Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [3.01] – “Season of Death”

Today, on Farscape

“John is in agony! He begged me to kill him!”
“We have already lost Aeryn. We will not lose another.”

Scorpius has finally retrieved the chip containing the wormhole data from John’s brain, leaving the human strapped to an operating table, his brain open and partially mangled, and his surgeon dying on the floor. Fearful that the others will catch him before he can escape, Scorpius hijacks the brain of Grunchlk so as to create a bit of a diversion.


Noel

You know those big season finale cliffhangers where the note they left it on was so powerful, so unforgettable, that where they were going seemed almost too good to be true? Which it was then proven to be when the follow-up season premiere neatly fixed all the things that were broken and very little actually ended up changing?

Sadly, this is one of those.

Cop-Out Checklist:

#1) There’s no hope for repairing John because the Diagnosian has been killed by Scorpius. Welllll, turns out he’s only mostly dead. Maybe it’s because his head landed inside the sterilization field but, after some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from Rygel, and brand-spankin’-new filter mask, he’s up and active and diagnosian-ing with the best of ’em.

#2) Rygel booked passage on another ship and left everyone behind. He never caught the flight and it’s never heard from again.

#3) John is on an operating table with the part of his brain removed that allows for speech. They do play this up nicely with John ready to die and unwilling to be rescued at the expense of a donor, but the Diagnosian eventually manages to patch him up, and despite the warning that it’ll take his speech a while to return, John starts talking about, oh, five seconds later. There’s no wicked scar, no visible actions or gestures or memory gaps indicative of brain damaged. He’s fixed.

#4) Even though the chip is gone, Harvey is still present in John’s brain. Okay, this wasn’t really a cliffhanger from the finale, but it’s something they set up early here. But instead of being a continuous threat, Harvey is now just a harmless shadow of his former self due to the lack of the chip’s physical, manipulating presence, and John breaks out his inner cartoon character once again as, within his mind, he beats the crap out of Harvey and tosses him in a dumpster.

#5) Aeryn is dead. Like, really dead. With a funeral and everything. Whoops. She’s also only mostly dead. It takes a little more than CPR to bring her around, what with Zhaan going inside her mind from inside her mind while both are basking in the glow of Stark’s exposed face. And she comes out shooting in true Aeryn fashion as she takes out some Peacekeepers with D’Argo’s Qualta blade.

Sorry, Tessa. I know this one is reallllly going to piss you off. But at least you have Zhaan’s now impending death to look forward to. If such a thing can even be taken seriously anymore at this point.

So, yeah, some big gamechanging stuff happened… and was slowly but surely reversed so the game didn’t really change all that much. The crew of Moya is together and alive, and Crais is off on his own again in Talyn. But that’s not to say everything remained unchanged.

First, Scorpius has the chip. Scorpius. Has THE chip. The secrets of wormhole technology that were buried in John’s brain are now stored on a chip that’s in the possession of the most terrifying leather-garbed villain ever to grace the boob tube. Granted, he still needs to access, sort, and work out the details of the info, but the big thing our heroes couldn’t let Scorpius have… he now has.

The other huge gamechanger: Chiana and Jothee bump uglies in the middle of the dining room. They’re keeping it a secret for the moment, but the tense looks they share when they’re both around D’Argo are gripping, because you don’t know how much he’ll blow up when he finds out. And I love the leadup to the luvin’, where Chiana gives Jothee a playful nip, which pisses him off, which leads to bickering and potentially assaultive grappling before hooking back around to flirting. Am I the only one who thought Jothee sounded exactly like D’Argo from Season 1? It’s very well done.

The rest of the episode was pretty good, cop-outs aside. There’s a random Scarran that shows up to create mischief, which it succeeds at quite well, the best bit being D’Argo all ready to dive into the fray and take this monster on, only for his knife to snap on the villain’s tough hide at the first jab. And I love the twist of Scorpius implanting Grunchlk with one of his neurochips, and using his neural interface to physically take control of the man in the same way Harvey took the wheel of John in the last episode. The most unforgettable scene of the week has to be when Scorpius makes Grunchlk bite off one of his own fingers. Oh, look, Farscape‘s dangling nutsack of balldom.

It’s a good episode. It’s very disappointing that so many of their gamechanging cliffhangers were swept under the rug with such ease, but the execution is still incredibly strong and thrilling. And, let’s be honest, none of the twist reversals were really anything we didn’t expect to be on the horizon. Do you honestly think they’d kill one lead and mental cripple another and keep it permanent? What do you think this is, a classic gamechanger of a series?

Oh.


Weston

First things first. Did you SEE the new opening? Eeee! The new music is energetic, rhythmic, moves from high points to quiet moments to exciting conclusion very well. Lani Tupu, Wayne Pygram, and Paul Goddard have all made it in. And Crichton’s voiceover has been updated. The statements followed by whispered emphasis is pretty fantastic, and the full echo as he finishes is a neat touch. The new scenes from season two have replaced many of the aging effects from the first half of season one.

Everyone gets great moments in the opener. Pilot wasn’t at the funeral, so he’s been mourning Aeryn alone with Moya and the frelling comm system. Braca confronts Grunchlik, Scorpius eats the remnants of Crichton’s brains on the neural chip, Crichton still has an echo of Harvey in his head.

The look on Scorpius’ face when Officer Kobrin reports that the Command Carrier will be 5.3 arns late is new. Have we ever seen him actually worried?

Harvey gets actual character development independent of Scorpius. No longer does he have physical control of the knobs and levers in Crichton’s brain. Forever gone is the subtle and overt manipulator. Now, thanks to Stark’s prompting, he’s just a passenger. He isn’t drawing on Scorpius’ knowledge and experience anymore – he’s pulling from John’s. During the mental fight sequence, the way he writhes on the floor like a flipped turtle and the way he takes a boxing stance reflects this. It also reveals that Crichton’s brain really is Looney Tunes. Also, mad props to Wayne Pygram and the costuming department for the amount of mobility he displays in that leather. That’s not easy.

The music during Aeryn’s resurrection scene (Zhaan’s a priest, they do that, and it only costs like 14,000 mana) is an awesome reworking of her funeral music. The cool news is that dead!Aeryn is still in her ejection seat, a neat touch. The bad news, unfortunately, is that Zhaan doesn’t have mana. She has to sacrifice a bit of herself to do it.

Up to this point in the series the main cast has had contractual immortality – however dead they get, something happens to reverse or nullify it. Faked autopsy Rygel, come unstuck in time, shifted to a crazy dimension, Starbursting backwards out of a temporal sticky-trap, reanimated by a puppeteering neural clone, soul retrieved from the Twisting Nether by combining the powers of a Delvian Pa’au and a Bannek Stykera. Will that continue to hold up as Zhaan dies from bringing Aeryn back? (And I can already hear Tessa saying, “Probably.”)

Braca has more lines in this episode than in the entire series to this point. It is awesome.

I may be overusing the word “awesome”. It is because I am filled with awe.

There is one possible thing worse than having a neural chip imprinted with Scorpius consciousness implanted in your brain, and that is having Scorpius himself in your brain. He overrides Grunchlik in seconds, forces him to shoot himself, uses him to interact with and manipulate both the Moya crew and the Scarran, and forces him to bite off his own finger. Ayup. The only real consolation is that the control can only be exerted while Scorpy is paying attention.

Oh, fashion, how I’ve missed you. Tocot’s shin to chin sleeveless thing is pretty cool, red and a bit frilly around the neck. The Scarran’s outfit is more elaborate than we’ve seen on any member of its species so far, with shoulder… what, Saturn rings? And more red on the forehead and chest. Jothee has a tiny mustache, don’t think I noticed that before.

Crichton brings the “surviving” Interions aboard. He’s definitely feeling guilty over the one that died in the process of replacing his gray matter. Incidentally, Crichton now has even more alien bits in his head. The leftovers from the neural chip, and a bit of Interion neural tissue. He isn’t just adapting mentally to this corner of the universe, he’s doing so physically.

Crichton and Aeryn both admit their love, finally acknowledging what they said in the neural cluster without the influence of outside forces. Unfortunately, Aeryn’s resisting expressing it. Zhaan’s sacrifice is hitting her hard, and she’s withdrawing into her Peacekeeper mindset.

And finally, the best news of all: With Tocot face-melted and Grunchlik frozen, the crew doesn’t have to pay for the services rendered. They’re rich! No more hoarding food cubes or fighting over limited funds! Hooray!


Tessa

Okay, let’s get this out of the way.

WHAT.

I was really, really hoping that if they absolutely had to bring Aeryn back, that they wouldn’t have immediately done it the first episode of this season. But no, apparently Zhaan and Stark can combine their powers to bring her back since she’s not quite dead. Why they didn’t think to do this before she was put on ice I’m not certain (especially since the implication is that the process is much more dangerous at this point because they waited as long as they did), although to be totally fair, I guess they didn’t make the leap in reasoning that Aeryn wouldn’t have been frozen had she been totally dead. I will give them some credit here, since there was an entire season break before she gets brought back… but not a lot of credit, since story-wise this isn’t even a day after we left off.

There are a lot of frustrating things in this episode, which mainly involve the cliffhangers from the season 2 finale being overcome a little too easily. But Noel already covered all of those and I don’t want to basically just repeat that, so suffice to say that I am frustrated.

Anyways.

It’s very interesting to see Scorpius’ reaction to the prospect of running into Crais and Talyn. He’s actually scared of them.

Scorpius. Is afraid of Talyn.

We’ve known that Talyn has been developing into a very powerful and dangerous force, but here we learn that he’s become so big of a threat that the big bad wants very much to stay far away from him. And he’s not even close to an adult yet.

And Grnchlk. It turns out he was plotting against all sides involved from the very start, having not only tipped off Scorpius to Crichton’s presence, but also reviving a Scarran who’s payroll he’s also on to let him know that Scorpius is there. His plan backfires, of course, because Scorpius decides to make him into a puppet.

As squicky as the whole thing is, I loved the bit of it where Scorpius was practicing and trying to get into character before sending Grnchlk out to meet the others. And also the very brief moment where he slips and falls out of character, when he hears about the “imprint” his chip left on John’s brain.

I actually don’t have a problem with John overcoming Harvey in the way that he does. In the last episode, we got to see the physical side of John’s victory over Harvey, the chip being removed from his head, but there was so much internal build up of Harvey over the course of last season that it makes sense that John would need to effectively defeat the memory of him to get over the whole thing. Besides, the surgery, while effectively removing Harvey from the equation as far as John’s brain was concerned, didn’t really give us a real showdown between the two. We get that here, and get to see John claim victory over the thing that was haunting him for an entire season. It was worth fleshing out. Also the crowd shouting “Hell yeah!” in his head on cue makes me giggle.

As for Zhaan’s impending doom… well, the only reason I’m taking it remotely seriously at this point is the fact that, as discussed on our Season 2 wrap up, Virginia Hey had been having allergic reactions to the makeup for Zhaan. The writers apparently needed a spot to write her out gracefully, and swapping her for Aeryn would seem to be it. So maybe I’ll take back a bit of what I said about Aeryn’s revival. If Zhaan’s shortened lifespan thing doesn’t get magically reversed, Aeryn’s death will be the first case of a main character demise that, while not permanent for her, actually holds consequences.


Kevin

I’m going to definitely agree with Tessa here and say that the way Crichton dealt with Harvey was not only fantastic, but almost necessary. While the lead-up was a bit contrived – it’s a Stark moment, after all – it really was the only way for us to get Crichton back without five episodes of him being a weepy, suicidal mess.

As long as we’re nitpicking, though, allow me to pose a slightly better-paced alternative. Crichton’s defeated, with Harvey in his head permanently and persuading him to kill himself. Stark tells him that the entire physical chip has gone, and Harvey only exists now in Crichton’s brain, with no stronghold in which to retreat. We keep the cut to the darkened, empty pier – which, by the way, very symbolic of Harvey’s point of entry into Crichton’s mind – and Harvey is still tormenting him. Crichton attempts to quietly figure out if he’s really in control, possibly by changing his clothes, and waits for Harvey’s reaction. Harvey, still confidently needling our boy, either doesn’t notice or pretends he’s still in control, which gives Crichton the strength he needs to ignore him, get off the table, and help the others. Later, when Harvey tries once more to persuade Crichton to go to Scorpius – “So he can do what you are far too cowardly to do yourself, John” – Crichton is tired of it all, summons the Warehouse of Ass Kicking, and proceeds to rip Harvey a new one.

That said, I understand why Crichton needed to deal with it right then. This was the bastard who had terrorized him for months, maybe up to a full year, and has even taken away that which John holds most dear: his self-control. (Oh, and Aeryn, too.) Now that Crichton knows that he is completely back behind the wheel? He’s going to frelling drive. And given Crichton’s increased feeling of helplessness – not to mention the state he was finally in – he absolutely needed that show of power, the total and complete domination of the neural clone, to finally feel like he was over it. He needed closure.


Crichton just can’t get beyond Thunderdome.

And of course, because it’s Crichton, he adds sound effects and an unseen crowd to his mindscape. Gripe all you want about the convenience, Noel, that was frelling awesome.

First bullet points of the season! Things to note:

  • Is it just me, or did the Scorpius makeup get another upgrade? I’m noticing a lot more ridge and scar detailing, especially around the eyes. Or is it just that the cameras are better and we’re getting a more detailed close-up than before? Either way, I approve.
  • Too often, the souls of the passed are dressed in something symbolic – either flowing robes and dresses, tattered rags, or simple palatte-swapped versions of their regular clothes – so it was very awesome to see that Aeryn’s soul was represented as she best saw herself – in her combat uniform, still strapped to the ejector seat she died in. A brilliant touch, even if the flowing hair was a bit much.
  • On that same note, did anyone ever really believe that Aeryn’s return should be done as an emotional, symbolic, overdone production? No. What she got was a gun in her hand, an enemy to shoot, and friends to save. That’s the Aeryn Sun we know and love. Can I get a “hell yeah”?
  • Looks like Crais and Talyn are sticking around this time. I WONDER WHAT WILL COME OF THIS.

Episode [2.22]: Die Me, Dichotomy || Episode [3.02]: Suns and Lovers

16 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Okay, I’ll give you all the John’s victory over Harvey scene. It was really well put together and does make perfect sense. Most of my frustration comes from the pile of other convenient plotting that surrounds it. Also, it probably didn’t help that my piece was written at 4 in the morning after a full day of work. 😛

    Reply
  2. That’s okay; if I recall correctly, most of the script itself was written at 4 in the morning after a full day of work. 🙂

    Reply
    • Weston

       /  May 28, 2011

      I have been squeeing for about twenty hours over this comment. Rather than hit the capslock and smash my keyboard in excitement, I will greet you warmly and express my enthusiastic love of your work.

      Reply
  3. Guys, FrooniumRicky is Ricky Manning, author of Season of Death. Hi Ricky!

    I wade through the episode for its high points — the ice pick killing of the Scarren, John saying a tongue twister to test his speech, the grody Grunchlik scenes, and best of all John not believing that Aeryn is alive until he checks her hair and then that rapturous hug. It is so well acted that it makes me cry every time. John is whole again.

    I think death on Farscape is like the vomit and other bodily activities that separate it from Star Trek. Coming back from death has consequences. Massive ones for everyone. So, I don’t mind that the major players come back because the way it is done is so creative and emotionally satisfying. And Season 3 isn’t called “Season Of Death” for nothing. And I love John’s Stone Cold Steve Austin routine. Now Ben starts every convention appearance where there are Scapers with “Can I get a Hell Yeah!?” And we all shout back.

    Reply
    • Tessa

       /  May 27, 2011

      Except that, with this most recent case possibly being the exception, there HAVEN’T been any consequences for characters coming back from death prior to this.

      Not. Once.

      And THAT’S why I have such a problem with the concept. Main character deaths have been so trivialized by this point because they’ve never, EVER stuck, and there has been no catch to their returns. This one looks to finally have a consequence, and while I’m not happy to see any of the crew face a final goodbye, I’m seriously hoping it spells the end of the whole “lets kill off characters just for the sake of doing it but its okay cause they’ll still be around next episode” thing. It is not a compelling twist when you do it over and over again without any consequence to go along with it. I’m going to keep arguing that until they stop doing it.

      Reply
      • Never read comic books, Tessa. 😉

        Reply
        • That’s exactly the reason I stopped reading comic books.

          Reply
          • Weston

             /  May 28, 2011

            Superman died! Oh no! Oh wait, he’s back.

            I would ask for a superhero who’s power was dying all the time and coming right back, but I would get Captain Jack Harkness. And that would be terrible. Somehow.

          • They’ve already beaten you to that one, Weston.

    • Hi, Rita!

      I chose the title for many reasons, not least of which that I was predicting it’d be a Season of Death for the writing staff. And so it was, but fortunately (in true Farscape fashion) it was only Mostly Death. (We got better.)

      Reply
      • Hi Ricky! These are great re-watch reviews. Glad to see you playing in this playground. I guess you all felt they were only flesh wounds… I can’t imagine the pressure you were under given all the CGI and makeup requirements planning to put together 22 episodes. Thus I can understand the death march feeling by the end of the season.

        Tessa, I understand what you are saying as a new Farscape watcher. I guess I never count Stark’s deaths or pay that much attention to them because I didn’t particularly feel much about the Stark/Zhaan relationship. It seemed contrived. And Moya’s death (and thus Pilot’s death) was as you said, outside of the knowledge of most of the Moyans except Zhaan. The crew of Moya don’t share much information between them and certainly John was either highly reticent due to his early hazing, or Harvey was stopping him from letting the rest of the crew know what was going on during Season 2. So, Pilot and Moya’s death would have no consequence to the rest of the crew because they didn’t know about it.

        I have noticed that the consequences of these deaths do not affect the person who dies but their friends, foes, and crewmates. Thus, Stark’s death was mourned by Zhaan deeply but Rygel could care less and D’Argo wanted to get his son back and Chiana didn’t care much either, it seemed. Everyone is always deep in their own heads and problems and not cohesive. A Jerry Springer family. Chiana’s death was bizarre and I’m not sure she really died if you are talking about the second Maldis episode. They all ended up in that picture thing “not dead yet”. At the time of her death, everyone was horrified. I think you’ll find that Season 3 is named Season Of Death, as Ricky alluded to (although he was talking about what was going on in the writer’s room) appropriately. The show grows up enormously.

        Thanks for the great discussions. They make me think.

        Reply
        • Tessa

           /  May 29, 2011

          I get what you’re saying, I just disagree that they really went into those reactions beyond the shallow first moments of each. Yeah, there were reactions, and each fake-out has an initial affect on the rest of the crew… but because it’s over so fast we never get anything out of those reactions. Zhaan’s emotional reaction to Stark’s death is probably the best example, because they could have done so much with it, and yet we have her reacting in the episode it happens in, nothing in the one episode in between, and then he’s suddenly back and we’re past it. There’s no time for there to actually be a consequence there because it’s fixed before there’s a chance to really explore it.

          And yes, I’m alluding to the second Maldis episode (Picture If You Will) when I talk about Chiana’s fake-out. The crew treated it as real and they held the reveal for long enough, it counts. Yes, everyone else wound up “killed” in that too, but they almost immediately showed that they weren’t actually dead in those cases, so there was no mistaking what was going on. And again, there, it had initial reactions in its own episode, but nothing came of it beyond that.

          I’m not saying that the characters aren’t reacting to these things convincingly, quite the contrary. The problem is that the idea is being played far too often, and then turned around and fixed way too quickly without any lasting effect. Like I’ve mentioned before, it makes me just shrug off death scenes, because it’s far too hard to take them seriously at this point with how many times they haven’t stuck. That really should not happen, considering how much I like these characters and how much I would care if they did bow out for good.

          It’s really been the only gripe and downside to what I’ve otherwise been finding a fantastic series. It might be minor to other people, and I understand that, and I hope that this doesn’t become something people get sick of me complaining about, but it is my one pet peeve in this series.

          Reply
  4. Tessa and Weston, but there are consequences to all the deaths. They happen slowly and are mostly emotional beats. Aeryn’s death has enormous reverberations throughout Season 3. Stark isn’t really dead but disbursed — he is energy so doesn’t count. John “dies” a couple of times like in The Flax and Won’t Get Fooled Again, and each time he is more messed up mentally or his relationship with Aeryn is screwed up. Rygel didn’t die in A Human Reaction — that was not Rygel on the table but a facimile created by the Ancients to test John and Humans. I’m not sure what all the complaining is about. When characters die, they will die. When leads “die” meaning for short times or accidentally or make others think they are dead, the repurcussions are emotional and you don’t start back to square one. I don’t think Season Of Death started back at square one. Yes, I was annoyed that John didn’t have a recovery period. I’ve read a lot of fan fiction where we get John either not fixed by the Diagnostician because he/she’s dead or some sort of hellish inbetween state with aphasia. But John is left with Harvey — and a real danger there of a second full personality distracting and changing John from innocent to hardened. Aeryn recovers but at a huge price that we’ll see happen in Season 3 and even 4.

    Farscape never was scientifically accurate (although David Kemper liked to research and come up with interesting situations such as diving out into space without a suit which actually NASA said was possible) nor was it antiseptic and neatly bundled up every week. It was wild, sad, funny, poignant, messy, and very human. Only heightened.

    Oh, and I like Captain Jack, so I guess that’s another reason I love Farscape. : )

    Reply
    • Tessa

       /  May 28, 2011

      To clarify, I’m classifying “coming back from death” as including all of the fake-outs. To be totally fair, there are only three “real” deaths thus far, if we’re counting this most recent thing with Aeryn to be death (she never totally died, to split hairs). I can’t speak to this most recent one since I haven’t seen any farther than the most recent episodes covered here (and like I said before, it’s shaping up to actually be something with actual consequence), but the last two… no, they really did not have consequences that reached beyond their single episodes. We have Aeryn’s first death (which out of all of the ones I complained about was easily the best and I don’t really have an issue with because it was a well told story), which got erased by time travel, with vague memory-ish things lingering in Aeryn and John that to date have never been spoken of again. Then there’s Stark, which might have gotten some good Zhaan development except that they did absolutely nothing with it before bringing him right back.

      Rygel’s fake-out is effective in the context of that particular story, but has no consequences besides. Chiana’s is silly and again, has no impact lasting beyond that episode. Pilot and Moya’s isn’t even seen by anyone aside from Zhaan, and again, had very little impact beyond its own episode aside from setting up the mythology that could have been done without the fake-out.

      My problem with the whole thing is not that they’ve done any one of these, but that they did it so many times in rapid succession. Had they done it fewer times, and given more impact to any of them, I wouldn’t be complaining about it nearly as much.

      I actually don’t count The Flax or Won’t Get Fooled Again in the bad fake-outs… because they weren’t bad. They both had a clear place and purpose within both their own story and the larger story as a whole, and the impact of both was clear. In Flax, it was an important point in Aeryn and John’s developing relationship, and in Won’t Get Fooled, it made clear the position that John was in regarding Harvey. If they’d cut out a few of the more pointless examples and made the others that they left in up to the standard of those two, then I wouldn’t have an issue with the whole thing.

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