2.5 The Way We Weren't
||April 14, 2000
An old Peacekeeper recording of events that took place aboard Moya three cycles earlier is found, and it sparks ugly memories for Pilot and Aeryn --- memories which tear apart the crew, and lead to the discovery of long-buried secrets.
Aeryn: Crichton, you may have noticed that I tend to keep you at a distance. |
John: Many times. Vast distances.
Aeryn: Most Peacekeepers are bred and reared for one reason: military service. Procreation is assigned. There's no such thing as a lifetime mate.
John: But you have relationships. Male-female kind of relationships.
Aeryn: Course. As many and as often as you want. Peacekeeper High Command understands the troops' biological needs. But you don't connect with anyone openly and never with any longevity.... I guess my point is, my relationships back then tended to be....
Aeryn: We were lovers.
John: (clearly shocked) Lovers.... lovers. Um, interesting. I don't think I've ever heard you use that word before. So. Uh... you... Did you love him?
Aeryn: Umm... I felt something for him that I never felt with any of the other men I recreated with. I didn't know what it was, but I guess now that I'd say that it was love.
John: You know we've never seen Pilot like this before. Chop off an arm and the best he can muster is a few snotty remarks. But this...
John: I doubt Pilot's in a "Leviathans for Dummies" mood right now.
Velorek: When I leave here, I want you to come with me. You can be so much more.
Pilot: Moya only accepted me because she was tortured into it!
Velorek: You found that something special to single yourself out with. Congratulations, Aeryn. No ordinary Peacekeeper would have attempted this. I told you you were special.
Pilot: The fate of Moya's true pilot was sealed at that moment. So you see, Aeryn, it wasn't really you that caused her death. It was me.... If I hadn't agreed to come, Velorek may never have found a replacement pilot.... But... but I just wanted so desperately to see the stars.
Aeryn: Do you remember when you first came aboard? Velorek stroked your cheek, like this.... Back then, I couldn't fathom why he'd do a thing like that. And now I couldn't fathom not doing it!... We've come a long way since then, Pilot. And we've still got a long way to go. Take the journey with me.
John: Velorek said that he'd always remember you.... and you?
Aeryn: Mmm... He said that in the right new place, I would thrive.
John: He was right.
Aeryn: You know, that time he asked me to leave with him, he said 'you can be so much more.' That's exactly what you said to me, my first day here.
John: And you say... you think... you love this man?
[Aeryn doesn't answer; and the two of them grow silent, studying each other with unasked questions in their eyes]
Oh, ow. Ow, ow, ow, ow ow. And need I say, ow?|
There are days when your Tour Guides envy those who get paid to write reviews of Farscape. And then there are days when we are very very glad that we aren't constrained to *one* page worth of commentary to come to grips with episodes that wring us out, spin our minds, and hang our emotions out to dry. Literally, this time around ---Kleenex stock must've risen five points because of us this weekend. Judging by the mail in our inbox, a lot of people agree with us on this; the torque wrench applied to the audience's heartstrings during "The Way We Weren't" seems to have bruised a few in the process.
Obnoxious as Chiana's question of "what did you think she was doing all that time as a Peacekeeper" definitely was, she had a good point: both the audience and the crew have been telling themselves since the premiere that Aeryn (as D'Argo so elegantly phrased it in his "where to go and where to die" speech) wasn't one of the PK's giving the orders, that she didn't have much of a choice, that she's their friend now and she's changed; in short, that the past doesn't matter. All of which is true-- except for the part about the past. It does matter. By the end of the episode, though, this isn't necessarily a bad thing....
Until you're watching the PK world that Aeryn lived in through her eyes, you can't really get it: arbitrary re-assignments, orders to kill without explanation, comrades who smear you with blood out of jealousy or anger, superior officers who threaten your life without provocation. The visuals on this are just *stunning*: dark and claustrophobic, Moya's interior barely looks familiar in the flashbacks (Zhaan being moved between cells is just part of the scenery to the PK's, and a ship that's always had lots of space is now too crowded and hemmed-in). The options are as limited as the corridors--- and it's easy to see how in that environment, any new choice for an individual Peacekeeper would be nearly unthinkable.
Pilot coming aboard as cargo is really disturbing; you can feel how scared he is, and the use of his native language off and on through the episode is a poignant reminder that there's a lot more going on inside him than we'll ever get a good grip on. His change from desperation to fear to pain and guilt at the bargain he made are *viscerally* painful to watch. Crais is infinitely killable in these flashbacks. Grrrr! Finding out how definitely and directly involved he was in Talyn's conception (as well as the deaths of those other Leviathans) isn't going to further endear him to anyone, either. (I really, really hope that Talyn is making his life hell. Really.) Lani Tupu is just beyond talented, in managing to play both of these incredibly disparate people at the same time; and gods, he had me crying during that scene where Pilot was stuck down in the fog, with Velorek standing above him, gesturing upward; all that desperation and longing for the stars just out of his reach in Pilot's voice.... with all the regret for what he'd done to Moya and her original pilot two seconds later. *sniff* Hate that. *sniff*
There's a wonderful counterpoint between Aeryn telling John about PK non-relationships, sitting on the opposite side of the Peacekeeper symbol from him; and Aeryn's love scenes with Velorek. Particularly since the setting of the scene tricks you into thinking you're about to watch an attempted assault, a scene which turns into something sweet and unexpected very suddenly, in an atmosphere in which you realize that harassment and hurt is a lot more common. John's mixed relief and jealousy at this revelation, and Aeryn's difficulty in finding words for something she didn't fully understand at the time, are exquisitely painful to watch--- and it sets up the undercurrent of 'oh no, what happened to that guy... no, Aeryn, tell me you didn't do what I think you did' that dominates the rest of the show. The payoff in the airduct, when Aeryn confesses to the crime that burns as deep as the murder of Moya's pilot, is beautifully done, viewed through the lattices of the ducts so that there's the clear implication that Aeryn is in prison for her crimes as much as anyone else aboard is. Tony Tilse gets his own little altar in the Cult of Farscape for this episode for that scene alone. (Okay, that one, and the one with Pilot and Velorek. *sniff*)
Claudia Black should get an Emmy for every single scene she's in. We get the deja vu' of seeing the Aeryn she was back in the pilot episode --- only more so--- as well as that painful, awful scene of her beating herself up in the workout room. This isn't just regret for hurting a friend; it's self-loathing at remembering what she was. There's the bittersweet forgiveness and reconciliation with Pilot, convincing him to keep going; and there's the completely wordless, wonderful tag with Crichton, where whole volumes could be written for six short shots between two people who are too scared to ask aloud the questions they have for each other. Ben Browder is lovely in these scenes with her as well, and all the obvious little parallels between him and Velorek just make the ending more wistful and hopeful, that maybe, maybe, things can work out right this time.
I think Aeryn regretted turning Velorek in five seconds after she did it; that late attempt to get him to fix what he sabotaged signaled to me that she'd acted on impulse. He was pressuring her to leave everything she knew after three weeks together, contradicting every safe philosophy she'd ever been indoctrinated to agree with on pain of "execution for failing to try" --- and she took the obvious, easy choice in order to convince herself that her world already had some value, and she could be valued within it. At the time, it was all she was capable of, which doesn't make it any more justifiable than helping kill Moya's first pilot. But it isn't anything she'd ever do again; the look of loss on her face as Velorek condemned/praised her guaranteed that. She doesn't want to be that person any more. Alex Dimitriades does a lovely ambiguous job with these scenes, so you could almost hate him for talking Pilot into doing what he does--- but you admire Velorek for doing so well in a situation that defeated Aeryn and countless others, and turned Crais into the monster he is.
As for the others who were here during this wonderful little torture-fest.... I forgave Chiana her early obnoxiousness after she was choking Rygel and twisting his ear-brows (something which I was planning to do myself after I realized what he'd been up to). Rygel--- well, what can I say, except: choke him! Stick him in the wall again! Get him stuck in the amnexus fluid! Twist those earbrows 'til he screams! I know it all worked out for the best in the end, but he certainly couldn't know that. D'Argo has a good grip on what's past and what's present, and he and John gave us the one and only giggle of the night with that rock-scissors-paper match to see who got to help Aeryn, for which I could hug him. Zhaan I don't want to kill as much as Perri; her passions (for justice, and in defense of her friends) overwhelm her compassion when she thinks that Aeryn is only sorry because someone she knew got hurt, not because it was wrong. She's an intense person, and she's trying to control a lot of outrage and bad memories here. Once she realizes the depth of Aeryn's regret, she's deeply sorry for having made it worse.
Last, Moya and her original pilot --- who sounded older, stronger, and definitely a lot more in control than *our* Pilot (who must have his own name; something long and appropriate like He-Who-Looks-at-the-Stars in his own language). If Miss Pilot was in place for 21 cycles, and we assume that she *was* Moya's first pilot, bonded as soon as Moya reached her full growth, then Moya is at a guess, probably not much older than 80 or so cycles old. That's a fourth or so of a Leviathan lifespan; in equivalent human terms--- Moya is possibly 20 at the outside, but probably younger. She was captured around 17 years ago; essentially lobotomized while the control collar was in place; her pilot was killed and she was tortured into accepting a replacement; she then became pregnant completely without planning it; and now she and Pilot are starting over, with her in partial control. Sheeeeesh. Poor Moya. Why does this new development strike me as a recipe for more Adventures with a Whimsical Leviathan?
Kudos, deep, heartfelt, amazed kudos, to Naren Shankar for working five million past and future threads into this episode, and giving the audience something so painful and smart to watch, without pulling any punches at all. Applause over and over for Claudia Black and Lani Tupu, and the rest of the cast; and little candles everywhere for Tony Tilse. This is one to be watched over and over and over and over... as long as the Kleenex lasts.
Okay, UCSBDad, put down the remote and back slowly away from the VCR; no one needs to get hurt here! Just because a considerable number of the questions we've had about Peacekeepers in general and Aeryn Sun in particular were answered tonight is no reason to lose it. Or, actually, given the stunning quality of this episode, maybe it is. |
Lots of questions about lots of things get answered, actually, going way the hell back to the pilot episode and stopping at all points in between (can we say continuity? I knew we could!). For instance, we now know why Aeryn stood up for John to Crais -- and why she went with him after they escaped on the commerce planet. She looked at him and saw Velorek, the man she'd betrayed to this same captain, and she couldn't bring herself to turn her back and let it happen again. Then he told her she could be more -- unconsciously echoing her lover -- and she took the chance she'd turned down before. A chance to find out just how much more she could be.
Moya's crew got very lucky, in fact, that it was Aeryn's Prowler who got caught in Moya's StarBurst; her prior exposure to Velorek opened up some doors in her mind and gave her a different perspective on life, knocking her just slightly out of kilter with her happy little PK universe years before John Crichton came along to finish the job. Not that Velorek wasn't right; Aeryn's potential was always there. Otherwise, she would have buried herself even deeper in PK protocol to convince herself she did the right thing by betraying Velorek; would have repressed her guilt and regret by becoming such a champion of the rules and the regs and superiority of all that is Peacekeeper and Sebacean that she could never have defended an inferior lifeform like Crichton, or even wanted to. But she didn't. Some part of her recognized that mistake and wanted a second chance, a chance to do it right. So she also got pretty damn lucky -- she got that chance.
John, of course, got lucky -- Velorek saved his life two years prior to the occasion. But he also made the first steps in teaching Aeryn to open up her heart, teaching her to care about someone above and beyond the boundaries of comradeship and sex. I hope John is properly grateful for this; somehow, I think he is. (This also explains the whole Larraq thing, come to think of it; Velorek was a dead ringer for our late and lamented Captain Cutie Pie.
They grow them cute in Peacekeeper Command.) And, as painful as the whole thing was for all parties concerned, this particular crisis of memory did more than anything else could have to start repairing the breach between John and Aeryn caused by the little psychotic breakdowns last week. He refused to let her lock herself away in her guilt and regret, but got the story out of her; she allowed herself to cry in his arms, losing control of her emotions for nearly the first time we've ever seen (aforementioned psychotic breakdowns notwithstanding). John gets a mild slap on the wrist for pushing the topic of himself as compared to Velorek, and the whole love issue, but he's stupid in love with Aeryn himself; he just couldn't help it. And his hair is once against reflecting his sanity; given a less psycho episode, the mousse monster has deserted him, for which we all give thanks.
And of course, there's Pilot. Who is at least as young as Kiki has always theorized -- only a teenager hears the words "Not yet" and instantly translates them to "Never" or "Forever". So he made a deal with the devil -- not an uncommon phenomenon among that age group -- and got his heart's desire, those stars, but at a cost he didn't really grasp until it happened. And now we know why he was so unprepared to become a pilot, as he told Aeryn way back in 'Thank God It's Friday. Again", why he studies so hard, and works so desperately to be the perfect pilot, putting Moya's needs and the needs of his crew ahead of his own. He may have managed to repress how it all happened but, like Aeryn, the guilt lingered.
And, of course, came flooding back, everything he'd spent three cycles trying to forget. And it conveniently came with a shiny new target to offload itself on -- Aeryn. And, still being only about a teenager, he went
for it with gusto! But Pilot's a good guy, down to the ground; confronted
with the injustice he was serving Aeryn, he bowed down and accepted his own
guilt. And overreacted massively, but... again with the teenager thing. A lot of it wasn't his fault, of course; Velorek and company almost certainly would have found another pilot, one who'd been turned down for bonding
entirely, maybe, and the first pilot would still have died. But that's not
something Pilot's going to ever really accept and rightfully so.
Collaborators always have a lot to live with. But youth explains, if not
excuses, a lot; and he has paid. Three cycles of constant pain, and more extreme stuff, like letting the crew cut off his arm and refusing to feel bitter or even pissed -- like he thought he deserved the pain and trauma for what he'd done. Overcompensation much? Moya's first pilot certainly wouldn't have stood still for it -- now that was a cool chick!
And it got her killed. < sigh > Knowing what we do about Velorek, we can see that he was caught between a rock and a massively hard place, and did a damn fine job (by Peacekeeper standards, at any rate) of treading water for all he was worth. It was Crais who gave the order to kill the pilot; Velorek did all he could to mitigate the results, and installed the shield to keep the experiments on Moya from happening (thanks for messing that one up, D'Argo! < g >). His mistake was choosing one hell of a bad time to fall in love. (But what the hell, 22 days on a transport freighter with Aeryn Sun... How else are you going to kill time? Down, guys.) I can't tell how much of his words to Aeryn as he was arrested was sarcasm and how much was sincere; bet he couldn't tell either.
As for the rest of Moya's crew... they dealt. D'Argo got pissed and got
over it as soon as he stopped taking it personally; he's no stranger to the Dark Side. Chiana freaked, got over it -- another one who's already stacked up her share of regrets, I suspect. And how much do I love her for pointing out that Aeryn's past as a Peacekeeper had never been a secret? (although, the shadows they're painting to emphasize her collarbone and cleavage were glaringly obviously fake this week; must have been the lighting.) Now Zhaan I wanted to smack around in the worst possible way -- a woman who murdered her lover in the middle of sex for largely political reasons, and later hacked off the arm of a "helpless, defenseless" Pilot, has absolutely no moral high ground from which to be calling Aeryn a murderer. None whatsoever. Period. She got it back together quickly, the one good thing I can say for her, but not nearly soon enough. Crais is a lunatic from way back, it seems; and his invasion of Aeryn's personal space all through 'Mind the Baby' takes on some whole new overtones. Reminding her of her betrayal (which he had the nerve to look down his nose at her for at the time) and the histroy between them that implies, rather than a come-on?
Rygel is a no-good, lying, backstabbing little toad -- any unhappiness I felt over D'Argo's treatment of him in 'Crackers' has completely vanished; he was getting punched for this little bit of evil before the fact. And no, I don't believe evil is too strong of a word; in fact, this exactly fits my definition -- "Inflicting harm for no reason." Pilot could have died from ripping out that bonding, leaving Moya pilotless, if Aeryn had left in the
Prowler, she almost certainly would have died in space, and John got stuck squarely in the middle, along with the rest of the crew. And why did Rygel do it? Because he was pissed off that Aeryn had been onboard Moya while he'd been a prisoner. Because he wanted to get back at the Peacekeepers for his imprisonment and torture and only Aeryn was available. Because there was a remote possibility Pilot might owe him a favor. Because maybe a little, tiny part of him really believed Pilot should know. I don't actually believe that last one much. This is the second time this season that Rygel has pulled something this completely, self-servingly stupid, something that risks the entire crew for no purpose but his own emotions, and I hope karma slaps him upside the head but good for it.
So, after some serious catharsis and major ripping off of emotional scabs and scars, we get Pilot rebonding to Moya, out of pain, but having to do it the long, slow way (which means another cycle of 'Fun With an Out-of-Control Leviathan'); the end will be worth it, we hope. John and Aeryn have rebuilt their own bonds of trust, and Aeryn and Pilot have both overcome their own pasts to start putting *their* friendship back together again; and, again, this bond will be stronger for it, I think. Claudia Black is completely awesome as usual -- what's the Australian equivalent of an Emmy? Give her one -- Ben Browder is his usual cool self, and Lani Tupu does double duty as Crais the Insane and our own darling Pilot with flair and consummate skill. Add that to the awesome directing and editing (the teaser in particular is terrific, from the stormtrooper music to the intercuts from live and video) and a great guest turn from Alex Dimitriades as Velorek (and since we didn't see him die, I can only hope he'll turn up again,), and Naren Shankar and Tony Tilse have delivered Farscape's strongest episode to date, the one that fills in huge pieces of what came before, and is going to set the standard for everything to come. Bravo!