3.17 The Choice
||August 17, 2001
Aeryn mourns John while Crais, Rygel, and Stark attempt to stay out of danger on a planet reportedly haunted by the dead... and the living.
Aeryn: (to Stark, about Crais) "Do you know what makes you so much worse... is that you think you're so much better than him."|
Xhalax: "I've heard... loved ones... leave you in pieces. That little by little you start to forget things about them. But that's not true. You lose them, everything--- instantly. And suddenly nothing can replace them. Nothing.... And now you have nothing. How does it feel?"
Xhalax: "You're lying. You didn't know."
Aeryn: "Of course I hoped that that was Talyn. Just as I hoped that I might see Crichton again. But in my heart, I knew, that that was not my father. And then you walked in... You know, we Peacekeepers think that we are... so remarkable. Soldiers without equal, precise tacticians, purebloods.... But I've realized we're not remarkable. We do nothing for love. Not one thing."
Xhalax: "You're wrong. Cycles after your birth, I was given an order. They called it a choice. One of you must die, they said.... I killed your father, so that you could live. I did that, for love."
Aeryn: "Here. You can't miss from here. Unless you want to.... Drop the gun, Xhalax."
Xhalax: "No... Let me go. I died a long time ago. You live for me...."
John: "Aeryn ... C'mere."
Aeryn: "No. You have to go now." [John vanishes, and Aeryn walks away]
This is one of those episodes that you never want to watch twice--- not because it isn't good, but because it's too good. The pain's too real, the messiness of the emotions and relationships is too detailed, the despair is too clear: and after it's been absorbed, it stays with the viewer for a long, long time. Going back for the specifics is an act that requires gritted teeth and the sparing use of the MUTE button.|
The overhanging atmosphere of dream-like insanity is a perfect reflection of Aeryn's mood, and until the ep is over, you're not completely sure how much of what is happening is inside Aeryn's half-drunk, half-crazy-with-grief mind, and how much has a basis in reality. Sure, the visions of John, are just that, visions; but we can't know at first if she's seeing him because she's drunk and mourning, or because the world collects ghosts. Especially after we see Xhalax again; we have to wonder if she's real, and then, if she's real, is John real--- and if not John, is that other guy really Aeryn's dad? All the lies that have been told tweak the possibilities until you just have to give up and hang on for the ride, because there's no point of reference to use for the beginning of any kind of consensual reality. Knowing that Aeryn came back from death, that Stark's done it--- you can't help but hope that there's some way out of it for John, because Aeryn's hurting so much. Add to that the dreams that are obviously dreams, melting into memories, melting into we-can't-tell-what--- and then Xhalax walks in to make it all worse, damnit, retelling her own history and re-casting Aeryn's understanding of herself again, in the worst possible way.
Stark's, Crais's, and Xhalax's viewpoints are just skewed enough from reality (and from Aeryn) that we can't get a good fix on current events through their eyes, except that we, like Aeryn, know what we'd *like* to be true. It's the hope that's the killer, and it's no real surprise that Aeryn rejects hope even as she goes back to living at the end. But the path she takes to get there doesn't guarantee this outcome, and what she loses and learns as she grieves are going to keep her from fully recovering from John Black's death for a good long while.
Claudia Black's performance is absolutely stellar, with Aeryn walking the fine line of grief, craziness, selfishness, pure pain, smarts, and hope for the entire hour. Just as you almost believe that Aeryn's lost it and that she's buying into the cons and lies of Xhalax and her cohorts, you realize that she's got far too firm a grip on the facts to lie to herself, not matter how much she'd like to. The fellip nectar might be dulling the pain of loss, but it isn't dulling her brain. Not many actresses can pull off drunk-but-not-stupid this convincingly, especially when combined with gut-wrenching grief. Held in check by iron will for almost every second, her sadness and rage become all the more harsh when they break through in her scathing rejection of Crais's and Stark's help, and in her final moments with Xhalax, and her confrontation scene with Rygel. I didn't think Claudia could top "The Way We Weren't" for raw emotion, but wow, am I glad to be wrong--- even while I'm flinching back from what's on the screen.
Stark is nearly unbearable to watch in this ep. Whether by accident or design, all the comparisons he makes between Aeryn and Zhaan conspire to render his presence impossible to bear, until you want him to go away as much as Aeryn does. Hysterical, half-crazy and demanding, even when he's got a good reason; you just wince every time he offers to take care of Aeryn. He keeps projecting his own craziness onto other people, and yeah, some them are crazy too, but not in the *exact* same way he is! I can't think of anything more irritating! Anything! At all! < roll eyes > Right now, I'm just glad he's gone off to find Zhann (or get massive therapy). Hopefully he'll do one or the other before he returns any time soon. No insults to Paul Goddard; this is just a character that's reached the end of his usefulness and tolerability, and it's time for him to go.
Crais is.... well, I never thought I'd feel this sorry for the guy, but that one scene on his knees in the hallway, with Aeryn's scornful and insulting suggestions, is just painful. The sight of his eyes squeezed shut against what he doesn't want, at least not like _that_, is one of the moments in this ep that stays with you way too long. Crais killing Xhalax in defense of Aeryn, when there was no danger, is another thing that stays with you way too long, along with the look of regret and defeat on his face when he realizes what he's done. Props to Lani, for pulling this off.
Rygel, unbelievably, comes through as both the most unselfishly concerned for Aeryn and the kindest, sharing his own memories in the hope that she'll come back from the edge she's standing on. Persisting in trying to save her even while she's seeking death is a sign of true friendship; I guess there are *some* advantages to being biologically imcompatible when it comes to friendships like these.
I am simultaneously sorry and glad that Xhalax is gone; she's fascinating as all hell, with all that bitterness and strength. I'm glad that they got *some* kind of closure, but so very sad that it had to hurt Aeryn again. The depths of her helpless rage are so dark and horrible, but also so sad, that you are left with nothing but pity for her life even as she's trying to convince herself that hurting Aeryn will make her feel better. The PK's have a lot to answer for.... In a way, her choice to die without taking Aeryn with her is one of the things that brings her daughter back to life, even as another loss sends her back into her no-feeling no-hoping no-living mode of dealing.
Under the circumstances, choosing to live as a 'Peacekeeper' again--- binding up her hair, stifling all her emotions, rejecting any possibility of seeing Crichton again, even while knowing that another John waits for her on Moya--- almost makes sense. How else is she supposed to deal with all that truth, all that loss? Repression is marginally better than full-out insanity and alcoholism, even if it's not whole-hearted acceptance of life and reality. The problem with Aeryn is she never knows when to quit. John Green--- hereafter the only John--- is going to have one helluva time getting her to accept him again. It sure isn't going to be any time soon, which isn't fair, really, since John got over *her* being dead a lot faster--- but then, it was the same Aeryn, and she wasn't dead for all that long.
These people need to be on Springer! in the worst way, I'm tellin' ya.
The past clips are used to excellent effect, melting together with Aeryn's memories of John and her glimpses of him in the crowds. Especially Aeryn's mirroring of John's movements, kissing her shoulder in "A Human Reaction". Tender and sweet--- and then owwww when John dissolves and Aeryn is kissing a windowpane. Neon rain and decay, flashing lights and shadows, graffiti and smoke contribute to the nightmarish delirium, and the unreliability of perceptions on that world and in Aeryn's mind. The set designers, the director, and the writers all deserve massive chocolate stars for this one, because the mood throughout is seamless.
And that little foetus-seer is the new ICKIEST thing, from its whispery insinuating voice to the three pairs of eyes and its slimy skin. Perfectly representing what it does in preying on people whose emotions are out of whack. I think it got a little more than it bargained for in Aeryn; my guess is she shot the little monster when it offered to 'try again' in contacting John at the end of the ep. But we're left to wonder about that, just as we're left to wonder how much of what we saw of John was a dream and how much was real. When you're drunk on grief, 'real' is a thoroughly fluid quality, and in that respect, this episode captures the worst of the emotion beautifully.
Chocolate, candles, Kleenex... an excellent episode. Acting, dialogue, direction, are all top-notch. And it will never make anyone's favorite list, because the choice made at the end is to go on without hope; and no one who loves the characters wants to believe *that's* the way the story ends. Good thing the week before this was "Revenging Angel", or we all would've been mainlining the Prozac and Thorazine. Watch with either that ep or "A Human Reaction" handy; you'll need it.
||August 24, 2001
Moya and Talyn's reunion is marred by the presence of another gang of escaped Peacekeeper prisoners -- one of whom is a traitor. Oh, yeah, and there's that whole "Crichton's dead, hi, Crichton!" thing....
Crichton: "D'Argo, green or black?"|
D'Argo: "Well, the black, of course. I mean, far be it from me to say, but I've always thought that the color of that green shirt doesn't suit the shape of your body."
Crichton: "Sparky! How you doin', man? Long time no see!"
Rygel: "Yes... Uh, good to see you, too! But if anything is missing from my quarters, blood is going to spill."
D'Argo: "With a single Crichton and Stark missing, perhaps it will restore some sanity to the ship."
Chiana: "Okay, it's happening again! I'm frelling sensing stuff before it happens!"
D'Argo: "So much for sanity."
Markir: "Those are escaped prisoners you have on your ship. Don't you care?"
Aeryn: "No. Not any more."
Rygel: "And, uh, since she arrived, sweet Orrhne has been atop me. Or , uh, beneath me. Or--"
Crichton: "Ooookay, there's a mental Polaroid we can all live without, Ryg."
Crais: "You don't think that's the head and that's the mouth?"
Jool: "Well... not unless he sits on his mouth."
D'Argo: "Want some advice?"
Crichton: "Nope." //he collapses, then finally asks// "What?"
D'Argo: "Oh, my friend, I.... I don't know what to say. I don't have any advice. It's difficult, isn't it? You're... jealous, of the other you, aren't you?"
Crichton: "He died. The other guy. The copy. "
D'Argo: "Now Aeryn thinks that you are the copy."
Crichton: "Can he hear us?"
Jool: "Well, there's an ear here somewhere."
Crichton: "Okay, this is a little too Naked Lunch."
Rygel: "But you slept, too! All Hynerians sleep deeply after, uh, pleasure."
Orrhne: "The pleasure, Dominar, was all yours."
D'Argo: "Pilot, close the outer bay doors!"
Pilot: "I cannot. Moya's connection has been severed."
John/Aeryn "I've got an idea."
Rygel: "I will not be taken to task for having a trusting nature."
Crichton (hologram): "It's all in my head, which means it's in yours, too. Wormholes, A to Z. You've probably already heard what I... we did with it. Ad that's just the beginning, you could fry a whole solar system. Heh. Furlow's still out there, somewhere, but for right now, the Scarrens are back to square one. The Peacekeepers, they're your problem. Look at me. Now look at yourself. You know. Don't let Scorpius crack this. Whatever it takes. Okay, I'm gonna piss you off now, man. Be smart. Don't push her. She takes... time. Oh, one more thing...."
//He holds up his fist; Crichton echoes him. They shoot Rock, Paper, Scissors -- and both throw scissors. Hologram laughs, sighs.//
Crichton (hologram): "Good luck, John."
//He fades away. Crichton stares at empty space. In the corridor, Aeryn slips silently away.//
Rygel: "Why are you wearing an eyepatch?"
Jool: "Boolite in my eye. Why are you such a moron?"
Chiana: "You're all gonna die."
Crichton: "You see that one, Pip, or are you just guessing?"
Crichton: "We choose our own path; this one is mine. I'm going to the Command Carrier. I'm going to stop Scorpius."
Okay, we knew -- knew, mind you -- that this reunion was gonna be ugly. There was no way in hezmana John's heart wasn't going to be laying in little broken shards all over the cargo bay within ten seconds of seeing Aeryn again -- to say nothing of the hideous mental ickiness of knowing your other half is dead. So, there was no way this wasn't going to be bad. And seeing Rockne's face on that writing credit sort of confirmed it for anyone who had any doubts left. :P
But even with all that forewarning, there was just no way to actually be prepared for all that hope shining from John's eyes, and the way his entire body... falls, when Aeryn just walks past him. When even Crais is flinching for the poor guy.... And how much did Crais' life suck, to have to be the one to pass all of this lovely information along? I found myself mentally comparing the reunion back in 'Mind the Baby', with squeals and jumping and hugs, to this one, with quiet, and restraint, and pain, and loss in the air so heavy I'm sure the lighting techs had to adjust for it. < sniffle > Followed almost immediately by watching John unpack 'his' stuff, and put Wynonna back in his holster, and then that horrific attempt to talk during the repairs.... Man, this whole situation sucks. DK and Rockne have a lot to answer for! Isn't this covered by SACC regulations or something?!? Claudia and Ben both do fantastic jobs this time around (like they ever do anything else).
Not to mention Anthony Simcoe. I love D'Argo so much. I know, I know, I say that at least once a week, but it's true. He tolerates John's insanity so well, and is so sweet sending John alone to meet Aeryn, and thank god he's there to be the voice of sanity and sympathy for the ensuing yuckies. Even without advice to offer, he's there and he cares, and that may be the most important thing for both John and Aeryn right now. God, that scene with John almost broke my heart all over again....
And Stark did more to lift his standing in my eyes by helping the other John leave that message than damn near anything else he's ever done (short of whacking Rygel). Bless John for trying to fix what he couldn't even when he was dying, and for looking after Aeryn, no matter what. And they still both throw scissors.... What does that say about how much of the same man they still are? And how is Aeryn going to cope with that? Denial and aggressive not-dealing will only get you so far....
Ya know, the more I hear about the Peacekeepers, the more inclined I am just to take two steps back and let them and Scarrens nuke each other out of existence, or whatever the UT equivalent is. When I'm feeling sorry for a Scarren, you know there's something seriously wrong here. But it was cool watching Naj Gil and D'Argo bond -- a common enemy does wonders for smoothing out little cultural differences, doesn't it? Pretty touching watching Chiana and Hubero bond, too, although Hubero is more... helpless than I usually expect to appeal to our girl, although the androgen concept is quite cool, as always. (Nonconformist colony? And isn't that Just what we expect from those psychos?) Still, we got a couple of very solid guest characters this time around -- nicely done. (And is PK Tech Markir Tal any relation to D'Argo's brother-in-law? Inquiring minds want to know, and the personality certainly matches....)
But I would just like it stated for the record that I knew it was Orrhne all along! No one falls for Rygel on first sight, man -- I don't care how long it's been! [And those people who shall remain nameless (*cough*Tim*cough*) who actually believed for a while there that it was Aeryn betraying them -- for shame!!!] Still, Orrhne played the helpless Dominar fangirl routine for all she was worth, and did a damn fine job of it -- but didn't you just know Rygel was the type who rolls over and goes to sleep? Still, I feel a little sorry for the little runt -- first shot at a chick of the same species in 100+ years, and she stabs in him in the, ah, back and makes him look like a total fool in the process. Sucks to be Buckwheat. (Also sucks to be us, now knowing far more about Hynerian sex than we ever wanted. < shudder > That little close-up on the eyes when they first met was just... eeew.) But if Orrhne believed for even a second that Rygel wouldn't space her little butt after she betrayed him, she's even stupider than her apparent taste in men would have indicated.
The initial panic attacks from everyone about the reunion, before the actual awfulness of the reunion, were actually pretty cool. Actually, all of the fashion consultations pre-reunion were cute as hell, but Chiana's trusting Jool's taste in clothing? Yeee. That's almost as scary as the way her precognition keeps getting further and further in advance of the actual events. But it's balanced by the sheer fun of Jool and Crais working together reassembling on the far-too-icky-for-words Boolite -- now there's a pairing you don't expect to work that well. (The Boolite was a nice touch, by the way, but I kept picturing an extremely lifelike game of Operation, and waiting for the buzzer to go off and its nose to light up.) And don't think I didn't notice Crais got Jool down as he was getting himself down....
Awesome effects throughout, particularly in the space chase and the last fight scene, and wonderful stuff from the Creature shop, particularly on the Boolite. And that last scene... Wow, way to send us into the hellish world of reruns, dudes! While I'm a little disappointed in them, I do understand why most of that lot wants nothing to do with this suicidal plan and lack thereof. John is, in effect, carrying out his own last wishes, not to mention going by his own sense of honor; Aeryn is carrying out her lover's last wishes, and has a hell of a lot of personal stake in taking down Scorpius. (Which didn't make her coming over to stand next to this John any less wonderful, and no one was evens lightly surprised when she did.) Crais... I couldn't tell you why Crais is in it. Guilt? Wanting to live up to what John saw in him? Revenge against the PKs? Protecting Talyn? Not having anything left to lose? God knows. All I know is, I stood up from the couch and shouted "I love you, Bialar Crais!" the second he stepped forward. (Well, shouted as much as one can when one is attempting not to wake up the 9-day-old baby in the room. Hi, Alex!) (And if you'd told me two years ago I would have shouted that under any circumstances, I'd have kicked you off-station. Lani Tupu is a god. Seriously. I'm so proud of Crais I can't breathe.)
Long dry spell coming, people; lots of unanswered questions. Will John and Aeryn figure out where they stand (even if the telepathic teamwork is still in full force)? Will Scorpy go down? What's up with Chiana's precog and was it working on that last prediction? Will the others get in on this fight after all? Who's going to walk away it in the end? Will we run out of fingernails to chew off before we find out? But Buffy, Angel and The West Wing are premiering, so we'll survive in the States, at least. Maybe. Possibly. I hope. < whimper > Need. Chocolate.