|"Mental as Anything"|
At a mental training facility, D'Argo is forced to confront the half-brother that killed his wife...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
To be up-front (why not?), there were several things about "Mental as Anything" that I really, really didn't like. More to the point, there were several parts that were so illogically written that I am tempted to call it a rather poor script in many respects. It's not entirely flog-worthy, but it is a considerable disappointment, considering how this season was recently on an up until this point. Of course there are always a few blips on the radar, but I can't help but feel this episode was one where the story looked good on paper, but the execution was, in many ways, quite poor.
The theme of the episode revolves around D'Argo confronting his past. D'Argo has always said that he was framed for his wife's murder by her Peacekeeper brother, and with Macton making an appearance at this training facility it's a chance for the whole truth to come out, and D'Argo to get some closure. Macton accuses D'Argo of having really been the one who killed Lo'Laan during a bout of hyper-rage, and says that D'Argo forgot because of a blackout that can occur after the rage. So D'Argo begins to question exactly what he did to Lo'Laan, and there's some internal conflict presented.
The big problem for me with regards to the internal conflict was it seemed quite forced. Anthony Simcoe did a good job of expressing what he could, don't get me wrong, and as always he was believable in his portrayal. But the idea that D'Argo was questioning this in the first place just seemed forced given that, in all the times he's mentioned it before, he's seemed so adamant that he knew it was Macton that killed Lo'Laan and framed him for it. He has always wanted revenge against Macton, since he was locked up for eight cycles even before meeting John. All this time, he's seemed so certain, and then all of a sudden a few words from Macton and he thinks he killed Lo'Laan himself. It could be just that he had never wanted to admit his doubts until now, but I really felt it seemed a little forced, which is unusual for Farscape since the vast majority of the time, the relationships and emotions seem so natural.
It was a shame because, as I say, the internal struggle presented here wasn't bad at all. Although I questioned some of Blair Venn's (Macton) delivery at times, because he did not seem very threatening at all, and there wasn't enough tension between the two characters in my eyes, in general it worked fairly well within the confines of the episode, as you could almost feel D'Argo struggling with the possibility that maybe he really did kill the woman he loved. It just would have meant so much more had it not seemed like the whole premise of self-doubt was forced, and came rather out of nowhere. Especially given that D'Argo went to find Macton and seek revenge at the end of last season ("Dog with Two Bones"), but ended up just letting him know that he knew where Macton was, to unnerve him somewhat.
It was nice to see how far D'Argo has come as a character, though. Particularly good was a short scene with Rygel, where the Hynerian tries to convince D'Argo that he should seek his revenge, as he now has another chance. D'Argo at this point doubts whether or not he really wants to kill Macton, which, given everything he put him through, does say a lot considering that D'Argo was always the vengeful warrior when the series first started, and wouldn't have thought twice about killing Macton.
So we see how far D'Argo has come, and instead of killing Macton, once he knows the truth, he leaves Macton trapped in a coma to live with his own nightmares. It's still somewhat torturous, and it's almost comparable to death, but it's not quite there, since there's always the chance that Macton could be saved or healed or what have you. D'Argo himself is still faced with demons of his own – he now knows that he did hit his wife during uncontrollable hyper-rage, but she loved him so much that she never told him. D'Argo definitely knows how much she loved him, and will have to live with what he did. But he does seem to have walked away with a better ability to control his rage, and to look beyond the anger at other possibilities.
Part of the problem with the lack of tension, not just between D'Argo and Macton but in the episode in general, seemed to stem from a lot of the scenes running way too long for my liking. There seemed to be an awful amount of padding that, in the end, didn't serve much purpose and perhaps could have been better spent on streamlining and improving the main D'Argo/Macton story. For instance, the initial scene in the task chair with Scorpius and Katoya, where they're demonstrating the mindscape, seemed to go on forever, with little dialogue and little point. John already said it would prove nothing to him, so what was the reason for him going in? Or more to the point, what was the reason for us to see the whole thing, other than to demonstrate the flashy use of CGI with the icosahedron. The problem was only compounded by the lack of any imagery in the mindscape – it was essentially an entirely black backdrop with Scorpius and Katoya on a platform. The only other thing of interest was the glowing icosahedron. I really felt this scene was lingered on far too long, with little purpose.
It wasn't just that scene, either. A lot of scenes seemed to be extremely slow, with lots of long, lingering shots and pretty samey angles. On Farscape, one is used to everything being fast moving, with the camera always on the go and scenes generally flying by. Although I can appreciate that as a drama, it's sometimes good to slow down and get into the nitty-gritty characters, it just seemed that "Mental as Anything" went way overboard and slowed things down far too much, to a point where it started to impact my enjoyment of the episode. When I sit there during Farscape, of all shows, and think that this scene should have ended, I know there's something wrong (from my perspective). Others may appreciate the change of pace, and I usually do, but for such a drastic change the episode needs to be far more substantial and a lot more tightly written.
However, even given the flaws above, I did appreciate and enjoy some of the character development. What I didn't enjoy in the slightest was John's side training. This was a terrible example of unexplainable logic, and a great example of a plot device at its absolute worst. Locked in a small hole in the floor, with a furnace-type setup on the ground, he has to withstand the heat, and the only way out is to get a key. The keys are incrementally dropped through the bars above the hole and land on the furnace – he has to be quick enough to catch one, or claim it from atop the coal by withstanding even more heat.
Remember, this is John Crichton. He has proved to be quite inventive in getting out of situations in the past. Why then, once the first key landed on the coal and he realised he needed it, did he not think to take off the robe he was wearing and use it to cover his hands, to help at least partially withstand the heat? Instead, after what were presumably several hours, he gives in and uses his bear hands. Again, this is John Crichton. Not necessarily a genius, but good at getting out of a sticky situation. He does stupid things, but isn't a stupid person. And yet he couldn't even figure out something so simple?
I'd wager just about any viewer paying attention would've have considered the possibility; I certainly did. And as such, I had absolutely know sympathy whatsoever for John being in that predicament, and every time we went back to seeing him getting more and more frustrated, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was ridiculous that he wouldn't have figured that out. It was a plot device, but it was so fundamentally flawed that it ended up as a badly written aside, which just furthered my disappointment with the episode as a whole. Farscape has encouraged its audience to think; it's an intelligent show. As such, something as preposterous as this stands out like a sore thumb, and seems all the worse. I'd expect it on something like Mutant X, not Farscape.
I was intrigued by the teaser, which saw John and Aeryn being all the more intimate, and him opening the Christmas present from her (it's a TeeVee!), mainly because they were acting so intimate in front of Pilot, even though they're supposed to be pretending they've split up. Presumably they trust Pilot to keep quiet, but it seems a little risky, as I'm sure there are ways he could be coerced into telling Scorpius about the pair of them. Nevertheless, thankfully it was a short and sweet scene, that didn't get too sappy.
Katoya was a relatively interesting character, despite being a bit over clichéd with the spiritual, "I have a more controlled mind than you" attitude. Some of his dialogue was annoying at times, but his relationship with Scorpius added a bit of spark to the proceedings, and he generally stayed away from "really annoying" territory. It was interesting to see Scorpius really trying his hardest to prepare John for a forthcoming attack from Scarrans – he is trying to make John see what a threat they are and how John needs to be prepared, and it certainly seems that a confrontation is imminent.
In the end, I can't help but feel a little indifferent about this episode. Despite my problems with it listed above, it wasn't terrible. It had some nice moments, including the overall character situation and outcome regarding D'Argo. Unfortunately, the script seemed poor in places, and the execution not much better. With how slow it got at times it was almost boring, something I never expect from Farscape, which just makes it all the more disappointing. I was almost tempted to score it a 3, but it's definitely not up to the par of episodes like "Incubator", "Fractures" and "What was Lost", so I'd consider it a fairly high 2.
Interestingly, this was a "boys-only" episode, bar the teaser, which will presumably lead to a mostly-girls outing next week, where maybe we'll see what they got up to, since they also left Moya, but to look for a part for her. Hopefully, their outing is a little more interesting and entertaining.
I love to hear your views, whether you agree or disagree, so feel free to e-mail me your feedback. Review by Dani Moure.
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Did You Know?
While both Raelee Hill and Melissa Jaffer are credited as guest stars for this episode, neither appear on-screen. Presumably this is because they were contracted for the full season.
John tells Katoya, "It ain't going to happen, Miss Krabappel. Fail me. Give me an 'F' on my report card, but I ain't going in your icosahedron." This is a reference to The Simpsons; Miss Krabappel is Bart's teacher, and he almost always fails.
Scorpius brought John to the training facility to help train him mentally to be able to withstand a Scarran attack.
D'Argo discovers that during his hyper-rage, in the past he hit his wife, Lo'Laan. However, it was Macton who killed her on reflex when she went to stab him, and he then beat her to make it look like D'Argo had killed her.
They've Got a Secret
Dog with Two Bones
What Was Lost, Part 1: Sacrifice
D'Argo: "What's that smell?"
Rygel: "The stench of that frelling Charrid."
John: "Well, that was instructive. Kind of led with your chin there."
Scorpius: "It's not meant to be painless. It never will be painless, John."
Rygel: "The Charrid's going next. I'd love to take him on. I'd show him some real pain."
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