“There is much cruelty in the universe.”
For an ostensible planetside romp episode, there’s a lot going on in “Bone to Be Wild.” The episode has three major throughlines: the A-plot and two heavily serialized subplots. The plots intersect in only the most cursory of ways, but in a sign of a well-constructed story, none of them feel tacked-on, and all of them advance the characters.
In some ways, the most shapeless plot of the episode is the A-plot. The twisting and untwisting of who’s good and who’s bad between M’Lee and Br’Nee is followable, but so much of the story is just characters running back and forth between Br’Nee’s ship and the transport pod that at some point, it gets hard to keep track of who is physically where, and why it matters. And although there is a character arc of a kind—or, at any rate, there’s something being said about the characters—that’s not the focal point of the story, and it’s easily missed if you’re not paying attention.
To the extent that there’s a broader purpose to the M’Lee plot, it’s to show that all is not quite right with John. His actions throughout the entirety of the episode are… off. Sometimes wildly off, sometimes subtly. From laughing wildly at the idea that Moya had received a distress call, to hadgering a visibly distressed M’Lee for answers, to ignoring the cool science angle of the planet full of plants, to threatening Br’Nee at gunpoint for no discernible reason (there’s a lot of John threatening people with guns in this episode) this is not the John we got to know before “Nerve.” He’s suspicious, impatient, casually violent. The closest he gets to pre-“Nerve” John is when he and Zhaan do some friendly flirting over Zhaan’s plant biology, and then he—for the first time in the episode!—asks how M’Lee is doing.
The only person who ever comments on the changes in John even obliquely is Zhaan, when she argues that she should replace John on a trip, that there might be “a cool head behind that trigger.” Nevertheless, in total, John’s behavior points to a significant lasting effect from his time in the Aurora Chair.
And that’s not the only fallout from “Nerve”/“The Hidden Memory.” In the episode’s other plots, Aeryn boards Moya’s new child in order to try to calm him and facilitate his connection to Moya, both for the ships’ sakes, and to make sure that he doesn’t instead make a connection to the Peacekeepers. Meanwhile, Crais and Scorpius struggle for control of the command carrier in pursuit of Moya—and Scorpius recommends trying to roust them by agitating the infant ship.
Crais and Scorpius’ rivalry is fun—Tupu and Pygram are both great scenery-chewing actors, and they leave Crais’ office thoroughly masticated. But the end of their fight is never really in doubt. Scorpius holds all the cards, and the goal of the story is really just for Crais to fully realize and accept that.
Aeryn’s plot, on the other hand, is full of quiet emotion. It’s only a couple of scenes, and really all that happens in them is that Aeryn stands or sits alone on the bridge of a new ship. But Claudia Black is such a good performer that it really does, on some level, feel like a conversation. Communicating with Moya’s child about who he comes from seems to provide Aeryn some perspective on the epiphanies she had in “The Hidden Memory.” That combination of real emotion, rich backstory, and careful acting makes for the most memorable scenes in the episode.
“Bone to Be Wild” may be a piece of connective tissue between the high-stakes action of “Nerve”/“The Hidden Memory” and the coming grand finale, there more to re-establish characterization and set up the pieces for the end. But it does so in ways that are fun to watch and easy to connect with, and that goes a long way.
- Surprise! Zhaan’s a plant! (Also she can turn invisible.) This has been set up gradually throughout the season, what with the photogasms and the talk of “fibers” and whatever. I personally love my favorite blue vegetable priestess, but my wife says that Zhaan being a plant doesn’t make any sense, because plants don’t move around, and once they do, aren’t they really functionally animals in some sense? What exactly makes Zhaan a plant, she asks. I say that she just doesn’t want to admit that birds are dinosaurs.
- The actual bullshit science in this episode is that a planet of all plants would also be a planet where the plants died very quickly, because plants kind of rely on animals for pollination and stuff.
- The design of Moya’s baby is really cool. It’s boxy and functional, but also, in some inescapable way, kind of pretty. It reminds me of the inside of the TARDIS.
- There’s a shot that the episode returns to a couple times that’s an extreme close-up on Pilot’s eyes, as they push forward from their sockets in interest, and it’s one of the coolest things Farscape has ever done, and Exhibit A for why puppetry is so effective in making aliens feel real.
- M’Lee is played by Ben Browder’s wife, Francesca Bueller, who is both very good in the role and has hilariously zero on-screen chemistry with Browder.
- Speaking of which, M’Lee has probably my favorite character design of any of the aliens who ever appear on Farscape.
- Probably the most obvious sign of John’s changing personality is that, although he’s no longer pretending to be a Peacekeeper, he’s still wearing the PK special ops clothes. T-shirts are for a simpler time.
- “D’Argo, no no no no no, stop it with the Luxan poetry.”
- “Does displaying this decaying flesh remind you of past instances when you were powerful?”
- “You’re a plant?” “Always have been, John. Why, does it bother you?”
- “You’ve gone too far Scorpius. You’ve directly questioned my command.” “Your command begs questioning.”
- “Look, it’s true, in a perverse way you do come from them. But so do I.”
- John, uncharacteristically uninterested in the science: “That is a very impressive machine. …My aunt had one. C’mon Zhaan, let’s go.”
- “Us Southern boys don’t make good eatin’. Not without a fight.”
- “You oughtta keep one foot out of your mouth. You may need it to run.”
- “I am not dragging this ship into a conflict not of its making.”
- “How animal-centric of you, John.”
- “Why must you force me to display my physical superiority to your kind as well?”
- “When did our roles become reversed, sweet D’Argo?” “When you required it.”
Brocas seeds, joka, dagyo (“whatever that means”), dench, and Rygel’s gonna be in trouble “if you don’t shut your wakket hole.”
Braca makes his first appearance in this episode! From so humble a beginning…
The end of this episode is kind of weird, because it seems to be setting up either a) M’Lee teaming up with Scorpius, or b) M’Lee chowing down on a bunch of Peacekeepers. But neither of those things happen, and outside of a brief mention in “Family Ties,” she’s never seen or heard from again.
Please remember to tag spoilers for future episodes in the comments.
Next Monday, March 15, John and D’Argo go sightseeing, in 1×22, “Family Ties”—the season one finale.