“I am what I am, and I did what I did.”
Farscape is, for the most part, a very forward-thinking show. The characters have secrets and backstories, and those histories do matter, but even when engaging with where a character has been, Farscape usually does so in a way that propels forward momentum. D’Argo’s lost family acts as both character motivation and a foil for Moya’s pregnancy; Zhaan’s violent past threatens her current spiritual undertakings.
But “The Way We Weren’t” allows the characters to sit in the past for an entire episode. Unlike “They’ve Got a Secret” or “Rhapsody In Blue,” the secrets revealed here don’t feed into the action; they overtake the action. Aeryn and Pilot’s histories have caught up with them, and now the only way to get where they’re going is through the past.
The great insight of “The Way We Weren’t” is that growth can be devastatingly painful. Aeryn is no longer a Peacekeeper, no longer wants to be a Peacekeeper, but becoming something more means confronting the things she did when she was something less. Actions that meant nothing to her when she was a Peacekeeper are now sources of crushing guilt.
Giving Aeryn and Pilot this space to revisit their past mistakes makes the characters feel even more real than they already did. It’s sometimes easy, as Chiana notes, to think of Aeryn as the one good Peacekeeper who we happened to pick up. But she isn’t. She was a Peacekeeper, a real one, and she did terrible things because of it. Revisiting those crimes doesn’t just make Aeryn’s past more concrete; it makes all of the growth that she’s undergone since then more meaningful.
The most effective thing about “The Way We Weren’t” is how it lets the characters remain contradictory. Aeryn is defensive and heartbroken and ashamed; she doesn’t apologize perfectly, but she does apologize. Pilot projects his guilt into vicious anger. Zhaan and D’Argo swing between accusatory and understanding, as they try to reconcile their love for Aeryn with their own pain and past mistakes.
It is, quite simply, stunning emotional sci-fi, the kind that can only happen on a show that has invested a great deal of time and thought into its characters and their relationships, and that is willing to push them to potentially unlikeable places. This is Farscape at its fearless best.
- I’ve always considered this a great episode, but in none of my 500 previous times watching it did I connect with it particularly strongly. This time, I sobbed through the entire last five minutes. I love the way that fiction can change up on you like that.
- The entire cast is great in this episode, but Claudia Black, obviously, is above and beyond. The scene in the gym with John, where she slowly, guardedly reveals her history with Velorek—absolutely amazing.
- The choice to center this episode on Aeryn and Pilot was a great one, and such is the magic of Farscape that while I was watching the episode, I never really had a moment where I was like, “It’s really cool that they’re getting so much emotion out of a puppet.” Pilot just feels real.
- Love the references to “DNA Mad Scientist.”
- “What have you guys been thinking all this time? What, she was out picking baskets of rolliss buds while all the other mean Peacekeepers did all the really nasty stuff?”
- “I am a dominar of principle as well as action!”
- “Pilot’s Etch-a-Sketch isn’t operating with all its knobs right now.”
- “It’s just you, me, and the walls in here.”
- “And you say you think you loved this man?”
Please remember to tag spoilers for future episodes in the comments.
Next Monday, June 7, the crew learns the treachery of images, in 2×06, “Picture If You Will.”