Farscape: The Flax

During a piloting tutorial, Crichton and Aeryn become trapped in the Flax, an invisible drift net used by Zenetan pirates to capture and loot unwary ships. While they struggle to escape or survive until rescue, D’Argo joins forces with Staanz, an ex-Zenetan pirate, to secure mapping information from a derelict Luxan warship, and Zhaan and Rygel try to distract Kcrackic, a dangerous pirate who has a score to settle with Staanz.

What a wonderfully enjoyable episode! ‘The Flax’ was a prime example of Farscape at its humorous, action-adventure best (as opposed to its dark and pathos-filled best). The episode was really firing on all cylinders, with great character beats and tense and engaging subplots on several fronts. We had Crichton and Aeryn working together to survive in a desperate situation, D’Argo on a dangerous (and yet funny) side adventure with Staanz, and Rygel and Zhaan trying to keep their precarious situation from completely falling apart through subterfuge and chutzpah. All three subplots seamlessly combined humor and edge-of-your-seat tension, and we even got some introspective character beats with Crichton, Aeryn, and D’Argo for good measure.

My favorite part was the most hilariously awkward rescue ever. D’Argo’s open-mouthed, bemused shock after walking in on Crichton and Aeryn had me in stitches, especially with Aeryn goofily smiling in the background as Crichton stumbles over a “Hey, where’ve you been?” greeting. Then the tables turn with Staanz’s overtures to a confused and embarrassed D’Argo. “I am the female of the species. You know that, don’t you?” I especially loved the campy capper as D’Argo uncomfortably bows out while a chained up Stanz yells “I love you!” repeatedly. Awk-ward, and so, so funny!

Of course, I was also delighted by the turn of events with John and Aeryn. OK, absolutely elated! Finally! Even better was their coy flirtation at the end. I was grinning from ear to ear when Crichton asked Aeryn, “One thing --- just to be absolute certain --- you are the female of your species, right?” Just the way they looked at each other was awesome. And Aeryn’s final smile? Yes!

It was also quite nice to see Crichton and Aeryn working together throughout the episode. No yelling, no outright hostility. Just some gentle teasing and actual cooperation. They make a good team. “You know, you’re picking this up more slowly than the dumbest recruit.” “But I am picking it up, Aeryn.”

The teacher-student relationship works both ways, too, even though Aeryn may not consciously realize it. She thinks she’s training him, but every day Aeryn learns a little more about herself thanks to Crichton’s influence. Here, we get to see her at her efficient, dispassionate best --- rationally assessing their situation to determine she should be the one to use the kill shot, then quickly shifting gears once they discover Crichton’s helmet is shattered. She doesn’t quibble or hesitate, just says “tell me exactly what I have to do” because she knows time is of the essence if they are going to survive. But we also get to see the more vulnerable Aeryn, who --- spurred by Crichton’s questions about what Sebaceans believe happens when you die --- comes to realize that, despite her training, she doesn’t want to die alone. She even seems quite crushed and defeated when Crichton reveals that he saw nothing when he died. Those were tears in her eyes! She may be picking up this whole “humanity” business slowly, but she is picking it up.

Meanwhile, on the garbologist’s scow, D’Argo gets to do his own bit of soul searching. He’s a bit down on himself at the moment, but I don’t agree that D’Argo failed on all fronts. First off, he did save Crichton and Aeryn, so even if the rescue was a close call, I’d hardly consider it a failure. Moreover, despite some understandable indecision, D’Argo realized that it’s no longer acceptable to him to find his son at all costs. Back in ‘DNA Mad Scientist’ he was willing to brutally maim a comrade for just a chance at finding his son. Here, he decides the lives of his comrades and allies are a price he is unwilling to pay for that same chance. He can’t face his son again as that kind of man. I say that’s a huge victory, not a failure.

Other Thoughts

Although he started out behaving like a horrid little brat, Rygel really put his boredom to work for the greater good this week. He had me completely fooled, too. I absolutely bought his show of puffed-up overconfidence giving way to sniveling desperation. It certainly isn’t a stretch to believe he’d sell out a fellow crew member for his own entertainment or personal gain, much less someone who isn’t part of the crew. So I was immensely surprised when he revealed he’d given Kcrackic the wrong comm frequency. “You didn’t expect them to leave us unscathed unless they thought they were leaving with something of value, did you?” Clever little bastard!

Loved, loved, loved Pilot “accidentally” interrupting the fighting between Rygel, Zhaan, and D’Argo and blithely apologizing. “So sorry. I appear to have hit the wrong comm.” That Pilot’s got a good bit of snark in him every now and then.

The crazy dolls Staanz kept throwing into the furnace were bizarrely funny. “They burn good, too!”

Interesting bit about Kcrackic losing 80 men trying to take a pregnant Leviathan. Not necessarily the best sign for Moya’s crew.

Quotes

Crichton: “Slicker ‘n snot.”
Aeryn: “My microbes had to have translated that one wrong.”

Zhaan: “Teaching Crichton takes time, D’Argo.”
D’Argo: “Teaching Crichton is a waste of time.”

Aeryn: “I have no need for speed.”

Aeryn: “The reason why I agreed to teach you to do this is because you may become vaguely of use to me someday in battle.”
Crichton: “Oh. Well, thank you for that vote of confidence.”

Zhaan: “Have you ever looked at your own records to see what lies the Peacekeepers have written about you?”
D’Argo: “Have you? [Pointed pause.] Not everyone imprisoned by the Peacekeepers was innocent.”

Crichton: “What happens if you crash land your Prowler and you have to repair it?”
Aeryn: “We’re not trained to repair. We’re trained to find and secure somebody else’s ship.”

Crichton: “You sure this thing’s gonna work?”
Aeryn: “Should kill you.”
Crichton: “[Snorts.] Well, it’s not the kill shot that concerns me. I’m sure you guys got that one down fine. It’s the wake-up call that’s got me worried.”
Aeryn: “Well we can’t be sure it works until you’re dead.”
Crichton: “Great.”

Aeryn: “Sebaceans believe when you die, you die. You go nowhere, you see nothing.”

Staanz: “You gotta be looking forward to seeing your son. Huh?”
D’Argo: “Yes. But when I do, I want to be able to look him in the eye.”

Crichton: “I thought Peacekeepers were trained to fight alone, survive alone, … die alone.”
Aeryn: “Well, it appears my training is failing me. I don’t want to die alone.”

Zhaan: “You lost to Kcrackic on purpose?”
Rygel: “You think it was easy? He’s an abominable player. A switched off DRD would have made a better showing for itself. [Pause.] Oh please. Bluffing is what the game’s all about.”

Crichton: “You know, big guy, I think I better give you a little time alone here. ‘Cause I know in a universe this vast, when two hearts collide …”
D’Argo: “Shut up!”

Final Analysis: A slam-bang episode full of action, humor, and wonderful character moments. One of the best episodes of the season to date.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I loved this one, and not just because of John and Aeryn and wild smooching because of their near-death situation (although that was absolutely delightful). As you said, Jess, the entire episode was great. Rygel had me fooled, too, and all of the character interaction other than John and Aeryn was just great. And I loved Stannz. The beanie and the belly and her longing looks at D'Argo were great.

I'm looking forward to your review of the worst episode in the series, "Jeremiah Crichton." We watched it last night. Or sort of -- we decided to listen to the commentary instead of watching it straight. And the commentary is laugh out loud funny. It has a subtitle: "when bad things happen to good shows."

Jess Lynde said...

Oh, never fear. I call it out on its utter badness. It's probably the shortest review I've done for the show. I hated it so much that I didn't even have the energy to really rip it apart at length.

I'll have to check out the commentary someday. I've been avoiding those features because I want to experience the show without behind the scenes creative input. It might skew my reactions. But it sounds like this one might be quite enjoyable.

Diane C said...

This was a good episode, especially since it gave a crowning moment for the ever devious Rygel to show his true colours but for all the right reasons this time.

I also loved Staanz – a truly fascinating eclectic character you would expect to find out of a Mad Max film given his dress and makeup sense. And of course his big surprise at the end involving D’Argo came right out of left base – wasn’t expecting that at all. And the Flax story as a whole was pretty good. (I also liked D’Argo’s vague Star Trek referencing of “Deep Space – Voyager”)

But now for the downer – I hated, really hated the John-Aeryn “clinch”. It was clumsy, predictable and done a million times on a million shows previously, and this was no exception and I really hated it!

I could just about deal with the John-Aeryn working together, but as the episode progressed and there was a life and death scenario in the pod, I knew what was going to happen next; and a few minutes later there we are – bingo!

I was hoping the whole J&A thing could have been handled far better over a long period of time/episode – which in some respects it did. But it all came to a shuddering halt with that godawful subplot here.

So yes, I am going against the grain of popular consensus but there you have it - it’s good to be different I guess

3/5