turned him more like that side he so desperately wanted to rid himself (and the world) of. But now, at least for the time being, he sheds that dark, vindictive side, and seems to all but give up, refusing John’s unspoken but implied offer to allow him to escape with him on his module before he can say it. Even after all he’s gone through before, John does a lot of growing up in these moments and for the first time sees Scorpy as less than pure malevolence. In this scene lies the crux of their surprising alliance in Season 4 (which was probably also foreshadowed in some ways by his relationship with Harvey throughout the year).

Other odds and ends:

–Of all of these two episodes’ strong points, the most impressive is likely the size of it all. Due to the genuinely huge, expansive sets and details such as the park area, the sauna rooms, the generator rooms, the mess hall, the huge loading dock etc., the area truly looks and feels massive, which makes the destruction all the more powerful.

–Earlier in the episode, John briefly returns to Moya for what at the time could have been the last time and has a lovely scene with Pilot, the two touching heads in a conscious echo of their goodbye in the first season finale, “Family Ties”. The moment when he gives Pilot and Moya his love and Pilot returns it, for both, gets me every time,  particularly given what Moya is going through with the impending definitive loss of her son. They had all first bonded over Talyn’s birth and now, on the occasion of his death, they again share a moment–which is lovely and heartbreaking and gives such a sense of the history between all of the characters by this point.

–Even amidst all this, the episode also finds time for a character arc for Aeryn, who is back home where she grew up for the first time on the series, and able to in some ways relive her experiences from a new perspective. Last week, she focused on the nostalgia and some good times she had. In this episode, however, her decision to leave is reconfirmed for her, ironically through the very woman, Henta, she had been initially so happy to reunite with in “Lambs to the Slaughter.” In the park, Aeryn notices a sensitive young girl with wounded hands and proceeds to show her the kindness she never received as a child. Henta, however, comes over and behaves towards the child exactly the way they were treated at that age, whipping her hand directly over the cut as a lesson against getting “soft”. The previous episode had teased that Aeryn might have been getting to her, but this one confirms that she didn’t. And in the end, Henta burns to death while trying to kill Aeryn for her involvement in the Command Carrier disaster. Whereas John chose to help Strappa in lieu of fleeing for his safety immediately, Henta loses her life due to attempting to punish her former friend–a true waste, and one that proves to Aeryn once and for all that she is no longer a Peacekeeper, in case she were entertaining any thought of sliding backwards in the wake of Talyn-Crichton’s death. It may not be that she was ever actually considering it, however, so much as that at this point in her journey and after all she’d been through, she needed this time to not only think back on her former life but to visit it again and therefore truly know that she can’t go home again. The act of taking part in destroying the Command Carrier is a very direct metaphor for Aeryn saying goodbye to that life forever. And what is fascinating is that while Aeryn shuts this door for herself in this episode, John theoretically shuts the door to Earth in the very next one, which should theoretically draw them together but Aeryn is still not ready, leading to detours no one could have predicted.

3.22: “Dog with Two Bones” Original airdate: 31 January 2002

"Dog with Two Bones"

“Dog with Two Bones”

After the epic, world-shattering events of the previous two episodes, Farscape ends what is most likely its overall strongest season with a comparatively subdued yet utterly beautiful, haunting, even ethereal episode that largely dispenses with a traditional plot and instead spends a great deal of its time in Crichton’s head, where lush, dreamy fantasy sequences of an imagined life on Earth with Aeryn play out, eventually evolving from practically fairy tale to nightmare. What is most interesting and unusual about the structure is that, at first, these visions function as what seem like the episode’s B-plot, but its titular A-plot is completely resolved as early as the end of Act 2, revealing the former to have been the true crux of the episode all along. A reflective, atmospheric, almost stream-of-conscious hour, “Dog With Two Bones” affords John a chance to sort through his own aspirations, fears, dreams, doubts, priorities, and emotions before making the most significant decision of his life, while also forming an elegant bridge between this season and the next, poetically foreshadowing events to come in the following year.

One of the most striking elements of the episode is how visually dark and light it is. In the “real-world” present, Moya has rarely looked quite this oppressively dark before. On an in-story level, this is because a mad, rogue Leviathan has attacked Moya, damaging some of her systems, while thematically, it underlines and enhances all of the characters’ brooding, mournful states of mind. Not only are they about to lay one of their own to rest–and additionally, they have lost many people this year, and have had to deal with great upheaval–but they are all about to be faced with definitively splitting up from one another, all going their separate ways, some such as D’Argo, Chiana, and Rygel to finally achieve long-standing goals, and Aeryn largely running away from her own feelings, which–despite their resolve–has left them all conflicted and sad. Also, Crichton is basically being abandoned by everybody. This somber setting is magnificently contrasted with the exceedingly bright, white, surreal, soft-focus world of Crichton’s visions, in which he and Aeryn are getting married on Earth and in which all of his alien friends are there, as well, to cheer on the happy couple. And even as these hopes ultimately fall apart around him, the dream sequences never loses their glowing brilliance, which manages to make them all the more devastating.

Meanwhile, even aboard Moya, the atmosphere feels even more surreal than usual. The blend of the darkness and Rowan Woods’ directorial choices create a slightly off-balance landscape that perfectly mirrors the characters’ hazy emotions, and other touches add to this dreamlike feel, as well, such as the first appearance of Noranti (Melissa Jaffer), a mystical old woman with a third eye in the middle of her forehead, who seems to have appeared out of nowhere, and with no explanation, at least at first, like a wise old crone out of fairy tale and mythology. And in this episode, she’s never named, making her seem even more like a strange spirit who has manifested here to mess with John’s mind with her drug-like potions and magical fairy dust. As we later learn, she is actually a PK prisoner who Crichton helped rescue on his way out of the Command Carrier and who has remained aboard out of gratitude. And when she drugs him, it isn’t with malicious intent; instead, it is meant to help him navigate through his illusions and face the truth about his life: namely, he can’t have Aeryn/his friends and Earth. It’s one or the other. And even with that, he might not have a choice about the former, since they are all leaving and she has chosen to join an ex-PK squad of people who claim to do good but who Jool characterizes as a group of assassins, and therefore actually a step backwards for Aeryn, whereas she justifies it by it giving her space away from John and the tumultuous feelings he provokes in her, as well as an opportunity to use her PK soldier skills for a noble cause, regardless of that not likely actually being the case. It’s a lie she tells herself so that she doesn’t have to think about the fact that she’s actually willfully following in her mother’s footsteps. But we’ll return to that shortly.

The episode’s surreal vibe is also enhanced by the nature of the “A-plot,” which centers on Moya and her crew flying to the Leviathans’ sacred ancestral burial grounds–a fascinating concept to add to the mythology, filling in more details of Leviathan culture and belief–in order to bury her son’s remains. As they try to bring them in, however, she is assaulted by the aforementioned mad Leviathan, who lost three sons to the Peacekeepers and so refuses to allow Talyn to be buried there, due to his half-PK heritage. This thread is beautifully handled, due to the writing never simplifying the moral complexity of the situation. As a fellow mother who has lost a son, Moya deeply respects this Leviathan and her immense grief. She has clearly been driven to insanity due to her mental anguish, and that is terribly sad. At the same time, she has become a menace, and they soon learn that Moya isn’t the only other Leviathan that she has threatened. She has actually killed and wounded quite a few others in the past and, perhaps most horrifically, murdered her own Pilot through nutrient deprivation. Therefore, neither Moya nor any of the others take any pleasure in having to fight her and utlimately put her down but they can’t allow her either to harm Talyn’s remains nor hurt anyone else in the future. But again, even just the imagery of Moya being rammed by this Leviathan, who functions as a distorted, exaggerated reflection of her own grief, contributes to the surreal nature of the episode.

And now, let’s return to Crichton’s dreams, which begin as wish fulfillment but then turn into something much darker. As the episode starts, he envisions the typical Earth coupling fantasy: his gorgeous fiancee, Aeryn, trying on some wedding dresses–the first of which, which Crichton rejects as not being right for her, significantly, was Katrala’s from “Look at the Princess,” which both comments on the fact that whereas his last marriage was less than ideal, this time it is with the woman he truly loves (while also hinting that this one might be similarly doomed), and foreshadows Aeryn’s secret, that she’s pregnant, just as Katrala was, and possibly also going to have a child Crichton will never know–until she finally finds the perfect one, the two of them kissing, and being gorgeously, effervescently in love. However, soon afterwards, cracks in the facade begin to show: Aeryn has trouble learning/speaking English and communicating with the translator-microbe-less population of this backwoods planet; worse, she’s getting bored trapped on this one place with its mundane people and their mundane little suburban lives, and the lack of ambient noise she’s used to from a life lived on spaceships (although something John isn’t considering in his dream is that he very likely would have the very same problem, as evidenced by Old Crichton in “The Locket”).  And Aeryn isn’t the only one having trouble there. Chiana, for example, can’t abide by human rules and keeps shoplifting clothes and finally making out with John’s dad.

That isn’t to say that these are John’s only concerns regarding returning home, either with or without Aeryn. His biggest, most horrific one plays out at the wedding itself where, after a lovely, moving, full-on fantasy of the perfect nuptials, all hell breaks loose, when in the middle of the reception, Peacekeepers charge into the hall, pulse pistols a’blazing and beging to indiscriminately shoot everyone assembled there. At first, the scene was so striking because it managed to be both Earthbound in its depiction of the perfect wedding but also deliberately surreal due to the inclusion of all of John’s alien friends, including D’Argo, Chiana, and even Rygel and Pilot, and then it turns on a dime into a nightmare of bloodshed and carnage. And yet, thanks to Woods’ ingenious direction, it manages to brutal, stark, and heartstoppingly beautiful at the same time. As with Tarrantino, the violence reaches operatic heights, the visuals and score blending into a scene as aesthetically breathtaking as it is gutwrenching. What the scene is depicting is really the death of any lingering fantasy he might be holding onto on any level that he could ever have a normal Earth life again while keeping Aeryn and his friends in his life. That isn’t to say that John won’t end up with Aeryn but he would have to sacrifice his dreams of returning with her to Earth to do it. His friends and Earth are incompatible. And while one might say he learned this in “A Human Reaction,” that was a long time ago, and furthermore, an exaggerated version of humanity’s worst traits. In this one, he realizes that it isn’t other humans that would prevent a happy life on Earth with Aeryn from being a possibility: it’s him, due to the enemies he has made, due to how much he has changed, and due to how fundamentally different Aeryn and his friends are to Earth.

The scene also underlines something important about Crichton: he has lost all of his naivete and at least some levels of trust, particularly when it comes to people who have burned him repeatedly. To wit: despite what Scorpius told him at the end of the previous episode about being uninterested in revenge on him, he still isn’t 100% certain that, if he went home, he wouldn’t be leading Scorpy right to his home planet’s front door step. Interestingly, his fears aren’t unfounded, but it actually isn’t Scorpius who is a threat to Earth but, rather, Grayza and the Scarrans. When he finally does return home in the next season, they and not Scorpius are the ones who will prove to be its worst threats. Grayza’s minions even murder John’s best friend, D.K. And just as John predicted, his friends will have trouble initially acclimating to Earth. Some of what happens with Chiana and Aeryn in particular echo his concerns. At the same time, what might be most fascinating is that he isn’t even fully right about that. Aeryn and the others do eventually learn about his culture and come to like it there to varying degrees. And, yes, some people from Earth are horrible and paranoid, but not everyone is. Even with that, however, he will find that his life has expanded far past that small blue-green dot he grew up on. Neither the woman he loves nor he can be fully happy on it, and further, he has to go back out there to protect it from, again, people such as the PK and Scarrans, from whom his world would be helpless without him championing it.

Another lovely nuance is the moment in which Aeryn dies in his arms, (a) of course, due to the tragic impact of the loss which, despite it being within a dream sequence, is done with such dramatic legitimacy that it still feels truly devastating, and (b) because Aeryn’s dying words echo the exact final words spoken by Crichton when he died in “Infinite Possibilities II”. As it happens, anyone who notices this might find it a beautiful resonance, which it certainly is, but on another level, in retrospect, this also becomes the series’ first indication that this John is beginning to remember things that had happened to the other John. He doesn’t yet know the significance, and it’s very subtle, to the point that I think this viewing was the first time I’d noticed it, but it’s there, and it’s a wonderful clue, as well as being so meaningful in how it flips their positions, symbolically reasserting that they are destined for one another.

And that would be a good message for John to have actually received at this moment, although he certainly isn’t in the right headspace. He compares his lot in life to the parable of the “dog with two bones,” which can be summed up as: dog holding a bone in his mouth sees his reflection in a lake, notices that “other” dog’s bone, goes to grab it, and ends up dropping his bone in the water, ending up with nothing. Similarly, Crichton realizes here that he can’t have both Aeryn and Earth, and as it turns out, he can’t necessarily have Aeryn either. But he also isn’t enthusiastic about returning to Earth without her. One can also probably read a further layer into this regarding Talyn-John. Talyn-John is the reflection that Moya-John sees who seems to have had it all–Aeryn and a promise from her to return to Earth with him (although odds are she would have the same problems once she got there as this John worries about)–but he himself doesn’t seem able to grasp when he reaches out towards it.

His solution, therefore, is to tell Aeryn either not to leave or that he’ll go with her, which she refuses on both counts. He even comes to the most significant decision of his life in offering to give up Earth for her entirely. They can go somewhere brand new and start over, but she refuses that, as well. As much as he loves her and is ready to begin a life with her finally, she still hasn’t gotten over the heartbreak of having lost him, and she resists her own desires to be with him with every scrap of her being. She’s simply not ready. This leads into what is, in my mind, some of the best dialogue of the entire series:

AERYN: Guarantee you won’t die in my arms again!

JOHN: Guarantee you won’t die in mine!

AERYN: I can! By leaving!

JOHN: Do you love John Crichton? Not him. Not me. John Crichton.

AERYN: Yes.

He steps closer. They kiss, but she holds back.

JOHN: Then, what does that taste like?

AERYN: Yesterday.

JOHN: Well, nobody can compete with that.

This is such a complex scene on so many levels, but what might be the most remarkable thing about it is that, by this point, Aeryn has fully come to accept that the John Crichton standing before her is the man she loved. Before she returned to Moya, she was determined to think of him as a copy, an echo, not the real thing, and yet by this point, she can’t anymore. But even completely acknowledging that this is John Crichton doesn’t help because after opening her heart up in ways she never had before–which was the culmination of a long, arduous, years-long process–and being horribly wounded by it, she is terrified of ever going through that again, and so instead of taking that risk, she instead wants to remove herself from the equation. Meanwhile, John’s line is one of the most profound I’ve ever seen in any drama, let alone a sci-fi show, for what it amounts to is, “Do you love not just me but the concept of me–this being of whom both the man you loved and I both sprang?” Her later response, “Do you love Aeryn Sun?” confirms that she understands what he’s saying not only on the literal level but the metaphorical one, as well. Because it basically means do you not just love this person physically standing in front of you but their very essence, what they represent, their very soul, everything. For both of them, the answer is yes, but it still isn’t so simple for her.

The fascinating thing is that the two swap positions numerous times throughout the scene. On the one hand, by leaving and essentially retreating to a life similar to that she lived as a Peacekeeper, she is being the pessimist, and John the optimistic one thinking their love could overcome their problems. On the other, however, he is also being the pessimist in being certain that, if she leaves, they will never see each other again. After all, it’s a huge universe, and it’s possible that, in her absence, he might even return to Earth. Without her, there’s nothing left for him here. But in this, Aeryn has actually taken a page from him: “You once said it was as if the fates meant for us to be together…Well, then, if it’s true, we will be together again.” Soon afterwards, John proposes a coin toss. That would be leaving it up to fate, he argues.

And although that coin remains forever frozen in the air thanks to how the scene is cut, in the next scene, we learn the outcome: Aeryn is leaving. In one of the most creative tags in Farscape history, rather than showing us each of John’s friends’ goodbyes with him, we instead see a scene of a lonely, sad John, floating alone in his module remembering all of his friends’ last words to him before leaving, a brilliant device as it really enhances his isolation and desolation, particularly when his image of Aeryn in her Prowler fades away to nothingness, not to mention continuing the dream motif that has run throughout the episode. Also, since the characters have parted before and we know that, for the show to proceed, they’ll have to reunite, it eliminates any potential redundancy from seeing this sort of scene again, opting for mood, instead. Also, after Zhaan, in her dying moments, underlined what a family they had all become, this shows how much has gone wrong in her absence. The family has been scattered to the winds, which is terribly sad.

Speaking of family, however, in the episode’s last moments, Harvey, who by now is basically completely on Crichton’s side, unlocks a memory for him of the Old Woman whispering a key piece of information in his ear while he was high on her drugs: “Aeryn is with child.” For the moment, John has no context for what this means. He doesn’t know that PK women can keep their pregnancies in stasis until “unlocked,” nor that John Crichton might not necessarily be the dad. All he knows is that Aeryn is pregnant and he has to get to her…and, of course, in perfect Farscape irony, an instant later, a wormhole of all things–that which he has been chasing for the past three years–appears out of the blue and swallows Moya, leaving John stranded in his module, which is almost out of fuel, in an echo of “Jeremiah Crichton” and a foreshadowing of the circumstances that will surround the show’s next big hiatus, the mid-season break, in which Crichton will be similarly stranded in his module…right above Earth.

Just one more thing: of all of this episode’s endless bits of continuity, my favorite is that the writers remembered that Chiana had been the one who had helped midwive Talyn so to speak, and so is particularly broken up by his loss. Her speech to Moya in which she talks directly to her and instead of trying to convince her to leave the burial ground instead tells her that Talyn is her son and she should bury him whereever the frell she wants to is so Chiana and just a wonderful moment all together.

Next:  “Crichton Kicks” and “What Was Lost, Part I: Sacrifice”

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Author: Robert Berg

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  1. Farscape 4.01-4.03: “Crichton Kicks”; “What Was Lost” | DreamPunk - […] continuing our journey with John Crichton last week with “Into the Lion’s Den,” Part II and “Dog with Two Bones,” our Farscape re-watch …

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