Mark Watches ‘Farscape’: S01E22 – Family Ties

In the twenty-second and final episode of the first season of Farscape, the crew says goodbye while preparing for their assault on Scorpius. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape. 

Good god.

This show snuck up on me, possibly more so than anything else I’ve seen for Mark Watches. While there have been many wonderful character moments in this season, I haven’t always felt like the stories were what I expected after the pilot episode. Farscape came out of the gate strong, then slowed down dramatically. There were a few undeniable gems along the way, of course, but this is probably the longest it’s taken me to truly enjoy a show. And while I don’t know how the fandom feels about this season versus other ones, I actually don’t expect that I’m alone in thinking that season one is a slow burn of sorts. But holy shit, the final third of this season??? IT’S INCREDIBLE. Once the show found its voice and direction, it’s been such a rewarding experience for me.

But I feel like the aspect of “Family Ties” that drew me in the quickest is the same one many of y’all knew I’d love. It was the work in shows like Firefly, Buffy, Angel, and Avatar: The Last Airbender that got me writing about the concept of family, especially in terms of opening up about my feelings on non-traditional families. I was drawn to the characters in shows like that because I loved the idea of being able to choose who you considered family. I did not have an easy or loving experience with my own family for many years, and after I ran away from home at the age of sixteen, I struggled with feelings of sadness and jealousy as I saw how other people’s families seemed to function so well. Obviously, I couldn’t know that a lot of people experienced dysfunction, too, but I also learned that a lot of folks take the concept of their family for granted.

I’ve had to choose who I consider family for most of my life. So there’s a power in watching something like “Family Ties” unfold because it inherently values my own experience. None of the people onboard Moya are related to one another, but over the course of this season, they’ve grown close to one another. And given that I’ve seen the entirety of this season over the course of just two weeks (I’m writing this review on July 23rd!), I have a better grasp than usual on the way that these characters have changed since I first met them and how others have not changed.

I suppose Rygel is a good start, since “Family Ties” opens with a shocker: Rygel takes a transport pod to try and sell out his fellow crewmates. The show simply drops us into this choice of his with little to no preparation, and I kept expecting to find out that it was part of secret plan of his to force Scorpius and Crais into a trap. But it’s not. Rygel, the most openly selfish and materialistic member of the crew, is simply trying to save his ass and sacrificing his friends in the process. I had to remind myself that he’d been in captivity, imprisoned, or on the run for well over a hundred cycles, so I perhaps slightly understood his frustration. That being said, the writers rightfully do not let him off the hook for what he does here, even if he’s portrayed sympathetically in the second half of the episode. It’s something the show is going to have to address in the next season! How the hell can these characters ever trust him again if he’s so willing to sell them out?

But I’ll get to that in my predictions tomorrow. (Huzzah! My first Farscape predictions!) Rygel’s actions set in motion a complicated bout of actions that are both shocking and remarkably touching. Before we get to the most surreal element of this episode, though, I think it’s important to address how this episode deals with the family created on Moya. That’s both literal and figurative, since part of the conflict here is trying to figure out how to deal with Talyn, Moya’s son. Her protectiveness over her child plays a big part in how this all unfolds. But a lot of the emotional impact of “Family Ties” comes from how these characters finally vocalize how they feel towards one another. Zhaan is the first, since she’s the one who tells Crichton that she’s come to feel like the crew is a family. This theme then carries throughout the crew’s preparation for the end.

It’s weird saying that, but there’s a grim and bittersweet finality threaded throughout this episode. I don’t know if the creators didn’t think they’d get a second season, but it certainly felt like that at times. But even if you divorce that kind of speculation from the episode, you still get the sense that these people are very aware that what they’re attempting is nearly impossible. They expect that some of them will not survive the trick they’re going to try to pull on Scorpius. So then we get some of the best written and best acted scenes all season. Aeryn comforts Pilot, who is the most emotionally expressive puppet in the history of the universe, I swear. Then Aeryn and Crichton discuss their own families and the loneliness that can come from them.

And after the big twist happens, it’s like an endless parade of these characters professing emotions and I COULD NOT DEAL WITH IT. Haha, Aeryn and D’Argo telling one another that they now depend and rely on the other person? D’Argo talking about his son??? Chiana thanking Crichton for saving her life and being her friend????? CHIANA MAKING EVERYONE ONBOARD MOYA THEIR FAVORITE MEAL JUST BURY ME IN THAT SCENE, I SHALL NOT PASS THIS MOMENT. For a season finale, “Family Ties” is like thirty-five minutes of preparation and fifteen minutes of action. And it works so beautifully. I would not have it any other way. The writers clearly value the interpersonal relationships between these characters more than anything else. Which is not to suggest that the plot suffers because of this! IT DOES NOT IN ANY WAY. But it’s more rewarding to me than any sort of overarching mythology could be. These characters’ growth is the most worthy aspect of season one of Farscape, and it’s one of the main reasons I enjoyed this so much.

I mean, let’s just talk about the one thing I’ve been avoiding this whole time: Crais. HOW COULD I HAVE EVER GUESSED THAT HE’D TEMPORARILY ALLY WITH CRICHTON? HOW COULD ANYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE HAVE PREPARED ME FOR THIS? His defection from the Peacekeepers is shocking as hell, but it makes sense. And that’s what is most important for me. It doesn’t feel forced or silly. Truthfully, like Rygel, he had no options left if he stayed behind. He was going to die. Scorpius had won and taken control of him. It was only a matter of time before Crais would be executed. In that sense, I think there’s an intentional parallel between Crais and Rygel, since both characters follow a course of self-preservation over everything else. They still grow as characters quite a bit in this particular episode. Rygel has to deal with his own guilt and complicity.

But oh my gods, CRAIS’S CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT IS SO UNREAL. The writers don’t excuse what he’s done. Hell, they even have him openly admit that he knew that D’Argo was innocent the whole time, so it’s not like they’re trying to make him the most sympathetic character around. He’s not. His crimes are obvious and unavoidable. But while on Moya, he has to face the uncomfortable nature of what he’s done and who he is with. This gives us that absolutely thrilling and emotionally powerful conversation between Crichton and Crais where Crichton tries to get Crais to understand what he’s done to these people. The very people who are granting him asylum have every reason to kill him! But they don’t, despite having numerous opportunities to do so. However, Crichton doesn’t let Crais off the hook. He spells it out for him: how Crais feels at that moment, knowing that he’ll probably die while trying to escape the Peacekeepers, is how he made everyone who is helping him feel. And I love that the text digs into Crais so brutally because it shows us that he can’t come out of this unscathed. Crichton forces him to gaze upon his own behavior through a different lens, and because of it, Crais even admits that what he’s done is, at best, misguided.

But Crais’s changes aren’t something that erases his nature or his need to save himself. He still ultimately betrays these people, but not necessarily as an antagonist. I’m super interested to see how these characters will interact with him in the future. I imagine Moya will be furious, but it’s not like he’s trying to turn them over to Scorpius. He even expresses an interest in being friendly with Aeryn. (WHICH IS SO WEIRD, OH MY GOD.) It’s a clear hint of what’s to come in the future, but it’s just part of the massive cliffhanger here in “Family Ties.” These characters make agonizing choices. Moya decides (after coaxing from Crichton) that she has to save herself in order to reunite with her son, and that means that she has to leave Aeryn, Crichton, and D’Argo behind. Crichton and D’Argo successfully ignite the oil-covered moon, but they’re left drifting in space, D’Argo unconscious, while Aeryn struggles to find out how she can avoid detection and save them.

And Scorpius is fucking pissed. He is obviously going to be a terrifying threat in this next season because these misfits found a way to beat him. For a character who so values his own intellect and cleverness, this is surely going to enrage him to the point that he might become even more determined to get revenge than Crais was.

Lord, y’all. This finale was wild from start to finish, and I love what it’s done to this show. I’ll save my thoughts for season two in the prediction post because there are actually a number of directions this could go. But I will say that I’m very thankful to have stuck with Farscape; I think if I’d not done this for Mark Watches, I might have bailed on it. BUT IT’S WORTH IT, HOLY SHIT.

The video for “Family Ties” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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