Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [2.04] – “Crackers Don’t Matter”

Today, on Farscape

“Why don’t you make another speech, you self-important deficient little man! All you ever do is talk! Your father was the hero, you know. He did things. You’re just this test-monkey that screwed up your first experiment.”
“That is good! That is fantastic, coming from a frigid flat-butted Peacekeeper skank.”

In which a technician is hired to fit Moya with a stealth device, directs her on a course past a series of paranoia-inducing pulsars, and everyone goes absolutely insane.


Weston

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best episode of Farscape in the history of ever. This is not to say that it’s all downhill from here. We still have three of my top five favorite episodes coming up in about seven weeks. It’s just that this episode epitomizes the series. When it was cancelled in 2002, this episode was the rallying cry for the Save Farscape campaign.

I’d never thought much about it, but Noel is completely right about Season Two deconstructing Season One. In the first season, the Moya bunch builds connections, in this season we see those connections shattered, reforged, shattered, glued back together, and shattered again. “Mind the Baby” isolates Aeryn and removes Talyn. “Vitas Mortis” questions D’Argo’s commitment to the group. “Taking the Stone” strains Chiana’s relationship with Crichton. And “Crackers Don’t Matter” throws everyone into the blender.

It starts, from our perspective, with Chiana’s paranoia about the flattened food rectangles. Then D’Argo begins questioning her about them. Then Rygel and Zhaan begin showing similar symptoms. When normally calm and inflappable Pilot gets in on the crazy you know everyone is frelled. It’s in keeping with his Season One persona that Crichton winds up the one least affected, but then he gets in on the fun and goes so far off the deep end that everyone else notices. They’re all nuts, and they still take note of how extrordinarily insane he becomes.

And D’Argo attacks Rygel! Violently! It’s not the first time he’s gotten physical, but it seems worse. Maybe because people rarely lay hands on the muppet, maybe because D’Argo usually shoots or stabs things instead of shoving crackers down their throat, but it feels more severe.

When the holographic projection of Scorpius starts interacting with John and talking about the crackers? Terrifying. When he inspires Crichton to kneecap D’Argo? Jaw-dropping. When he convinces John to “save Chiana for dessert” to “have a bit of fun” with her? Aaaaaaah. And then?


Nah, brah.

What. Just… what? Scorpius, my elegant amazing badass villian, in… a Hawaiian shirt? It’s so completely disconcerting, and perfectly representative of John’s mental state.

I want to say something about Crichton’s triumphant moment and how every relationship is irreversibly damaged, but the margarita shooters have broken my brain. Help, Tessa?


Tessa

So this episode pretty much answered the question that’s been burning in my mind since I started watching, namely, “What would happen if the crew of Farscape got a healthy dose of Hinamizawa Syndrome?”

It was fascinating watching each character dive headfirst into total insanity in their own ways, and of course, being the characters that they are, it means that they each develop their own mini-alliances amongst themselves, and it gives us an interesting look at where the relationships between the characters really stand. While they’re certainly not acting like they normally would, their words and actions had to come from somewhere. While the technician brought out the worst of them, it was still them on some level.

D’Argo pairs up with Chiaana, which isn’t too surprising based on what we’ve seen in the past few episodes, but what’s really interesting is the inconsistent way he seems to view John in this episode. Sure, most of it he’s convinced that Crichton is scheming against them all, but it’s scattered with brief moments where the two of them seem to be downright chummy. Granted, it never lasts more than a few seconds before the situation goes south again, but it highlights the fact that D’Argo has had a shaky relationship with John throughout everything, and it might be that he still doesn’t quite know what to make of him even after all this time.

Aeryn teams up with Rygel, which seems odd at first, but it’s very telling when Aeryn tells him he’s the only one that she can remotely trust out of the crew because she knows exactly where he stands, even if that place is one of greed, cowardice, and self-importance. Not only does this tell us that she may not trust the others as much as she’d like to think she does, but it also seems to point out that she’s scared (or perhaps just uncomfortable) with situations she can’t easily read and predict. She doesn’t like Rygel, but he’s simple and broadcasts exactly what he wants (or at least, his attempts to hide them are incredibly thin. Usually.).

John, of course, makes off and on attempts to pull the crew back together the entire time, though whether that speaks more to his character or to the fact that T’raltixx’s lights don’t affect him as much is up for grabs. Of course, he reacts badly when confronted with the other’s insanity (“WHERE’S MY ICE CREAM!?”), which pushes him over the deep end himself, only surfacing from it sporadically. Then again, to be fair, he may not have had quite as far to go than the others at this point.

The idea of Pilot also succumbing to the Hate Lights is actually really terrifying, when you consider his position. Had T’raltixx not been using him to his own ends, but actually left him to his own devices after stirring up the same extreme paranoia and distrust? Pilot could arguably kill the lot of them with a few button presses.

Luckily John is able to claw out enough sanity to gather everyone together to give them a collective slap across the face, and get them to focus on the actual threat. Since Crichton is the least affected, the others grudgingly agree that he should be the one to confront T’raltixx. And then proceed to “equip” him for the job, leaving him looking like a little kid who got into his mother’s facial cream to play superhero (he even has his own battlecry).

And then it all ends, leaving everyone trying to pick up the pieces. Reactions are varied, with some of the crew unwilling to forgive the others, while others are oddly impressed with what their shipmates are capable of.

And then, on a slightly more disturbing note, we notice that John isn’t quite as fixed as the others. He starts to quote a nursery rhyme to himself that, while appropriate to the situation, seems far more detached and strained than his normally sharp and sarcastic references. I’m wondering if at this point he’s suffered one blow to the brain too many, and there may be no going back for him now.

The only complaint about this episode that I have is that while they make a point of Crichton being the only one able to function in the situation, once John gets them to focus on T’raltixx they seem relatively fine.


Kevin

First off, my apologies for my disappearance last week. Between a new second job and some review overload, I was completely drained. And then something else happened this weekend, and made up for the whole suckfest that came before.

Anyway, this episode. Holy dren, this episode. The fan-favorite, I’ve-been-looking-forward-to-showing-Tessa-and-Trekkiegirl-for-AGES, balls to the wall insanitytastic episode.

I mentioned to Tessa that this, while probably not the best way to get a new viewer hooked on the series, is a microcosm of the entire series, in that it has all the strange, funny, freaky, and awesome aspects all in one neatly-wrapped episode. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it is The Perfect Farscape Episodeā„¢, despite the fact that once you think about it, it’s a really flimsy plot. But you don’t care, because the plot doesn’t matter except as a vehicle to deliver, well, this.

Tessa, of course, is completely right in that T’raltixx’s Insanity Field does pull out people’s baser natures – much like the gauntlet drug – and it all manifests in ways that we might not have considered, ways that each of those affected may not have even known consciously.

Observe Aeryn, fed up with everyone considering her to Still Be A Peacekeeper, who grabs the most trustworthy person she can find – Rygel, in a genius bout of subversion in that she trusts him because he’s honest about never being honest – and holing herself up in Command so she can withstand any and all assaults made against her.

Chiana, toadying up to anyone and everyone, while never trusting a thing said to her, positioning herself to always be on the winning side.

Zhaan, tired of being the Den Mother, takes a nice hot sunbath and tries to enjoy time alone, only to be constantly interrupted by the very children she was trying to get away from.

Pilot, who hates being talked down to and ordered about, showing contempt for everyone as he denies their constant requests and lets them get on with killing each other.

D’Argo, never sure of who to trust, because he keeps trying and gets shut down by everyone. His attack on Rygel is all the annoyance he has ever felt for the doorstop, manifesting all at once in true Luxan fashion: violence.

Rygel…well, he’s about the same.

And then, as always, we get to John. John Crichton, the Audience Proxy, the bastion of sanity and familiarity in an insane world. Crichton tries his hardest to remain functional, even while belittling Pilot and snarking on everyone. He sees that he’s acting strange, and forces himself through to the other end, even while getting hampered by, well, everyone else. But fighting back takes his toll, and when he snaps, he frelling snaps, embracing the zaniness and riding the wave of psychotic glee until it deposits him right back on the other side.

We see a lot of what Crichton has been internalizing over the past season come right to the forefront, and it scares even him. The reactions he has to his shipmates all while failing his Sanity Checks gives him a chance to vent all his frustrations all at once.

His assault on Chiana, rapey implications and all, is indicative of the sexual frustration he’s been feeling for the entirety of his journey; he’s been pent up for months, with only Gilina and Aeryn to give him some release, while Chiana, Zhaan, and multiple scantily clad alien babes parade in front of him day in and day out. When he comes across Chiana, who personifies sexuality, his loss of control is one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve seen so far.

Both Aeryn and D’Argo have lorded their physical and martial prowess over him multiple times, and Aeryn often makes backhanded comments on the deficiency of humans. The tables are turned when he has D’Argo under his guns whose names he has not made public yet, putting him in a position of power over the man who has always bullied and threatened to get his way. And during the John Woo shootout with Aeryn, he throws back as many personal insults as he can think of to the woman who casually (and often unintentionally) insulted him the entire time he has known her.

It gets especially hard to watch when he starts talking to Pilot in the condescending authoritative fashion, because I know he respects the hell out of Pilot, and yet he still has his crustacean frustrations; Pilot is the one who is detached from everything, and keeps bugging Crichton and the others to Do Something, Anything, because he can’t do it himself, and gets snippy when they don’t. Now that Pilot is the one refusing to do anything – and giving an awesome “HOW DO YOU LIVE BEING YOU, I WOULD KILL MYSELF” speech while doing it – Crichton takes the chance to say “HEY DO YOUR JOB I ASKED YOU TO DO THIS ARE YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING”.

Considering that Pilot is often the Woobie of the series, it was painful to watch this.

Notes!

  • Watching this once refreshed the strangeness and the insanity. Watching this again Wednesday morning to get talking points for the series made me notice that people are being a bit unstable from the first frame. This could possibly be attributed, to a new viewer, to the fact that they’re unsettled by T’raltixx’s presence and the reason for his stay, but once you know what The Deal is, it hits you that they’ve already started being affected by him being there.
  • This is not the last time you see Crichton’s Mental Scorpius. Get used to the idea.
  • Notice, once again, how Chiana and D’Argo latch onto each other during this crisis. Just making a note here.
  • I’m told that Ben Browder ad-libbed humming “Ride of the Valkyries” during the suit-up and Call To Arms shot. It definitely made the scene.
  • Trekkiegirl jokingly posited, just from the title of the episode, that it was going to be about racism. I don’t know about you, but that would have made it EVEN MORE AWESOME.
  • Goddamn I hate it when people pick on or take advantage of Pilot. HE IS THE HUGGABLE, LEAVE HIM ALONE.

Noel

It’s been pretty well established by this point that Farscape has balls. It’s brazenly dangled them before us, even slapped them across our cheeks on a few occasions. Here, it bunches up its three turquoise testicles, with their mini-tendrils and yellow veins, and teabags us up the nostril with them as we watch our entire crew take such a plunge into crazed paranoia that there’s no turning back.

In the end of the episode, after awkward apologies have been attempted, John mutters the old “Humpty Dumpty” rhyme before asking Zhaan “How do we take it all back?” During a standoff between John and D’Argo, the usually violent Luxan set down his sword and stood perfectly still. John shot him in the leg, then later kicked him in the wound. How does he take that back? John pinned Chiana up against a wall, dug a gun into her side, then called her a slut and asked if her family abandoned her because she’ll spread her legs for anybody. How does he take that back?

This episode seems dedicated to making us hate John. Not just from the crazy antics as he shouts at Tropical Scorpius and opens fire left and right, but in the way he’s become the iconic Rude American (maybe Rude Human would be better). He shoves the women around, is quick to pull triggers, throws out insulting names like “shell-head” and “buckwheat” when he’s getting impatient, and even flat out says “I’m superior! Humans! Are! Superior!” He’s a complete, unapologetic dick. Thus adding to the genitals metaphor.

And, yet, he’s still the sanest one on the ship. We learn here that his “perfect” 20/20 human vision (out of eyes he makes sure to point out are blue) is actually quite subpar when compared to the others, thus meaning the mind-bending lights have less of an effect on him. I’d say visions of Scorpious talking about beaches full of Sebacian girls and margaritas is a bit more of an effect than we see from the others, but it’s still leaving him rational enough to recognize the changes in everybody, including himself. We caught a glimpse of this in the yellow laughing dimension of “Through the Looking Glass”, where he kept pushing through while the others where giddily joking away, and here its taken to an extreme as he manages the impressive task of subduing and restraining all the others, tells them they’re crazy, that he is too, then lays out what’s been going on and why they need to help him save the day.

And how about that T’raltixx as a villain? He seems like a strikingly designed feeble little blind man, but then we see him skittering across walls like a spider, twisting his head back 180 degrees, and zapping things with lasers from subcutaneous “eyes”. They never fully explained what it was his people needed Leviathans and all that light for, but it doesn’t matter. He was willing to let everyone go crazy and kill each other, even further it along in the case of his manipulation of Pilot, just so he could get his sunbath. He’s evil. And, thus, there’s no real sense of loss when John guts him with D’Argo’s sword. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the first person on the show John’s killed in cold blood? He bashed a woman’s head in with a pipe during “A Bug’s Life”, but he was possessed by a sentient virus at the time, so it doesn’t really count. I believe this is the first actual blood John has on his hands, and it’s telling that he’s at the point where he has no real regret over it.

There’s so many other things to talk about, like the excessive cracker hoarding, orgasmal Zhaan, a cloud of Scorpius heads, the mental image of Ginger and Mary Anne in Wonderbras, suicidal and homicidal gestures of playful glee, John painting himself up as a “white faced Cracker” with partially digested sunblock, John gnawing on his own arm, and D’Argo having his master plan broken apart to the point where he’s left with nothing but a blank expression as he goes “What? Um… ?”

Solid episode. It doesn’t redefine the tone we’ve experienced thus far in Season 2, just kicks it into hyperdrive.

Stark Unexplained Episode Count: 6


Episode [2.03]: Taking the Stone||Episode [2.05]: The Way We Weren’t

4 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Tessa

     /  January 7, 2011

    I have to throw in a bit of a counter point to the idea that this episode is about making us hate John. To be completely fair to him, his “humans are superior” kick comes in direct response to having to deal with most of the crew basically telling him that his race sucks the entire episode. By the end, he’s had enough of it, and lashes out in a cartoonish fashion, going so far as to make it a battle cry. And while he’s doing some pretty nasty things in the episode, it’s not exactly like everyone else in the cast isn’t doing exactly the same. Singling him out to invoke the Humans Are Bastards trope doesn’t seem quite right here (though the trope admittedly tends to irk me both because of it’s guilty of massive oversaturation throughout mediums and usually involves a serious lack of context), both because there are external factors at work here, as well as the fact that he’s not really that much worse than everyone else in this episode.

    There’s also the bizarre case of Chiana (by all appearances, admittedly she could be having a denial thing going) apparently respecting him MORE after this whole mess because she’s impressed with what he was capable of. I seriously doubt it eases his own conscience any, but it’s worth pointing out that at least on the one side, he may not “need” to take back that one, and the struggle there will likely be with forgiving himself rather than getting Chiana to forgive him.

    Reply
    • You’re right, I shouldn’t have put so much of a focus on John. I just found it amusing that the forces that bring out the worst in people results in him being the typical Ugly American. And, yeah, “making us hate” was wrong. It was showing them at their worst. And even at his worst, John still shows what makes him so great.

      Reply
  2. Weston

     /  January 7, 2011

    Oooh. I think Noel’s right about Crichton’s first kill. There have been a couple of gauntlet stunnings, a lot of using the environment to inflict pain, a bowling-ball bombing, a tree-chopping, a fire trail exploding, some suppressing fire, and one memorable shrink-ray chopping, but to this point he’s never done the deed personally and intentionally.

    Kinda makes you wonder what his moral compass is like right now.

    Also, totally looking forward to the next episode. *evil laugh*

    Reply
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