Farscape: Picture If You Will

A junk dealer’s friendly parting gift for Chiana quickly takes a turn for the sinister as it begins to predict the future, including the deaths of Moya’s crew.

Well, after the last two meaty episodes, ‘Picture If You Will’ felt rather insubstantial. I know it’s kind of strange to say that about an episode that featured the return of a formidable enemy and the horrifying (if temporary) death of a major character; but when all was said and done, not much of consequence really happened in this episode, which I suppose is why I didn’t remember anything about it. Seriously. Even after it started, I had no idea where it was going. My only vague recollection was that Chiana somehow became trapped in a painting. I didn’t even remember that we would see Maldis again after ‘That Old Black Magic’! Clearly, it’s not an episode that left a strong impression.

I think the main reason the episode didn’t work, is that it held almost no suspense for me. Even though I remembered almost nothing about the episode, I immediately recognized that the junk dealer was Maldis --- though his strange, old lady getup did make me wonder if it was really Maldis, or just the same actor starring in a different role as an Uncharted Territories drag queen --- so, I knew that all the freaky stuff was likely his doing and that he probably wanted revenge on Zhaan. I actually turned to my husband as we were watching, and said “If this is Maldis, he’s got one hell of an axe to grind with Zhaan!” Once the sinister, disembodied voice starting taunting her, I knew for sure it was Maldis, and it was just a matter of waiting for the campy scenery chewing and for Zhaan’s plan to come together.

In the meantime, the rest of the episode largely felt like going through the motions. The deaths had almost no emotional impact, because I knew that everyone survived the encounter. Even Chiana being seemingly reduced to a pile of ashes caused little more than a slight widening of the eyes. It didn’t help that the rest of the crew, except for maybe Zhaan, just didn’t seem that broken up about her demise. Maybe you could chalk it up to shock and denial, but even Crichton and D’Argo gave us little more than reserved grief as they threw themselves into destroying the painting. It was like they, too, knew that this was just a show and she wasn’t really dead, so they gave us some half-hearted “Chi’s gone --- that kinda sucks” reactions. Okay, then.

All that said, ‘Picture If You Will’ still featured a number of very nice smaller character moments along the way. We got Chiana and D’Argo confessing their mutual romantic interest; Crichton getting fed up with Aeryn and calling her out for always keeping everyone at arm’s length; D’Argo telling Crichton he’s been a good friend (remember back when he thought that may be too much to ask?); and Rygel trying to get some justice for Chiana and confessing that he would genuinely miss her. And, of course, Zhaan had several strong moments struggling against her fear and steeling herself to thrown down with Maldis once more. I loved when she kicked his ass again with the equivalent of the old “I’m not left handed either” chestnut! But the moment that truly highlighted Zhaan’s strength came at the very end, when she confessed to Crichton that her fear wasn’t just an act to lull Maldis into a false sense of security, and that she had never been more afraid in her life. I know it would cut her deeply to hear it, but that's the mark of the true warrior within Zhaan --- the woman who summons the courage to fight for and protect her friends, even when she’s absolutely terrified of failing.

We also got a few intriguing mini debates over some philosophical issues. I really enjoyed Chiana and D’Argo’s discussion about whether they’d want to know what the future holds. Their positions perfectly lined up with their characters and highlighted exactly why any potential relationship for them is bound to be fraught with conflict.

Chiana: “Come on, D’Argo, don’t you want to know if you’re ever gonna find your son?”
D’Argo: “No. If it’s bad news, I don’t want to lose all hope.”
Chiana: “Well, it might keep you from spending your whole life searching for something that’s never gonna happen.”
D’Argo: “If I don’t try, it will definitely never happen.”

Unsurprisingly, Chiana wants to know all the answers she possibly can, so that she doesn’t waste time striving for something she may never achieve. She’s all about the destination, not the journey, and has always been more of an “ends justify the means” kind of gal. D’Argo, on the other hand --- despite a tendency to act first, think later --- is far more concerned with doing the right thing. He’s all about honor, duty, loyalty, and friendship, so for him, the journey matters. And he needs the unknown future to keep hope alive so that he can carry on with that journey.

We also got a short debate between Aeryn and Crichton over whether their trouble-making shipmates should be kicked to the curb, which underscored Aeryn’s continuing inability to acknowledge that the others are more to her than mere shipmates (and subsequently prompted Crichton’s frustrated outburst about her keeping everyone at a distance). Her pragmatic “on balance, we’d probably be better off without him” attitude toward Rygel is perfectly in line with her military background --- and might even be true --- but it’s also a form of denial. Moya’s crew has become a family, warts and all, and no matter what trouble each of them may have caused for everyone else, they’ve also all put their necks on the line for each other at one point or another. They’ve each earned their place on the boat, and Aeryn knows this. Moreover, she cares about them, and wouldn’t truly want them gone. She may insist that she merely doesn’t wish them dead, but even if she can’t quite admit it to herself, her actions --- her insistence on needing to understand how Chiana’s accident happened, vowing to get restitution for her death, and her willingness to follow Zhaan’s directions without hesitation because Crichton asked it of her --- show that, deep down, she does value the others' presence in her life.

Other Thoughts

I’m glad the Goth-Shakespeare scenery chewing was kept to a minimum. Compared to last time, at least.

I was amused by Rygel’s insistence that Chiana would want him to seek punitive damages for her death. He might be right.

I almost started laughing when Zhaan took away the Qualta blade, and then Crichton and D’Argo immediately walked in front of the very pointy spire on the front of Aeryn’s prowler. Hello?

The warbly, wavy effect inside the glass portrait was an interesting visual choice.

So, if you want to scare or otherwise goad Crichton, D’Argo, or Chiana, just threaten Earth, Jothee, or to call in the Nebari mental cleansing team.

Crichton and Zhaan shooting at Maldis’s giant, grasping hand with the little DRD was pretty hilarious. Almost as funny as Maldis’s final Gene Simmons repose.

Quotes

Chiana: “I don’t care much for room decorations. I prefer to decorate myself.”

Chiana (disgusted): “Synthetic?”
Kyven: “If you like it, what difference does it make?”
Chiana: “If it’s not worth anything, I don’t like it.”
Kyven: “Oh, so young, and yet so mercenary!”

Aeryn (re: Chiana and Rygel): “There isn’t a single, flying junk dealer in the Uncharted Territories that they’d pass up!”

Crichton: “I say we lock all of Moya’s doors. We don’t let anybody in. We don’t let anybody out. That way, we get no alien critters, no shape-shifting bugs, no mind-altering viruses, no freaky-deaky artifacts.”

Crichton: “Are you always gonna do this?!”
Aeryn: “Do what?”
Crichton: “Keep the entire world at a distance. Keep everybody away. Is that ever gonna change?”

Rygel: “Don’t shoot! It’s me!”
Aeryn: “Reason enough to pull the trigger.”

Rygel: “Chiana was given a dangerous product. Kyven, therefore, owes us restitution.”
Aeryn: “Chiana’s dead and all you’re concerned about is getting compensation?”
Rygel: “Punitive damages. That’s what Chiana would have wanted. She was quite a lot like me, you know. She had spirit. Ambition. Large appetites. She would have made an excellent Hynerian. I’m … actually going to miss her.”
Aeryn: “One way or another, Kyven will make restitution.”

Crichton: “Come on, Zhaan. This magical mystery crap is your specialty, not mine!”

Crichton: “Haven’t you read the super-villain’s handbook? This is where you’re supposed to twirl your mustache and gloat.”
Maldis: “I don’ t have a mustache, John!”

Chiana: “Who’s the ugly old man?”
Crichton: “His name is Maldis. He’s your basic evil vampire.”
D’Argo: “He sucks the life force out of people.”
Crichton: “He just plain sucks.”

Final Analysis: Not a terrible episode, but not one that leaves a very strong impression either.

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

2 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

Programming note: I seem to be following a typical December programming schedule for these reviews. No new episodes for a few weeks, then a new one, then another few weeks with no new episode. Unfortunately, real life and other holiday reviewing commitments have caught up with me, so Farscape is going on another break for a few weeks. New reviews will start posting in January. Apologies for the wait. Thanks for hanging in with me!

Suzanne said...

Thank you for writing these wonderful reviews! It has been a few months or so since I saw this one but I remember feeling pretty similar about it. I like the way you highlighted Zaan's character development in the episode. I like her character a lot and sometimes I wish they would focus on her more.