Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [2.20] – “Liars, Guns and Money Part II: With Friends Like These”

Today, on Farscape

“So finally the rift between us is not so great. You do what you gotta do. You win.”
“As if there was ever any doubt.”

In which the crew deals with the consequences of drawing Scorpius’ attention towards Ka Jothee, and formulates a plan to break into the Shadow Depository. Again.


Weston

I have to say first and foremost that this episode is setting up the next. Scorpius manages to buy all ten thousand slaves to get D’Argo’s son Jothee, and then dangles him out as bait to bring Crichton in. Rather than surrender, Crichton assembles a Dream Team of previously encountered denizens of the Uncharted Territories to break back into the Shadow Depository and rescue him. Naturally, there are complications.

D’Argo’s pursuit of Jothee is completely corrupting his perception of events. Stark’s plan to break into the Shadow Depository was entirely dependent on D’Argo failing to break in, yet he continues to blame Crichton for letting him go in alone. When Scorpius offers to trade Jothee for Crichton, he very nearly accepts. Heck, he’s even got a head!Jothee berating him for his failure now.

The crew disperses under a Crichton plan to recruit various mercenaries from around the Uncharted Territories: The Tabloids (Tavleks) for their close combat capability, the Bloodtrackers to find Jothee, the Sheyangs for their super-fire-breath, and the Zenetan pirates to secure an escape. It’s a good plan. But the one remaining Tavlek has given up violence, the Bloodtracker is pregnant, the only available Sheyang is old and losing his fire, and the pirates have found a new leader in Durka. Yeah. This is a great plan. Unfortunately, time is against them and they’ll have to work with what they can get.

Right off the bat, Crichton announces several things. He knows that Scorpius is bringing Jothee to the Depository. He knows, rock solid knowledge, that Scorpius won’t harm Jothee. He knows this because Harvey knows this. Crichton has managed to pull some of Scorpius’ knowledge from the neural chip in his head. Maybe not much, just enough to set himself up with this ridiculous plan, but he’s got something. The neural clone, possibly bluffing, states that this may be intentional. This leads to a cool scene with Crichton piloting the Farscape Module with Harvey in the jump seat.

Scorpius takes Ka Jothee from among the ten thousand in the sale package. The remaining nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine he gives to Natira, as he has no use for them. And she, against the recommendation of her advisor, against all capitalist sense, kills them all. Stark reacts appropriately.

So we’ve got six plot lines going on simultaneously. Crichton fetches the Tavlek Bekhesh, the gauntlet-wielding kidnapper who has recently converted to non-killing-ism. Aeryn retrieves the Sheyang Teurac, who can’t produce fire quite like he used to. D’Argo picks up the Vorcarian Rorf, whose mate Rorg is pregnant and going into hiding to give birth; and apparently, she knocked him upside the head and assumed the dominant position in the relationship. Rygel negotiates with Durka for the services of the Zenetan pirates. Moya’s dealing with an infestation of metal-eating moneybugs. And Scorpius… well.


Unf.

Let’s just say that he’s finding creative ways to kill time. Ways that pop his cranial cooler out straight rather than the usual slow spin. Also, check out Natira’s… what are those? Headcrab? Brainspider? Exoskeletal hair? Any way you cut it, eew. And don’t worry. They get worse.

Say, who’s opening next week? Tessa? Hooo, boy.

Scorpius/Natira is such a complicated relationship. Natira took in Scorpius when he was young. Whatever he learned before that, she built on and improved. His duplicitous and exploitative nature? She formed that. And you thought they were squicky before.

I think I just bluescreened myself. In conclusion:

  • Chiana mimics D’Argo’s “I will kill you! Myself!” perfectly.
  • Braca!
  • Ka Jothee is about as tactful as Ka D’Argo.
  • Chiana with the blue capture goo dripping down her face. Enough said.

Tessa

So, it turns out Scorpius was still alive after all. This is my surprise face.

This episode pretty can be pretty much boiled down to one sentence : Anything that can go wrong, does. Only worse, and with fire. Okay, that was two sentences. Point being, though, that this episode is mainly watching a gradual 180 degree turn, as the supposed victory the crew had at the end of the last episode completely falls apart on them, leaving them is what is probably the worst situation they’ve been in up to now.

That one spider-like transformer contraption that hopped out of their haul last episode? Not only is it a near-invincible metal-eating robot-monster (which, by the way, asdfaswhahasdfa OH GOD GET IT OFF THE SCREEN), but it turns out that every single piece in that container was one of them, and they all immediately get to work at eating Moya from the inside out. Interestingly enough, it turns out Scorpius had no idea about their existence (while the crew initially is convinced that he’s behind it, it would have required near omnipotence on his part to be able to plan that far ahead with so little notice), meaning that they were actually an attempt on Natira’s part to kill him. Where this gets really fun is in the realization that had Stark just left Scorpius’ vault well enough alone and picked an easier, but admittedly less vengeful target for the robbery, not only would Moya not be in the serious danger she winds up in, but Scorpius could quite possibly have gotten himself killed off without any effort on their part.

In fact, we’re getting a lot of insight into Stark as a character, and just how manipulative and short-sighted he can be. While D’Argo was singing his praises at the end of the last episode, all of his plotting and apparent helping he’s done has been for totally self-centered reasons. The only thing he’s really looking for out of the whole thing is both to save as many of his people as he can (there happen to be quite a few in the same slave block that Jothee is in), and to exact vengeance on Scorpius. He flat-out admits to Scorpius that he doesn’t care in the slightest whether Jothee lives or dies. Granted, he immediately backpedals after the transmission once Zhaan and Chiana confront him on it, but something tells me he meant what he said. Once the notion of saving any of his people is dashed, his main concern becomes keeping Crichton away from Scorpius, although again, I have to wonder if that’s more because Scorpius wants him that badly than actually for John’s sake.

I like the idea of the whole “let’s hire all our old enemies” thing, although it’s a little convenient that they all happen to be that close by. But it’s a nice bit of continuity and a nod to what’s already happened up to now, plus it leads to what’s arguably Rygel’s most bad-ass moment to date. I love that they faked us out a touch by throwing Durka at us as a seemingly impassable obstacle to getting the pirates on Rygel’s side, one of the worst possible players to show up again in the situation, only to have Rygel promptly taze the crap out of him and get the pirates to cut his head off with the promise of a well-paying job.

Unfortunately, the money that they were planning to pay all of these mercenaries with turned out to be robot-bug-monsters that they had to basically set Moya on fire to kill off before they did too much damage to her. Meaning that they’re totally broke.

Faced with the prospect of his last-ditch plan failing epically, and D’Argo still blaming him for everything that’s gone wrong, John gives up, trading himself in to Scorpius in return for Jothee. He agrees to let Scorpius do whatever he needs to, on the condition that he remove Harvey from his head after he finishes.

And this is the dilemma the crew is left with. Moya is badly damaged, to the point of barely being able to function; they have a collection of rowdy, unpleasant mercenaries who are only playing along for the promise of money that the crew doesn’t actually have; and Scorpius finally has Crichton yet again. Yikes.


Kevin

This three-parter thus far has touched upon the wonderful dynamics between the ensemble cast; the Denizens of Moya (have you heard my new indie band, Denizens of Moya?) have put up with a lot of dren from each other, but they’ve also carried each other through more crises than most people would see in a lifetime.

What’s interesting is that while we’re so busy focusing on the rest of the shipmates, Crichton’s plot thread swings right back around to blindside us with everything that’s already been there, if only shoved to the side with the Jothee A-plot. It’s almost surprising, especially considering how familiar we already are with the concept of Crichton as our Primary Protagonist, but the ensemble cast is so strong that sometimes we forget that he’s our proxy, our eyes and ears in this side of the galaxy.

Cleolinda once recited for me the basic formula for story pacing. In Act I, you stick the hero in a tree. Act II, you set the tree on fire. Act III, you get him down. Take a step back with me and assume that the Jothee A-plot isn’t the A-plot after all, but merely the vehicle that lets Crichton’s story arc take a far more natural and interesting pace than it might have gotten if it was in the forefront all along. Let’s take a closer look.

Crichton’s said multiple times that he’d rather die than go back to the Aurora Chair. Last episode, we found out that he’d even made a pact with Aeryn to that effect. Well, sort of:

CRICHTON: “Aeryn, listen. If Scorpius gets me-“
AERYN: “I know. Shoot you.”
CRICHTON: “No! No, no, shoot him!”

Given this as an absolute, everything he’s done so far is perfectly in line with it. He leaps out of a frelling airlock, hoping that he’d make it to the transport pod in time but not really certain that he will. Whenever the danger of being captured by Scorpius presents itself, Crichton goes further and further into desperation.

We see this desperation here, as he crafts a Crichton Gambit that revolves around putting together a crack team of deadly mercenaries – mercenaries that we’ve all seen trying to kill them at various points.

When it all goes pear-shaped, though, and time seems to have run out, instead of cutting and running, dooming his friends to death, Crichton gives up the one thing he has left to give – himself. He trades himself for Jothee, fulfilling his promise to D’Argo, but ultimately dooming himself in return.

Stark Rygel Anyone else may have abandoned Jothee to his fate. Crichton has even said himself that he’d do anything to avoid going back to Scorpius.

Is it loyalty? Perhaps. Crichton considers his friends to be his new family, and has put himself in harm’s way multiple times before to protect them. Is it Harvey, as is hinted at during his flight to the Tavleks? Also perhaps; we don’t know the extent of his reach through Crichton’s brain yet. Regardless of his reasons, though, the tree is on fire, and we don’t yet know how he’s going to come down.

Things to note this episode:

  • It’s been mentioned before the level of detail actors have put into their portrayals; Peacekeepers have followed Aeryn’s accent lead, Nebari have taken on Chiana’s mannerisms. Here we see Jothee, who in a fantastic touch has a very noticeable bit of D’Argo’s inflection, vocal patterns, and even physical mannerisms. It brings it all together in a cohesive universe, and makes it that much more real to me watching it.
  • Oh, Stark. That’s…really all I have to say. That, and now I remember why I didn’t like him as a character as much the first time I watched this series.
  • I actually have a lot to say about the nature of Crichton and Aeryn’s relationship and how it has evolved up to this point, but I’ve been saving it for, say, two weeks from today.

Noel

I have to admit up front that I dreaded this would be a clip show. I hate clip shows. With the occasional exception (most being from StarGate), clip shows are a tedious way for a series to A) attempt to compress backstory for new viewers, and B) save money by making an episode out of stripped down pieces of past episodes. For anyone who regularly follows a series, especially in this era of DVD/streaming marathon viewings, they take any forward momentum a show has built and slams a brick wall down in front of it. As our heroes set out to revisit individuals they’ve encountered in the past, we start to get flashes of those encounters… complete with reminders of how much our cast has changed in appearance since then.

Thankfully, this is not a clip show. The flashes are brief and make up less than a minute of total screen time. Instead of dwelling on the past, this episode does what the bulk of Season 2 has done when it comes to Season 1: deconstruct and subvert it. All of the characters we look back to are bad guys, people our heroes fought and barely escaped from with their lives. And, yet, the situation has gotten so desperate that these are the people our heroes turn to for help. Why? Because they all came before Scorpius, and compared to him, we can now fully appreciate just how low on the totem pole they are as threats. And the characters themselves are also subverted as we get to know them again.

The female Bloodtracker is obviously the more skilled of the pair, but she’s a little busy being pregnant at the moment, so she send has her less skilled, more impulsive mate go by himself. The Sheyangs are pure physical imposition with their massive bodies and their fire breath, but the one they track down is old, has more fat than muscle, can hardly cough up a spark, and is bleeding from injuries sustained during his most recent unsuccessful encounter. Bekhesh, the leader of the ‘roided up mercenary Tavleks, a man so covered with battle scars that half his head is an eyeless metal plate, has renounced violence, taken up religion, and is trying to kick the effects of his addictive gauntlet. Further subverting things here is John, who, instead of showing compassion for Bekhesh’s new lifestyle of peace, uses the junkie’s addiction to hassle and taunt him into coming along. And then we get to Durka, Rygel’s old torturer who’s now taken up with the Zenetan Pirates. Their encounter is chilling as an old adversary continues to haunt the victim of his sadistic abuse. But then Rygel unceremoniously tases him, strikes a deal with the rest of the pirates, and the next we see of Durka, he’s a severed head rolling across the floor.

By this point, I think it’s fair to say that Farscape Season 2 has thoroughly broken down Season 1, had its way with the past year, and left it to fend for itself in the corner of an alley. The first season, for all its ick and cleverness, was still about the fantasy of exploring another side of the galaxy. Here, it’s all about the reality. There are no heroes and villains, or friends and foes, only the people you need to get you through the next day.

Take Stark, for example. The first time we met him, he was batshit insane. That was then revealed to be a ruse as we met the serene energy being hidden within, but that insanity was still built of a very real part of himself. We see that here as we learn the entire plot to free Jothee was a ruse for him to save several thousand of his own people. Sure, he has feelings for D’Argo and John and Zhaan and the others, but he’s totally willing to sell them out or manipulate them if it furthers his own goal of saving members of his race. And when it backfires and those thousands are casually wiped out off screen? He goes right back to his old days of shrieking mania as he damn Jothee’s fate right to Scorpius’s face.

And the episode is even subverting itself. One expects the plot to go the Seven Samurai route of rounding up an eclectic group that, together, manages to face down the threat and save the day, but it doesn’t turn out that way. Not only are the people they round up completely broken and semi useless in their own ways, but all the money that was supposed to pay them off is suddenly sprouting legs and eating the ship. So they have a nothing crew, and nothing to pay them with. Leaving John to trade himself for Jothee.

And in the end, was it really a heroic act of self sacrifice on John’s part, trading himself for the long-lost son of his best friend? Or did he really do it because he’s so sick of Harvey that he put himself in the hands of the real Scorpius just to get the fake one out of his head? It’s probably a bit of both, but the point is that nothing is done unless it’s supported by personal goals. John saw a way to help a friend, but also a way to help himself. As we witnessed through his humiliating manipulation of Bekhesh, he’s not the square-jawed, altruistic hero. He never has been, nor ever will be Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers, facing down the twirly moustached villain with a princess by his side and a kingdom at his back. He’s a survivor. He’s stuck in a world of fantasy, but it’s a fantasy that operates on the rules of reality instead of black/white pulp distinctions. It’s a world where the bad guys either try to kill one another in a way that looks very much like sex, or have sex in a way that looks very much like trying to kill one another. It’s a world where one half-breed can sneer at another, even as they’re surrounded by people who sneer at both. It’s a world where the only way to save a ship from an infestation is to help it mangle itself with a searing blaze of inner flame.

It’s a harsh world out there that John’s found himself in. And, as some of us already know, it gets worse.

Welcome to Farscape.


Episode [2.19]: Liars, Guns and Money Part I: A Not So Simple Plan || Episode [2.21]: Liars, Guns and Money Part III: Plan B

7 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Tessa said that “anything that can go wrong, does.” The worst thing is that it actually went wrong last episode and no one knew: if only they didn’t steal anything from Scorpius, he’d most likely be dead now. It’s the one almost throwaway line that got the biggest response from me this episode.

    It’s why I don’t mind all the coming-back-from-the-dead that happens on this show. It’s not death that sucks in Farscape, it’s the knowledge that as long as you’ve alive, things will always get worse.

    Reply

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