|"Won't Get Fooled Again"|
The descent into darkness...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
"Won't Get Fooled Again" is one episode you will either love or hate. Either you'll see it as an awesome and unique piece of storytelling, or a bucket of dren. Personally, I love it. When I first finished the episode, I was simply amazed at how everything turned out, and one of the things I liked the most was that for the whole episode John new it wasn't real, and yet at times, not only did he start believing what was being said but so did I. This is an episode that is probably best watched more than once, so you get all the nuances and hints as to what is really going on; not that they don't often stare you in the face, but sometimes you're distracted (and what a distraction Bettina makes!) from the truth. Nevertheless, regardless of whether you love it or hate it, "Won't Get Fooled Again" is a pivotal episode in the ongoing story arc, in that it finally reveals the truth about the driving force of the story this season. What do I mean? Read on, faithful follower...
Firstly, the whole episode starts off really wacky. It seems like some weird flashback or dream in the opening, as we see John once again flying the Farscape module conducting his and DK's experiment. And then John wakes up – a dream! Or not. Because standing right by his side is his dad! This can't be real, so naturally his first thought is "The Ancients" (from "A Human Reaction"), so he grabs his dad and pulls him to the floor. He's restrained by men in white coats, and in comes Aeryn, in nurse's gear. He thinks he must be safe, until she tells him she's actually a nurse – Bettina Fairchild. So we're left thinking how very odd this all is. As is John. He gets himself released so he can apologise to his dad, and he checks the ladies room. Again, another reference to "A Human Reaction", and unlike back then, he actually finds a real ladies room and a lady behind the door. Another strike against the "Ancient" theory. So he checks the paper – it has the right date, and now that he's done most of the things the viewer would have wanted him to do having seen the aforementioned episode, and they've all been proved wrong, he has to formulate another idea. When he finds his dad, DK comes along, and from here the episode descends into a series of encounters that just get more and more bizarre.
Each encounter is of with a character that we all know, and that John knows, but who is playing a different role. There's the aforementioned Bettina Fairchild – it's Aeryn, but just outfitted as a nurse and her personality is the polar opposite of Aeryn's. Bettina is extremely flirtatious, she comes on to pretty much anyone she meets (and that includes kissing them), and she's pretty much care free. Kind of the way you might think she would be in John's mind.
Zhaan takes the form of Dr. Kaminsky, a psychiatrist who wears a suit, just happens to be a blue alien (which is perfectly normal on this version of Earth) and answers every question with another question. D'Argo is a goof, again completely care free, friendly with anyone, outgoing, loves the ladies (that doesn't change then!) and likes to drink beer. A perfect friend for John.
Then there's Rygel, or rather the new Farscape project administrator Douglas Logan. Again, a completely different Rygel to the one we are used to, and shortly after their meeting John throws him down a stairwell. There's also Jessica, otherwise known as Chiana, who is an "astronaut groupie," and Pilot and Scorpius are part of a bar band (with Scorpius having a gold record!).
Saving the best till last, there's also a rather surreal Crais – very strange, policeman, wears pink high heels and carries around his puppy named Toto.
So all these characters that John knows are all wrong, completely different to how you might expect them to be (with a couple of exceptions, maybe). The only people that seem, well, real are the other three humans – Jack, DK and his mother. These are all presented somewhat realistically, although they let a few things slip that make John sure that they're not who they appear to be. But that's the key, all the while he is positive that this is not real, and every time he starts to almost believe it, something really surreal happens or is said that is completely out of context and just plain wrong, and he knows it's not real.
One person who does seem real, and is therefore the next suspect, is Scorpius. He tries numerous times to tell John that he is not behind it, but always disappears before he gets a chance to explain further. Not only that, but because there are things happening that make John think Scorpy is behind it, he doesn't want to listen and goes out of his way to stop it. But eventually Scorpius reveals the truth – John was captured by a Scarran, who is pretty much mentally torturing him. He's not trying to make John believe this is real at all; he's trying to break him, make him go insane. And it starts to work.
In a particularly heart-wrenching scene, John is confronted by his aforementioned mother, who died five years before the whole Farscape project launch. He knows she's not real, but she is real enough that he almost wants to believe it's really her (which is completely understandable since he hasn't seen her in five years, and apparently wasn't there when she died). When he tries to escape her and goes to the bar, she follows, but now she's as pulling around a drip, and is in ill-health as she was when she died. She asks John to be with her this time, and John gets very upset. He's almost at breaking point, and as he points out this latest attempt at trying to get to him is just plain cruel, yet it is effective in almost driving him over the edge. While he does manage to get away, the whole scene was wonderfully played and is just very emotional to watch.
From that scene with John's mum, things get nasty. Whereas before they had been rather weird, and yet at times believable, now things were getting extreme. John is starting to crack. His mum has come back from the dead, so to speak, he can't kill anyone, and it's all getting very overwhelming. It's here that you realise what started out as something of a comedy with rather dark overtones is actually anything but a comedy. In fact it's actually a very dark story of mental torture, and things just get darker and darker. After Scorpius tells John about the Scarran, it obviously realises that John is aware of its presence, and so it really cranks up the attempt to break John, and puts forth some very disturbing scenes. We see all the girls in bondage gear hovering around John with his legs spread, and then Rygel (also in bondage gear) appears with a whip in hand... I think that's all that needs to be said about that. John breaks free, but walks out and sees DK in a wheelchair blaming John for what he tried to do, with blood literally bursting out of his wrists and flowing everywhere. John gets carted off to his parents, who are arguing, and they throw him off a building. He lands on Crais' car (he is now wearing those heels), and is read his rights. Then Gary tries to seduce him into taking part in a Luxan bonding ritual, and in Zhaan's office, in a particularly disturbing moment, John's mother is all dressed up in lingerie and comes on to him, and goes to kiss him.
All these various images are disturbing, and that's what they're meant to be. They perfectly highlight the Scarran's no-holds-barred attempt to break John down no matter what, and John is even shown Aeryn coming to rescue him, but heeding Scorpius' warning he doesn't trust her, and when she keeps pressing him for information he realises that it's not really Aeryn, but the Scarran still trying to find out what Scorpius wants with him. In a particularly poignant moment that follows, John, who still hasn't broken down (despite being on the brink of it several times), sticks his fingers up at the Scarran and tells him to kiss his... Well, he's cut off, but we know where he was going. John then manages to kill the Scarran, and sees Scorpius again – more on that in a moment.
Ben Browder definitely deserves major praise for his performance. He is absolutely stunning throughout (which is good because after all, the episode is 99% him), and portrays John's descent to the brink of insanity as only he can, and to me that is perhaps the highest praise I can bestow. I can't imagine many other actors pulling this off, and yet Ben does it perfectly, and he sets the stage for everything else. The other actors all do damn fine jobs too, and clearly have a blast, but the major focus is John, and Ben pulls this one off magnificently.
Also deserving of high praise are writer Richard Manning and director Rowan Woods. Manning's writing is so on the ball that he manages to balance the comedy of the madness with the truly dark tone of the story, and the episode is a killer because of it, and Rowan Woods brings it together, with imagery galore (did you catch the Scorpius inside John's eye?) and he just takes everything to the extreme, and in many ways pushes the boundaries of "acceptable" science fiction. Farscape's never shied away from controversy, but it's never had so much of it! I want to particularly praise the pair for writing and bringing to life the more disturbing images that most would have shied away from, opting for something more tame. They really add to the overall feel of the episode.
But what exactly is this episode's purpose? Well, despite at first like seeming rather stand-alone, "Won't Get Fooled Again" is actually the most pivotal episode yet this season with regards the ongoing story, in that finally it lets everything fall into place. Exactly why has John been having so many visions of Scorpius lately? Why does he keep talking to himself and acting strange? And why couldn't he kill Scorpius when he had the chance and wanted to? Well, it's answered here. The very same speech from Scorpius that drops everything into place with regards the episode, also unveils the big mystery. That when John was in his Aurora Chair (in "Nerve"), and it couldn't extract his wormhole knowledge, he implanted a neuro-chip, containing a clone of his personality, in John's head. That's what happens in the "something to remember him by" needle vision that John has been seeing this season. John has Scorpius in his head, and it all makes sense. The visions were his subconscious becoming aware of the Scorpius clone at certain times. He couldn't kill Scorpius because it's part of the chip's failsafe. The clone's sole purpose is to extract the wormhole knowledge, and since it hasn't done that yet it must also keep John alive. So now we know, and Scorpius' final words are just chilling. He first makes John forget what he has told him, so while we still know about the chip John, and hence the rest of Moya's crew, don't. But before he returns to John's subconscious, he sets things up for the future. He still hasn't got the wormhole knowledge, so it isn't over, and he simply tells John, "I will be with you always, keeping you safe..." Haunting last words if I ever heard them.
If you hadn't guessed, I love "Won't Get Fooled Again." It's one of my all-time Farscape favourites, because it manages to provide a chilling self-contained story, which wonderfully turns from a wacky episode into a dark and brooding monster, and because it reveals the key to the John/Scorpius saga. And it's only just beginning. You will love it or loathe it, but I love it, and believe it's one of Farscape's finest (and most surreal) moments.
I love to hear your views, whether you agree or disagree, so feel free to e-mail me your feedback. Review by Dani Moure.
Did You Know?
Finally we discover that after John was tortured in the Aurora Chair (Nerve & The Hidden Memory), Scorpius put a neural clone of himself in John's head to work away and extract the wormhole knowledge that John holds. This Scorpius/John/neural clone story is the driving force in the ongoing arc of season 2.
John's mother, Leslie, makes her first appearance here. She has been dead for over five years, but the Scarran brings her back as part of his ongoing attempt to break him down.
Scarrans apparently capture their foes, and try to break them mentally by inducing ever-more bizarre images that get more and more strange as levels are increased.
Originally, David Kemper was going to write season 2's "Earth" episode (this one).
A Human Reaction
The Hidden Memory
Crackers Don't Matter
Look at the Princess, Part 1: A Kiss is But a Kiss
Look at the Princess, Part 2: I Do, I Think
Look at the Princess, Part 3: The Maltese Crichton
My Three Crichtons
Beware of Dog
John: "On Earth, psychiatrists don't come in blue."
Zhaan "Do you have a problem with people of colour?"
John: "I have a contextual problem. You're an alien!"
Zhaan: "Yes, that's true. But I do have a green card."
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