Mark Watches ‘Farscape’: S04E05 – Promises

In the fifth episode of the fourth season of Farscape, I can’t deal with this show anymore. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape

Trigger Warning: For mention of suicide

Y’all, this show is something else.

REMEMBER WHEN I SAID I LOVE IT WHEN FICTIONAL NARRATIVES FORCE PEOPLE WHO NORMALLY HATE EACH OTHER TO WORK TOGETHER. REMEMBER WHEN I JUST SAID THAT LIKE A REVIEW AGO. BECAUSE NOW I’VE GOT A WHOLE EPISODE OF IT AND POSSIBLY A WHOLE SEASON OF IT AND THIS SHOW IS OUT OF CONTROL.

And lord, I love it so much.

So, I know that I’ve been writing a lot about the way that Farscape gives us mysteries and questions and how it chooses to answer them. I certainly don’t want to be repetitive here, but I think the two main mysteries given to us in “Promises” are examples of how Farscape can deliberate refuse to spell things out to the audience, and it works in favor of the story instead of against. Because the plot feels a lot more singular in nature, that means it’s not nearly as crowded as the “What We Lost” arc. However, I like that we’re given two shockers in the cold open as the crew reunites with Moya. Not only is Aeryn on Moya and suffering from Heat Delirium, Scorpius was the one who saved her. Scorpius, who was BURIED ALIVE TWO EPISODES AGO.

The writers do not go to great lengths to explain either of these developments. We find out that Aeryn really did pursue a job as an assassin and she might have done some terrible things during that time, but that’s all the info we get. Do we find out who she worked for? Nope. Do we find out how many she killed in the months she was separated from everyone else? No. All of this is combined with her stunning and jarring appearance to convey to the audience one thing: Aeryn is not the same person anymore. So that air of mystery to her serves an important purpose in terms of visual storytelling. It highlights the chasm between Crichton and Aeryn, enough so that we’re ready to melt from cuteness once she and Crichton begin speaking on friendly terms at the end of “Promises.”

All of this makes this episode a tense and uncomfortable experience. We don’t know precisely what Aeryn’s been up to aside from the assassin mission that got her infected with a contagion. We don’t know how Scorpius survived being buried alive, and even when asked point blank, he just says that he prepared for it. HOW? How did he find a ship on Arnessk? How did he then locate Aeryn? Is he telling the truth? WHO FUCKING KNOWS? And look, it’s not like anyone was prone to trusting Scorpius prior to this, but COME ON. His whole presence is untrustworthy because they watched him get buried alive. Of course, that means it’s very, very easy for our suspicious gaze to wander over to Sikozu. She was saved by Scorpius, she had the motivation to save him as well, and she’s clearly interested in him for… well, I don’t quite know. She also doesn’t have the history with Scorpius that the rest of the characters do, so it’s hard for her to understand why they despise him so much.

So where’s that going? Beats me, y’all. But consider me intrigued!

At the core of “Promises,” though, is the complicated emotional roots of Crichton and Aeryn. Whatever happened to Aeryn in the interim changed her, and not just physically. She made a promise to someone to keep their identity a secret, and so she believes it’s worth it to kill herself to keep the knowledge of her employers away from the Lukythians. Now, I’m not surprised by that; historically, Aeryn has always been a loyal character, initially dedicated to the Peacekeepers and then to her friends. It makes sense that if she believed it to be the right thing to do, she’d assassinate the leader of nation. But I think there’s an aspect to all of this that involves her desire to run away from the problems she faced in the wake of the other Crichton’s death and her own pregnancy. It’s important to remember that these things are not something a Peacekeeper is normally prepared for. She wasn’t raised to understand and anticipate love and companionship.

Granted, her characterization in “Promises” is incredibly complicated, so I think it’s a challenge to try and analyze it, to pick it apart and figure out what’s going on in her head. It’s made even harder because she’s so unwilling to discuss it openly with Crichton, so even the audience doesn’t know precisely what’s going on. We get a bit of an answer to the assassination issue – the Prime Lukythian was responsible for an unnamed but massive number of deaths – but otherwise? She’s cold and detached for most of this episode. It’s understandably frustrating for Crichton, who was not expecting a reunion like this. And yet, he still fights for her. He still wants her. This is in spite of the Scorpius-style hallucinations he sees of her, and in spite of her own wishes to die. (Oh my god, Claudia Black as Scorpius is amazing. AMAZING.) His love for her doesn’t waver in light of anything he learns or experiences.

And shit, Crichton has his own disaster to deal with that’s separate from Aeryn. The mere presence of Scorpius is enough to put him on edge, especially since he has no reason to believe Scorpius is there for anything other than the wormhole technology in his brain. Then there’s the threat of the Leviathan-killing bomb that’s headed their way. But I was most shocked by Sikozu and Scorpius working together to remove Harvey from Crichton’s brain. Why does Scorpius do this? Why offer up something that seems to benefit Crichton only? There’s an important line prior to this where Sikozu asks why Scorpius is on Moya. He claims that it’s to protect the knowledge in Crichton’s brain “amongst other things.”

So what are those other things? Did Scorpius just trick Crichton into doing… something? I don’t actually have a theory here, but I don’t trust the guy. He cannot be here for altruistic reasons, and as long as he gets what he wants, he’ll manipulate anyone and everyone. (Shout out to all the cool Reservoir Dogs scenes with Harvey! He’ll be missed.) Crichton also has a reason to manipulate Scorpius, given that Scorpius is the only one who knows the way back to Earth. But I don’t really see this playing out in Crichton’s favor, you know???

So now we’ve got two new members onboard Moya, and I don’t really trust either of them. It’s an incredible change in the dynamic of the main cast, and I’m so excited to see where the writers are going to take this. They also wasted absolutely no time throwing Aeryn’s pregnancy down, and WOW, EVERYTHING IS SO FUCKING UNCOMFORTABLE. I’m hoping that Crichton is a little more empathetic in the future because I’m sure that whatever he’s feeling, Aeryn is a million times more scared and confused. It is her body after all, and like I said earlier, she’s not exactly emotionally equipped for this development.

Anyway, this was a fantastic episode. Thrilling and scary and shocking and a combination of all the things that make Farscape such a blast to watch. BRING IT ON, SEASON FOUR. (Just kidding, please don’t, I’m fragile.)

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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