|Into the Lion's Den, Part 1:|
"Lambs to the Slaughter"
We start off in John's head. He and the Scorpy Clone are in an old black-and-white war movie, in a truck, on their way into battle. John is calmly determined but the Scorpy Clone doesn't want to go. If John dies, so does the clone. "Then follow orders" John tells him. Scorpy-Clone says he'll do his best.
Jumping out of John's head back onto the transport pod where he is physically, we see that the gang's all there. All except for D'Argo and Rygel who are already on the Command Carrier. Aeryn reports that marauders are on their way to escort them. Jool is anxious - and showing it with her suddenly bright-red hair. She and Chiana still would rather have jumped ship, but they've been close to no habitable planets. Moya is 4 arns away and hiding with Talyn. The pod crew arrives on Scorpy's command carrier. Scorpius has all the troops out to greet them formally, as if they were dignitaries instead of escaped prisoners. John has Aeryn twist his finger behind his back to test the I-Yensch bracelet and indeed, Scorpy feels it too. Scorpy in turn informs his troops that the Moya crew is to be extended every courtesy. Scorpius offers a handshake to John and the game is on!
Scorpy starts by meeting privately with John and Crais to ask if the deal is for real. Yes it is, with the addition now that Talyn needs to be brought aboard for a full system's replacement. This isn't for Crais, John says, but for Talyn. Not part of the deal, says Scorpy, but fair enough. Crais requests a Leviathan specialist, Lt. Larell. Scorpy an Bracca seem to question his choice, but he says it's only that she's the best qualified. Done deal, though Scorpy still questions John as to whether he's working for or against him.
Elsewhere on the Command Carrier, the Moya crew - all but John who's eager to get right to work - are entering the Officers' Lounge, invited there for a bite to eat. As expected, the officers there, out of earshot of their superiors, are griping about having to play nice with the Moya crew when they should be executing them. Indeed, as D'Argo, Chiana, Jool, Rygel, and Aeryn in amongst them all walk in, they look like quite the odd bunch next to all the spiffy little Peacekeeper soldiers. Aeryn is the first to boldly step forward to serve herself the promised refreshments, trying to ignore the whispers of "traitor" as she does. Crais meanwhile is escorted to his quarters by Lt. Bracca, who takes the moment to make remarks about his abuse of command. Like Aeryn, Crais is also being whispered about, not quite so much behind his back as just within earshot. Crais in turn remarks to Bracca that he predicted his rise in this organization and that he is a consummate Peacekeeper. Bracca seems uncomfortable, as if that's an insult. John is escorted to a workstation, which he promptly trashes, telling Scorpius that he won't be reduced to an assistant. It's the big toys or no deal.
In the officer's lounge, Jool comments to Aeryn and D'Argo on the weirdness of being there, noting to Aeryn that it must have been awful growing up here. Aeryn - still distant and detached - is watching a few officers playing a game at a table across the hall. She has a flashback of playing the same game with her comrades at that table not too long ago, and tells Jool it wasn't awful at all. Chiana though can't resist stirring the dren-pot just a little and tries to join a table full of higher-ups who obviously aren't too happy with their presence. Chiana flirts, higher-ups get angry. D'Argo steps in, higher-ups mention how he took a Sebacean wife then murdered her. Aeryn steps in to back D'Argo off before his temper can get too hot. Bracca comes in and does the same with the Peacekeepers. Bracca also makes good on a side deal with Rygel; a chip containing information on Hynerian current politics. He's working on a couple of deals with D'Argo; a surgery and another as yet unidentified "other thing." As everything settles back down, the woman we saw in Aeryn's flashback comes up to her, seeming happy to see her old friend. Aeryn - who I believe is smiling for the first time since "The Choice," asks her to have a drink. The woman goes cold, says she only drinks with Peacekeepers, and throws the drink in Aeryn's face. The room breaks out in laughter.
In the lab, John is working with Scorpy and Co-Kura, updating on what they've done so far. John mentions Linfer (see "Incubator"), which makes Scorpy a bit nervous, wanting to know what Linfer told him. Not much, John tells him, as she died soon after arrival on Moya. John asks for more data. Scorpy is reluctant, but John remains insistent that it's all or nothing and gets the data he requests.
We peek in on D'Argo's mystery surgery. Finally, he is getting the rings fused into his collarbone - never intended to be removed - removed. The room he's in is infused with an anesthetic mist, which also seems to have antibacterial and general healing properties, as several people are soaking in it like a steam bath. John and Aeryn are there as well to check on D'Argo, and to talk, as Crais assured them the mist interferes with surveillance. Checking on John's progress, it seems a big part of the plan was to get here first, then decide what to do once he's seen Scorpy's data. So far his plans are, A) Find the erase button and send him back to start, B) steer him in the wrong direction, if only he knew which way that was, C) forget the whole thing and run. Ok, so he tells Aeryn he isn't serious about plan C, but none of them should get too comfy.
One of the higher-ups from the Officer's Lounge, Lt. Reljik, is with another officer, still griping about the presence of the Moya crew and especially now, D'Argo. He talks the other man into paying D'Argo a little visit. Finding D'Argo in the mist room with Jool, the man comes in wearing a device on his arm that ends in a small circular saw. He comes in swinging and a fight ensues. D'Argo tries to end the fight without fatalities but to no avail. The Peacekeeper falls on his own blade. Post-fight, Scorpy seems to suspect that Reljik is behind it, telling him that the next time anyone touches the Moya crew, there will be 2 executions; the attacker, and Reljik. Scorpy does indeed seem fully cooperative now with the Moya crew, apologizing profusely and assuring them it won't happen again. Still, D'Argo says he's taking Jool, Chiana, and Rygel back to Moya. But first, as promised, the other "thing" promised to D'Argo: The file on Macton, the Peacekeeper who was D'Argo's wife's brother and murderer (see "They've got a Secret"). Latest activities, current location.
Crais meets with Lt. Larell, his requested Leviathan expert. Doesn't take long to discover his suspected ulterior motive for requesting her; they were lovers before Crais lost his command. Larell tells Crais she tried but never lost her feelings for him and believes his command was stolen, not that he is a deserter. She also tells him that Scorpius put her in the aurora chair, learned everything about their past, and has been ordered now to spy on him. When Crais and Larell head off to get started with Talyn, Bracca pulls Larell aside for a moment to ask if Crais believed her confession. "Trusts me completely," she tells him with a wry smile.
Back at the lab, Scorpy checks again on John's progress and John says progress would be faster if the interruptions were fewer. Scorpy is still doubtful that John is giving 100% to this project and offers to show him some of his life history file, specifically, why he hates Scarrans so much (presumably, some of what we saw in "Incubator"). We take a quick trip into John's head where the Scorpy clone tells John that Scorpy is telling the truth. He also claims to be helping stabilize John's thoughts to help prevent Scorpy from reading them. The clone truly seems to be on John's side now.
Aeryn and John go for another walk and another talk, this time in a planetary reconstruction area - an outdoor park indoors designed for combat training. John seems to still be wrestling with the pros and cons of what he's doing. If the Scarrans really are a threat, is he only making things worse? Seeming to carry more weight at the moment though, John tells Aeryn this might take longer than he thought and perhaps she should leave.
Jool, Chiana, and Rygel are back on Moya and Rygel is checking the file on Hyneria current events. Orrhn (Fractures) wasn't lying about Rygel's cousin Bishan being in disfavor among the Hynerian populous. But, as Rygel dreams of returning to the throne, Chiana has another vision, this time of Pilot screaming. Just as Pilot says nothing's wrong, he suddenly detects Peacekeeper ships approaching. Moya tries to Starburst, but is hit by weapons' fire as she does.
Larell is highly impressed with Talyn and excitedly asks Crais what it was like to command him and how he could give it up. Ultimately, Crais tells her, Talyn would not be commanded. Ultimately, she tells Crais, "neither would you." Regrets about leaving the Peacekeepers? Some. Mostly that he didn't try to take her with him. Larell says she wouldn't have gone. Not then anyway.
Aeryn meets with Henta, her former shipmate from before, to talk. She explains that "traitor" depends on the definition. Crais deemed her irreversibly contaminated and kicked her out. Her friend reminds her that Crais was in turn kicked out and Aeryn could have come back. Aeryn insists it was too late by then. She then admits that more importantly, she didn't want to come back. Henta is upset now and says Aeryn really is a traitor. "Deserter perhaps," Aeryn tells her, and offers to explain further. But a call comes over the PA; a captured Leviathan is being brought in. Moya.
Even Lt. Reljik - first on the scene - is outraged that Scorpius' orders have been so boldly disobeyed. Or perhaps he's just saving his own skin, since he was told the next time the Moya crew was attacked, it would be his brain the Scorpy feeds upon. His tone quickly changes when he discovers the ring leader of the recapture-Moya project is Commandant Mele-On Grayza. It's easy to assume even by this point that she is on at least equal ranking with Scorpius. She also immediately starts heaping prais on Reljik, who is honored to have been remembered by her. The Moya crew still aboard the command carrier also seem to be losing some of their free reign, as the only way Aeryn and John get past some of the guards to find out what's going on is to fight their way past. Showing at the same time, they really do still work well together. They run into Bracca who says Scorpy wasn't the one who had Moya captured and he'll take them to Scorpius.
The Commandant meets with an angry Scorpius, reminding him that his power is not absolute. She also has with her a Luxan Defense Ambassador, saying they've formed an alliance with the Luxans. But, their attempts to build alliances with other races have not all been successful. The Peacekeeper's inability to capture a single escaped prison transport - Moya - who's adventures are becoming quite well-known, has hurt their reputation. Why the sudden interest in alliances asks Scorpy? To attempt to avoid war by negotiating with the Scarrans. Scorpy is outraged, saying that war is the only thing the Scarrans will listen to and it is useless to show strength - his project will give them strength. The Commandant disagrees. Even if Scorpy's wormhole research had any military value (which she obviously doubts it does), now is not the time to provoke the Scarrans.
Aeryn and John come bursting in, weapons aimed. John spots and threatens Scorpy first, saying he'll kill him, I-Yensch bracelet or not. He then meets and aims another gun at the Commandant. Scorpy gets on the PA and orders his troops to release Moya and escort Commandant Grayza out of the sector. Grayza calmly promises to return with a full High Council sanction. She also tells John he really shouldn't have pointed a weapon at her. On her way out, she slips a comm device into Reljik's jacket, telling him to do as he is ordered.
Soon after, Reljik and the Commandant are in contact. She says she intends to remove Scorpius from command and he says that she'll have no problem getting the backing of most of the crew. She coyly tells him that going through channels takes time and given the crew's low opinion of Scorpius, she's ... "concerned" ... for his safety. Reljik tells her Scorpius is well protected, but is vulnerable through Crichton via the I-Yensch bracelet. Grayza says she is then equally "concerned" for Crichton's well being.
In the Officer's Lounge, Rygel and Jool are playing a table game with one of the Peacekeepers apparently assigned to protect them. At another table, Aeryn finally gets that talk with Henta. She tells her she hasn't given up all Peacekeeper ideals. Loyalty, sacrifice, honor are still very much a part of her. Aeryn asks her friend if she's ever worried that she's fighting for the wrong cause. Never, Henta replies, as if it's outrageous even to wonder. What about the wrong leaders, Aeryn asks. We don't get to see the answer to that as we peek in on Scorpy and D'Argo. D'Argo is less than convinced that a Luxan-Peacekeeper alliance is anything but a bad idea, wondering how long the two races will remain buddies.
Aeryn and John are back in the mist room. John is definitely having doubts now about his mission. He's found a way to sabotage Scorpy's research, setting him back several years at the very least, but now isn't so sure that it's the best route. Aeryn reminds him that the other John gave up his life to destroy this wormhole research. Crichton says it's his shift now and the other John didn't know what they know. Aeryn reaffirms her promise to back him up whatever he does, but he needs to decide which way he's going.
Later, as John and Aeryn are walking back through the corridors, Aeryn gets the sense that they're being followed. They duck into a massive generator room where Aeryn warns Crichton not to touch anything. Just as they're saying that it's unlikely anyone would follow them or make a move in here, a couple of Peacekeepers do just that and a fistfight ensues. As John is being attacked, it also means Scorpy is. Scorpy comms Bracca to find Crichton quick. The fight remains hand-to-hand, except for one Peacekeeper foolish enough to try firing a pulse weapon inside the generator room (the blast immediately backfires and kills him). As soon as John and Aeryn dispatch the first wave of assailants, a second wave comes in, including Lt. Reljik. During the fight, dodging amongst the maze that is the generator, John stumbles upon a device and seems to accidentally discover that it's a jet-pack. He straps it on and tries escaping not outward, but upward. Unfortunately, Reljik has a jet-pack as well and soon, the fight is in the air. John and Reljik duke it out atop a section of generator where John manages to hit Reljik's jet-pack, sending him flying into an energy field. This also seems to cause an overload in the generator, threatening John. Just as he's about to become a crispy critter, Aeryn returns with a security team that shuts down the generator.
Post-fight, John meets with Scorpy, having figured out the obvious that someone was trying to kill Scorpy by killing John. Scorpy suspects the obvious; Commandant Grayza. He speaks to John about an increased timetable, but John doesn't seem to be in that much of a hurry. So, Scorpius tries an incentive, by showing him a holographic image of Earth. This rattles John, who aims a gun at Scorpy's head. "You'll kill us both," Scorpy reminds him. Doesn't matter. John won't have Scorpy screwing with his homeworld. Showing equal crazed determination, Scorpy jams a knife into his own arm to cause John to drop his weapon. Scorpy promptly grabs John and slams his head against the table. He tells John it took some time, but he's found the way to Earth. And, if John doesn't give Scorpy what he wants in the wormhole research, he promises to keep John alive to witness Earth's destruction.
"... To be continued!"
This is one of those episodes that ends up averaging out not because the episode itself or its elements were average, but because there are so many extreme pros and cons, good-point/awful-points, they struggle to cancel each other out. And I do mean struggle. Not "Well, X was kind of lame, but Y was pretty good," but more like "X tried so hard to kill Y for me, then Z blasted in to thwart all the other little elements' evil plans!..." I should probably explain that (enter the madness that is one of Mary's reviews).
First off, I had some real continuity concerns at first. Primarily, with the Peacekeepers and the way they're portrayed as a society (or subset of a society). Larell's obviously intimate relationship with Crais flies in the face of the PK's disapproval of such relationships. I suppose Crais/Larell could be one of those sneaky breaking-the-mold couples like Aeryn/Velorek, Xhalax/Talyn. Is there really that much rule-breaking going on, or are our central heroes coincidentally also some of the worst offenders? In any other show, I'd definitely say the latter, but I've admired Farscape for shying away from that. E.g.; Aeryn isn't the star soldier of the Peacekeepers, she's just another grunt. John isn't Earth's greatest scientist, he's a little more of a regular guy than that.
We have that one moment where Bracca is escorting Crais to his quarters and Crais calls him a "consummate Peacekeeper." Bracca seems to take this as an insult where we would expect him to take it as a compliment. It's very much as if Crais just said "You're such a conformist." Well, this is a conformist society, right?
Then we have Henta, who about cries at the drop of a hat upon confronting Aeryn about leaving the Peacekeepers. Everything up until now has led me to believe that in addition to love relationships, close friendships are also a rarity and strongly discouraged. Again I wonder, is Farscape falling into the trap of making our good guys the exception to every rule? Are they forgetting the stone-cold Peacekeeper society that they've built up over the last couple of seasons?
But then it hits me - and this is where the big battle 'O episode of elements ensues - most of what we know of Peacekeeper society, we know from Aeryn. Could this be some master plan on the part of TPTB to unveil that Aeryn has been exaggerating certain elements (no emotional attachments, etc) and we're getting a skewed vision? Less likely, but possible, and intriguing if it's true. So, it's inconclusive. I'll have to wait and see what the next few episodes, next few seasons bring.
That was one of two elemental battles for me. The other was in the quality and delivery of the storytelling itself. We have such an awesome premise here that can only be done in a series over time. As of this writing, "Queen of the Damned" just opened and, as predicted, there was just no way that a movie could convey the scope of what it meant for Lestat to become a rock star - a high profile public figure. It took 2 books full of why vampires can never do that to make us really appreciate the gesture. Likewise, we've had 3 seasons to build up to the scope of what it means for the Moya crew to turn and face Scorpius, deal with him, and ultimately, willingly fly into his command carrier and walk past the rows and rows of Peacekeeper soldiers. Quite a moment in Farscape history! I'm sure they'll find a way to top themselves story-arc wise, but I can't imagine at this point how.
Threatening to kill that mood were some of the cheesiest lines and scenes I've seen. Ok, correction. These things wouldn't be cheesy on most other shows, but I've grown to hold Farscape to a much higher standard. Lt. Reljik; "We shouldn't be welcoming these criminals, we should be executing them!" May I have some wine to go with that? Much more effective was the whisper of "traitor" as Aeryn got herself a drink. A few looks of scorn, a facial reaction from the crew. All was conveyed without the use of the cheesy, done-before line that the thickest of fans could have penned in themselves.
Crais and Larell; intriguing story, but could they have gotten two actors with any less chemistry? Again, I'm holding Farscape to a standard here, but they've always been so great at casting. The kisses between them looked forced and faked. "I don't hate you ... I don't hate you either." It had to be painful to spit out those lines.
We have the planetary reconstruction ... room? I dare not call it a hollodeck! Actually, I got the idea that the vegetation et al was real, versus the faked environment of Trek's holodecks. But I digress. The issue here is that on one end, they're simply way cool and help convey the scope of size of this command carrier and its crew compliment. 40 such environments? On the other hand, if the Aeryn-discovering-rain scene in "A Human Reaction" seemed ridiculous to me before, it is completely inexcusable now. So they are specifically training in planetary environments. I have to believe that rain is a part of that. Again, some cool illusions, some shattered illusions and discontinuity.
It's so tempting to ignore all the complaints so far however in the face of John's very cool and sudden bravado. I had to re-watch the "Look at the Princess" trilogy to see just how far John has come. Again, the scope of that just had to be built up over 3 seasons! I absolutely knew that moment in Fractures when John said he was going after Scorpius that this would be the hunted becoming the hunter, and Lambs to the Slaughter didn't disappoint in that arena. Trashing Scorpy's workstation, tossing out orders to the man who has up until now been his greatest fear, it was a classic ride!
Then the jet-packs in the generator happened.
I hoped for a fleeting moment that somehow I'd inadvertently turned off Farscape and this was Ben Browder doing an I'm-desperate-for-money stint on Cleopatra 2525 or Mutant X. Nope. This was Farscape alright. Asking me to believe that in this otherwise empty room, there just happens to be a hover/jet-pack lying on the floor for John to trip over. Ok, maybe they could say that they need the packs to get to the tops of the generators. But to have John just trip over one, instantly know what it is, and instantly know how to use it with skill? That's way too much suspension of disbelief. Not to mention that the whole scene just looked like something out of a bad Flash-Gordon rip-off.
Adding it all up, for all the in-your-face elements that threatened to ruin this episode for me, it was the subtleties and nuance that valiantly fought to save it. I do believe that Aeryn asking Henta if she'll have a drink is the first smile we've seen from Aeryn since "The Choice." Then to have that drink thrown in her face. Farscape isn't afraid to kick its characters while they're down and I really like that.
Gigi once again gets the award for making-the-most-of-your-limited-screentime. I know I sound like a broken record saying that, but it's true. I have to believe there's some good reason for her limited screentime, another Virginia Hey makeup victim perhaps? But her short scene teasing Reljik in the officer's lounge was nothing short of priceless! It's things like that which salvage the bad Flash Gordon rip-off moments.
Finally, this is yet another setup episode. Well, obviously; it's part one of two! Three really, if you add in the season finale which we know must tie in to all this. I do hope, no, with Farscape I expect, that the buildup all comes together into something well worth the wait!
Agree? Disagree? Comments? Questions? Email me! Written by Mary Wood.
John: "I do not eat at the kiddie table. Now you either give me the big toys or you send me home."
Click here to read Dani Moure's review for this episode.
Click here to read Dani Moure's synopsis for this episode.
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