Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [3.02] – “Suns and Lovers”

Today, on Farscape

“It’s a Union Tattoo. It’s a Luxan symbol of courage, honor, and loyalty. I was going to give it to Chiana, but I was wrong. I want you to have it.”

In which the now extremely wealthy crew attempt to buy a map, but wind up as collateral damage when zealots attempt to destroy a commerce station. Hilarity ensues.


Weston

I think we’ve got three distinct subplots going on here. Aeryn running around in the bowels of the station trying to rescue a child in a cut-off section, Crichton attempting to identify and locate the device drawing the storms, and D’Argo getting frelled over by his lady love and son. Of the three, the last definitely feels like the main event.

First, and possibly most important over the long run; Crichton’s name is now infamous. He’s known for destroying a Peacekeeper Gammak Base, obliterating a Nebari battalion, razing a Shadow Depository, and numerous other things with varying levels of truth. Our human homeboy is becoming known as a dangerous individual, and that in itself is a dangerous thing.

Then the storm hits. Three of the station’s five pods are destroyed outright, and the remaining two are severely damaged. Moya survives, but gets tangled in the ruins. D’Argo pops out to survey the mess, and picks up a stray vessel. No larger than a transport pod, shielded, metallic and mysterious. Chiana secures a popped hatch, and in the process spots a child stranded in one of the station’s pods – possibly the only survivor in that entire pod.

The crew splits up. Aeryn and Crichton run off to rescue the kid and, in the process, work through some of their relationship issues. Zhaan and Stark set a dozen DRDs to work scanning the station for the transmitter that’s luring the next storm. Eventually One-Eye picks up the signal, turns out that it’s coming from the security officer who identified Crichton. She starts chanting crazy, activates an internal magnetic field, and attaches herself to a coolant pipe. Fortuitously, the Interion freezers that Crichton brought onboard last episode contain larger amounts of the same metal and they’re able to move her over to Moya. A few minutes at Hetch speeds to pull the storm away from the station, a truly amazing cackle from Pilot, a quick ejection, and the threat is neutralized.

That’s the short, short version. It glosses over Aeryn propositioning John while climbing through sewer shafts and the resultant near miss. Rygel gets a silly moment when he threatens the zealot with a “cleansing ramming”, wherein he headbutts her a couple of times.

Poor D’Argo finally discovers that Chiana’s been cheating on him with his own son. His expression, his actions, everything about that scene is so heartbreaking. D’Argo wanders off, despondent, knocks down at least one bottle of intoxicants, and hops outside to clear the cables and free the ship. While out in the vacuum, he attempts suicide by discharging a high-voltage cable. He does recover in time to prevent John from flying off into the void and finish the job, but that zap hit him fairly hard. All told, D’Argo’s having a really bad day.

Of note; D’Argo attaches a safety line to prevent an unexpected EVA while John doesn’t. Seems oddly counterproductive, if he’s really going out there to kill himself. I’d guess that his sense of duty is strong enough that he wants to be sure he frees the ship first.

Elsewhere. Moordil is kinda awesome. Character design, makeup, prosthetics, acting, all solid. A six-armed bartender slash stationkeeper with a huge… what would you call that? Also, his name sounds like “mortal”, which is appropriate. Borlik the security agent slash zealot is similarly fantastic in makeup and portrayal. Her transition from guard to madwoman to vapor is well executed.

Zhaan… ah, Zhaan. She’s dying, and Stark is taking it as well as can be expected. The hope is that they’ll be able to plant her somewhere that she’ll be able to recover, but apparently Delvian physiology needs a fairly specific environment to grow well. Stark regresses to crazy mode when she refuses to show him the extent of the damage. These two have come together so quickly, and now… well, okay, Stark’s already died once, so I can’t really say that they’re being torn apart without adding an “again”. But they do have a bit of a “doomed lovers” theme.

In conclusion, triumphantly cackling Pilot is awesome.


Tessa

There are so many things going on in this one that I almost don’t know where to start.

First off, I love Moordil. His character design reminds me a bit of Kamaji from Spirited Away, and his face, accent and little fez… its all really awesome. There are so many jokes/comparisons I want to make with the way he looks that I couldn’t just pick one, so I tossed them all together.


Yes, shalashka.

This is one of those episodes that I kind of want to call bipolar, in that there are a lot of really funny upbeat moments (many of them having to do with Rygel), along with a very hard hitting and depressing plot thread.

We’ve been leading up to the inevitable crash and burn of D’Argo and Chiana’s relationship, and here it finally comes to a head. It’s painful to watch D’Argo so excited on the commerce base, having picked up the Luxan equivalent of an engagement ring to offer Chiana (being Luxan, of course, it involves intense pain), while back on Moya, she and Jothee are at it in the cold storage room. The two of them are in total panic around D’Argo when he comes back on board, and are so concerned about him discovering what they’ve been up to that they inadvertently draw attention to it. He starts out fairly oblivious, but the longer he’s around the two of them the more suspicious he gets about the way they’re acting, as they’re obviously trying to cover something up.

This is, without question, the hardest hitting blow he’s gotten arguably since the loss of his wife and his capture by the Peacekeepers. The woman who totally owned his heart, who he was ready to share his life with (we don’t know how long he’d been practicing his marriage proposal, but it’s arguably been on his mind for a while), and the son whom he put all of his energy since escaping trying to find, nearly throwing away his life in the attempts to rescue him, his only known family, both effectively stabbing him through the heart of their own free will. He’s been putting all of his emotional eggs into these two baskets for quite some time now, only to have them smash into each other and spill their contents while they make out and get sweaty in the corner.

I think I got carried away with that metaphor.

It’s no wonder he starts to contemplate suicide afterwards. His two main focuses in life, and all of his dreams of where to go from here have just been completely destroyed within minutes.

I kind of don’t buy Chiana’s explanation for why she got together with Jothee. According to her, she just wanted to do something D’Argo wouldn’t be able to forgive because she didn’t want to settle down somewhere and couldn’t bring herself to tell him no if he proposed. Which is both a rather extreme reaction to finding out what he had in mind, and also doesn’t explain why she was so desperate to keep D’Argo from finding out. I think this is more about her trying to justify her actions to herself after the fact rather than a grand master plan she had all along.

And… Rygel. Oh god, so many awesome Rygel moments in this episode. We start the episode with him being a total sleazeball, getting into the cameras on Moya to watch Chiana and Jothee get it on. I have to imagine he’s just as pleased with himself for having dirt on two of his shipmates as he is having fun effectively watching porn, since he has tremendous amounts of fun letting Chiana know that he knows what they’ve been up to, gleefully warning her that D’Argo will be able to tell without having to tell him a word.

There’s been hints before this that Rygel possibly has a few more feelings for Chiana than he does for the other crew members, possibly because she shares more in common with him than any of the others do, and I wonder if part of the reason he’s taking extra pleasure in seeing her squirm in her current predicament is because he’s not the one on the receiving end of her advances.

His banter with Borlik has some great moments too. The headbutting is funny, but my favorite moment has to be when she offers the chance for him to repent and he laughs in her face. “Repent? We have less than an arn. I was a Dominar, it’d take me longer than that to repent.”

And then we have Zhaan. Now this is what I’m talking about when I ask for consequences to character revival. Her bringing Aeryn back has caused her to exhaust herself to terminal illness, which we can see not just in her fatigue, but also seeing physical signs of it to, her head covered with sticky sores as her condition worsens. There was a serious downside to what she did, and Stark is in a panic trying to find a way to stop it from getting worse. There’s a great dynamic between the two of them here, where she has calmly accepted that her time to die is fast approaching, and he can’t handle it. She asks him why he’s having so much trouble accepting the situation, since as someone who’s job it is to help the dead pass along he should be used to people dying. He responds that he’s not used to her dying.

If I have one complaint about this episode, it’s that it’s a little too obvious that Borlik is the one behind the storms. Her insistence that they’re divine punishment and her panic when they uncover that there’s a device onboard that someone is using to reposition the storms is a little easy to see through, to the point that I was actually expecting them to not make it her just to subvert themselves. Still, it’s a minor gripe, and her performance as the crazed zealot in the second half of the episode more than makes up for it. Especially since we get that awesome Pilot moment at the end.

Seriously, what is it about normally peaceful, gentle characters breaking into maniacal laughter that’s so appealing?


Kevin

The Love Story of John Crichton and Aeryn Sun is an ever-changing, twisting and turning story. They’ve saved each other’s lives. They’ve been prepared to die for each other (and, from a certain point of view, have actually done so).

Is it any wonder that the next chance they have to actually be alone together, Aeryn brings up their relationship?

To Crichton – and by extension, We The Viewers – Aeryn’s proposition of sex is one that appears casual, cold, and convenient; she makes it about the reduction of “fluid levels”, namely tension and hormones. Crichton shoots her down, and she reacts in impulsive and seemingly strange ways.

But it’s very easy to forget that Aeryn Sun was born and raised on a Peacekeeper ship. She had no concept of personal space, of “proper” relationships, and certainly no real concept of love; the one time it became an issue, she handled it rather…poorly.

Kenobi Conundrum in sight, let’s take the Jeffrey’s Tube sequence again, this time from Aeryn’s point of view.

Their relationship is still relatively new. While it developed over the course of the last season, there was really only one time she admitted it outright. Then she died, so you know how well that turned out.

What she has learned from her experiences growing up is that, as she stated, the best way to relieve tension is to have sex and be done. When Crichton disputes the intention she claims, she smiles and repeats her offer.

Aeryn: “You know, I’ve been thinking. About us.”
John: “You want to talk about this now?”
Aeryn: “It’s a good time. No one here to bother us. I know the pressures of living close, how it can affect the safety of an entire battalion… unless tensions are relieved.”
John: “…so what do you suggest?”
Aeryn: “Well, in the Peacekeepers, it was common practice to, uh. Reduce fluid levels.”
John: “Fluid levels. What, like Valvoline? Like brake fluid?”
Aeryn: “Like sex. We can have sex if you want.”
*The station jolts*
John: “You know what, now is not a great time, how about I check my diary and get back to you later in the week?”
Aeryn: “It would relieve the tension.”
John: “Is this for you, or for me?”
Aeryn: “For both of us.”
John: “You know what? I’ve got two hands, and I can alternate, I can release all the tension I want. I don’t need your charity.”
Aeryn: “And I don’t need your emotions. But we can have sex if you want.”

She’s being as forward as she’s comfortable with, here. Knowing that a relationship is compromise, she’s also giving Crichton a lot of the power and control – that same power and control that she almost never relinquishes for anyone. And as hurt as she might be, she also recognizes that Crichton has a different concept of what relationships are. You can see that as she focuses on her search for the children trapped on the station, but she doesn’t pull inward, lash out, or shut down like she may have in the past. She takes the time to think about the situation and change her approach; by the time she and Crichton talk again, she has withdrawn her proposal, but she hasn’t withdrawn from Crichton.

It’s a huge difference when you look at the episode from that perspective. Kenobi Conundrum indeed.

Things to take note of this episode:

  • Oh, Pilot. I could very well take the easy way out and simply wax exultational about his Crowning Moment of Awesome here, and it would do this writeup justice. Not only does he finally talk to Moya’s denizens as equals, but he is also able to let loose and enjoy finally ridding Moya of the Static Klingon saboteur. You saw that correctly, ladies and gentlemen. Pilot cackles maniacally as he spaces her.
  • I absolutely love the exterior shots that we’ve been getting the last few episodes. The commerce station orbiting the sun is a simply gorgeous set piece, and one that’s seen from a few different angles. The art department has been working overtime, and it shows.
  • Speaking of gorgeous exterior shots, is this the first time we have a close-up of Moya’s hide? Or is it her hull? Whatever you want to call it, the latticework of veins and the pebbled texture of her skin is unique and finely detailed. There’s also the smooth transition from organic to mechanical when we see the hatches and the cable hookups – which, it makes a lot of sense when you consider that Moya often needs to purchase fluid, but you can’t pack a shipload of it onto a transport pod.
  • The ship that D’Argo picks up, is that…? I honestly can’t remember if we see it this early. If so, I’m excited.
  • Three little Interions, sitting in a ship.
    One left back and took a snip.
    One threw up for all to see;
    What will the fate of the last one be?

Noel

Poor Interion. He doesn’t even know where he is, but he’s already got sweety youngsters making love against him before a jolt cracks his container open and he projectile vomits to death. Damn. Rest in peace, potential distant genetic relative of Crichton. At least you freed him of the moral decision of having to kill one of you so as to save the day. Even though that would have deepened the drama and left everyone with a rapidly dying person they could have spent an episode or two trying to save even as one of their own was headed toward a similar fate. Oh well.

Sorry. It’s a cop-out, but just a tiny one, and they make up for it with one hell of a thrilling episode. The space station everyone is on is barely holding together, Moya is wound up in its debris and tethering cables, and there’s a crazy zealot who’s magnetized herself to a pipe that absolutely must not be ruptured, even as a signal from inside her is pulling a massive space storm their way. It doesn’t get more ticking clock hopeless than that. D’Argo marches into the ether of space. Aeryn lurches through sewage drains to find trapped children. Stark and Zhaan tend to the dying. Chianna runs left and right every which way. Rygel is Rygel. John tries to keep everyone focused. What time could be worse to have some relationship issues.

I don’t know, Tessa, but I believe Chiana when she says she intentionally sabotaged her relationship. I think her attraction to Jothee was a big part of it, but she still genuinely cares for D’Argo and couldn’t bring herself to just say no. I’ll bet she was also trying to make him the bad guy, the jealous villain, so as to allow herself to push him away, but that totally backfired. She knows she’s the one who made the wrong choice and that guilt is something she now has to live with. As will Jothee, who believably decides to pull up roots before they have a chance to set as he leaves the ship.

And, damn, look at the wreck that is D’Argo. Part of me wants to go off about his sacrificial suicide attempt that ended up moot when he’s suddenly conscious and helping John again, but I have to agree with our regular reader Rita on this one. He survives so he can suffer, so the consequences of what’s been done to him can be explored to their fullest. Both the character and the show are stronger as a result, best demonstrated by the moment just after he and John clear the last of the tethers on Moya’s hull and, despite being exposed to a vacuum, D’Argo just sits and sulks, unable to bring himself back inside because he knows the first people waiting to check on him will be the two who wrenched out his heart. D’Argo is now a directionless man. The son he set out to save is running away, and the woman he came to love shattered that bond to pieces. If D’Argo had died, it would be tragic and Jothee and Chiana would have to face their guilt, but time would pass and they’d eventually moved on. This way, he’s still around, and every moment he and Chiana spend together will be a reminder of what they lost.

I also love the way they explore Zhaan’s deterioration without making it the main thrust of the show. She’s visibly weaker and slimy sores are appearing, but she’s still in the middle of the fray, trying to keep everyone calm and soothe the dying. While her other friends are aware of and worried about her condition, the only one making a big deal about it is Stark who, as has been pointed out, is in manic mode. Say what you will about his character and how awkwardly he fits in with the main cast, but the bond between him and Zhaan has been very striking and beautiful. It’s not a sexual relationship, or even one that’s particularly romantic in general, but nobody on the ship understand these two as well as they do each other. Both are aware of the broader cosmic/spiritual implications of each action and path Moya takes, whereas the others are focused more on the here and now. Sometimes this makes Zhaan and Stark seem annoying and patronizing, sometimes guiding and wise, but it’s the point of union that links this beautiful and graceful priest and the grubby and manic slave god.

Another word needs to become a regular feature here: pirate. As Weston pointed out, Crichton’s name is spreading through the galaxy, along with exaggerated exploits that paint him as both hero and villain. He’s a pirate. Not by choice, but a pirate nonetheless. Everyone on board Moya is a pirate. Exiles, runaways, thieves, prisoners, soldiers, murderers. Pirate is a word I don’t hear often enough with this show, but this episode certainly makes John worthy of the spreading legends as he and a cackling pilot take out the terrorist with one of the best “Frell yeah!” action hero sendoff lines around: “It’s detachable.”

There’s nothing more for me to add. Considering most of this piece was a regurgitation of the others, that’s probably not a bad thing. It’s a great episode. A nice one-off action piece that cleverly weaves in ongoing threads of development, as well as nailing one of – if not the – biggest relationship twists of the show’s history.

Oh, and I’ll add character actor legend Richard Riehle to the list of people I think of every time I see Moordil.


Episode [3.01]: Season of Death || Episode [3.03]: Self-Inflicted Wounds Part I: Could’a, Would’a, Should’a

16 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Spiderling

     /  June 3, 2011

    Great wrap up again guys, I always look forward to what you all have to say each week. I’ve seen the whole series through quite a few times but don’t always pick up on the more subtle, or not so subtle themes running through the episodes so I’m glad there’s somewhere I can come to see what I’ve missed.

    I agree that Moordil was a great character/creature, and an interesting thing that’s worth noting I think is that the actor who played him, Thomas Holegrove, had 11 different roles on the series; so far you’ve seen him as Tak, Cargn, Grath, Teurac, Diagnoson Tocot and Plonek.
    Another interesting thing that I’ve be really want to to mention to do with the casting is watching the series from an Australian point of view. All through the series you see really well know actors popping up here and there, usually in small roles and covered in make-up. So far there’s been Fulow, played by Magda Szubanski, and Natira who was played by Claudia Karvan, both of whom are pretty much household names down here. I won’t mention the others as they are yet to appear but it was always fun when you recognised a well known name come up as a guest star.

    Just as a final note, I really didn’t mean for this to get so long, Noel; I don’t think the Interion dying was a cop-out. Grnchlik said that the donors were frozen just before they died, if he’d been well enough to survive another episode or two I doubt Tocot would have allowed him to be frozen. Just my thoughts on the matter.

    Looking forward to your next update!

    Reply
    • Tessa

       /  June 3, 2011

      I had no idea he’s been playing other roles, and that many to boot. That’s really awesome.

      And I have to agree with the thing about the Interion, there’s a reason I didn’t give his death the kind of treatment that I’ve given others. It totally makes sense that he’d die almost immediately after being revived, given what we knew about Tocot’s standards. The only reason they wouldn’t die immediately is if Grnchlik was lying about any one of them in particular. Which could totally wind up being the case with another one, given that he’s not the most honest of persons from what we’ve seen, and the fact that he’d snuck at least one other non-terminal guest into one of the pods before. I guess there’s still time for that to come, but if it doesn’t happen, it just means that what we’ve already been told is true.

      Granted, that would make the insistence of bringing them slightly pointless if they’re all going to die immediately upon hitting the air, although there’s definitely a place they could go where John gets more and more desperate to try to find a link to his home from them as each dies in turn, only to leave him with nothing yet again.

      Reply
      • Spiderling

         /  June 3, 2011

        Quite a few actors reappeared in different roles, it was probably due to finding good actors who didn’t have bad reactions to the make-up.

        I agree that Grnchlik’s dishonesty gave them a way to keep the Interions going as additional characters, I just didn’t think it was really a cop-out. But I can certainly see how they could have been used as instruments to torment Crichton some more, the writers did enjoy that quite a bit.

        Reply
        • Tessa

           /  June 3, 2011

          I’m agreeing with you, I didn’t think it was either. I wasn’t clear about that in my other response. 🙂

          Reply
        • I’m not saying it’s a cop-out that they killed the Interion. The cop-out is that they cracked open his pod in such a random way. They robbed John of having to make the ethical choice of pulling the being out of stasis so as to use the pod to save the day. John already has the death of one Interion hanging over his head, so why not drive it home a little more and give a little weight to this one’s rapid demise?

          Reply
          • Tessa

             /  June 3, 2011

            I hadn’t really thought about that, actually, and you’re right, it’s a bit convenient. My only thought in defense is that there was so much already going on in this episode that I’m not sure where and how effectively they could have fit in the ethical dilemma for John and do it justice without having to sacrifice something else in the plot.

          • Spiderling

             /  June 5, 2011

            Ah, I get it. That does make more sense. I do agree with Tessa though; the writers probably thought it would add to much to the episode, or maybe they just wouldn’t have been able to squeeze it in.

  2. Tessa

     /  June 3, 2011

    About the suicide attempt… it’s a bit awkward, to be sure. But there’s a couple things about it that keep it from reaching “convenient cop out” mode for me.

    I don’t really think D’Argo was full-in on the idea of killing himself. If he was, he wouldn’t have tied himself off to the ship before heading out (the entire thing becomes even more bizarre when John -doesn’t- tie himself off). If you leave an obvious and easy way out of the attempt (which even if he didn’t pull himself back down, which is what I’m assuming happened, there was nothing to stop anyone else from doing the same given enough time), then the desire to actually die isn’t there. I think he definitely was entertaining the thought, but he wasn’t going to follow up on it.

    Not to mention that it was a very passive method to choose. Not to be morbid here, but he’s got ready access to weaponry. Something tells me that a warrior race like the Luxans would find impaling oneself on their blades, or even shooting themselves to be a far more appropriate way to end one’s life. But, again, both of those methods would require staring the decision to end your life in the face, and would be far more efficient and final. He not only tied himself off to the ship, but he also put on a breathing regulator prior to heading out, both of which are very odd choices for someone to make if they’re going to kill themselves right off the bat. He supplied himself with the means so that he would have plenty of time to change his mind.

    Now, obviously he tried to take the plunge once he played with the cables, but he didn’t cut the rope or take off the regulator prior to doing that. Maybe he didn’t think to, but I kind of think he still wanted that option there. Also without prior knowledge of how Luxans handle high electricity we couldn’t be sure of how deadly his actions actually would be, and the fact that the crew seemed more concerned with him suffocating than thinking he was already dead seems to lend to the idea that it wasn’t fatal on its own.

    Had he gone out there without that rope or cut it prior to electrocuting himself and still come back somehow, I would feel very differently about this. And maybe I’m giving this far too much credit, but as someone who (uncomfortable tmi incoming) has had experience with suicide attempts in the past, I didn’t see this as “he tried to commit suicide but got better” so much as “he didn’t really want to die in the first place”.

    Reply
    • Just to clarify, I’m praising the way they handled the “suicide”. It could have come off as yet another false death, but the build up to and repurcussions of the event were marvelously well constructed. My only gripe is that he’s just suddenly there and helping John again. Other than that, fantastic sequence and a real defining character moment.

      Reply
      • Tessa

         /  June 3, 2011

        Ah, that makes much more sense. And yes, that’s the portion of it that’s a little awkward and feels like something in between is missing. But it’s forgivable.

        Reply
  3. Actually, Weston, I don’t think D’Argo did tie himself off. It looked to me like he had gotten tangled in the power cable he had just discharged.

    Reply
    • No, you do see him connect his belt to a thin chord just as he leaves the hatch. That’s what holds him when he drifts away.

      Reply
      • Okay, just took a look at that scene again, and you’re right, that was the safety line. I don’t know why I thought it was the power cable.

        Reply
  4. I think D’Argo was very drunk when he went out there and was just doing his duty clearing out the trash, so did the safety setup of clipping a tether and putting on his breathing mask. But, the more he was out there, the more angry he got. By the time John got out there, D’Argo was pissed and not thinking too clearly. So, to save John, he broke the electrical cable thus zapping himself to hezmana. It was when he and John headed back to the hatch that I always had the idea that he didn’t want to go back inside, but was just going to sit there and die of the cold and oxygen starvation when the rebreather stopped working. I love the scene when John sits down with him and says he isn’t going in without him. I don’t think D’Argo wanted to die so much as he didn’t want to face his son and Chiana and the grief they caused. John’s friendship and loyalty was enough to allow him to gather up his pride and return. The toughest scene was when we see him burning the Union Tatoos like he was burning his relationship with Chiana and Jothee. Jothee is a pig. Just so you know it.

    I love your discussion of Aeryn and John and the proposition. Aeryn is trying but still doesn’t understand that John wants a relationship. I also love John, who’s drunk, sitting down next to Aeryn and teasing her about what she bought. He is flummoxed by his reputation. “Frau Bluecher popped all the eyeballs…” I think you’ll see emotional repercussions from John as this “pirate reputation” gets worse. And he definitely has no patience for zealots who are aiming to hurt Pilot and Moya. I love his teamwork with Pilot (who obviously has a lot of fun spacing the fanatic.)

    Notice that the episode is a pun “Sons and Lovers”. I love the literary allusions.

    Reply
    • Weston

       /  June 3, 2011

      I think D’Argo intended to stay outside before he left. The way he says goodbye to Pilot seems to imply that he doesn’t intend to be coming back.

      Reply
  5. Weston

     /  June 3, 2011

    @Kevin

    Yes, that totally was what you thought it was. Season three’s new character: Mysterious silver energy-shielded spaceship.

    Reply

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