In the eighteenth episode of the first season of Farscape, THIS SHOW IS TOO MUCH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent.
SERIOUSLY, WHAT HAPPENED TO FARSCAPE? WAS THE SHOW CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGATED TO MAKE SOMETHING LIKE “JEREMIAH CRICHTON” IN A DEAL WITH SATAN JUST SO THEY COULD DO WHAT THEY WANTED? I know I’m focusing on that episode way too much. It wasn’t even that bad, you know? But Farscape has taken a jarring and beautiful turn for the weird and terrifying and satisfying, and I can’t help but think of how much the show has changed since I started watching it. It’s a slow burn, certainly, but it’s more than that. Even when the writers are fully embracing a trope like they are here, it’s still exciting! I don’t know that “A Bug’s Life” deviates all that much from other infection scenarios in the genre, but I kind of don’t care? Like I said in the video for this episode, this is one of my favorite stories to read about or watch unfold. (Shoutout to Seanan McGuire, who is the queen of viruses and infections. <3 ) So I’m biased, I know that.
BUT PEACEKEEPERS. That’s the main method in which the writers deviate from having this be a simple virus scenario. Granted, it’s a huge part of the episode, and I won’t deny that. But by having a group of Peacekeepers board Moya, we get to see Crichton pretend to be a Peacekeeper captain. We get to explore D’Argo’s issues with imprisonment, even for a con. We see how Chiana’s and Rygel’s greed has a negative affect on the rest of the crew. AND OH MY GOD, AERYN. MY HEART CANNOT HANDLE YOU.
So! I’m fascinated by what we learn about the Peacekeepers and the uncharted territories here because… shit, y’all. I don’t think this is the last time we’ll hear about this. When Larraq and his Peacekeeper special ops crew come aboard Moya, both Aeryn and Crichton are able to get some disturbing information out of these people. Why the hell is there a Peacekeeper base out in the uncharted territories???? Y’ALL, I DON’T LIKE THIS. This fact alone is unsettling enough as it is. Wasn’t the whole reason the Crew of Weirdos came out here to avoid Peacekeeper interference? But now there are an unknown number of bases out here. To make matters worse, Larraq’s team was ordered to go track down an intellant virus specifically for the purpose of using it in warfare. The unnamed virus that they end up bringing aboard Moya is a life-form in and of itself, but the plan was to “tame” it so it can be used to control other species. WHICH… LORD. THAT’S SO MESSED UP.
Except that this episode details the cost that the Peacekeepers pay for trying to secure something as dangerous and malicious as the virus. In one sense, I don’t feel all that bad for what happens to the Peacekeepers. Hell, in general, they’re part of an oppressive militaristic force. At the same time, these people were sent on a job that was a million times more dangerous and fatal than they expected, and I got the sense that to the higher ups in this organization, the lives of their officers were expendable as long as they got what they wanted in the end. You can tell that Larraq knows this, so I found it kind of touching that he reached out to Aeryn over the course of “A Bug’s Life.” We know that Aeryn has discarded the hope of ever returning to her culture ever again, so there’s a bittersweetness to Larraq’s attempts to get Aeryn to join the special ops team. It’ll never happen. Aeryn’s been irrevocably changed, and even if there’s a part of her that wishes she could go back to being a Peacekeepers, she’s well aware that it can never happen. She’s seen too much of the other side! She’s spent too much time being chased down by Peacekeepers and experiencing their brand of “justice.”
That’s not to say that the Peacekeeper characters introduced (and then killed off) in “A Bug’s Life” are wholly sympathetic or wholly disgusting. Like most of the characters in Farscape, they exist in this ambiguous moral middle ground, perhaps teetering closer to one side more than the other, but still in a gray area. Yet you can’t deny that this episode feels like the universe getting revenge against the beings who tried to utilize a virus against everyone else. To say that what we witness here is the Peacekeepers’ plan backfiring is a bit of an understatement. The virus claims every single life that tried to control it (and nearly takes out Aeryn, too) before it’s burned up by Crichton. Plus, it changed the crew on Moya, too, and I’m happy that the writers explored this. We’ve got the first time Crichton has ever had to kill someone. And while the show explicitly acknowledges that what the virus did in Crichton’s body was not something he consented to, Crichton does kill Larraq in the end, and he’s clearly torn up over it. Then we’ve got D’Argo’s anger over being imprisoned, even for a ruse. It’s a fascinating way of exploring what this virus did to these characters, you know? It’s not just a physical effect, since D’Argo is forced to think about all the years he spent imprisoned by the Peacekeepers. It’s completely understandable that he’d be so averse to being chained up again, you know? That’s a very personal reaction to the events here, and it’s these sort of personal touches that make “A Bug’s Life” so memorable.
ALSO THIS EPISODE IS SO SUSPENSEFUL. The virus itself is designed for MAXIMUM TERROR, since there are few signs that enable the audience to figure out who is infected. Initially, of course, it seems rather obvious. We know it passes from one of the Peacekeepers to Chiana and then to Crichton. BUT HOLY SHIT, ONCE THEY FIGURE OUT IT IS IN CRICHTON, EVERYTHING IS CHAOS. Y’all, this episode handles the chaos of suspicion of infection super well. The scene with the injection of the antibody Zhaan came up with is actually a common thing in this kind of story, but I DON’T CARE. It’s pulled off beautifully here, and it’s one of the most tense scenes in the show so far.
I was really happy with this episode, y’all. It’s neat to me how the show manages to balance between some light serialization for the characters and these “adventures” of the week. The show is still acknowledging the history of these characters while we move forward. I mean, there’s been a reference to Moya’s pregnancy in every episode since we first found out! So, now we’ve got an injured Aeryn and the reveal that there is at least one Peacekeeper base out in the uncharted territories. So what are the Peacekeepers doing out here? I’M SCARED, Y’ALL.
The video for “A Bug’s Life” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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