Farscape: Mental As Anything

“You refuse to see him for what he really is.”

What started out as Scorpius’ Grand Plan to train Crichton to resist a Scarran heat probe in Grayza and the Scarran's unending search for wormhole technology took a sharp turn and became a character study of what makes a man. Are we the sum total of our experiences or a product of our actions? And if we can’t trust our memories, is there a difference?

Crichton wants information about the critter that killed D.K. and attacked his family. The price is the completion of Katoya’s Mental Arts Training Camp. Katoya, a onetime mentor of Scorpius, offers the promise of self-control and a side order of possible death for those willing to undergo his tutelage. Given this and Crichton’s lack of faith in Scorpy’s concern for him, it’s easy to understand Crichton’s skepticism. That Katoya was on the up and up surprised me. However, once aware of his inherent decency, Katoya’s death at the hands of a morally bankrupt student did not.

The trouble begins when D’Argo, who seems to have come on this journey to keep an eye on Scorpius and generally have Crichton’s back, runs into his brother-in-law, Macton. D’Argo believes Macton murdered Lo’Laan and framed him for her death and has been plotting revenge since the series began.

Macton hated D’Argo for having dared to marry his sister. It is no secret interspecies relationships are frowned upon in Sebacean culture but whether Macton was upset because a deeply held conviction, or about the relationship’s reflection upon himself, or out of concern for his sister, is less clear. Given his antagonism towards D’Argo, the idea Macton could frame him for Lo’Laan’s death is a definite possibility.

Not so fast. Does that mean Macton killed his sister? What if Macton is right? Luxan hyper-rages are one of the many reasons that they are not allowed to marry young. D’Argo knew there was a possibility he could hurt Lo'Laan without meaning to and suspected that he might have on occasion. Is it such a leap to believe that one of his hyper-rages led to her death? The possibility gnaws at him. Rygel and Crichton remain unconvinced. The man they know could never kill the woman he loved, hyper-rage or no hyper-rage.

Within the confines of Katoya’s mindscape several scenarios between D’Argo, Lo’Laan and Macton play out and neither D’Argo nor the viewer is quite sure how much of what they see are real or invented. D’Argo losing his temper with Lo’Laan cowering with fear. Lo’Laan telling both Macton and her husband that D’Argo would never hurt her with varying degrees of persuasiveness. It’s only when Macton claims that D’Argo’s behavior drove Lo’Laan to suicide that D’Argo realizes the truth. While he most likely did hit Lo’Laan D'Argo was not responsible for her death and neither was she.

The point of the visit may have been to strengthen Crichton’s self-control but D’Argo is the one who learned the lesson. After years spent contemplating Macton’s death, D’Argo does not descend into a hyper-rage and kill the man but leaves Macton drowning in his own guilt. That may not have been the merciful choice, but it was a conscious one.

This is not to say that Crichton does not have a trial of his own although his results are  less clear. Scorpy's plan to build up Crichton’s resistance to Scarran heat probes appeared to fail. Crichton eventually managed to retrieve the key. But his ability to withstand tremendous pain was never in doubt and his trial did not seem to alter his chances of success or survival. On the other hand Crichton got what he wanted. He learned it was a Skreeth that killed D.K. and it was probably in contact with Grayza. Bad news is she most likely knows Earth's location. Good news is she wants Crichton more than she wants Earth. Or was that the bad news?

Even Rygel undergoes his own rite of passage. He is the first to size up the situation and in his distinctly Rygel way use it to his advantage. He pounces on the opportunity to enter Katoya’s mindscape with a Charrid, the species responsible for killing billions of Hynerians and eating their children. Where else would a small and weak individual such as himself have an opportunity to face off against a physically stronger enemy on equal footing? He almost died and did not improve his self-control but he managed a little payback.

Let me be clear. I love Farscape for the high-wire act it routinely pulls off, balancing the ridiculous with the heartfelt in the same episode and often at the same time. But episodes like this hold a special place for me. Taking one fundamental question and delving into its effect on a character we care about is why I wanted to be a writer. This is not a perfect episode, not the least of which is because it can be argued D’Argo believing he could be responsible for Lo’Laan’s death is something of a retcon. But it made up for it with a nuanced exploration of his anger and his shame.

4 out of 5 dropped keys

Parting Thoughts:

Although I’m relieved that Aeryn and Crichton have worked through their issues, if the reason for their forced separation was her safety, Crichton is falling down on the job. They are not exactly being subtle.

Why did Crichton continue to wear all those layers if his “detention” was as scorching as it appeared?

Quotes:

Crichton: "Tell 'em we're coming. (looking at the remote) Is there something that comes with this?"
Aeryn: "Yes, it's big. It's taking over your room."
Crichton: "Ok. Tell 'em we're not coming! (to Aeryn) We're going to stay. We'll watch TV. We'll make popcorn. We'll act like normal people."

Lo'Laan: "D'Argo will never hurt me. And I won't hurt him either."

Crichton: "Recess is over."

Macton: "D'Argo murdered his wife in a fit of hyper-rage. Do you know what a Luxan hyper-rage is."
Crichton: "Yes I do. Do you know what a crock is?"

Katoya: "This is not a safe place to settle grudges Hynerian. This is not a game."
Rygel: "It is a war of wills. Where else would I get a chance at a fair fight? Where I have the advantage?"

Katoya: "You see, you can control your anger. You have no limitations."

Crichton: "Riddle me this. Riddle me that. I have one. Why is it never just the heat, it's the humidity."

D'Argo: "I'm violent when I choose to be. And right now, I choose not to kill you. But that could change."

Katoya: "What would you like to know?"
D'Argo: "What kind of monster I really am."

Rygel: "If you were fine, you'd have killed Macton instead of leaving him there."
D'Argo: "He's trapped in a coma with his own nightmares. Killing him would have been merciful. I'm not that enlightened."

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

1 comment:

Lynda said...

Love the little glimpse we get into John and Aeryn's new relationship at the start before our crew split along gender lines for two separate adventures. It is a tease though, i find myself wishing we could have lost one of the weaker episodes before Aeryn returned and had another episode before the final 4 where we got some more John and Aeryn momemts.

I wondered why John didnt take off a layer and use that robe to catch the key?

In the end this is a character study of D'Argo, we finally learn what hwppened when he tracked down Macton at the end of season 3 and also the truth of his wife's murder. I love that writers focussed on D'Argo"s sense of guilt and not just his violence, he wasnt blameless but we see the maturity and control he has acquired when he decides not to kill Macton.