“I am in control of me!”
There’s a simplicity to “Die Me, Dichotomy” that I find incredibly satisfying. Like “Family Ties” before it, it’s a season-ender that’s significantly smaller than the multi-part episode that preceded it. The stakes are very high, of course, but the action is more contained. There are no explosions here, no complicated double-crosses. Just John and his quickly deteriorating self-control.
The set-up is this: The crew has located a Diagnosian (alien doctor) to heal Moya’s burns and hopefully remove the chip in John’s head. But they’re thwarted by John himself, who has been nearly entirely consumed by Scorpius’s neural clone. Under the clone’s influence, John escapes from Moya, contacts Scorpius with their location, and kills Aeryn when she chases after him. The crew get him subdued and into surgery, but Scorpius, alerted by the clone, crashes, murdering the Diagnosian and retrieving the chip from John’s brain, leaving him helpless and literally wordless on the table. End credits!
Outside of a side plot about Chiana and D’Argo, and some very background stuff about Crais and Zhaan, that’s really it. “Die Me, Dichotomy,” because it’s obviously designed to lead directly into the season three premiere, doesn’t have to worry a lot about resolution or denouement. Those are next season’s problems. Instead, it’s just a steadily escalating storm of dread and disaster. Nothing good happens here. Even when, for the briefest moment, it seems like something might—John and Zhaan make a connection, John and Aeryn talk about their feelings—there’s always another shoe, half a second behind.
The most interesting thing about the episode may be that it never tries to hide those horrifying reveals. Twice, a character thinks they’re talking to John, and shares a moment of vulnerability with him, only to discover that they’ve been speaking to the neural clone. But in both John’s conversation with Aeryn and with Zhaan, the viewer is clued in after only a few seconds that the clone is in control. The dread, then, is in the dramatic irony of the situation. We’re not worried that John might be under the clone’s control; we know that he is, and fear what he’ll do because of it.
I am, shall we say, a fan of possession storylines. There’s something beautifully simple and effective about a protagonist turned unwillingly into an enemy. It’s a plot that’s nearly impossible to do badly: Its very nature forces the characters to make difficult decisions, and to evaluate what’s really important to them.
As ever, Farscape succeeds when it carves every last bit of meat off the bones of the trope. This is a season finale, so they get to, and do, pull out the stops. John doesn’t just betray his friends. He hurts them on every imaginable level: violates the sanctity of Zhaan’s unity, twists Aeryn’s “I love you” back on itself, kills Aeryn.
That “I love you” is the coup de grace, the pinnacle of Farscape’s romantic and dramatic plotting, the ultimate expression of its narrative sensibilities. This is the first time John and Aeryn have ever said this to each other, something they both acknowledged in the previous episode. It’s a monumental expression of trust and vulnerability from Aeryn—and it’s not even John.
And then he licks her face. Because as I said, this is the ultimate expression of Farscape’s narrative sensibilities.
- On the topic of Chiana and D’Argo: Now that he’s finally found his son, D’Argo is ready to settle down. While talking to Pilot, who’s high on painkillers, Chiana and Jothee discover a recording of D’Argo practicing a marriage proposal. This throws Chiana for a loop, and throughout the episode, she and Jothee become physically and emotionally closer, culminating in an almost-kiss that D’Argo (unknowingly) interrupts.
What I like about this plot is that it’s both extremely well seeded earlier in the season, and extremely in-character for everyone involved. We’ve known from early in season one that D’Argo harbors dreams of leading a peaceful life, maybe on a farm. We’re also very aware of Chiana’s general attitude towards life—she comes from an incredibly repressed people, and she wants to kick the universe in the teeth.
D’Argo and Chiana are both young, and they’ve both been through a lot, and at this moment in time, when they’re both living itinerantly on a ship of escaped prisoners, that puts them in the kind of alignment that allows for a relationship. But they’re not actually at the same point in their lives. D’Argo, though young, is a father; he’s already tried settling down once before, and had it violently interrupted. Whereas Chiana has no ties and no responsibilities, and is clearly not in a place to settle.
- I love the Diagnosian’s character design. Frail and gross, offputting and warm, unbelievably alien. The biology makes no sense and I don’t care at all.
- The choice to have Aeryn die at the episode’s midpoint, rather than as a season cliffhanger, is both a somewhat unusual one and, I think, a good one. It gives Aeryn’s death weight, and allows us to get a real sense of the characters’ reactions to it.
- D’Argo giving Aeryn the qualta blade gets me every time.
- “I am reminded at this point of a word that you actually brought to this vessel. Hope.”
- “You are so my girl.”
- “Pilot, you’re high, okay?” “I am no higher than I’ve ever been. My position is fixed.”
- “Higher level reasoning, Aeryn. If a simple thought occurs, I’ll call you.”
- “My parents were compassionate, moral, emotional. I value those traits.” Oh, you do now, Crais?
- “I hope you meant what you said in the neural cluster. I did.”
- “Her life was a series of strides toward enlightenment.”
The Diagnosian removes John’s memories of US politics from the last thirty years. I’ve always wondered what that must have been like when he returned to Earth. (It’s not like politics were irrelevant! 9/11 and the social and political fallout is a major point of concern!)
Please remember to tag spoilers for future episodes in the comments.
With season 2 at an end, we’re once again going to take a break before season 3. Come back on Monday, November 22, when Grunchlk gives Scorpius the finger, in 3×01, “Season of Death.”