Mark Watches ‘Farscape’: S03E10 – Relativity

In the tenth episode of the third season of Farscape, Aeryn’s past catches up to her. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape. 

This season has been breaking my heart, y’all. WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF.

Farscape, now well past the point of being remotely okay and firmly in the land of EXTREMELY RUDE, has been so goddamn consistent in playing with tropes and expectations that I’m always excited to see how each new episode is going to surprise and shock me. “Relativity” is no exception, and while the premise of this episode is familiar – being reunited with a long-lost family member who is now your enemy! – the show does not give Aeryn an easy story nor the expected (or desired) ending. Instead, we are teased with a hope that never could have come to fruition, and then it’s “Season of Death” all over again, and I’m not even halfway through this season and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many characters die in a single season. Fuck the Red Wedding, this is like a season-long version of that.

I wanted to start out by addressing the fascinating way in which “Relativity” is bookended. The opening and closing scenes of this episode are of Crichton and Aeryn comforting one another, physically and emotionally. There’s no twist to this, no ironic posturing, no moment that tears them apart. And it’s a sign that Crichton and Aeryn are moving forward with their relationship in a real and demonstrable way, and I love it. I’ve written about this before, but I love stories where a couple or companions work together to face external crises, and that’s what this show is doing right now. However, I also have to think about how fucking weird this is because there’s another Crichton. If there’s ever a reunion between the folks on both ships, how the fuck does that work? Aeryn is falling in love with one Crichton and sharing experiences with him. It’s not like she can just go back and forth between them since they’re now two separate persons.


So, with this in mind, the crew on Talyn faces an intense cat-and-mouse game with Xhalax and the Colartas she’s brought along with her, and this unfolds on some unnamed planet where Talyn uses the vines to help heal himself. It’s appropriately dark and foreboding, and practically every fight sequence in the jungle is brutal and scary. Of course, the presence of Aeryn’s mother complicates everything. We’re constantly wondering: Does she recognize her daughter? Is Aeryn willing to harm her mother to save the others? Will Xhalax be conflicted upon learning her daughter’s identity? And as these questions are answered, the writers move this episode into more uncomfortable territory until we get that painful confrontation at the end.

Along the way, this episode examines what a family means in the Peacekeeper culture. Well, I suppose that’s a flawed way of describing this, since there are no real families in the Peacekeeper regiment. There are loose collections and associations formed around battle, and sex is a means of letting off steam. Until the crew on Moya accepted her, Aeryn had never really experienced a family. (Ouch, wow, this realization hurts me.) I think there’s a subtext to her interaction with Xhalax in that she doesn’t just want to repair a relationship with her mother. She wants her mother to experience companionship and friendship. She wants her mother to come to understand how beautiful the world is outside of Peackekeeper regulations.

What’s so tragic about where this episode goes is that it shows us that maybe, some people can’t change. That’s the case for Xhalax and Crais. I admit that there is an air of surreality to this episode. Every time Xhalax and Aeryn spoke of the Peacekeepers, I had flashbacks to Aeryn in the first season, and I COULD NEVER HAVE GUESSED THAT WE WOULD COME THIS FAR. The same goes for the sequence where Crichton is carrying Crais through the jungle. Crichton is helping Crais survive. CRAIS. Who once was determined to murder Crichton. And yet, that doesn’t mean that every character is on a path to redemption, or that every character is willing to cast their own past aside.

In the case of Crais, Crichton (with Harvey’s help!) realizes that Crais is still willing to do whatever he can to get what he wants. His sense of selfishness is what got them into this mess in the first place. Indeed, Crais wanted Talyn because he knew that was the only way he could manipulate Crichton and his friends into helping him escape the Peacekeepers. Now, I don’t want this to seem like I don’t think that Crais has changed from who he was in the first season because he absolutely has. He’s come a long way. But one of his more terrifying features was his ruthlessness, and that’s why he was frightening. He would become obsessed with getting something, and he’d do anything to get it. That still applies here, since he more or less tricked these people into friendship, didn’t he? Understandably, Crichton is furious with Crais because Crais brought all this chaos and violence to their lives. It would be so much easier for them all if they just left Crais behind. Instead, Crichton gives him a taste of his own medicine by making him bait for the Colartas, and then almost leaves him behind anyway.

I don’t think Xhalax’s characterization is all that different, though it’s certainly more blatant than Crais’s. I wanted her to give up her allegiance to the Peacekeepers, and this episode certainly teased me with the possibility. THERE WERE SO MANY LOOKS OF DESIRE AND SYMPATHY FROM XHALAX AND I THOUGHT SHE’D DO IT. But she’s too far gone, too committed to this lifestyle, too determined to contradict the very desires that created Aeryn in the first place. Unlike Aeryn, who worked through her own biases towards compassion, towards love and companionship, towards friendship, and did so with the very people Peackekeepers consider unworthy, Xhalax has had nothing. She had no support, no outside voices, no alternative opinion. And she was given a second chance at staying a Peacekeeper by redeeming herself for her transgression of loving another and creating a child born of that love.

She “redeemed” herself by killing Aeryn’s father.

It’s one of… wait, I can’t say that. I was gonna type, “It’s one of the most disturbing things I’d seen on this show,” but how can I say that about Farscape anymore? This season alone has been full of some awful shit (I SHALL NEVER HEAL FROM “EAT ME”), and then there’s Rygel’s near-death in this episode as well, and what the fuck is with everyone dying this season? So I have to temper my reaction to this because this show has become so relentless. Still, it’s fucked up. IT’S SO FUCKED UP. And in the end, Xhalax can’t give up the life and culture she’s known. Despite that she is visibly conflicted about the presence of her daughter, she chooses to be disgusted and repulsed by Aeryn. She chooses to accept Peackeeper regulations. She chooses the only life she’s ever known over the daughter she’s never known, and she is executed by Crais for it. It’s such an awful sequence because this episode confirms for us that Aeryn’s willingness to rebel against the Peacekeepers was always rooted in her mother’s independence. And right when they’re reunited again and she gets to entertain the notion of having a mother for the first time, she’s dead.

Everyone’s dead and everything hurts and this show is so fucking rude, y’all. Stark saw and spoke to Zhaan. THANKS FOR REMINDING ME THAT ZHAAN IS GONE, TOO. Just kidding, I will never forget what this show did to me.

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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